OOC: Soundtrack Suggestion
Zataka barely noticed that the sword had made contact as Kalmah slammed into her. The impact drove the air from her lungs and they fell backwards together - towards the portal she had no idea was there. Everything happened at once, yet time seemed to slow for her, as she distinctly experienced a momentary feeling of weightlessness - then vertigo kicked in, her vision spun and there was an odd tingling on her skin. She didn’t understand, but tried to; her mind desperately racing to regain situational awareness. But any thoughts towards solving the mystery were violently cut short by a sudden, intense flash of light. The two warlords hit ground again in a tangle, tumbling end over end.
The titan came to rest on her stomach. She ached all over, and by the intense pain she felt on her left side she was sure she’d gotten several contusions at least, but there was no time to assess the potential damage: She didn’t know where her opponent was, she’d lost hold of her blade when she had hit the ground and she needed to get a grip before Kalmah could land a fatal blow while she didn’t have her bearings. Her head snapped up immediately to scan for the other warlord and her missing weapon, palms pushing into soft dirt as she scrambled to get back to her feet. Some part of her noted how odd it was to suddenly drag her fingers through dirt, but her surroundings didn’t fully register yet.
The titan got to about standing halfway upright before the dull throbbing at her side became a sharp stabbing and she winced, hand instinctively reaching to check. Her armor was intact, but the slightest touch caused her jaw to clench in pain. Remaining hunched over as to not further agitate the injury, she looked around herself to see where her blade had fallen. And that’s when she noticed she was no longer in the Coliseum Yards - or anywhere that looked like Metru-Nui. The ground, the landscape, the sky...it was all wrong. Reddish dirt and rocks with grey scrubs growing sparsely in-between surrounded them up to a cliff edge just a few meters behind them. They had emerged on some sort of plateau, overlooking a wasteland of sand and rock as far as the eye could see under an encroaching sunset. One. Singular. The chain of events finally clicked into place: Kalmah had wanted to cut the fight short - banish her to this place by using the mask of the fallen Brutaka. Was this even their world anymore? From what she knew of the Olmak, they could be any place, at any time - even an alternate reality. Part of her screamed for her to focus, to stop trying to figure out things while she was technically still in the middle of a fight, but she couldn’t help it. It was as if she’d suddenly stepped into a lucid dream.
She slowly stood up to her full height again, as fast as the pain allowed and craned her neck, trying to find the only point of reference she could think of as constant. She took a few slow steps backwards while trying to spot the red star overhead. But she had barely looked up when her foot brushed against something metallic, pulling her out of her trance. Glancing down, she spotted the hilt of her sword and, turning to pick it up, she noticed the dark stain covering the weapon.
A rasping gurgle came from close by and her eyes locked onto a dark heap, silhouetted against the sunset on the ground just a few feet away. With her blade in her left and right arm covering her injury, she carefully approached.
Kalmah had lost most of his intimidating aura as he lay curled up on his side. His wound had not been immediately obvious against the sun, but as she got closer, Zataka saw that her sword must have pierced the Barraki’s torso just below his left pectoral and his own momentum had then caused it slice violently upward, severing the limb along with the majority of the shoulder girdle. And since it was nowhere to be seen it must have happened just as they'd fallen through the portal. Kalmah’s remaining arm clutched at the gushing wound her blade had inflicted. Dark ichor covered his torso and a puddle was starting to form around him. All his flagellation and trained pain resistance mattered little as his body went into shock from the blood loss. He wasn’t long for the world.
Better put him out of all our misery.
But as she stood over him, grip tightening on her sword’s handle, she found his eyes were still open, looking at her. She hesitated.
“How far?” she demanded. “How far did you take us?”
The Barraki made another rasping noise that could only be laughter.
“Far...enough.” he gasped as a trickle began to flow from the corner of his mouth. He flexed his broken body, rolling onto his back and slowly lifting his arm.
“You may...have beaten me - but there...is no victory...for you...h-here.”
Her head tilted up once more, eyes following the invisible line indicated by Kalmah’s gaze and his raised hand. Higher and higher it went, orange sunlight giving way to azure and then dark blue, where the first stars managed to shine in the evening sky. And there, among them, impossibly distant yet starkly lit along its edge by the single sun - a body. With naked eyes, it looked like that of a Toa, but Zataka realized how massive it had to be to be able to spot it like this. And as she squinted, she noticed that it was drifting apart - the head had clearly separated and was drifting away.
At the titan’s feet, Kalmah watched, content and with contempt for her, as she started to realize the situation. But there was one thing he still had to do. With effort, he used his hand to remove the Kanohi Olmak, placing it in the dirt to his side. He had hoped to do this cleanly. Banish Zataka, kill the Toa that thought they could stand against him and march into the coliseum. But he had been too eager. He could admit his own failure here to himself here, away from everything and on the cusp of death. Final death. There was no red horizon to resurrect his remains. And nobody else was ever going to hear his private confession or bear witness to his end. And that suited him just fine.
Zataka heard the Barraki groan again and that finally let her take her eyes off of the horrible realization overhead and focus back on her opponent - who was looking at her again, but this time she saw his actual face behind the mask - which he’d set aside. “Why…” she started, confused. This was all too much. Somehow, subconsciously, she understood that Metru-Nui - no, her entire world - was...up there. Inside that body. But how could that be? It seemed impossible and was too much to comprehend - but somehow she knew it had to be true.
“You took...what was mine.” Kalmah said, raising his hand again, seemingly towards her, fingers curling into a fist. “So...I’ll take from you…”
His fist came down at his side, all the remaining strength he had left summed up in one final act of defiance, and hit the Kanohi Olmak, mask of dimensional gates. It shattered in a flash and small shock wave of energy.
Zataka blinked, stunned. Kalmah’s head had turned to the side, eyes closed, but with a faint smile upon his face. And the titan realized that, with his dying breath, he'd tricked her into giving him just enough time to exile her. With the mask broken, she could not return to Metru Nui - and worse: her homeland - ever again. All that she’d fought for...it was forever beyond her reach.
The titan’s eyes squeezed shut for a time, tears hitting the dusty ground, mixing with dark Barraki blood. Her sword fell from her grasp, her shoulders dropped and she sank to her knees as the strength to stand went out of her. With trembling fingers, she slowly gathered up the pieces of the Kanohi, almost as if they were a puzzle to be reassembled, but she knew it was hopeless. And as all that remained of the Olmak was a pile in her lap, she let her hands fall to her side and looked up again.
All she could do was watch helplessly as her world slowly fell apart in the sky above.
Is the head getting closer?