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IC: Kreigero [Ko-Wahi, North, Glacial Caves]

The shivering Ko-Matoran's head snapped towards Atamai with a look that said I wasn't talking to you.

She looked back to Savrehn, wincing beneath her Kaukau's visor. What was a group decision had been made for them. All they could do now is pray.

Edited by BULiK

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IC: Plagia | The Dark Walk

Karz!

The last time I had faced down a Rahkshi had been at the Battle of Le-Koro, during Makuta's last desperate attack before the Maru had defeated him. I had been outnumbered and outmatched -- and I had only survived by the skin of my teeth, but I had the mountain range of scars as a keepsake from it. I knew better than anyone else here that we needed a fast exit, and one that meant the least contact with these demons. Which meant having to fight at distance.

I brought my knuckles together, scraping my gauntlets one against the other, listening to the crackle and pop of static electricity growing and growing between them -- before throwing my fists forward, letting two bolts of lightning fly loose from them, aimed directly at the Rahkshi blocking the exit.

OOC: @Light @dark walk crew

-Void

 
 
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IC: Charek (Dark Walk)

On 11/13/2021 at 1:34 AM, Visaru said:

Seven of the Matoran fled headlong into the darkness, their minds lost in the grip of hot fear, pushing along three more unwilling comrades.

But the two in the doorway remained, still standing even as limb-trembling terror flooded their bodies. Rall and the Akaku-wearing Ko-Matoran kept their spears aimed at the monster, able to somehow will their feet in place as their fellows fled into the darkness outside the hideout.

 

"Hey, what are you- hey, hey, settle down-"

So this was apparently happening.  Charek was quite certain he'd never had to deal with herding crowds of Matoran before, even back when he'd actually been a proper Toa rather than just a hired gun, and he was quickly finding the experience to be distinctly unenjoyable.  The terrified guards barely seemed to notice him as they pushed past, and occupied as he was with his light and whatever in Mata Nui's name was going on in the chamber, he wasn't much of an obstacle for them.  "Hey, uh, should someone-"

On 12/22/2021 at 1:21 AM, Light said:

"Charek."

The Lieutenant's voice came as a cold breeze started to blow through the hideout, making the Ko-Toa's coat tremble. "Use your mask. Retrieve those who ran into the Dark Walk and be prepared to herd them out..."

"-oh.  Ah.  Yes, sir."

Slamming his ball of starlight into the wall beside him, the Toa of Plasma reached out with one arm and fished a battered Ko-Matoran out of the throng; this Guardswoman had evidently not been part of the crowd of her own free will, and seemed quite thoroughly trampled.  "Right, you're safe now-"

On 12/22/2021 at 1:21 AM, Light said:

Just as Rall cried out, stepping to the side as burning earth fell on his head, the soil above him melting as two more shapes dropped in quick succession out of the scorched hole that had just formed. 

Charek swore violently and recoiled as a shower of burning debris erupted in front of him.  He instinctively heaved the Matoran he'd caught behind him with one arm and covered his face with the other; around the edges of his hand, he saw a pair of hulking monsters emerge from the new hole in the ceiling to land between him and the rest of the Toa in his team, the colors of their armor shifting rapidly.  Ambush.  Rahkshi.

Gritting his teeth, the Toa looked behind him.  The other Matoran were already flooding back into the Dark Walk, where- oh no oh no oh no- the Turaga in the mech suit was evidently fending off a Muaka and another Rahkshi all at once.  Something in him itched to pull out his blaster and leap into the fray (to Karzahni with Skri and her warnings!), but he had a job to do, and that job didn't look like it'd be getting any easier in the near future.  He turned back to the Matoran he'd grabbed, grabbed her by the waist, hissed a warning to stay at his side at all times should he happen to let her go, and sprinted out into the passageway.

As his Kakama flared to life, his awareness and reflexes grew with his speed.  Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted hands of earth pulling the group's lone Ta-Matoran out of reach of the two Rahkshi at the entrance, his mask scarred and smoking from the ambush; around him, sections of metal ripped themselves from the walls to bind a pair of fleeing Matoran to the ground.  The other Toa at work, undoubtedly; he had a feeling that Rahkshi were far smarter about their priorities than trapping fleeing Matoran.  Good.  Charek was fast, but his element wasn't well-suited for being gentle, and he certainly couldn't carry a dozen Matoran all on his own.  Any help would be welcome at this point.

On 12/26/2021 at 8:02 PM, Visaru said:

Rall’s companion, the lone Ko-Matoran guard still in the room, let her fear overtake her as Ronan sprinted past. She fled from the room at the side of the Toa of Iron.

In the passageway outside, they found two other guards lying on the ground, struggling around metal snakes of iron that were wrapped around their body. The others had evaded capture by Ronan. They were already out in the expanse of the dark walk itself, or had managed enough presence of mind to evade the pillar trap. 

The Ko-Matoran guard alongside Ronan could not muster a comment — all her willpower was able to manage was keeping pace with the Toa. 

Help confirmed.  Excellent.

"Change of plans," Charek told the Matoran he was holding, skidding to a halt.  He spun and reared back for a throw.  "Ronan!" he called.  "Catch!"

Throwing Matoran like bamboo disks was also a first for him.  Hopefully his fellow Toa had a bit more experience catching.

OOC: @Goose @Visaru @Perp @Light

IC: Joskander (Ko-Koro gates)

Ko-Koro.  At long last.

Joskander looked up at the battered gates and ground his teeth- more from the cold than out of trepidation, admittedly, but it was hardly a place he had fond memories of.  The first time he'd stood before these walls, they had been burning.  Even now, he could still smell a trace of soot on the wind.

He remembered that, just a few days before leaving for Ta-Koro, he'd asked Bhuko if she'd wanted to visit her old home.  She'd refused.  He hadn't pressed the matter; he had a feeling he knew her reasoning already.  After everything Ko-Koro had been through, was it truly her home anymore?  Would it ever be?

The Toa of Air turned to his companion, still trudging his way through the snowdrifts, his faithful pet at his side.  "Mar," Joskander said.  "Welcome back to Ko."

OOC: @Geardirector  @Daniel the Finlander

It is not for us to decide the fate of angels.

Dominus Temporis, if you're out there, hit me up through one of my contacts.  I've been hoping to get back in touch for a long time now.  (Don't worry, I'm not gonna beg you to bring back MLWTB or something.  :P )

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IC:

The noise of discontent that rumbled in Skri's throat was more a growl than any groan as the situation changed rapidly.

The specter that she had thrown her staff at was an illusion, no doubt. Or at the very least an illusion covering something else. Intentional or not the move had deprived her of the weapon best suited for these close quarters. Lovely. Worse were the Rahkshi that appeared. Though explaining the illusion the explanation only made her more concerned; the sophistication on display should have been far beyond what these Rahkshi were capable of. Which brought the whole mission from 'risky' to 'dangerous as all Karz'. Ronan's thrall was attacking one which left 'only' one for her to deal with.

She'd had worse odds.

One hand rose and released the clasp on the harness that held her blade on her back. As it descended to grip her weapon she cast into the shadows a handful of detritus. There was no room to draw her sword properly. The enormous blade slipped free of its sheath with the soft rasp of metal on leather, one hand upon its hilt and the other grasping its ricasso for control. It couldn't possibly be as easy to handle as it looked, not when it was the better part of two bio long. But the mercenary handled it with ease and finesse, as smoothly as her own limb. The cramped quarters weren't ideal. The Rahkshi were smart. Some of them were, in all likelihood, about to die just like Skorm might have. But the two Rahkshi before her were no threat, held no danger for her.

They could never even reach her.

Deliberately, almost contemptuously, she jabbed her zweihander's tip forcefully at the Rahkshi that Ronan's creature lurched towards. It didn't matter if she connected; both creatures would have to cross a two bio field of death before they could even touch her.

"Keep it out of my way, Ronan."

 

GM IC:

Skorm walked along alone, untouched, for a long while. When light, dim, flickering orange light, reached his eye it was almost blinding. But there it was around the bend of the tunnel just barely visible in its glow.

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IC (Syrik) [Echelon's Lair]

Syrik looked up sharply from the documents he'd been poring over, as the sound of knuckles on metal echoed down the entrance corridor of the dead Necromancer's lair.

He slowly turned to look over his shoulder at the study doorway, then back to Aerus. A hint of a quizzical smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, while the dangerous glint had returned to his eyes.

"I got the impression you weren't expecting company."

OOC: @Goose

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IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

"Nor were you." Aerus furrowed his brow, as the gears began turning in his mind. Merror's merry band had been close, but he doubted they'd knock. And besides, they likely had higher priorities, with Echelon dead and the Makuta returned. No, this wasn't them.

"Anyone meant to know where to find this place would have a key. So the question arises: do they know whose door it is? If they don't, then their survival instincts are sorely lacking. If they do, then… their survival instincts are sorely lacking."

He got to his feet, interest in the documents he had been trawling momentarily dissipating as he limped to the study door, cane in hand. "Could you have been followed?"

From what he'd gleaned of Syrik thus far, it seemed unlikely. But then, so did someone knocking on Echelon's door - the second such arrival after weeks of solitude.

OOC: @Ghosthands

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IC: Savrehn - Ko-Wahi - Abyss

Savrehn sighed at Atamai. The historian seemed keen to get them in more trouble, especially if it turned out whatever was behind the monolithic door was unfriendly or outright hostile. But it was too late to do anything. Maybe run, but he wasn’t going to do that. He placed a hand on Kreigero’s shoulder as he awaited an answer.

OOC: @BULiK@~Xemnas~

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IC: Makua — The Gates of Ko-Koro 

“Then we’ll have to make it a point to head there,” Makua said to the Hau-wearing Ko-Matoran, "It’s easily been decades since I spent much time here. I’m sure so much has changed in that time” 

 

Tailua — The Gates of Ko-Koro 

The Toa of Fire’s eyes glistened in anticipation of the graciously offered heatstone that was placed before his robed traveler. He could see Daron had also appreciated the gesture, raising his hands to accept the warmth. Tailua did wonder how the Pakari-wearing guard would respond to a Toa who was likely better off without a Kanohi at all than with what he had on at the moment. 

Daron had a pitiful looking Great Miru – this one was in the style of Akiri’s Kongu’s mask. There was a thin crack that ran diagonally from the top left to the bottom right, and several pieces around the mask were chipped off. Still, when Tailua first encountered the former Makuta-servant, he hadn’t had a Kanohi at all. Fortunately, Tailua’s side-hobby of looting fallen Toa and Matoran across the Le-Wahi region had proven fruitful for the Toa of Air. Tailua showed him generosity, and as such Daron had owed him.  

Daron’s face looked tired and worn to the guard. His facial expression was one of neutrality, though slightly compromised by the bitter cold that was around him. Still, the robed Toa practiced patience -- something that Tailua was starting to struggle with.  

OOC: @Visaru

"hey girl: here’s an idea, but… it’s up to you:

You’re the boss of this operation."

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IC (Syrik) [Echelon's Lair]

"It's possible," Syrik replied. "But I try not to be. And it looked like there was a snowstorm blowing in that should've covered my tracks."

He too rose from his seat, quickly catching up to the smaller being in a couple of strides.

"How they got here doesn't much matter now. Whoever they are, they've found this place."

He looked down at his new partner.

"Want me to kill 'em?" he asked nonchalantly.

OOC: @Goose

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IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

Aerus' disapproval came more as a gentle nudge than the shock he might have expected, to such a degree that he felt more consternation over his own lack of a reaction than Syrik's blasé attitude to killing. It occurred to him that, in his time working for Echelon, life had perhaps become cheap - that he had been slowly desensitised to the horror of killing. That thought, though, was readily dismissed, even if it did bring with it an unsettling sensation of emptiness in his gut, as if he had quite suddenly and unexpectedly fallen a short distance.

After all, life was not cheap at all to Aerus. Everything he did, he did because of life's value, self-preservation already having been his primary motivation long before his sickness began to manifest.

Add to that his ongoing guilt for those deaths he had caused - although, in truth, it had been some time now since he had thought of Jalna, and Myka longer still - and the fact that the thought of he himself killing still filled him with a visceral disgust, and it seemed to him that the answer surely could not be a moral erosion. His conscience was not, by any means, clear, but it was quite certainly still extant. No, the answer lay elsewhere - it had to lie elsewhere.

More likely, then, that his lack of surprise had more to do with Syrik. Yes - yes, that must have been it. He had already identified Syrik as a predator, as a killer; why, then, would he be shocked that he so readily proposed killing as a solution? It simply made sense, then, logical sense, that Syrik would suggest such a recourse.

"Not yet," Aerus replied calmly, his concerns abated. "I'm curious now. I'd like to know who, exactly, is stupid enough to come knocking at our door."

OOC: @Ghosthands

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IC (Syrik) [Echelon's Lair]

"Oh, so am I," Syrik replied with a grin. "Just making sure you know the option's on the table. Remember, this place is extremely valuable to us. No matter who's outside that door, we let them go, we're letting the location out into the world."

He shrugged.

"I'm not sure we can afford to take that risk. But hey — " he grinned again " — you want to play nice for now, I'll follow your lead. Let's go meet our guests."

OOC: @Goose

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OOC: Recommended vibes:

Spoiler

 

IC: Kreigero [Ko-Wahi, North, Glacial Caves]

An eerie silence dominated everyone's attention. The echoes of Atamai's knock had long faded, but the drumbeat continued in each Matoran's heartlight as they looked towards the mysterious edifice. Kreigero's shiver intensified for a moment as she felt Savrehn's hand steady her shoulder. Soon it was a relief - less cold than the sharp air surrounding them.

His support was a reminder. They did everything right. It wasn't their fault. They lived and died by Ihu; this was their way. The mountain extracted a toll for it's beauty, it was merely a question of when. If this was truly their time, at the foot of a stranger's fortress, they would face it together.

"S-s-see?" the trapper broke the silence. "Nob-b-body's h-h-home," she lied.

Kreigero felt her Hapaka's fur slip out from under her hand as Reyal left her side to approach the door himself. He was attentive, yet curious, as he carefully slinked past Atamai to stand directly in front of the door. He looked up, then down, and began to sniff each side of the door's edges with his peculiar snout. Was he bored, or did he sense something?

Kreigero's heartlight sank.

Edited by BULiK
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IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

Aerus was not quite sure just what it was that he had expected to find, when he held his magnetic key to the door and watched its familiar mechanisms unfold. Certainly, he had not discounted the likelihood of some deeply unfortunate travellers, strayed far too far from the path - so, when he found himself faced with a motley crew of lost Matoran, he could hardly have claimed surprise.

No. Surprise, Aerus reserved for the Hapaka.

He wrinkled his nose in distaste, more than prepared to bat the mutt away with his cane if it got too close. God only knew what diseases it carried, marred as it was by scars and the distinctive drowned-rat stench of wet dog. His non-violent inclinations were quickly dissipating.

Satisfied that he could defend himself against the mangy little beast, Aerus returned his attention to the wayward souls before him. Though his expression was neutral, the look in his eyes as he sized them up was cold and utterly unsympathetic, impossible to mistake for any manner of goodwill. "You knocked?"

OOC: @Ghosthands @BULiK et al

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IC: Skorm - Dark Walk, Alone

When he saw the light, Skorm crept to a halt. Slowly, he eased off his power, setting the earth and debris down and recalling his light stone. He focused on the light as he capped his lightstone and activated his Huna. At least this was unlikely to be a Rahkshi; he doubted creatures of shadow would need a fire to keep light. But on the other hand, if this was matoran, why weren't they using a lightstone? As his eyes readjusted to the ambient light, the Ba-Toa prowled around the bend, keeping to the edges of the light where his shadow would not betray him.

OOC: @Krayzikk

IC: Cyrix - Wise Man's Archive

The Le-Toa scratched at his Volitak. He was fairly certain his target had some sort of agenda now. Certainly enough to warrant further investigation. He doubted the librarian was obscuring any further information he could use. After sorting the material he had been reading neatly, he sat up, creating a small breeze that carried his newly minted membership card into his waiting hand. "I think I have all I need. If you remember anything, or if anything else comes up, please get in touch with myself or Toa Aelied."

He ran over the next steps in his head. He would have to let Aelied know about all this when his meeting was over; he could do some investigation at the Sanctum to see if he could find any record of the visitor's business there. Maybe he could catch up with Aelied there. But... not with the Sanctum Guard. He knew the Cy-Toa had lied; if his suspicions were true, it could mean they were unaware of the threat... or, worse, someone on the inside was working with his quarry. This should remain an... internal matter.

OOC: @ARROW404

The times, they are a-changing...

 

 

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IC (Syrik) [Echelon's Lair]

The Toa remained silent as Aerus spoke, standing to the right and a little behind the Vo-Matoran in the great metal doorway. His stance and expression remained neutral, hands calmly on his hips, but his eyes flicked to each of the Matoran and the Hapaka in turn, fixing each of them with an analytical stare before moving on to the next.

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IC: Savrehn - Ko-Wahi - Abyss

Upon seeing the Matoran that had answered them Savrehn felt, strangely, relieved. Although, perhaps he was more relieved that whoever had answered had not immediately chosen to kill them for trespassing. This passed quickly, especially once he noticed another figure in the doorway and Savrehn protectively stepped in front of Kreigero, hand still on the injured Ko-Matoran’s shoulder.

He could tell by the way the Vo-Matoran looked at the group that they were not welcome. And the feeling of dread, that they had certainly stumbled upon something that they weren’t supposed to, came back stronger. Savrehn’s stomach felt like it had dropped as far as it could go.

“We took…a wrong turn,” he said, almost apologetically, trying to take control of what could easily become a situation. “One of us is hurt. We were looking for…” Savrehn stopped, wanting to avoid the word “help” since it was obvious they would probably get none from these people.

He looked to his companions, unsure of what else to say. Hoping they had something to say. Hoping that the next course of action would be getting-the-####-out-of-here.

OOC: @BULiK@~Xemnas~@Goose@Ghosthands

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IC: Kreigero [Echelon's Lair, Entrance]

Reyal took a step back as the door opened, but remained steadfast in front of the entrance, though the small Rahi didn't block it as much as it's posture would lead one to believe. He was utterly unsure what to make of these two newcomers, the small one seeming to be as surprised and confused as he was. Not a threat. The other one seemed cool though, before he gave Reyal the cold, unflinching stare of a predator. The Hapaka waited to see what these strangers did.

Kreigero, for all her blood loss and head trauma, became distinctly aware of how utterly unequipped she was. The huntress's spear rested in two pieces on the mountainside far above, and her ice picks were embedded in an ice wall. The Ko-Matoran only carried her shield now, which had fallen into the abyss with them, and a spare dagger sheathed in the many pouches beneath her flowing white cloak, the backside of which was now stained with many drops of blood. It didn't help any that the trio was still tied around their waists with a long strand of rope - a safety measure against the snowstorm that was quickly revealing to be one of the more dangerous decisions they'd made.

The trapper was glad Savrehn spoke up, but grew anxious once his train of thought slowed down

"Home. We fell and d-d-don't know where we are," Kreigero stuttered.

She wanted to lie, but she had a gut feeling that would only make the situation worse. These people wouldn't believe her if she said they were trying to find Ihu-Koro; that was in an entirely different direction from Ko-Koro!

Perhaps the truth would be their saving grace: whoever was out here wasn't in a secret bunker because they wanted to be found, and her group certainly didn't want to find them. They truly didn't know where they were beyond a general description, and just wanted to go home. Even for all Kreigero and Savrehn's misgivings about city life, Kreigero found herself wishing to be in twisted urban city that Ko-Koro had become right about then.

Actually - there was a lie that would hedge their bets. If these strangers didn't want to be found, the most reliable way to ensure their silence was death, which was unlikely to cause problems unless that meant the threat of a search party.

"We've got to get b-b-back home before the boss gets worried."

Maybe their idiotic historian companion would make for a more convincing story of something more important going on than a couple of hermits getting lost. It might almost make up for getting into this mess.

Edited by BULiK
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IC, Atamai: Echelon's Lair

Atamai examined the structure's occupants. He had been expecting a Toa, but he hadn't been expecting the Matoran who spoke to them. Atamai's eyepiece zoomed in and out as he looked over the pair. The Matoran leaned on a cane, but didn't look old. Sick, maybe? 

The Ta-Matoran glanced to the Toa next. The Toa locked eyes with him for a moment before turning his gaze to another member of the company. Atamai felt a chill go down his spine. The Toa's eyes were fiery, and very, very unfriendly, to say the least. Atamai gulped. I have a bad feeling about this... he thought to himself. He suddenly wished that he had never knocked on the metal door.

"Home. We fell and d-d-don't know where we are. We've got to get b-b-back home before the boss gets worried."

Atamai did his best not to react with surprise. Why would you say that?! If these two figure out we're lying, we'll probably be killed! he thought. 

The Matoran pulled his scarf tighter around himself. "R-r-right," he said, his teeth clattering from both the cold and from nervousness. "I'm a scholar, and I was hired by Akiri Tarkahn to further investigate something written on the Wall of Prophecy. These two..." he gestured to his companions, "were hired to lead me to and from the Massif. We were on our way back to the Koro when we were attacked by a muaka, and then a literal dragon of all things showed up, and when we tried to flee we ended up falling into this crevasse."

He sighed. "We're really sorry that we disturbed you, but when we saw the big metal door, we were hoping to find shelter from the storm, and a place for our injured friend to rest."

OOC: @Goose @Ghosthands @BULiK @Tarn

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IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

"We've got to get b-b-back home before the boss gets worried."

Aerus took a moment to consider the situation he had been presented with: three Matoran deep in the drifts, tied together at the waist, one injured from a shared fall, and a tame Hapaka with them.

They were familiar with each other, that much was certain; every experienced explorer or mountaineer knew to cut the rope, without hesitation. The two Ko-Matoran had the bearing of experience, and the way the male laid his hand on the female's shoulder and reflexively moved to protect her was indicative of closeness - lovers, maybe? They didn't look like siblings, at least, but Aerus supposed anything was possible. Either way, emotional attachment seemed the most likely reason to ignore one's training and idiotically die together. The Ta-Matoran was the odd one out - a tourist, most likely, given how he carried himself and the obvious giveaway of his element.

Aerus couldn't say for sure which of the three had knocked - it was an unwise decision, but when the options were an amateur, a woman with a head injury, and a man too invested in keeping her safe at the expense of his own self-interest… well, it could really go either way.

That said, the Ko-Matoran's explanation struck him as… well, as odd, to say the least. No one made their home out here; Aerus knew the area about as well as it could be known, thanks to his journeys back and forth as a courier, and though he rarely ventured out of late he felt confident that Echelon's lair was as remote as it had ever been. The snowstorm Syrik had mentioned was indeed roaring overhead, and yet it seemed unlikely to Aerus that either of the two Ko-Matoran, with their apparent experience, could have gotten so turned around as to end up out here while trying to find either Ko or Ihu-Koro. However, he had little doubt that by now their chief ambition was to go home - but that still raised the question of why they had ventured so far from home to begin with.

But if they were here on behalf of an employer

A hunter would find better spoils elsewhere. It was possible their work was of a criminal nature, but the kind of people who felt the need to operate this far from society didn't seem likely to risk so much to save another. He reconsidered the Ta-Matoran - out of place in the drifts, yes, but perhaps not a tourist. He looked like a studious sort, and his eyes were clearly intelligent, in a very different manner to his survivalist companions. What would bring a man like that this far into the drifts? What would a man like that bring, this far into the drifts?

Aerus had narrowed it down to two possibilities: the first, easily remedied, was that they were cartographers. Were they to vanish out here, no search effort would be mounted. Here there be dragons.

The second, and more worrying, was that they were archaeologists. Treasure-hunters. If some rich fool believed there was a ruin or wreck of value out here, then these three would not be the last to come looking for it, which jeopardised the safety - and privacy - of his and Syrik's location.

It was, of course, possible that 'the boss' was a bluff, but in that case no one knew they were out here, and their disappearance would go unremarked. No matter their story, it was clear now that they would have to die; working on behalf of a boss of any kind meant that they had an obligation to report back, and the Ko-Matoran's anxiety to return suggested some level of fear (or, at the very least, compliance), so they couldn't be trusted to disobey. But before that, Aerus needed to know just who it was that had sent them, and why.

"R-r-right, I'm a scholar, and I was hired by Akiri Tarkahn to further investigate something written on the Wall of Prophecy. These two… were hired to lead me to and from the Massif. We were on our way back to the Koro when we were attacked by a muaka, and then a literal dragon of all things showed up, and when we tried to flee we ended up falling into this crevasse."

A dragon? Aerus' face betrayed nothing of his thoughts. The Matoran were far from the path to and from the Massif - if they were telling the truth, that might be a good thing. Should Akiri Tarkahn send out a search party, he would be looking in the wrong place.

But Aerus had the sense that he wasn't being told the whole truth. It was hard to put his finger on what exactly had tipped him off - perhaps the look in the Ta-Matoran's eyes, which struck him as that of carefully restrained panic. The Ko-Matoran had said too much, of either truth or fiction, and left him holding the bag.

The dragon, at least, he didn't doubt - it was far too strange a detail for a lie, especially one told by an intelligent man to two hostile strangers. Could the Mystix, perhaps, have awoken? There were reports to suggest that members of some draconic variant or subspecies had a nest somewhere in the Drifts, but no one had actually seen one in years. Something to follow up on, perhaps, if he had the time.

"We're really sorry that we disturbed you, but when we saw the big metal door, we were hoping to find shelter from the storm, and a place for our injured friend to rest."

Aerus' smile was as grim and as unforgiving as the raging storm above. "You're an awfully long way from the road. Perhaps your employer should have better vetted your guides."

His eyes flicked to each of the Ko-Matoran in turn, carefully judging their reactions. 

"They do seem like professionals, though. Certainly, they would have fooled me. But no expert would get so turned around as to find themselves here on their way from the Massif." He turned his gaze fully to the survivalists, with a look that made the icy winds seem tropical in comparison. "So, tell me… are you experts?"

OOC: @BULiK @Tarn @Ghosthands @~Xemnas~

Edited by Goose
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IC: Savrehn - Ko-Wahi - Abyss

Savrehn wanted to mutter something about, “If I was an expert, I would have never come here,” but decided to hold his tongue on that one. Unable to think of a better reply, he simply copied Kreigero.

“Yes.”

He felt it necessary to back up Atamai’s story. Make  a half-truth seem like a full-truth.

“Even an expert can be thrown off by a dragon attack. And with the snowstorm…sense of direction can easily be lost. The Wahi can claim even the best explorers, anyone who’s been out here long enough can attest to that. And it almost did.”

He wished that dragon had ate them earlier.

OOC: @BULiK@~Xemnas~@Goose@Ghosthands

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IC: Kreigero [Echelon's Lair]

If they were not still in immediate danger, Kreigero would have given a sigh of relief at Savrehn beginning to correct Atamai's mistakes. A recurring problem that she saw coming and should have avoided. The Massif? Atamai wasn't just a poor liar - he was an ignorant one.

The huntress felt that what she was seeing, and how this went down would give her a lot to consider in terms of people, their mistakes, and their saving graces. If she lived long enough to have the space to think of it, that is.

Until such a time, thoughts were best kept close and on the situation at hand. While she knew that Savrehn also felt to be a victim of circumstance like herself in this situation, they still had the ability to choose how they reacted, and that was what was on Kreigero's mind.

This was a game of information, and their decrepit interrogator was clearly treating it that way with this game of twenty questions in lieu of a normal, helpful Matoran response. Kreigero did not know the right path or even if there was a safe path out of this situation, but she hoped that keeping this Vo-Matoran thinking that he held the upper hand was their best play - her factual obstinance might cause him to slip and give the explorers the information they wanted, or at the very least, not dig a deeper hole like Atamai had done.

There were too many unknowns - who this Matoran was, who his Toa servant was, what they wanted, why they were out here...

The only known quantity to Kreigero was that she was in danger.

Edited by BULiK
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On 1/7/2022 at 7:55 AM, Keeper of Kraata said:

"I think I have all I need. If you remember anything, or if anything else comes up, please get in touch with myself or Toa Aelied."

IC: Priicu - Wise Man's Archive

The Ko-Matoran nodded in traditional Ko-Koro stoicism, "I will."

With the immediate element of this matter concluded, Priicu was now left with time to consider the road ahead. "Syzygos" had agreed to a business partnership that could be very lucrative for him, and as much information has he had surrendered to the Cyrix, and his Toa team by extension, he wasn't ready to just give him up. He still felt that he had no ill intent, having taken his offer that would get the attention of the Akiri, but unfortunately couldn't reveal this fact to Cyrix without exposing his prospective partner beyond what he was comfortable with. He didn't want the authorities to know that his library would be the most likely place "Syzygos" would turn up again.

Of course, he also wanted to remain cooperative with the authorities. Chances were, this was little more than a misunderstanding. At least he hoped so. And frankly, of the two, he found Syzygos to have made the more trustworthy first impression. But Cyrix's station did speak for itself. Complicated situation.

He still had to work out the installation of his Ko-Tatsus though... Maybe if he focused on that first, more answers would be forthcoming.

OoC: Priicu once again open to interaction within the Wise Man's Archive - the most peaceful nook in Ko-Wahi!

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IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

Aerus' uncanny smile grew wider as Atamai spoke. Well, now I know who knocked.

Apparently, the Ta-Matoran had no nose for danger - or for lying. The Ko-Matoran were wiser than him, wise enough to attempt to rescue his lie, as attested by the flickers of fear and relief that played out in the minutiae of their expressions. Above all else, though, they seemed wary; instinctively, as one feels another's unseen gaze on the back of their neck, or a predator recognises another, Aerus understood that the female Ko-Matoran was dissecting the situation in much the same manner as him, and choosing her words carefully. It was a smart play, to say so little; the other Ko-Matoran, though, seemed to prioritise digging them out of the grave the Ta-Matoran had prepared for them. By Aerus' accounting, the latter seemed the best choice - not because there was any chance of him believing their tale, but because the little truths that slipped through the cracks could be valuable to him. And if the Matoran were more valuable alive than dead, they might just have some hope of seeing the sunrise.

Returning his attention to Atamai, Aerus laughed mirthlessly through his nose.

"Ah, quite right, quite right." His tone was jovial, but sharpened by the cutting edge of condescension. He wanted to see if the Ta-Matoran was attuned enough to recognise mockery, but his eyes were by now on the two Ko-Matoran. They had more to offer. "Yes, a dragon seems more than enough to have even the hardiest explorer turned around, and the drifts do not discriminate when it comes to the lost."

"Although…" Aerus paused for a moment, in a parody of thought. "Well, you are experts, I suppose. That's the only plausible explanation as to how you made it so very far from the road in that storm - and this in spite of the fact that out here, an ill-timed blizzard can claim even an expert, once they've lost their way. So either you're the best bloody navigators in the Wahi, or you're very, very lucky."

"But if you were the best bloody navigators in the Wahi, you'd have cut that rope as soon as one of you began falling; and if you were very, very lucky, you wouldn't have ended up here." Aerus' smile had dropped, all pretense of geniality now cold and dead.

"On the other hand, two experts might just make it a shorter distance through such a storm, with enough skill and enough luck to tumble into a crevasse and survive. Two experts would think better of knocking on the great big metal door in the middle of nowhere, even with an injured party present, but I think it's safe to say that that -" Aerus' eyes returned briefly to Atamai - "Wasn't done by either of the experts. All of which leads me to suspect that, whether you came from Ko-Koro or from the Massif, neither was your destination. And if some party employed you, then you must have come out this far for a reason. So I ask you now: why here?"

OOC: @Ghosthands @BULiK @Tarn @~Xemnas~

Edited by Goose
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  OOC: Recommended listening:

IC: Kreigero [Echelon's Lair]

The veil of plausible deniability was not lowered, so much as its pretense had been missing from the start. Aerus's words had no visible effect on Kreigero, for to enter the drifts willingly was to accept one's death. To do so with strangers, doubly so. Through a storm? Thrice that. With Makuta's whispers beneath the Rahi's howls? Tenfold. In the presence of dragons? One could only hope to see such beauty before their assured demise.

Each step further from Ko-Koro was a compounding inevitability unto itself where all trails led to Ihu's embrace. Mount Ihu had blessed Kreigero in her time as much as it had cursed her, and to the survivalist, this was the beauty of life's cycles and the universe's revolutions.

Danger is liberating. The presence of threat frees the mind, unplugging it from routine and overclocking it beyond its self-imposed constraints. Higher risks, higher rewards. Danger incites a dynamic cycle of split-second decision-making that speaks to the primal core of every being. The mind running on its raw hardware instead of limited by its own abstractions.

In face of certain danger, a Kofo-Jaga will become a dragon. A Hapaka? A Muaka.

But a Matoran?

Equally so, when in true danger, a Matoran is within their truest form. They do not "think, because they are", as Ko-Koronan scholars have long touted; in true danger, a Matoran simply is. Danger forces the mind to not recursively classify itself above all. Danger forces a matoran to feel, not think, and within those feelings are the magnificent and deadly truths of reality, forged on the laws of the nature by Mata Nui's great hammer. Danger forces the mind and body act in unison, in a impossibly beautiful balance, where a matoran's spirit is united with the duty of their body, and their metastasized soul decides their destiny. All qualities of a Matoran act as one and with their actions define themself as a living whole greater than the sum of their constituent parts.

Thus, danger empowers a Matoran to become their true self, tap into all the powers when looking into their hearts. Danger bred heroes and martyrs, and was the gateway to Artakha itself.

It was in this peril that a bloodied Kreigero chose to engage in an equivalent exchange - for if fear and control were this twisted Matoran's sword and shield, then both could be disarmed by the fearless. Without his tools, his words would become as strong as he looked, and perhaps the fog he wanted to stoke would be parted to reveal the truths beyond.

Kreigero would not be bullied by a sad Matoran's theatrics.

"We're not from the census bureau, the building code office, or the local homeowners association, if that's what you're asking," the huntress unexpectedly replied, doing her best to mask her frigid stutter.

"They already told you why we're here," Kreigero continued, the wounded Matoran momentarily tilting her head in the direction of her partners - one a comrade, the other a liability. "So I'd recommend that you ask a useful question... if you're looking for a useful answer."

Edited by BULiK
I will fix the cool embed later, the editor hates linux and I'm too lazy to deal with my web browser situaiton on my main pc right now
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OOC: is it really peaceful if people keep coming in

IC: Sir Dahkapa (Wise Man's Archive)

Once, Dahkapa had been a scholar. Therefore the libraries and archives of the settlement had been like secondary homes for him, even after he had become a Toa. Despite the occupation by Makuta's servants and the reconstruction, he still easily recognized many familiar places as he walked past them, and reminisced about the good old days. Yes, it was true that he had been delusional back then, believing that life was finite and that Mata Nui was infallible. But perhaps there was bliss in ignorance. Nowadays he had to carry the burden of truth, which weighed down heavily on him. He missed the times when good and evil could be more easily distinguished, when his ethical compass hadn't been so completely shattered.

He sighed and entered the Wise Man's Archive. He had been there before, but he did not remember when. Or perhaps it was a false memory. His mind was muddled ever since the Conversion. In any case, the librarian wasn't familiar to him. As he walked inside, he looked around himself and saw many bookcases and shelves filled to the brim with scrolls, tablets and codices. Finding what he was looking for would likely take a while, yet he was hesitant to ask the Matoran for help. The subject matter was touchy, to say the least. But there was no way to avoid the librarian knowing what he wanted. Ultimately, he'd have to get it from him.

In a true Ko-Koroan manner he silently greeted him with a nod, though he smiled as well. "I am glad to see that this place is still standing. I hope little of value was lost in the recent chaos." His smile faded and he took a deep breath. "I need to find something... unusual, and I am not sure if you have the kind of tome I am looking for. Do you have anything about the... Brotherhood of Ak'rei'an?" The last words were almost whispered.

OOC: @ARROW404

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On 1/3/2022 at 11:12 PM, Emzee said:

Daron’s face looked tired and worn to the guard. His facial expression was one of neutrality, though slightly compromised by the bitter cold that was around him. Still, the robed Toa practiced patience -- something that Tailua was starting to struggle with.  

:i::c: - Ko-Koro Gates

The guard wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the scarred Hau that looked down at her. She hastily stepped aside to allow the seemingly injured monk access to the village beyond, and let him keep the heatstone.

Nothing more barred the party from entering the rebuilt village of ice before them. 

--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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On 1/11/2022 at 5:14 AM, Daniel the Finlander said:

OOC: is it really peaceful if people keep coming in

IC: Sir Dahkapa (Wise Man's Archive)

In a true Ko-Koroan manner he silently greeted him with a nod, though he smiled as well. "I am glad to see that this place is still standing. I hope little of value was lost in the recent chaos." His smile faded and he took a deep breath. "I need to find something... unusual, and I am not sure if you have the kind of tome I am looking for. Do you have anything about the... Brotherhood of Ak'rei'an?" The last words were almost whispered.

OoC: As long as they keep it down!

IC: Priicu - Wise Man's Archive

The archivist had been reciting a poem to himself in his head, wearing a barely perceptible smile on his mask when the Toa of Ice entered. The first Ko-tatsu had been ordered, which was good. He would be needing more though, before he could set them out. It would be awkward- and not peaceful- if there was only one to go around. Either only one person would sit at it, or nobody would, not wanting to be 'that guy'. A few days and they would be ready for business.

He looked up and gave at respectful bow as the Toa entered. A Toa of Ice, and not one he was familiar with. His eye and heartlight color were odd, he noted privately- a useful way to distinguish him that he filed away mentally. He smiled at the Toa's greeting and nodded slightly- indeed, although the Archive had been damaged, very little had been taken. However, what had been taken was mostly quite valuable. The Brotherhood that had once ruled Ko-Koro did prize its knowledge.

He straightened up slightly at the mention of that same Brotherhood, his mind quickly exploring the possibilities as to why one would want to research them. That was irrelevant though. "Regrettably, I do not," he said. "Any books I might have had on them would have been taken while they ruled the city. I had several books that mentioned them but offered little else, but the Sanctum has since requested that any books on them be brought to them. At least until copies can be made."

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IC: Cyrix - Ko-Koro

The Le-Toa slid past the caped Ko-Toa on his way out of the library. He had an idea of what he was going to undertake next, but Cyrix figured he would confirm something first. A gust of frigid wind hit him, and Cyrix pulled up his scarf, breathing into it to warm it. He got the feeling that he hadn't gotten everything out of Priicu, something about his forthcoming demeanor and the matoran's own questions for him. No matter, he had enough that just a quick visit to the Sanctum archives would confirm his suspicions. The Cy-Toa had lied about, or at least obscured the fact, that he was leaving for Onu-Koro, and hadn't mentioned any business at the Sanctum, two facts that Cyrix was fairly sure about.

Cyrix nodded in greeting to the guards posted as he passed them, making his way deeper into the Sanctum. He felt a pang of pride walking these halls, seeing the reconstruction since his infiltration in the final hours before the Koro was liberated. He was thankful to be even a small part of it.

 He entered the Archive, signing himself in. As part of the Kalta, he didn't need any permission, but the paperwork remained. All the other names on the list were Ko-Koro citizens or Sanctum officials he recognized; his mystery toa hadn't come through unless he had been impersonating someone. And Cyrix hadn't spotted him sporting a Mahiki. For his reasoning, he wrote that he was checking the list of missing artifacts from the Occupation. He had seen the list before; when the Kalta had been assisting reconstruction, Aelied had taken on the charge of pursuing leads to recover stolen items if they could be found. It fell fairly low on his list of priorities, but it was a task the Toa Kalta could pursue. Truthfully, Cyrix thought that if any were going to turn up, it was going to be in some of the preexisting ruins of Ko-Koro, rather than secreted off to Mangaia. Trinkets were likely added to some private hoards, and were more likely to show up in private auctions or stashed away somewhere.

As he was going through the motions checking the list with descriptions, his breath froze as he realized something; the frozen droplets drifted down as the air stopped. If his quarry hadn't been here at the Archives, it was likely he was talking with someone else at the Sanctum. If he was an agent of Onu-Koro or similar, he might have been meeting with an informant; someone within the Sanctum's power structure. A functionary, a guard, some other official... He had to get to the bottom of this. But he had to keep this a secret, Kalta eyes only. He would have to tell Aelied, but he was still in his meeting; Cyrix would have to leave a message at the Memorial Garden. On his way out of the Archives, he glance at the volumes upon volumes of scrolls. He was glad it wasn't his job to categorize them; the scribes still weren't done with an inventory after the occupation.

The times, they are a-changing...

 

 

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IC: Sir Dahkapa (Wise Man's Archive)

The reply was disappointing, but not unexpected. Outsiders knew very little about the Brotherhood, which guarded its secrets closely. He was more surprised how his inquiry did not appear to make the Matoran concerned or suspicious. It was a relief, and he now thought that the Vortixx he had met in the Drifts may have been wrong. Perhaps some people were more accepting of Ak'rei'an's followers than he had thought? Or perhaps the Matoran simply assumed he was conducting an investigation of some sort and was just happy to help him.

Whatever the case, his response was useful, although he doubted he could easily access the Sanctum's library without arousing some suspicion. "Ah, thank you for the information. I'll be sure to visit the Sanctum next." He paused briefly. At first he was going to say good bye and leave, but it had been so long since he had been in a bookstore that he couldn't just go away like that. "But... perhaps you have something else that interests me. You see, I am a student of philosophy and ethics. Do you have some tomes to recommend to me?"

OOC: @ARROW404

Edited by Daniel the Finlander
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Flint and Steel, Part 2 

[Part 1]

IC Stannis and Brykon | The Massif and surrounding region

Stannis Maru spent the night on the couch by the fire, though despite being nestled cozily under the mass of blankets and pillows the night was passed restlessly with his mind meandering with thoughts of what morning would bring. He had delivered his missive on behalf go the Akiri collective and handed Brykon the letters for his arrest and in doing so enacted the processing of justice that threatened the balance of affairs in the Massif against the larger whole of Mata Nui’s society. For as long as he could remember, the village and monastery had been a safe haven against all the judgements from the rest of the island, where lost souls and misguided spirits could rest and restructure their lives; the conviction of Lord Brykon ran the risk of overturning that legacy of neutrality. When the order was given by the council of leaders there was no question who would be the one to bear the missive—Stannis Maru was regarded as one of the most powerful toa on the island, but beyond his individual might his understanding of the Massif’s philosophies were ideal for the matter. If anyone was capable of handling the mission it was the erstwhile denizen of the refuge, with a conscience able to manage its diplomatic intricacy and strength sufficient to overcome Brykon if it came to blows.

What frightened Stannis Maru most, however, was that he was not able to handle either of those responsibilities, that he’d inadvertently forsake his first adoptive home and utterly fail at countering Brykon’s martial prowess. The battle of Ko-Koro left him battered and drained mentally and physically and he hadn’t eve allowed his injuries to recover from the retaking of the ice city, and he doubted Brykon would surrender his newfound spiritual and legal freedom as the protector of the Massif without some form of fight. And that was what Stannis feared—fighting, dissolving the peace, violating the sanctity of the village, and failing his Duty, because in contrast Brykon remained hale as could be, bolstered by a more kanohi more suitable for combat, a weapon he wielded masterfully, and a cunning mind capable of strategy well beyond the Maru’s. His grey eyes sleeplessly stared at the dwindling flames of the fireplace and he imagined seeing his own demise in the ashes. The thoughts chilled him through the blankets, a dagger of ice in his spine.

Before dawn came he could hear the stirring of the big man on the floor above the sitting room. Brykon’s heavy steps made the aged wooden beams creak and groan in protestation, overt murmurings of the ancient keep that seemed to sympathetically wake Stannis to alertness for the morning’s storm. It would be a storm, he reckoned—there was hardly any other way to do it, unless Brykon bent his knee to reasoning. A moment later and the lord of the manor descended from the stairs and busied himself straightaway to tending the fire with new wood without saying a word to his guest. Stannis, intent to rid himself of the night’s cobwebs and gain whatever edge he could muster, heaved the mass of blankets off him and went to the kitchen for coffee, finding a jar of beans on the counter and getting right to work grinding them. To seriously punt his mind awake he made it strong and black as night, and after he poured it and let the froth bubbles fade away the oily sheen of the bean’s extract refracted the orange haze of the fire that by then was roaring once again.

But, despite the mutually understood rituals of morning muster, neither of them spoke much after having exhausted most logical paths of conversation the night before even as they gathered their packs of adventuring gear and slung their weapons across their backs. It wasn’t until they were finally standing in the morning airs and saw the first glints of sunlight that they exchanged the most sizable conversation to that point.

You know where we’re headed?” Brykon asked.

Like it were my own backyard,” Stannis responded.

The two warriors ventured out from their village before the workers went afield. They hoped to be cleverly avoiding any and all attention from others, but not everyone slept soundly either—quietly watching them depart was the camerlengo Sigrus, doing the exact same thing he did the morning before and beholding the village stir to greet the day. He furrowed his brows and sighed deeply as he realized all was not going well, and then the two toa vanished from view.

* * * * *

They reached the fishing village at late morning when the tide was low and the wind calm. “So this is it,” Brykon said, looking around at the spartan collection of ramshackle huts and vacant piers. Water soothingly lapped at the stones, and beyond the piers were the tall cliffs and jagged mountainsides that curtained the length of the fjord before opening up to the eastern sea beyond. At nearly noon the light of the sun was beginning to dwindle as it set over the alps of Ko-Wahi behind them, casting shadows upon the village that slowly grew to overtake the rest of the fjord’s confines. There was hardly a soul to be seen in town, most of them being fishers who’d taken their boats out to sea and would not return for several hours more.

This is it,” Stannis said soberly, appreciating the double meaning of the phrase. This was an end of roads both literal and figurative, the terminus of their journey to the little trawler town and the graveyard of their amicable brotherhood, and it was mournful as all endings were. The Maru positioned himself abreast of the Toa-Protector and gently laid his left hand on the opposite’s right shoulder. “Toa Brykon, under the authority of the council of Akiri, I hereby place you under arrest.

Brykon’s shoulders clenched. Stannis felt the man’s incredible muscles move under his pauldrons like continental plates rolling under each other and studied Brykon’s profile carefully for any indication of threat, but there was none. What he felt was the defensiveness of a man who suddenly felt the stress of the situation.

You said this village was the Massif’s, which means the laws of the main village’s akiri hold no sway here,” he argued, stock-still and refusing to look the Maru in the eye yet.

I said it’s within the Massif’s protection,” Stannis responded evenly, all too used to choosing his words carefully and backing up the specific semantics later after many conversations regarding the so-called ‘defeat of Makuta’ and the importance of his choice of words. “I did not say it was the Massif’s territory. You are in Ko-Wahi right now, Brykon.

F———.” The toa inhaled deeply and exhaled long and hard, then finally turned to Stannis and shrugged the hand off his shoulder. “I’d rather die than go headlong into whatever sort of prison Tarkahn has waiting for me.” He sighed again, air made hot with rising blood pressure blowing condensation thick enough to be cigarillo smoke out of his mouth. “Look, I don’t want to fight you—

I don’t want to fight at all,” Stannis calmly interrupted.

The abrupt coolness of the interjection caught him off guard a second time and he gathered his thoughts for a second before continuing. “I will defend my honor, Stannis, because it’s all I have at this point. I have done what is good since finding my freedom from under the shackles of Ambages and his company’s evilness, or I’d like to think that I’ve tried to. All I have ever tried to do was good, and it gladdens me that I’ve been able to find my redemption and purpose at our sanctum town—the same place my journey started on years ago when your teacher Antrim pledged me to his crusade. It’s been a looooong trip for me, and I have no intention to earn my forgiveness in some minuscule cell when I can do so much better enriching folks’ lives from all walks of life. Being Toa-Protector has given me a wholesome purpose helping people who were as lost as I was once, people who are likely impacted by the same evil elements I once did the bidding for. And I know you know all of this, and believe it as I do, which is why I cannot understand for the life of me… just why you agreed to this mission when you knew how hard it would be for both of us.

Because I know you better than the other Maru,” Stannis explained, “... in every way. Because your philosophies are just as much my own. But the mission is the same: To bring you to justice. I’ve already forgiven you, but I am sorry, friend.

Then so am I.

Brykon’s reaction was swift and savage, hallmarks of a master-at-arms who had earned his stripes over many conflicts. Before Stannis could even reach up to respond, Brykon threw a fist right on his heartlight that thrust the Maru backwards from the force of it and knocked the air out of his lungs. Stannis was rendered stunned and helpless as Brykon advanced with precise, pugilistic determination, swinging one fist after another at him and ramming into his core with each blow. In a matter of seconds Stannis was crashing to the ground and the cold gravel’s piercing chill was barely noticed over the sting of his new welts. He gasped for breath, shocked by Brykon’s brutal rebuff as much as his own unpreparedness for it, and from the corner of his vision he saw the burly man stalk away.

It had been quite a while since this village had been a battleground, but Stannis had been there back then as well. He’d been a villager then, newly proclaimed a prophesied hero and helming the chosen five matoran after disbanding his Companions and losing Aurax’s companionship, all while on the run from no less than three dark toa. He wasn’t part of the fight itself and it was Joske who proxied at the time against Utu, though at its center the fight was about stopping “the Wanderer’s tread” so Stannis was party even in abstentia. It was poetic, then, that Stannis was at the core of this new fight on the same cold beach, this time carrying his own weight… although it wasn’t going well for him so far, granted.

Once his breath returned, Stannis rolled onto his chest and vaulted himself to his feet with a shove. The rattle of rocks stirred by the gymnastics caught Brykon’s attention and he turned back to see Stannis standing upright again, this time with some distance between the belligerents. “Let me go, Stannis,” he growled pleadingly, though he meant it as a warning to punctuate the visceral pummeling he delivered a moment before. “I’m tired, and I don’t want to be on the run anymore. Tell the akiri whatever you need to, but I’m not giving up the solace I’ve earned.

That’s not… an option...” Stannis lamented. “I have my Duty to uphold just as you’ve had your Destiny to live.” He took steady steps forward and clenched his hands into fists as his eyes went alight with his powers. Just as swift as Brykon’s punches, Stannis channeled his energies into the stones of the beach and willed them to coalesce; Brykon didn’t realize what was happening before he tried to move his feet into a battle stance and found he could not budge them. The gravel he’d been standing on had become a solid slab that perfectly trapped his feet like concrete. The Maru was closing the distance quickly and Brykon felt the first inklings of panic as he tried to free himself by activating his Pakari and slammed his fist on the ground, shattering the slab and freeing his feet with just seconds to spare. His freedom was short-lived as Stannis loosely gestured and caused a wave of stones to collide with Brykon and threw him to the ground from the weight of it.

The toa of iron realized immediately what caliber threat Stannis actually was and the strategic brilliance of intentionally leading Brykon to this place. The village was Ko-Wahi territory, depriving Brykon of his domain’s legal immunity; the beach’s huts were made of wood and shingle and not much metal; and while the iron-richness in the basalt could be tapped into the Maru’s more potent focus over the stones themselves could all but nullify any attempts to manipulate the basalt; and the fact that they were in a village meant Brykon would be more restrained in his attacks to mitigate collateral damages in all but the worst situations. This was a setup intended to place Stannis at a decided advantage. Brykon would have to fight using resources of his own creation… or he could surrender, though he instantly banished the thought.

He rolled out of the gravel and sprung to his feet swiftly as well, choosing to waste no time in charging headlong at Stannis. Using his Pakari-enhanced strength he flung another flurry of blows, but while each punch hit its mark Stannis had managed to pull himself away just enough to not suffer their strikes. Frustrated, the Fe-Toa ceased the barrage and reached over his shoulder to seize the greatsword strapped on his back.

Stannis stood a head taller than his friend, a  leaner and more perfectly postured man without the wearing away from physical rigors like Brykon had lived through, and upon seeing Brykon reach for his weapon Stannis instinctively closed the gap between them. He placed one hand on Brykon’s opposite shoulder and shoved it such that Brykon’s arm was angled uselessly away, and the other hand he seized upon his up-stretched wrist atop the massive weapon’s pommel. Their servos and joints whirred under the strain but he found that even with his strength Brykon struggled to muscle his way through Stannis’ use of leverage, though he quickly countered by swiping the Maru’s legs out from under him. Both toa fell to the ground and rolled away, scrambling to be the first one standing again only to do so simultaneously.

The time for talking had already passed—by now they were fully pledged to their duel—and they drew their weapons with reluctant commitments to harm the other. Over the lapping of the waves on the beach their tools clashed with a ringing cacophony, halberd meeting greatsword like a hammer on a tuning fork.

For the Maru, witnessing the weapon inherited from Antrim Vakitano being used against him was gutwrenching. This was the same weapon that had saved him, Oreius, and Korero from the pursuit of Ronkshou and Vidar, a sword wide enough that was meant to be used just as much as a shield, now betraying the legacy of its previous owner and meaning to harm another of the Massif’s famed pilgrims by it’s sharpness. The ironic turn was not lost on Brykon, though he realized there was a deeper irony to the dichotomy of the greatsword; while the sword endangered Stannis, it was serving as a shield for Brykon, deflecting the halberd’s bite and guarding the toa-protector’s flank. He wielded the incredible weapon with unbelievable speed and control, whirling it as effortlessly with one hand as with two. In contrast, Stannis’ moves were slower and he used his halberd more like a staff than the polearm it was, each movement halved in effort as he could use both ends of the weapon to either deflect or attack. It was a delicate dance, one that Brykon almost immediately gained the advantage by pressing his offensive that the Maru had to reel away from until Stannis could exploit come absence in the onslaught. Curiously, despite the heart-laden swings, neither of them felt an iota of bloodlust in the fight as they fought for duty and survival—their movements were borne from practiced reflex, more instinct than hatred. Behind the veneers of their irises were loathings of the situation, not the belligerents. The singing hum of the weapons filled their eardrums until it was all they could hear, well above the crunching of gravel and heaviness of their breathing, and all there was between them was the singular purpose of ending their duel decisively and without casualty.

The Wanderer pitied Brykon, truly. He felt the desperation in each blow from the heavy greatsword as the convict defended his right to live freely in recalcitrant sanctuary with every iota of his being. There was no greater disservice in his mind than to become shackled and withered away in a jail cell to suffer for the crimes he did at the bidding of another, regardless that they were his crimes, and from the perspective of the Massif’s faithful his belonging at the mountaintop monastery was more than a suitable path for redemption in exile. Regrettably, and to Stannis’ deepest dismay, the pressures of the outside world could still grow sufficiently impatient and eager to overwhelm the placidity of the Massif. No matoran or settlement was its own island, no matter how isolated, virtuous, or deep their regret. There was fear in Brykon’s strikes, fear of dying a worthless death under the judgement of other matorankind. And fear made Brykon unpredictable, a veritable erratic whirlwind of iron and blood, but fear could be exploited. Stannis had practiced patience before in his fight against the Dark Toa Heuani, a measured and evenkeeled defense that prolonged the fight in hopes of snagging an opening. All he needed to do was keep guarding his flanks and maintain Brykon’s swordpoint at a distance until he could close in.

Finally, the opportunity came, though Stannis had to fabricate it somewhat with a feint by kicking stones up at Brykon’s face, and in the fraction of an instant that he was afforded Stannis closed the gap between them and slid the blade of his halberd behind Brykon’s ankle, and then pulled it back like a saw. A streak of dark blood stained the black beach’s sands and Brykon screamed indignantly as he fell to his good knee. “Yield, Brykon,” Stannis pleaded. “Let’s just end this already.

But the convict was not ready to do so yet. With a pained and defiant glare he hurled the massive sword at Stannis empowered by his Kanohi and his telekinetic elemental control. Stannis instinctively raised his weapon in a guarded angle to batter the sword away, but the measure was insufficient and too slow, and as the thrown weapon connected with the polearm it cleaved through the haft in a burst of energy and mighty TWANGGGG. Stannis’ block had sacrificed his precious halberd in exchange for his own life, however, as the sword impacted him by the flat of its blade across his chest, forcefully throwing him backwards to the ground yet again. Brykon struggled to get to his feet and tried to seal his wound with a patch of iron, but despite it he could scarcely put sufficient pressure on his leg to stand; his soleus had been sliced clean through. Running low on options and now unable to keep the melee going with his crippling, he settled on using his elemental abilities at last for a final effort.

When Stannis got his next good look at Brykon the toa was in a meditative repose, eyes alight with intent as he let his consciousness flow out into the environment. The basalt all around them quivered and rattled as the iron within the stones was being tapped into, elemental transendence—Stannis knew of the tactic, though he never had reason to attempt it himself. Dorian used a similar skill, pulling in their elemental focus from their area in an overwhelming attack. At its least it would empower Brykon with a greater energy reserve, and at most it would make the very environment into a weapon. Stannis was prepared to counter the use of the stones themselves if Brykon tried to move them, but if Brykon could lay his full elemental power on all the iron around them it would be a very different story. Stannis instinctively began to gather the beach rocks around him into a defensive barrier to buy himself time as he started to give his own meditative incantation to counteract his opponent’s ritual. “All hear the tale of the Great Spirit and of all things…”

Iron gathered in front of Brykon. First, it was only mere specks of ferrous material, traces of metal that were extracted from the stones and left shards of basalt behind as detritus of the mining. But then the iron flowed in by the tablespoons and handfuls, collecting and congealing before him as if it grew from thin air.

Standing on the other side of the beach was Stannis, his Kanohi Hiripaki still muted in appearance but with eyes that grew brighter with each phrase he uttered. “There was once a great warrior named Brykon who led with conviction. His allies feared him and his enemies respected him, but despite his power and spirit he remained a tool of the darkness…”

The gravel exploded in a multitude of pop! pop! pop!s as they cracked open like eggs and disintegrated as they released their latent minerals to fuel Brykon’s weapon, leaving mineral sand in their wake. All around Brykon was black dust gently being washed away by the high tide that was coming in.

He gave up the violence of his past when he had the chance to rest at last, but it was not enough to appease the ones he’d oppressed. They soon grew aware of his crimes and made their decree: That Brykon would find himself at the mercy of their courts by offering either his head, or his soul…”

At last the massing of iron manifested as a column of grey metal, long as a spear and wide as his biceps with a flared tip. It was a veritable battering ram and a drill, fully under Brykon’s will and aimed right at Stannis. And then it began to move forward, by inches at first and then by feet, spinning ever quicker as it sped up with Brykon’s manipulations. The iron torpedo suddenly flung forward with unabated vigor at the fortifications Stannis had erected and churned through the stonework the Maru had erected. Stannis’ own elemental prowess was laid upon the weapon as he added more of the rocks around him to the barrier in an effort to seize and stop it, but still the drill gnashed through the basalt and sparks flew out from the bit. The contest had become one of countering stone with iron, a contest of flint and steel, and a dangerous game as Brykon and Stannis each tried to nullify and waste away the other’s elemental power with their own. Stannis could see Brykon’s piercing blue eyes from over the ever-shifting mound of basalt he concentrated on keeping, though it was blurred by the flung gravel that was rapidly melting away at the auger’s persistent chomping. It took all his effort to stay in place and he knew that stepping aside meant the weapon would hurl uncontrolled into the village’s huts behind them, yet he was also keenly aware that if he did not stop Brykon the fight would be over with him as its only casualty. Already he could see the vicious weapon’s red-hot endpoint as it burned through his defenses and came incredibly close to being freed to impale him, all while Brykon remained focused on ensuring his desperate last-ditch effort succeeded.

Stannis yelled his story’s final phrases over the terrible grinding of iron and rock, such that it boomed across the fjord. “The Wanderer found him but he refused to surrender to the warrant, so they battled, but just when things seemed lost Brykon’s power was TAKEN AWAY like water under a sponge until he was a toa in body alone! So it was said! and so—transpired—the—Legend!

Suddenly, at that final utterance, three things happened: Firstly, his Kanohi Hiripaki glowed to life in brilliant gold that shone like the Kumu Lighthouse’s beacon in the shadowy confines of the fjord; secondly, Brykon felt something terribly wrong as the world seemed to shift and an absence within his soul appeared where he was whole before; and thirdly, the spinning torpedo auger ground to a halt before its inertia surrendered to entropy and it fell still in a pile of gravel. All things abruptly became eerily still.

The toa Brykon mentally willed his creation to stir again, tried to summon some weapon to his hand, tried to do anything at all, but nothing came from his urgings. With eyes wide as his palms he tried to conjure a club, yet there wasn’t even a trickle of elemental power ebbing through him. He felt the sloshing of the rising tide seep seawater into the fissures of his leg, casting salt on his wound that stung him, and he winced at the insulting sensation. Stannis was striding closer to him then in a pained gait but the greatsword was in his hand like some trophy, and soon the Wanderer came to stand standing sagaciously a bio away with a pitying look on his face and the damnably grey eyes soaking up the fallen warrior’s visage.

What did you do?” Brykon asked, more shocked than he ever had been before.

You impugned your dignity when you became a murderer and criminal, and what little of it you have recuperated from your penance is yours to keep. But I took from you your dignities… and your powers.

Your mask, it—“

It stripped your elemental abilities away like velcro patches on your leather vest, because that’s just how your story goes. Only for this chapter, though; we’ll see what the rest of your narrative has in store. But now you’re Toa-Protector of the Massif no longer. I have no manacles for you, there are other ways you can suffer your sentencing.

Such as?

Stannis knelt down beside the emptied warrior he still considered his friend despite the egregious conflict they just endured. His eyes looked at Brykon and saw something vacant yet somehow still beautiful, and a man who strove for salvation because it was all he knew how to do. “It’s known Ambages wasn’t alone in his grabs for power, and you can help bring the others to justice as well. It is my offer to you which I truly hope you find preferable to the gallows. This is my only offering and I pray you won’t refuse it.

A long silence followed that was ultimately cut not by the toa’s words but by the chugging engines of the trawlers returning from their fishing expeditions of the day.

* * * * *

It was almost dusk when they returned to the Massif, both bloodied and wounded and sorely lacking of pride as one pulled the other in a stretcher. That night, it was Brykon who slept by the fire like the house’s guest, nursing a bowl of broth while covered in blankets stacked thick, and profoundly humbled to depths he’d all but forgotten.

And while he hated what had happened and was still bewildered at the loss he suffered, he painfully admitted… he owed Stannis for the act of mercy he’d been provided. Begrudgingly, he understood he was alive literally because Stannis was precisely the right person for the job because he knew how the justice of the Massif different from the justice in the Koro’s courts, he knew how to be forceful when required and delicate when able, someone capable of awe-inspiring feats who let an old criminal draw inspiration from him.

Tomorrow would be a new day, and every day at the Massif was a chance at new beginnings. 

Edited by Umbraline Yumiwa
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On 1/15/2022 at 3:01 AM, Daniel the Finlander said:

IC: Sir Dahkapa (Wise Man's Archive)

 

"Ah, thank you for the information. I'll be sure to visit the Sanctum next." He paused briefly. At first he was going to say good bye and leave, but it had been so long since he had been in a bookstore that he couldn't just go away like that. "But... perhaps you have something else that interests me. You see, I am a student of philosophy and ethics. Do you have some tomes to recommend to me?"

IC: Priicu
An interest in philosophy and ethics? Fascinating subjects, though a little more high-minded than Priicu himself tended to be. He was a student of literature in its raw state, and something of a mathematician, which helped in his book and inventory-keeping. But he knew enough that religion often accompanied these pursuits. He tried to keep the suspicion out of his voice as the chances of this individual being a member of the Brotherhood proper began to rise. Still, there was the chance he was a man of orthodox faith who was simply engaging in polemics, or some such foray into faiths other than his own.

"Ah, philosophy and ethics we do have," he said. He stepped out from behind his desk, noting that his assistants were both busy, themselves, with arranging book returns, and so taking the matter into his own hands. "If you wish to read them here, you can simply pay the entrance fee, but if you wish to borrow, you will need a library card," he said as he came around his desk.

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IC:

Niici — Ko-Koro

“Thank you so much,” Niici said, smiling warmly at the guards. The party walked briskly past them and Niici took the lead. A strong sense of optimism washed over the Ice Toa like the calming waves on Ga-Wahi’s coast. Now that her newly-acquired protector of Air was safely within Ko-Koro’s icy borders, Niici could contemplate her next moves and be in a smart position for whatever was to come. 

“So now what?” Makua asked playfully, strolling on Niici’s left. 

“Well, now we’re done,” Niici said. She turned around to her group. Jed, the Matoran refugee, was already preparing to head to his private dwelling. 

“It was a pleasure to serve you during this journey. I pray we meet again soon,” Jed said, bowing politely.

“The pleasure was mine. Your expertise had truly paid off, and it will not be forgotten,” Niici replied, “Expect a more formal thank-you in the coming days”

The former Xa-Koronan grinned ear-to-ear, and then strutted off into the village. One could wonder if Jed’s place was still standing after the apparent upheaval that took place during the traveling party’s absence. But whatever inconveniences sprung up from this unexpected change of leadership, Niici would help handle it. She owed the Matoran that much.

“The rest of you may join me at my domicile,” Niici said, “It’s up ahead, and no. We will not be going by foot”

 

- - -


Makua and Niici — Northwest Ko-Koro, The Ice Pick Kitchen

The sounds within the chamber were muted despite being packed with a mix between the refined, exquisitely dressed elder patrons, and the ostentatious youths that wined and dined within this establishment. Unsurprisingly, the mark of true Ko-Koronan high life was to speak at a respectful volume, being sure to not talk over the table next to you. Off to the side of the restaurant, Niici and Makua sat opposite each other. The ebony-wood table between them was adorned with a finespun damask tablecloth that flaunted pearl-white and sand-blue colored patterns — a clear tribute to the late Akiri Matoro. 

Makua couldn’t help but be enamored with the style of it all. Every ornament, light fixture, and piece of furniture looked hand-crafted and hand-picked for this restaurant. Thanks to the cloth-wrapped lightstones spaced around the dining area, the lighting was moderately dimmed to give a calming and intimate atmosphere to the table. The chair he sat in also felt so plush yet firm that he could probably sit in this exact spot and talk with the patroness across from him all night. But the thing that topped it all off for him? Easily, the wine. Aged for centuries after being imported from the north Ga-Wahi vineyards, the dark red beverage was like nothing he had ever had. It carried an amalgamation of soft spices and flavors which transmogrified as Makua tried to analyze the taste. Ultimately, he gave up analyzing and enjoyed the sweet wine for what it was.

And he could tell from Niici’s expression and mannerisms that all of this was as common as icicles for her.

This is her life, and I doubt she could imagine it any other way, Makua thought ruefully. 

As silence crept into the conversation that the two Ko-Toa were having, Makua picked up on the cue to respond to Niici’s loquacious résumé.

“So let me get this straight,” Makua said, “You were once the president of the Cultured Gentry? That uppity charity backed by the corporations? And then they forced you about because of your voracious ambitions, but now you believe some of its members might be in danger.”

Niici nodded with an excitement held back by discretion, and she beckoned him to continue.

“And… now you want to help protect this group… even though they forced you out?”

“Yeah… so…” Niici paused for a moment. The socialite quickly realized that she had not actually spoken about this plan out loud to anyone besides her butler Seba. And he was more of a yes-man these days than anything. She started to fret over whether her ideas made any sense. 

“After the Makuta was allegedly ‘defeated’, there was a lot of pressure from within the Gentry to clean house and scrub any evidence of dealings that may have been perceived as immoral. Akiri also began to have a more active presence. They saw me as someone who would indirectly expose them, despite the fact that I was in the process of protecting the group from an ex-Cultured Gentry member who was intending to expose them”

Niici picked up her half-full glass of sweet wine and took a sip, savoring the mixture of tastes and spices. 

“However, Ko-Koro’s takeover, followed by Makuta’s apparent return, has changed their perspectives in ways that very few things could. Of course, many of them still believe that the Makuta’s purported defeat was correlated to increased frustration among followers, leading to the Ko-Koro takeover. Despite that, they are scared after what they saw the Legacy do. They want a protector at the helm”

Niici’s eyes glowed a piercing light blue as she gazed into Makua’s bright azure pupils. 

“They want a Toa”

Makua chuckled as Niici’s story finally clicked together for him.

“So this whole thing was about getting back into the Gentry. Vidar-”

“Is possibly the island’s deadliest warrior who now only moves by someone’s command,” Niici said with confidence, “My command”

Makua pursed his lips as he smiled knowingly at the socialite, “and if they force you out again…”

Niici’s eyes became cold, “Then there won’t be a Cultured Gentry anymore”

Makua couldn’t help but be drawn into the other Toa’s strong conviction. Most upper-class citizens he had encountered over the years weren’t like this at all. They definitely didn’t have the confidence to pull off the domineering swagger that this woman had. 

It would be a challenging conquest, but if Makua could take her under his wing, she could end up being the ticket that launches him into a level of relevance that he has wanted for centuries. Briefly and involuntarily, his thoughts shifted to the antagonist of his story — the pathetic duffer-turned-monster who ruined Makua’s chance to be a shining hero and took away Tailua’s right hand. 

No. Makua refused to dwell on that now. With Niici’s assistance, he and Tailua would no longer hide in the shameful shadows of the Toa Kodin. They could be Mata Nui’s rightful heroes again.

He just needed to not lose sight of her wit and intelligence. This svelte woman could turn the tables on him if he isn’t careful enough. But for now, the marionette was hitting all the right poses. 

Abruptly, Niici’s eyes darted up and past Makua’s head. It took barely a second for Makua to realize what was up. The aroma of fresh fish off the Ko-Wahi coast, seared to perfection and buttered generously, filled Makua’s lungs. He looked across the table to see Niici’s blissful expression as the servers brought forth their main course, and wine refills. 

Both Makua and Niici ordered the same seared fish but diverged in accompaniments. For Makua, his protein was complimented with a creamy soup of herbs and crustaceans as well as a flaky piece of honey-doused baked bread. In front of Niici, her fish was complemented by a leafy spiced salad and a bowl of sweetened fruit. The energy of their conversation just moments prior made them both feel gluttonous and they ate in silence.

Afterward, however, they became a bit more talkative.

“So tell me,” Niici said, “Where are you going to take your big payout?”

“I’m going to travel the island and buy back my honor,” Makua said, grin wide and arms outstretched. “These islanders are going to be reminded of who Makua is, and I’m going to enjoy what each of these cities has to offer”

“A road trip?” Niici teased. 

“A quick one. I’m not someone who enjoys being out of work for too long”

Makua took another sip of his wine, looking as confident as ever.

“Well, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like your wealthy friends could use a little protection. Any band of sufficiently prosperous people needs someone to protect their assets. While Vidar was a great purchase, he might not be enough,” Makua said matter-of-factly, “And protectors need to eat… that food was exquisite, by the way”

Niici gave a knowing smile, “You want to be a rich man? Protecting rich men can get you there. You help me. You present yourself well. You’ll have a steady stream of high-paying work until you drop dead”

Niici teasingly raised an eyebrow in anticipation of Makua’s response. The square jaw of a man with centuries of won battles under his belt enticed the female Toa of Ice. Mentally, he is quick on the draw. He is attentive and inquisitive, but most of all, he prioritizes the coin above everything else. Most men of Makua’s class do. 

Having Vidar protect her would lay a great foundation in her personal security, but having what is essentially a literal sellsword in her ranks? Everyone would yield to her, and no Akiri, Maru, or Makuta zealots would ever threaten her position. Ambages was cunning and ambitious, but ultimately, such attributes can only take a Matoran so far. 

Makua was a warrior that she could use. And he was intoxicating to the eyes as well. Niici was never one to turn down a bonus.

She just needed to be mindful of his shrewdness. His face betrayed the mind of a man who could flip the power dynamics on its head if she isn’t careful enough.

 

- - -


Tailua and Vidar — Northwest Ko-Koro, Niici’s Home, Wine Cellar

The stout Toa of Fire keenly sauntered down into the wine cellar and took the insane Toa of Air with him as soon as he saw Makua and Niici burst loudly through the foyer and irreverently prate and prattle on their way upstairs. The pretext: to count how many among Niici’s egregious collection were from the fiery village of Ta-Koro. 

Yes, even Ta-Wahi has some parts suitable for vineyards. The wines from there are just smoky. 

“I’m gonna be honest I’m just as depressed as you are,” Tailua said to a silent Vidar had they inspected rows and rows of Ta-Koro wines without a single instance of top shelf liquor. Why was it always wine cellars anyway? If there was one thing certain, it was that Tailua wouldn’t be caught dead drinking something so sweet

“Y’know, it’s gonna be different without you around,” Tailua continued, “You’ve been raking in money for me and Mak for how long now? At least a year. I got you out of that desert in Po-Wahi and took you to your natural habitat!”

Admittedly, Tailua still never figured out how the ex-Makuta servant ventured all the way to the Po-Wahi quarry. The cave that he found Vidar hiding inside had a bunch of artifacts of Makuta’s — staves and masks and even some stuff that belonged to Ronkshou — and were promptly sold to Ostians for glorious profit. Makua figured that this was a secret hideout for Makuta’s lieutenants. Ronkshou was said to have lived in Po-Wahi. Was that his home that Tailua stumbled upon? And it went without saying that Vidar was crazier than a caged bat. Two of Tailua’s fellow Ostia compatriots died that day, but that just meant bigger shares for the rest of them. 

Tailua sighed ruefully as he looked back at Vidar. Vidar was sitting on the cold stone floor, looking up at the Fire Toa with curiosity and anticipation. The insane Toa was evidently accustomed to Tailua’s monologues at this point.

“I know what Makua’s plans are but I don’t know about this Niici person. I can’t say things are gonna get better for you bro,” Tailua said, “One way or another, that girl is poison. I can only hope that at least Makua’s sane enough to escape. You know… since you’re stuck with the whole crazy thing”

Vidar narrowed his eyes and proceeded to just stare straight ahead, where rows and rows of wines were categorized by Wahi and standing tall and proud. Vidar likely was over Tailua’s condescension, but it was never clear. Vidar was often unreadable to everyone including himself. 

The only thing that did make sense to Vidar in this instance was the very palpable sense that what was happening to him at this time was meant to happen. Atonement seemed like the right word, but usually, the arbiter of that has at least some foundational morals. 

The morals of Niici, Tailua, and Makua all seemed to change with the winds. It was a type of ethical inconsistency that always unsettled Vidar, both before and after his world stopped making sense. Vidar came to the conclusion that his former trafficker was right: things would not get better for the former servant of Makuta.

OOC: To be continued

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"hey girl: here’s an idea, but… it’s up to you:

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OOC: Vrill & Muir from Po-Wahi

IC: Vrill [Ko-Koro]

The roads to Ko-Koro were second nature to Vrill. Their journey through the Onu-Koronan highways was as uneventful as it was lengthy. The pair were interrogators, not conversationalists, so not much was said aside from Vrill ensuring that Fenn knew the truth he had divulged earlier was of the utmost secrecy. None could know that the Akiri was the prime suspect.

By the time they had entered Onu-Koro, Vrill's crystalline armor had darkened to a smoggy obsidian. When the duo emerged from the tunnels and into the bright fields of snow, the desaturated Cy-Toa reconjured his orange tinted lenses. Heatstones grown within his armor kept Vrill warm beneath his light grey cloak. It was thinner than Muirtagh's long black coat, but it served just as well in breaking the blistering winds. Both Toa were covered in a light layer of the Wahi's signature white powder by the time they reached the gates - luckily this was only the outer edge of a larger snowstorm. For all intents and purposes, completely unremarkable weather in the eyes of natives.

The duo passed through the gates without incident, and once within the walls, Vrill strode along the streets with a relaxed confidence, leading Muirtagh off the beaten path and along the cramped alleyways of the Solstice District. In some places, it looked as if Echelon still had the city in his grip - each building had seen much better days.

Why was Vrill headed here? He knew that if Reordin was in town, there was only one place he'd be: the ruins of the Glaci-

Vrill looked into the condemned building through one of the many unintended windows that were the reason of it's abandonment after the battle of Ko-Koro. He turned back to Muirtagh, with a nonchalant annoyance across his face.

"Reo's usually here..."

Edited by BULiK

Visit www.BZPRPG.com to view my project of archiving BZPower's RPGs, and also access the BZPower Roleplaying Wiki

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IC (Syrik) [Echelon's Lair]

Abruptly, the previously silent Toa stepped forward and raised his hands — a possibly threatening motion to the already jumpy trio of Matoran — but no attack came. Instead he brought them together in a clap, and smiled.

"I think we've all got off on the wrong foot here," he said, in a jovial tone. "I apologise for my friend's attitude; we don't get a lot of visitors out here, and he gets a tad paranoid about strangers. These have been dark times for Ko-Wahi; it's hard to know who to trust. I'm sure you understand."


He looked back towards Aerus. The trio of Matoran would not see the meaningful look he gave his 'friend'.

"We can spare some supplies for these unfortunate souls, surely?"

OOC: @Goose @BULiK @~Xemnas~ @Tarn

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IC:

Makua — Niici’s Home, Bedroom

Morning sun rays danced off the exotic and colorful ornaments that rested on the walls of the lavish private quarters. The chamber was definitely larger than any bedroom had a right to be — larger than most Matoran huts! And even with all the space, none of it seemed wasted. While the walls remained well-decorated, there were granite and marble sculptures in each corner of the room, and a fountain that rested by the entryway into the bathing area (which was also larger than a lot of bathhouses Makua had seen in his lifetime). Makua himself sat by the massive mahogany-wood desk, finishing the polish on his left golden pauldron. At Niici’s insistence, he had used this time to clean much of his armor from the years of grime built up from his escapades. The window beside him was gargantuan, with double-paned glass that helped keep some of the cold out. The window was so large that at this hour, no other lightstones were needed. The entire room was illuminated in a golden glow that made Makua’s armor restoration work look all the more impressive. Makua looked down at the pauldron and smiled at the crystal clear Calix-wearer smiling back at him.

Behind him, Niici sat upright, enveloped by an emerald-colored satin sheet from the clavicle down. As she exhaled, smoke swirled away in a stormy fashion. In her left hand was a pipe gently supplied with Miracle Cactus, and the Toa looked more languid than ever. 

“You’re not going to forget about my offer, are you?” Niici’s cooed after setting the pipe on the nightstand. She slowly shifted to a coquettish pose, her right arm now up and behind her head as she reclined against the headboard. 

Makua remained admiring his own visage, his back positioned as a barrier against the allurement behind him. Still, he felt the eyes on him. After a moment, he raised his head and looked to the massive window off to the side.

“One week,” Makua said calmly. He then flitted his eyes to the Niici, though by this point her gaze had already shifted to the back page of the most recent issue of the Mata Nui Daily. It was as if she’d never even glanced at him. 

Finally, Makua took the left pauldron and fastened it to his shoulder. He rose to his feet and made this way to the mezzanine floor.

Tailua — Niici’s Home, Foyer

“Well sir, I reckon this is it,” the Fire Toa said, raising his left arm in preparation for his not-so-secret handshake with Makua. His Ice companion responded and kind and they both did a theatrical hand ritual that took them back to the early days of being a Toa. Of course, back then they had used their right hands for the handshake. 

“Send the Ostia guys my regards,” Makua said. 

It wasn’t often that the two Toa went their separate ways ever since the dissolution of the Toa Kodin and something about this time felt more consequential than any other time. Why it felt this way, Tailua wasn’t really sure. 

That’s when he heard footsteps from upstairs. Up above on the mezzanine stood a fully dressed Niici, a triumphant grin holding up her cheeks. 

Tailua leaned forward and lowered his voice. “’Member what I said about ‘er”.

“I know,” Makua replied in an equally quiet voice, “Trust me man. What you’re seeing from her is all a show”

- - -

Town Square

One of the first things Tailua purchased upon his arrival to the city of Ice was a foldable map of the island with routes. If he took an Ussal taxi, he could pass through Onu-Koro and try and purchase some upgrades to his hand attachment. He knew that he now had the funds to take a Kahu flight directly to Po-Koro, but the Ussal taxis were definitely cheaper. And there might be a sale going on at the Onu-Koro marketplace. 

The Toa felt it wouldn’t hurt to at least check. Upon arriving at the nearest taxi queue, he took an Ussal ride through the Onu-Koro highway. 

- - -

Makua and Niici — Ko-Koro, in an Ussal-drawn carriage

Not too long after Tailua’s departure, Makua was also all set to make his departure. At Niici’s strong recommendation, he was going to take a first class Kahu flight directly to Ga-Koro. Granted, Makua had told her he was going to Ta-Koro first after she’d made a rather  reproachful comment about the water village, or specifically, the people living in the village. Both flights departed at the same time and so Niici’s insistence on driving him to the air pad. 

Eyes turned towards the vehicle and it’s passenger has Makua self-consciously stepped out. Makua glanced behind him to see Niici in the carriage. She bid him adeiu and directed the chauffeur to drive off.  

With just him and enough widgets to buy a lot of plane tickets, Makua strutted into the air field towards the Kahu destined for Ga-Koro. 

OOC: Tailua moving to Onu-Wahi.
Makua moving to Ga-Wahi.

"hey girl: here’s an idea, but… it’s up to you:

You’re the boss of this operation."

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OOC: Time to get this show on the road.

Spoiler

 

IC: Nichou [The Massif] (Many weeks prior)

The only thing Nichou found more beautiful about the surface than sunset was sunrise. The carpenter had seen the same amber-pink glow rushing through the clouds to greet him for far too many mornings to count by now, but he always woke up early to greet it. His routine in the Massif had become just that - routine, and eventually that curious spark within his heartlight began to feel a longing for adventure again.

Cultivating that inspiration was what Toa Brykon had helped him realize a few days prior, and Nichou showing it to Stannis the day after had brought his friend such visible joy. In breaking free from his routine, Nichou's future had become uncertain once again. In the past, this would have brought fear, and Nichou would have sought out others that he could follow, for surely he could not survive the harsh unknown.

But in the present? Nichou was eerily calm. He saw the uncertainty not as an abyss of danger but an endless ocean of life. The unknown future wasn't a danger that heroes would push back for glory, but a fertile land waiting to be embraced by those willing to seek out and cultivate their future.

So it was that Nichou watched the sun rise on the outskirts of the Massif for the last time that he knew with any certainty.  He was not sad, but excited. Mata Nui's lands were so beautiful, and he had spent far too long watching the sun rise on just one of its many hills. He was ecstatic for the different places he would be seeing again, even if his next stop was not going to be pretty.

Stannis had returned with a wounded Brykon the night prior. Whatever had happened, Nichou was glad both Toa were safe, and he trusted that all was well.

The Onu-Matoran chuckled to himself. All that time trying to catch up to Stannis, he hadn't been quite sure what he was looking for. It lead Nichou to journeys of his own, journeys that lacked destinations and goals - goals with any definition beyond striving for a feeling he couldn't define. It took his time in the solitude of the Massif to see that what he had feared he would never find was his own worth. That was something that Nichou could never have been given, for only he could discover it for himself.

Now that Nichou knew himself better than ever, he was ready to venture forth once more, and apply his skills for the betterment of Mata Nui.

The zen carpenter took another deep gasp of the crisp alpine air and thought of what he would do that day. He would say farewell to both Toa, and then begin his march with Sigrus to Ko-Koro. The frozen city needed to be rebuilt.

~~~

Nichou sipped warm tea from a mug he had chiseled himself long ago. He was entirely bundled up as if he was walking the frozen streets, but he had yet to leave for work. He looked out the window at the rising sun, letting its radiance warm him up slightly.

His apartment was chilly - almost a freezer in and of itself. It was strange given that the original owner wasn't even a Ko-Matoran. Nichou had taken the place for himself during his work on the ongoing repairs of the city - having heard this was the residence of one of the city's greatest architects, he sought out the High Vizier's home, but it was abandoned. Unfortunately, the statesman had been murdered by evildoers, a harsh reminder that those who worshiped Makuta reveled in the thought of destroying a harmless man who had created so much. The Matoran were builders, and by that metric, Ambages was quite the Matoran.

However, the De-Matoran's spartan apartment was too large and empty for Nichou's taste. It had once housed large galleries of sculptures and artworks, but during the occupation any luxuries had been defiled or stolen. Somehow, most of the architectural manuals and blueprints survived - while the place had been thoroughly ransacked (probably due to this being a rather rich Matoran's home) the true wealth of the place, it's knowledge, had been hardly tampered with. Perhaps blueprints weren't the best kindling.

Nichou took another sip, thinking of how best to tackle his next project. The city had grown so much in the past few weeks, and while districts still had battle scars, the scabs of crude, makeshift construction were beginning to diminish. While Nichou could have easily stayed in construction for a long time, he knew that soon, Ko-Koro would not need his help.

He just hadn't expected that day to be this soon, or to unfold in the way that it did.

Nichou could feel the buzz in the city that morning. Sigrus soon arrived with a copy of the Mata Nui Daily. The entire Dasakan fleet was approaching in dire need of aid.
There was no question what the two would need to do next.

~~~

Nichou was not a fan of navigation. In Onu-Koro, routes were rather explicit: either there was a tunnel, or a wall. Routes were direct, for Onu-Koronans shaped the world instead of letting the land's will beat them. On the surface, however, there was not this patience. Direct routes were few and far between. Many of the most direct seemed to be the most dangerous and least travelled - although which caused the other was up to debate.

Luckily, Sigrus never lost his way. In fact, the former navigator new a wonderful route to get to Ga-Koro quickly. There was only one obstacle between Ko-Koro and Ga-Koro: Mount Ihu. While travelling through Ihu-Koro required navigating further up the mountain's slopes, there was a gap that allowed passage to the Hura Mafa River, which flowed directly into Naho bay.

The path up the mountain would be harsh, but in the end, it would be the quickest way for Nichou to reach Ga-Koro in time for Dasakan landfall. It was too difficult of a passage to effectively send materials and tooling in bulk through, but Nichou arranged for a trader to send some to Ga-Koro through other means. He didn't know Ramaka well, but he had little doubt in the Le-Matoran's willingness to help with the cause. Mata Nui willing, the Dasaka would not go without refuge.

As Nichou and Sigrus walked into Ihu-Koro's tavern, the Onu-Matoran was glad that this was the sign of the halfway point in his trip to Ga-Koro. The travelers ate a warm meal, not knowing that one of the inn's frequent guests would follow them for the second leg of their journey...

OOC: @Mel took long enough, but Nichou's finally in the present. Introduce Ranok however you like.

Edited by BULiK

Visit www.BZPRPG.com to view my project of archiving BZPower's RPGs, and also access the BZPower Roleplaying Wiki

BZPRPG Profiles - Exo-Force RPG Profiles - Six Kingdoms: Apocalypse (Knichou, Berys, Arnex, The Taku, Exuze)

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Keep your language clean. -B6

 

IC: Muir (Ruined Streets, Ko-Koro)

"Shoot." It wasn't quite clear whether Muir was reacting to Vrill's comment, or to the latest of his own failed attempts to flare up his lighter with shaky hands. He gave up, using his elemental powers to activate the metal components, and stuffed his free hand and his lighter back into his coat as the end of his cigarette turned a smouldering orange. Vrill and his thin coat. Ko-Koronans are friggin' unnatural.

"He have any other haunts?"

 

IC: Aerus (Echelon's Lair)

Aerus looked curiously at Syrik – he had something in mind, even if it eluded him for the moment. Following his lead, Aerus half-smiled apologetically, a little frustration and suspicion behind his eyes – some of it mimed, and some not. He had not forgotten how to assume the role of the hapless Matoran, but a little hostility was required, lest he draw suspicion by switching too abruptly in attitude.

"I… suppose so." It was framed as a concession, but Syrik would have seen the intrigued agreement in Aerus' eyes. He turned back to the three Matoran, of whom the female Ko-Matoran had quickly become the most interesting. "I apologise for my misgivings. As my friend said, these are difficult times."

OOC: @BULiK @Ghosthands @Tarn @~Xemnas~

Edited by Black Six
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IC: Vrill [Ko-Koro, Streets]

"Besides the ground zero of #####y liquor?" The Cy-Toa opined. He shrugged casually, seemingly oblivious to the quaking of his partner. "Sanctum might know if he's in town. If you want to start off there."

IC: Kreigero [Ko-Wahi, Echelon's Lair]

The huntress felt like she got the answer she expected - none whatsoever. Perhaps the Matoran had seen reason. Given the delightful smile smeared across his earlier behavior, she doubted it. The Vo-Matoran really wanted to know why they were out here, and while this bluff may have stopped him from having his lap dog kill them immediately, there was still a massive problem. Kreigero's plan hinged upon being unable to be killed before the creeps found out why they were here, but it only delayed the outcome of a decision the hermits had already made when they opened that door. If they had decided to kill her, they would now want to kidnap and interrogate her first.

While the Toa had been silent for most of their meeting thus far, it felt otherworldly even to the Ko-Matoran. She wondered if this is how other Matoran mistakenly thought Ko-Matoran acted. The trapper was surprised when the Toa dangled an offer of supplies, but she knew that his footprints were the most valuable thing either of the two strangers would ever give her. Why didn't she run down the trail when they found this unreal place?

Aside from her shiver, Kreigero stood still, suspicious of this turn of events. A drop of blood fell onto her shoulder. The red scarf wrapped around her head had a gradient of crimson. She just had to stay awake. Stay awake. A W A K E.

Kreigero wanted to stay silent but she couldn't let Atamai bungle this one. Keep the focus on their offer, not their demands. Don't agree to unknown terms. Stay. Awake.

"What sup-p-plies?"

Edited by BULiK

Visit www.BZPRPG.com to view my project of archiving BZPower's RPGs, and also access the BZPower Roleplaying Wiki

BZPRPG Profiles - Exo-Force RPG Profiles - Six Kingdoms: Apocalypse (Knichou, Berys, Arnex, The Taku, Exuze)

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