The Kentoku Archipelago is a volcanic island chain situated to the far east of Mata Nui. The archipelago is comprised of five large islands with dozens of smaller ones scattered between them. Most of the islands of the archipelago are within sight of a few others and, despite the straits separating them, are easily accessible by bridges or quick ferries. While each island has its own unique climate, the general feel of the archipelago is wet and temperate; the volcano that birthed the Kentoku islands is long dormant. The majority of the islands' original terrain is flat grassland with rolling hills; where Dasaka civilization has not permeated, these calm natural landscapes are visible. On the archipelago, metal ores are exceedingly rare and valuable, but crystalline protodermis is in abundance; as such, most Dasaka structures and machines are made up of wood, stone, and manipulated (or “grown”) crystal. Many of the islands' native flora and fauna have been long since driven to extinction, or else domesticated, leaving very little wildlife on the archipelago. The five islands of note are:
Sado (SAY-doe), despite being the smallest of the main islands, is capital of the empire. Over the centuries, Sado has been incessantly urbanized to accommodate the ever-growing city and Imperial Palace; at this point, almost all of Sado is covered with towering, elegant crystalline structures. The only undeveloped land still visible on the island is a small strip of sandy beach that runs along a third of the island. Centrally situated, Sado is next to Odaiba and within sight off all other islands save Kozu. From a distance, Sado looks like a complex gem, and its structures are oriented to catch the sun at all times of day and shine it back up into the sky, creating beautiful patterns against the clouds. Its central location to the remainder of the Kentoku Archipelago has left it vulnerable to attack from the Rahkshi and sea Rahi, but not quite vulnerable; Sado is the jewel of the Dasaka civilization, and every Dashi, Menti and Datsue remaining on the island works in service of protecting it, in ways big or small.
Oki (OH-kee) is the most biologically diverse island in the archipelago, as close to a jungle as is possible in this climate, though severely lacking when compared to Mata Nui’s Le-Wahi jungle swamp or Ga-Wahi river delta. As most of the islands are deficient of animal life, this island is the largest remaining home to dozens of near-extinct plants and animals, the only other known specimens being in captivity in the gardens of the Imperial Palace. A thriving population of minor clans lives on Oki; they are generally ambivalent towards the politics of the empire, unless the sanctity of their island's natural beauty is brought into question. The Umbraline Clan hailed from Oki, but it was among the first of the major islands to fall under the Rahkshi invasion, and most of the Umbralines in their ancestral demesnes have fallen deathly silent.
Odaiba (oh-day-BAH) is the largest of the five main islands, its landmass almost equivalent to the other four largest islands combined. Home to over a dozen minor clans, it is the breadbasket of the empire. Most of this island is involved in food production; fields, pastures and orchards sit on the island's gently rolling hills, dominating view and banishing most native flora and fauna. Odaiba's most interesting feature, however, is Mount Koshiki (Ko-SHE-kee), the largest and most intimidating mountain within the archipelago. In antiquity it was an active volcano, but now it is an extinct mountaintop, home to one of the few native creatures that pose a threat to the Dasaka: the Kanohi Dragons. The crater atop Mount Koshiki is a poisonous, stagnant lake heated by geothermal gases. It is said that the invaders came from an eruption atop Mount Koshiki itself, and to summit the mountain today only invites peril for any Menti daring enough to try.
Iki (EYE-kee) is terribly devoid of plant and animal life, even by Dasaka standards. This little island makes up for its barrenness in wealth of natural resources, most importantly crystalline protodermis and other precious minerals. Ores and gems flow out of this mining island, shipped from its many docks to the Imperial Palace to be refined and crafted; these sea-lanes are the lifeblood of the Dasaka economy. Not surprisingly, Iki is the Datsana Clan’s home island, and it is from here they were able to launch themselves not only into the imperial economy, but into politics as well. It is said that the Dastana managed to beat the Rahkshi back from Iki in their attempt to relieve the beleagured defenders of Sado; while their presence in the Imperial Palace partially verifies these claims, in truth the Dastana left defending their homeland are stretched thin and vulnerable, far too small a garrison for the vital sea-lanes and resources they protect.
Kozu (KO-zoo) is unique in two ways: it is the only island not directly visible from the Sado, and it is now serves as Clan Fursic's graveyard. A small, visually unremarkable island out of sight from Sado, the Fursics were left reeling from the death of their Toroshu, the arrest of their First Son, Kuno, and several Battlemaster-related betrayals and plots. This left what little resistance the Rahkshi found there to be mopped up easily - but, by the same token, the darkness itself hangs lightly upon Kozu, and were it more strategically significant the odds are decent that the Dasaka would be able to reclaim the island.
The Imperial Palace:
More of a city than anything else, the Imperial Palace is the jewel of the Kentoku Archipelago. Taking up most of the island of Sado, the city is hexagonal in shape, with six distinct sections forming the outer ring and the Imperial Residences at its center. Made almost entirely of crystalline protodermis, The Imperial Palace is a place of sheer beauty as well as defense, the only locale never to have been conquered by an opposing force in wartime. Lightstones line its elegant crystal corridors and glow both during the day and at night; it could be said that this place never sleeps. Local landmarks include:
Dastana Twins players: @Haman Karn: A Magical Girl and @Palm
The Dasaka Master Reference Post (DMRP)
The Dasaka are the BZPRPG's Toa, Turaga, and Matoran of Psionics. They come from the Kentoku Archipelago, and as such their society and culture are very different from those of the Toa of Mata Nui. Below you'll find all you need to know about Dasaka history, culture, powers, and more.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. LIST OF DEFINITIONS
Dasaka (DAH-suh-kah): the species equivalent of Toa, but also an umbrella name for the species as a whole. Dasaka individuals can be learned in up to four disciplines of the mind depending upon rank and experience.
Dashi (DAH-shee): the species equivalent of Matoran, but also the name for the working class and the title for those in that class.
Dastana (Dah-STAH-nah): a relatively new clan that is a conglomeration of merchants and businesspeople.
Datsue (DAHT-soo-ay): the species equivalent of Turaga. These are revered elders who exist outside the social hierarchy. Generally retain some of the disciplines of the mind.
Fursic (FURR-sick): an old and powerful clan with a history of insubordination.
Kentoku (ken-TOE-koo): the archipelago of islands on which Dasaka society lives.
Menti (MEN-tee): the warrior class, and the title for those in that class; descriptor for a being trained in one or more psionic disciplines.
Ringti (RING-tee): the artisan class, and the title those in that class.
Rora (ROE-rah): the empress of the Kentoku Archipelago; almost always a Datsue individual. The next in line to be Rora is known as the Chojo (SHOW-joe).
Saihoko (seye-HO-koh): the merchant and nautical class, and the title those in that class. Can be abbreviated to "Hoko," an offensive term.
Toroshu (toh-roh-SHOO): a member of the nobility with command over a clan. Second only to the Rora in terms of authority, though oftentimes the military clout of a Toroshu will be stronger than that of the Rora. Toroshu are usually Dasaka individuals.
Umbraline (UMM-brah-lean): an ancient clan currently in charge of the Dasaka Empire.
2. KENTOKU SOCIETY & HISTORY
Civilization on the Kentoku Archipelago is a highly regulated matriarchal machine. From the Rora, the empress, down to the lowliest Saihoko fisherwoman, every Dasaka knows her place and her duty within the machine. Law is strict, but usually benevolent. Tradition and respect are highly valued.
Society on the Archipelago is defined by bloodlines, which supersede almost everything else. Dasaka owe loyalty to their families, and as such society is divided into interrelated clans – made up of one or more families, each led by a female Toroshu – all vying for power. Blood bonds, courtship, and fleeting alliances define the political game among the notable clans, a game that is played beneath the watchful eye of the Rora.
In the ancient past, though, the Archipelago was without a presiding empress. The Dasaka clans of ages ago were like prides of lions: wild, and led by warring males. Impulsive, quick to anger, and with little regard for the lives of their female soldiers, the warlords battled over everything from lands to mere swords. Though the warlords were strong - their mental powers were unconstrained by the modern disciplines - their haughty pride blinded them to the growing discontent of their subjects. Unified by the First Mother (who, legend has it, was in fact the Great Spirit Zuto Nui, descended from the sky) the Datsue elders of all the clans of Kentoku met in secret and arranged the overthrow of the males. There followed a revolution, and the first sovereign Council of Datsue assumed power.
For a good while, a Datsue Council presided over all the clans. The peace that endured under the rule of the Datsue was uneasy, though; bad blood between the clans still ran deep, and the lieutenants of the old warlords were not without ambition. Using the Datsue's frailty, scholarly tendencies, and military impotence against them, these lieutenants turned the opinion of their clans against the Datsue Council, and cooperatively staged a coup. Thus, the first Toroshu came to power. Though they had scorned the Datsue's leadership, the Toroshu kept in place many of the Datsue Council's innovations that benefited them, including the subjugation of males, and the separation of the Menti Disciplines.
It wasn't long before the Kentoku Archipelago was again split by war. The War of the Sea (so named because it was bottomless) was waged across generations, and many honorable clans perished in the struggle. When peace was finally reached, the remaining Toroshu decided to elect an empress, one who could act as arbiter for their future disputes and prevent such a war from ever happening again. The impartial matriarch of Clan Umbraline, seen by most of the Toroshu as wise and calm, was chosen; the ambitious Toroshu of Clan Fursic, whose armies had won the war, never forgave the insult to her family.
The rule of the Umbralines has continued ever since. Punctuated here and there by Fursic uprisings and attempted coups, and the occasional inter-clan war, the age of the Rora has been one of prosperity upon the Kentoku Archipelago.
3. THREE VIRTUES
The Dasaka, like the Matoran, hold three virtues paramount. The Dasaka’s virtues, like the Dasaka themselves, might seem at a glance to be a warped reflection of what exists on Mata Nui. The Dasaka do not, in fact, revere the Great Spirit Mata Nui; they venerate a completely different Great Spirit, Zuto Nui, and they fear her sister, the evil Zataka. Zuto Nui's three virtues, the central pillars of Kentoku society, are as follows:
Order – Always respect your place on the social ladder, in the family, and in the clan. Never go against the caste system or cause entropy in society.
Power – Strive to be better than you are, stronger than you are; become as powerful and resilient you can become. Always act to improve yourself and your clan.
Honor – Make your actions reflect positively on your clan and your fellow Dasaka. Give elders, betters, and teachers the respect that they are due. Be humble, be courteous, and be courageous.
When it comes to loyalties in Kentoku society, family ties are superseded only by the Archipelago’s long-standing caste system. There are four castes in Kentoku society: Menti, Dashi, Ringti, and Saihoko.
Menti (Warrior Class: mostly Dasaka, and the rare Datsue)
Dashi (Worker Class: generally Dashi)
Ringti (Artisan Class: generally Dashi, and occasionally Dakasa)
Saihoko (Merchant Class: generally Dashi)
Datsue (Outside class system)
5. GENDER IMBALANCE
Female/Male birth rate – about 40:1
Because of the imbalanced gender ratio on the Kentoku Archipelago, males are rare; as such, they are highly prized within society as both reproducers and aggressive warriors. After a male is born, the Toroshu of his clan isolates him at a young age, sending him to Sado to be trained as a fierce Menti warrior. After extensive training – males are almost always taught in two disciplines of the mind – they are generally assigned as companions or bodyguards to high-ranking females. Only familial First Sons, the eldest males of prominent clans, escape such duties.
Ironically, males have virtually no rights save those defined within their specialized role in society; male Dasaka are, due to their value, perhaps the most completely controlled by the caste system. The birth of a male in a family can instantly gain that family status; conversely, the death of a male prior to his apprenticeship will cast a family into the deepest shame. Most females will never have offspring, this task being either regulated to those higher in the caste system or saved as rare gifts for acts of service or bravery. To mate and bear offspring with a male is considered a great honor.
6. MENTI POWERS
Menti warriors fight using different psionic powers. To limit their warriors' strength as individuals (advancing the virtue of Order) and to turn their Menti warriors into specific tactical weapons, the ancient council of Datsue split Menti training long ago into several different disciplines. The discipline or disciplines a Dasaka will study depends upon her pre-existing affinities and aptitudes – tested at the beginning of her training – and on her rank in society. While no discipline is inherently better the next, students of each tend to believe their practice is the superior one.The higher on the ladder of power one ascends, the more schools are open to be learned. All Menti are trained in at least one school. With more experience and military rank, it is possible for Menti to attain a second discipline. Powerful, exceedingly rare Menti known as Battlemasters are proficient with three; only the heroes of legend were rumored to have been able to use all four psionic powers. The disciplines are as follows: Soulswords, Sighteyes, Mindarms, and Willhammers.
Soulsword Discipline (Psychophysical Energy)
Allows the user to harness psionic energy and, to an extent, use it in the physical world. A rudimentary and less precise Soulsword ability is to take psionic energy and whip it at foes, most often as a blunt attack. Fully experienced Soulswords, however, can form and mold the same raw psionic energy into a physical weapon, breaking the barrier between mental and physical attacks. The psychophysical weapon produced is made of shimmering, dripping and solid energy, and it can be used in lieu of a normal physical weapon. Soulsword students, however, must choose only one weapon shape to study, as an incredible familiarity with that weapon is essential to its effective use. Soulswords may only summon ONE psychophysical weapon at a time.
Sighteye Discipline (Illusion)
Allows the practitioner to create and maintain illusions that can fool all five senses. Sighteyes can make their enemies believe anything they wish by overriding the sensory receivers of that enemy's mind and replacing those feeds of information with fictional information. A Sighteye's illusions are utterly convincing when maintained properly, so much that they can fool the deceived into believing almost anything. A highly trained Sighteye can make themselves basically invisible by replacing their appearance, scent, sound, and etc. with other sensory perceptions. A Sighteye, however, cannot fully eliminate an enemy's senses, only change what they are sensing. Sighteyes can target multiple minds at once, though the more sets of senses they are fooling, the more energy it will take them to do so successfully.
Mindarm Discipline (Telekinesis)
Allows the practitioner to moving objects by mental force. This schools trains in the art of manipulating physical objects with the mind, and Mindarms are able to lift, push, pull, shove, or throw objects using only their mental prowess. Simple actions, such as throwing objects in battle, are very basic and take little concentration for a Mindarm. More delicate or complex motions, however, require more finesse and focus to be done correctly. Objects in motion, such as projectiles, also take far greater skill to manipulate than static ones. The larger an object that a Mindarm is trying to influence is, the more rapidly it will tire them to move. Limited levitation is possible to advanced Mindarms, who have the ability to lift and toss themselves in a controlled manner.
Willhammer Discipline (Mental Entry)
Allows the practitioner to see into, enter into, and interact with the minds of other beings. A Willhammer can thus press their will upon others through honeyed thoughts, sheer force, or other forms of mental deception. Willhammers can project emotions, words, images, and subliminal thoughts into their minds of choice, and are as such the only Menti able to converse telepathically with non-Menti (such a conversation occurring inside the mind of the subject). Since Willhammers can more or less see what the subject of their power is thinking, they generally understand the best way to convince others to follow their will on a case-by-case basis. Willhammers can only affect one being at a time. Mental entry is, in its nature, a one-sided negotiation of wills; as such, it does not work automatically. Its power can be resisted if the entered mind has an abnormally strong will or sense of self.
A minor discipline that allows the practitioner to communicate with other Menti. It is the first skill taught to every Dasaka during their training; as such, all proficient Menti have the ability to "speak" with one another via thought. Telepathic communication basically works like a radio: an individual will project the words/images they wish to communicate onto the mental plane, where others can selectively pick up the “transmission” with mental plane access. Every Menti (indeed, every sapient being) has a different "feel" on the mental plane; this is how when multiple Menti are communicating at once, they can distinguish different streams of consciousness from one another, or sense approaching beings on the mental plane. Telepathy grows more difficult and less accurate as distance increases.
While there are dozens of families and clans that inhabit the Kentoku Archipelago, three stand taller than the rest: Clan Umbraline, Clan Fursic, and Clan Dastana. It is these three monolith clans that carry the most political clout, and the actions they take affect all other families in the Empire. Most minor clans loosely ally themselves to whichever of the three leading clans best represents their interests.
The Umbralines can trace their history, ancestry, and bloodline back to the creation of the Empire, and have held power for a long time. They are staunch defenders of the old ways, a voice arguing for conservative stability in an otherwise tumultuous political scene. Despite making up a minority (albeit a large one) of the Dasaka population, the Umbralines are unquestioningly the most influential of the clans; the current Rora, Yusanora, was the Umbraline family’s matriarch before her ascension, and although her current position separates her from the management of her clan, her favor is still felt. The Umbralines contribute a majority of the Willhammers to the Menti ranks (as this is their clan discipline). While not always adverse to change, the Umbralines are highly conservative, more willing to rely on tried-and-true customs and technology than new inventions and ideas. Umbralines tend to be the diplomats and mediators of the empire.
The Fursics are an old clan with a long history and an even longer list of grievances. Their family has had a grudge against the Umbralines for as long as anyone can remember; they’re resentful of the Umbralines’ power, and frustrated after several failed coups – attempted in the past – by members of their family (which more astute Fursics always try to distance themselves from, calling such acts of infidelity to the Rora “ancient history”). Though less populous than the Umbralines, the Fursics have twice as much land at their disposal, which is ironic since they do not have the numbers to properly care for and defend such vast territory. The Fursics provide to the Empire with many Sighteyes, as this is their clan discipline. Many Dasaka outside the family are convinced that it is through deception and cheating that the Fursics have come to amass and cling to such power within the Empire, even despite their notoriety. Fursics tend to be the informants and spies of the empire.
One of the youngest Clans to come to power, and one of the most unusual, the Dastana Clan are more of a confederacy than one single family. Originally a group of Saihoko, this family became so wealthy and powerful through their shrewd mercantile business and inventions (notably among these, the submersible) that over time they gained enough influence to buy their way into the upper clans. This above all else is the reason that other clans universally despise the Dastana. Nevertheless, there are few that would dare touch them: the Dastana hold the purse strings of the empire. They are neither the most populous nor militarily strong of the clans, but they control the merchant and artisan castes, and therefore hold the majority of the money in the Empire, forcing everyone to put up with them. The Fursics despise the Dastana, while the Umbraline remain cool, if not friendly, with them. The Dastana have, over the last few centuries, provided many Mindarms – their clan discipline – to the Empire, cleverly mated into influential families, and performed acts of political subterfuge (to rival even those of the Fursics) on their road to power. The Dastana tend to be the merchants, artisans, inventors, and moneychangers of the empire.
Originally an offshoot of Clan Mamoru, the history of Clan Kinzoku began when some of its members began a new mine on Iki. They soon found that the crystal ore being brought out of the mine also had metal ore consistently mixed into it. These Mamoru miners quickly separated themselves from their clan to safeguard their discovery. Within a few years, the newly formed Clan Kinzoku rose to notability for its inventory of metal ore. The clan became an important provider of metal weapons and armor, both ceremonial and practical. The clan also provides metal components that are needed for construction projects.
Unfortunately, with the arrival of Zataka and her Rahkshi in the Archipelago, this clan has all but been wiped out save for a few lucky individuals who were able to escape the slaughter of their people. As such, this clan currently has no Toroshu or First Son, and is likely to go extinct in the near future. Clan Leader
8. INDIVIDUALS OF NOTE
Yumiwa (you-MEE-wah), Rora of the Empire
Rayuke (ray-OO-kay), Umbraline First Son, Imperial Executioner, and brother of Yusanora
Desdemona (dez-duh-MOE-nah), Yumiwa's sister
Ayiwah (AY-wah), Commodore of the Rora’s nautical forces
Yusanora (you-sa-NOR-a), deceased, former Rora of the Empire
Nera (NEE-rah), Fursic Matriarch, Toroshu, and a Battlemaster
Kuno (COO-noh), Fursic First Son
Sesseta (Sess-SEE-tuh), Nera's sister
Arsix (ARE-sicks), Dastana Toroshu, Jasik's twin sister
Jasik (JAH-sick), Dastana First Son, Arsix's twin brother
Sheika (SHAY-kah), The Dastana's hired Battlemaster (???)
Yomiken (yoh-MEE-kehn), deceased, former Dastana Toroshu
Hanako (HAN-ah-koh), Yumiwa’s handmaiden, a Herupa
Inokio (inn-OH-kee-oh), First Son of Clan Korae, tutor of Yumiwa, a Battlemaster
Ikori (ee-KOHR-ee), Kuno's handmaiden, a Herupa
Nurora (new-ROH-rah), Toroshu of a small and respected family, leader of the first expedition to Mata Nui
Tsura (t-SUE-rah), Datsue with a motherly temperament and a wry humor, was on the first expedition to Mata Nui
Nihi (KNEE-hee), Menti warrior who was chosen for the first expedition to Mata Nui, an Eiyu
9. VISUAL ASPECTS OF CULTURE
Vezok's Friend has done several artworks of the Kentoku Archipelago and its denizens, which should serve as good indicators as to the general nature of appearances in Dasaka society.
Dasaka are all various hues and balances of blue and gold. How blue vs. how gold they are, what hues they are, and that sort of thing does not denote/align with caste. The visual way castes are distinguished is by their apparel; where high-ranking Menti will wear rich fabrics and intricate crystal armor - ceremonial garments - Saihoko generally clothe themselves in pragmatic water/windproof ponchos and the like.
Colors worn by Menti are usually those of their clan. Almost all cloth Kuno owns, for instance, is dominantly red, because that's the Fursic color. The Umbraline color is officially purple, and the Dastana wear various tints of yellow. Minor clans usually have to settle for two-color schemes in their regalia, since single colors have almost all been taken by older and more powerful ones. The Rora and her family can wear whatever colors they wish, to reinforce the idea that they are separate from and above clan politics.
White and black, though, are usually not among these colors. Here's what white and black generally represent in Dasaka culture, and how they're used:
White: light, age, honor, sky, wisdom, discipline, Zuto Nui. This color is seen as female.
Black: darkness, youth, power, sea, beauty, strength, Zataka. This color is seen as male.
Unaccented white and black garments are traditionally only worn by their respective genders, and only worn for occasions of great ceremony such as the passage of power, the union of two individuals, or the eulogy of one who has died.
Odaiba, Hanging on by a Thread
Hatchi did not sleep, even when the Soko stopped. There was no telling when one of the beasts would find them, when zi would need to dig zir heals in to Maki’s sides to wake the mare up. Ilykaed’s steed was wise, much wiser than any Husi, Hatchi knew, but she was still just a rahi. And the nightmares of The Land were too numerous, once again.
When The Land first dreamed of us, we were all as dashi—as numerous in color to that of the Janu birds, but with no power to shape the world with our very thoughts. For a time, that was enough, for we still could forge crystal and bone, and build walls and weapons. We knew The Sea and The Sky were against us, so we had no time for quarelling. Our walls were strong and we hid little from each other.
But there came a time when the nightmares of The Land were too numerous, and we lived in fear of venturing outside. It was no way to live—so among The Land’s children their came together seven, men and woman, and those in between, and they journeyed in a day to the highest peak, where The Land’s heart lay torn open. The nightmares came then, even in places touched by the sun, but they fought back with stone and crystal and cunning, and the creatures fell back for a time.
Hatchi’s eyes looked up again, to the sky, but away from the dread mountain, checking their position once again from the stars.
As zir eyes passed over a single outlier, a red star on a wandering path, zi whispered a prayer. Zi knew, even with the world turned upside down, there would be no deliverance like in the old stories. Hatchi would remain a dashi, a dashi who could not speak to the world. But the star remained there, a point of guidance for any traveler wise enough to head Her.
A way out.
As they crested the top of the mountain they saw her, descending as the astrologers had predicted. The Sky and The Sea had many children that dwelt near their father, but one of them was a restless soul and could not stay still on her appointed path. None dared correct her, however, for next to The Land she was the strongest and most magnificent.
The Wandering Child had long looked about The Land’s Children, and just like Her sibling She delighted in their ingenuity. As She descended upon the mountain, She heard the cries of desperation and defiance as the nightmares closed in around them, and Her heart was moved. She touched each of them with her ruby light, and they were transformed in Her image, tall and strong, with magnificent wings that allowed them to soar on the wind. You may have heard tell of them from the Imperials. They called them valkyries. But they were no strange and foreign angels. They were the first zrupgar, and those among our clan carry their blood.
But they had more than wings and strength. Each of them had a gift, not given by The Wandering Child, but a part of their soul already, clarified and given form. Each of them had a shred of the world within them, and could speak to it in a way that listened. And so you see, the Nightmares of The Land had little chance. One of them spoke to the stones, and asked them to make protection. One of them spoke to the wind, and asked it to carry her to where she could shoot her bow without fear. And one of them spoke to the very sunbeams, so they fell up The Nightmares with such fury that they were destroyed. There was even one who could speak to the sea and calm Her restless moods for a time.
Something crackled on the slope above, followed by a scraping, and Hatchi dug zir heals in. Maki snorted awake, and then nostrils flared, taking in the smell of danger, neighed a warning.
Once again, they ran.
Yet, even in our safety under their sheltering wings, we soon found other things to fear. For one of them, the one who captured sunbeams, was not yet content. Had not he shattered the nightmares so they could not return? Would not all the others be dead without him?
Slowly, within him, pride turned into bitter resentment. Some say that he went to the mountain at the heart, and drank the poisonous water there. Others say that our hearts make their own poison, given enough time hardened and alone. But regardless of what drove him, he drove all before him, and all submitted to his rule or fell.
You may have heard the name Xhanok. A ruler of a hoard—and some say he was the first, the blight on our people. Our curse. Perhaps it was. But we did not let it stand.
So zrupgar turned against zrupgar, and those who had once fought with the Lord of Sunbeams made a decision. They gave up their wings, so that none would fly—not even him. And they buried him beneath the earth, in a cave by the sea.
The Wandering Child saw this and wept, and She vowed no longer would she descend to give us Her gifts. She marked that grave by the sea with her own ruby light, as a warning—and never again was there born a dashi with sunbeams in their heart. The world would still need zrupgar, but they would not soar above us on wings of glory. They would not challenge The Sky. But they could still speak to the world, and they passed their gifts on—so that some would feel the call, and leave on a journey that only they understood. They would come back reborn as zrupgar.
And so, we lived in joy for another age. There was a great storm coming.
But that is a story for another time.
When the sun rose, Hatchi remained awake.
Raika, sand and surf.
[Accompaniment: Depths of Meridia remix]
A lone figure lay, stretched out on the sands of one of Oki's many beaches. The battle-wracked island had seen many arrivals as of late, as well as many, many bloody departures.
But it seemed today would see an arrival. Slowly, jerkily, the prone form seemed to reach an arm upward, and almost motionlessly haul itself along the sand until it was clear of the tideline. After a short pause, the patch-armored warrior's head turned, and chest caved and raised until salty seawater flowed into the thirsty sands.
After another brief lull, the upper half of the mysterious one's torso rose as though lifted, and the figure once more seemed to anomalously haul itself up the beach, heading towards the rocky coast and waiting jungle.
. . .
A slight figure collapsed, shuddering, against the wall of the cave. Where they had appeared from was not evident, though their exhaustion was clear. Sweat beaded from beneath sparse crystalline armor, and hot breath fogged the inside of an opalescent visor on the stranger's kanohi.
The figure dragged themselves into a sitting position, and faced the near-lifeless form before them. They'd taken great risk in rescuing them, but they'd seen too much death in their last few weeks on the island. Not to mention that, after so much hostile company, the tiny glimmer that here might lie a potential ally in this nightmarish landscape, was too much to resist.
They looked to the opening of the cave. Sand was scattered from their approach, but they had paused to disguise their tracks in the sand as they'd hauled their find to safety. Better to not be tracked.
Better not to be seen at all, but some part of the stranger couldn't knowingly leave someone so helpless to die. Besides, there was something almost familiar about him.
.: All right, then… :.
Soundlessly, the words echoed in the unconscious mind of the mysterious warrior as his mysterious savoir drew two long crystal daggers and rested them, ready, at their sides.
.: ….I guess we'll just have to wait and see what Mister Mystery has in store. I hope, for your sake, it isn't anything bad.:.
IC: Ahri, Oki
Slowly, the Dasaka's eyes opened. The ideatalk prodded at his mind, exacerbating his headache. One by one, he began taking stock of the various sensations his body felt. He was thirsty, exhausted, and had a splitting headache. Dehydration. He was wet and covered in gritty sand; probably fresh from the ocean. The smell of saltwater seemed to confirm that. Porous rock dug into his back; he had been propped up against a something. Little light and funneled sound indicated a sea cave. He finished opening his eyes.
The warrior's words bounced around in his head. Against the cave wall, the dasaka coughed, looking around. The warrior was a small of frame, but looked like she was ready to cut, not run. The daggers seem to indicate that as well. He hauled himself off the wall, wary.
"Who... who are you? Where are we?"
What had happened? Who had done this to him? The dasaka looked out onto the ocean; the sky was saddled by clouds... or smoke? Had he ever seen anything like this before? Raking his memory, he felt... sadness. Someone was gone, but he couldn't remember their name. Anger. Who could do this? But the despair, the fury, it sunk like a stone in a lake when he realized that he couldn't answer one question.
"Who am I?"
Raika- Unexpected company
The wiry fighter nearly jumped out of their armor as their companion stirred. Instinctively, they triggered their mask and snapped their mental screens into place.
But it was too late now, wasn't it. The stranger had seen their face. Besides, hadn't they wanted a partner? A teammate to survive this island's horrors with? What a way to build trust.
Reluctantly, they lifted their wards and were once more detectable to normal senses.
.: Sorry about that. Guess you spooked me. ...To be honest, you're the first friendly face I've seen in a while. :.
They looked their guest over. Strong, the build of a proper warrior. Like the people she'd trained with when she was younger. Seemed to be a male-presenting Dasaka too, but it never did to draw conclusions too quickly. Still, quite the rare catch if true.
They paused. This was the moment. Give a nickname, a false alias. Nothing that could be traced back to you.
But some small scrap of normalcy, of the Raika that far outlived the paranoia and cold dismissal of the Wraith, was more forceful.
.: ...you can call me Raika. As for your name I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. You seem familiar though. I take it this means you also don't remember why you washed up on the shore like so much harekeke? :.
IC: Ahri, Oki Sea Cave
The Dasaka grimaced as he pushed himself to his feet; everything hurt. "Afraid not. I don't remember, and... I don't remember what I've forgotten, if that makes sense."
He took a few steps toward the cave entrance, looking out onto the ocean. Several other of the Archipelago's islands could be seen from this angle: the edge of a rocky mountain island, several smaller ones in the distance. Smoke rose in several places, too distant to see the origin.
Flashing blades, a beach. Fursics were here, a thousand arrows. Some of them real. Shouted a warning, then crossed my arms in front of my face. Reflexive, then my shield was there. The shield.
The dasaka winced, the memory painful in more ways than one. He reached to his face, hoping he would feel some similarity. The ridges seemed to feel natural to his fingers. He pulled off his mask; he suddenly felt dizzy, and his headache got a notch more painful. Turning his Kanohi over in his heads, he gazed into its blank face as it lost its color. A Hau.
"I think... I remember that I was a Menti. I was fighting in a war, against the Fursics. I was defending my home." He turned to Raika, affixing his mask back on his face. "I'm getting flashes, but that's it. Is that what's going on out there?"
His headache pulsed again, but this time he had the strength to ignore it. He did need water, and soon.
OOC: @TL01 NUVA
Raika felt a stab through their chest as they listened to the Menti attempt to recall his past. He had fought, not run. How would he react to learn they had done the opposite?
.: If you're from the clan I think this means you are, then you don't have a lot to worry about on that front at least. It sounds like you're recalling Clan Fursic's attack on Clan Mahstet. That was...:. They paused, considering their words carefully.
.: ...That was some time ago. It seems like you've lost a good deal of memory. Hope it comes back soon. :.
Feeling that this wasn't the kindest way to leave off, Raika continued. .: There aren't many Dasaka here at all, besides us. Likely, you washed up from a different island entirely. You're… well, not safe here, but you'll probably not need to fear any Fursic with a grudge hunting you down. :.
After a short pause, the Warrior heard their voice again, softly in his head.
.: It sounds like you gave a good account of yourself, at least. :. They spoke surprisingly gently, given their previous sardonic tones. But it wasn't long before the defenses snapped back up.
.: Look, you must be exhausted and thirsty. Food won't be too hard to find, I can gather some if you promise not to go wandering off. As for water, I've stayed in this cave a couple of nights. It gets a bit dark, but there's a decent rock pool further in. Fresh water. Drink your fill, but believe me when I say you don't wanna leave this cave in your condition. But I ain't yer mommy. Once you're back on your feet we'll need to find you a weapon. Sadly this place has gone to the dogs.:.
They paused, trembling slightly as their sore muscles were stretched. It was definitely their muscles, and not the prospect of heading out to face more of those things. They could usually avoid the creatures, but once or twice Raika had been forced into combat with one. They could still taste the almost preternatural fear they had felt as they'd fought, nearly sobbing in terror, for their life.
.: I take that back. I'd much, much rather it had been dogs this place had gone to. Will you be okay if I leave you unsupervised for a bit? Sorry, one of us has to make sure we don't starve, ya know how it goes. And you're in no condition to go on a stroll after your beached takea impression. :.
[OOC: @Keeper of Kraata]
IC: Ahri, Oki Sea Cave
Numbness washed over the dasaka's body. Shutting his eyes, shutting out the light, he nodded. He did need water. "I'll get that water. I'm... not going anywhere, don't worry." As he walked away, he paused.
.:I would prefer a sword... and a knife:. He pictured his preferred blade, or at least the first that came to mind, in his mind's eye: a mid-length jian, sturdy and heavy.
He stumbled back into the cave. She had said... Mashtet. That did sound familiar. More familiar than the other clans. What else did he remember... As he walked, he reached out the cave wall to support himself. His fingertips had barely brushed the rough stone when his head blasted in pain.
"Where are they?" He shouted into the darkness. His guts churned in despair and anger. He dragged his hand along the wall, leaving glowing marks; sparks and molten flecks drifted to the floor. "Kaetyo! Tell me what you did with them!"
He recoiled, gasping. His arm burned, from his fingertips to his elbow. His head throbbed in unison. As he limped back to the freshwater pool, he winced, cradling his forehead. This is getting old really quick... The dasaka knelt beside the pool, cradling his arm as the burning sensation subsided. As he drank and washed himself, he pondered that memory, turning it around like a hot coal, trying to avoid burning himself. Well, he knew a name now. Not his name, and probably not someone that he wanted to see... but a name nonetheless.
OOC: @TL01 NUVA
IC: Askha and Somei, Sado Streets
She looked around the corner. There was one of them. Other people called them bugs, but Askha didn't see it. Fish, lizards, even those Piraka had spines. The slugs were new, though; nothing quite like them that she had seen. The name rahkshi had circulated around; just before the archipelago had taken a turn for the apocalyptic, those foreign dashi had arrived, she had seen them with Rayuke. The name had spread around fast... at least, among the survivors. This one was looking around. Watching, sniffing. The sounds it made... somewhere between warbling and snarling. Was it a guard? Hurt? Some Menti's spear was lodged through its chest, broken off on one end; it didn't seem to bother it much. Its hide... or armor, it seemed... was black and brown. Carapace? Askha made a face. She supposed the bug appellation fit. She preferred monsters.
A shadow fell over Askha, and her stomached leaped up into her throat. One walked right by her, silent as smoke. She had been too busy studying it, hadn't been looking around. This one... gray carapace, black head. The first one screeched at the newcomer, and they both sprang up into that form they took to fly, before swooping off over the city. Askha breathed out in relief; she didn't even notice she had been holding her breath. She rose, taking in the crossroad. Nothing else that she saw. Askha breathed once more, and her astral form free-floated, then rocketed back to her body. It was sitting against a wall in an alley, with a worried-looking Datsue looking out.
"It's clear," Askha said. Somei blinked.
.:I am more than ready to return, Askha. Did you see any of the demons?:.
Askha's astral form settled into her body, and her Iden dimmed. That was another name that fit these creatures, she noted. "They just left. Don't know if they're patrolling or gathering, but we have an opening." Somei nodded, and Askha picked her up, carrying her aunt on her back. As she dashed through the streets, she reflected on what life had become. Scavenging, slinking away from monsters, not knowing where her next meal would come from, death lurking around... part of her loved this. Maybe it was just spite, seeing everyone else dragged down to her level. Just as she had tried to become a respectable member of society again, sellswords came back into fashion. Somei's grip around Askha's neck tightened slightly, and Askha remembered that she carried the only living Mashtet Carver in existence on her back. If her clan, her family was to have any future, it was with her aunt passing down her knowledge. She hadn't been a Datsue long, only for a short time before her clan disappeared. She had survived on the run, living on charity and restoration. But this was not a charitable age.
Askha rounded a corner, and the barricade the Dastana had erected around the Markets. A Dastana Menti stood atop them, her hand glowing with energy.
.:How do I know you're Dasaka?:.
The Dastana smiled, snuffing the Soulsword energy in her fist. "Got anything for me?" Somei grabbed a pouch on her belt and levitated it to the waiting guard as Askha passed through the barricade, avoiding the makeshift pikes.
"Just a few dragons and a heatstone, huh? No food?"
"Unless there's a secret bakery out there, the food has gone bad or was already picked over." Askha lowered Somei to the ground, then stretched. "We were going for other stuff. If I find a wine cellar or some mad noble's pickle collection, you'll be the first to know."
"I'll hold you to that," the Dastana smirked before turning back to watching the street. The Mashtets made their way through the market Somei bartered the extras they had scavenged for scraps of food, and Askha made sure that everyone kept to their deals.
"Okay, Somei; we have the varnish and the Kinzoku crystal. Is there anything else?"
Somei walked, not waiting for Askha to catch up (she did anyway, Menti legs did that). "Everything else I need is on Hanaloi. I do have one other stop to make. You go ahead, find the Plangori, and see what they wish to do."
The Datsue tottered away towards the Gardens. Askha sighed, hoping her aunt didn't give away more of their supplies. Let them cannibalize the Palace; Askha had seen the evacuation. The Empress sailing away, leaving the rest of them to discover new ways to die they had never thought about. She'd seen a Datsue suffocate, the air ripped out of her lungs. A Hogo guardswomen literally shaken apart by a Rahkshi's scream, and a Dashi turned to dust. Maybe these Dastana had the right idea.
Askha pushed the thoughts from her mind. She didn't want some Willhammer getting the wrong idea, even if that opinion was becoming more and more common every day. The Mashtet put up her hood and made her way to the Yards. That was the most likely spot to find Plangori Fanai, or someone else who knew where to find her.
Unseen, Raika watched the Menti hobble his way to the back of the cave. They had doubled back, under cover of their mask and illusion, to see what actions the stranger took.
He seemed struggling, clutching at his arm. The Dasaka sensed something familiar, like a whiff of ozone through the mental plane.
So. It seemed that this individual was a soulsword. They knew also which arm they would use to conjure the spectral weapon as well.
A Mahstet Soulsword. The pieces were fitting together, but something was missing.
After some debate, Raika unsheathed one of their daggers and leaned it against the wall where the stranger had been sat, then turned and darted off.
. . .
Berries and tubers from along the shore, as well as some more recognizable fruits hanging from trees were stuffed into a crudely-woven reed satchel. After a suitable amount for a couple meals had been gathered, Raika returned to the shore.
Searching around rocky, spray-soaked inlets, the tiny figure used their remaining dagger to pry up a number of smaller limpets and lever free two fat abalone more than double handspan in length.
Moving out of the surf, Raika unwound their faded red scarf from around the satchel. Pausing a moment, they unfastened the tiny pocket cleverly sewn into the fabric's lining.
Two objects fell into their hand.
One, a tiny rough-carved figurine of blue stone shot through with pyrite, they returned after a moment's consideration. The other they held tenderly, almost lovingly, in their hand.
It was a precious possession. A delicately detailed Mahstet carving, wrapped in delicate silk fabric. Unwinding the sheer coating, they allowed sunlight to play across the crystal-inset, intricately greebled surface.
A face flashed across the portrait, turning to look toward the one holding the carving. As a flash of brilliant gold shone from the eyes, and the mouth opened in a huge grin, the motion of the figure reset.
Tightness gripped Raika's heart, as it did every time they viewed the tiny treasure. Perhaps the last remaining fragment of a being they sincerely doubted was still alive. They allowed themself to spend a few minutes gazing at the face of their best friend, before wrapping the carving back in its silk covering. They'd been instructed to keep the face well-padded to prevent damage when-
It fell into place like a boulder starting an avalanche. The proud faces in the throne room, lovely in that distant, regal way high-class members of the Clans often had. But among them had been another. The one who had suggested to their unseen benefactor that the carving remain covered when not being viewed.
The firstborn son of the Mahstet clan.
A soulsword named Ahri.
Raika dashed as silently as they could back to the cave entrance.
A Soulsword. A Mahstet.
One who had been there when their family dealt with the strange, spectral mercenary known only as The Wraith.
Had he known their voice? Would he connect the ideatalk of this scrawny, ragged survivor with the spy who had served the courts of many great Clans?
If so, the moment Ahri regained his memory, he would be a liability. They had only survived this far through stealth and the careful cultivation of a fearsome persona. A Dasaka Willhammer who hid herself as a show of power, not an act of fear of those she served.
Raika really wished they had kept their other dagger. It wasn't too identifiable, but as the Mahstet had provided the weapons as payment for services rendered it might still spark something. Dart in, catch him off guard, a swift strike at his armor's neck joint-
Raika nearly dropped their satchel. They stood in the sand, unprotected save for their shell of invisibility, and trembled at the thought that had gone through their head.
.: What was that? What was that? :.
Where had that come from? He was weak, almost dead from hunger and dehydration. It wasn't like House Mahstet was in any position to hunt them down or blackmail them. They were both outcasts without a home to go back to.
Bile rose in Raika's throat, and they imagined they felt the carving weighing on their neck like an albatross. No. They weren't a common killer. The only times they'd taken a life outside self-defense… it was for a good cause. They had been responsible. The pay had allowed them to survive. So why did those killings still haunt them? Why did they still hear the wail of a royal waking to find her wife dead, seemingly by Soulsword strike?
It had been for the greater good…. right?
They'd thrown up. They'd not even left the premises when the nausea had overcome their ability to run. They'd been retching and sobbing, wishing against logic that their cloak would fail and some guard would see them and spit them where they stood.
They'd told the Wraith she could keep the blades. That they would serve her well. The wraith was grateful, in her smirking way.
Raika had scoured the weapons for weeks , even building a fire against their better judgement to bake the weapons one fevered night. They still smelled the noble's lifeblood. Still heard the scream.
Still saw their own face the day they returned to the ashes of their home, sobbing over a single scrap of red cloth.
. . .
Raika stepped into the mouth of the cave, one dagger held tightly in their hand. They'd scouted the entrance first under cloak to ensure an ambush had not been set. When their guilt-fueled paranoia had been satisfied, they had presented themselves as though just arriving.
.: Hey. Menti. I've brought food, and I'll trade you half what I brought for my dagger back. :.
.:...and, I think we need to have a talk. I may be wrong, but I think I know who you are. And if I am, you certainly won't be needing my dagger again. :.
[OOC: @Keeper of Kraata]
Plangori Fanai was not at the yards.
Someone who knew her certainly was, however.
“Too obvious. Again.”
The menti lined up opposite the erstwhile Toroshu represented a variety of clan insignia—Hogo navy and maroon, Umbraline purple, there were even a pair in Dastana yellow and Fursic red. The woman that strode in front of them seemed different than the one who had invited the Mashtet refugees into her house. Her gaze, while still hard and evaluating, was less penetrating as it turned to the menti at the door.
“Enough—refresh yourselves. We will resume in ten minutes.”
She seemed taller too, as she strode up to them.
“Mashtet Askha. You have a request.”
It was not a question.
OC: @Keeper of Kraata
[Odaiba, off the Coast] Sometime Earlier
“That island? But it is a…”
“A cursed place? A haunt of ghosts?”
Kuychar Ilykaed sighed at the silence from her sokomaster. She couldn’t afford to lose the confidence of a woman who had probably saved more than one of their lives in the past few days.
“I know. I would not ask this if the remnants of our village were burning behind us. We need time, to regroup at least. Hanaloi has an old fort, maybe some other buildings. If it makes you feel better I’ll let the amuka burn some incense to chase the ghosts away.”
The sokomaster looked once again to the sea ahead before lowering her head in ascent.
An island of ghosts or an island of monsters. Ilykaed knew which one she preferred.
IC Yuna Koizumi - Oki Waters:
Stupid. Absolutely stupid. The whole situation was just utterly ridiculous. First the fire took all of her sisters and now the whole archipelago it seemed was being overrun by those.... Things. The things had killed at least one of everyone's sisters, and once again, because of her stupid, useless powers, Yuna hadn't been around to help. Not that it would have made much difference. One Menti with no powers and a katana were about as dangerous to those creatures as a Nui-Kopen to a Kanohi Dragon.
She sighed into the water, and began to swim back up to her tiny fishing boat. At least out here, she felt right. The water had always called to her, welcomed her, protected her, provided for her. Even now, her fishing spear weighed heavily with her catch. Catch she couldn't even sell now because no markets were open. Just refugee camps. Camps that needed food.
At least the creatures hadn't taken much interest in the water. No lives to take or villages to destroy down here, she supposed. Some of the larger Rahi had gotten more territorial and aggressive though. That was unusual. Then again her whole life right now was pretty unusual.
Stupid. None of that mattered anyway. Right now, she had food, and she needed to prepare it.
Or at least get it cleaned and ready for cooking. She breached the surface slowly, looking around to make sure there weren't any of those things around, before clambering up into her little boat and rowing slowly and silently back up the coast.
OOC: Yuna OFI!
IC: Ahri (Oki Sea Cave)
He was feeling better after the water. The headache was easing off, he didn't feel gritty, and he was getting less sore by the minute. He took the dagger; he had been examining it. He'd never seen one like it before, and he was pretty sure it wasn't just the amnesia. He was standing taller now, less aches. He considered the dagger one last time before flipping it over in his hand, offering it back to Raika handle-first and grabbing a handful of the assorted raw foods.
"Well, I remembered something else, not my name, but someone I knew. Someone I was angry at. Kaetyo... she did something, and I was tried to stop it"
The Menti tried to be nonchalant about the food, but as soon as it touched his finders, he had to resist shoving everything in his mouth. He popped a handful of berries in his mouth before swallowing and chasing them with one of the shellfish. As he slurped the limpet, he slowed, noting the look on Raika's mask. "Everything alright?"
OOC: @TL01 NUVA
IC: Askha (Sado, the Yards)
The Mashtet crossed her arms. "Sorry to interrupt your lesson, I know, everyone's busy nowadays. But you are correct." Askha took a step closer, visually scanning nearby Menti to see if anyone was listening in. She hadn't survived years as a sellsword by indiscretion. "It's about what your Toroshu discussed with us - Somei and I, before all this. We're returning to Hanaloi. Not just out of familial loyalty - there's things there, in the Mashtet compound, that can help. Things we didn't tell outsiders about." Askha's dropped to a whisper as she finished, locking eyes with a Vilda who passed close.
Askha stood back, relaxing and crossing her arms. "You see Fanai, the Dastana are being a little tight with the ships they have left. While what I need is a boat to take Somei and I to Hanaloi, between the two of us, we don't have a lot to bring to the table besides vague promises.."
IC: [Sado, Yards (Morie)]
Plangori Morie’s face remained placid as Askha told her tale, only cracking in a small smile when the other menti pointedly looked at the Vilda. There was apparently no love lost between the two Oki clans.
“That would be useful. I will speak to the Dastana—our merchants have had…interactions in the past. Rest and come back tomorrow. Fanai is meditating in the gardens.”
Morie turned back to her charges. The dismissal was not spoken, but it was very clear.
OOC: @Keeper of Kraata
Raika accepted their dagger back, but the moment they heard the name Kaetyo their stomach dropped to their feet. The panic from their trip back once more rose as they remembered the one who had calmly instructed them to do such an unspeakable act, who they had cursed for years before accepting the guilt themselves.
Oh yes, they knew the name Kaetyo. But how could they explain it? 'Well, Ahri, when I was young the person whose name you remembered hired me to spy for her and erase the lives of the heads of two opposing families. Oh, you were there too. How's the Clan doing? Oops, bad question?'
Yeah, right. Stealth or not, Raika couldn't take the soulsword in a proper fight they knew that. And those were definitely fighting words.
Perhaps they didn't have all the information yet. Mahstet had fallen, and they recalled having a falling out with Kaetyo. Perhaps it would be better to probe the matter gently rather than revealing their most dangerous secret.
.: I… I know of Kaetyo. She was the Torushu of a clan known as the Mahstet. I had the… privilege… of meeting her once.:. Pause. .:... It took me a while to remember, but she was not the only one I saw that day. There was a man there as well. A Firstborn, unless my memory is failing me. :.
They watched their companion's eyes through the crystalline visor of their Volitak, on the lookout for any change that might betray memory, or the intent to attack.
.: … a Soulsword, going by the name of Ahri. :.
[OOC @Keeper of Kraata]
IC: Ahri, Oki Sea Cave
"Hmm." The amnesiac looked at his hands. Mashtet Ahri. The name felt... strange, on his tongue. Mashtet Ahri. And that would make the only other name he remembered, if Raika was correct... Mashtet Kaetyo.
"Something about it just doesn't seem right. I'd feel like I'd remember being a First Son. Or... I suppose as names go, its a decent name for a Son of Zataka. I'm certainly not going by Kaetyo." Ahri wiped his hands on his sides. If he was a soulsword, then why did did he remember using a crystal sword?
"I have more questions, but I think I'm ready enough to get out of here. I'm not quite ready to live out the rest of my days as a hermit living in a cave, even with company.”
OOC: @TL01 NUVA
IC: Raika, Oki Sea Cave
The wiry ex-spy tensed at these words.
.: Trust me, you don't want to go out there, not 'till you're fully recovered and with your weapon ready. There's… things… out there. :. Fear crept into their ideatalk. .: Things you haven't encountered before. :.
They focused their mind. The image was there, clear as when the creature had them pinned to the ground, breath like rancid poison pouring across their mask. Red chitinous metal armor running in a fat tube, like a bloated snake, down the thing's back. The way it walked upright, not like a Dasaka, but hunched and shambling and very, very fast. Like a demon from nightmares. The barbed spines, the ruby-red spadelike feet.
And the staff, that had smoked in their vision and filled their mind with the scent of fire.
They'd fought two, thus far. The second was difficult to ambush, but not impossible with their particular set of skills. Its emerald armor had split with a toxic hiss, and even as the thing's blood had burned off their heated dagger blades it began to eat the thin layer of diamond-hard oxide from their surface.
But the red one. The red creature was a nightmare, plucked from the Pit itself.
This was the image they sent to Ahri. A snapshot, like their Mahstet carving, of a slavering, shrieking monster pinning a warrior who, despite their practice and tricks, was nothing but food to the ravening, howling beast.
.: ...that's what's waiting out there. I don't know how many, I couldn't hope to count them in a land's age. But each is as deadly as that, at least. I won't stop you if you're determined to get us both killed, but I at least want to make sure you know what it is you're walking into, Ahri. :.
[OOC: @Keeper of Kraata]
IC: Ahri - Oki Sea Cave
Ahri had doubted Raika's stories of the danger, but when they transmitted the mental image of the monsters that roamed the archipelago well, Raika would either have to be mad, or telling the truth. Ideatalk, when properly utilized, could impart a truly terrifying amount of information.
"That... was not the answer I was expecting." Ahri looked at the pool, then back at the distant cave entrance. "Even if I am this Soulsword, I can't remember how to call it forth. I can do with crystal for now. And I don't think I'm going to get much healthier eating tubers and sucking down mollusks."
The Menti sighed, rubbing his aching arm. "Besides, you can't hide from your problems forever. You can fight, you can run, you can bargain... but it'll always catch up with you." Ahri jerked a thumb back at the cave wall. "And I'd rather not be stuck in a narrow cave when it does."
OOC: @TL01 NUVA
IC: Raika, Oki Sea Cave
Right, thought Raika, easy for you to say. You're a warrior, if not in his prime then not long past it. I'm not built to fight, I'm built to run. Those two kills were luck and desperation. Coward I may be, but it's not like I ever had much of a choice. I'm a reed among sword blades.
.: Fine. You'd just better not go getting us killed. I can look out for myself, but I can't keep us both alive in a fight. If we can find you a nice branch I can cut you a stave, and we may happen upon some dead warrior whose sword we can appropriate for you. I can't guarantee anything though. Not that I expect that will stop you. :.
They paused, then added in a resigned voice:
.: I just scouted this cave out a couple days ago, and happened to be preparing to properly clear it of potential dangerous inhabitants when I came across you. Generally I sleep lashed to a tree branch. I figured this would be a temporary stop of a day or so while you recovered. But you're either a fast healer or just plain stupid. And since I can't fix stupid, I guess I have to hope it's not the later. :.
They stood, and began walking toward the cave entrance. When they neared the entrance, they paused for a moment, their hand resting on the sun-baked sandstone.
.: ...Just keep in mind that some people don't want to die a noble death. I want to stay alive, and maybe get off this death pit someday. But I won't abandon you unless you give me reason to distrust you or you outright try and betray my trust. I get the word of a coward like me might not be worth much, but… you have mine. :.
They were rambling now, but didn't really care. Anything to draw attention away from the fact that their hand was glued to the rock surface, their entire body trembling at the prospect of returning to the nightmare the outside world had become.
But in the midst of that panic was a tiny kernel, a spark of hope.
For the first time in years they weren't alone. This warrior would probably abandon them the second they learned of their past, but until then… they could almost kid themselves into believing they had finally, actually, made a friend.
[OOC: @Keeper of Kraata]
IC Yuna - Oki Coastline
Today wasn't all bad, she supposed. No monsters today, I had a good haul, and no one had told me I was a worthless excuse of a Menti and a scummy Saihoko. At least, not out loud. Plenty of people could have ideatalked the thought but I'd never have known. Stupid broken brain.
So it was kind of a major bummer that my thoughts were interrupted by the sight of movement on the shoreline. Could have just been a Rahi, or another of those monsters, but no. It was something far worse than either of those things.
It was people.
Worse, it was someone important looking, and a male. The perfect combination of folks who liked to remind me that I fundamentally didn't belong.
But, rules was rules, so I straightened up a bit, nudged my sword a little further under the rim of the side of the boat, and called out to them. Not too loudly, but y'know, loud enough for them to hear.
"Ah, 'hoy there, you two. Can I offer you a ride back to the camp? My boat's not much to look at but she does a fine job of floating!"
IC: Raika, Oki beach
Years of survival habits managed to outpace rational thought. The moment they heard the voice, panicked as they were, Raika instantly snapped into undetectability.
f*ck. As quickly as possible, they dropped the screen and deactivated their mask. With any luck it would appear that sunlight from the water had temporarily hidden them in their glare.
Raika was suspicious and, though they'd never admit it, rather shy, but they had enough common sense not to turn down an offer of safe transport.
They quickly sized the lone figure up. If push came to shove, they could probably hold their own even without Ahri's help. But maybe it wouldn't come to that.
What? What are you thinking, echohead? You're going to trust this convenient stranger? this convenient, likely ARMED stranger?
Yes. Yes, they were. The situation on the island was, to be blunt, nightmarish. They could strike out on their own, but if another of those serpents caught them off guard they would be dead. All their delusions of confidence and self-reliance had been burned away by the encounter two days ago. The only strength that mattered here was strength in numbers. Maybe three of them, together, might have a chance. And if there was a settlement, that meant they might be able to trade for gear and weapons for Ahri.
Attempting to lean casually on the rock wall they still had clutched in a death grip, they waved with their free hand.
.: Very kind of you to offer. I'd be delighted, but I need to check with my companion first. :.
They turned back to Ahri. .: Welp, you had a chance to travel beneath the sea. Wanna take a shot at sailing above it this time? I hear it's a lot safer. :.
@Keeper of Kraata]
Rayuke's sleep was troubled - a cacophony of voices, psionic alerts, and the turbulent memories of his youth.
Somewhere in these years, years that felt long yet nonetheless had slipped them all by, he had reached one of the fixed points in the lives of men - old. It was a word that lost meaning as it got older, and it aged with a man's perception of himself. Old meant different things physically, emotionally and spiritually yet brought the same kind of terror to the young. When he was young, old had been a death sentence. He would have chosen to be anything other than old - a miner, still toiling with the Dashi, or a saihoko belly laughing as he brought in fish on the docks. He would rather have died on the featureless beaches of Kozu, surrounded by his family - Yusanora, such charisma and grace packed into such a small frame, and her dashing lover, his exhilarated laugh the soundtrack to their every battle. His was far from the only one; well did he remember Umbraline Ayiwah, so young and wild in those days, crowing in excitement from the deck of her first vessel. Then, it would have been impossible to picture the cunning, astute woman the commodore would become. Now it brought a wan smile to his ascetic face, even on the precipice of what could only be death. His memories were a picture of the Executioner as a young man, and as he found the peace of mind after so long to recollect them all, he realized they were all still young in his mind. But he could not perceive the lone mountain on the beach any longer. They were all still beautiful. Only Rayuke had grown so old.
Thankfully, the timelessness of those memories only strengthened his love for them. He saw so much of them all in his nieces. Yumiwa had all of her mother's beauty and was capable of the same level of wisdom, and through no fault but Zuto Nui's Yumi was dogged by the temper and arrogance of many Umbralines before he - the dragon's fire that made Umbraline Roras, high and low alike, so memorable in the pages of history. But she was not solely the product of her mother. Her father's humor was in there, his joie de vivre and penchant for winning friends - even the unsavory kind. Sometimes, when he was given the slack to play a role other than the slick uncle, Rayuke could hear traces of the brother he'd lost in her laugh, and he loved her for them all the more. And Desdemona...
His little princess. The girl of glass. Oh, Desde.
Rayuke's final memories were chaotic, which perhaps had set the tone for his catatonia. But until his feet shuffled over the hazy line he knew he toed, when sleep gave way to death, he would remember how he felt when he saw the Kanohi Dragon in the sky. It was not infected or corrupted, like so many dragons had been in the skies over Sado that wretched night; it gleamed like it had hatched from the egg of a star, and before it all demons quaked and shrieked. He remembered how the Dasaka still fighting, street by street, either screamed in victory at the sight of it or wept in fascination. Rayuke wept, too. They were the only tears he had shed since his sister died, for he alone knew this was no sign from Zuto Nui, and that the shriek of pain and loss emitting from the dragon's mouth had not been for the Empire.
Desdemona... he had thought, with an ache in his giant heart that threatened to overwhelm him there in the street. Yusanora...forgive me. I have truly failed you.
The Rahkshi felt none of Rayuke's sorrow, and they had taken his second of horror and mourning as cause to overwhelm him. His prodigious strength had done him good service for a while, but he remembered the way that strength had slowly leeched away from him; his muscular build had become a burden all its own, in addition to those he had always carried, and eventually he had found himself prostate, barely even sitting, in front of enemies as faceless as the Fursic shades he slew in his dreams. At the moment he was sure was his last, one more shade joined them - amid a slew of lights and clashing of staves, a smile filled Rayuke's vision. It was wide and sharp as a knife's edge, the smile of handsome men who knew the inner workings of the world inside and out - yet, curiously enough, did not know themselves. Rayuke's conscious mind knew it was familiar, but his head was swimming from pain and injury and his heart was sick and sad.
"Lord Rayuke?" the smile had asked him. "You're not sleepy, are you? We have a long night ahead of us."
Rayuke's mouth was dry. A man he knew to be a ghost was guarding his body, ensuring a peaceful transition from Sado to...wherever spirits go. Wherever he had gone, so many years before his time and before those who loved him best were prepared for.
The smile tilted to the right.
Rayuke, so accustomed to seeing the truth all his life, was willfully blind now. The voice was unfamiliar, but the smile...
He could apologize no more. He would explain all to Sasori when he saw him again.
Umbraline Rayuke closed his eyes to rest.
.:Arsix, it's me. We can't hold the Residences much longer. I need whatever Sana users we can spare for Lord Rayuke.:.
.:He's a Dasaka, too. I can't just let him die.:.
.:Well, find some. They're making another pu-:.
Opening his eyes was a cumbersome task, compared to the simplicity of dying, but somehow Rayuke managed to awaken.
A young woman dressed in an ornate goldenrod robe was changing the dressings on one of his wounds, a gash lancing across his right side that had felt grievous when he was last awake but now only burned dully at the touch of gauze. His other wounds, of which he counted at least four, had all been similarly tended to. As he looked around, he realized he was intimately familiar with this bed, these furnishings. Somehow, he had been dragged up to the quarters where he had spent his whole life. The art was untouched, his bookshelves were still packed, and the window had been opened to allow the sea breeze to lilt through. It caressed his body and eased his aches, and but for the Dastana attending him, he could have fooled himself into believing it was all a nightmare. That Dastana alone...she was the only bastion that supported their new reality, the lone obstacle between hurrying to each of his nieces and holding them with all the love and worship they both deserved.
His eyes fell to his table full of origami - a thousand, no more or less, folded into birds, dragons, and all the Rahi of the Gardens. Nine hundred and ninety-nine had been folded in his own free time, a method of contemplation, recollection and peace. The thousandth was a Valkyr; she had been toiled over with more hardship than any of Rayuke's orgami, the product of many an asymmetrical fold or a tweaked wing, but in the end she was perfect - for the love and effort that had gone into her as much as for the precision of her fold. Desdemona had made her for him.
The old man's eyes stung.
.:Lord Jasik? He's conscious.:.
.:Finally. Send him to the War Room. I can receive him there:.
"Lord Rayuke?" a voice asked courteously.
The executioner turned his head and sat up, biting back a breath of discomfort at the burning of his sutured wounds. He decided to move more methodically as he attempted to stand a second time; he knew that to rush would only tear the gashes asunder again, a fact he noted with irony had been true of the Empire too. Perhaps that was why the Dastana weren't treating him like a prisoner. Though returning him to his quarters struck him as odd.
"I am Herupa Cyrunei," said the girl standing beside the door, arms crossed with concealed skepticism. Doubtless she too wondered about the prevailing wisdom behind allowing Rayuke free reign of the palace. Rayuke, ever the careful interrogator, judged her eyes as she spoke. They were tired and ringed with indigo, exhausted blights visible even under her Kanohi Kakama. Indeed, now that he looked at her more closely, he recognized the slim, pretty Menti as one who had helped escort him when he first met the Dastana Twins. That seemed so long ago now...
It occurred to him that he had not even properly had the chance to grieve Yusanora. So much had happened in the interim.
"Lord Jasik requests that you meet him in the War Ro-" she stopped herself. "Apologies. What you know as the council chambers. As soon as possible."
But her slip had not evaded Rayuke. War Room.
He nodded in understanding.
"Will you...accompany...me?" he rumbled, the bass of his voice causing the healer to step back in astonishment. It was common from everyday Dasaka to do so at the executioner's brass tones. "I am still...feeling...unsteady."
She nodded and looped her arm through his. Rayuke was easily thrice her size, and likely would crush her if he was to topple over, but he appreciated the thought nonetheless. It was hard to picture a thoughtful young woman working so closely with Dastana Jasik, who had always struck him as so callow, philosophical but only through osmosis, uncertain of whether he was espousing beliefs or parroting them. But then again, who would have thought his own lieutenant would be a woman like Masayoshi?
As they walked, Rayuke took note of the clan colors - Ageru, Eiyu, Vilda, Herupa...old names, with haggard but proud looking Menti bustling about. Some had weapons on their backs or sides, and just as many looked as though they had taken wounds as recently as Rayuke, but there was enough equal representation to the executioner's eyes that he still felt a great, relieved feeling rise in his chest. The Umbralines and the Hogos' safety had been assured by Masayoshi, along with that of his nieces. If the winds and seas were good, they would reach Mata Nui safely. But it was good to know that there were more clans left than simply Umbraline or Hogo.
The War Room, as Cyrunei had noted, had once been the council chambers. Rayuke had attended many a meeting here under the reigns of Yumiwa, Yusanora before her, and even their clan-mother, the Rora Yui, before his exile to Iki near the end of her reign. He had seen many a courtier come and go through these chambers, but the Umbralines had always sat at their center - Yumi, Yusa, Desde...now there was only him. Him, and two dozen other warriors, dignitaries, and even some Toroshu. The Dastana twins were at the center. At the old council table, almost a dozen Sighteyes were working overtime projecting maps of the islands of the Kentoku Archipelago. Four alone were required for Sado, but the capital was by far the most detailed as a result; it even had triangular pings resonating above places like the Markets or the docks, in the colors of various clans assembled, denoting what could only be Menti positions.
Cyrunei released her grip on his arm and waded through the assembled gathering to rejoin Jasik. Her fingers brushed his right arm as she took her place behind him, and Jasik looked up to see the mountain standing guard by the door. His smile, already placid on his face, grew wider and cockier, but he did not call out in greeting. Rayuke did not, either.
Instead, it was Arsix Dastana that stepped forward to carry out the briefing.
OOC: Anyone who wants to have a Dasaka (especially Toroshu players) here as a part of this, feel free to just assume you are and play it as such.
IC: Ahri - Oki Coast
The Menti waved his hand; "I think I would like to take the boat," he whispered to Raika. "Ho there! Yes, please!"
Ahri kept a lookout as the fisherwoman's boat approached. Even to his scrambled memory, something was off about the picture. Why was a Menti fishing? If half of what Raika said was true, there was a crisis occurring. He continued whispering to his rescuer: "If something goes wrong, you can hide and I have my Hau; don't worry."
Still, something about the fisherwoman seemed genuine. Ahri decided he would trust his instincts.
IC: Dastana Arsix, Crowned Rora of the Dastana Republic - Sado - The War Room
Arsix looked up from the projected map spread across the council table to see Rayuke towering over the gathered assembly. Arsix let out her own smile at the sight of Rayuke, though not nearly as wide as Jasik's. Hers was much more grim, and tightly-lipped. Her eyebrows remained slightly raised above her cool relaxed eyes, giving her an appearance of control and serious purpose. The recently crowned Rora wore a tight fitting robe, somewhat similar to a military uniform in shape and form, bearing Dastana orange patterns along its buttoned front. Across her shoulders ran small silver snake-like patterns, occasionally spiraling outwards to hold very small twinkling white gems, like little branches bearing even smaller fruit. The crown she once wore had changed as well. Now, it was particularly simple in design, a single rounded silver headband, which seemed to turn nearly black in the right light. Arsix gave a subtle, yet respectful nod to the old Imperial Executioner and spoke aloud, wasting no time on pleasantries, turning her attention to all those gathered.
"Let us begin." Sado lit up brighter than before, and Arsix gently placed the tips of her long fingers on the table surface and the room fell silent.
"Sado is under our control, for now. The situation at the docks seems to have stabilized, and these Rahkshi have changed their strategy. With our troops pulling their focus away and to Odaiba, and with our greater fortifications at the edge of the island, they seem content to only harass our Menti from time to time. A welcome change, I believe we can agree." She looked up into the eyes of all present. Typically, in court, during the Before times, Arsix may have more carefully chosen her words. But now, with the newly titled Dastana Republic at the head of Dasakan military power, Arsix had become a lot more straight-forward, preferring to be direct in her order. As far as Sado was concerned, she would not mince words either. "I would not under any circumstance call Sado 'safe' at this stage, but we should at least have more room to breathe, collect ourselves, and properly organize the people and resources still here."
"Oki remains completely quiet." The most western island lit up brightly. "There's been no word of any surviving Umbralines there, and what scouts we have sent report strange creatures never-before-seen walking its shores. A full force may be able to make headway there, but with little strategic power, I believe that for now we should only keep an eye on it. I personally find new infected Rahi to be concerning, and if leaving Oki alone is a mistake, I want to know as soon as possible. Our scouts will continue making regular excursions."
"Iki," Arsix began, her chest rising in pride at the mention of her homeland. "Iki is secure, and nearly all engagement with Rahkshi has ended there, thanks to the commanders of the Dastana fleet." Arsix looked up at the Dastana guards lining the edges of the packed room, eyeing their newly acquired weapons - the Rahkshi staves. In truth, the operation to take back Iki was an incredibly serious blow to the Dastana forces, and stretched their resources considerably thin. The new weapons were hardly any consolation for the countless Dastana Menti buried or lost at sea, and put Arsix in a difficult position. There had yet to be serious questions of her position at the head of the Dasaka, but with much of her direct military strength now a pale reflection of what it was before the assault, she could more easily be opened up to threat of a challenger. Of all the members present, only Arsix and Jasik knew the true extent of the Dastana losses, and Arsix hoped to keep it that way. She gently waved her hand and continued. "For now, my people will prepare Iki as a possible fallback in the event Sado is lost."
Arsix pointed at Odaiba next, the largest land-mass in the Archipelago. "With some land under control in Odaiba, we finally have some reprieve from our supply problem. The good news is we have now taken back some farm-land, and other important natural resource positions on the Western side of the island. The bad news is the fighting there is some of the worst we have seen since the enemy assault, and we take daily causalities." She shook her head, her bright eyes piercing the projected map. "And, the supplies we now have access to will not last forever. We will need to expand our campaign there until we have enough to feed our people. We will be organizing small strike teams to take carefully selected tactical battles, supporting the larger forces." Arsix looked up again from the table to see various faces murmuring to one another, some nodding, and others lost in thought.
"Now, Kozu." Next, the island furthest east lit up too. "Kozu remains entirely dark. And with Menti scouting and fighting across Odaiba's western front, and the fact that it holds little tactical value to us at this stage, I believe we should leave it alone for now. Taking it will only become necessary in the long-term, if we want to take more of Odaiba's eastern side. Eventually, we'll likely reconsider this, but any serious forces there I believe to be a waste of good and able Menti sorely needed elsewhere."
Arsix drew herself up again, standing at her full height, placing both hands behind her back. "Now," she began, regarding the rest of the room, "are there any questions?"
OOC: Here's a little recap, for brevity's sake:
Most Dasakan power has localized underneath Dastana Arsix, now the Crowned Rora of the Dastana Republic.
Oki seems to have become a home for totally unknown types of infected Rahi.
Iki has been retaken by the Dastana, and is being prepared as a possible fall-back if Sado falls.
Sado, the capital city, is somewhat stable, with some small Rahkshi forces poking at it every few days.
Odaiba is where the most fighting is occurring, and is home to the most important resources, like food.
Kozu is nearly unknown, but currently holds little strategic importance.
IC: Raika, Oki Beach
A sheepish look was barely visible past their lavender-tinted visor. Then, they realized Ahri was judging based on their mask. It was true, the Volitak itself was generally sufficient. They Relaxed slightly. Perhaps their paranoia about being revealed as the being once known as The Wraith was, at least, partially unfounded.
Additionally, a tiny warm knot formed around the little spark from earlier. He'd been worried about their safety, too. Maybe they really had managed to find a friend after all.
.: Understood, :. they responded, in directed ideatalk. .: and if things break bad I'll cover your back. :.
They turned back to the figure adrift on the boat. Adding a bit extra strength to their "voice" to ensure it would carry and be received clearly, they called out .: We'll take two seats. Economy, of course. And no in-trip meal, we're watching our budget. :.
Slinging their reed satchel across one shoulder, and adjusting their worn red scarf, they waded into the surf, heading towards the strangers boat.
As they climbed aboard, they nodded appreciatively to their unexpected benefactor.
Pausing to examine the vessel, they noticed the location of the sword stowed beneath one of the seats. Understandable given the circumstances, but still something to keep an eye on.
.: Wasn't expecting to meet someone fishing in a hellscape like this. Thanks for the lift. :.
Somewhat awkwardly, the lanky Dasaka held out their hand. Best not to be ungrateful, the less reason this fisher had to distrust the pair of them, the better. After a moment's agonizing debate, they added: .:My name is Raika. What's yours? :.
IC: [Sado, War Room (Morie)]
Morie acknowledged Rayuke with a slight tilt of the head before turning back to Arsix.
She understood the importance of figureheads. Whatever a rulers personal failings, it was the office that mattered, the symbol it provided. Indeed, it was a sculptor, and she had seen the way it molded Yumiwa into the empress all of them needed.
She saw it, much to her chagrin, with Arsix.
But she herself was no longer Morie the schemer, Morie the dye-manager. She was once again, a general, and a role that suited her much better. She may have not approved of Arsix and her little charade of a “republic,” and would certainly never call her Rora, but she made a fine toroshu.
“Those staves,” she said, gesturing to one of the Dastana guards. “Have you found any way to repurpose them? They are fine weapons by themselves, but we could use other forms of metal equipment.” Typical of the crafter-family Toroshu to bring it up, but Morie did not care.
IC Yuna Koizumi - Oki Coastline
A polite interaction! A nice change of pace. Probably meant these folks didn't know or at least recognize me. I'm pretty okay with thaaaaaaaaaaaa- ah.
Ah yeah, I don't like that feeling. Was that idea talk??? Wow I mean on the one hand, finally?? But also ugh, it almost gives me a headache. Ill stick to verbal talking, thanks. It was so distracting that I almost missed what she'd actually....said? Thought? Wow, where the heck were the lines for Ideatalk, anyway?
Distracted. Focus, Yuna.
"My uh.... My name! I'm Yuna. Yuna Koizumi."
I did a weird sort of half bow, cursing my lack of decorum.
"As for being out here, well I was-"
I caught myself midsentence, realizing that I didn't need to reveal I was a lowly saihoko fisher woman. Heck, these folks probably would never see me again after we got back to safety.
"-trying my hand at fishing. People need food, and I mean it's up to me as a Menti to provide, right? Heard Oki was one of the best places, so uh... Yeah. Looks like I got lucky!" I said, only half lying, and gesturing to the darn good catch I had.
"Anyway, what about uh, you, what's your name?" I asked the male of the two.
IC: Ahri - Oki Beach
Bowing slightly, Ahri tried to slide back into his culturally accepted role. "Mashtet Ahri. I was adrift, and Raika found me - saved me. I'm... still recovering. Still... shaky on a few things." He waited for Raika to board the boat before he did, and sat down beside her. His eyes glanced briefly at the crystal katana; Menti indeed. "Pardon, but... if you're fishing, where are your clan's Saihoko?"
IC: Sado - War Room
Relisai listened to the recently crowned Rora summarize the situation of her new Empire. It seemed like just about half the archipelago was no longer under her control, and what areas they did have were under threat.
Relisai reminisced about the events of the past few weeks. The rahkshi invasion had been swift and terrible, their forces massacring Dasakan forces. The onslaught had been surprisingly fortunate for Relisai - she had been imprisoned at the time and awaiting sentencing for her alleged "crimes" when the Rahkshi had attacked the capital. Relisai had been hastily released by the warden along with other prisoners and criminals as any and all fighters were recruited to defend the populace. Whether the release had been under official orders was unclear, but now the Umbralines had abandoned their homeland and a new clan reigned.
Whatever others thought about Relisai on a personal level, she had been an effective battle commander and Toroshu. The Vilda had fared better than other clans since the Rakshi appeared. Vilda naturally avoided population centers, preferring to roam the wilds with Rahi - they had been mostly able to escape direct conflict with Rahkshi.
Relisai had decided hedge her bets and split her clan in two; half on the refugee boats heading to Mata-Nui, half remaining in the Archipelago to help reclaim the Empire. The Vilda had been effective scouts for the newfound Dastana dynasty. The Vilda Toroshu had personally been in a half dozen skirmishes with Rahkshi, and saved dozens of lives. She had the battle scars to prove it. She absentmindedly massaged her bandaged right arm.
With regards to exiled Vilda, Relisai had personally sent her Datsue sister Robalta away from the Empire. The Toroshu smiled internally. In addition to freeing her from jail,, the Rahkshi attack had also let Relisai keep Robalta and her cursed child Soraph away from the Empire, away from the Vilda throne.Kulrik, the First Son, had yet to be seen though. Relisai still worried about him. She wasn't sure if he was alive, in the Archipelago or if he'd snuck onto one of the refugee ships. Relisai wasn't sure when she'd be able to spare the resources to find out.
"Now, are there any questions?"
“Those staves. “Have you found any way to repurpose them? They are fine weapons by themselves, but we could use other forms of metal equipment.”
"Any word from the refugee fleet? I've actually had an idea about possible communication with our people on Mata-Nui" Relisai spoke up to the others in the war room.
IC: Raika, Yuna's boat
.:Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Yuna. I- is something wrong? You like something's causing you discomfort. :.
Surprisingly, Raika felt worry tugging at the corners of their mind.
.:You're… not hurt, are you? If so, maybe we can help. :.
Raika turned to Ahri.
.: It may be that there aren't enough non-warriors left to spare for jobs such as fishing. Fishing may be a job that's looked down on by… some… but watch a village survive without food. Especially one that's fighting for their lives. :.
Raika's tone carried the implication that it wasn't Saihoko who the ambush fighter felt scorn for.
[OOC: @Keeper of Kraata
IC Yuna Koizumi - Oki coast
"As it happens, they're all dead." I deadpanned. "In any case, I've got a KauKau so I was the natural choice."
####, asking a question as pointed as that, he must know. Now I've gone and done it.
[Sado, War Room (Morie)]
Every sculptor had to produce some duds on the way to a masterpiece.
Morie said nothing in response to Relisai, and the Plangori Toroshu’s mind scape was impenetrable steel as was her expression. But you could convey a lot with a look, and the look Morie gave to Arsix was Are you sure letting her out was a good idea?
Judging by Jasik's expression, Morie wasn’t the only one with reservations.
IC: Raika, Yuna's boat
They'd been expecting such, but even so they felt their heart twist.
All of them? That… that had to have hit the village hard, to lose so many that an entire trade was wiped from them.
.:...I'm sorry. :. Raika said, reaching out to place a hand on Yuna's shoulder despite their anxiety over physical contact. .: I hope you didn't lose anyone precious to you. :.
The sound of a woman, heartbroken, weeping over the slain corpse of her love, hugging the lifeless form close even as the guards arrived to drag her away. Ignore it.
Realizing they hadn't switched away from their more powerful ideatalk, they hurriedly dropped back to the standard variety.
.: I'm sorry, :. they said, doing their level best to meet the fisher's gaze. .: Was my ideatalk causing you pain? Is this still? :.
After a moment's consideration, they lifted their hands and signed Would this be better?
IC: Ayako - Sado, War Room
There are centuries where nothing happens, and... Ayako caught herself before she could complete the thought. Who could know how long this crisis will last? It would be arrogant to assume that this Rahkshi invasion would only last mere weeks, or that by the time the it was over that the face of Kentoku would not once again have changed unrecognizably.
Ayako gave the Imperial Executioner a quick glance and nod as he entered, before turning her attention back to Arsix's briefing and to the projected map of the archipelago. The Datsue found her attention drifting towards the situation in Odaiba. Oki and Kozu were of no concern to her, and while Sado and Iki were of political and military importance, Ayako found little place in her heart to care for them. Her mind's eye gazed solely towards Odaiba. Odaiba was home, and it was where this war would be won or lost. The Dastanas could fortify Sado and Iki all they liked, they could churn out weapons and armor by the tens of thousands, but if Odaiba were to fall, what little remained of Kentoku would be doomed to die a slow death of starvation. Wars were never won by soldiers with empty stomachs, and it's not like the Rahkshi had any granaries and supply depots that could be raided.
As for the Dastana Twins' political posturing, Ayako could only shake her head. All this talk of "republic", of moving beyond the legacy of empire, of leaving the old ways behind, and for what? From what Ayako could tell, the young Arsix was the new boss, same as the old, and she even had taken the title of Rora for herself just to rub it in. From a pragmatic perspective, it made sense for the surviving clans to rally behind the Dastana banner so as to present a united front, but Ayako worried that Arsix was enjoying this golden opportunity that fell into her lap a little too much. If there did turn out to be genuinely idealistic motivations behind the new Rora's blatant power grab, Ayako swore that she would burn her clan banners and eat the ashes. So far, Ayako saw little to suggest that she'd have to make good on that promise any time soon.
Still, it would be political suicide, and probably literal suicide at that, to try and challenge Arsix here and now. Clan Ageru had always stood by the side of the Umbralines and their Rora, but the Umbralines' demesnes on Oki had fallen silent and Rora Yumiwa was at best an ocean away, at worst at the bottom of said ocean. To champion the flag of a clan that was for all intents and purposes gone would be an exercise in futility. Honorable perhaps, but certainly unwise. But should peace ever return to Kentoku, where would that leave the supporters of the old regime? Would they be welcomed into the new world as sisters and equals, or would they become disposable, or even a liability to be purged? Ayako could not bring herself to feel any optimism for whatever the future held; even the best case scenario looked grim to her.
“Those staves. Have you found any way to repurpose them? They are fine weapons by themselves, but we could use other forms of metal equipment.”
"Any word from the refugee fleet? I've actually had an idea about possible communication with our people on Mata-Nui."
Important questions no doubt, but ones that Ayako had no interest in. Still, perhaps it would be best to give the young ones a chance to have their discussions. Several questions about the logistics of this war effort and care for the survivors began forming in Ayako's mind, but she no doubt would have a chance to air those later. Besides, with all the changes that had come to Kentoku, would the voices of those who embodied the old ways still be heard?
IC Yuna Koizumi - Oki Coast
Her gesture was unexpected, and I found myself unexpectedly relaxing a bit under her touch. Her words however, stung the way only a painful memory can. Not her fault, of course. And it's been a couple years since the fire but a memory like that doesn't fade quickly.
Back in the present, Raika was making some strange gestures with her hands. None of it meant anything to me, but I didn't want to be rude so the most I did about it was shoot her a quizzical look.
"Well, you know why I'm all the way out here, what about you two? "
IC: Raika, Yuna's boat.
Raika wasn't too surprised her signing wasn't picked up. Most warriors probably thought it was a waste of time, beneath them even.
More concerning was the lack of response to their last bit of 'spoken' dialogue. A small worm of gnawing anxiety sat at the pit of her stomach. It was entirely possible Yuna was deliberately ignoring the later part of the conversation, but the fact that their signing was lost as an option caused a new fear to spring.
Could Yuna not hear Ideatalk?
They knew some Menti could not, for various reasons. They were...often looked down on….
Something unpleasant clicked into place. Raika may not have cared much for clan politics, but they were familiar with how many clans treated those seen as other.
Those, for instance, who were entirely unable to speak and labelled as inferior for the fact.
...Or those who, say, didn't fit inside of their clan's gender roles. Who wouldn't just sit there and be a good...son…
Once more utilizing their scrabbled Willhammer knowledge, they opened a reinforced Ideatalk link with Yuna. This time, however, their normally guarded tones were tinged with apologetic worry.
.:Yuna,:. they sent, doing their best to direct their thoughts specifically at the Menti to hopefully minimize the chance of Ahri, still a relatively unknown quantity, picking the message up, .: when I asked about your pain just then, did you hear me? Not with the sign language. When I used my normal ideatalk.:.
After a pause, they added, almost against their will. .:Don't worry. I won't think any differently than you. I can't talk, except like this. No voice, not since birth. I… know what it's like to be seen as other:. they added, bitterly, the corners of their mouth twisting beneath their mask.
IC: Ahri - Oki Coast
It took a few moments for Raika's signing to register in Ahri's mind as words before he caught up with Raika's signing. He took a breath, spaced steadied himself on the boat, and starting signing and speaking at the same time. "Dasaka sign; mostly taught on Odaiba and Sado, but..." And Ahri paused. Why would he know this? Was he raised on Sado? Possibly. But he remembered something, a memory that didn't make his head pound. The sensation of being in a tree, wrapping his arms around a branch so his signing could be seen.
"... And by those who wish to be understood without speaking or using Ideatalk. I can't say I know why I'm here... truthfully, I can only remember flashes. I only know that my name is Mashtet Ahri because Raika recognized me, and even then, I have my doubts. I remember Kentoku, general knowledge, some of my skills, apparently, but... I don't remember anything about who I am. I don't even remember my disciplines. I have flashes, I... I know I fought a woman named Kaetyo, the Toroshu of Clan Mashtet at one point, and I helped put down the last Fursic rebellion. As I said, Raika was hiding out and spotted my body on the sea, and dredged me up."
Something occurred to Ahri. "Is... Yusanora still the Rora? I recall a play in Sado where a Menti goes to sleep, but awakes an age later and males once again rule Kentoku; my first daughter-"
Ahri's temples flared with white-hot pain, and his vision nearly blacked out. Grunting, he nearly doubled over, clutching the side of Yuna's boat. The bamboo splintered as flickers of crimson psychokinetic energy played out over his fingers. As the pain resided, Ahri shuddered.
"And on top of everything, my own mind is trying to kill me," he whispered.
IC Yuna Koizumi - Oki coast
Well this was falling apart faster than usual.
"Huh? Oh, that, yeah I uh... Got clocked in the head by one of those things, and my head hasn't been quite right since. Healers said it was just a minor concussion, but my head's been fuzzy ever since, y'know?"
That is quite possibly the worst lie I've ever told.
As for who the Rora is.... Well heck, I dunno. My life has been nothing but fish and go home for a couple years. Politics and big important people kinda become less important than the day to day, y'know?
But he was probably expecting an answer. Luckily, he also offered a pretty good reason not to answer in the form of crunching down on my boat.
"Whoa hey, careful, man! I-"
Wait, what did he say?
"Your mind is... What now?"
IC: Raika, Yuna's boat
Hit on the head.
It was a little too convenient an answer, but Raika was distracted from any further suspicious prying by Ahri's words and sudden behavior.
My own mind is trying to kill me.
Well, they thought to themselves as they shifted next to the Menti Soulsword, that had a familiar ring to it. But this didn't seem like the near-constant, forceful thoughts that sometimes… well, anyhow, this seemed an entirely more literal situation.
And he knew sign, and knew to sign back. That would be good in emergencies, when ideatalk was too dangerous.
Before they moved to steady the warrior, they rapidly signed Is there anything I can do?
IC: Ahri - Oki Coastline
Ahri groaned as he brought his head up, relaxing his grip on the boat. "I think I crossed paths with a particularly nasty Willhammer."
Still clutching his forehead with one hand, he leaned back up. "Which means... the amnesia probably isn't normal. Part of the attack, or my mind coping, or even a patchy mental tourniquet."
He glanced at the fisherwoman. "Yuna, how long until we're at your clan grounds? Or wherever you're staying?"