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Everything posted by Simulacrum

  1. I seriously appreciate it, Kray. It's crazy that its been literal years since I've talked to everyone here when for so long it was a daily thing. Good luck to you too! Seriously, good luck to everyone I met through this website. I really did luck out as an eight-year-old kid stumbling onto this place, and I am both genuinely amazed and disturbed by my persistence after that point in becoming an acceptable roleplayer despite my obliviousness. You guys were all part of one of the best parts of my childhood/very early teen years. Crazy to think how long it's been. Anywho, the Hakann topic is finished and some extras have been thrown into the other one, so I'm pretty sure I'm gone. Thanks again for all the great times, guys! Keep the BZPRPG alive, in case any of us ever feel the need to come running back to jump into a genuinely, beautifully insane world of anything and everything written by anyone and everyone. Peace!
  2. Recommended listening. I V I remember here by the fire, In the flickering reds and saffrons, They came in a ramshackle tub, Pilgrims in tall hats, Pilgrims of iron jaws, Drifting by weeks on beaten seas, And the random chapters say They were glad and sang to God. Hakann tensed his left arm and swung his shoulder with a ferocity to snap bone. Body weight shifted to a new point of stabilisation, gaze still focused ahead with iron sight rigidity. Using the momentum of the movement to his advantage, he pulled the staff to his side, hands white-knuckled to keep a grip on the smoothness of the metal. His free hand pulled back, fingers curling into claws to make a nearly flat line with his palm. A silent blur of red and the Rahkshi's head snapped backwards from the force of the palm strike. Blood ran between Hakann's fingers, mixing with the drying crimson of the other cuts and staining his calluses a brighter red. A quick shifting of stance, and then Hakann smashed his knee into the Rahkshi's metallic abdomen, causing it no pain but managing to lift the creature slightly and destabilise it for the coming manoeuvre. Flashing through the air with a glint of metal, the other Rahkshi's staff struck true at his left thigh, sending a spurt of blood into the once-pure white snowfall. Twisting and evading with an inhuman attention to positioning, Hakann moved to avoid a blow intended to sever the intercostal muscle between his fifth and sixth rib, instead earning a slamming blow from the flat of the staff's blade. Breath escaped with a slight hiss and the Skakdi's grin developed a glassy stillness. Even as his foot was returning to the earth, he moved, shifting his grip on Insect's staff as he crouched, wrenching his back and shoulders in a torsional movement. Fear attempted to beat his left hand off the high end of Insect Control's staff, but Hakann accepted the threat unblinkingly, shifting his fingers to avoid the edge of the blade. The Rahkshi, still shrieking with dissonant muteness, was dragged between the Skakdi and the lunging spear of Mind-Reading. In the void of silence there was only the heave and crash of impact. Hakann circled his victim, preparing to deal another blow just as he sighted the glint of a staff searching for him with a swipe, finding its mark at the base of his ribcage. Teeth gritted, he went with the blow's direction and transferred his pain into blinding speed. Fragmentation's explosion where he had once faced sent debris nicking into his skin and face, forcing the other Rahkshi to circle in search of an opening and giving him time to neutralise his immediate concern. Hakann maintained his grip on Insect Control's staff as he moved, translating the momentum into a twisting dodge. Mind Reading's staff slammed into the head of the immobilised Insect Control, stunning the Rahkshi and letting Hakann evade a strike from the flanking Ice Resistance that would have shattered his skull. The Skakdi didn't give Insect the time to recover or reconsider as he shoved the staff away, sending the confused Rahkshi quickly stepping backwards, directly into Fear's attempt at a sweep. He breathed slowly, letting the bitter cold sear his lungs and kick-start his heart. Pain turned his bones to iron and muscles to granite, freezing cowardice into deadened resolve. * * * Load cartridge. Rotate cylinder. Repeat. Repeat. Close loading gate. Cock hammer. Hakann analysed the revolver with numbing precision, eyes searching again for any sign of weakness, any mechanical flaw. Where once he would have seen a shaped slab of metal, he now perceived an infinite array of textures, blending and coalescing within their own heat. Every little detail, no matter how minute or meaningless, was memorised and analysed for further use. He stood, movements leisurely, weighing the weapon, searching for the balance and posture the designer intended. Breath rising in white plumes of condensation, he uncocked the hammer and emptied the cylinder, still hunting for imperfection. In the far distance, swooping low over the drifts, Mind Reading was returning with the other two scouts. Despite the slowly worsening wind and great distance still remaining, their movements resonated clearly. Hakann thought he heard voices when he strained against the parasite, voices in the falling snow, in his own breathing. The voices of the Rahkshi, a half-muted bellowing, were not kind; their crude rasp cut through the roar of the wind, borne on heavy and muffled breath. Hakann paused momentarily from his inspection to stare at the approaching fliers, their forms distinct and outlined by the heat of Kraata blossoming in thin, burning lines through their armour. A few moments later and the Rahkshi brought Hakann the message he had already guessed; the creature he had sensed earlier was a Muaka. A massive one, apparently, following at a comfortable distance. Hakann nodded once. It was the Rahkshi, their scent now unmistakable. The Rahi would probably abandon its hunt as they neared nearer to the Koro. It was very unlikely it posed a serious threat, especially with his six guards. He re-loaded the cylinder, closed the loading gate, and with a movement as soft and caring as any mother, placed the revolver back into its makeshift holster. Consumed by silence until the rest of the scouts returned, Hakann stared up at the slowly darkening sky. He reviewed each of the sunset's colours unblinkingly, memorising every amber-flung dance of light and keeping as his own every slow-vanishing indigo haze. Mind-Reading stayed near, remaining so still and silent that something nearing interest seemed to be hiding within the exosuit. As the sun reached the horizon, Hakann turned to raise a single hand. The Rahkshi rose to the air and began to circle their position, swooping low in and out of the last hints of light, dead eyes searching the snow and rock below for any trace of life. In a blur of movement, Hakann's hand tore the revolver out of its holster, aiming it at the nearest snowdrift with a speed and accuracy to betray the emptiness of his gaze. Silence's grasp took hold of the weapon, strangling out its roar as it fired. Hakann weighed the recoil, the sharp snap and dull throb, testing it, probing for exceptions and mistakes. A shift of the weapon, now wielded in only one hand. Another silent shot, sharp movement and then a settling back into stillness. His void gaze hiding a mind working furiously, the Skakdi stood and analysed the shots, able to see clearly all details despite the distance. A hundred metres away, two large holes punctured the otherwise perfect white, separated by nothing more than a few centimetres. With a historied murderer's calm, he reloaded the weapon, eyes still fixed on the minute traces of bullet staining otherwise undefiled snow. The weapon returned to its holster, its owner quiet while estimating the damage the few pieces of metal could do. When he turned and began to walk away, the Rahkshi tightened their inner circle and expanded the outer scouting ring, airborne movements unhurried and graceful. Snowfall, already covering the traces of the weapon's use, began to the hide the last remnants of sunset, bringing stinging pain with the dark and the wind's roar. Hakann strode towards the edge of the wastes, gaze empty and breathing measured. The final warmth of light fell beneath the horizon, whispering psalms of heat lost to the dark of winter-clear sky. Rising behind him to give its crowning aureole, the moon slowly came into focus, bringing with it the scattered host of stars. Snowflakes amassed on his shoulders and gathered on his spines, warning the cutaneous that all heat was gone. He continued unfaltering through the cold and wind, a red monolith, rising with stone confidence above a frozen sea of moonlit grisaille. White-hot knives of falling snow glowed and shimmered incandescent through the edge and cut of moonlight, outlining darkened scarlet with grey and bone-white. The moon, now fully alive and brilliant in its own light, reached its apex and illuminated the few wisps of cloud with auras purely silver. Killer and beasts, reduced to only a hint of light resting on shadow's suggestion of steel and flesh, moved silent through and across vast frozen plains and snow-capped passes, their animal grace born of a beauty falsely empyreal. * * * The debris and dust conjured by Fragmentation's blast made the air hazy and filled Hakann's lungs with rasping pain. He slowed his breathing to try and strangle the cough in his throat, adopting a defensive stance between pained breaths. Fear and Ice Resistance did not miss the opportunity. With a calm certainty, the two of them flanked and attempted a combination of a skew and a head-removing swipe. Hakann moved as quickly as he could, shrinking and twisting away from the swing, but the stave sliced into the edge of his side, opening the skin and sending blood dripping onto the stone and snow at his feet. He pulled down and away from the injury, barely escaping the swipe aimed at his neck, rolling with as much momentum as he could generate. He returned to his knees to see Mind Reading's staff lunging straight towards his chest. Grin disappearing, Hakann moved enough to let the staff bypass him, wrapping an arm around the legs of the Rahkshi as it attempted to run straight past. Hakann didn't waste time. Two of the four left were hovering, and Silence was formulating a predatory tactic that he would either be too weak or too exhausted to counter after the other three had their turns. Fear pounded in his chest, turning his blood to fire. Armed with nothing more than manic grin, he stormed Ice Resistance with an attempt at a surprise bullrush. Deep inside his adrenaline-subdued consciousness, her mind began to shudder awake. Tendrils of shadow sunk into his id, tasting the rage and fear. * * * The Rahkshi soared above, moving in massive circles around the crimson stain of an otherwise immaculate wasteland. Wind tore at the edges of their armour, searching for something living to bite into and tear apart with hypothermic cruelty. Hakann had never smelled death before. Not consciously, at least. He knew – or thought he knew- all of the visual cues, but the olfactive elements had been hidden from him, stolen away by a weak and imperfect body. It was warm, malignant, shocking him deep in his stomach as it stirred something awake that Battue spoke to with ferocious glee. A bittersweet stimuli, marred by fear. Hakann switched off his Lava Launcher, brought the sight down to clear his vision. It rumbled into inactivity with a growl, content to wait for another moment. His face still despite the wind's screech and scratch, Hakann stared at the figure with an almost ascetic acceptance. Anyone else would have been oblivious of the little dot, but he already had roughly guessed the speed required to reach it. He tallied up the minutes with mechanical efficiency and set them aside. With blurred, confident speed, he placed his Lava Launcher back into its proper place and drew his macuahuitl. Weighing the metal in his hand, he began to move. Within his lungs a roar of laughter was starting, building and rising in raging crescendo. His lips did not move, for it was not his own. * * * And so Since the iron-jawed men sat down And said, "Thanks, O God," For life and soup and a little less Than a hobo handout to-day, Since gray winds blew gray patterns of sleet on Plymouth Rock, Since the iron-jawed men sang "Thanks, O God," You and I, O Child of the West, Remember more than ever November and the hunter’s moon, November and the yellow-spotted hills. * * * The Muaka, easily a third larger than the norm for its species, tore into the Vako eagerly, eating as fast as its jaws allowed. Neck bulging and jaws straining to swallow each bite, it swung its head slowly to search for any other of its kind hoping to steal the kill's reward. Blood dripped from a mouth hiding natural blades, staining the snow below. Its eyes dull but far from empty, it stared into the snow and wind with blood-soaked serenity. Between mouthfuls, it paused, sniffing furiously. The wind had changed, bringing with it new scents of half-frozen life. It moved calmly, relaxing at the sight of an approaching speck of red in an almost infinite sea of grey and white. Eyes as large as fists narrowed, and claws that could cut through flesh like paper stabbed in and out of the Vako's corpse. Something between growl and purr rumbled through its throat. * * * Hakann spat out the bloody molar as effectively as he could while twisting and dodging to avoid Ice Resistance's next strike. The beast made Hakann look like a child; everything he attempted, it countered with such brutal efficiency that the negation seemed itself an offensive. Hakann's trail of blood and spit wandered across the snow, a clear and concise map of violence. Mind Reading circled above, waiting for an opening, while Fear and Silence remained close, seconds away from turning his back into a collection of exposed muscle and broken bone. Hakann's breathing was growing faster, hollow from lack of fury. What remained was little more than a puppet of a man, twisted pantomime. He mechanically blocked another strike, mind focused on assessing his own injuries, mentally reckoning the cumulative effect of all of the sensations assaulting his senses. Fear and Silence were circling him, preparing to drive their staves into his spine and ribs, but Ice Resistance would certainly open him from breastbone to pelvis if he attempted to retreat or counter. His gaze sharpened, fingers clenched, as he let all of the sensory information overloading his nerves create primal, predatory tactics. As Ice Resistance slashed at his stomach, Hakann perfectly measured his position and time, dodging the strikes until the opening presented itself. Grin no more than a formality, he moved beneath the staff's arcing blow and brought his elbow smashing upwards into the side of the Rahkshi's head. Ice Resistance did not take long to recover from wounds, giving barely enough time for Hakann to generate space between him and his opponents, turning Fear and Silence's attempt at a skewer into another set of bleeding lesions. He could not afford to open any more wounds; the air around him was already feeling light, and his hands were gradually losing their sense of iron strength. Gnawing fear once again crept from the pit of his stomach into his heaving lungs. Deep below the surface of Hakann's consciousness, something else stirred, her movements gentle, measured. Observing in silence as she calculated the pain and rage, tallying up the violence yet to be unleashed. No fear tainted her control, no frustration weakened her will. His wide grin, empty gaze, now vanishing. She awoke with a low sigh, speaking softly and wearing a new face, its smile wide and true. Hakann knew this face. He knew its eyes, its teeth. Parts of it, laughing merrily now, were from those minutes in Ta-Kini, other components older and speaking in quieter tones. Her hand, now a red far more beautiful than his own, traced the branching lines of his nerves to carve a new path through muscle and bone. The cruel stroking of her voice grew momentarily soft, decaying into melodic murmurs as her grip tightened, seizing spine and skull and setting them ablaze. Obsidian face newly painted in harsh incandescence, she reached past skin, below ribs, to grip with cauterizing hands the frozen inner crimsons. Laughing eyes, their glass hollows at first a blinding white, darkened into black beyond shadow. * * * The Muaka circled at a leisurely speed, massive ribcage expanding and contracting in perfect meter. Retraced into little more than slits, its pupils stared calm and contented, happy to remain waiting behind the rising steam of its breath. Hakann adjusted his grip on his weapon's handle, not breaking his eye contact with the towering Rahi. The laughter in his stomach was slowly dying, fingers of cold digging into his ribs to tear at a coward's lungs. He stepped forward, unblinking stare and hollow breath continuing in a pattern unyielding. Hands as calm and cold as the metal he gripped, Hakann positioned the macuahuitl and braced for impact, still pivoting to face the Rahi. Each breath held for as long as possible. The Rahkshi circled high above, unable to disobey their master's request for an uninterrupted death. The Muaka pounced between heartbeats, surging forward in a heavy wave of fur, death borne aloft by eager teeth— The light of consciousness vanished, swallowed with scarlet gloat. All hesitation now torn away with the freezing wind, Hakann crawled into fearful marrow, craven teeth gnashing anew with visions of hellmouth blaze. A single spark, igniting embers of unconsciousness into a great red thunder: Throat trembling with the start of a roar, she stretched frostbitten lips into a grin to match Death's, arms a haze of metal against the lesser blur of her locomotion. Ribs quaking under the cruel hammer of her heart, she opened veins and arteries to reveal the coiling inside serpents, her thousandfold vermilion joy. In the lightning of her violence, only her eyes remained clear, rage-widened. Lifeless orbs, burning with the yearnings of tooth and claw, their depths empty not only of colour. As obsidian-sharp metal slid below sternum and down through carmine secrets, the Muaka felt the slow-gnawing rot of fear. Then, with a feasting glee— Crimson. * * * A growl decayed into stillness of throat and mouth. A gaze previously burning now hardened and focused, staring off into empty sky. Pregnant quiet strangled all, only the wind's whispers betraying the removal of Silence's influence. One hand gripped a Rahkshi staff, fingers curled with a strength to snap a lesser weapon. The other hand remained open, fingers encrusted with dried blood, flexing slowly in the cold, a slow and cautious attempt to sense life in frost-stilled flesh. Scattered in the snow around Hakann were the slowly recovering forms of the Rahkshi, armour scuffed and staves thrown far away. As they recovered their weapons, Hakann tossed his staff back to the first standing, Ice Resistance, and then gestured to Mind Reading, leading the Rahkshi away from the others. Each of the Skakdi's movements were like the bending and shifting of weighted steel, shoulders still proud, but heavy with fatigue, marred with a network of scarring cuts that reappeared on the edges of his torso and thigh. The Rahkshi watched their master, eyes like a fox hunting a wounded rodent that refused to submit to crippling injuries. The fatigue was there, and the wounds, certainly, but no sign of acceptance of the words (or agreement with their concepts) to the bafflement of the hunter. The conversation was short. He gave her a small thought to remember before launching into his main topic: perhaps he should name his warriors. He could sense Mind-Reading's confusion and interest, but shunted it aside for later analysis. With a executioner's efficiency, Hakann reminded the Rahkshi that he had requested them to operate at one fourth their normal capacity, not full. They had obeyed his order to work in teams of three, divided evenly into offence and support, with their usual flawlessness, but there was no sign of the handicap he expected. The Rahkshi did not seem to understand, and stated in its crude way that the order had been followed. Hakann stared for a short while, and then asked how long she had taken. The response was followed only by silence. * * * Hakann entered Ko-Koro with none of his previous grandiloquence, moving through the opened gate in silence. Trailing behind, working together to carry their burden, the Rahkshi held the skin and head of a massive Muaka, as quiet as the husk that commanded them. Hours later, Hakann stood in one of the less populated corners of Ko-Koro, his blood and metal newly hidden beneath a Muaka-fur cloak, its shoulders reinforced with designs built of a skull as hard as iron. Masked scarlet frozen into stillness to match its new metallic skin, he remained motionless in the ruined alley, calm between the surrounding limestone husks of empty homes. Battue moved slowly through tendon and bone, teasing his nerves with hints of ecstasy. He savoured the cold's sting, letting his breath rise in gentle plumes as he took numbing pain in substitution for taste lost. The knife-edge contour of his cheek outlined by the cowl's Muaka-jawbone structure, he stood and let the frozen air settle in his lungs, zygomatic bone straining sharp against the skin with each mechanical inhalation. Scars shifted slightly with the movement, their hypertrophic web expanding and twisting with pale beauty,. Battue's voice grew quiet as her interest waned, subsiding into whispered promises. Hakann let his breathing slow, the hushing cold transfixing his lips into stillness. Snow began to gather on the heavy shadow of fur covering Hakann's shoulders, scattering specks of white over the darkness of his garment. The skyward turn of his gaze, hidden in empty sockets, remained static as he observed each snowflake in infinite detail. And so In the name of the iron-jawed men I will stand up and say yes till the finish is come and gone. God of all broken hearts, empty hands, sleeping soldiers, God of all star-flung beaches of night sky, I and my love-child stand up together to-day and sing: "Thanks, O God." -Carl Sandburg, Fire Dreams
  3. Recommended listening. I I I I wanted a man's face looking into the jaws and throat of life With something proud on his face, so proud no smash of the jaws, No gulp of the throat leaves the face in the end With anything else than the old proud look: Even to the finish, dumped in the dust, Lost among the used-up cinders, This face, men would say, is a flash, Is laid on bones taken from the ribs of the earth, Ready for the hammers of changing, changing years, Ready for the sleeping, sleeping years of silence. Ready for the dust and fire and wind. I wanted this face and I saw it today in an Aztec mask. A cry out of storm and dark, a red yell and a purple prayer, A beaten shape of ashes waiting the sunrise or night, something or nothing, proud-mouthed, proud-eyed gambler. -Carl Sandburg, Aztec Mask "You have to cut true. Deep circle. Bore into it. You see what I mean? Nothing to be gentle about." The child stared with hollow eyes, his unblinking gaze and hunger-sunken face transfixed as if in the presence of stained glass. Two young callused hands moved under the coarse hair, both searching in the quickly vanishing heat, one hunting with steel. "Start below the breastbone. Move down, keep it just below the skin. Cut the stomach, and I'll break your fingers. I'll make you clean it with your own ####### mouth." A wind, heavy with late winter rain, bit into him with obsidian droplets. The edge of the cold tore through his skin, seeking the blood beneath with an igneous ferocity. "All the way. Watch them, careful with the pull. Make the cut. Higher. No, above. Don't slow down. Step back, step back." Gut hook released, traded for hatchet and hammer, leather-wrapped steel to wood. Twin certainties when gripped in hand, solid monoliths of comforting greyed hickory, their strikes clean and sweet in their resounding. A careless movement in the extraction sent a few wayward drops onto him. Red, still holding some hint of warmth, ran down his face to drip from his chin. Shards of stained white laid on rain-swept grass, remnants of the heart's once-sturdy shield. The child remained silent, hands now slightly trembling. "Alright, chest's open. Throat and gullet. No, not the hook. Don't be gentle. Get them out." Fingers slipping on the pale and red, blade ripping with the speed of hunger. They worked in silence for a few moments, until they opened the pelvis. The child exhaled when they began to leak outwards, freed from constraint. Secrets well kept, blue-veined and still warm. His hands searched delicately in their folds, trying to find the mark of conception, any suitable base for a starting cut. "Now. Not so slow. Pull. Don't be soft with them." They fell into their anguine piles, each perfect, divine. He stepped back when the motion was complete, knife pointed to the earth in reverence. The coils of grey and white spoke to him in kinder tones. Lips set, the tall one did not speak as he finished inspecting the emptied cavity. For the slightest moment, a glimmer of hope in the child's awe-softened gaze. * * * I am voiceless– Broken. I have held and tasted the underlying truth of all that sweats and bleeds. We are specks of red and passion within an infinite dark. We are infantile in our perception, uncertain of boundary or meaning. This is apparent to all. A child knows this as well as any emperor. Nothing mysterious, nothing hidden. Only now I realise the connotations, and only now am I able to see what I hid from with posturing and faux bravery. Now that I have seen true nakedness do I recognize this taste. Bone of my bone, blood of my blood. I know the laughter of her eyes. I have heard the music of her voice in my ecstasies, in my revelations. I am voiceless– I am crushed and mangled and torn and beaten. Blood flows between my teeth and it should not be sweet or welcomed, yet it is. I do not regret my hunger for the red deluge. She has told me why this is, why the flame burns sweet, why the quivering red pleases. She has shown in such beautiful detail, such caring horror, the root and bone on which my deviance is built. She was not satisfied to leave the pieces of corpse, or to let the husk rot in silence. Nothing worthwhile in the quiet and dignified. I have been overcome. Conquered. My body broken and stolen and maimed. I am voiceless– I am Hakann, slave to the anointing fire. This agony is a pleasure of mine no longer. Nothing left to savour or detest. She has taken it and she basks in the corpse left behind. I share her breath, her teeth. Her veins hold my blood, my lungs hold her rage. She repeats endlessly, a single word, the sculptor's imitation of emotion. She is not a kind saviour. She is not a peacemaker of soul or body. She comes with double-edged sword, with firestorm, her demand singular. To revel in the broken ivory of shattered bone, to dance in smooth-running rivers of red: this and only this is the proper sacrifice. She is a jealous god, a god of obsidian teeth, of hearts torn and roasted. She demands an immolation, speaking for a lustful god, a gluttonous god, born of dark and heaving aeons, moulded by the bite of cold, the lick of flame. I have lost my articulation, stripped into a stark and maskless silence. My ornate, my grandiose, is peeled with my flesh, torn from my jaws and fed gently back into the blasphemer's lips. The last remnant of weakness, the source of idiocy. All purged by claw, by tooth. There is a beauty in Death. When one hunts beneath skin or searches behind ribs, there is a feeling. Your body knows that something is gone from the corpse before you. You can smell the start of the decay, sense the warmth leaving. When you search beneath the malleable cutaneous, trying to hide in the flayed remainder, it lies waiting, the truest emotion. Observation of the creation of a corpse is stimulation of the basest level. Every broken skull, every litre of blood rings loudly with a simple message, and this message is received with an ecstatic joy. You are alive. The thing in front of you may not have that privilege, but your hands grasp onto life, your palms, even with their calluses, can feel its pulse. You can see, for the slightest fraction of a moment, what it means to hold this sliver of time in a frame of dust. You see how great the darkness and how small the flame. This is the only way I know to describe my salvation. This was the taste of my stupidity, the flavour of my own blood. The consumption was edifying, every stimuli controlled for maximum effect. I stood there devouring in impassivity, tearing it into orderly strips and moving any remainders with darting fingers. I was trying to establish and believe a delusion of separation. A mindless and uncontrolled response, born of equal parts confusion and disgust. Understand: it was not my first taste of freshly torn or life-warmed flesh. I have dug into the skulls of twitching half-corpses, tested the vitreous humour of the broken and newly shapeless. Nor was it the first self-harming exercise. No, this was renascence. Rebirth born of my own flesh, conceived within my own violence. She has shattered the falsehood of self-sanctity, and left in my broken fingers only the bloodied vestige of doubt. A feigned dichotomy, these subsets of flesh. I will bleed and rot the same as any beast. There should be no mystery to this, least of all to a man of my past, but I was not ready to hear her sour words, born still and cold from her worm-filled mouths. I did not want to taste what she provided, see the message her knife was carving. It does not matter. Her hands have shattered my illusions of superiority, thrown the remnants into the tempest of fury. I feel no disgust, nor pride. A reaction is an asinine thing: I have blustered and raged at frustration, smiled at agony. A confused system, no longer efficient. I have eaten my voice, defied nociception and marked myself a mute, a child's imitation of wisdom divine. I feel the call of death, tearing at my heart and lungs. There is no solace in these rasping breaths. These moments and fears are welcomed now, no longer anathema in any form. A beauty unspeakable waits in the darkness, face calm and hands stained a bitter scarlet. Her teeth more than a mere handful of bones, skin more than so much stretched clay. She speaks to me of a peace that no others know of, a peace found deep in places of red and pulse, born from the stone-heart reckoning of nihil. Her voice is daemonic in its beatific calm, infecting my last remnant of cowardice. If this is divinity, I am truly made in the image of God. * * * Hakann stared at his bloodstained hands in silence. The tip of the tongue slid down his throat at a creeping pace, a stark gentleness in the descent. The red ran past his fingers, slithering between them in wavering lines down his forearm, covering his palm. A hint of warmth wherever the scarlet touched. He tried to speak. Nothing came but a gag, a moan of animal rage. Something between a roar of laughter and a predator's shrieking bellowed from the mind of the parasite in response, surging through his mind and soul. Hakann stood unblinking, gaze hardening. When the screaming had finally subsided, he looked more corpse than man. * * * I have tasted the flesh of Truth. Men now dust in broken coffins deep in wormcast-riddled dirt tell me that she is kind, that she is wise, complex. These men of decay and sophistry, men who thought themselves formed and completed and saved by their wasted hours of words and concept. These excogitators, ruminators, these wise men, philosophers of ethical and ontological quandaries. Godless prophets, crying on their deathbed like a child abandoned. I have drunk the ichor of Wisdom, metallic in its burning. Ribcages ashen and heat-tempered in sunburnt valleys, strewn in the deserts like forgotten seeds. Skulls of the half-children who fought and bled and screamed and died for their beliefs, adolescents promised a happiness that they had been told was not in the dirt beneath their feet or in the touch of another dust-hewn slowfaring rotter. These passionate doomed raised from dust, their bones creaking, their eyes shining as they stride and scream in the name of the great perversion. These mindless children felt the roughness of the pick handle and the softness of the earth and they cried to find no beauty in it, no consolation in their pastures and herds of stark and warm. These corpses rot in silence. They have no lips to murmur and no eyes to see and if they did there would be no difference made. These men of red blood and surging heart. I have tasted the ambrosia of Wisdom, the nectar of Truth, and it was ash, cold and gritty with the half-melted bones of the forgotten. I tried to evoke the shapes of gods and found only broken marble. Deathmasks of bone and peeled skin, burning with an ulterior scarlet. I have dug into the empty sockets and tasted the shattered teeth of the wise and magnificent and it was cold, hollow; a promise easily and carelessly broken. * * * The blade struck true, piercing the feeble intercostal defence and diving into unguarded lung. Face pales, grip weakens, tortured gasp. Other hand curving masterfully in its blow, opening the throat and driving the steel through the external jugular and carotid. Movement infinitely calm, immaculately practised, every detail observed and honoured in the sanctity of the locomotion. Violence made routine, practical. The strength of the other man's grip ebbed in synchronisation with his bloodloss, attempt at strangulation now a feeble cradling of the neck. Collapse at knees. Shock setting in. He stood in silence, staring down at the deformed imitation of life with a polite interest. He crouched, resting lightly on his haunches, to observe the final moments and faint struggle. A great fear, intertwined with dreams of unseen solace, burned in the dying eyes: as they glassed over, there was a hint of hope nestled deep in the strangled shriek of agony. The crouching Skakdi felt a small twinge of regret as he removed the teeth and fingers before starting on the scalp. Deep in his inner red trembling, where the traces of ecstasy still lurked and skittered through nerve and soul, there was recognition of an imperfect completion. To go screaming for hours or silent and unknowing: that was the dignity deserved. Never a quick and painful death, powerless in the presence of brutality. Never the way of the beast. * * * I have seen the face of Beauty. Young mothers bury the stillborn in silence. Faces and hearts like stone, cinder-red eyes burning with nothing at all, feeble firing of synapses where stillness should rest and eat in dignity. These young girls raw from the separation of parent and child and deadening with the realisation of the flesh that resides in the miniature pine box; these mothers know. They have seen the same face I came across in my dreams and in my victims, my children. I have tasted the celestial marrow of Wisdom, torn into her ethereal bones and searched in her emptied skull for some forgotten remnant of hope. I found Wisdom's smiling face in the beating hearts of young men who were told to go and kill and claim but found themselves in wastelands dying and mutilated. I tasted it in the flesh, in the eyes of fear and regret and found it hidden deep in the grey coils of viscera warm and quivering. Blue-veined and wet and full of rage at nothing at all, passion in dirt and blood. Distant memories of children, playing and falling in a dusk haze. Names half-forgotten. These are their possessions in the last moments and when they open their hands covered in the blood and purulence I take these and taste their Wisdom. Take these moments and scatter them to the wind for they were yours and nothing remains but shadows quickly fading. These sagacities and aesthetics, they are but a title for purer things. Ash and dust. Particles born on the great and hollowing winds of futility, their ruin made beautiful, a graceful decay. I have loathed bliss and lusted after pain. I have cut and bled and hungered until nothing we left but a hollow soul. Once, I would have basked in the title of immoral. Resounded to the cry of blasphemer. Tasted the words, listened to the rage in their voices and looked deep for the bloodlust in their eyes. It was nothing but fancy, a baseless desire. I have been operating under the influence of a false separation. There is nothing in this world but pain and fear of death and this is as it should be. We struggle in the trenches of knowledge searching for meaning or drown ourselves in the holy sanctity of the theatrical in hopes of the salvation of renown. Harsh, grainy daylight of bitter white filters in and the remains of our efforts are weak and feeble and we hide them with new and blood-surging efforts of love and horror. The self fights reflexivity, eternity and apeiron watching impassively, licking bloodstained lips. Those who realise attempt to console themselves in minor ways. To seek solace is mindless. Look into this darkness and touch it and feel it and you will see that light was an illusion of caves and torches, imperfect form and idea, the thesis without antithesis that whispers claims of synthesis. Memories and senses scattered to the wind in favour of a concept, hypothesis without testing or self-regulation. The tasted ignored in preference for the imagined: such the wise man chooses, such the fool's bounty. Only the dead, in their own unique and naïve wisdom. Only the broken and wood-stiff, concealed deep beneath the wasting earth and consumed across the cold years in chthonic reverence. Only they, with their inner and shattered beauties, know. * * * The service was short and vacuous. Repeat the litany, make the promises, state the emotion. Unrecognizable faces peering down with their scars and wrinkles contorted in sorrow, whispered feelings feebly presented that bewildered him as if from some alien and hostile tongue. He stood in silence in the mumbling crowds, gaze no higher than the stomachs of his fellow mourners. Black cloth, its worn surface now fading to gray and only barely still attached by tattered knots around his throat, flipped and snapped in the wind, tickling his face. He never flinched. He stared into the empty eyes and hollow, death-stretched smile for far longer than the others, delving into their depths in search of understanding, some hidden and cryptic epiphany that would explain the process, illustrate the cycle. He only stopped when the fire turned it all to ash and all the others had left, leaving him alone in front of the wind-extinguished pyre, staring uneasily into the rising black plume of smoke. Weak clouds dotted the sky in pseudo-symmetrical bilateral patterns, feeble and negative Rorschach. The winds tore through the steppe void, scourging his exposed skin in their rush for the distant mountains. He rose slowly, gaze creeping with deliberate ponderousness across the length of the blackened remnant, ash-tainted effigy of kin enkindled in distant and foreign aeons. Fingers callused despite their youth, he reached out to touch a hand that dwarfed his own. His eyes lit for a slight moment, lips twitching in whisper or prayer, before he strode away in silent disappointment. * * * I found Truth in the child of pathos and anathema. Rotting in silence, eyes open and gangrened, it spoke to me with no great authority, no voice of kings among men. When the words have been spoken and repeated and self-reference grows weary there is nothing to say except to children wide-eyed and innocent, and that is to speak falsehood and spread vainglory. You will die expecting Judgment and Eternity to come holding the hands of Death, fat and pus-filled with the fond excess of life. A truth more horrible than the soul can fear awaits you, lingering until the last hopeful child. A single word. I have seen the face of Death, masked in Truth and Wisdom and the flesh of life. It spoke to me an ancient name, called from ash and given form through the struggles of tuberculoid breath. I have answered its call, tasted its name. Nothing remains but the shape of a man, void in crimson. She has remade me, christened me as a husk of a killer, kept alive only by a long job of killing. So it should be. There is no better work. * * * Blood roiled in his veins, stimuli and responses surging in ulterior unison. Each step a testament, every stride an eternity. All reborn in the crucible of the raw and heaving heart. Pain reformed and coalesced until hatred and love became as one, encircling together to birth new ecstasies. His senses changing, improving, no longer lost in the darkness, instead part of it. A self-aware component, merged into the raging terror and the silent beauty. He could smell the death and the decay, sickly sweet in its sphacelation. Taste the earth, feel it: every little detail, every hint of meaning. The greatest and cruellest kind of illusion, built on hope born of deepest fear. She screamed a noise eternal, her wordless shrieks resounding and distorting in their wrath. Existence morphed into a dissociative dream, vivid farce of rage and sorrow. All burned with a chiaroscuro frenzy, oscillating between impassivity and fury. Every happiness dissected and analysed for rot, reflexive solipsism adopted in the face of an endless dark. It was reflected in his locomotion, turning his movements into executions instead of actions. Always searching for the best means to an end. He moved with the mindless precision of the predator, animalistic to the point of beauty. The walls of the tunnel surged past him, details distinct regardless of shadow and blur. Fear and trembling crept through spine and nerve, whispering of agonies long since forgotten. * * * I am hunger: It is my tooth, my hand. Spine of my brutality, Prodigal, ancient before the naming of Pride and Shame. In my scrimshawed bones a faith encrimsoned I am fear: from my hollow and opened arteries a bitter harvest, a sanctity to grip and tear the guts of the meek. In my twisting reds the hallowed breath I am entropy's hand: Patron saint of mob and rust, a wise and careful feeder of my scarred carnivore children and their shrieking, iron-clawed progeny. In my words the slow cutting of years I am the claimed rib: A man who affects obdurateness as a mask now lays before me, soul little more than cinders I will carve a new name in his jaw And from the red tide behind his grin from his bones, his skin- Arise. I am Battue: In my veins, the roar of the hunt and on my blackened lips the blood of cowards. III I am the Law Older than you And your builders proud. I am deaf In all days Whether you Say "Yes" or "No". I am the crumbler: To-morrow. -Carl Sandburg, Under
  4. Hey everyone, Darkon here. Just wanted to formally announce that my inactivity is going to be permanent. This forum always has been amazing, and I thank everyone here for the years of great experiences. As a sort of send-off, I'm posting some very old (and very long) planned posts for a Hakann arc I had always intended to do. It's not exactly a high-note, but I figure something is better than nothing. I hope everyone continues the story in a great new direction with this next arc! Here's the story topic for the Hakann stuff, and a "review" topic which, once I get it written up/find it, will have the background information on the posts to explain what's going on. Thanks for all the memories!
  5. This story has been created out of a series of posts I had planned for a Hakann arc in the BZPRPG. Artwork featured (by post): Silence (Fuseli), Wild Chase (von Stuck), Lucifer (von Stuck), The Enigma (Doré). EDIT: Alright, found the document with almost everything! There were a couple playlists I had somehow planned to incorporate for the posts. Unfortunately for the life of me I can't remember how I had planned to use them. Here they are regardless as youtube playlists: Hakann, Battue. You probably noticed the weird highlighting going on everywhere. The idea was to have every post be both a Hakann and a Battue post by creating poetry (Battue's actual "voice") out of Hakann and the quotes. The complete Battue "posts": (Poem 1) I tell youWhen wind’s drive and whirlBlow no longerAnd the whisper at last--Maybe I’ll tell you then When the sunsetReels to the rack and twistAnd the rose a red bygoneWhen the love is goingthe gate to the endshall beckon So longMaybe I’ll tell you then I never knew youI have hunted my thoughtsI have broken down the windand the roses for youI shall never find anygreater than you (Poem 2) Red drips fromwhere I have beenall the bloodis off my mouth of red messAnd the tigerknow I was a killer.Yes, I am a killer. I come from killing.I go to drivered joy ahead of me Red gluts and red hungers run in my bones The child cries for a suck mother and I cry for war (Poem 3) A man’s face looking into the jaws and throat of lifewith something proudso proud no smash of the jawsleaves the face with anything else than the old proud look to the finish in the dustLost amongused-up cindersThis faceis a flashIs taken from the ribs of the earthReady for the hammers of changing yearsReady for the sleepingyears of silenceReady for the dust and fire and wind this face I saw in an Aztec maskA cryof storm and dark a red prayerA beaten shape of asheswaiting the sunriseproud-mouthedproud-eyed (Poem 4) I am the undertow of powerbattering you things of high law I am a sleepless eaterof rust and rot bastioned deep I am Law Older thanyour builders proud I am allWhether you say Yes or NoI am the crumbler: to-morrow (Poem 5) I the fireIn redsin pilgrimsin jawson beatenand glad the iron-jawedsaid Thanks, O Godfor grays winds blew gray patterns of sleetthe iron-jawedsang Thanks, O God You, O ChildRemember more than everthe hunter’s moonand the yellow hills And so the iron-jawedstand up and saythe finish is come God of all empty handsof all night skyI and my love-child stand to-day and sing Thanks, O God (Post III) I have tastedthe underlying of all that bleedsWe are red and passionuncertain of boundarya child as well as emperor I seetrue nakedness of bone I know the music of revelations I am teethI hunger for red sweetthe quivering root and bone I am the anointing firea pleasure of mine to savour or detest I share veinssculptor’s imitation of soul the broken bone in smooth-running redan immolation for aeons I have losta stark and maskless silenceflesh torn gently into lips beneath skinbehind ribssomething is gone before the start of decaythe warmth beneath the malleable cutaneoustrying to hide in the flayed remainderit lies your hands graspyour palms, even with their calluses, feelthis frame of dust This is the only tastestimuli devouring impassivitytearing and moving a delusion of separation this renascence of fleshconceived within violencehas shattered selfand left only the bloodied vestige A feigned fleshwill bleed the same as anya man of wordsborn still and colddid not taste the carving I feel agony no longer I have eaten nociceptiona mute imitation of anathema beauty unspeakableand scarlet teethskin more than clayspeaks of places of red and pulseborn from the daemonicin beatific calm I am the image of God * * * I the fleshnow broken and godlessa child abandoned I have drunk the burningashen and heat-temperedthe touch of slowfaring rotterpassionate from dustshining as they stridein mindless herds of stark These have no lips and no eyesthese of red and surging I evoke the shapes of broken and peeledulterior scarlet I the empty sockets the shattered teeththe magnificent and hollow * * * I have seen the facecinder-red and deadening I have tasted the marrow of hopein the wastelands in the fleshin the eyesmemories of half-forgotten blood and wind born great and of ruin made gracefulI have loathed and lusted after a hollow soulI have resounded to the cry of rage and bloodlust There is fear of the holyin the remains of feeble and bloodstained lips Those who console themselves in darknesssee an illusion of imperfect form senses ignored in preference for the imaginedsuch man chooses Only the deadtheir wisdom concealeddeep beneathand consumed in reverence * * * I the child of anathemaeyes open and gangrenedspoke with words wearyand innocent You will come holdingthe hands of Deathand life awaits youthe last child the face of Deathmasked in the fleshof an ancient nameand given breath I have tasted crimsonchristened by a long jobof killing And here are the profiles that would have reflected the changes made to Hakann (and the introduction of Battue). These help clarify some of the concepts introduced, although they're crazy long! Also some more Battue stuff in the quotes. -Miserere in Crimson- Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. -Khalil Gibran, The Prophet Name: Hakann Species: Skakdi Gender: Male Appearance: A death mask stained scarlet, Hakann is the husk of a once-living being, gaining a semblance of life only when awakened by pain. He is considerably taller than a normal Skakdi (much, much taller than the average Toa / on par with the average Vortixx), and his torso and limbs are composed of sublime muscle, capable of ferocious power or adroit precision. The unreflective shades of red that compose his body are scarred by years of bloodshed, turning his organic components into a hypertrophic tapestry of violence. Sunken deep in a face composed of features sharper than most knives, his eyes are empty black circles due to Battue's tampering, cruel mimicry of gouged void. When Battue activates, his body seems to simultaneously straighten and harden, becoming a collection of negatives and scars complete with obsidian-sharp claws, teeth, and spines. He carries his myriad tools and weapons via bandoleers, belts, and his satchel, which (along with Battue and his armor) are completely hidden by his Muaka-hide cloak. Powers: -Extreme resistance to heat: before Battue removed the ability, Hakann was able to fire beams of concentrated extreme heat (capable of melting stone and metal) from his eyes with no injury to his person. Although he is unable to access his Heat Vision or his elemental power, he retains his extreme resistance to heat. -Hakann can “activate” Battue, accessing her power to make himself much, much faster, stronger, and more agile for up to the comfortable limit of five minutes (identical to a Parakuka's boost, except that acceptable usage lasts half as long). Like Parakuka usage, this comes at the cost of fatigue, and the longer Hakann maintains the activation, the stronger the following fatigue is. If used for extreme amounts of time, the resulting physical taxation may even result in death. This power has another very important weakness, listed in the appropriate section. -Due to Battue's connection, Hakann's senses have been vastly increased (identical to a Mask of Sensory Aptitude user, including proprioception & equilibrioception increase). This has made him extremely resistant to brightness-based overstimulation, painful sounds, fetid odors, etc., due to a combination of resistance-via-repeated-exposure (seeing how even the smallest stimuli is incredibly painful) and his pain asymbolia. She has also fused the power of his Thermographic Contact Lenses directly into his body, leading to an enhanced sixth sense of precise thermoception (separate from his vision). Abilities: Hakann is a virtuoso of violence. His entire life has been dedicated to perfecting his skill in two fields: surviving despite the best efforts of those around him, and effectively removing all threats to his person. As such, he possesses the qualities and knowledge you would expect from a man who often finds himself having to end lives with his bare hands (and rarely within the desired CQC range). Hakann possesses a ferocious tendency, acquired through careful mental and physical training, to continue thriving in the face of the worst combat situations. Due to a combination of pain asymoblia, pseudo-sadomasochism, a focus on counterattacking, and superior reach and strength in comparison to most potential opponents, Hakann's defensive techniques and tactics are extremely effective against most melee and some ranged combatants, and the combination of his martial prowess and innate endurance makes him nightmarish when matched against foes who focus on depleting their opponent's stamina. As far as offense goes, Hakann is an artist with a deep and prodigious understanding of the structure and techniques of his medium. Thanks to the combination of myriad years of training and his innate and achieved physical characteristics, he possesses strength, speed, stamina, and agility befitting his size and conditioning, equaling that of any trained Po-Toa/Skakdi or Vortixx. His physical characteristics are complemented by his fighting style, which is absolutely devoid of anything resembling the spirituality, conservation-of-life, or self-restraint found in any reasonably well-intentioned martial art; Hakann strikes to kill, maim, or cripple as quickly and effectively as possible, and has trained with the intention of assuming the worst position/situation possible (see: most military combatives). Battue's assistance, although it comes at a great cost, renders his abilities exponentially more useful. Skills: Hakann is the weakest of the Piraka so far as sheer, intrinsic power is concerned. His comrades can steal abilities, separate into millions of mentally-controlled particles, and create inescapable prisons. He can grow more physically powerful at the very high cost of risking death in the subsequent period of weakness, and possessed even less ability before Battue's additions. As such, from a perspective of pure power, he should very well be dead, for all of his “allies” would kill him if given the smallest chance. The reason for his survival is simple: he compensates for his lack of elemental (or otherwise supernatural) power with physical and mental adroitness. Hakann is a polymath that has grown frighteningly close to the realm of the pantomath: any and every skill that will help him perform his dastardly deeds with maximum effect and aplomb is not only understood but mastered. Avak has his machines to work on and perfect, and Thok his beauty; Hakann has his physical disciplines and his marksmanship, his skills and his techniques. Lockpicking, stealth, trapping, survival (both urban and otherwise), combat of each and every sort (Hakann is an especially skilled marksman and CQC specialist): you name it, he’s perfected a personal technique, not to mention both started and burned down a school devoted to the craft. Three noteworthy skills in particular are: the handling/repair/maintenance of firearms and most other ranged weaponry (Hakann is especially skilled when handling his Lava Launcher and is able to repair almost any damage to his beloved tool, given time and resources), medicine/anatomy, the usage of poisons (professionally and for personal pleasure), and the sort of survival and environmental adaption skills you would expect from a professional assassin. With the assistance of Battue's continual sensory enhancement, Hakann has also become an extremely skilled scent-tracker, a master of non-verbal communication and body language analysis (both visual and olfactory), and is extremely adept in examining his environment for tactical purposes (especially the foiling of attempted stealth, which his paranoia tends to lead him to obsess over). Technology: -Lava Launcher: The Lava Launcher is Hakann's weapon of choice. When fired, the Lava Launcher shoots a compressed sphere of lava at the target, melting through the armour, flesh, and bones of the unprepared. The Launcher's projectiles move at a speed nearly exactly between those of a crossbow and pistol. Although not incredibly fast (subsonic), it is an accurate and precise weapon, comparable to any normal firearm in that regard. The weapon can be charged to produce lava balls of varying size and viscosity (the longer the projectile is charged, the more compressed and dense the projectile is: if released quickly, a projectile loses some of that compression upon contact). Generating the minimum-sized lava sphere takes approximately 2 seconds of charging (the result is a sphere of felsic lava that is only fairly viscous after contact, meaning very little target penetration excluding initial impact), while the largest possible projectile takes approximately 12 seconds and possesses extreme heat and penetrating power (due to its being ultramafic lava compressed into a dense projectile). The Lava Launcher also has an Energy Claw on its back end, which can shock opponents, a feature Hakann happily abuses in torture sessions with quiet or (formerly) stoic victims. This claw can also be used as a melee weapon, especially ideal for use in countering metallic weapons and delivering surprising shocks. Due to its accuracy and range, the Lava Launcher, while certainly usable in close-quarters, is specialized and highly efficient for ranged combat. (Approved by Nuju) -Macuahuitl: Taken directly from the Vault's tech pile. An impressive tool made of a single piece of the metal that composes Rahkshi armour, sharpened to a literal razor edge (this makes it, technically speaking, not a true or traditional macuahuitl, but it functions in the same fashion). It is a weapon of Makuta, powered with Kraata ability of Shattering, proportionally increasing the power of the weapon's blows (about 1.75x), making it very effective in delivering blunt force trauma or deeply penetrating cuts. However, due to its construction, it is slower than swords and other slashing weapons of similar size. (Approved by Nuju) -Revolver: Taken directly from the Vault's tech pile. A double-action 3-shot revolver chambered in a cartridge similar to .500 S&W Magnum. Looks like a sinister, long-barrelled hybrid of the 1851 Colt Navy Revolver and a Colt Python, coloured in varying shades of black and grey and composed out of the unreflective metal used for Rahkshi armour. Requires a fair amount of time to reload (it's a fixed cylinder revolver) and three shots in quick succession requires a cooldown period. Its ammunition is jacketed hollow point (all metallic components of the cartridge are made of the same material as the firearm). (Approved by Tyler) Equipment: -(2) Combat knives (Construction similar to an elongated Ka-Bar, except with a non-slip covering for the handle. One with trench-knife handguard, other without, carried on separate belts). -(3) Karambit knives, hidden on his person. -(5) Throwing / general use knives (two in bandoleers, three hidden). -(1) Dual purpose Tomahawk/Hatchet (for use both in and out of combat, on bandoleer). -(3) Photothermic grenades (hidden), timed fuse design. Hakann also carries a large, extremely dangerous pull-fuse grenade in his satchel: this grenade has an additional, hidden safety feature to completely prevent accidental or forced activation. -Poisoning equipment, assorted poisons (hemlock, strychnine, arsenic, belladonna, batrachotoxin, etc.), carried in satchel. Hakann is a consummate user of poisons and an expert in analyzing their effects. -Satchel, containing torture tools, lockpicking tools, medical supplies, weapon repair/maintenance tools, and a variety of other equipment. The satchel carries paper and writing utensils for when communication is required. -Bandoleers, for carrying ammunition and weapons. Armour: Hakann wears a suit of armour designed for a combination of vital defensive properties, mobility, and offensive usage (also of note, it is a design that lacks rattling plates or rustling chainmail, still allowing, and even focusing on, stealth): it consists of a cuirass/ballistic armour (covering back, front, and sides of his torso down to the hip, composed of layered metal ideal for projectile and melee defense, and then insulated by a thick layer of carefully arranged electrically nonconductive fabric to resist electrical shocks and further resist projectiles [in the fashion of real life usage of silk in early ballistic vests]: long story short, the majority of projectiles are going to be extremely weakened or completely neutralised, although Hakann still gets all of that wonderful blunt trauma that the padding is unable to diffuse), greaves (expanded to encompass the entirety of the shin, and possessing kneecap armour, subtly spiked and reinforced for striking. The entire armour piece is reinforced with extra padding to reduce the force of tibia-directed blows), and a unique arm armour design (think a bladed vambrace that extends to a weaponisable elbow covering, and armor protecting the hand with something between a gauntlet and a cestus; it provides protection to the first joint of Hakann's fingers, and turns a normal strike into something much more painful, while simultaneously protecting his palm from harm and allowing great dexterity. The several blades on the edge of the vambrace itself are useful for countering and climbing). All vulnerable areas of his body not protected by metallic armour are covered by either leather or leather-with-metallic-plate armour, unreflective and designed for mobility and stealth. All pieces of armour are carefully underlaid with the same nonconductive fabric padding used on the cuirass. His cloak, made of Muaka hide and reinforced in certain areas with Muaka bone, is an important aspect of his armour, serving to hide his torso-protection from ranged combatants and weaken the effect of electrical attacks (due to its insulation with nonconducting fabrics), and hiding the movements of his hands when drawing/using his weapons. (Approved by Tyler) Voice: Once, there was a susurration that lied between baritone and bass in depth and richness. Now, due to a distinct lack of a tongue, there is nothing. Weaknesses: Hakann is unable to speak due to his lack of a tongue, and must rely on his handsignals or Decima to control his Rahkshi (and writing or Decima to communicate with others). Battue is Hakann's only source of offensive power, putting him at a strict disadvantage in comparison to other Parakuka users if the fight continues on for a long time. Hakann's only tools for ranged combat are his revolver and the Lava Launcher, putting him at a disadvantage when in combat with most elementalists. Battue has all of the weaknesses found in normal Parakuka (as well as a shorter timespan of power release). Battue's activation results in mental agony for Hakann, often leading to Battue gaining control of his body until he is able to recover his mental fortitude enough to overpower her presence. Battue is a very aggressive individual, causing these periods of absence to become life-threatening berserker situations if they occur in combat. Battue is able to control his body even when not activated, meaning there is always a risk that Hakann will disappear in moments when he is needed. Personality: Hakann is best described as a paranoid-narcissist with extremely violent antisocial tendencies. He for all intents and purposes lacks the ability to feel regret, and the severity of his psychopathology has stripped him of almost all desirable or empathic qualities. He views himself as literally supreme in almost all aspects of existence, resulting in a megalomania compounded by the severity of his grandiose delusions. The paranoia aspect comes from a combination of his surroundings (see: how each of the Piraka want to violently kill everyone) and a furiously narcissistic revulsion towards submission in even the most minor fashion. It is also of note that his perception is warped by a twisted and deformed version of sadomasochism: he finds both the causing and receiving of pain and injury the highest expression of innate superiority, as well as the only true way he can feel anything resembling an emotional high, and is constantly searching for new ways to cause or experience agony, resulting in a hideous combination of bizarrely pseudo-sexual sadomasochism and a pain asymbolia strongly leaning towards positive perception of pain. All of this means that in social interactions he is (when not masking his normal self for his own purposes; it's very important to note that the antisocial side of Hakann has learned out of necessity to mask all of the above personality with a variety of other presentations) calculating and efficient at best, horrifyingly sadistic and utterly alien at worst. The introduction of Battue has severely subdued his egoism: she has hammered into him the realisation that he is not the deity he previously believed, and replaced most of his overblown grandiloquence with a cadaverous dispassion. Where he once would defend his perceived superiority with pretentious displays, now he will stand in utter, unblinking silence. TL,DR: Not a very nice fellow, lots of violent sadomasochism and malignant narcissism. Alignment: Neutral Evil, although Hakann will happily act as if this were not case assuming the timing is right and the payoff is considerable. He only places violence over survival if he's been unable to act on his homicidal impulses for quite some time. Otherwise, it's whatever he interprets as best for him. Bio: N/A. -The Blood of Mors / The Bone of Nemesis- And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty." Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide? And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech? The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle. Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us." And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread. Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us." The tired and the weary say, "Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit. Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow." But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains, And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions." -Khalil Gibran, The Prophet Name: Battue Species: Parakuka prototype Appearance: A deathly-thin collection of exoskeleton joints and teeth, Battue is considerably slimmer and longer than a Parakuka. Unlike her Kraata-esque successors, Battue is very arthropodal in appearance, resembling the Makuta-tainted result of a combination of scorpion, horseshoe crab, and centipede. Battue's main similarity to Parakuka is her connection to her host: like a Parakuka, Battue is attached to the base the skull. The split and scarred skin surrounding her reveals how vicious her attachment to her current host was, and hints to the power her small size conceals. She is normally hidden by Hakann's hooded cloak. Powers: Battue absorbs energy from Hakann, which she can use to supercharge her host and grant highly improved physical abilities. She continually provides sensory enhancement. Due to her experimental nature and place of origin, she lacks the foreign-technology aversion of her brethren. Battue has an exceedingly strong will and is able to overpower Hakann's mind with only a small amount of effort, letting her precisely control his body. When she or Hakann activates her onrush of energy, she often takes control of his body until she either grows disinterested or he is able to force his way back by strength of will. Personality: Battue is to Hakann what Hakann is to a highly moral being: psychotic and antisocial to a disgustingly violent degree. While most Parakuka communicate via effective and simple images, she only speaks with Hakann when she wishes to enervate him. Although he would never admit it, Hakann is terrified of her. She is utterly and completely psychopathic to the point where the term seems far too kind, and Hakann knows that he pales in comparison. Bio: An experiment that predates the Parakuka and forms the basis for their creation, Battue is the paragon of the animalism found in Makuta's creations, and the result of the combination of all of the worst, most horrifying components of the Dark God's offspring. Battue was not created with the lifecycle of a normal Parakuka; there was no growth, no gradual improvement. She was torn from the darkness and formed as a monster, with no time wasted letting her grow into her current state. Hakann, a selfish and cowardly individual who (despite the best efforts of many others) had reached Makuta's Vault alive, found her and was bonded to her against his will. She now siphons off his energy and drives him on to glorify Makuta via the holy act of violence.
  6. Recommended Listening. I I cannot tell you now; When the wind's drive and whirl Blow me along no longer, And the wind's a whisper at last-- Maybe I'll tell you then-- some other time. When the rose's flash to the sunset Reels to the rack and the twist, And the rose is a red bygone, When the face I love is going And the gate to the end shall clang, And it's no use to beckon or say, "So long"-- Maybe I'll tell you then-- some other time. I never knew any more beautiful than you: I have hunted you under my thoughts, I have broken down under the wind And into the roses looking for you. I shall never find any greater than you. -Carl Sandburg, The Great Hunt The darkness heaved with every breath, fury and terror hidden only by gritted teeth grinding harsher with each jolt of pain. Hakann spat out the dirt and phlegm, braced his numb legs and tried to pull himself up, but before any hold could be made on the dirt walls, his hands turned to stone, a grip to crack case-hardened steel. Another wave of agony swarmed through bone and nerve, sending his lungs into wracking spasms. His ribcage strained with the ferocity of his breathing, muscles quaking and bones threatening to fracture under the duress. Two thin streams of tears cut into the grime on the Skakdi's contorted face, seeping into the tortured half-smile that stretched his mouth. A silent blow deep in the red beneath his heart, and the sanguine warmth fled from him, leaving only a husk cold and shivering. Blood dripped from ashen lips as crimson fingers gripped the earth, knuckles whitening to strangle darkness. * * * He gestured to the six hunters, hand moving with an unconcerned grace. The Rahkshi seemed to melt into the shadows of the tunnels behind, silent in their assuming of the role of sentries, confident of their ability to protect him from would-be ambushers. After a few moments, the last reverberations of their movements ceased, leaving him alone in the dark and cold. Silence crept in from the shadows and dark-choked corners, strangling the rhythms of distant life. His breath crept through throat and lung, testing the air of his environment as he observed the texture of the dirt and stone that surrounded him. All details were supercharged in the neon haze of thermographic vision, like some great fiery abyss, distinct only in shades of flame. The darkness of his gaze drifted, stare burning with a vivid and lucid mania. The thirsting and hungering and craving for broken forms twisted in veneration of blade-pierced flesh lied behind the corpse-still aponia of Hakann's gaze, well veiled by shadow. A hint of a smile played on the Skakdi's lips, mirroring the empty hunger of his eyes. * * * Skin split, bones creaked as the pain swarmed and shrieked before diving into his mouth, eyes, veins to consume from within. Blood surged and thundered to the resounding drumbeat of fire and iron. Hakann's mind began the long, slow cutting of reformation, newly liquid within the crucible of an agony beyond flesh. Fear and rage swelled and roared in his skull, each heartbeat the crucifier's nail. * * * His gaze swivelled with deliberate lethargy, turning from the wall to observe the result of his efforts. It was a sizeable item to be certain, larger than an Antidermis vial and more sturdily constructed. An item hidden in the bottom of the tech pile, hidden within a collection of less useful items, could give him the advantage he hungered for. He had taken it and another promising piece of tech while the others bickered, hiding them in one of Mangaia's less commonly travelled tunnels while Rahkshi-recruiting. Now that he finally had the chance to analyse it with the attention it deserved, he felt oddly disappointed at the dust and dirt-covered metal. He tested its weight, lifting it in one hand to further appreciate its heft. It felt less than solid, and the weight distribution wasn't perfect. Perhaps some sort of Kanohi, or a specialised variety of Antidermis? Echelon and all of the Ko-Koro aristocracy would like that, to be certain. Hakann, his face showing no excitement and his movements hard and unconcerned, gripped the object's opposite end, and twisted with a strength to warp iron. The hiss of escaping air, and then an utter silence. * * * His crawling was interrupted by another seizure. Limbs flailed, teeth gnashed in the fury of randomly firing synapses and disrupted chemical messages. The foreign influence was weakly resisted, but it would not be stopped. Muscles and nerves soon conformed to its wishes. Rasping breath tore at Hakann's throat. Blood dripped from the insides of his palms, coated the undersides of his claws. A smile adorned his lips. Pain was beneath his concern of Hakann. To be frightened by discomfort, to be weakened by agony: the signs of inferiority. Does one dislike breathing, moving? Stimuli and responses. How quaint. The presence reached Hakann's mind, roaring with the voice of a reverse demiurge. The molten intricacies of its hatred now delving into all recesses, it rose in black majesty to peel ashen skin and give face to a bliss far surpassing his own. Hakann's smile vanished. * * * It remained still at first, limp in his hand. He held it away from his grin-stretched visage, cautious, cowardly. It awoke to the beat of his heart, rumbling sawtooth rhythm of his blood. Surging over his arm, his shoulder, as he struggled to remove it in a mindless, hollow silence. Flitting over scapula, driving into flesh. Spreading. Infecting. A crude-wrought mask of agony, chipped and cracked plaster stretched too tight, coloured too obvious a crimson. A silent gasp, an encroaching dark- The world decayed into vermiculate patterns. * * * The agony grew steadily, a gradual and unstoppable ascent. His seizures grew in ratio to the deathly stillness, common movements repeated mindlessly. His Zamour Launcher was drawn from its position on his bandoleer and then crushed within his death-throe grip. The tool cracked and warped, shape lost in the torsion. Fragments of metal fell to the floor and sent reverberations shivering through Hakann's spine, setting his nerves ablaze. His other hand placed two gentle fingertips on his terror-widened eyes. The lenses began to heat and shiver, each vibration a new and unprecedented pain as all sank into a void beyond darkness. His gaze transformed into an excruciation of soul alone, presenting him with new varieties of evisceration as heat signatures and formless entropies coalesced in his consciousness. A pained sound rose from the back of a throat choked with the ambrosia of phlegm. Between a moan and a rumbling growl, it rose and then fell again in a tormented and enraged lament of lost rage. A dark flame blossomed from his labouring and quivering heart, turning his veins and arteries into twisted caricatures of Phlegethon and Cocytus. The noise was quiet, unbearably so; in its muted, near-silent intricacies the whole world lay vivisected for the shadows to peruse. Blood and vomit ran down his chin and dripped onto the stone and dirt of the tunnel floor. His heart slammed with staccato rhythm, helpless and twitching with the ecstasy of death. * * * The first pain was the kindest. It had only made his hands spasm, opening and closing tortured digits into shaking fists. It was pleasing, aesthetically respectable to a man of his past. No more than a blissful, tranquil state even for a man fully expecting to die in seconds. For him, no greater pleasure could be conceived of. He had shocked himself with his Lava Launcher on more than one occasion, inserted needles and nails through his hand just to test if he could still feel, tortured himself in whatever manner would not inflict permanently hampering damage. He possessed a great love of agony, a passion that had never met equal. This was beneath him, pitiful in its crudity. Smile as stretched and inflexible as a corpse transfixed by Death's rigour, Hakann stared straight and unflinching, eyes held with a horrible stillness, their madness perfected within the silence of blood-soaked ataraxia. He did not fear. * * * The darkness gathered itself for a final offensive. Hakann's body shivered from its position on the floor, his face frozen into the hollow grin of death. The invading shadow tore into Hakann's consciousness, consuming neurons with eager teeth. Skin peeling, bones breaking, eyes exploding, screamed the receptors of the mind. In reality, Hakann's spine arched, his limbs flailed. Sanguine and fear-born streams dripped from his chin, shivered down the skin of his chest. Chaos disrupted only by the action of his left arm, no longer under his own control, now moving with an unnatural calm towards the Skakdi's mouth, its fingers flexing slightly in anticipation. Hakann's mouth, open as he half-moaned, was filled with his own fist. A gagged sound, jaws tightening. The fingers felt gently, probed for its target. With a dull, wet grate, the fingers moved, the motion quick and hard in its violence. The grip tightened to the sound of flesh torn by fingers alone, and the hand retracted as quickly as it had entered. Held gently in the centre of his grip, stained a vivid crimson, lied the discarded petal of some grisly, eldritch blossom. The Skakdi's throat trembled with something between whisper and whimper as his hand returned to his control. Dead fingers closed tight on the the subtly rough surface, sickeningly tepid and nauseatingly wet. He could feel every detail, sense with perfect clarity every minute feature. Its scent pounded into his skull and sending nerves into squealing joy. Shivers of fear ran down his spine, jolting his lungs back into strained breath. A mindless, pained rumble of abyssal pitch and haunting quiet rose from Hakann's bloodied throat, reverberating with mournful and hollow timbre for the slightest moment until it was swallowed by the catacomb's grasping dark. Clenched in the bloodstained, red-hungering palm, torn neatly with the precision of a warrior collecting trophies of flesh and bone, lied the remains of Hakann's tongue. I I am the undertow Washing tides of power Battering the pillars Under your things of high law. -Carl Sandburg, Under ____________________________________________________________________ I I Red drips from my chin where I have been eating. Not all the blood, nowhere near all, is wiped off my mouth. Clots of red mess my hair And the tiger, the buffalo, know how. I was a killer. Yes, I am a killer. I come from killing. I go to more. I drive red joy ahead of me from killing. Red gluts and red hungers run in the smears and juices of my inside bones: The child cries for a suck mother and I cry for war. -Carl Sandburg, Fight The silent conversation was pure and stark, dialogue of vivid realism where romanticism and posturing had previously reigned. Wordless the Skakdi had wept, each and every breath a Sisyphean struggle. In response, only another thundering onrush of agony, a phantom pain in the left arm. The bones and fragments of soul that still resisted fell into a terrible silence. Her eager teeth tore into their marrow, hunting through the remains of her violence for any last vestige of hope. Where he had knelt, she now stood, movements carefully designed. The left hand, still gripping Hakann's bloodstained tongue, brought the now cold muscle up to his open mouth. * * * The circumvoluted remains of the Zamor Launcher possessed a certain sculptural beauty, hidden deep within the ruins: each twist and deformation was a testament to the extents of rage, a collection of crushed steel now intimate with hatred. The warped metal was a reminder, of his moment of weakness, of the beauty of the destruction that had consumed him in a sudden onslaught of forcefully induced suicidal rage. Slight quivers of fear ran down his spine, broken remnants of his vanished will. Raging nihil to replace his faux brilliance, tainting the perfection of his control. The equivocal half-smile had vanished, its previous dwelling now occupied by a horrible straightness of crimson-stained lips; neither pout nor grimace, the opposite of manic grin. The hollowness was a testament to the gnawing that filled his stomach and dominated his thoughts. The parasite filled his mind, leeching his purity with symbiotic glee. He could feel it absorbing his lifeforce, consuming the energy of his soul and body, tearing away potential lives where he was untainted by subjugation, perfect until the moment of death. The parasite stormed into his consciousness, sending Hakann's thoughts slithering away and replacing them with a wordless message that ignored the Skakdi's will, breaking through his wall of deadening pain. Images flooded into his mind's eye, forcing out any distraction he attempted to focus on, slowly becoming the entirety of his awareness. Flashes of skinned and eyeless half-corpses, field-dressed in distant and desolate plains, pounded through his skull. The fear began again, sending shivers rocking through his back and turning his heart into a pulsating furnace. His heartbeat seemed to increase to an incredibly heightened rate, counting down the vanishing moments until another cataclysmic outburst. The invading presence did not speak or deign to explain itself. It announced its presence with a shriek, exceeding the boundaries of frequency or volume with its alien display of wrath. Hakann was afraid to close his eyes and attempt to focus on gaining control, lest more of the images come. For the first time he could ever remember, he suspected he was feeling what the doctors and morticians must experience when they autopsied his victims. A dull nausea that consumed compassion and care with its heart-eating repulsion, for the images and emotions the parasite forced into his mind were not recognisable enough for empathy. He had flayed and dismembered and eviscerated possibly hundreds of times. He had plucked out teeth and fingernails like rose petals, cut into eye-sockets and tongues, still quivering with life, as if they were the finest delicacies. Never once, to his great pride, had he felt nauseous. Not even in the earliest period of his life, skinning unfortunate Rahi and leaving them to die from the subsequent circulatory shock, had he felt disgust. It seemed beyond him, in every sense of the word. The next series of images came, beating into his consciousness with the ferocity of a warhammer meeting sternum. Their edges and boundaries were vague, a Rorschach amorphousness of exposed bone and tendon, some terrible hint of movement in their frames. Hakann's otherwise expressionless face twitched in synchronisation with the tightening of his blood-encrusted left fist. The bittersweet bile of emesis rolled through his stomach and threatened to surge through his throat. * * * The Rahkshi had waited with their usual silence, uncaring and unconcerned. Hakann had instructed them to keep him alive at all costs, and they knew the creature that latched into his mind and soul. Removing it would the equivalent of having the Panrahk plunge its staff into his skull, so they had obeyed his commands, abandoning him and remaining in their distant positions as he experienced agony that transcended the physiological. There had been a great silence after that, long and uneventful. Ice Resistance had skewered a Rahi that had come too close to its position, but other than that there was no noise. Mind Reading tensed subtly, revealing the return of Hakann. Before the others even heard his footsteps, the mentally active Rahkshi had been prepared for whatever task the sadistic Skakdi requested. The others gripped their staves and stared listlessly into the dark where their master had previously disappeared. Hakann appeared without his usual theatrics. Instead of nearly strutting with pride, he strode, movements brusque, locomotion identical to the style he adopted in battle. Each step was the inception of an offensive, every movement designed to transfer momentum in the most damaging way possible. The Rahkshi screeched softly, surprised at the manner in which the Skakdi approached. Staves were gripped tighter, stances subtly changed. Hakann paused, what might be mistaken for a gaze settling on Mind Reading. The Skakdi's gaze was consumed by shadow, empty in a cruel mimicry of gouged void. Mind Reading was not fooled: he had been able to navigate the darkness, moving well enough to not give away his position to the other Rahkshi. There was nothing to be found in his expression, only a corpse's hollow imitation of life. Hakann opened his mouth to speak, but nothing but an gravel-choked rasp appeared, continuing in twisted roar until he realised his situation and snapped his mouth shut in frustration. Mind Reading followed the handsignal that came after Hakann had calmed, and delved into the Skakdi's consciousness to find his order. Tell me how to kill this parasite Mind Reading, for the smallest of moments, was utterly still. It gazed into Hakann's face again, searching carefully and picking apart the individual components, but found no hint of humour. With a subtle relaxation, it surged into the strange pseudo-Parakuka's mind and attempted to discover its thoughts. Hakann's lips tightened in perfect synchronisation with his fist. The parasite's aura of mocking disappointment at Hakann's decision was unmistakable. At first, it feigned a state of tabula rasa. Then, with horrible certainty, a revealing of self, projection of a vivid collection of thoughts and emotions. The Rahkshi emitted something vaguely similar to a strangled whisper of a shriek, disconnecting immediately. Hakann exhaled suddenly, a hint of pain seeping into his stolid visage. The Rahkshi stared at Hakann in horror, waiting for punishment. The Skakdi merely calmed his breathing, and then began to walk, striding past the Rahkshi, who quickly resumed their previously commanded positions around him. As Hakann strode, each movement twisted and reborn in the crucible of fear, the parasite repeated a single scene, disjointed and staccato in pace. Mutilated beings, unrecognisable as sapient or Rahi, being driven through a desolate forest, trees killed and greyed by winter. Other, similarly unidentifiable, things were hung or impaled via gnarled and ashen branches, or shoved half-broken into the fork of the trees, some still screaming and moving, most twisted and contorted by varying stages of rigor mortis. An unseen shadow pressed from behind, tearing at the shrieking cripples that lagged and driving forward those able to run, weeping, screaming. Beyond the treeline, distant and formless, something waited, more omen than tangible, a mountain that walked in silence. Shadows loomed off of it, writhing in the tortured dusk. One final shriek and then a horrible stillness. The series of rapid images was lucid, incredibly detailed. Hakann could feel his stomach tightening at the thought of it having any basis in reality. The stares of the grotesque monstrosities, the true and unfiltered terror of one watching everything they have ever known skinned and burning, remained in Hakann's mind, an impression tinted ash-grey. Each step through the tunnels was forceful, powered by wrath-fed nerve and screaming heart, the run of a predator, or the fleeing of prey. * * * Hand gentle and assured in its motion, Hakann fed his tongue through the gnashing of crimson-delineated teeth, every bite accompanied by the sound of flesh torn with anterior force. He worked through the tastes, grisaille face newly motionless. Blood ran slowly, creeping down tooth and gum. II I am a sleepless Slowfaring eater, Maker of rust and rot In your bastioned fastenings, Caissons deep. -Carl Sandburg, Under Parts III and IV will be added soon! Discussion topic here.
  7. It's customary here to start each day with a shift drink. Let's make it special. Mark the occasion. This is the top-shelf stuff, now! Single barrel! Vinum memoriae mors!

    1. Simulacrum


      -Doolittle, Act III

  8. -IC:- "History suggests otherwise, Mr. Tudor." Lava Launcher reaches final charge stage, stabilizing and preparing for eventual fire. A hint of a smile remains visible, semblance of life brought to my lips with each spoken word. "However, at this risk of sounding wistful, I admit it would make for a pleasant change."
  9. -IC:- "You are an astute man, Mr. Tudor, but you grasp truth only partially. There are uses to your mask beyond situational awareness, however great a use that may be. If you must know, it has been some length of time since I have had the pleasure of a conversation honest on at least one side." I will leave his mask to determine which of my words are laced with falsehood.
  10. -IC:- "Splendid. If you will follow me, we shall begin." I gesture to my selected building before beginning to move. Mind-Reading still whispers in flat tones, feeding me the streams of information slithering from the minds of the other Rahkshi. Upon reaching the building's roof, I begin preparations and organise my Rahkshi. Silence and Mind-Reading, crouching out of sight of observers below, supply me with silenced weapons and crude situational awareness. The rest of my Rahkshi, preparing for combat, fly in two separate circles a fair distance away from my person, searching for the first signs of the coming violence. Lava Launcher once again spreading its hints of warmth through my hand, its hum now strangled by Silence's grasp, I wait to see if Sylus' new mask is as all-seeing as its reputation suggests. If the rest of the Maru's rescue mission hide behind disguise or masks of subterfuge, Sylus and I shall prove disruptive. Mind-Reading alerting Marfoir and Lunefeld as to my new position and intention, I wait and appreciate the sounds of the duel below.
  11. IC (Ihu-Koro): A woman stood alone and hugged her cloak close to keep out the eager teeth of winter. Snow fell in even shards of precipitation, glimmering with a gnawing white. The shards congealed in swathes of alabaster, hugging close to the mountain peaks and constricting the jagged grey-black faces of stone with veins of rime. Clouds hung close to the earth, their haze and wisps coiling and shifting minutely, keeping pace with the pregnancy of cold. A woman stood alone and watched the sun touch the earth. A horizon blossomed with new life, burning with sun-glow laughs of orange and pink. The underbellies of cirrostratus skyscapes grew translucent, burnt by the saturated harshness of dying light. Night fell with a crown of stars and swallowed the first day of the end, its shadow smothering and hiding a new-found kingdom of sinners. When dawn came, a woman stood alone in a swarm of the broken and stared at the possessionless and wondered at their purpose and their role in the grand and cyclical scheme of things. Their sunken, sleepless eyes and their hollow hearts held no answer. Their speech told nothing she hadn't found in the first moments of news. A great emptiness had descended upon the outpost. A great fear brought by empty pockets and hungry mouths and the news of an undead foe. It weakened as the weeks passed but it did not vanish. A woman stood alone in the slowly melting shadows of the first hints of daybreak, stabbing emerald gaze the only hint of life. The violets and metal-grays of her skin lit in soft orange, she stood and counted the fast vanishing stars, the wool of her cloak held close with a grip as tight as death. When the lights flickered newly weak and the chimney smoke wisps grew thicker in their complex and beautiful sequence, she would count the faces and the sounds, half predator, half guardian. Her emerald gaze never faltered. A woman stood alone and waited as a world awoke.
  12. -IC:- My smile widens by the slightest fraction, but I give no verbal response. Mind Reading begins its silent whispers, reporting back with the information gathered by the other Rahkshi. Great lengths of time have been wasted this day, and the chance certainly exists that these coming moments will likewise be spent in vain. I am willing to gamble that this will not be the case. "I would like to tell you something, Mr. Tudor." My grin becomes stone, joining my gaze as an epitome of emptiness. Hands, clasped behind my back as usual, now grow hard in their grip. "I am a kind man," Mind Reading pauses, restructuring the information presented in response to unintentional error, movements as precise as my instructions demand. "and I do not enjoy resorting to violence. I give quarter to those who request it. I withhold pain from those who beg. I provide mercy to traitors. I do not punish the disloyal, nor reward the faithful. In all my doings, I am kind to my opponents. I am an unfair man, and my subordinates cannot expect their loyalty to produce great things. I do not enjoy the agony necessity forces me to create, and I hesitate to bestow it upon even the most deserving." I pause on the last syllable, considering Mind Reading's report in its totality. My stare, hidden by its own dark, drifts across the buildings nearest the duel. "And you, Sylus, would be wise to consider me disposable." My gaze returns from the thermographic to reclaim its vivid scarlet, accompanying my smile as it regains its semblance of life. Behind the Rode-clad head of Mr. Tudor, its outline hard against the Ko-Wahi sky, stands the stone husk of the ideal location for what is to come. I turn for a moment, seemingly uninterested in any response on the part of my employee, to gesture to Mind Reading. Turning back to the Toa, my grin and eyes now fully alive, I speak with a voice made rich by calm. "So, tell me, Mr. Tudor: Does the mask work?"
  13. -IC:- "Some buried treasure is worth the dangers of digging through hallowed ground. I believe that if a man is going to pillage the tomb of god, he may as well take the lion's share." I flip the mask in my hand, gripping its horn between thumb and forefinger and bringing the chin of the mask to the the eye level of the Elda. "Shall we trade, Mr. Tudor?"
  14. -IC:- "I suspected as much. My apologies for your discomfort, Mr. Tudor. I was uncertain about the exact nature of the mask, and its mythic reputation only worsened matters. It is quite the disappointment to find it so short of its fame." I reach into my satchel, expression still calm and gaze focused on the distance remaining between my employee's sword and his hand. "Not all artifacts are so vague, however. There is a certain item with a quite specific, but by no means less impressive, description," having found their target, my fingers tighten and draw it forth. The hint of a smile on my lips, I raise it to eye-level, analyzing the artistry of its constructions. As a man able to recognize the Elda, he shall find no great difficulty here. "If the reputation of this item proved to be well-earned, I feel we both would see the wisdom in its serving as a replacement." My hand extends in offering, grin widening by a fraction of a centimeter. To my left and right, the Rahkshi straighten. "Consider it a gesture of goodwill."
  15. -IC:- My Rahkshi separate into three pairs, two sub-units instructed to search the surrounding area while one sub-unit remains for personal protection. I continue on foot, moving out of direct line of sight of the battle's quickly building mass of observers. If any other heroes have followed the Maru through Ko-Koro's gates (and I suspect they have) they will most likely be watching the battle quite closely. The ideal location for such an audience would possess two qualities: unobtrusiveness, in the occurence that their champion fails and they must melt back into the crowds, and tactical utility, in case they must join their champion in combat. Rooftops, smaller alleyways, and abandoned buildings are the immediate choices, and even now my Rahkshi search these while they analyze the crowds, reporting back to Mind Reading with their findings. As I wait for the information to be collected, I pause in a newly empty sidestreet, searching for hidden heat signatures. Sylus has followed, still wearing his porcelain smile. "I am curious, Mr. Tudor," my voice is quiet, calm, possessing the same inflections I adopted while in the Sanctum. "As to your thoughts concerning your new Kanohi."
  16. -IC:- If I have learned anything from decades of being on both the receiving and giving ends of assassination attempts, it is this: if it looks like a distraction, sounds like a feint, and reeks of misdirection, then it is most likely harmless and should be taken at face value. The moment Eisen moves outside, I begin the orders. Mind Reading snaps to attention, reacting at the speed of thought to my messages. For the duelist: I'll begin the search for the other Maru. I would wish you luck, but I doubt this hero will be able to match your level of skill in the the great code duello tradition of keep-away. If his presence is a distraction for a larger force, you will know shortly. For the barbarian: Intercede at your own risk, and expect no assistance from myself until the Fe-Toa has died. I plan to use this to our advantage: if the Fe-Toa falls, you have a weakened opponent. Preemptively begin the slaughter before this event and you will likely have several new ones. If it helps, I expect we shall be killing soon enough. For my very own Judas and the other two members of my motley crew, delivered as I activate my thermographic lenses and begin my search: I find it unlikely the Maru is alone. As such, I will search for the other members of his rescue party. Sylus, your assistance would be appreciated. Marfoir, Lunefeld: if this Fe-Toa finds himself leaving the realm of the living, I have faith in your abilities to make sure that the Maru follows close beyond. OOC: i'm crazy busy atm. this duel is a godsend (except for the fact that i don't know who to root for).
  17. -IC:- My smile widens. If a laughable negotiation is to turn into mirthless intimidation, so be it. It's been quite a while since I've seen a hero willing to engage in murder-suicide: let us hope that, for the sake of our entertainment, this is not a case of feigned brutality. As the rest of the Sanctum's inhabitants empty into the hallway, I note their appearances and comments, gaze still fixed on the Maru. My weapon, having not strayed from reverse grip since first adopting the position (despite the worries of my dear comrade), now settles back into coldness. Using Mind Reading's quicker tongue, I send all newcomers the message they will no doubt be less than glad to hear: Elemental dead man's switch. Delivery of hostages or activation.
  18. -IC:- "Let's not be hasty now, my dear Eisen. I am a reasonable man." The Rahkshi shift slightly, parting in the middle of their formation to establish line of sight. My smile hasn't yet left my lips: if anything, it is a touch warmer than usual. "Let's reach a beneficial outcome, shall we? We all have our interests here, we only have to satisfy them." I watch carefully for smallest hint of movement, focusing not only on the Maru. I have only made the mistake of overestimating an ally once, and I do not enjoy repetition. The Lava Launcher is starting to purr now, almost impossibly quiet. I can feel its heat along the back of my arm, sending my nerves shrieking. It's been so very long.
  19. -IC:- Solipsism seems a wiser and wiser choice every passing day. I believe I have learned my lesson from fighting Maru. Tactics will be key here, especially in a space such as this. Immediate priority: insure survival. Mind Reading alerted of my intentions instantly. Rahkshi semicircle tightens. Mind Reading behind, assuming the role of carrier of commands. Ice Resistance and Fragmentation take point. Fear, Silence, and Insect Control as buffer. filling the width of the hallway. Vezok moving. Offensi- One moment. My apologies. It appears I have overlooked an extremely important detail. This Maru, one of the more dangerous melee fighters if I remember Ta-Koro correctly, is talking to Echelon's lieutenant. Swords do not appear to be drawn (although Vezok will no doubt change this soon). This is not a usual occurrence. If anything, this is more proof of solipsistic existence. Disguise, supernatural or otherwise? Traitor? Likeliness unsure. Perhaps the reverse? This will require some rectification: increase focus on survival, adopt defensive tactics. Lava and Zamor Launcher equipped and loaded. Lava Launcher charging begun. Mind Reading instructed to keep in my mind, ready to accept and disperse more commands. I suppose if I die in the waiting room, there shall be poetry in my death. At the very least, I shall have the material for an infernal limerick.
  20. -IC:- In all honesty, it is a wonder that Vezok has not left already. This observation, however, does not help diminish the fact that he has just walked out of a meeting of his only "allies" left on the island. Damage control it is, then. "It seems my associate has decided he has more pressing matters to attend to," despite the hint of disappoint in my voice, my face does not relinquish its emotional vacuum. "Regardless, my offer to help with the security analysis of your new inhabitants still stands. I believe we will be easy enough to find." A slight bow, to further the absurdity of the situation. "My apologies for our unexpected departure." Rahkshi form their cage of defense around me, shifted about as if by some unseen hand. My employees may follow at their own leisure. When I reach Vezok, I have only a single question. What now?
  21. Every piece of you is self-sufficient, an animal unto itself. When a man bleeds, it's just tissue.

    1. Erasmus Graves

      Erasmus Graves

      Hey, isn't your avatar the poster to John Carpenter's The Thing? Love that movie. Real classic sci-fi/horror.

  22. -IC:- Expected resistance, coupled with what appears to be an extreme confidence in his position. I do not break eye contact, waiting until it is clear he has finished his response. "I would not dare to answer your final question until I perfectly understand your perspective. Let us summarise." "You have invaded a city state. Your invasion is morally repugnant to five other equal or greater city states. These city states, including the one you have captured, are guarded by the island's most dangerous individuals, proven by their removal of your god from the battlefield. The only component of your position restraining the other city states from waging open war is the existence of hostages. These hostages are presumably hidden in a city that requires nothing but two words to enter. This island has an extremely large population of individuals interested in the histrionics of heroism. You appear to be interested in employing or at least attracting large numbers of mercenaries. You believe that these mercenaries will not or are unable to betray you, due to a presumption of unwillingness on the part of the other Koros to acquire military intelligence." My facade of dull calm is undisturbed. Grin remains tranquil, gaze empty. "You believe your strategic choices so far have been cautious, including invading Ko-Koro. You plan to continue in a similar fashion, and your strategic defence of choice is fortification. You believe it possible to survive via conventional means the offensives that are now unavoidable. Your justification for not attempting removal of key targets or otherwise continuing with preemptive operations is that it might incite a war that is no doubt nearing the end of the preparation stage on the part of your opponents. The war you are concerned about starting has already witnessed one battle, the capture of Ko-Koro. You believe that there is a chance for something less than an open war, so long as you do not dare to further injure the morale of your opponents with attacks on their figureheads. You find an honest question concerning this situation pointless and insulting. You believe that victory may be possible from leaving the Maru alive and waging or minimizing a conventional war, and that other options are less likely to result in continued survival." I shift my gaze to the other speaker, emotions remaining static. No hint of hurt or otherwise emotional response to the maladroit invective. "You correctly find the incursion of the Piraka into Ta-Koro to be a mistake. You believe that your actions have put you in comparatively less danger than that very mistake. You believe that either of the current groups of participants in the discussion would be capable of killing the Maru, the Toa who banished a god shortly after gaining their powers, by themselves. You attempt to ridicule with rancor-marred hyperbole an offer to solve a problem by your last remaining allies, allies who fail to grasp in any manner or form your strategic vision." I turn my head and gaze back to the original subject of my address. Throughout the entire summary, my speech remains clear of positive or negative emotional inflection, the epitome of stoicism. "If you were given this summary in the form of premises in a deductive argument that did not concern you as the subject, what conclusion would you draw?"
  23. -IC:- My gaze swivels slowly, moving by millimetres in response to every syllable until the entirety of this speaker's visage is in view. I note every unusual feature for further reference. My smile remains undisturbed. "The death warrant is signed." "As I'm sure you're quite aware, you invaded a city-state. Conquered it and razed a fair share of it, to be exact. Slaughtered a portion of citizens, displaced another portion, and kept the rest as hostages. You have five city-states of at least equal individual power who are no doubt ready to do whatever the situation requires to remove this regime from existence. This island's city states, including this one, have, for all intents and purposes, minor gods assigned to their protection." "These gods, it is worth noting, appear to have removed your deity from the equation entirely. You have removed perhaps a third of your military force, and added them to your list of enemies. Besides the Piraka and whatever mercenaries you can sway into temporary employment, you have no allies. Tell me, how do you plan to consolidate your power well enough, rebuild your city strongly enough, to counter the offensive that you have stated will come?" "This ceasefire is not tentative, it is nonexistent. You admit yourself that these hostages of yours are a tenuous tactic at best, little more than a distraction, yet, as far as I am aware, they are your only option in the area of strategic defense. You have an island overpopulated with manqué heroes dying for an opportunity to wave the banner of war in the name of whatever morality they hold dear, and your only defense from open war are a few Matoran. How many times can you expect to successfully keep these suicidal crusaders from a rescue? I should mention that, as far as I could tell, all that is required to enter this city, which you say is carefully monitoring itself, is a name and an occupation." "Undermining is not something as insignificant as a possibility; at this stage, I would reassign it the title of certainty." Breathing calm, measured. Heartbeat counted and kept in meter. "You speak truth when you state the Maru are not the only threat your city can expect to face. They are merely the greatest by far. An army of any single Koro will have to march to reach your gates. You can harass such an opponent, perhaps initiate a war a tactical and strategic genius with superior resources might be capable of winning. I have a proposal to deal with would-be rescuers, although it is not perfect. I do not, however, have a single positive possibility for any scenario that deals with even three of the Maru in this city under the pretense of ending a war before it may begin in earnest. I have no doubt that the six of them could bring this entire Sanctum and much of the surrounding area down on our heads, ending the threat entirely." "The Maru are not a great strategic factor. They are the ultimate one. If what remains of the Mangaia Pact is as great as I was led to believe, there might be a chance of winning the war your invasion started, if, and only if, the Maru are dead or broken. They negate every single advantage your experience, your powers, and your location derive. To state it kindly, every day they live you can assure yourselves that your demise is nearing. As my associate Vezok once noted, Makuta, his children, and his followers failed to remove them from the equation while they were mere Matoran. They promptly succeed in removing your god entirely. Your logic, as far as I am able to discern, for not attempting their removal again, is that the action might start a war." "The war has been started. The invasion of this city drew a line in the sand and promptly stormed across it. Fortification delays the inevitable; you have started a blitzkrieg against a homogeneous force easily five times your equal, with champions able to match any of us in open combat. From the perspective of every other military power on this island, caution has not been a component of your strategic repertoire. Introducing it now could be considered as nothing but a bumbling display of incertitude. You do not have to concern yourself with appearing weak. Your situation does that for you, and so very much more. As for the tactics of my comrades and myself... Your analysis is quite astute. We have indeed retreated in the presence of a tactical situation with no offensive solution. I understand exactly that my drawing of breath is due to equal amounts of skill and chance. I also understand that the beings who failed to kill us will not make the same mistake twice. If we are on the subject of Ta-Koro, I cannot help but wonder if you think the Maru less capable of such an action." Breathing slows. Smile gains a slight hint of relaxation. "We digress. My associate and I did not come to state the obvious, but to attempt a solution. If you believe the results of the death of the Maru to be anything besides a net gain in any scenario involving costs less than the loss of Ko-Koro and our own lives, I'm afraid we must reconcile our strategic viewpoints."
  24. -IC:- "This is all, of course, suggested under the assumption that the Maru aren't already being dealt with. I find it very hard to believe that a military force such as The Pact would be so short-sighted as to ignore such a threatening opponent, especially with professional assassins composing such a large percentage of their numbers." Unlike Vezok's soldiers, my Rahkshi maintain their presence, staying in their carefully designated positions. I stand with hands clasped behind back, every component of my body's language reinforcing the appearance of ease and calm. The faint hint of a smile graces my lips. "I'm certain that all present find the Maru to be a high-priority threat; their deaths would be more than useful for any of your strategies. So, why do they still breathe?"
  25. -IC:- "For a war-ravaged ruin, it has quite a lot of charm and a very sincere aesthetic identity. I don't believe I've ever seen a newly annexed city with so many ice sculptures." My grin's message is somewhere between sincere and empty, gaze closer to polished stone than flesh. "Ah, I'm afraid I'm getting ahead of myself," I pause to extend an open hand towards the cerulean churl and then gesture back to our host. "Vezok, Echelon. Echelon, Vezok. I'm sure your reputations have preceded each other's by several kio."
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