IC: Thoron, Sciath and Serpentera (The Final Problem, Xa-Koro)The next to step forward was a Toa of iron with blue eyes several areas on his armour that also glowed blue. He wore dragon-like wings and a Kadin - evidently an adept flyer. "Aye. Reichenbach isn't worth obeying any more, if you ask me."Another Toa caught Fantum's eye. He looked like a walking tree, and had an expression of deep thought on his face. He took a deep breath that sounded like leaves rustling in a breeze, before he spoke, slowly and steadily. "Aye."A Skakdi with a face and spine like a serpent came forth and hissed his assent with a fifth, "Aye."
IC: Fantum (The Final Problem, Xa-Koro)Fantum smirked slightly. "Then it's decided."- - -A short while later, Fantum boarded the ferry along with Reichenbach's other ex-minions. He couldn't see the Angelic Order, but that was a good thing -- it made it all the more likely that they would make it to Le-Wahi along with them.OOC: Fantum, Stranax, Karhaz, Angelic Order, Thoron, Sciath & Serpentera to Le-Wahi.
Ic: Brykon was not there when the doctor came in, leaving the two men to do things alone. It was best that way, too. The doctor told Dorian to close his eyes and keep them closed, an order the usually defiant and independent toa of iron would defy, but in this case the sweet perfumes of antiseptic swabs the doctor provided lulled him to a submissive state as if by magic.Dorian suffered from several torn ligaments and bones, some of which were completely out of place. The doctor tended to the wounds as best he could but gave Dorian the bad news: It would be a month until his energies and body were at remotely good strength, and a full recovery would last even longer. Dorian had exhausted his very being to get as far as he did, making his survival a miracle. In the end, Dorian was patched up with herbal slings and bandages that smelled of spices, trademarks of medicine. "Tell me, Dorian, how did all this happen to you? You took quite a beating."Dorian didn't feel like sharing the details, instead giving a roundabout response about an accident in the catacombs."It's quite alright, you know. I'm very much aware about Brykon and Bad Company, so you can tell me your secrets. I can find out one way or another, but this way is much better." He tapped Dorian's face twice, indicating that he could open his eyes then.Dorian sat upright and blinked quickly as his eyes adjusted to the matoran's visage again, and then he made a knowing face. "Oh," he said. "It's you." He slumped back in the bed and leaned against the wall, recognizing the Peer."Yes," the man said as he packed his tools and herbs away. "It's funny how we meet again, you and I. Much has happened since we last met. This village has gone from a little ash-laden sham to a relatively prosperous and quaint town.""And now you'll destroy it?"The Peer placed a delicate but erect finger to his lips. "We mustn't be too loud. But yes. It's almost a shame, really, but in the end... (an exhale) these are all worthless people anyway..." he whispered. "It won't be long now. Has Brykon formally demoted you?" Dorian shook his head, no. "Then I shall answer your questions if you have any and give you an update as befitting your position. But first, please, tell me what happened to you. You seemed so... pretty when we first met." He placed his hands on Dorian's knees, feeling them but not twitching. "It wasn't the entire gang, was it?" he asked.
IC: Dorian (Xa-Koro)I still am. You just can't see it yet because of all the misplaced flesh."Beauty isn't just skin deep," I replied instead; if I had the capability to roll my eyes and smirk at this point, I would have, but as it was, my face was still too sore to make a true expression, so I let out a small chuckle instead. "This little scheme of yours, for instance. But in answer to your question, no. Just Brykon. Probably myself, too. I was too cocky."The Peer gave a one-sided shrug, satisfied with both my replies, and then said nothing. Waiting. It would have unnerved most other people, but if there was one thing I had retained, it was my independent streak, my inability to be intimidated. I was still Dorian, I had just...evolved a bit. Leveled up."You were monitoring me," I said after about three minutes. "Probably smart, given my track record, but I'm curious nonetheless. How'd ya do it?"-Tyler
Ic: "Ah, so you found out. Very good," the doctor said, hands still on Dorian's knees. He leaned closer to Dorian and whispered, "Your mask. We could see what you saw. Until Brykon shattered it, anyway. It was Aurelia's idea, you see. She has taken the lead to oversee the team, and you... we never knew what to fully expect from you. Were we satisfied? No. We weren't as a matter of fact, but we gathered more information than we expected from our trick, so in the end it was extremely useful.His voice descended to a whisper again. "Now then, you should know that in this day or the next, the ships from Ga-Koro will be arriving. The army is ready for deployment, the tunnels dug out. Right now, the natural gas is spreading through the catacombs. By dusk tomorrow, this city will be gone, and you, the team and the army on those boats. I will remain to oversee the damage, but Aurelia will leave with the rest of you."Do you have any questions?"
IC: Dorian (Xa-Koro)I tossed over the plan in my head for a couple minutes: it was sound, and it was obviously the brainchild of widgets, wit, and a distinct lack of morals. I still didn't really like the concept of genocide, but it was unavoidable in this case. The Peers did what they had to do; it was my place to act as their man on the ground, keeping watch on, well...their other man on the ground."And where do we go in the meantime?"-Tyler
Ic: "I assume you mean after the boats depart. You all will go to Ko-Wahi where the army will be housed. I can't say where yet, but Ambages is taking care of that. I believe... you might be freed to perform a few more missions as a team. There are a few messes that need to be cleaned up. Aurelia has more on all that. She'll be your main handler from here on out. I'll be meeting you all in Ko-Wahi." The doctor pinched Dorian's knees and got up. "I must be off, unfortunately. See you later. I would say godpseed, but... well, there is no god. Until then, Dorian," the peer said as he picked his duffel and left. ****"Brykon, sit down," Aurelia commanded. She herself was already seated on a couch, having just finished a meal. A servant stole the tray and retreated, leaving the two beings alone. It was the first time the colonel had met Aurelia since their meeting in the underground. Since he shattered the mask used to spy on Dorian. If Aurelia was still upset she didn't show it. Brykon sat in one of the skeletal chairs manufactured in the town, contrasting the posh leather Aurelia treated herself to. "If you want to yell at me about the--""Shut up." Silence ruled the room while Aurelia nibbled on a biscuit. "Yes, I am angry about that," she finally said, her voice slightly irritated. "A lot of work was put into that device only for you to break it like some ceramic doll. That was a priceless thing, you know.""I'm not going to apologize," Brykon stated, his dignity returning. "I don't expect you to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness. You're a smart man; you know better than to take the criticism given you. You'd defend your actions." Brykon nodded slowly. Aurelia understood him better than he realized; her condescension disguised her true judgement well enough to deceive the old fighter's instincts. "So instead of asking you to apologize, I'm going to ask you for something else. Proof of your loyalty."Brykon looked at Aurelia normally a few seconds until his head seemed to wobble side to side in appraising surprise. "What?""Your actions may be justifiable, but they're not helpful in my eyes. I want you to show me how faithful you are to Ambages and I... Mostly I. Decline, and I guarantee you won't ever leave this island. Accept and fail and Dorian will take your place."Space was provided for him to ask What if I succeed, but he said nothing, merely looked at Aurelia.She picked up on it. "Succeed, and you keep your post.""You're manipulating m--""Of course I am, Brykon! I'm no fool. You're a rook if we ever had one, but you're still a piece on the board and I can move you as I see fit."Brykon submitted with a sigh. As much as he disliked it, she was still his mistress, his commander, and he played her game as a tool, moved as need be. Under the doctor, Bad Company and Brykon was well liked, but when Aurelia came and poured all her authority into the Xa-Koro strategy her power dominated the doctor's shadow. She was an unforgiving boss who enjoyed both toying with prey and commanding her servants. In that moment, Brykon was unsure which niche he occupied. But it was clear that for things to move forward, he had to complete the task. He would do as she commanded. "What's the move, then?" he asked."I want you to kill the doctor."
IC (Jin)I could see it coming from a mile away. Dorian came back, made a big entrance, and of course Bry was gonna wanna have little chat with him. Karz, the big guy had beaten Dor within an inch of his life; either he was going to finish the job or ask him how he did it.I wanted to stick around, of course, but I'd already learned one thing about Bad Company: you didn't cross Brykon. Not if you wanted to live to see another sunrise.Jogging quickly over to the side of the street, I jumped, planted my foot on the wall, and pushed, giving me an extra boost up, high enough to grab onto an outstretched ledge and pull myself up. In no time, I was on the roof, across the street from Illicia.I began to move along the rooftops, occasionally jumping from building to building, all the while keeping an eye on the streets below. The days that had passed between Dor's burial and resurrection had mostly been filled with Bry filling me in on what my job was and how I was going to do it. It wasn't hard, really: patrol Xa, and keep it safe. Stop crime, play the hero, yadda yadda yadda.Whenever I thought about it, though, I felt kinda bad. Playing the hero... just that one word, hero, made my stomach drop sickly, because it reminded me that all these people, suddenly lifted out of their squalor and given happiness, were going to have it ripped from their hands, along with their lives.Don't get me wrong: I'm no hero. I've spilled too much blood and told too many lies to be a hero. But I also don't think of myself as a bad guy. Sure, I've killed people for a reward, but they always deserved it, right? Like that mob boss in Po. The guy had been smuggling weapons around the island, getting people riled up. Getting rid of him had brought the island a little closer to peace, as well as put a little extra cash in my pocket.I snorted in disbelief as I caught the lie I'd just told myself. Bringing the island closer to peace? Since when had I ever cared about this rotten island? I'd complained about it to anyone who'd listen, and not because I was desperate for attention. I honestly hated this place. All these Matoran who believed in some shallow illusion of a protector when their world crumbled around them; all these Toa who pretended to be heroes, to have some higher calling, because otherwise their pitiful lives had no meaning; all these beings who served Makuta, the name the island whispered when the sun went down., in the hopes of being granted power or riches or, again, some sort of meaning to their lives.Well, let me tell you exactly what Makuta is: achluophobia. Fear of the dark. All these Matoran and Toa and Turaga were either in desperate need of a nightlight, or they desperately needed to get a life. Their whole society revolved around this “Great Spirit” and his “brother,” polar opposites who fought each other constantly, as far as I could tell. I'd never been particularly interested, so there may have been one or two details I'd missed, but, like I said, I didn't care.The supernatural was only of any consequence when it directly affected your life, and I'd yet to see that happen. This Heuani was rumoured to be a lieutenant of Makuta's; I'd watched him in action, and seen nothing to suggest he was any more than a Toa with a unique element. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh, sure, maybe there was a Makuta somewhere, but I doubted he was some omniscient, all-powerful being of darkness. More likely he was just another schemer like Aurelia, pulling strings from behind the scenes. The reason he hadn't been found out was because none of the cowards on this island had the courage to look behind the curtain for the puppetmaster.I couldn't fit in here, not when everyone dully looked to the stars for guidance, unable or unwilling to take control of their own lives. Even those who did still fearfully glanced over their shoulder, always wary of some lightning bolt about to strike them dead.It was a sad, pitiful existence. No wonder I had been drawn to Aurelia and her plan. Everything she did, she did calmly and without irrational fear, or even fear at all, as far as I could tell. She lived her life without fear of retribution from some dark -or light- power; the sinking of Xa-Koro would only prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no need to be afraid of shadows under the bed. Maybe, in this new society that she promised to create, people would realize that they didn't need to arrange their lives around some fictional deity or his moral code in order to live a good life.Living a good life meant living. I figured I'd done a good job of living, even when stuck on this lousy hunk of rock in the middle of nowhere. I hadn't needed to look to the sky for a sign or anything; I'd just lived, and stuff happened, and somehow I got into things that kept my blood pumping and my adrenaline levels through the roof.So, was I really sad over the fate of Xa? No... and yes. I didn't really know what I thought, to be honest, which was out of character for me. I mean, I like to think of myself as a pretty down-to-earth kind of girl. What you see is what you get, you know? And here I was getting all philosophical about the fates of a bunch of lowlifes whom I didn't like any better just because Aurelia had cleaned their act up.But, still... I don't enjoy death. I do it because it pays the bills, and it's exciting to go out on a cloudless night and know that it might be your last time seeing the stars because you're about to break into a man's home, attempt to sneak past his bodyguards, and slit his throat. But I don't do it because i'm bloodthirsty or anything. It's just how things turned out for me.In the end, I guessed, the solution was right under my nose; it was way simpler than all my thoughts made it out to be: The rule of any mercenary is that money buys allegiance. Any bounty hunter, solder-for-hire, assassin, or thief will tell you that the highest bidder gets the services. Bad Company paid the bills, and a good deal extra. If I kept on with them, I'd get everything I wanted and more.If I turned against them for the sake of Xa-Koro... where would that leave me? A good deal less wealthy, for one, and a good deal more deceased.My rule is that, if you pay me, I'll do your dirty work. This was slightly dirtier work than I was used to, but the sooner it was done, the sooner I could wash my hands of it, the same way the ocean would soon wash Xa-Koro away. Best to keep my personal feelings out of it, and let money do the talking. That's the way I've always done it, and that's the way it'll stay.One last thought poked at my conscience as I packed this mental conversation away.Money buys allegiance, not morality.“Money buys anything you'll let it,” I said aloud. “Body, mind soul, whatever. If it fetches a good price, then that's all that matters.”I quit the schizophrenia then and there, and continued my patrol.
IC:Despite everything that was happening behind the scenes in Xa-Koro, life continued in it's usual way. The rough Matoran living here went about their daily business as they usually did; not knowing their time was running out. And so they went to work, entered the taverns, only to leave them later with a severe lack of sobriety and generally followed their daily routines. Except for one street. It was leading into the less inhabited parts of Xa-Koro and the buildings along it started show they were not fit for being occupied by anybody. Still, Matoran walked here, from or to places they needed to be. Until they were stopped by a more uncommon sight.Skakdi. The Matoran knew a few of these muscular barbarian beings were present on Mata-Nui, but they mostly appeared alone, or in pairs. But never in a group. And especially not one walking with such purpose. But they were all there; over half a dozen Skakdi walking down the dirty road, their clawed feet leaving scratches in the muddy ground. The villagers stopped in their tracks and looked as Rhow led the horde to their destination. She and Kahlynn were walking at the head of the group, followed by Viloz and the rest.They had not needed to walk for too long, as the gossip the bartender had heard and relayed to them turned out to be fairly accurate. That was the thing when you started to build temples to the master of shadows: the regular public was going to avoid going near it as much as possible. They continued to walk, until they reached the ruined part of the city, officially abandoned by the inhabitants. The streets got more narrow as they got closer and eventually, Rhow led them around a corner and into a narrow, shadowed alley. The female Skakdi waited for the shuffling of feet to stop, before she started to speak. "Alright, listen up!" she said, not too loudly, "the building where these rats use as a base is just a few buildings down the road. Usually I'd scout the place out, but we're not here to execute some elaborate scheme to make a heist. And as far as the Matoran in the bar said, nobody is there right now. So the plan is simple: We come in from multiple sides, go in, have a look around and then torch the whole place. And if there still is somebody in there...they can just burn with their rathole." There were grunts of approval from the others at the prospect of good old-fashioned arson. Rhow nodded, pleased and grinned. "Any questions? Good. Then let's get to it. This place smells bad." And the last part was not just a statement. There was an odd smell in the air here. As if the air itself around the building was tainted with something. She turned to Kahlynn and Viloz then. "Just in case there really is somebody in there still, we need to cover all exits. Kahlynn, you come in from the east. Pick somebody to go with you. Same goes for you Viloz, you take somebody and go in through from the western side. If there's no entrances there, just make one for yourselves."She then turned to the rest of the group, looking at each of them, until she spotted the one she needed. "Taoki, you also take somebody with you and get on the roof. From what I understand there is scaffolding there to climb on.""What about you?" Iraanus asked. Rhow chuckled once. "You and me, we're taking the front door." With their roles assigned, the horde moved out. Stepping back into the road, Rhow and Iraanus walked the last few meter until they were at the building in question. It was an ugly, rectangular build with a domed ceiling, but considering what passed as a house back home when Rhow had left, it might as well have been a marvel of architecture on Zakaz. There was scaffolding attached to the side of the walls, as the followers of Makuta had been busy renovating the building to refit it for its new purpose. However, whatever construction work had been in progress at the time the followers had left the house, it had not been continued since.Rhow glanced left and right, where she caught glimpses of the other Skakdi moving towards the building. Rhow snored slightly. The awful smell was still there, not too noticeable, but definitely there. "Strange." she said. Iraanus nodded. "Looks like they left in a hurry. But why?""No idea." Rhow replied. The two of them arrived at the front-door of the temple then. The stood in front of the double-doors for a second. "Should we knock?" Iraanus asked.Rhow took a step back, before lifting one leg and kicking the doors open, shattering the wood around the lock. The doors swung inwar, creaking in protest at their treatment. "It was alread open." Rhow simply said. "After you." The two entered the into the building.OOC: Pausing here, so you other folks have time to post getting inside.
IC: Vidar watched with impatience as a pitiful looking infected Tarakava towered over Ronkshou in the beach. Two minutes later, the lizard submerged itself below the depths.“The Tarakava will spread the Makuta’s message,” Ronkshou said to Vidar, “While it may take some time, once all the Makuta’s Tarakava get the message, the Matoran’s boat will not go unspotted by the sea creatures”“I hate to be pessimistic, but time is a bit of an issue here,” Vidar hissed, “Surely we don’t intend to wait for courier lizard spies to give us a sign…”“No,” Ronkshou growled in return. “We continue looking”Hours passed. The two high-ranking servants of Makuta searched tirelessly through the city of Xa-Koro and its surrounding areas. No sign of a group of six Matoran, and no sightings, it seemed. Not even Ahkmou’s group could be of help (save for one Matoran who was not with the group at the time). With no leads, the two had no choice but to leave the islet and search the others in the island chain.Vidar growled as he trudged back to the boat, Ronkshou pulling up the anchor and reeling it back in. Soon enough, the motor began its whirring once more, and the duo took the boat to the island north of the islet Xa-Koro rested on.That’s when Vidar spotted the lone Po-Matoran, wearing a jet black noble Komau and brown legs, with a beige body. He was one of the ‘Kufa’s – a name that all of Ahkmou’s men went by to avoid exposing the real Comet Ball Traitor.“Anchor the boat at this island. He’s one of ours,” Vidar said to Ronkshou, the boat’s pilot. After seeing the Matoran himself, Ronkshou nodded and turned the boat towards the shore of the tiny islet. Around the Po-Matoran sat several different tools – most of them unrecognizable by Vidar or Ronkshou. The Po-Matoran was so into his work that he did not notice the boat landing on his islet’s shores until he heard footsteps in the damp sand. The Matoran jumped, and nearly fell backwards when he saw Ronkshou approach him.“S-s-s-sire!” Kufa stammered, standing erect and facing the two servants.“Calm yourself, little one,” Vidar hissed softly, “It is merely I, Dark Toa Vidar, and your envoy, Ronkshou. We’re here on a mission”“O-o-of course,” Kufa replied, “What can I do for you two?”“We were wondering if you spotted a boat with six Matoran upon it,” Ronkshou said. He then ascertained which side of the island he was closest to, “Maybe heading along the west coast of Mata Nui?”“I see boats pass along this coast all the time,” Kufa replied, “I…I don’t recall seeing any with six Matoran on it”“This boat would have been small, to avoid drawing too much attention,” Vidar added.Kufa cocked his head, thinking harder now. The small boats he saw had one or two Matoran, or Toa, but none of the boats that he remembered had a group of six Matoran manning it.“Perhaps they’re still in the Kumu Islets?” Kufa suggested. Vidar shook his head.“We checked for moored boats. They all belong to people in Xa-Koro,” Vidar said, “The boat we’re looking for has moved on”“It’s possible that they could have gone up the east coast of Mata Nui,” Ronkshou mused out loud.Vidar nodded, and the three just stood there for a moment, all racking their brains to try and figure out a lead – any lead. Finally, Ronkshou raised his head.“Vidar, what of the Rahkshi attack in Ta-Wahi?” Ronkshou asked, “These same Matoran were involved there, were they not?”“Oh yes, the ones sent to kill Takua,” Vidar responded with indifference.“What if there was a stone in Ta-Wahi… and our Matoran are, in fact, travelling clockwise?” Ronkshou asked.Vidar rubbed his chin, “Travelling in a clockwise path would be too easy to track”“Not if they move fast enough,” Ronkshou said, “They know that time is short – they would not want to waste it. I feel like they’re strategy is more speed-oriented than stealth-oriented. Yes, all of their actions are in the shadows and away from eyes, but zig-zagging across the island would be detrimental to their quest. There are too many Rahi and other servants scattered about this island – surely they know that they will be found soon”“They’re just hoping they get all the stones before we find them,” Vidar said, “… or find the stones ourselves”“They’re racing against the Makuta,” Ronkshou mused out loud.Another silent moment passed.“What if they’re going counter-clockwise?” Vidar asked.“If they were going counter clockwise, then this stone would be their last to get,” Ronkshou replied, “I don’t think Makuta would send us out that late in the game”“In that case, we need to get back to the boat,” Vidar said, “We’ll trail the west coast and search for any moored boats. Maybe the Tarakava’s message would have spread a ways”“Thank you for your service to the Makuta,” Ronkshou said to Kufa. He and Vidar then quickly made their way to the boat and started the motor. It revved even louder now, Ronkshou wanting to maximize speed. OOC: We Are Legion, feel free to spot them if they’re on your side of the islets. Vidar and Ronkshou moving to Le-Wahi.
IC: Utu - Kumu Iselts WatersA lead. Anything. It was all he needed. At this point, the direction of the Matoran he was tracking could be 50-50 if they weren't in Le-Wahi. He stared off into the emptiness.Anything.A boat, the roaring of it's engine broke the rythmic lapping of the waves. It was the first boat he had seen leave the Islets, and it roared past him. At this point, anything was his lead. Left, right, center. Utu decided this would decide on his next move. Any decision was better than no decision. He caught of glimpse of something in the boat in the distance at it tore through the waters. Something hunched over slightly. Almost like a Rahkshi. Which happened to be the kind of thing Makuta had at his disposal.This was his sign.Utu ripped the engine into gear, sending it soaring across the ocean. He had his direction.OOC:Utu to Le-WahiIC: Taoki - Kumu Iselts - FoM TempleTaoki clambered up onto the roof. He didn't choose a Skakdi, Sootus, a hooked Skakdi followed along. Taoki was no commander. He was just a tinkerer that liked knives. He wasn't sure why Rhow had given him any position for this. He sort of crawled along the roof gingerly. It wasn't the most dignified position to be in, but it beat falling into the structure.Sookus stepped past him, full height.Taoki, being smaller decided it was safe for him too. Cautiously he stood up, Taoki fell through, landing hard on his back. He coughed, his arms moving aimlessly on the hard ground. Sookus looked through the hole. Taoki coughed again before the door was kicked open."Ow."
IC: Xiela - Bar, Xa-koro -Xiela was in bar in Xa-koro, ever since she'd lost track of Prince Darien, she'd realized that she was now quite unemployed and without purpose. So she drank the day away, she wasn't sure how many she'd had, she lost count at five. Meanwhile a Toa named Leon was arm wrestling a Toa, it wasn't clear who would win, bets were being placed. Professor Haford Joinda entered the bar, he went up to the bartender and ordered a bula wine.
IC: KahlynnWithout thinking, Kahlynn clicked his fingers and beckoned for the biggest and presumably strongest Skakdi in the crowd to follow. He carried a huge battle axe and didn't look like he was able to count to ten, but maths wasn't what he needed to blow a hole in the wall of a temple. The pair of them moved round the side of the building to follow Rhow's orders.The east side of the temple was severely overgrown. One would think the Makuta's followers would bother to uproot all the weeds and ivy and brambles and such that clung and climbed up the side of the building like a swarm of leeches. Kahlynn couldn't help but think they had left in a hurry. He looked over his shoulder to see that his simpleton of a companion hadn't made such grand deductions, and hardly even picked up on the plant's existence as he plowed his way through the vegetation. Sometimes Kahlynn wished he could see the world so simply as to- No. No, he didn't. Being stupid wouldn't be fun at all.They soon reached a spot in the wall he deemed suitable: beneath a tall, thin, pentagonal window and between the two large legs of stone that reached up to form a frame for the window. The wall here was almost crumbling, as if it was only there as a placeholder until it could be improved upon later. This only served to support Kahlynn's theory about the Makuta Followers having left. While he readied his crossbow (or rather, figured out how to do so), his brutish companion raised the butt of his axe - which appeared to serve as a club for whatever reason - and slammed it into the week point, smashing a hole through the wall. Before the dust had even cleared, Kahlynn commando-rolled through and landed on one knee with his crossbow at the ready to face-No one. The room was empty.To his right, Taoki crashed onto the ground. To his left, the doors creaked open and Iraanus, followed by Rhow, entered with the light from outside. The brute trudged in through the hole to come to the same sight Kahlynn had seen. He slowly got up to both feet. "Well then."
IC. Jam.It had been a long day for the sheriff. He sat with a sullen face looking out at the piers as fishing boats came in for the night one by one. He was faced with information he truly had been dreading all along: This was Xa-Koro's last night on earth. But to make the mood worse, he was to assassinate one of his very own bosses. All he wanted to do after his meeting with Aurelia was to wash his guilt away with spirits and he called up to the tender for a new flask of gin after he washed the last of the stuff in his glass down. Only the rocks were left, but he chewed one cube on the side of his mouth.A slim, curved figure slid in a chair beside him. Her mischievous smile was enough to get his attention. She was a good few inches shorter than him, so she looked into his eyes in a slanted fashion."How's life?"Her interest in him was obvious, though the reason of this was not so. Dressed as she was, it could be guessed, but if one was to know the identities of the two, possibilities floated through the air, like a Matoran guessing the shape of a cloud."Hey there," Brykon said, surprised that he got a woman instead of his bottle of gin. Liacada seemed to produce the bottle he requested and put it on the table. Seeing this, the sheriff said, "You, ah, work here? I haven't seen you here before." The smell of spirits seemed to roll off his tonguelike smoke and filled the air by Liacada's face with its strong odorShe half-sneezed, half-coughed as the putrid smell reached her face."New job.""Okay," Brykon said dismissively. He grabbed the neck of the bottle and poured the clear liquid into his glass, barely making it without spilling, and set the bottle back down. He collected the bucket glass and raised it to his lips but said, before it touched them, "You're still here." It was more a question than a statement. Either this woman was a real slacker, a tonguetied fan of his previous work or she didn't work there at all.This question was answered in quick succession."Senegal, right?" A reversal: this was more of a statement than a question.She had seen him before, in a fight. He'd been incredible. Very admirable. What was he doing here? She'd assumed he was rich. Either way, he was a way out."In a past life," Brykon slurred. Truth was he was using both his old and new names in the town, wholly because of the name recognition it afforded. People had more repsect for a sheriff who they could say they knew. But in his inebriation, he failed to state the difference in reality or note the inconsistency of this woman's question. "Who're you?""My name," she replied, simply grateful not only to meet him, but that he no longer spewed alcoholic gases, "is Liacada."If he was smart, he would recognize it. It was a traditional name, associating one with certain aspects of society. It revealed her to be, if he knew the "language" of the Xo-Koroans, to be a low-class citizen. But not just that. One raised by thieves and killers, toughened by the streets.In a way, it was true.If Brykon was in his A-game he would have caught on to Liacada's origins, but Brykon's perceptiveness was hampered by the liquid which he clung to that evening. Instead of a rousing moment of reveal and a series of interested questions about Liacada herself, he disappointingly just said, "Ah," and took a long sip of his gin, nearly downing half of the glass. "Did you want my autograph or something?" he said quickly.She frowned. He hadn't caught the etymology. There went that."No. I just thought it would be interesting to meet you."She got up to leave, but turned back as she went. She could still make something out of this."Say, are you leaving anytime soon?""Yeah, we're all leaving tomorrow afternoon, or whenever that bloody she-demon tells us to," he said, not realizing what he just dropped. His second sentence, "The boats are supposed to come in tonight or in the morning..." was murmured unintelligibly."Oh, that's good. Do you think that-""Why?" he suddenly roared as he abruptly snapped his head back at Liacada. "Why do you care!?"She managed not to jump back, though her shock was evident in her eyes. Her toes curled back as a chill ran down her spine."Well," she murmured, not in quite a scared tone, but softly, "I was wondering if maybe I could a ride to the mainland?""Why?" he again almost yelled. Another sip of the liquid fire seemed to douse his anger, though, almost lulling him. He said in a whisper, "Did you find out that the city will be demommmmnnashshshshhhh..." His subconscious pulled him back to a sort of clarity, it seemed, and he obscured the final critical parts. "You don't like it here?" he said finally. "The city is better, safer even. Why would you want to leave this city now?"City was what? She frowned again. This would be complicated. He most likely wouldn't understand. "I've been here nearly my entire life. I've lived and taken life here. I need to get out.""So you've killed someone and want to escape?" he said. "You're not too bright if you're asking the sheriff for passage from the law.""No. I've killed many people."She had steadied her stance again by now. Sheriff? Since when? Then again, the law generally stayed away from her parts of town. Still... What happened to Ol' Yovan?"...all in self defense. I'll say that now, and I'll say that in court.""Miss, the only court here is the roof above my head." He shook his head and took another sip. "So why do you want to leave. Really.""I've told you. Do you have any reason to believe I'm trying to deceive you?"A drunken reply came."You said you want to leave because you killed people. THEN you said you killded in self defenestration so you don't need to leave. So. Why do younwant to leave?""Would you believe I have a free spirit and desire for exploration?"I would," Brykon said. Nothing more was said for a while, leaving the conversation in an awkward position. Liacada stood stoically in the room halfway to the door and Brykon still milled in murky thought in his seat, staring at the wall beyond Liacada. And thus it lingered for what seemed a very long time.Finally, Brykon waved for Liacada to come near.She did so, treading however cautiously. Leaning in, she resisted to urge to sneeze-cough again.He reached up and grabbed her like an old grandfather seizes a favourite waif's cheek for a cute remark, though there was nothing adorable about the current situation. Brykon looked more like some down-on-his-luck drunk uncle than a tender granddad. Forcibly, he brought the pretty captive face close until her ear was by his lips. She tensed and put her hand on his for protection but she could not remove herself from his vicegrip. A sense of fear crept on her face as she became aware of this and she felt unsafe, too aware of what happens to cute girls when in the company of drunkards. But there was no advancing, no sensuality, no chemistry, if even artificial. Brykon simply whispered in her ear, feeble and inebriated if still frightening and intense. Liacada remembered the viciousness Brykon exhibited in the arena long ago. That same sense of power trickled through his lips, but they were not drunken and slurred words. For the first time, Brykon spoke with great clarity, albeit foul of air."Listen carefully. It will be hard to do it, but what I say must remain secret between us. Xa-Koro will drown itself tomorrow. I and my deputies will leave by ship. If you want to leave, you have to be present before we do or you will die. Tell anyone of this and you will die. Die and I will kill you again. Don't think you can escape me. I know where I can find you if I have to. Do you understand me, Liacada?"She suddenly realized how hard she was breathing, and made a valiant effort to slow her inhale-exhale cycle down to a minimum. After all, she was being offered safety from an oncoming storm. She was going to not only leave, but leave her past destroyed."I'll be there."She smiled again. Her eyes, for the first time in a very long time, widened. No longer bored. No longer idle. Liacada was going to live.Brykon released her cheeks and Liacada reflexively retreated. Brykon seemed to devolve back into his dumb drunk self. "Nice cheekbones," he said before turning his attention back at the last embers from Xa-Koro's final sunset.
Ic: Morning came. Brykon slouched in his chair, half-slumbering on the table in his stupor with a litter of toppled bottles and glasses lying around him. He remained motionless even as the bartender unlocked the door and came in and silently collected the mess. It was the clatter of glass on glass that made Brykon move and as he did it was slow and deliberate. His eyes were bloodshot and his brain on fire. He roared in rousing and pain.
"Pipe [...] down," the owner called out from behind the counter. The flare of a gas stove was sparked and a frying pan was produced. "Stay steady, I'll fix you something for the ache." The idea of propane and fire did little to comfort him, and it seemed as if once again Brykon was about to enter a depressed state again. He called out for another drink, even adding his authority to the order. "Nay," the T said with patience. "Ya won't get nonesuch thing from me. Stay there."
He rubbed his eyes, trying to squeeze the feelings and pain from his head as if he were juicing a lemon, but the bitterness remained. Brykon simply slumped back onto the table and looked out over the sea as the sound of the T cooking a bacon sandwich occupied his ears.
This was going to be a long day.
Aurelia oversaw the collection of her things. It was done as discreetly as possible; a skeleton crew of just three people busied themselves with packing her ornaments and belongings into boxes. She was not the sullen creature Brykon was or the wounded one Dorian was but rather simply dignified and normal, thinking simply about the plan that was being carried out and not the sheer destruction it would cause.
From a window in her tower she could see the sea, and in it, her ships. A thin and malicious smile of evil satisfaction spread on her face before vanishing as she turned away from the view. She walked from her towertop penthouse down into the main hall of her house and was greeted by the company of her selected leaders, engineers and minds she collected over the previous month of restructuring. Among them were a few matoran she chose to be officers in her army and a Skandi engineer named Wuelp.
"People, thank you all for coming," she said. She was adorned with two platinum necklaces and a few diamond-studded gold rings on her fingers, but the tropical heat was too much, even in the morning, to warrant her overcoat. "Today is the day we depart."
As if on cue, Sev strolled in like an vagrant con man and gave a tossing salute to Aurelia. "Beats are here," he said simply. Aurelia dismissed him with a gesture and the man left to rejoin Grokk outside.
"They should be docking right about now. I want you all to go to your stations and collect your belongings. There will be a few wagons going through the streets. You can place your boxes in their beds where they will be delivered to the boats. Don't worry about unpacking, we'll do that when we get to our next destination. But remember: This is supposed to be the first in a routine cleanup operation. No alarms must be set off. The people must think this is normal. Am I clear?" The people bobbed their heads. A few even confirmed their comprehension verbally. "Good. Now go."
IC: Dorian (Xa-Koro)
He comes, he comes
Judge so severe
Seven trumpets speak
Oh, they speak him near
He comes, he comes
Judge so severe
Seven trumpets speak
Oh, they speak him near
I traced my black eyes twice more in the mirror before standing up and walking to the door, finally satisfied with my appearance. The doctor was a miracle worker, but he was also realistic: it seemed to have occurred to him as it did to I that it was no more possible to resurrect my full beauty than it was to raise the crust of the earth and create a stairway to heaven. I was happy with what he had done, though. The bones of my cheeks and face no longer lay in any sort of position in which they could break off and lay waste to my brain. The puffy skin that had washed over my face was massaged gently back down into its proper face, giving my face real shape again. I was handsome, but no longer overly so, a more tempered, attractiveness on my face. With this I was content.
My final meal in Xa-Koro was plain, tomato, mozzarella, and basil in a blend of oil and spice with a simple loaf of bread. It was filling, but not overly extravagant, merely a quick meal, which was something that comforted me in an odd way. Instead of vodka, or bourbon, I took a simple iced water, sipping on the liquid and easing my refreshed throat, still cracking and bubbling with blood at intervals in which it was put through too much work. When I stood, I left the waiter a one hundred widget tip, telling him to go and spend it all in one place, to live the night like it was his last night on earth. He waved me out of the restaurant with a smile on his face and held up a closed sign to the door, moving to the casino for a final night of lust and leisure. With this I was content.
He comes, he comes
Judge so severe
Seven trumpets speak
Speak the sound of fear
He comes, he comes
Judge so severe
Seven trumpets speak
Speak the sound of fear
Would you destroy something beautiful just to make it perfect? What about vice versa?
Brykon had destroyed me so that I may be perfect; he would destroy Xa-Koro to give it the final, finishing touches of the beauty that oblivion truly was. I had let my mind go blank on the final day of BE - before enlightenment in the Dorian calender - as I crawled like a child, the broken victim of an ill-begotten Crusade, towards Destiny in the hands of Bad Company. Oblivion was a beautiful thing to live in, but by God, it would suck to die in it.
Oh mother you oughta be there
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die
Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan
Oh, father, you oughta be there
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die
Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan
He comes, he comes
Judge so severe
Seven trumpets speak
Oh, they speak him here
We'll praise the Lord
The docks were quiet, which was a small mercy: these people deserved more in their final moments than mere panic, like animals to be culled. They had developed, just as I had, but unlike them they had no golden ticket, no contract that bound them to the thread of life as I did. Most of Bad Company was present on the docks, what meager possessions they had still tucked away carefully; I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Grokk hanging onto the Bad Company minifridge, and Sev, arguing that he didn't want Grokk breaking into it and stealing everyone's liquor.
"Put a bra clasp on it," I muttered as I walked past. "That'll fool him."
If you murder the devil, who takes over his job?
Here he comes, here he comes
The judge so severe
You hear the seven trumpets?
Well, they speak him near
We'll praise the Lord
We'll praise the Lord
I stopped and sat on one of the posts of the dock, watching waves lap gently at the wooden supports of the rickety structures. Given another twenty years, they may have rotted; given forty, they may have been washed away entirely. The world would never know, would it? It would never know of the months of planning it had taken this sucker to reach conclusion, the truth of just how many lives had been snuffed out in the following moments, and how we would be the ones who sang the final death cry of Xa-Koro to the world at large.
Captain Shaddix, your chariot awaits.
Oh, mother, you oughta be there
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die
Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan
Oh, father, you oughta be there
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die
Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan
Little sister, you oughta be there
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die
Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan
The siren's song rang all at once: Bad Company lifted its collective head as the call was made to enter the boats, and I watched as one by one, Aurelia's chosen apostles made their way onto the ride for another chance at life. I smiled at Illicia and Jin, nodded at Marfoir and Sev, winked at my boy Grokk. Soon, all of the team had boarded.
All but Father.
My sweet brother
I'm gonna go to heaven when I die.
They say all roads lead there, which is most illogical, being on an island and all; In fact, Voriki guessed that there was a maximum of altogether zero in the Kumu-islets in all.
Even if taken poetically, a more apt phrase would be "all road lead away from Xa-Koro", not the inverse. No one in their right mind would choose to walk down a road into Xa-Koro, given the change, and assuming such a road existed.
Voriki hardly qualified as in his right mind, and even switching his choice of hiding place from Po- to Xa-Koro struck him, in retrospect, as not the best of plans. But them, it is the closest thing I've ever had to home, the madman thought, stepping off the ferry and onto the grimy docks.
Now, to find a place to wait out the storm, he thought. Both the Makuta-y one and the vengeful crime-syndicate one. Neither one seems particularly pleasant, thought at least the strongest point of the latter is nicely away from this dump.
IC. Docks.A different Liacada showed up at the docks that day. No longer one with the mere purpose of destroying her enemies one at a time. One with a desire rooted in survival. She had to get out. She wasn't like the rest of her block. She was destined for a far greater purpose. She deserved her place in time. A solidified spot in the universe. An unbreakable bond. Most of all, she wanted it more. She would claw her way out of a grave if she had to. This was her spot in the universe. To never give it up. To never let it die. That was her purpose.A purpose so different from others...She stood before the man who raised her. Who taught her the techniques of her element. How to fight efficiently for her body type. How to truly conquer her enemies before killing them. But more than that. He was the man who had loved her for who she was and who she could become. He was blind, and had been for years now, and as such had not seen her grow into what she was now.But he still saw into her soul."Liacada. You seem sad. What is it?" his voice was caring. It held depths she still hadn't unraveled. And now, never would. She bore no tears, for she could not handle any more expressions of emotion that night. Her mind focused on what Senegal had said. Tell no one. He should've known how cruel that was. She was leaving everything behind to literal oblivion."You need to go. Now. Find a boat, I don't know, but you have to leave.""Why, Liacada. You know I can't do that. I'm but an old blind man. Why is it I must leave?"Her gaze jumped. Could she tell him? Would Senegal let him come?"This place...these people...it will all die. You must not die with it.""I was raised here as you were, Liacada. If that is how the spirits wish it, I will die here as well.""So be it."It had been a beautiful death in fire. It had ended just before she came, lasting hours for the old Toa. He had gone into it bravely. Accepted it, as anyone as old and wise as he was would have. She didn't see the group yet, though she did see a group. Maybe this was it? She began heading towards them. She continued searching for Senegal. Even as she did, dissapointment began spreading through her. What if he had lied? What if he had already set sail? Dissapointment turned to panic as she realized he might already be gone.
IC: Rhow and Iraanus stepped through the busted door, only to be greeted with the sight of Taoki lying on the floor and groaning. Dust was falling onto him. The Skakdi glanced up and Rhow followed his line of sight, up to the obvious hole in the roof, through wich Sookus looked down on the scene. Rhow looked back down at the smaller Skakdi. "Everything in its right place?" she asked. Taoki nodded and waved her concerns away. "I'm fine.""Well, I did hope that if the roof was unstable, you being the smallest would have the least risk. Seems I was half right." Rhow grinned slightly, then held out a hand and helped Taoki up roughly. She looked back up to Sookus and gestured towards him to come down as well. As he made his way back downstairs, the other members of the horde entered through their assigned entrances. They joined the three Skakdi already in the central room and looked around, with a mix of disappointment and indifference. Viloz kicked against a chair. "Gotta say, you really know how to pick the exciting parties."Rhow looked at the others. "Find anything?" They collectively shook their heads. Kahlynn shrugged and holstered his crossbow. "Nothing on the way in. This place is dead." Rhow nodded and remained silent for a moment. She knew that could very well be the truth. After all, if the FoM had launched an all-out attack against the only force on the island with a large and mobile enough group to pose a threat or at least annoy them, concentrating all members in that assault was a real possibility. Still, she didn't feel safe in this place. And the smell didn't get any better either. No, something didn't feel right here. "I don't like it." she finally said. "Hate to use a cliché, but this place is too quiet. All the more reason to get rid of it." She put her claws on her hips and glanced around. "Alright then, let's torch this place." Her eyes fell on the chair Viloz had let out his frustration on a minute earlier. She took one step towards it, grabbed it by the back and pulled it to the center of the group. "Find anything useful to get this fire started." She lifted the chair up to about chest-high, then shattered it across her knee, dumping the remaining pieces in a pile on the floor. "Cupboards, scaffolding, chairs, tables, curtains. Anything goes. We'll need several piles, placed at structural weak points. I want this temple in a pile of ash. Get to it." And so they did. The Skakdi swarmed out into the adjacent rooms of the temple, bringing back with them anything that could be used to start and feed a fire. The scaffolding still in place proved to be the most valuable for that purpose, as it was made exclusively from wood, was rather dry and since the temple was only half finished, there was lots of it. Rhow herself climbed one of the wooden constructions and about halfway up, she started to tear struts and boards away from it, dropping them down to the floor. She had just finished taking the top off of the thing and climbed back down, when Taoki called out her name. "Found something!" he exclaimed. Kahlynn, carrying a massive cupboard into the room just then, looked at Rhow. She shrugged and after putting down the piece of furniture, they made their way over to where Taoki was. They went through another, smaller room and then what seemed to be a hall where Taoki had already been joined by Viloz and the two of them were moving more construction-material to the side. Behind it, there seemed to be an opening in the wall. Rhow and Kahlynn helped them out and after a minute, the opening before them was unobstructed. Taking a step forward, the four Skakdi saw a set of stairs leading down to another door, which appeared to be an entrance to a cellar or basement of sorts. Behind them, Iraanus appeared. "What have you got?""Hidden door." Rhow replied. Iraanus glanced over her shoulder, taking a look as well. "What's behind it?""We don't know yet." Viloz replied. Rhow said: "What he said. Listen, we'll split up. The four of us will check this out. The rest should get the pyres ready. I don't want to stick around for too long and have to explain the new look of the place to the Makuta's slaves. Iraanus nodded and walked back to the others. Viloz looked at the others. "Alright, who wants to go down the creepy tunnel to the unknown basement first?" After a second of silence he shrugged, and they descended the stairs together. At the bottom, they took a closer look at the door. It was locked as well, but a simple bolt-lock was no match for a well-placed blast of laser-vision by Viloz. The wood on the outside flared up, then burned away, until the bolt on the other side melted. Viloz stepped aside and Rhow pushed the smoldering door open. They covered their noses. Kahlynn coughed. "Darn. What died in here? They really don't air this place out enough.""Agreed." Rhow said and stepped into the corridor behind the door. She activated her heat-vision, but could see nothing. Together, they walked into the dark vestibule. Taoki pulled out a lightstone, which offered a little light and revealed the nature of the area they were in: The walls were lined with alcoves, stuffed with barrels of all sorts, bags and crates. This was indeed a cellar used for storage. But at the end of it, there were two opening beyond which only backness seemed to be: More stairs. Carefully the Skakdi descended further into the blackness, led by Taoki and his small lightsource, down a winding set of stairs, that led into a rather large hall. It was three stories high and had balconies and stairs running around on each floor. A bit dumbfounded, the four Skakdi stood on the walkway of the second floor. "Think Makuta is compensating for something?" Rhow asked, in lieu of anything better to comment. The place was deceiving. "Guess we will have to search this one too." Taoki said. Rhow nodded. "We'll need more light, though." she noted. Taoki held the lightstone up a little higher. "There's torches lining the walls. Viloz could go and light them."Viloz in turn nodded and went to work, while Rhow and the others started to explore. As it turned out, this had been, or rather, still was a sort of ready-room. There were more supplies here, but also armor and weapon-racks. All empty, with the owners out of town. "Imagine if they got this place fully operational." Kahlynn remarked. Rhow silently agreed. It would have been a heavily-fortified place and well-defended as well. "Just our luck that nobody is home.""Some call it luck, others call it timing." Viloz said, handing them each a lit torch. Equipped with more light, the small group descended down to ground-floor. The air seemed to grow heavier with each step. And when the reached the ground-floor, Rhow was beginning to feel like she was getting a headache. "Smells just like Makuta..." she muttered and coughed. There were more alcoves on the bottom floor, stuffed with storage, bust mostly uninteresting items, needed for hard times or when supplied ran short. Except for one more door, at the far side of the room. It was secured by a padlock, which Viloz treated the same way as the previous closed door. Rhow handed her torch to Tako as she pulled open the door, which was heavier than it looked. And inside, more barrels. Rhow wrinkled her nose as she entered. The smell got even worse. "Guess this is where they stench's coming from." she said, stepping inside the room. Barrels were stacked atop each other inside. But what Rhow found more interesting was the fact that this room was not walled in like the others. The walls were compressed earth and rock, a natural tunnel that led further inside. It seemed there were caverns underneath this part of the Island. But they weren't here for them. Instead of exploring further, Rhow went towards the nearest barrel and pried open the lid. A surprisingly sweet smell rose from within and when she peeked inside, she saw what seemed to be rotten fruit. The others took a step closer. Rhow reached into the barrel and pulled one of the fruits out. As soon as it came into the view of the others, Taoki rushed forward. "No don't touch them, they's Bulas!" he shouted and raced forward, both torches in hand. The smaller Skakdi ran for Rhow, to stop her from lifting the fruit further, but as he entered the smaller cavern behind the door, the torches in his hand suddenly flared up. A sudden flash of fire made him let go of the burning sticks, wich were engulfed by the flames a split-second later and then went out. Rhow slowly had dropped the fruit back into the barrel in surprise, but at least nothing explosive happened there. She looked at Taoki, who's face was blackened. "What was that!?" she asked, coughing again. The science-savvy Skakdi climbed back to his feet, coughing as well. "Gas." he said. Rhow's eyes widened. "The smell...?" she said, Taoki nodding in confirmation. Rhow waved off Viloz and Kahlynn who had stepped closer. She motioned for them to extinguish their torches, which they did quite quickly. They left the room again. "What do we do?" Rhow asked Taoki. The smaller Skakdi thought for a moment. "We have to get out of here. That's a natural tunnel, so this is naturally occuring gas. No idea where it comes from exactly, but the more time we spend down here, the less good for us." "Agreed." Rhow said. "Let's get back topside, light this place up and get the heck off this island." They all nodded at that. Quickly, they made their way back up to the first basement, and then back into the temple-building itself. The others had not been lazy in the meantime. Wood of all kind was piled up in corners and near load-bearing walls, even down in the hallway leading to the basement. Back in the main-hall, Iraanus was busy dousing the pires in oil from a few lamps he had found.He looked up when the scouting-party returned. "Found anything interesting?" he asked. Rhow coughed and nodded. "Yeah. Gas." Iraanus took a double-take at her. "Gas? Say again." "Gas." Rhow repeated. "In the cellars. Comes from caverns below the building. Who knows where those go. Are you ready?" Irannus nodded. "Just finished. We can light it, if you're quite ready." Rhow nodded and called the rest of the horde together. "What about the cellars?" Kahlynn asked. "We can burn this down, but what about down there?" For the first time since they had explored the subterranean levels of the building, Rhow grinned. "Gas. If we're lucky, this problem should take of itself." Iraanus had not only been busy making the pyres, they had also taking legs from chairs, wrapped strips from a curtain around them and doused those in the lamp-oil as well. Each got a makeshift torch, which Viloz lit. Luckily, the gas was heavier than air and there was very little of it in the air here. Viloz lit the torches up for the others, then the Skakdi spread out. Rhow stodd over the central pile of wood, which had grown to a respectable size since they had gone downstairs. She glanced at the others taking up their positions as well, then she lifted the torch up and tossed it into the wood. The flame caught on quickly, the oil fueling it further. Within a few seconds, the majority of the wood was burning. The others followed suit and did the same. Smoke started to form in the building. A giddy feeling ran down Rhow's spine. She knew it well. The rush of danger and excitment. Something big was about to happen now.She watched the fire grow for a few more seconds, until it got uncomfortable hot to stand this close to it. She took a step back and looked around. Flames were lapping at the walls everywhere. Soon, this place would be a blazing inferno. "Everybody out!" Rhow called, making a fist in the air, signaling the others to follow, before turning towards the front-door again. They hurried outside. And once the last of the horde had made it through the double-doors, Rhow slammed them shut forcefully, further damaging them. But that didn't matter. The Skakdi quickly got some distance between them and the temple, heading back towards the rest of Xa-Koro. Once Taoki suggested it was safe to stop running, the group slowed down and looked back. Thick black smoke rose behind them from the temple, clearly visible. The continued to walk down the dirt road, back to where Matoran were actually living in their houses. They saw a few of them, leaning out their windows, looking in the direction of the obvious fire as well. When the first merchant-stand re-appeared in the streets ahead, the group turned around and looked back as a whole. Where there had only been smoke a few minutes earlier, the fire was now clearly visible, orange glow against the black clouds rising from the temple. That was, until the building exploded, a ball of flame rising high, a thunderous bang ringing out across the village.Viloz looked at the sight with wide eyes. "Guess that was the gas..." he commented. Rhow grinned. the sight was everything she had wanted it to be. She wouldn't have minded being able to watch the whole thing crumble in on itself, but the Matoran in the street, now obviously aware of what was happeneing streamed out into the streets to see what the fuzz was about, somre annyoed, others just curious, but many scared as well.Rhow quietly started lead the group away. They needed to get on a boat and away from Xa-Koro soon, before the islanders started to look for people to put the blame on.They marched down to the harbour again and appraoched the ferry's pier, ready to make their way back to Mata-Nui itself.
Well, this is it.
I stood on the docks with the rest of Bad Company, looking around at the marina of Xa for what was gonna be the last time. Any second now, the signal would be given for us to board, and we'd slip quietly away before the city and the islets it sat on were plunged into the ocean.
How did I feel about it? To be honest, I was trying really hard not to feel anything. I'm usually pretty stoic, but this job was harder than most.
Pull yourself together.
I shook off what reluctance I could, stepping quickly from foot to foot. I usually don't feel nerves, and if I do I don't show 'em, but all I wanted to do right now was get off this bloody island. Just sail away and never come back, never have to think about what I'd done.
Before, I'd just been an accomplice. But last night... I'd become something more. Last night, I'd gone from accomplice to perpetrator. I wasn't just standing by watching genocide take place (which was already bad enough); I was actively helping advance a cause that I found disgusting, a cause that would destroy the lives of hundreds of people.
My feelings don't matter. Just do the job.
That was it: I'd already done the job. I'd done it under the cover of darkness, with no one but the stars watching me. The job was done; the murder was planned and prepared for, and I'd helped. Oh, I'd done my job alright. I'd done it like I do all my jobs: to the best of my ability. One has one's reputation and all that. One has one's pride.
For the sake of my pride, a thousand people were about to die.
* * * Several hours earlier, in the middle of the night * * *
The moon was new; only the stars lit up the quiet Xa-Koro harbour. The marina was still as a graveyard; only the faint lapping of the waves broke the silence; only the gentle bobbing of the various watercraft gave any indication that this was real life, and not a painted scene.
Xa-Koro was a city of criminals and ne'er-do-wells; consequentially, the city had no police force. Unlike the other Koros, it had never installed any sort of law enforcement. The only things akin to something sort of mildly resembling a police force were the various gangs and factions that extorted money for “protection” and then spent said money on violent and destructive turf wars.
Until Aurelia came.
A being more angel than mortal, the merchant queen had cradled the broken city in her arms and taught it to walk again. Under her loving care, Xa-Koro had been allowed to prosper. A large part of this was due to the efforts of Bad Company: they were the city's new police force; they were the law. They kept the peace, and scoured the sin from the streets.
Before Aurelia, it would have been up to each individual sailor and captain to watch over his ship. The vast numbers of violent and malicious individuals in Xa would have robbed or sank an unguarded vessel out of spite.
But now the criminals were gone, either killed, put in prison, or reformed in time to be saved from the first two fates. Even so, Senegal always placed a watch over the marina; there was to be no theft or vandalism while he was in charge of the Koro.
Tonight, on the eve of Xa-Koro's destruction, that watchman was a female Vortixx: Jin. With a stunning figure and the ability to knock out a fully-grown Skakdi in under thirty seconds, she was equally loved and feared throughout the city.
That love was undeserved, however, as would be proved tonight, under the cover of darkness.
The harbour was filled with boats of various shapes and sizes. Some small dinghies obviously belonged to poor fishermen; larger pleasure craft were owned by the few wealthy that had not yet been punished for money-laundering or similar crimes. The remaining multitude had sails and motors and oars; they were made of wood, metal, and any substance able to be used as a patch.
Tonight, for the first time in weeks, while Captain Senegal tried and failed to drink his cares away, these vessels would be vandalized, booby-trapped, and meddled with, and by the very woman charged with protecting them.
Tonight, under the dark of the moon, there would happen betrayal of the lowest kind: the kind that preys on those who already have so little, leaving them with nothing, and sailing away with everything.
It is as a great Teacher once said: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. “
The night was at its darkest, coldest point when the Vortixx made her move. While patrolling the docks, she slipped behind one of the larger pleasure craft; one of the fancier ones driven by a powerful motor. With neither splash nor ripple, she slipped into the water, and, diving down, located the propeller. Swiftly, she tied a small, round object to one of the fins, and then rose noiselessly to the surface.
This process was repeated many times, once for each of the craft driven by mechanical ingenuity. Upon the ignition of the engine, the propellers would begin to spin, and the fragile spheres attached would quickly explode.
For these spheres were Madu Cabolo, dear reader, some of which were acquired by the Vortixx quite some time ago.
Also tampered with were those boats propelled by the wind: those with sails. The knife the Vortixx wielded was razor sharp, and slid through the rough fabric with ease. Upon unrolling the sails, all mariners on the vessel would be shocked to see their means of propulsion hanging in tatters.
This task, too, was accomplished swiftly and quietly. Aurelia had lulled the city to sleep, and this treachery was neither seen nor heard.
The vessels of the poor were not spared. Those boats driven solely by strength of limb had their oars snapped almost in half with little but a muffled crunch to signal their breakage. They were still joined together, yes, but only by a few fragments of wood that would quickly give way upon use. Should a fisherman attempt to paddle out of the marina, his oar, after several strokes, would quickly snap and leave him drifting.
To finish the job, the Vortixx punctured a hole in every lifeboat that any larger ship might hold. Lifeboats and dinghies saved for an emergency were brutally penetrated by the deadly knife; no one would notice their damage until there was actually an emergency, and by then it would be too late.
Before sunrise, every boat had been victimized by the Votixx's betrayal. She resumed her patrol, slightly wet, but otherwise giving nothing away as to the nature of her nighttime activities. Her treachery had not been seen; no one knew of her betrayal. The city, so long a cesspit of violence, had, at last, known peace for one night. The merchant queen's lullaby had held true.
* * *
The call sounded to board the ships. I pulled myself out of my thoughts long enough to smile coyly at Dor as I walked up the gangplank; he was still handsome, if in a more weather-beaten way. But even Dorian Shaddix couldn't keep my thoughts away from what I'd done.
Today, when the Isles went down, there would be no escape from Xa-Koro. I'd done a good job, all right. Most definitely the best mercenary you could hire.
But as I looked out over the bustling city, unaware of its impending doom, somehow I found myself wishing I was anything else than the best traitor around.
Today, I wasn't the greatest mercenary ever. Today, I was the best murderer in the world.
IC: Taoki - Xa-KoroTaoki and the Horde came to the docks, prepared to rent a boat, hitch a ride, or take a ferry.What they did not expect, would be a lack of boats that could float. He scanned the area with his fellow Skakdi, his face still covered in soot. He coughed into his scarf, and looked down to see the ashes on the white garment. Well, it used to be white. Taoki realized he hadn't wiped his face yet. After doing so, he watched as merchants laughed at each other when a boat would sink. Until they too realized theirs was damaged in some way that made them useless.He looked at the spectacle with amusement. Until, like some merchants, he realized something else.Taoki, Skakdi of sands looked to his fellow Horde members, "This is probably the best situation we could find ourselves in at this moment; this moment being having just destroyed a Makuta worshipers head-quarters and soon after being trapped on an islet known for it's hospitality."He looked to Rhow, "Got a plan?"
IC- Laki - Xa-Koro
Dead Island. That was what Wuelp thought of Xa-Koro, and the Islets, as. Or rather, what it would become. Staring out a window to look at the cloudy but sunny skies, Wuelp felt a confused state of emotion as he realized he had no idea why about anything.
IC: Dorian (Docks, Xa-Koro)
There he was, at last. The last man hobbling.
Brykon moved to the docks like a drunken groom, trying to escape the cold grip of commitment: his walk sang of insomnia, his stench sang of gin, and those eyes, oh, God, those eyes, how they sang of despair. In that moment, everything I'd wanted to ask Brykon over the last year made itself plain, welled up to the surface like a buoy, unable to stay submerged for a second longer.
Nothing drowns forever. Eventually, everything in the water will float up to the surface. Well, except maybe the Islets.
What happened to you, Brykon? What led you to this, this alternate persona? When did your poetry become not of words and motion, but of violence and death? When did your stanzas give way to blood, where every drop shed was another moment of beauty? When did the alcohol start taking over your nights, leaving you unable to function until morning? When was the last time you were even with a woman? What pisses a man off enough to shed everything he was to become something radically different--
Oh. Wait a second. Uh...
Brykon trudged inconsistently, and I began to wonder again what could lead a man like Senegal into becoming this, shedding his visage, shedding his name, shedding his dignity to work with a woman like Aurelia. When had he given way? Had he been bent, at first, through experiences under the employment of the Peers, as I had, or was he seized, like a jewelry box in the dead of night, and forced to empty himself of all valuables before he was accepted? When had Senegal died, I wondered, and when was Brykon pumped into his place?
I loved Brykon, but I missed the Bard. I missed the way he would pump poetry endlessly into me like a drug, the way his life lessons would whittle their way through my brain and my defenses to come back, years later, as nuggets of wisdom to help me out in tight spots. Those moments with Brykon, the moments where he once again became what he once was, were fleeting, and rapidly disappearing.
God, we were too alike. And yet, at the same time, we could never have been more different.
I stood and moved across the dock, taking Brykon's arms and putting mine under them, helping him trudge to the boat. The colonel turned to look at me uneasily, blue eyes shrouded with the grey haze of a hangover, and when he spoke, it was in a whisper.
"I dunneed...help, Dorian..."
"Easy, tiger," I chided him gently. "I'm not gonna take the chance that you fall off the docks and we have to fish you out of the water. You know Grokk isn't picky about where he sticks his hooks."
As we stepped onto the docks again, made our way to the boats, my steps helping to carry Brykon - which was no small feat; the man was a tank - it occurred to me that the sight Xa-Koro would see on its last day was the new blood, helping the old survive and flourish, because the old wasn't entirely able to do so itself anymore.
I guess that's fitting, in a way.
Marfoir looked out on the city, his rifle in its case, hanging from a strap on his back, his special listening device stowed away in his satchel, because he currently didn't need either of them. Aside from those few being brought to the ships, Xa-Koro was proceeding about the day normally, people working, thieving, and murdering, just like they always did in this poor excuse for a Koro.
Unlike some others, Marfoir almost felt nothing for what was about to happen. His employers had gotten him in on this, and he was doing the job he'd been told to do. The most he really felt was pity, for the inhabitants. Pity that they had no idea what had happened, why their friends were leaving, and things of that nature. Something else, too. The barest hint of anger. Anger that for the Peers' plan to continue, they had to literally blow an entire Koro, and the islets surrounding it, apart.
However, he quickly cut those thoughts short, taking hold of any emotions of his again, maintaining his blank expression. Thirty degrees to his left, he noticed that Dorian was walking up, half dragging Brykon, and he frowned. On Xia, if one were found drunk like that, they would likely be punished. If they were old, the younger wouldn't help them get along-they'd just supplant them, assuming the old could no longer do their job.
Yet here, on this island, with these Toa, even these mercenaries would help each other to continue along. Dorian, who about three weeks ago he couldn't see doing this, even in his head, was now carrying Brykon along, trying to help him get to the ship. Heartwarming, in a way. Maybe the Vortixx could do to learn from these Toa. Marfoir shrugged, stepping out to help Dorian carry Brykon, if he would welcome the help.
IC. Docks.Liacada had all but given up on Senegal and his escape ship when she spotted him. He and another Toa were boarding a boat with the group she'd seen earlier. As she walked towards them, a bit of her faith in Senegal was renewed, fighting through the distrust and slight disgust towards him she'd accumulated the night before.She awkwardly walked up to the group, who were mostly on the boat. She couldn't expect to have a warm welcome, especially considering what was going to happen soon. That kind of bothered her, despite making it a point to burn her past.She looked over the group with a half-hearted smile, noticing most of them to look tougher than she expected. No, check that- she had expected Senegal's companions to have a roughness to them. She scanned them before stopping on a Toa of iron, who had helped the old arena fighter from falling. Just the sight of him nearly made her smile more honest. However, the more she looked at him, the more she mentally shrugged. He wasn't stunning or eye-catching. More of a plain attractiveness.Her eyes stopped again on who she would later learn was Jin. Dressed in little armor, most of it towards her limbs, she didn't look like a tough opponent to face off against. However, Liacada of all people knew how decieving these things were. She didn't look overly threatening, but when she turned, the Toa of fire could see dangerous-looking mechanisms on the palms of her hands, just for a second. She made a mental note to get to know that Vortixx.To break the awkward lack of conversation occurring, she called out to Brykon."Is this it?"
Ooc: Disregard the exhibition of Brykon by Tyler; he'll edit eventually.
Ic: It was almost mid-afternoon until Brykon finally came towards the dock. The other members of the Company lingered about, awaiting further orders. A couple took the initiative to get on the boats already but as a whole they appeared to be security, the only way they could be there without arousing suspicion. Brykon waved them over.
He was quite fit for having seemingly drunk himself to death the night before. He smelled fresh after a shower and rejuvenated from several hangover cure sandwiches, but there was still a little awkwardness in his gait and his line was barely wobbly. Still, his speech seemed fine. As far as anyone could tell he just had a couple beers in the morning. In complete truth, the night before had been spent drowning his sorrows with gin on the rocks, but even in his slobbish demeanor that night he was on the job, watching as Jin sabotaged all the boats and ships at harbor that night. The fact that Jin's success was seen by his eyes gave him an assurance, but the grim assurance gave him little more than a visible thin smile as he gulped down the fact that he truly was condemning everyone to death.
Around him, lines of matoran were being boarded to the ships. There were three ships, each carrying fifty matoran with an extra staff of specialists. Boxes of stuff were loaded, too, in the wagons that wee carted by ussals to the decks. It was a nice sight, and for the onlookers of the parade it seemed like a blessing; people from Xa-Koro would have a magnate's blessing to return to the mainland for a new life. Only those allowed to know understood that it was an army for war, not culture.
"Listen up," Brykon said to the gathered Company members. "Marfoir, I need your rifle."
"Don't worry about it," he said back. His impatience was palpable. The rifle was tossed at him and he caught it, though it almost fell from his grip in his slight clumsiness. "I'm not going to be going with you lot right now. I'll be meeting you at your destination. Dorian, keep getting rest. Jin, You're in charge while I'm gone, so the rest of you listen to her. I have something to take care of. And one more thing. Don't get on boat three or you will die. Am I clear?" They nodded. "Now go. The boats leave within the hour."
He turned about on his heel and left as unexpectedly as he came. He disappeared from view from the gang but there, in a nook in the wall between two buildings, was the familiar form of Liacada, just as he had ordered her. "Liacada, you're coming with me," he said and slung the rifle over his shoulder.
OOC: Disregard my last post as well, I guess.IC. Talking.She had been waiting there for about ten minutes by the time he'd gotten there. She'd been a bit angsty upon not seeing him, though she showed no sign of relief when Senegal got there. After all, it was the prospect of leaving that enchanted her- the man himself had made a relatively bad impression the night before. Still, she welcomed him with a wave and a nod, the smile from before having disappeared. It wasn't as though that detail would be outstanding- why would it?"Liacada, you're coming with me." He said, placing an odd-looking weapon over his shoulder."I certainly hope so."
No boats. No way off. Except-
"Oh, no. Tell me we aren't going to have to hit the drink."
IC: Taoki - Kumu-Islet Docks"We can't swim that far."He looked around, "Maybe we can repair a boat real fast," his fingers twitched, suddenly eager to work on something other than knives, "But we should hurry."
Iraanus looked a bit baffled. "You mean all the boats are damaged?" Rhow shrugged and nodded. "Vandalism or something larger." she commented. Then she rememered the gas underneath the temple. "Definitely something larger."
The other Skakdi of water looked over to where three larger ships were being loaded. "The don't seem to be in any trouble or hurry. Think that's suspiscious?" he asked. Rhow just nodded. "Certainly."
Kahlynn seemed to be quite distraught. But Rhow just chuckled and opened her hand, a ball of water forming. "Let's just pick one without holes in it, the rest we'll do with our own power." she said. The Skakdi quickly looked around, until they found a ferry-sized vessel. Being a Skakdi of water, Rhow did the honours of examining it for damage, even taking a dive into the water of the marina. When she resurfaced, she reported that no holes were in the hull. She pulled herself back onto the pier and pointed at the wooden plank serving as gangway. "All aboard."
Kahlynn couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief when Rhow explained her solution. Swimming was definitely not his strong suit. He was one of the first of the group to scramble onto the ferry.
IC: Janas (in a nondescript prison cell)
Janas woke up sprawed on the cold ground of a prison cell; a single torch, mounted to the far wall, illuminated both the cell and the hallway. "I didn't plan to walk this far,", he muttered to himself, slowly sitting up. As he looked around, not feeling particularly optimistic about his current situation, a glint of silver caught his eye- his broadsword and money were lying just outside of the cell door. Janas also noticed the Skakdi that he presumed to be the warden walked rather close to his cell door. At arm's reach, in fact. So as the warden takes another near pass to his cell, Janas reached between the bars, grabbed the warden's head, and slammed it against the cell bars. The warden dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes, unconcious. Janas reached through the bars, sliding the keys off of the Skakdi's belt one by one. After trying several keys in the rusted lock, he heard a faint click of the bolt sliding back. The door slowly swung open, squealing on hinges that had never been oiled. Grabbing his money and blades, he slowly realised that he was no longer in Ko-Koro (mostly because of the lack of the flesh-chilling, ever-present cold). He was in a place that he had heard about, but had never hoped to find himself in: a Xa-Konoran stronghold.
IC: Dorian (Docks, Xa-Koro)
Jin? Why was Jin in charge? Okay, so yeah, I was banged up. Doesn't mean I still can't take charge--
Whatever, screw it. I watched Brykon walk away, Marfoir's sniper rifle in hand, and shrugged, letting the fact that my colonel and boss had just snubbed me for the new girl - don't get me wrong, I adored Jin, but I was lieutenant for a reason - slide by as he disappeared into the crowd of the doomed.
Rhow waited until all the members of the horde were on board. Once again, Matoran stopped and stared at the uncommon sight of over half a dozen Skakdi at once on one boat. A boat with a damaged motor, no sails and snapper oars. But Skakdi had the advantage that, while unable to use elements like Toa alone, they could do so quite well when in close proximity. And being Skakdi of water, Iraanus and Rhow took their places at the stern of the small ship and used their element to start moving the vessel. Taoki was last to hop on board, removing the lines and pushing the boat away from the pier.
With their joined control over water, Iraanus and Rhow brought the boat onto a course, heading slowly back in the direction of Mata-Nui, all in view of the Matoran at the Xa-Koro marina and the crews of the larger vessel being prepared for who knew what.
"Jin, You're in charge while I'm gone."
Okay, this surprised me. Why would Brykon put me, the new girl, in charge? Sure, there was one pretty little face newer than mine, but I was still one of the outsiders. The rest of Bad Company had been through karz and catastrophe together, while I'd sorta ridden in on Dor's coattails.
Was it the marina job? Of course Bry or one of his men had been watching me; there was no way he would have let that crucial piece of the plan go unsupervised. Had it given him enough confidence in me to appoint me temporary lieutenant?
Whatever it was, it was a mistake. Because he didn't know the half of my feelings towards him and Aurelia and Xa right now, and I wasn't sure if I was in a good mental state to take command right now; I wasn't sure if I could handle ordering us away from genocide; I wasn't even sure if I was still on his side.
That's enough. Do. The. Job.
That's right. It wasn't my problem anymore. I'd done the job, and could forget about it. Now on to the next job, and the payment that would follow. I'd never bothered about my past jobs, and I wasn't about to start now.
I took a deep breath, and turned from the railing to face the rest of the Company as they boarded the boat, a neutral expression on my face.
"Guess it's time for us to blow this joint. Captain!"
This last word was directed at a Ga-Matoran at the helm of the boat, who turned to me and half-saluted. Within moments, the engines had been started (nothing blew up; I'd been careful to avoid Aurelia's ships lat night) and our boat was slowly moving away from the dock.
Throughout the harbour, all of Aurelia's ships began to start up, the whine of their engines filling the air like a thousand Rama. Burdened beneath the merchant queen's treasures and personnel, they pulled out of the marina one by one, spilling trails of smoke into the clear blue sky. Those few sailors who had found their vessels vandalized looked forlornly at the emigrating ships, but their sad faces had more to do with envy than with any desire to escape. None of them knew, not one, that once these boats left, their only chance at life would be gone, leaving them behind to die.
And so we left Xa, our ship slipping through the waves with all the elegance money could buy. I stood at the prow of the ship as we set sail for Mata Nui, my back to Xa-Koro. I fixed my eyes on the horizon, and refused to glance even one last time at the city I was leaving to drown.
IC- Laki - Peer's ships
Laki was in awe of this surreal life he was in. A dream? Or a nightmare?
The ships pulled away from Xa-Koro, while the small army carried by them growled, swung swords, and bristled with excitement. Every one of them sensed they were on the move, something was happening, change was in the air. Although the brutes around Laki had no idea what was to become of their former home, they were pumped. Something new was going on! No more sitting around! The men had only been given the most rudimentary training techniques, but even the most brain-dead knew they had been given techniques to fight. Whatever they were doing, it didn't involve 'culture'- or whatever the Karz these boat were supposed to be for.
Laki was unique, and some soldiers sensed that. He wasn't strong, or mean, or cruel. He had simple features and green and brown armor. He had a kind face, and he had little of the scars and wounds that those native to Xa-Koro sported. He was clean, standing straight, and looking out blankly across the wind-tossed waves. He seemed to radiate an aura of good, pure innocence, the polar opposite of the thugs around him. He belonged in a Le-Koro concerts singing along about faith, destiny, and goodness, not stuck on this vile boat.
He didn't sigh, didn't cry, barely registered regret. This wasn't real- there was no way he was part of a hidden army when a mere week ago he had been a carpenter in Le-Koro. Things didn't happen like this- how could someone summon this power? How could life progress so rapidly? There was no way Mata-Nui would let an event like this occur so quickly, so suddenly. No way Laki could have been ripped from his upstanding life into this strange new world. It was only a dream, a nightmare. If he waited, he would wake up.
IC. Brykon and Liacada.Brykon held the rifle loosely over his left shoulder as he walked like a hunter hiking to his preordained sniping spot to nab his prey. For someone who was obviously still a little drunk he walked with purpose and confidence, though his empty hand trembled a little as he strode, the sign of maybe way too much amphetamines to kick the morning off. Or possibly continue the night. For the colonel the truth was that anytime was night; he lived and breathed in it. The place of the sun didn't matter because darkness was always about him, but he still carried on. There was no turning back, no waiting it out, he had to keep moving even if it meant he was perpetually enveloped in something he despised. He turned to Liacada, who quietly walked beside him with the rugged grace of a slumraised panther. She was fit and pretty to look at, but beyond that she had traits of a well-developed survivalist and emboldened searcher. Those observations pleased him. "We're going to kill someone," he said to her and left it at that to see what her reaction would be.She nodded. This didn't surprise her in the least- though she had hoped they could just get out. She made it a point not to let him notice this, and it helped that she knew he wouldn't leave her now that she knew what he planned. Then again, did it really make a difference? That reminded her..."Will this someone not die as it is?""No, he won't," Brykon said as he shoved himself through a bottleneck in the street. "He thinks himself immune to death, which as it is he is. I have to change that and you're helping. Think of this as your payment for the ticket off this swamp.""That sounds fair."She tilted her head."Figuratively immune to death, or literally?""Which do you think?" Brykon asked, testing her."I believe there are beings in which immortality is a reality..." She blinked, glancing from her feet up to Brykon."But if this was true for this being, I don't believe you would be trying."Brykon nodded. "Your assumption is right. This man is a man, nothing more, but assumes to be a god among men." Their stroll had taken them out of the throng of the Xa-Koronan traffic and into the more sparsely-populated suburbs. The road went from cobblestone to mud as they traveled. "We're going for the lighthouse on the tip of the spit. Have you been there before?""A few times when I was younger. The original worker is long dead. He offended a gangster. It didn't end well for him." She left her expression blank, but looked to the ground, as if remembering the death of a friend vividly."What is this man's name?""It doesn't matter who he is," Brykon said with sternness. "It just matters that he needs to perish. I have to say I haven't known his name in the months I've known him, and I've never cared enough to ask for it. Maybe it's best this way."She nodded, deciding it better not to reply. After all, it was doubtful that she would know of this man either way.They walked in silence down the path. Brykon led the way down a side trail that went towards the beach and connected to the spit. The lighthouse, tall, vacant and naked of beauty stood like a giant's finger pointed at the sky, its grey masonry devoid of vibrancy of any sort. It lay on the tip of the spit that stretched to the right, though between the peninsula's origin and them was a beach and the cove that the spit protected. It would be a walk until they got to the house itself. And the sand was not the only thing to impede their progress.Suddenly, Brykon shifted as the rifle whipped from shoulder to hand and shoulder and he fired. The loud report vanished over the waves and a matoran guard fell from the treeline clutching a weapon. There were guards all over the area, bound to protect their leader."Shall I?" She whispered, nodding to the guards. The implication was obvious: she was requesting to kill her share of the guards.Brykon swerved the muzzle back and forth, looking for more to come out and fight, but they did not. Either they were smart enough to ambush them or they did not hear the shot. He nodded, indicating his consent. "Flush them out if you can, too."Liacada didn't answer, but went to work. She closed her eyes, searching for heat...And found it. One guard spontaneously combusted, his chest burning from seemingly nowhere. As he crumpled, a burning heap of flesh and metal, the next found that his very lungs were on fire. A few more burnings happened when the guards realized the only thing to do for survival was to run. And what did running do?Bang! Another one bit the dust. The battle was nearly effortless for Brykon. Had he operated alone or had be been someone else the matoran retainers would have been more of a threat, but as it was he was the one in complete control of the battleground. Each report of the rifle was just one step closer to the lighthouse. Bang! It was almost degrading for the colonel.They had gone through the beach, the bodies of matoran in various mangled positions and varying states of crispiness littered their wake. The guards on the spit itself were dispatched with the rifle and fell dead with headshots or shattered heartlights. In the end, twelve guards were killed, the entire cohort of Peer-employed guards in Xa-Koro, excluding Aurelia's private entourage of gaudily-clad dandy lancers. The two killers stood at the foot of the lighthouse. Brykon looked around and saw the steam-powered ship moored a few hundred feet from shore with nothing but a launch as the link between shore to the boat. It would be their salvation off the rock. Brykon handed the rifle to Liacada and said, "At the top of this tower is my target. You can enter but do not climb the spire. Stay at the ground level and make sure nobody else follows." He turned to to up the winding steps but spun to say another thing just as his first step hit the metal stairs. "The islands will likely be destroyed soon but trust me when I say this place will stand even when everything else falls away." He climbed."Of course." She smiled as best as she could given the overall circumstances.Brykon had no doubt Liacada would disobey and climb up anyway, even if just for a better view of the destruction, but his words were more to instill curiosity in her mind than to be followed. Whatever happened, though, would happen and he didn't care one bit whatever it was that happened.----------Five minutes later, Liacada found herself climbing up the spire. She had absentmindedly left the air towards the entrance entirely flammable. On top of that, it was rather dark. One lit match, one carried torch, and whoever was attempting to enter was fried. She'd learned that one early on.She finally settled in a crevice in the stone, watching and waiting for Brykon to carry out the murder.
OOC: Bartan from Kini.
The Le-Wahi ferry bumped against the dock, and Bartan was off, limping down the pier in the direction of the nearest bar. He had enough widgets for half a dozen drinks, and hopefully he'd have picked a decent fight before he spent them all.
Ic: Brykon stepped up the winding stairs with calm calculation, one hand on the wall in part to prevent a drunken stagger and a long fall down the narrow and sharp steps. Finally, the sunlight from the entrance to the top level poured in and Brykon squinted as he languished to the open air climax of the lighthouse. The doctor was there, looking out over the railing at the city of Xa-Koro, a distant low and jagged horizon of buildings and scaffolding. "You've come to see the destruction with me?" he asked without turning to Brykon. His duffel of medicine was by his side. He hadn't boarded his boat since examining Dorian.
"Something like that," Brykon said.
"Well then," was all the doctor said. He did not seem to have realized his retainers were dead, so attentive to watching the city itself. The only time he looked elsewhere was at his watch, counting down the minutes. "Two minutes," he said.
****Underground, a single matoran was charged with doing a very simple task: To light a lantern to replace a missing lightstone. Little did this man know what he was truly accomplishing.
His name was Bill, a rather nice guy who ended up in the slums of Xa-Koro because of something that would later be called Tourett's syndrome: He would often scream out names like "Raindbow Dash!" or "Twilight Sparkle!" for no reason, though in truth it was a nervous tick. That abnormality had him shunned all the way from Onu-Koro to Xa-Koro. He had a family in the city of shades, a partner he loved and an assortment of pets he kept in his shanty. All of that would be dead soon after he, though. He whistled a lot but decided to just hum that time, making sound to the tune of Rains of Castamere.
As he struck the match to light the lantern and the flame flickered to the air all around him, he doomed Xa-Koro with the ominous tune of doom.
Yes, now the rains weep o'er his halls
And not a soul to hear...
"Right about now," the doctor said. Suddenly, he lurched forward on the railing as Brykon put his fist around his neck.
"You took pride on this, didn't you?" Brykon sneered.
"Yes," the doctor said in clenched teeth. "Of course I did. I'm destroying an entire civilization, one of many. A masterpiece."
"You won't live to see it complete."
"This is treason, Brykon!" the Peer almost whispered, running out of air.
"No. I'm following orders. You were a tool all along, but you shouldn't even be able to see the house you're wrecking."
"Aurelia?" he said with dawn, realizing the treachery was not the assassin's but his associate's. Brykon placed his hand at the man's back and pushed, forcing his fingers through the man's spine and ribs and armor with surprising ease. The Peer's face was ashen from shock and loss of blood as it poured out of the huge hole in his body and gugled from his mouth, washing from under his mask and meeting the hole. "Curse that hel... ion..."
Brykon withdrew his hand from the hole and let the corpse fell off the railing, splattering on the ground far below.
Flames flared through the network of caves under the city and connected, unseen, to the other Kumu Islets. Wherever it went, the ground seemingly inflated. Xa-Koro buckled over the rapid expansion of the earth but the destruction was minimal. Nothing really happened; foundations and floors rose and fell a few feet, roads fluctuated a little, a few decorations and bookcases fell down, but in the end people were just confused at the phenomenon. It was as if the ground simply sighed in relief.
Poor Bill and the workers under the earth, however, were destroyed, mere husks of violently charred and cooked men and women left to join the ashes of the previous cities they worked in. The walls of the caves collapsed, unable to sustain the rapid gaseous eruption, and buckled under the weight of the city and earth above. The true apocalypse was yet to come.
Brykon looked out at the city. Nothing had changed. No rumble of destruction, no sudden change in tectonics, nothing. And then, suddenly, the floor of Xa-Koro and the entire island chain gave way. He hoped with utmost sincerity that the doctor's speculation that the stone the lighthouse stood on would not be destroyed.
The city of Xa-Koro slowly settled into the earth at first, then rapidly. The sound of buildings collapsing and foundations crumbling filled his ears and a failing horizon disappeared from view into a giant sinkhole that expanded outwards, radiating like a tsunami to all the earth around it. The city of Xa-Koro was swallowed by the very swamp it sat upon, and the jungle that was heralded as deadly and unwelcoming too fell into the pit that hungrily sucked down everything that breathed on it. The depth of the that sucked the islets down was so deep, Brykon, even on his perch, could not see it. Only the falling of all life and construction that looked like sand falling into a canyon could make him imagine what utter absolution was occurring.
On that day, the sins of all beings in Xa-Koro, real or imagined, were wiped away like a stain on the floor, and the creation Aurelia and her peers engineered was dissolved, completing the cycle they so cunningly created.
But what happened next was even worse. The hole in the world ground up everything that fell in, but the massive abscesses abandoned their hunger for an insatiable thirst. The sea that previously surrounded the islets were suddenly sucked in, too, filling the huge pits with their fluid and crushing whatever still stirred deep in the darkness beyond Brykon's sight. Millions of gallons gushed in.
On the water were a few boats that had somehow escaped Jin's sabotage, but they suddenly found themselves sucked in, too, as the water ripped backwards and collected into the pits. The boats, pitiful as they were, found themselves floundering and ripped apart like a napkin in a child's careless claws, unlovingly dispersed by the roaring sea. Only the ships by Aurelia were far enough to avoid the trap and the doctor's boat, still moored, was tugged but not taken, the rock the lighthouse stood on protecting it from the wrath of the hole's thirst.
Brykon himself was confounded by the sheer destructive power the Peers were able to manifest. Although he played a role in it all and understood the plan well, he still was stunned at what he had seen taken place. His mouth was open in an aghast face as he stood, rigid, on the railing. The blood of his murdered master dropped down his arm and through his fingers, leaving a puddle of red at his feet.
And so he stood for many moments until the sea was calm once again and nothing... literally nothing... of the former Kumu Islets remained save for the single lighthouse of basalt, the last reminder of cities past. He slowly, in shocked silence, turned and walked down the steps.
"Liacada, let's go," he said.
Nuju will make one final post as Grokk and close the topic. I ask that NOBODY ELSE POST.
Kumu Islets and Xa-Koro destroyed. Brykon and Liacada to Le-Wahi's seas on the MNS Intrepid Tapir.