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Chapter 11: "I Do Not Eat: A Meeting With The Abettor"

Abettor

The Abettor, drawn by Nuju Metru, 2013. All illustrative rights belong to him.

Mangaia was filled with the blood red glow of slowly dying light stones. No one who traveled through the shadowy corridors deep beneath the surface of Mata-Nui had thought to replenish the ruddy illumination and so in the months since the Makuta’s defeat the once blood-red chamber walls had turned to a dark grey as the light waned. Soon it would be black as night. Even in death the Makuta’s shadows persisted. A door, brooding and mysterious, with no keyhole, hinge, or seam, lurked at the end of spacious chamber and two rows of pillars made from black fire-glass led from the chambers entrance to the impregnable door. Ishi glanced at his map with the aided illumination from his iStone screen, confirming the obvious: this was it. Krios had stayed behind. The tall vortixx hustler found descending into Mangaia a gamble too risky despite Ishi’s conjuring. Ishi didn’t mind: Krios wasn’t part of the plan anyways. He moved forward. The informant listened with each step, picking up nothing but the sound of equipment jangling from his rucksack and the soft dripping of water from a corridor to the right, echoing far louder in the dark cavern than expected. Eerie was the word Ishi found closest to mind. A hand strayed to the kukri on his thigh but nothing crawled out of the shadows looking for a meal and the po-matoran found himself at the door unharmed. Across the black surface was scrawled a sequence of words, a riddle he murmured to himself like an incantation. Across an endless ocean Beyond where minds can see My Key lies in the open Where you will never be Beneath the brightest thunder Stand towers of the day The light may break asunder If night skies choose obey The red sign on black eyes Will lead you to your prize The vault’s riddle offered more questions than answers. Despite his years of delving into the secrets of the world Ishi found himself looking blankly at the unknown and disliking every moment of it. He had fooled Hewkii, Ambages, even to a degree Caerus Valli. It was vexing to be fooled by a door. Above the somber lighting was a blue hole in the ceiling. Ishi couldn’t help but admire the geodes from the ground, straining his neck to look upward with mismatched eyes. After taking a minute to evaluate the distance and considering it within the range of his volo lutu he pulled the tool off the side of his rucksack, aimed, and clenched the trigger. “Here we go,” he said as the grappling hook head sailed upwards and into the crystal maw. He heard the catch, gave a tug to make sure it was a sure hold, and ascended. The ride up was dizzying, the ground giving way beneath him as the shadows receding and were replaced by a blinding light. As his eyes adjusted to the cavern he heard the clanking of machine parts whirring to life. Once sight returned Ishi couldn’t help but smile at the being he saw. It was tremendous. How had something so spectacular been hidden underground for so long? “Well hello there you beautiful recluse. Half the island’s been dying to meet you, the other half have been killing them. I’m Ishi Polzin, the Hapaka, you probably haven’t heard about me down here but that’s fine since I’ve been working on keeping a low profile.” Ishi said as he slipped his rucksack off and rummaged around inside for a moment until his deft hands produced a paper-wrapped sandwich and a canteen. “Care for some lunch?”

Though his eyes had adjusted somewhat, the motionless wall of glowing blue sigils that was the Abettor still made Ishi's eyes water to look at. The senseless arrangements of familiar letters there were still blinding, and still almost illegible among the ricocheting luminescence in the tunnel. It was easier for Ishi to focus his gaze on his sandwich. The Abettor's empty eyes seemed to watch him as he started to eat; the Kanohi Kakama that the behemoth had cycled into place upon Ishi's arrival - bizarre and small-looking as it was situated within the Abettor's ton-drum chest - was fixed in his direction. Could the Abettor actually see, as Ishi saw his sandwich, or did it rely on other methods of sense? Ishi realized this was something nobody had ever figured out. As the deep, metallic voice of the Abettor boomed forth, though, Ishi's curiosity was forgotten. "We do not eat," the Abettor stated. "Why are you here."

"Then how do you live?" Ishi countered between bites of sandwich. "All things need to eat. Karz, even Makuta had to eat something, though he probably just ate the fat of his overgrown ego until the Maru gave him what was due." The little po-matoran wiped his hand on the paper and blinked, thinking about how in such a blinding environment the Abettor could have clear vision. Or did it? Maybe the it was blind. He knew toa of sound used their element as a different form of sight, often more reliable, so why not a machine? Or was the blinding light actually the Abettor's way of seeing and anything outside the light was beyond its perception? Too many questions and he'd yet to even answer the one posed by his host. "Sorry, you asked me why I'm here," Ishi replied as he reached for the canteen. "In part because I enjoy seeking out the rare and majestic, the occult and the profane, and then piecing all the stupid nonsense said about those things into discrete bundles of truth and fiction. The truth I keep, the fiction I give out for a price. At the moment though I'm here because I figured you might be lonely and I was dying for an awkward lunch buddy who might have some knowledge about that cryptic riddle on that maaassssiiive door below us." He looked at the Abettor, doing his best not to squint in the light. "You see, you're a unique being on this island. How many of those can I come by on a day to day basis, hmm?" He took a bite of his sandwich. "None, unfortunately. On the surface anyone with any intelligence is plotting how to kill everyone else with a smidgen of sense. It's all rather grim. You, on the other hand, stay in your little cavern in the ceiling of Mangaia. I could ask the same question I guess: why are you here? "Though you made it sound like more of a statement," Ishi muttered than continued at normal volume, "I'm sure sitting around in a cavern of crystal for days on end isn't exactly a fun occupation. At least the caverns of light in Onu-Wahi have miners for company. You don't get lonely here, do you?"

The Abettor was quiet for an uncomfortable period. Ishi couldn't help but hold his breath - and his chewing - in the face of the tyrannical silence imposed by the behemoth; the guardian didn't so much as twitch a finger or hiss a valve. By now, Ishi could look up and see the Abettor almost totally clearly; its dark armor, its huge shoulders, its broad cylindrical torso, its powerful leg pistons, its strange crystal fist and, of course, the scrawls of madness written in glowing blue all over its body like ceremonial tattoos, wrought before the Po-Matoran a figure steeped in legend and emanating dangerous strength. He'd started to doubt if his tirade had even been received by the Abettor when the behemoth began to reply. As if listing the types of stone in the room, the Abettor replied to all the questions Ishi had posed. "We do not live, nor do we die. We are here to protect that which we have been charged to protect. We never get lonely." The Abettor's voice, deep and hollow-sounding within its drum-like chest, was also hollow of tone, so Ishi was unable to read much of anything in it. Not giving Ishi much time to process, the Abettor plowed on ahead. "You are here because of the engraving on the door below us. We do not know what it means."

"You do not live, nor do you die. You do not eat, yet you speak and think as rationally as I do. Why can't a machine be alive?" Ishi finished the last floppy crust of his sandwich, bobbing his head while reciting what had become a sort of riddle. Standing up the Hapaka let his gaze crawl along the Abettor's body . The blue sigils scrawled across the machine's body caught his attention first, pale blue and glowing with a soft phosphorescence. Why did they remind him of mark bearers? Maybe life for the Abettor came from a different source than his own. There were so many secrets, so much to learn. Pistons hissed as the Abettor whirred and clanked in lifeless animation and suddenly Ishi had two stunning thoughts. He decided it was better to ask the first before going for the second. "You always speak in plural, did anyone tell you that? How many of you are there?"

"A machine cannot be alive because it is not alive," the Abettor clacked. Very suddenly, the great guardian repositioned on its haunches, causing Ishi to jump a little bit. The adjustment of the Abettor had been minor, but total; who would have believed such a large thing could move so fast? Ishi also noticed that the mask in its chest cavity was being exchanged in the blinking of an eye for a Kanohi Arthron; as the Abettor kept speaking, the mask shuddered to a halt in its place. "We are aware of how we speak," the behemoth continued. "But nobody has ever seen the need to inform us of something about which we are already aware. There are, as far as we know, six of us."

The rapid shifting of posture had startled Ishi far more than expected. For something so large to move with grace and speed belying its several ton weight was unnatural; the whole process felt wrong. However, what really attracted Ishi's focus was the sudden switching of kanohi; the rotating inside the machine's torso from kakama to arthron happened with a cranking of some internal component, as if the Abettor were some elegant clockwork automaton. Ishi yelped as he stubbed his toe on a crystal and windmilled his arms for balance. A comedic moment later the po-matoran was back in play, taking a step forward with a bounce to his stride. He knew the behemoth before him could spew his guts across the wall in an instant. As usual reward outweighed risk and the informant was successful, at least in the moment, at closing the gap. He stood with his hands behind his back and looked up at the runic surface of his host. "As far as you know?" He asked curiously. The conversation meandered from its original purpose and Ishi found himself attempting to understand just exactly who these beings were. Suddenly the entire riddle of the door seemed like a backwater game for children: learning about The Abettor was far more interesting.

"Yes," the Abettor replied.

Ishi's palm applied directly to the forehead of his kaukau. The sound echoed sharply off the crystal walls. Obviously the Abettor had been programmed for answering questions and making statements. The finer points of language had been omitted. Perhaps the mastermind behind the creature's creation had wanted to play chess with something a little more calculating than a single mind could be. It sounded like something Nuparu, the tinkering akiri, would build out of scrap on a weekend. However, the glowing blue signs drew his attention back – those the Akiri wouldn't have considered adding. "Hmmm... So if you don't know then that means there could be more... Wouldn't it be nice to-" He paused. Ishi almost suggested a family reunion, but the thought of multiple steel monsters standing around looking ominous at a cookout made him reconsider. "What are those tattoos for, if you don't mind me asking? See, up on the surface some people had similar looking marks, but they only had one..." His gaze went past the Abettor's shin to the cavern beyond. He saw sparkling crystal and a dwindling tunnel and wondered where it went.

"We do not know which tattoos to which you refer," the Abettor clacked. Once more, its posture shifted definitely; this time, the behemoth grew taller, and had a definite aura of menace, even though its tone was unchanged. "Your questions have been without purpose, and it is not our duty to answer them. We are not here for petty inquiries, and we will not answer any more of them."

The very light in the cavern seemed to dim as Ishi was overshadowed by the Abettor. He knew his welcome was wearing thin, the malevolent posture of the machine enough to show him charm had little effect. It was difficult to be persuasive to something lacking emotion. "Without purpose?" Ishi parroted, walking backwards toward his rucksack. "I'm sorry but I find your statement invalid. Everything I said had purpose, if only to learn about who you are and where you come from... Why if you found someone you wanted to become friends with wouldn't you want to learn about them? Oops, sorry that was a question and you seem to have had your fill of those. Disregard that." He slipped the rucksack loops over his shoulders and pulled on the straps. With each moment it looked more likely his exit would be a fast descent rather than a fond goodbye. "Now if for some reason I've offended you - I wouldn't like all the questions one after another either - I apologize. Of course you don't have a duty to answer me. You're a free, well, machine. To you what I've said may have seemed a petty inquiry but to me it meant the world, I assure you. I'm just a po-matoran with a bad case of wanderlust trying to figure out Life's riddles. Just, um..." He smiled, at once disappointed by having the discussion cut short so soon and at the same time gleeful in what had occurred. "I hope you don't mind me coming back sometime for lunch."

"We do not mind what you do," the Abettor answered. "We do not give mind to minding. We give mind to duty."

He knew it was time to leave, but insatiable curiosity called with every moment in the Abettor's presence in the brilliant tunnel of refracting crystal light. He was an information maven and leaving such a trove without a pocket full of knowledge felt like a sin. Instead of diving down the hole into the gloom and scurrying to safety he took a stand at the mouth of the tunnel and said; "When I was young I used to have a stripe of letters running down my armor. I thought it looked cool, back before I got the mismatched eyes." He looked down at his brown hands with their grey and white finger tips and remembered the explosive incident. It had never been the same with Vera, all he could feel in his heart for the woman he once called sister was bitterness. However, despite his feelings they were siblings by law and nothing could change that. Alarick had died and left them stuck together. Looking back at the Abettor Ishi continued. "I called them my wards, like the prophecy of the First Toa would protect me from harm. When I look at you and see those glowing blue glyphs I can't help but wonder what they're for. Are they your wards? Or your eyes? Are they gibberish or just another clue to your past like mine were?" He looked at the Abettor and felt something he hadn't felt in years: compassion. The machine may not have realized its own loneliness, but Ishi did. Down in the darkness there were nothing but nightmares for company, and when Ishi had been in the darkness his thoughts turned to family. "Where are the other five? If you tell me I can carry a message for you. I'm sure there's something you'd want to say to another of your kind."

As quickly as last time, the Kanohi in the Abettor's chest changed, returning to the Kakama. Before Ishi could even process what was happening, the behemoth had stepped forward with its newly-granted speed and seized the Po-Matoran between the fingers of its only hand. The Abettor's thumb and forefinger were an iron collar around Ishi's neck; hanging from the Abettor's grip, Ishi felt himself start to choke. The empty sockets of the Abettor's Kanohi, juxtaposed against the glowing letters, were spots of blackness; if they stared, it was without mercy or even living empathy. "You misunderstand," the Abettor rumbled, the resonance of its drum-deep voice making Ishi's bones vibrate. Without further ado, the Abettor dropped the Po-Matoran through the hole in the floor of its tunnel.

The ground was very far down.

Ishi was blind as the brilliance of the crystal cavern transformed sharply by the powerful eviction into the half-light of Mangaia's shadowed halls. He plunged through the air unsure of when he'd hit the ground, but determined to live. Fear found no hold on his steely resolve. Despite his blindness he reached for the second Volo-Lutu launcher on the side of his rucksack, pulled it from the chord restraints with po-matoran strength, and without thought pointed toward the ceiling and fired, teeth grinding together in determination. The coiled line burst forward and he heard metal hitting stone over the sound of his body falling through the air, and then his descent angle turned sharply, the chord continuing to wind out of the launcher in a rare moment of malfunction. He gripped the handle desperately as he swung outward and down. Once the line had reeled out completely there was a sickening moment when his body jolted, rising up into the air again as momentum took hold, and then the line snapped and he hit the ground, bouncing and rolling like a rag doll tossed in a fit of childish rage. Excruciating pain burst from his shoulder as the rucksack smashed into the floor, the kinetic energy carrying into his body and bending the metal brigandine sewed inside his coat. The volo-lutu's redirection made him slide with a horrible loudness across the ground, fabric and tools spewing out from the rucksack as he bounced along until a pillar of black fire-glass stopped his movement with a sickening crack to the head. The echoes, an aftermath as horrible as the headache from the crash, carried far into the tunnel systems of the Dark Walk: the shout of a po-matoran as he was thrown, the crash of body against stone, the grinding of flesh and mechanics as it careened and was destroyed. "######," Ishi murmured through a split lip, a trickle of blood running across his eye. He was sprawled against the dark pillar with nothing to defend himself save the karambit still tucked safely away in the discrete harness. The kukri had sprung from its sheath in the chaos, lost to the shadows that slowly claimed Ishi's consciousness, the rucksack shredded and worthless after serving its purpose to cushion his fall. He tried to raise a hand but found himself incapable. Before his eyes closed the wail of a bestial monster echoed from a tunnel far away. Something was coming. He was defenseless and doomed. Echelon's head snapped to the side as a loud slam echoed from the other side of the chamber. Turning wordlessly to Kohra and Eisen, he beckoned with two fingers, signalling them to follow his lead. The Dark Toa stalked along the cavern's floor towards the source of the noise. The familiar twinkle of the Abettor's tunnel hove into view above him. On the floor below, a broken Volo Lutu cable trailed like a thin silver snake. Ghostly green eyes swept the room. "There." The crumpled form of a Matoran lay against one of the obsidian pillars. Echelon approached slowly. This truly was Ishi's lucky day.


The sound of whirring gears came from behind Echelon as another figure moved in the darkness, slowly approaching them. His clockwork body continued to tic as he approached the dark Toa and the Matoran, pupils enlarged so that he could see the two in the dark, his scythe gleaming like tusks in the night.

To Echelon and his companions the matoran must have seemed a dead carcass, road kill. He didn't move. It wasn't until Echelon got close enough to touch the po-matoran he saw the faintest flickering of an orange heartlight. Finally, with a cough and splatter of blood against the ground from the matoran's mouth his eyes flickered open with mismatched light. Ishi's face, twisted by pain, formed a split and bloodied grin. Even though the colors were not as rumors said, even though his head pounded with pain, the face wistfully blurring in and out of Ishi's vision could be none other than the feared necromancer. He was either very lucky or horribly cursed. "I'll be ######." His voice cracked, barely a whisper. "Who'd have thought I'd go from the Abettor to Echelon?"

Echelon smiled. "Who indeed." The Dark Toa whirled around, hand splayed at arm's length and writhing with shadows in the blink of an eye, sending a magnetic push towards the newcomer with enough force to hurl him across the cavern. Echelon did not like to be disturbed.


However, the elder one was not so easly gotten rid of. Quickly grounding himself with his elemental powers, waiting until the push had passed before resuming his advance.


Under most circumstances, I save my bullets until I am sure my target is, indeed, my target. I consider myself to be a professional, and professionals deal as little as possible in collateral damage. Why? I do not like to leave a trace, and I do not like to waste precious metal on death that I am not paid for. The action Echelon has taken proves that this newcomer is a target. He is my employer, so that removes the question of recompense. Both variables dealt with, I am free to move. My hands sling my rifle around my shoulder with the ease of many years of practice. I clean this delicate machine every morning when I rise, and prepare it for use at any possible moment. Therefore, I do not waste time wondering if my weapon shall do its duty. I simply raise the sight to my eye, watch as the intruder's face fills the crosshairs, press the rear of the gun into my arm, and fire. As I am equipped with a silencer, there is a small report as opposed to a loud bang. The rifle kicks into my arm with moderate force, propelling a bullet from the barrel at incredible speed straight towards the left temple of the intruder.

There was an audible click as parts of the armor shifted, and the elder toa began to dash forward with greater speed than before, gears whirring as he ducked and began to sprint towards the aggressor, extending his hand to manipulate the the earth beneath the aggressor, so that the earth would open up to swallow the one who had shot at the clockwork Toa.

I turned to Syvra, my voice ringing out with a tone that had been unfamiliar to it for years. "Stand still," I said, my voice issuing a command in the same way I had issued commands to my armies so many years before I had come to this island. Turning to Agrona, I spoke in a far less commanding fashion. "When you're done with your new toy, watch our informant." Then commanding again, to Rorg, who was likely just removing himself from this odd Toa's grasp of earth: "As soon as you have an opening, fire at whichever vulnerable spot you can on this Toa." I turned to face the Toa of Earth who was running at us, leveling my lochaber - butt spike first - at him as though it was a lance. In the darkness farther behind me, back in the large tunnel I had taken to get to here, I heard my Kane-ra give a snort, as though it could smell the battle soon to take place. In my homeland, I had been a decorated war hero, a highly respected commander, and a deadly specialist in close-combat. I had the deaths of hundreds of men attributed to me, due to my planning - and I had killed, in personal combat, nearly fifty of my fellow Kaiakan and just as many Toa, if not more. It had been a good few years since then. However, on this island, I would still be considered untested. Green; I intended to change that soon. Soon we would have a victory, and this Toa of Earth would be either dead or wounded, fleeing from the battle like a Muaka after getting stuck by an archer's arrows. With the butt spike of my axe aimed at the Toa of Earth, the blade of the lochaber concealed from his view, I began to advance. Blood would soon be spilled, and this Toa might soon get the chance to feed the earth that he thought to command.

I am not often surprised. There is logic to life if one looks closely: a predictable series of consequences that allows the keen observer to deduce the most likely outcome and prepare accordingly. I have spent my life to better know these patterns, and to use them to my advantage. This is why I am deadly. This is why many are right to fear me. Thus, when my shot misses, I am surprised. The intruder must have seen my movement: he ducks, and the bullet passes him by. He wastes no time in charging toward me, and, simultaneously, I feel the earth beneath me begin to give way. This Toa evidently hopes to see me sucked into the bowels of the island, or separate my head from my torso if the ground does not swallow me fast enough. The patterns are clear to me, however, so I do not move. The earth is hungrily pulling me down, but that is a minor concern, as this Toa is about to die. Pardon my overconfidence, but the scope is already to my eye, and the barrel is already pointed at the man's chest. By charging at me, he is only making himself a bigger target. So I eschew my hoped-for headshot in order to aim for the Toa's barrel chest and pull the trigger a second time. At this distance, I can hardly miss.

When fighting alongside allies, coordination is key. So as Echelon saw Rorg raise his rifle a second time, he did not unleash a barrage of magnetic attacks at the trespasser - he simply lifted the Toa just off his feet. The surprise of losing one's connection to the ground, coupled with the resulting inability to perform any kind of dodge, ought to guarantee that the Skakdi's bullet would strike its target.

Syvra looked over towards the ensuing fight and merely rolled his eyes. He has been left here to merely watch like some child. As much as it rubbed him the wrong way he did not wish to ruin what little of a good chance he had going so he merely obeyed. However now he looked over at agrona with a slight amount of intrigue in his eyes "Could the work you did on the toa be undone by another with a mask of healing?"

The ancient toa's body whirred in anger as it initially tried to strain against the force holding him.

"You have strength..." The toa said, eyes focusing on echelon, "those with strength... I wish to serve."

The bullet struck.

Ishi's eyes trained unsuccessfully to follow the course of the action but caught little other than fleeting shadows moving in the deadly dance of combat. His hold on consciousness began to slip once more, stayed only by another cough of blood splattering the front of his coat. It was opalescent and glittered maliciously in the ruddy illumination of the dying light-stones. As his mind descended into darkness the shrill shriek of a foul monster echoed through the halls of Mangaia. He would have given warning but words failed him. There was too much pain. Darkness descended and the shadows of Mangaia took the little man with big secrets. The conflict before the great door to Makuta's Vault rippled with echoes out into the six main passages, and from there down into the worming caverns and tunnels dug by fouler things than simple rahi. From one large passage came at first a feral hissing, and then a pair of long legs and a bladed spine stalked out warily into the chamber. Rabid, hungry, and no longer under the control of its father, the rahkshi plunged into the fray with a shriek. It's armor was ebony and its staff was capped in a pair of blades reminiscent of a 'C'. From where it came two more followed, as equally lean as the first.

"Echelon!" Agrona growled as the first Rahkshi appeared. Three figures lay upon the stone floor. A bullet in a body, a broken corpse half breathing, and the soon to be servant were all at Agrona's feet. She glanced at Syvra, "You wish to serve Syvra?" Her hungry face seemed too calm for the chaos around them. She reached down as the battle looked about ready to begin, gripping Toros by the collar and dragging him closer to Echelon and the body that feel from the heavens. "You can start by watching over your pest here. Without harming him." Agrona lowered herself to Ishi's body with a level clear importance. She glanced up as the first Rahkshi jumped into battle before placing both hands on Ishi's lower neck, assessing the damage done. He wasn't dead. Not yet. Who is this curious creature? The Lesterin reached into a bag slyly (but not without urgency). Within was a journal with a black leather cover and a spine stone. She quickly flipped it open only to see a long series of numbers for the entirety of the journal. Agrona tossed it aside and reached to the other junk across the Matoran's body. Pushing around basic survival gear she came across a note. Snatching it up in her long slender fingers, the witchdoctor peered at it. There were four words on it, a title. "Ambages, Hand of Ko-Koro". She frowned. A journal with nothing but numbers was only strange, but a book of gibberish and the name of a prominent political figure made things a lot more interesting. Agrona glanced over to see a small jar, picking it up to see an eyeball within. Oh. Agrona wrapped her hand around Ishi's neck, placing the other on his chest. She focused hard, picturing the broken pieces coming back together. This time properly. Heal.

The darkness was alive.

Shapes flitted about. Patches of light grew and died. He could feel the things, and the sound

melting away from his skin bones burn the bones Pierced his head, eyes, ears, facemouthnose

Creatures everywhere

fighting battling his head. A young woman turns back to him. When did he start running?

Hurry we must esca

heal

But it's wrong. Silence too loud. Darkness too bright.

above his head

Eyes open Pain

Rahkshi Toa Lesterin fighting The Darkness was alive.

Once again not wishing to disturb the fragile alliance, if it could even be called that, that had formed for him he merely did as he was told. However as he stood near the body of Griesk he did the first thing that came to his mind, summoned a series of vines to wrap around the body like deadly snakes, until Griesk was firmly in the vine's grasp and rooted to the floor. Afterall they did not want their pest to wake up and try and make a break for it. However now he just stood by and watched as the fights ensued, remaining on the task he was given.

Alive.

The memories washed back over Greisk. His eyes flew open to see Syvra standing over him, looking towards the left, where sounds of battle were coming from.

Greisk looked down at his body. Vines were wrapped around his body.

Greisk took a silent breath. Wait- he c couldn't open his mouth!

Focus. Probably just numbed lips because of the anaesthetic.

Since Syvra was not focused on Greisk, he tried to test if the vines were slack. They weren't constructing but, it would be difficult to get out without struggling.

Greisk propped his head up and saw Rahkshi ambushing the group. An aged Toa and broken Matoran were on the floor.

Greisk closed his eyes and pretended to still be unconscious.

The kanohi sana was a mask Ishi would never fully grow accustomed to. One moment his mind was in shadow, unconscious; and bleeding to death of his wounds. The next, the kanohi's power had revived the matoran and his wounds sealed up, his energy restored, and his mismatched eyes flickered open. He stared at the face of his healer with a slackened jaw. Despite the healing Ishi was still in shock. "Black eyes," he stammered. "Black eyes." The rahkshi of hunger lunged forward into the fray, swinging its 'c' bladed staff over its head toward Echelon. Perhaps the necromancer would feel his body weaken and knees tremble as the rahkshi's dim mind hoped. Meanwhile the other two rahkshi, far smarter than the first, worked in tandem, slinking along the sidelines to go for one of the weakest in the motley group: Greisk.

The Vorahk's staff, quite abruptly, struck against a shield of solid protosteel, batted aside with ease. Now interposed between the Rahkshi and the Dark Toa, Eisen drew his sword from its storage in the shield in a single smooth motion, bringing it into a ready position. Already, his eyes were calculating maneuvers and behaviors, noting how the Rahkshi had begun to behave. With his mask, he could quite easily keep up with the Vorahk's movements, and as long as he kept it occupied and out of contact, it would not be too difficult a fight. That analysis done in moments, he made a testing stab at the Vorahk's neck, seeking to observe its reactions. His shield was held in his opposite hand, close enough to the chest to easily intercept any incoming blows. Not that it would be difficult; The creature's weapon was not the most nimble, and the time needed to adjust its strikes would be more than enough to allow for his Calix-enhanced reflexes. "Disappointing, how far His sons have fallen."

Syvra merely watched over the fight though he occasionally glanced down at Griesk, his crimson eyes roaming over the toa of magnetism. However he now spoke directly at the toa "Don't care if you are conscious or not, but know if you try anything there will be consequences. These aren't normal vines, though I won't quite tell you how they are different either." Just to be on the safe side Syvra mentally tightened the grip the vines had over Griesk removing any slack there may have been. His eyes focused once again on the fight while occasionally flicking down to Griesk.

Echelon had sprung into levitation the moment he heard the Rahkshi's approach. He now hovered several feet in the air, ready to move with great speed at the first necessity, taking stock of the situation from his vantage point. Encyclopaedic knowledge of all things dark immediately identified the three Rahkshi as Hunger, Slowness and Chain Lightning. Dangerous adversaries, to be sure, but he and his allies were more than worthy opponents. Eisen moved in to engage the Vorahk. The Dark Toa quickly glanced at the other two. Alone, he would take up the offensive immediately. But he was not alone, and in this group, his particular skill set took fit the role known as 'crowd control'. Focusing on the two Rahkshi creeping towards Syvra and Greisk, he flooded the Rahkshi and the floor beneath them with Dark Magnetism, magnetising them firmly in place and prime targets for the others to dispatch.

Three Rahkshi. Under ordinary circumstances, I would retreat, and seek to preserve my life and body from what would surely be a painful, gruesome death. Rahkshi are wild and strong; they are not defeated easily, and are distinctly unpredictable. Both qualities make them undesirable opponents, especially for a man like myself. However, I am not alone: I am accompanied by several of the deadliest men and women to walk the face of this island. Because of this, I stay. My weapon has not moved; my eye still looks down the scope, and the rear rest comfortably in my embrace. I have already reloaded after my second shot on the intruder, who now lies on the ground, so I simply turn, wait patiently for the nearest Rahkshi to cease movement (which is quickly does, under the influence of Echelon's Dark powers), and fire towards the eye socket, its only obvious weak point.

As soon as I had begun moving for the Toa of Earth, he was stopped; moments later, three Rahkshi came in out of the shadows. One of them began moving for Echelon, only to be blocked by Eisen, while two others moved for Greisk - and were subsequently immobilized by Echelon. As each Rahkshi began working to try and free themselves, the Rahkshi of Slowness and the Rahkshi of Chain Lightning, I began to strafe about the latter. As soon as I had reached my optimum position, just outside the Rahkshi's reach and sight, two things happened: first, Rorg fired upon the Rahkshi of Slowness. Second, I brought my lochaber down in a bone-crushing executioner's style blow, upon the compartment where the Rahkshi's Kraata would be held. I would either crush it or I would cleave through it; either way, it would be dead.

Syvra eyed the two rahkshi who had promptly been stopped in their tracks by echelon. He could not identify one of the two, but the other one he knew very well. He had encountered the chain lightning rahkshi in the past. And of the three he he knew it was likely the deadliest since the completely black rahkshi required physical contact to use their powers. Now he looked down at Griesk and the po-matoran looking being who had fallen from the ceiling. From the look of the po-matoran he knew one good strike of chain lightning would likely do him in. Hence the reason for syvra's next move. Reaching into his satchel he carried at his hip, he withdrew a handful of seeds and sprinkled them in a rough circle around griesk, the po-matoran and himself. Calling upon his element he quickly accelerated the growing of these seeds, which quickly sprang to life as saplings. From there he took his staff and placed it roughly in the middle of the circle and held it in place. The saplings continued to grow and began to meld together, till they formed a protective 'bubble' of bark around the three to prevent the chain lightning from getting through, with Syvra's staff acting as the meeting point of the bark. Oh you may be asking why bother when any chain lightning would likely just cause the bark to catch on fire and this is something syvra prepared for. The bark this seed produced had been manipulated by Syvra to hold fire-resistant qualities, after a plant he had encountered once in his travels. Thank Ak'rei'an for crossbreeding

The blade of Eisen's longsword was pushed upwards, caught between the prongs of the vorahk's staff. As the creature of shadow shifted stance, sliding its rear foot forward through the center line of their bout to gain ground, it swung the sword clear in a powerful arc while feeding upon Eisen's strength, and brought the back end of its staff to bear, aiming for the front ankle of the toa. It knew its power and was hungry. Rorg's bullet aimed true but as it got close to the trapped pair of rahkshi two things happened. First, the rahkshi's powers slowed the projectile to the best of its abilities in the darkened environment; and second, the dark magnetism that had been laid not only into the fabric of the rahkshi but into the very stone of Mangaia pulled the lethal object to the floor. Stuck, the bullet had been rendered useless. The rahkshi of chain lightning did not have such luck, unfortunately. The dark magnetism in its body had caused its own elemental powers to go haywire, and it shrieked violently in pain even before the lochabar axe sunk deep into its body. The metal blade too was aided by Echelon's powers and cut clean through the mechanics and sunk deep into the stone floor. Karnakie found himself staring at the shredded remains of the rahkshi's outer casing, sparks flying into his face, but inside the casing squirmed the now exposed kraata.


While the Vortixx had not partaken in the previous discussion, or rather, threats of serious bodily harm, she now sprung into action without hesitation. The master's sons had gone feral and were nothing but wild animals at this point. 'Twas a pity, but it could not be helped right now. Perhaps if the stuck their heads together later they might find a way to make the Rahkshi see clearly again, to tell allies from enemies. But right now... She raised her hand, the claws pointed in the direction of the Vohrak currently engaging Eisen and reached out with her telekinetic power. The Rahkshi of hunger was pulled back and up, no longer in contact with the floor and suspended in place. The Vortixx concentrated a little more, trying to pry open the face plate, to give Eisen a clear opening.

The vohrak tumbled and twisted in the air, suspended by Kohra's powers, unable to do anything against them. It fumed and roiled and screamed its shrill scream into the darkness. The sound echoed from the central vault of mangaia out into the branching halls and small tunnels and returned softer, more mournful, than it left. This was its home, these were foreigners, and now it had nothing left to do but fight for the territory. It swung its staff to no avail and when it felt its face plate being ripped open by the telekinetic grasp of Kohra is went so far as to drop its staff and clamp hands across its face, a last ditch attempt to protect itself from the inevitable.

The Fe-Toa grimaced at the slight drop in his energy, but he brushed it aside quickly. Such a small decrease would not prove problematic, nor were his Calix-enhanced reflexes necessary, as the Vorahk was quite handily levitated off of the ground. Eisen didn't spare it a moment's thought; With a single, smooth motion, he raised his blade and stabbed through the Rahkshi's hands into its now-open faceplate. The creature's struggles continued moments longer, though they were more spasms, before the beast fell still. With the quiet sound of metal on metal. he withdrew the blade and pivoted in place, bringing his shield in front of him and moving carefully towards the Rahkshi of Slow.

I looked upon my work with satisfaction. As I had hoped, the Rahkshi was now out of commission, while the Kraata that had controlled it remained cowering within what little was left of its shell. With a grunt of exertion, fighting against Echelon's magnetism and the stone of the floor, I pulled my axe out from where it had cleaved into the ground, and tossed it over to Rorg, telling him "Use this!" as I did so; knowing Rorg, he would have no trouble catching it. Done with that, I drew my longsword and stepped slightly to the side of, and behind, the Rahkshi of Slowness, leaving Eisen's way open and forming a triangle between him, myself, and Rorg...with the Rahkshi at the center. Like its brothers, Makuta's fallen sons, it would not survive this day. Not with the combined might of just myself and these two other companions of mine, but rather that of all of us arrayed against it, this Rahkshi would have to fight and survive...and it had no chance of doing that.

Still crouching over Ishi, Agrona hummed back to him, "Yes meat, black eyes, black eyes all around." Agrona tilted her head, still releasing energies into the Matoran's body, "Stay with me my pet," the Lesterin took one hand off Ishi's neck and reached for her bone blade. She stopped the healing process and took hold if Ishi's face from moving back and forth, "Sh ssshhh... Look into my eyes little-one," She grit her teeth and held his head harder, "Look at me. Look, here, that's it." Agrona then gripped Ishi's hand and took her bone-blade and put it to his palm, "Keep looking," The blade dug neatly into Ishi's skin, etching a small :x: into the skin, branding him, "There there, keep looking to me."

He groaned as the blade sunk into his flesh, but the pain of one carved tattoo was nothing compared to the fall he'd endured. His focus fell into the pools of the woman's eyes, yellow orbs in the darkness of the tree-like bower grown by one of her companions, like two tiny stars in a dark sky. Ishi decided they were cursed stars as the blade drew back from his palm and her kanohi sana flared with green light and a scar grew in the shape of the wound. He flexed his hand and found it strong but stiff. "No," Ishi said as he pushed himself off her lap. "You don't understand. Black eyes. The machine had black eyes." He stared at the woman, obviously lesterin, for a moment longer after wrestling from her grip. He had backed away, crawled until he reached the wooden wall. It was hard to see anything in such darkness. "Who are you?" Outside where the red lights-tones still shed their dying light came a final cry from a rahkshi's maw.

Agrona smiled at her handiwork as the Matoran pulled away, "I am called many things," she lazily reached for the journal as she stood up, flipping through the pages, "Murderer, thief, freak, tramp, witch," Agrona said each word with a great space in between them before standing up, "But to you, I'm the woman that just saved your life." Agrona's warm and calming demeanor radically shifted as she violently threw the book at Ishi's head, slamming into the wall behind him. She dashed forward and gripped his collar before the book even hit the ground.

Agrona bared her teeth, "But the question, meat, isn't who I am," her snarl became a smile, "I can think of a number of interesting things to ask you. What-" Agrona lifted the journal to Ishi's face, "is this?"

"A diary."

"Get more specific." Agrona demanded coolly, "I can kill you even easier than I can save you."

Ishi stared at the dark cover of the little journal, barely making out the faded edges worn down with age. Inside the bubble of bark he was trapped in a way even Ambages couldn't have devised.

"Ahkmou's Diary. "

Syvra was idly listening to the exchange between Ishi and Agrona though his full attention was on the maintenance of this bark bubble. Afterall it was only meant to repel the chain lightning, not to stop a physical attack and any rahkshi worth it's smell could punch through the bark easily. Though at the moment it was doing it's job wonderfully with the added benefit of keeping Agrona's little toy within her grasp. However Syvra was feeling slightly merciful today as he focused on a small part of the bark near where Ishi and Agrona were. A small patch of Bioluminescent plant sprung out of the bark in the form of a rose, offering a little light on their situation That was cheesier than normal syvra... so much so that it hurt a bit Quiet you, Let me have my fun. I would if my sanity weren't on the line because of your 'fun'.

As the bioluminescent rose came into being with the sound of a plant growing faster than it should Ishi's quality of sight increased tremendously. He could see the beads dangling from the lesterin's body, the blood-splattered knife she had used to carve his hand, the creased brow which of her inner debate: kill the matoran or let him live? He decided to give her a reason for his continued existence and placed his faith in his readings of the little book in her hand. "It's my diary."

~

J'Con had been wandering for hours. Days, probably. Of course, time had been relative to him since the downfall of Makuta. Life had fallen into shambles, his efforts futile in the grand scheme of things. He hoisted his map, which he suspected was total feces at this point due to several discrepancies, and realized he was quite close to the vault. Or maybe not. As stated, the map was feces. Ahead of him, the fight with the Rahkshi was just coming to an end, and Ishi was being brought back to health. From the depths of the caves came a bony, skeleton-like figure, a torn black cloak hanging from his neck to mid-shins, a loaded pack cross-strapped from shoulder to waist. He was exasperated, holding up a map to a lightstone, desperately trying to decipher it. With a grumble, he crumpled it up and tossed it to the ground, muttering something along the lines of "piece of garbage" as he drudged on, unknowingly entering upon the scene of a Legacy reunion and interrogation. As he looked up, he kind of startled back a bit, but looked more surprised like one opening a birthday gift than one stumbling into a den of titans. "Why, hello there," he greeted, "can someone point me towards the oracle who lives in these caves? Big, scary-looking dude, probably speaks in riddles." He went on to begin a speech about his quest for the Abettor and how tragic it had been when he'd run into a Rahkshi and torn his cloak. "...and that's why one should never, ever brush one's teeth with a piece of granite." He finished. It was now that he noticed the corpses of several Rahkshi laying around and quickly went over to study the Kraata specimen before anyone could speak.

I let the scope fall from my eye, holding my weapon in one hand as I raise the other to catch the airborne axe.The approaching Rahkshi, now immobilized by Echelon's powers, looks at me with what a more imaginative man might call a hateful expression. I do not deal in imagination; I deal in facts. So I step forward and let the axe fall, feeling Echelon's magnetism adding to gravity's pull and the strength of my arm, and watch as the blade cleaves through the Rahkshi's carapace, destroying the kraata inside. The metal shell falls to the ground. I step back and toss the axe back to its rightful owner, and, as I do, another being suddenly enters the cavern. It is not lost on me that the appearance of so many people in one place, especially one so dangerous as this, could be called a coincidence, but it does not matter to me. Identifying a situation as coincidental does not change the facts, nor my approach to solving whatever problems may appear. The facts: this man is interrupting a meeting to which he has not been invited, as far as I am aware. The solution to this problem: eliminate the intruder. So as this ragged man foolishly turns his back on me to study the dead Rahkshi, I raise my weapon once more, take aim, and fire.

The second the Toa of gravity heard a rifle being cocked, he reached out with his element and, for about three seconds, shifted the gravity of the entire space between himself and the group, hard. With any luck, the bullet would've veered off to the side and missed him. Luck, however, was not with him that day, and the bullet struck his outer bicep, passing through without majorly injuring him but creating a huge gash. With a snarl, he dropped the whimsical act and glared at the collected Toa, Vortixx, and Skakdi. "For Makuta's sake," he growled, "it was a simple question."

I do not speak. My rifle rests comfortably in the crook of my arm, already reloaded and ready to fire again. My first shot has exposed this man's instinctive strategy (elemental manipulation, not physical movement) and wounded him, allowing my allies and I an even greater advantage should this situation escalate to a dangerous level. Words are often a waste of time, and I do not care for waste. So I remain silent, waiting for Echelon to answer or command my fire.

With the third and last Rahkshi's death rattle, Echelon dismissed the magnetic bindings with a wave of his hand and slowly drifted back down. As the Dark Toa's feet met the ground he seamlessly transitioned from levitation to walking. He signaled to Rorg: hold your fire, for now. He looked the third new arrival up and down, analysing every detail of his appearance. Skeletal in appearance. Mask shaped for intimidation, not unlike my own. Swears in Makuta's name. Not immediately hostile to us. Verdict? He's either a fool, or an ally. "We do not deal in simplicities," he intoned. "But I can make an exception: look around you. In the last few minutes we have dealt with three other unexpected beings and destroyed three Rahkshi. You are now wounded and outnumbered." Echelon tilted his head upwards a little, allowing more red light to fall on his own ominous mask, accenting the fang- or tentacle-like curves. "Your life or death is entirely at our discretion. So here is a simple question for you: why should we let you leave here alive?"


"I have no doubt that I wouldn't stand a chance against any one of you in a fight. That a will not disagree with..." he reached into his bag, momentarily causing the gathered to wonder if he stupid enough to take a weapon out against them. But he simply produced a bandage wrapping it around and pulling it tight with his teeth. "...I have no weapons. I am a scientist." He gazed around, looking at each of them. "I see fighters. All of you," he said, "but I possess an Iden. Rare around these parts. Now, you seem like a smart man," he said to Echelon in complete sincerity, "are you aware of the Iden's practical applications? With it, I can go anywhere, see anything, hear anyone, and they would be none the wiser. My espionage is top-notch. As a bonus, I'm a pretty good medic, if it's ever needed."

He put his hand up to his wound, clutching it hard, teeth gritted. "Kill me if you want. But if you think you could use me, my services are for hire as long as you have the right intentions- I'm not interested in another Island Protection Squad or whatever..."

Syvra could hear the voice of a new arrival faintly outside the bark. Though among the many words muffled through the bark one really caught his attention and apparently the attention of Venixa as well as she began to mentally chuckle Why need a medic when you got someone with a mask of healing? You know if anybody ever gains the ability to read minds you are likely going to be sorry. Oh I know but till that day I will have my fun. With a shake of his head he turned back to agrona and Ishi, interested to see how this little meeting would end

J'Con continued working on his wound, glancing at it every few seconds as he listened to Echelon.

While Echelon and the newcomer spoke, Eisen had not stopped acting in his duties. The Rahkshi safely dispatched, he began instantly recalculating his tactical assessment. No allies had suffered any injuries, nor any statistically significant drain on resources. Rorg would likely be approaching reload soon; in the event of battle, Karnakie or himself would need to provide time for that to occur. The Dark Toa had suffered no drain on energy, and Agrona was occupied. Kohra was unharmed and at full capacity. These thoughts were considered in moments, as he transposed himself partway between the newcomer and his allies, shield ready to intercept. His stance was neither hostile, nor was it relaxed; It was a point of transition, allowing for any needed future action. Even stationary, the warrior had the gravity of an immovable object, an unflappable combatant. He was, simply put, prepared for any possibility, and remained calm in that assurance. The Fe-Toa dealt neither in complexity, nor simplicity. He dealt in practicality.

Echelon slowly looked from J'Con to Syvra, then back again. The very idea that he might not know of the Iden's applications was laughable - but the newcomer was correct. His services could be useful. "You know...I think I have the perfect thing." He looked over to the Toa of Plantlife again. "Syvra!" he called, beckoning him over. "You want to serve our cause: here is your chance. I want you and our new friend here to find the Brotherhood of Ak'Rei'An. Your knowledge and his skills should be sufficient to discover where they have hidden themselves. If you succeed, you will have proven your usefulness and cemented your place in the ranks of darkness."

Syvra arched his brow as he listened to Echelon. However as he stepped out of the bark bubble by moving the bark away from himself and then as he stepped away the vines went back to their previous position. Allowing Ishi and Agrona the privacy they likely needed and preventing the po-matoran from escaping. "I don't need an iden for that. The ussalry lost track of the Brotherhood in Po-wahi. However it is known that a fair amount of time before these maru came to be, that the brotherhood occupied a base in Po-wahi however a joint... raid for lack of a better term by the Po-Korian and Ga-Korian military units attacked and supposedly destroyed most of this fortress along with a good portion of it's members. If my suspicions are correct the brotherhood likely scurried back to this fortress with the thought that no military would think they would return to somewhere they were already routed from. It would match up with the current evidence and their style of planning." However he looks at Echelon for a few seconds before switching his view to J'Con "However since no maps public maps exist that detail the exact location of his fortress an iden may prove useful in discovering it's pinpoint location within the deserts of po-wahi. I can also employ my own methods of searching the desert without walking throughout it."

Ranks of darkness? Either this was a death metal activist group or he'd finally found the famed Legacy of Makuta.

"If we're going to be two men, alone, taking on the task of finding a semi-powerful demon cult, our problem will not be finding them as much as it will be keeping them from knowing they've been found," he tapped his mask, "and with this, I can find as much as I need without letting them ever realizing I've been there."

His eyes widened. "...wait, are you Echelon?" He practically stumbled back. This man was a legend. Even more, this man was a devil. It seemed that J'Con had come upon a lucky streak- he had been commissioned by the most important servant of Makuta on the island. He was the closest thing to the master of shadows left.

J'Con was standing with a god amongst men.

Syvra cocked his brow as he looked over at J'con and could not help but smirk "You obviously have heard of the brotherhood's propaganda though in reality they are nothing but a horde of roaches, scurrying to try and form one cohesive group but failing each time."

I caught my axe from Rorg just as another man walked into the room, before stumbling over to where the three Rahkshi lay...thankfully moving to examine the dead Kraata from Rorg's Rahkshi, rather than the still living one of mine. I sheathed my longsword, holding my lochaber in a neutral stance - should it prove necessary, I could move to kill this man or defend myself from him in an instant, just as could my allies around me, Rorg, Eisen, and the rest. As Rorg shot him and Echelon began to speak to him, however, I relaxed, and stepped back towards the Rahkshi of Chain Lightning that I had demolished earlier. The Kraata - frightened now, scared, hungry, cowering back in what was left of its shell. I don't always understand why so many people thought of them as disgusting and frightful. When they're fighting, sure...but otherwise, they're the same as any other animal. "Come, now, you know me," I said to the Kraata, trying to coax it back outwards. And while I couldn't be sure that it did actually know me, there was the possibility there, as I had been kept in Makuta's lair, training and giving tactical proposals; I had seen many Kraata in my day. This one seemed to at least recognize my voice (or just be curious), because it came out to see me. As soon as I lifted my hand, however, it darted back inside its shell. I knew that this would likely take a while. Hopefully the others wouldn't need me.

"I am," the Dark Toa intoned. "I take it you know me by reputation." He spared a glance for Karnakie. The Kaiakan appeared to be trying to coax one of the defeated Kraata out of its broken exoskeleton. Echelon saw no purpose in it; with Makuta gone, the slugs were no more than territorial Rahi, a far cry from the admirable terrors they had once been. Perhaps the warrior was simply toying with his prey, like a Muaka with a mountain Mahi. He elected to let the Kaiakan play. It had always served the dark cause well to cultivate vindictiveness in one's forces.

I do not move. Echelon has commanded me to cease fire, but has not included the order to stand down. This intruder has evidently forgotten, in the midst of his excitement over Echelon's presence, about the barrel pointing towards his throat, which will serve me well should he unexpectedly turn violent. I have seen stranger things happen.


He did, in fact, notice the gun leveled at him, and had just now found it necessary to address it. "Tell you what," he said, removing his cloak and tossing it to the ground, with it all of his equipment, "since I won't be needing those for now, I'll remove them as a measure of good faith. Now, I honestly doubt there is anyone stupid enough to attack this group with their bare hands, least of all myself. Now, if that's all, I would like to return to my cove in Ga-Koro. I can safely abandon my physical form there without risking it being harmed."

Syvra turned to J'con and shook his head "I'm sorry but if you are to join me in searching for the brotherhood of Ak'Rei'an's current location you will be joining me wherever I deem necessary. This is because I am the one with the intimate knowledge of the group." His voice while not harsh had the subtle hints that he wasn't joking either


J'Con shot him a quizzical look. "I'm sorry, what? Where exactly would you rather me leave my body?"

Syvra pointed to the bark bubble that still existed behind him "If I am having to work with you I might as well make sure you come back alive. There are options besides a single location."

J'Con was obviously frustrated. "What makes you think your conjuring is safer than the place I've used before? I mean, it's not as if anyone is looking for me."

Syvra just stared at J'con "Really?" He rubs at the area on his mask between his eyes in clear frustration "Alright let me explain this. I would use flash cards but I left them at home. You intend on using an iden. When you do use an iden you enter a spirit form and can -not=" he added extra emphasis to this word alone by making quotation marks with his fingers "interact with the physical world. Meaning you can't speak with me. As such you being in Ga-koro while I'm in po-wahi will be pointless. I know what we are looking for and a general area to search in regards to po-wahi. As such communication is key in this. Hence the need to be in the same general location. I can not do my part in Ga-koro but you can do your part anywhere as long as your body is protected." He took a breath before looking back at J'con "If needed I am sure I can draw a picture or two to explain this."

"'Me being in Ga-Koro while you are you in Po-Koro will be pointless'? Yes, my glorious intellectual superior, that is why I don't ####ing intend to stay put once I leave my body. My spirit can travel just as far as my body can, with the bonus of not being seen. That's kind of why you need me! To bring my body along would defeat the purpose. Now, if you hadn't decided you know where my body should go, and then decided to patronize me, and in the process make yourself look like a complete moron, we would be on our way a not having a pointless conversation about something unrelated to the mission."

Wow... this cool dude just does not seem to get the hint does he? No apparently not. He doesn't quite seem to understand that beings can not communicate with him while in spirit form. Eh he will learn soon enough. One may notice a subtle smile come to Syvra's face before quickly leaving "You know how about you show me this... cove you have in ga-koro and we can determine what to do from there since I am stuck with you." Despite his internal frustration with J'con he kept his voice calm and respectful despite J'con feeling it would be appropriate to yell. If only he knew how much he wasn't needed. However he turned back to Echelon now "Where should I meet you when the brotherhood's base is discovered?"

Bickering. Unprofessional. (OOC: Said Eisen)

A cover of wood grew around the pair and as the light bloomed Agrona smiled. The contours of her face collided with the shadows and made her face appear much more skull-like than before, "Well is it yours? Or is it Ahkmou's?" The Lestrin demanded. Agrona heard another shot ring out but did not shift her expressions, her sharp incisors were still in plain sight. She rattled the Matoran as venomous words spat in Ishi's face, "Speak boy."

Kohra continued to hang back in silence.There wasn't much need for her to talk at the moment. Which was just as well, since she did not have to participate in the ego-fueled discussion. Say what you will about the unguided Rahkshi, at least they still served a single purpose - to protect and enforce the will of the dark presence in this place. They did not argue over personal preferences. It made her appreciate the time she had spent as a solitary agent of the shadows a little more. She noticed Rorg had en expression that mirrored her feelings. It wasn't too often that Vortixx and Skakdi shared opinions.


In the corner of my eye, I noticed as Echelon glanced towards me; almost imperceptibly, I smiled. He probably considered what I was doing a waste of time; I, meanwhile, derived enjoyment from trying to coax out the Kraata, and its death wasn't currently on my mind. I had always like Kraata, after all, and I saw no reason why I couldn't try to take one as a pet for myself. I reached into a pouch on my belt, and pulled out a small amount of smoked Mahi - I needed something to snack on while on the trail, after all - and held it out towards the Kraata. Slowly, the small, slug-like creature came out towards me, taking a nibble of the Mahi while I picked it up and began to move back towards the group, stroking its back with one finger to calm it. So long as I could keep it calm and distracted, I knew it wouldn't shock me or any of my companions, and that I would end up having time to tame it. Any Rahi could be tamed, after all. Quietly, I came to stand next to Kohra, watching as Echelon's two new hirelings bickered with each other. "It seems I haven't missed much," I said quietly, so that only Kohra might hear.

"I am no boy, woman, no more than I'm your meat," Ishi replied with a snap of his head to face the lesterin witchdoctor, his mismatched eyes oddly disconcerting. "I am Ahkmou, servant of the Makuta, and I did not changed my body and seek the shadows to have such pithy words thrown into my face" Finding strength from Agrona's earlier healing he pushed himself up, somehow able to pull his shoulders from her grasp, and stood inside the bark bubble created by the toa of the green who had stepped outside. Even in his damaged coat he looked small but formidable. He knew with a simple pull of a knife against his throat she could kill him, he knew anger was perhaps a rash action, but Ishi Polzin also knew of Ahkmou's arrogance and dutifully played the part. There was no way out besides the course he'd chosen. Oddly, the false name felt natural on his tongue and for a brief moment he wondered if perhaps he really was Ahkmou, or a facsimile in kind.

"Indeed." The Vortixx said. She glanced at the Kraata.

"Maybe once you've housebroken your new companion you should find it a new shell."

Agrona's brow furrowed, Clever little ####. There was no way to confirm this, and no way to confirm otherwise. At least not with her own banks of knowledge. She had never met Ahkmou, but had heard some things about the Dark Matoran from Echelon and other associates. She scowled and gave a "hm" as if thinking hard. Agrona's put her first through the bark wall, sending some of Syvra's handiwork flying through the darkness. The Witchdoctor glanced outside, "Echelon," a hint of a smile spread across Agrona's lips. She looked back at Ishi, "Do you remember your most recent conversation with the Matoran Ahkmou?"

"Oh, I don't know that that will be needed," I replied. "While the Rahkshi needs a Kraata, no Kraata needs a Rahkshi...and any Kraata worth giving a shell should be able to survive without one." I stroked the Kraata's back, again, the creature's smooth skin passing quickly under my fingers. I had never been able to hold one in my hands like this, before, but there was an almost undeniable sense of power to be gained just from that. I couldn't help but wonder what might happen if I were to starve it and throw it and some enemy of mine.

In silence, the Fe-Toa warrior sheathed his blade. Eisen observed the sequence of events in continued quiet, arms crossed and as still as a statue. His expression never changed, but he practically radiated waves of distaste; Watching these beings bicker and fight was pitiful, and did nothing to improve his opinions of either of them. His estimation of Syvra fell by the minute, but nevertheless, Echelon considered him useful. Eisen did not agree, but for the moment, he would keep his silence.

Echelon was not impressed by Syvra and J'Con's bickering. "Enough of this," he stated, not loudly, but his voice had enough weight to discourage any further argument - at least, not while he was in earshot. "I will not participate in your little discussion but I will remind you that if the two of you are incapable of working together, you will likely both fail in your task." After a moment's silence he answered Syvra's question. "Leave a message for us here. I expect you have enough facility with your powers to create a suitable hiding-spot for it." The Dark Toa turned his head at Agrona's call, and having given the Legacy's newest operatives one last warning look, he approached her and the Matoran. "Ahkmou?" he replied, narrowing his eyes. "Why do you ask that?"

The Toa was quite aware that the opinions of him were low for the time being, but this didn't really upset him. Anyways it didn't look as though opinions on the moron he was stuck with were any higher. At least once he was out of his body he wouldn't have to speak with Syvra. "We should go."

Agrona gave Echelon a look, "Our friend here claims to be Ahkmou in another body," she returned to Ishi's gaze all the while wearing a sly smile, "Why doesn't Ahkmou recite his and Echelon's most recent conversation? That is unless he'd like to tell us something else..."

Syvra merely nodded to Echelon and then his gaze drifted to J'con motioning with his right hand "Lead the way to this cove you have in Ga-koro. We can plan further from there."

"Does he now?" Echelon replied, eyes fixed on the Matoran. No expression warped the features of his mask. His mouth remained a hard, cold line. "I think that's an excellent idea, Agrona," he said. "I remember it well."

"Let us go then." (OOC: J'Con)

Ishi was still in the bubble of bark as Agrona and Echelon conversed. By the bioluminescent rose on the wall of the bark bubble the informant could make out the face of a captive on the ground near his foot. It took another moment to realize the toa's mouth was missing, a smooth patch of skin where lips should have been, the likely culprit the witch who'd saved his life and scarred his hand. Ishi was learning more about the lesterin healer called Agrona by the moment and factoring whatever he could into his developing plan for survival. It was a slim chance, escaping with his life, but armed with nothing but his words the Hapaka had slipped through the fingers of the Architect and evaded the Spider's web. Each situation was different than the present, but in each Ishi had learned something new about himself. With Ambages Ishi had discovered the secret of reverse psychology, with Caerus he had tamed his own arrogance. Secrets stay safest when buried, Ishi remembered. Once, his own life had been a secret, the memory of his hopes and dreams buried in the pages of the Mata-Nui Daily obituaries. In those thirty years of death he took on many roles. Those were the days of his walks in the shadows, his years of playing who he wasn't. For thirty years Ishi'd worn a mask of anonymity, stealing secrets without a trace and selling them through the mouths of other men. Curiosity of the marks brought him into the open and the secret of his life had been in jeopardy ever since. Down in the deep and surrounded by strangers Ishi felt a creeping in his soul: had unburying his life set him on a course to Karzahni? If so, he would make the most of the ride down. He stepped into the reddish dark of Mangaia while casting aside his coat. The tattered lava-eel skin and metal brigandine would be useless in the upcoming trial, and wearing a coat filled with metal when a toa of magnetism was about was ludicrous. The kukri’s sheath also clattered to the ground, unbuckled mid-stride. Without the coat the collection of beings existing as outlines against the darkness could plainly see the shoulder rigged harness for Ishi’s karambit, tucked tightly inside it’s sheath. Besides the diminutive knife Ishi was unarmed, in a physical sense. “Tell you what, you quote some conversation we had ages ago Echelon and I’ll decide whether or not I believe you altered your body like I did, although whichever toa of iron you got for the recoloring I’ll admit did a handsome job. I’m sure you wouldn’t get the words perfect, but oh well - we all have to leave a little room for error don’t we?” Ishi laughed and cocked his head as he observed the others, Two skakdi, a vortixx, a mysteriously muscular tower next to the vortixx who demanded attention once the situation allowed, and Agrona. Without pausing to consider the rationality he walked into their midst until he was close enough to make out the details of Echelon’s face. His footsteps echoed softly throughout the cavern. “Or maybe there’s a better way. Faith is a crazy thing, but if you believe in Him you can believe in me when I say I serve the master of Shadows. Maybe you're the one who's false. All shadows bicker as to their shape but none can doubt their origin."

"You attempt to shift the scrutiny from yourself to Echelon." The Fe-Toa's voice cut in smoothly, a calm, almost amused, verbal blade, slicing through the wordplay to the heart of the matter. Eisen broke his stillness to turn, and take a few measured steps towards the Matoran, arms crossed and keen eyes fixed upon the diminutive being. He looked once from Echelon, analytically, then briefly to Agrona, and finally, back to Ishi. "A clever endeavor, but a futile one. You are the one in question. Echelon's identity is not a matter of faith; It is a matter of fact. While his appearance has been altered, it is slight; Furthermore, there are some things that cannot be replicated by an impostor. I am satisfied by the evidence mine eyes have perceived, as are my companions; Some of whom have encountered him before." A pause, as the Fe-Toa's eyes narrowed. "Your attempts at verbal maneuvers is clumsy, and does not lend credence to your claims. A shadow may be a shadow, but a shadow can easily be cast by a false light."

Too many figures of speech. These are tactics used to obscure truth; I do not trust them, even coming from my own comrades. Shadows are shadows; light is light, and this Matoran is a liability.

Oh, this was a brave one we were dealing with. Still - beyond the obvious courage he displayed (or stupidity, depending on your point of view), his ploy was childish in the extreme. First to try and act like a Matoran that a number of us knew of and at least one of us knew well, and then to try and shift the focus of questioning from himself to that same person who would know, the best of all of us, how to tell if this little half-wit Matoran was who he said to be. "My colleague is correct," I said then, jumping into the conversation myself. "You were the one who claimed to be Akhmou; therefore, it falls upon you to prove your claim. Your rather childish attempt at shifting attention from yourself to Echelon might work on Matoran as dimwitted as you appear to be, but I think we'd all rather dispense with the games and get on to business."

Echelon nodded slowly as his comrades spoke, one hand rubbing his chin musingly. He did not speak, nor did he move from where he stood. His eyes flitted away from the Po-Matoran towards something in Agrona's hand - something that had not been there before. It was a book, bound in fading leather. The Dark Toa didn't bother to ask. Shadows curled across the journal's surface as it was lifted from the Lesterin's grasp and floated into Echelon's waiting hand. "What is this?" he asked.

"He says it's his journal Echelon," Agrona stirred, "Ahkmou's journal," she said, rolling her eyes, "He still hasn't told us your most recent conversation."

Ishi looked to the skakdi as he approached, noticing the shimmer of metal gauntlets in the dark of Mangaia. The tall being, who stood over a head above a vortixx, spoke with a voice powerful and commanding and echoed the skakdi's sentiments. In the background he made out a glove covering the left arm of the vortixx who stood silently, not doubt waiting for a moment to strike. The name Kohra came to mind, but her coloration was black like Echelon's. However, the shadowy tendrils Echelon employed brought an answer to the altered appearances. Somehow Makuta had sent a boon to his servants, or maybe something else was at work. The Informant would learn sooner or later and for now kept his silence on the matter. “Yes it’s my journal and you’re welcome to peruse it, although I’ve little doubt you’ll find yourself unable to read beyond the numbers. Maybe you’d want a demonstration of my handwriting, or a reading from some of its pages? I brought you weapons and supplies in Xa-Koro before you laid waste to that Island Liberation Front, Echelon. I was told you needed an edge and I provided it.” Ishi had read a brief passage about the movement of materials to Xa-Koro for the dark toa’s assault during his sleepless nights decoding Ahkmou's journal. Its words like most of the entries were vague, but Ahkmou’s clear distaste for open ocean was enough to guess the two men met when the materials were shipped to the crime infested Koro now unfortunately beneath the ocean. With luck his conjecture was not a suicidal fabrication. “If there is some other test in which to prove my loyalty to Makuta I’m happy to do so. What matters more, though,” said Ishi, “is that we’ve met again and this time instead of materials I bring knowledge. Since my exile from Po-Koro I’ve worked diligently to spread our master’s shadows, and finally I’ve found a way to destroy the unity of those who do not bow to Him, to turn them against each other and let chaos and blood run free."

IC (Echelon) "You have a very interesting way of attempting to gain trust," Echelon observed coldly, snapping the journal shut. "All that links you to Ahkmou is a name and a book - and you and I know that both things are easily stolen." He took three steps towards the Po-Matoran, and raised a hand, palm facing him as though instructing him to stop. Ishi found himself unable to move his limbs or turn his head, locked in place by invisible forces and lifted bodily off the ground until he was face to face with Echelon. Shadows flickered across his form. "I only met Ahkmou once, you know," the Dark Toa said, his cold green eyes mere inches from the mismatched ones of the Matoran. "He was timid. Respectful. He hid it well, but I knew he was in fear and awe of me and my comrades. But you...you walk in the halls of Makuta, surrounded by not one but six of us...and yet you show neither fear nor deference, but wax lyrical to us." Echelon released the magnetic hold and the Po-Matoran dropped to the floor. "Both body and personality completely changed?" he continued as the Matoran picked himself up. "Even if you were speaking the truth, you may as well be a different person." There was then a change in Echelon's tone, from cold disdain to...interest, perhaps? A recognition of opportunity? "However. Your true identity is neither here nor there; we do not need Ahkmou. We need an Ahkmou. "And as it happens, there is indeed a...test."

IC: Ishi Polzin He coughed, hands and knees pressed into the stone floor for support. Echelon's elemental attack was expected but nevertheless the shock of his body falling to the whims of another left the informant physically shaken. Ishi could feel inside himself the places the necromancer had tugged on and it made him gag. How was he always so powerless? Even his attempted deduction of Ahkmou's personality had failed. Ishi had misread the clues in the makuta-followers words, had falsely deduced the body movement and habits from Ahkmou starting the Cultured Gentry. It was disgusting to have made such clear blunders. Echelon's remark brought Ishi back to the present and the po-matoran pushed himself on to his feet before replying. He swayed a little, knees still weakened by the effects of having shadow and magnetism coursing through his veins, but managed to stay up. "I'll take this test."

IC The only test worth taking is that of bone against bullet. Ahkmou or not, I doubt this Matoran would pass.

IC: I sighed, slightly, as this little Matoran dropped his combative, egotistical persona and instead assumed a more meek one. It was more befitting for one in his place, yes, but the bravado he had displayed before was entertaining. What would have been more entertaining, though, would've been what I might have done to him had he kept it up, provided I had the approbation of my comrades. After all, the mask he wore seemed to be getting old. Perhaps he could use a newer one, made of red-hot iron, rather than the one that he currently had. It would certainly keep his face warm, and his shrieks of 'gratitude' would certainly be fun to listen to. But, sadly, it appeared that I wouldn't be getting the chance. So, I continued to stroke the Kraata I held, waiting for somebody to determine where the group would go next.

IC: Kohra quietly slipped back into a darker spot nearby, with only the faintest light present in the cave catching on her outline and the purple glow of her eyes visible. She observed the exchange between Echelon and the Matoran referring to himself as Ahkmou. The dark Toa had very little patience for fool and those who had outlived their usefulness. The Matoran was dangerously close to falling into both categories, but despite some of his behaviour being foolish, he did not seem to be a downright fool. And perhaps, there was some use for him yet. Although: "He's of no use sitting on the floor like that. " the Vortixx stated. "If this test entails walking somewhere, I suggest we move."

IC: Agrona - Kini-Nui - Mangaia Agrona smiled as the Matoran elected to take Echelon's test. Proud of her work, she moved over to her newest pet project. Toros lay on the ground, eyes closed and mouth permanently shut. Agrona sat over him again, placing her bone knife at the Toa's throat. She used the other hand to slap him hard across the cheek.

"Toros my friend," she said rather loudly, "You mouth has been cauterized by burning metal, and I've used my mask to heal together your lips. Your nerve endings are rather sensitive," the Lesterin spoke with a soft aggression. This truly was her favorite kind of work, "You are unable to consume food or water, and thus, would die from starvation if the dehydration wouldn't kill you first. Which it will." Agrona soothed, "However I, and only I can provide you with sustenance. I have a special way of doing it." Her yellow eyes looked at him warmly, "So if you want to live I would suggest you do exactly what I tell you when I tell you or I will let your body dry up and rot, left to the flies," Agrona's smile was warm and inviting, "Nod if you understand. Shake your head if I should slit your throat instead, although it would mean much of my hard work would be wasted."


IC: Greisk

... Well, dang.

Greisk considered his options. Well, really only none option.

He nodded.

IC Given the choice between death and life, it has been my experience that 98% of all beings will choose the latter. Even if the prospect of living is daunting for a multitude of reasons, the will to live is a strong instinct, and difficult to override, even with the promise of future horror. I suppose one might call it life's quiet miracle, that it persists in the face of astronomical odds.

I do not believe in miracles.

A less patient man would question Echelon as to our estimated time of departure from this place. We have been attacked once; a second skirmish is not out of the question, especially considering the noise of battle that we have sent ringing through the far-flung tunnels of the underground. It would be wise to remove ourselves. However, I am patient. So I wait.

IC (Echelon) "Quite so," Echelon gave his approbation to Kohra's remark. "It is time we moved on." The Dark Toa took a strip of black cloth from his belt and tossed it to his Vortixx compatriot. "Ensure that he can see no part of our journey." Echelon had no intention of giving the Matoran the location of his base of operations. He cast his eye over the figures of his allies, frowning when his gaze rested on the Kaiakan, who was still toying with the Kraata he had found. "Karnakie, I appreciate the temptation to play with one's food, but we have much to do and time is of the essence. Put the thing out of its misery and I'll get you some Matoran to play with, hmm?" The great man shrugged. "As you wish." The Kraata was crushed to a greenish pulp between his fingers.

IC: Ishi Polzin A glob of the kraata's exploded pulp splotched on Ishi's kanohi. He groaned, using a finger to wipe it away but the lens of his kaukau had gained a shmear of sticky contaminants. Names and faces were beginning to take shape in Ishi's mind, each shadowy companion being called out by their leader helped solidify identity; it was better than simply thinking of Karnakie as 'The Rock That Talks'. Ishi turned toward the vortixx and stepped forward for her to tied the blindfold.

IC (Echelon) By the time this fight of Toa against Rahkshi began, the gathering in Mangaia's deep hall had departed. Not even the broken pieces of Ishi's Volo Lutu remained to mark their erstwhile presence.

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