Cast of Characters

  • Ishi Polzin, played by Kughii
  • NPC guards, played by Kughii
  • Dervish, played by Norik

Chapter 15: Den of The Architect

IC: Ishi Polzin

The wind of Ko-Wahi was a free spirit, young and fresh from the Western Sea, and unused to carrying the sounds of war. The battle cries, the clashing steel, the cracking of long-frozen ice; it had not carried such horror since the darkest days of Makuta's reign. And wind, the most fickle of elements, did not like its burden. It tried to cast off the sounds by throwing them at the mountains, but all it achieved was horrible echoes. The cacophony shuddered the snows to the North, and in a few places the ancient mountains retaliated as they always had with an avalanche. The silence of the falling snow and rock made the winds happy: here was the peace and fickle truth of life, where nature was always in motion, always finding resolution to the barbarism of the two-legged plague infesting it.

Ishi Polzin ascended into the biting wind quick as his tired dikapi would allow. Exiting the Dark Walk he blinked and Urugi shook its avian head. The light was nearly blinding. They'd made it safely through the vile tunnels alone and unguarded. Ishi couldn't say the same for the second dikapi that'd been with them. The bird was for transporting cargo, but it fell down a ravine in a sudden ambush by rahi and left Ishi without food or water for a day. Alone and in the dark, Ishi and Urugi had formed a certain bond of fellowship forged through fear of the unknown. He reached down and gave the bird a pat on its metallic neck, felt where the feathers grew from the inorganic plates.

"We made it... Almost," Ishi Polzin said, then squaring his shoulders gave a flick of the reins and the two set off into the snows.

Between the Dark Walk and the City of Winter was a small rise. They made slow progress. The dikapi was a desert bird, and its feet sank deeper into the snows than it would if the landscape had been dunes. Ishi shivered, missing the mangled coat of lava-eel scales tied in a bundle on the back of the saddle. At the top the matoran of stone looked down at the origin of the sounds he'd heard echoing in the tunnels and tearing across the winds from the West. His markedly strange eye followed the trail of destruction from the bloodied field in front of the glacier village to the gates, pieces of metal from the twisted remains dotting the landscape from where they'd flown outwards as if by an explosion. From there he could trace the debris into the city a small way, and then it vanished into the glacier. However, the powder of snow drifting from above the village was testament to the great conflict within.

He sighed, realizing the timing had been perfect. Somehow, his misadventures with Joske Nimil had placed him at the ending line of the conflict, as a scavenger rather than a fighter. Ishi Polzin enjoyed the increased change of survival it brought. "And the secrets must be high as the corpses"

There was still a fight at the gates, although the Informant could easily tell the defenders were outmatched by the Brotherhood of Ak'rei'an, pulling back to try and save what parts of the village they could. Taking the main gate was still a dangerous route, but Ishi knew another way. With a pull of the reins they set off at a jaunt down the right side of the slope, careful to not stray near the fighting in case someone with exceptionally keen eyes decided to set their blood lust on him. He kept right, taking another rise until the village was out of sight. Despite his inability to see he could still hear the echoes. They cut through a valley, and then climbed the mountain as snow began to fall, at first fleeting, but by the time they reached his goal the white fluff was nearly blinding and he saw a spear before he saw hope.

"Halt! Name and purpose!" Came the voice quickly attached to a standing ko-matoran guard, Sanctum shield and spear the apparent weapons. His voice was filled with the fear and uncertainty of someone stationed away from a conflict and without clear orders.

Ishi Polzin leaned down in his saddle, letting the guard get a good view of his kaukau and one of his mutilated hands. "I'm trying to get to the hospital. I heard there was a doctor who could help with this sort of thing that resides there."

The guard paused, eyes narrowing as he judged the situation, than lowered his spear. "You came at a bad time then, but yes, Dr. Gabel is supposed to be good with restoring limbs. Take the Academy path, just ahead. It'll be safer to be in the complex, where guards can watch you. I'm sorry, but this is a state of emergency; we're not taking any chances."

Ishi nodded slowly and sent Urugi forward, the bird trotting underneath a great arch three times their combined height. The Nuju-Marion Research Academy and Hospital was built as a tiered bastion for education and health, taking up two steppes on the mountainside. The lower was occupied by the Academy, its squared walls surrounding the inner classrooms and library. A great bell tower pierced the afternoon with the mournful sounds of alarm. They crossed the courtyard slowly, and the guards raced about the open space, carrying objects usable for sealing and bracing the main gate. Chance or luck? Ishi wondered and dismounted, leading Urugi the rest of the way on foot.

Connecting the academy to the hospital was a wide stairway paved with the same hexagonal flagstones as the rest of the complex. It wound up the plateau to an underpass that exited at another smaller courtyard. A small squad of guardsmen rushed past, their armor clattering in the cold, and went in the direction of the hospital's main door. Ishi let them pass, taking a few moments to rub his gnarled stubs against his mount's ribs, hoping to remove the dull ache. Cold, he'd learned, was a terrible thing for scars. He looked back down the stairwell and through the circular underpass he'd just come from and could barely make out the bell tower below. The snow was beginning to lessen, and that was a bad sign. Immediate action became necessary.

Ishi Polzin ran quickly across the courtyard, glad the commotion inside the hospital drew the general attention. There was the sound of crashing, but the falling snows dampened the echoes. With luck his own footsteps would be nothing more than ambient sound. He found the entrance to the side tunnel quick enough: he'd taken it twice already after all and the disguised bit of wall hiding it from general view was practically a red flag to him now. Inside were a pair of guards, their heated conversation broken at his arrival.

"Who-" the first one began, but Ishi was already in action and bull-rushing. Up close, where he could position his hands and cast a shadow on the guard's torso, he concentrated and a lance of darkness punched through their chest. His left hand clasped around the guard's mouth, stopping the scream while slamming the lower jaw back into the throat. The next guard was dispatched by ducking under the spear thrust from behind, performing a pivot, and bringing a black blade across her from mid-section to forehead. Ishi Polzin caught the dead woman's fall in his arms, carefully eased her to the ground, and took a deep breath. Then scrounged for what he could use. The first thing he took was the man's patero launcher and ammunition, followed by a few widgets, a shield, a bottle of distilled liquor, and then a page from the woman's log book. Reaching into his bag he rummaged around and found the final touch: a match. Sufficiently armed he padded down the tunnel until the gate was in sight. A group of guards were staring at him through the bars as he approached, their faces already set in the hard lines of combat readiness.

"I hope you're thirsty!" Ishi cried as he lit the match, ducking and weaving as the first salvo burst toward him and rattled against the stolen shield. He hunkered down, slamming the circular defense into the hard snow of the tunnel between the floor and the wall and crouching behind it as he brought the match and hastily contrived explosive together. The paper caught the small flame, started to curl and burn. The first salvo ended and Ishi popped up on a knee, took quick aim, and threw.

The fire did its job. What didn't die, ran to put out the burns. Urugi hadn't fared as well. The bird was bleeding and its wing was broken, and Ishi finished what the guards had started with a quick swipe of his shadowy powers. Shouldering the bag from behind the saddle he cranked the lever for the portcullis by kicking it in slow circles, than rushed through before it slammed closed again. Before he could get a firm grip of the situation a guard tackled him to the ground, a swift blow to the temple with the butt of a spear making his eyes water behind his kaukau. Somehow, his vision didn't fade to black. "You piece of dung!" The guard cried out, spun the handle around and thrust. The blade pierced into the snow to the side of Ishi's moved head as a patero launcher's grape shot pounded at point blank range into the guard's chest. "Sorry, I was just born this way," Ishi commented as the guard died. Shoving the corpse off his body he spun up on a knee, ready to face the next threat. There wasn't one. "Finally something goes according to plan." With the weight of his stolen gear and the bundle on his back Ishi trudged into the village, sticking to the alleyways and following the trail of scared villagers whenever possible. Nightfall's goal was the Citadel, but Ishi had other plans while the city of Ice fell to darkness. As the theological war was carried out with death and destruction Ishi planned to visit a third party in the discussion of the gods. He was off to visit an atheist.

IC: Dervish Arabeth gasped for breath as she into the city, Volitak activated. It certainly sucked to have to abandon a defenceless village to the attackers.

She looked around the city she may never see agai-

"Ishi!?" And there he was. He looked a lot more tired and haggard, but otherwise calm as if he knew this would happen.

The Hapaka always has a plan, you nitwit.

But the most telling change were his fingers, and they were... Were...

"Oh Mata Nui," for Ishi's fingers were now stumps.

She ran up and him and un-stealthed, following him into an alley.

"Ishi?" She called.

IC: Ishi Polzin The matoran turned swiftly as the toa popped into existence, his speed belying the weight of the gear he carried. The alleyway between the glacier cliff faces had barely enough room for the two to pass; it was nearly a muse and having his name echo softly in it was disconcerting. The voice was recognizable and instead of firing the patero launcher and wasting another round of limited munitions he lowered the barrel and sighed. The small toa of electricity looked like she'd been through a fight or two already. A few bumps and scratches dotted her body, but otherwise nothing serious. In the city chaos Ishi imagined a number of situations, all of them bad. Hopefully Dervish hadn't taken a side publicly yet.

"It was the coat, wasn't it," Ishi commented slowly, referencing the mangled garment he now used as a makeshift bundle for carrying some of his more recent acquisitions. It was held on his right shoulder, and the weight seemed to pull him off-balance as he stood. "Makes no matter, you found me and that's all. I see you didn't wait at the Academy." Like I'd told you to lingered unspoken. He glared at her, then softened his mood and started hustling down the alleyway until they broke into a small courtyard surrounded by huts carved into the icy walls. No one was around.

"Inside, go." Ishi pointed with the patero toward the nearest building, a small two-story of modest accommodation if the lack of window-shutters were anything to judge by.

"What's the situation so far?"

IC: Dervish Arabeth was a little confused at Ishi's annoyed tone. This was a war, and he- Oh, never mind. "The Citadel's broken in, and an army is sieging the front. They just broke the gate. But Ishi, what happened? You look..."

IC: Ishi Polzin Ishi finished her sentence as his foot kicked the door close. "Different? Oddly off-hue for a po-matoran? Excellent deduction Detective Dervish, but we've got more important things to worry about. Let's start by not getting blown to pieces or turned into zombies.

"I knew as much about the gate getting here, but the Citadel already being breached is a different matter. I'll assume that's Echelon's rowdy crew of war mongers, but you sound like you were there? Anything else you can add to my picture of the situation? I saw the NM Hospital on the way in, and the Academy seems like its boarding up the gates and getting ready for a siege." His eyes scanned the interior of the dwelling, the sack of equipment dumped on the prominent dining table, the only item of wood in the home. It was standard architecture, square lines and little decoration all carved out of the glacier's ice. Pulling back the curtain along one wall revealed an empty bed of furs and an oil lamp hung on the wall by an iron spike. The small box in the corner of what served as a humble kitchen contained a tiny heat-stone, keeping foodstuffs from freezing. Ishi greedily helped himself to the closest thing resembling food: a bag of bread sticks. After a day without food in the Dark Walk the taste was of little concern. They were stale and the interior cheese tasted near the point of going from delicacy to rotten, but they brought back memories of Ventra and his conversation in Forsi's tavern. It was amazing how many months the plans had stewed, how long his thumb on Hewkii had remained pressed without release, how true his words still were. While the war outside raged on he stood freezing in an abandoned home eating someone's leftovers... “What the karz are you doing here,” Ishi Polzin hissed as he pushed his head under the curtain. The Ta-Matoran nearly dropped her drink, grabbed his wrist, and pulled him inside the safety of the concealing fabric with a killing glare. “Not so loud,” Ventra whispered back, her eyes flickering toward the singers and sailors beyond the curtain. “And since when do I have to justify getting a drink? You like karzahni, by the way. What happened to you coat?”

“I tripped. And are you going to let go of my hand or...”

The informant released as if she had been holding a wood stove. “Business. Waiting for someone.”

“Well, I hate to say I didn’t get the memo, again.”

“The island doesn’t revolve around you Hapaka,” she retorted. “He was supposed to be on the train today.”

Ishi slid the drawstring bag off his shoulder, pushing it between the wooden booth and the stone wall. “He? Did he, uh, happen to be a Ta-Matoran like yourself?”

Ventra coughed on her drink, spluttering as an ice cube slid down her throat. “Why for all the money in the Gentry would I tell you?”

“Well, because a certain someone might want to know why there’s a Ta-matoran laying in the Motara Desert about 150 miles from here.”

The glass slowly returned to the table with an uncomfortable silence. Ishi ignored the building tension and fiddled with a breadstick. Taking a bite, the tiny matoran nodded happily as Mahi feta melted into his mouth. “Mmm, they got the filling inside. Yum.”

“You killed my contact?”

“Hey,” He reproached, stuffed bread stick pointed at Ventra’s chest; “he came at me first. Pulled a knife and tried to slice my jugular right open. Would have been a nasty mess all over the compartment. You should be happy I’m still here.” Ishi leaned back into the booth, taking another bite from his stolen blob of baked wheat.

“I would be happy if my contact was sitting here instead of soaking the sands with his blood like soap on a sponge. You may not realize this, but this line of work is not a game. You can’t waltz about as if you’re some omnipotent Great Spirit when you’re -- for Mata-Nui’s sake eat the stupid breadstick or put it down already -- when you’re not. You’re a nobody, Hapaka. A nobody. When you wear your rose, you alter the destiny of this island from the shadows. Who we are, who we work for --” Ventra stopped, emotion turning her words to furious tears. Straightening her back, she wiped away what crawled across her kanohi and continued. “How’d you kill him, huh? With a Patero Launcher, or did you just shove him off the train the moment he said hello?”

“With his own knife... Actually."

“Why am I not surprised,” Ventra barbed. She rolled her eyes and gave a long sigh. “You killed Poku with his own gun, and now my contact with his own knife. Is it some sick hobby you have or something? I mean, really?”

“I’m unarmed. I simply use my enemy’s strength as their weakness. And it’s not like I wanted to kill those men,” Ishi countered, elbows resting on the table while he leaned inward to speak with quiet force, dark coat rustling into position. “I killed them because I like living. Got it? Hapaka likes to live just as much as Poku or any other Jack I’ve offed.”


“Generalization,” Ishi admitted with an animated hand; “there’s been a few Jills. You’re right though, this is for real. But real people play games Ventra, they just get into bigger ones as they pretend to grow up. We are altering the destiny of this island. Every rose bearer, every guard, every Makuta worshipping sand snipe that’s burrowed themselves bottom up to hide from the apocalypse that is their lost god. We all affect the course of destiny. I just want to see what the end looks like so I know if all the time I’ve spent playing is worth my eternity in karzhani when I finally kick the bucket.” He paused, glaring at Ventra as she stared back in shock. “I’ve been in this game longer than you. Spies come and go. Toa come and go. Karz, even Makuta comes and goes, well one go after a lot of coming, but Hapaka outlasts them. He exists because destiny continues to push new fools into the fray, and the fray is where you’ll find me. I enjoy the big game we play, but in the end I want to win.”

There were no sounds from up the stairwell, but Ishi led the way after his brief snack in silent reminiscence. He brought the coat-wrapped bundle with him, along with the rest of the gear. It was a Potter's studio, with a halfway decent view of the courtyard below. A potter's wheel slowly spinning was the only sign of the matoran who only recently fled the fray. How long Ishi and Dervish were be safe from the tide of carnage the Informant couldn't say. "I told you I'd the makings of a plan after Alloy gave his great martyr speech. I said I'd get us out of this alive. Well..." He paused, letting his arms open wide and giving a little shrug for flair; "this is it. The plan starts with visiting Ambages the architect. I doubt he's home at this hour or in this chaos, but that's only going to make our lives easier. Let's just say I have a certain interest in seeing his house without him present, now... while the rest of the village is being ripped to pieces. You in?" Or should I just kill you now? The words hung in the air unspoken as he gazed at the mercenary.

IC: Dervish Arabeth cursed as she grabbed Ishi away from the breadsticks. "Ishi, cut the ######. What happened to your fingers?" She stared down Ishi. Her stare met Ishi's hungry and angry look. After a few secinds, she let him go. He gave Arabeth a curious look. "If you don't want to talk about it, fine. If you must know, I was there at the Citadel, and just escaped," Arabeth said as she observed Ishi turn back and start to ravenously devour the leftovers. "I guess I'm in. I've always wanted to break into a rich man's home."

IC: Ishi Polzin "Sounds like an average day in the life," Ishi commented about his companion's near death venture. "There's not a moment the past few weeks I haven't been dangling by a thread... I'm no tightrope walker, but if the wind up high is anything like the buffering of action and consequence down here in mortality land I'm sure I'd be ace. Ambages, hrm," Ishi paused for both thought and to swallow the end of the bread sticks. Having something to eat brought a clearer sense of focus to his thinking, where before it had been smart at best things were once again escalating toward genius. "He's a pretty widget and thinks fast I'll give him that, but I doubt his house would be any more guarded than what the right hand of an assassinated island leader would have under normal circumstances of heightened tension during intermediary ruling of his own. "That is to say we're probably going into a place armed to the teeth with roaches. Feel up for a little pest control?" Ishi had a wry smile. "With luck the largest portion will be off putting out... well... not fires probably but stamping out something like their punitive lives if they encounter any of the attackers in the streets. Ambages will play it smart and evacuate, I doubt a man who believes his life is worth something would stick around during all of," he gestured vaguely toward the window, "this." Ishi paused the spinning of the potter's wheel with a well placed toe. The cyclical motion had created a soft buzz and the sudden silence pleased him. He clearly heard the destruction outside moving closer with every cold breath exiting his lungs as hot vapor. Ishi Polzin was working without clear blueprint, lacking the subtlety of a more skilled wet-worker, delving into the danger with insufficient geographical information and opposition of unknown number. The matoran of stone couldn't help but love the idea. It was his way, after all. The thought of Dervish tearing through a small platoon of guards brought a feverish glee, and then the true reason surfaced in his mind, like a fish in a pond begging to be fed with each approaching looker: the komau. Ahkmou's journal spoke once of Ambages. Once, and only once. Ishi remembered the encrypted words, their true meaning burned into his mind as if with a hot brand;

The atheist came tonight, not surprising given Onewa’s now sealed in stone. We are different sides of the same coin, and he is an enemy I would keep the closest. His name is strange, but it seems to fit his modus operandi. I can’t help wondering if it was really given at birth or taken by some indirect means of deception. Although I may regret my decision, I gave it to him. The Po-Koro guard will be sure to check my hut before any other, and I can’t have it compromising my situation with Him. I’m sure he’ll find a way to ambage the rise of Makuta. I’ll have to speak with him soon.

It hadn't taken much work or outside delving, although the trip to the archives of the Mata-Nui Daily was the linchpin of Ishi's deduction. The final question was where Ambages kept such a precious object. Something so valuable would naturally be kept close, where it could be monitored and be readily at hand should the need arise. What purposes Ambages might devise with its use made a shudder run up the Informant's spine; of pleasure or fear he couldn't say. If the komau was close to hand, it must be safe, and what was a safer place than the very place searched by the Island Liberation Front and found to be without evil? Yes, Ishi had realized during his travels and escape from Ryiu Polzin and a meeting with his sister, the komau was located in Ambages' mansion. Of course, it was a mansion, and any portrait or loose stone could hide a secret safe. With luck, it'd be in the places Ambages most frequented: bedroom, hallway, solar, office, privy.

The soft boom of snow in great quantity falling brought Ishi from his thoughts. One of the houses near the opening of the muse was beginning to sag, parts of its roof caving inward. "I think... I think it's time we move. From here we need to take the bridge to the left, cross the chasm to the inner koro. I take it the main bridge is destroyed?" He pulled away from the window, letting his eyes gaze across the toa's face. She was pretty, but hidden away behind the armor. A double protection, then. Ishi couldn't help but wonder if someday he could exploit more than just her talents in combat. Subterfuge and intelligence weren't her specialties, but with a little training... Yes, with a little training she'd do quite nicely.

IC: Dervish Arabeth gave Ishi a sidelong glance. He was giving that look that said that he was thinking a hundred things and talking at once.

"I'm not sure. I wouldn't be surprised, if that were the case.

"So where's our next location?"

IC:Ishi Polzin

"Look at you trying to piece things together, it's almost endearing; but I already told you where we're headed, and now it's just a race across a village filled with homicidal maniacs -- what fun!" Ishi wore a roguish grin as he sauntered off, letting the words sit in the air like a slap from a wet towel. Dervish stood momentarily stunned, and watched him lean out the door to check the street, then followed after the cockiest po-matoran known to Karzhani. Ishi moved with a practiced direction through the maze of stairs, interlocking homes carved inside the glacier, and spindly bridges. Ko-Koro was a lover of more than one night for the Informant, and his time spent learning the alley shortcuts during the village's lock-down proved invaluable at avoiding the destruction waged by forces of the Mangaia Pact. Once, on a foot-wide bridge across a dizzying fissure, Ishi dared to look at the chaos. The Western wind carried the sound of the dying, and the clamor of religious fanaticism. In the streets below, nearly specks from his vantage point, the Brotherhood of Ak'rei'an were filing in from the breach in the gate; and further into the village small pockets of guards valiantly took their last breaths defending the throng of villagers funneling through the small gate toward the hospital. The corpses littering the streets and bridges of the glacier village were crops in drought: wilted, slumped to one side, and motionless. Break the virtues, bring the darkness. Take secrets, leave chaos. Ishi smiled as his blood turned hot at the euphoria of reveling in his life's purpose. "Everything's perfect, Dervish. We've got all the chaos a god of darkness could desire boiling the ice beneath our feet. No one's going to notice a couple of shorties amid this..." he continued across the bridge and out of the dangerous, howling wind, "this revolution of principles. The world is changing; the old is giving birth to the new with rivers of blood, like always. Anything we create requires destruction: food, cities, even stories... the abstract concept has to die for the reality to exist, see? No? Well, no matter..."

Ishi's words faded into silence punctuated by puffs of hot breath. Cold, and feeling the weather in the stubs of his fingers, his teeth chattered madly by the time they reached Ambage's apartment. The assumed guards outside the front door were absent, called into the thick of the assault by a sense of duty to protect the living rather than a, hopefully, empty apartment. If Ambages was home things would be horribly different, and Ishi, for once in his life, didn't want different: he wanted silent success. "Dervish, you go first and stake out the building. If there's any traps, well... try not to set them off." Ishi whispered. "I'll get the door once the coast is clear."

IC: Arabeth Arabeth frowned a little at the Hapaka's words. Ishi was usually a little abrasive and liked to tease, but there was something... sinister in his quips today. Something's wrong, even if he tries to tell me to shrug it off. Arabeth simply nodded and followed Ishi's instructions. She activated her Kanohi and sneaked off. Her footfalls made prints in the snow, but she wasn't worried. The apartment was a modest affair for a man of Ambages' standing, low and spacious but not... splendorous.

IC: Ishi Polzin Dervish left the alleyway under the guise of her huna, vanishing into the cold afternoon shadows of the looming ice walls. Ishi waited in the alleyway. He stared at his hands, concentrating in short bursts to watch the little tendrils of shadow solidify before vanishing after only a few seconds. A few seconds would have to do, he realized, for what needed to be done. He felt strangely naked without his coat. When was exposed to fire and blade, and the regular weight and sway of its fabric was absent. Despite the feelings of incompleteness, there was a strange sense of freedom growing in the back of Ishi’s mind. Without the weight of the steel plates inside he moved quicker, and although his jaw clacked in the cold of the koro the increased mobility gave him a small sense of security. Perhaps his days with the lava-eel scale coat were over?

“Time’s ticking,” Ishi muttered under his breath, hot air rising. The matoran took a quick peek around the corner of the alley toward Ambage’s apartment down the street and saw nothing: a good sign. The screams still echoed through the village, but none originated from his destination. “Time to move.”

His black feet left two-toed prints in the fresh powder of the street as he sped from his hiding place. Ishi Polzin wasted no time in vaulting the small gate into the snowy courtyard, propelling himself up and over the obstacle by kicking into it as he jumped. Dervish was with him, a series of footprints stomping up to the door alongside his own. “I’ve been waiting to show you this little magic trick,” Ishi commented to the invisible toa as his hand rested against the key hole of the solid front door. The informant became silent, concentrating on the shadows around his hands, the shadows within the lock. He only had a few seconds. His hand turned.

There was an undeniable click as the bolt drew back. The way was open. Ishi smiled at the success of his ploy; turning the shadow in the keyhole into a physical part of his hand was a stoke of genius discovered by pure accident. He'd been reaching for a light-stone in his bag during the ride from Kini-Nui and found himself able to hold it without looking. Once the realization concentration was the only factor in his abilities happened everything else began to fall into place.

“See? Magic tricks,” Ishi said gleefully, then kicked the door in with his enhanced strength. The sound echoed through the apartment. “Ladies first.”

IC: Arabeth "Dervish" The invisible Toa said nothing as Ishi demonstrated his little trick. Apparently he had gained skills along with his time tramping around the island. Again.

Arabeth, still invisible, snuck into the building. It was pretty humble for someone like Ambages, but still pretty impressive. A large foyer greeted the intruder, a chandelier on the ceiling, and several bookshelves on the walls. A table was planted near the window, heaped with letters organised into piles.

At the far end of the foyer lay a long and low hallway that branched out to what were presumably the rooms. Adter a few seconds of Arabeth scouting the foyer out, she deactivated her mask and signalled for Ishi to enter.

"So what are we looking for?"

IC: Ishi Polzin As the po-matoran crossed the threshold of the Architect's home, the sight of his footprints in the snow outside caught his eye. He was passing through time, the past frozen in the street, the present closing the apartment's front door, and as time moved forward he came closer to answering a question begging for an answer since deciphering Ahkmou's journal: where did Ambage's keep the Makuta-follower's gift? After three weeks of travel and misadventures, Ishi finally felt he knew. The Architect was a man of self-reliance, and his distrust of The Spider proved his lack of allies. They were both Peers, two of four bound to a terrible mystery Ishi couldn't glean. Ambages was alone in the shadows and haunted by the light. It made sense for him to keep a prized possession in a safe place, and where safer than his own home? The Island Liberation Front searched it thoroughly once; where better to hide the very object sought once the hounds were gone? The foyer was a square room, floored in a checkerboard pattern. Ishi wondered if there were similarly sized pieces hiding somewhere in the closet under the stairs but didn't waste time checking. The bookshelves on the far wall were bisected by another door invariably leading to a kitchen or cellar. Architectural manuals played shelf-fellows to novels and traveling guides, with odd island curios, from the Architect's travels Ishi assumed, placed artfully in places needing bookends. If the Informant wasn't planning on tearing the apartment to pieces he might have enjoyed several of the titles while sipping a cup of tea on the second floor. Ishi Polzin flipped through the letters under the window as he observed the room, finding little of interest in the small stack of papers. General notices about Matoro's passing still lingered in the tray next to a vase with wilted flowers, followed by non-sensitive notes and motions for the Ko-Koro government. It was all old news now, and worthless on the black market: Echelon would own the city by nightfall. He covered his mouth with a palm, thinking hard on how to smuggle one of the most powerful masks on Mata Nui under the nose of the Necromancer. Of course, Dervish still had no clue as to their true purpose, and as long as that fact could be maintained Ishi was in control. "Tell me," Ishi asked suddenly. His words carried up the carved stairwell. "Do you have any practice with hidden object games? We're looking for something that could hide a metal safe about, oh," he sketched the rough proportions of his head in the air around with his hand, "this big? We're going to start here and work our way in until we find something." Any further dialogue was broken by the explosion of activity from the upper floor, and before Ishi could call warning they were beset by a trio of house guards. One was a toa of ice, quickly making use of his powers to stopper the stairs with a frigid blockade. The other two were matoran, taking defensive positions from the banister before getting clear shots with their patero launchers. Ishi felt a bamboo needle pierce his right arm in the first volley, and immediately he regretted not having his coat.

IC: Arabeth "Dervish" The Toa of Lightning rolled out of the way of the Patero shots as soon as Ishi called out.

"Use the furniture!" She called out to the Hapaka as she went invisible. The mercenary analysed the situation. The stairs were stoppered, and they had ranged weapons. The only way to negate either strength was to charge up or fire back, both of which were ether unfeasible or required a weapon they did not possess.

Maybe they could be forced to break their own barrier...

The Dervish watched as Ishi took cover. Now was the chance.

She unstealthed and called out to the attackers, "Get lost!" Before charging up the stairs to the barrier, mostly finished, befire attenpting to cut open thevice.

It was only for show.

There was no way they could shoot her without blowing the stairwell they were on up, or destroying the barrier.

They could fire at an angle over the barrier, but being at the top of a flight of stairs gave very little altitude for lobing grenades. Any failed attempt would bring the ceiling down. Hard.

Ishi's cover between two bookshelves made it difficult for them to target him without destroying most of the foyer.

IC: Ishi Polzin Finally the carnage of the village found the wily informant. No one could outrun War, he realized. Eventually, there's nowhere to go and the army behind continues its course, sewing sweet chaos in their spare time. Perhaps, in the face of unrelenting conflict the better option is to run toward rather than away. Ishi kept himself pressed between the two bookshelves as grape shot raked the contents. When the opportunity presented itself and the volley ended, he dashed left, kicking the door next to him down with a ferocious strike. The splinters of wood rattled across the dark floor. "Oh," Ishi said with realization. In the half-darkness of afternoon light seeping through one of the ice walls he could make out the back of the room only a few yards away, and several pieces of culinary equipment. Ishi grinned. Dervish's blades became unnaturally cold as they bit into the toa's summoned barricade. The snowy guardian stood with hands pressed on the other side, feeding his chilling energy into the defensive structure. Cutting through it wasn't an option. The matoran were getting bold. A frost-colored matoran with a hau vaulted the rail, landing in the middle of the checkerboard, occupying the black square often referred to as D4. The tattoos on his back were symbols of legacy and tradition, victories in the battle against Makuta written in allegorical pictures and symbols. Each rahi, and there were many, represented the spirit of a beast he'd vanquished, and they all danced up his spine reveling his power. In the moment he became a pivotal controller of the conflict, a small knight on one knee, and fired upon Dervish with cold precision. This was the Hand's home, and the guards planned to keep damage minimal. What was destroyed could be rebuilt or replaced, however, and Korgu the guard knew what took priority: killing the intruders.

IC: Arabeth "Dervish"

Bold, but foolish.

The grenade arced on its path towards Arabeth. The Dervish swung back her scimitar and leaped back wards. The grenade struck the spot where she was at scant moments ago. The staircase started to crumble, but most importantly, the barrier shattered.

The Dervish regained her footing slightly behind where she was. The stunned Toa of Ice only had time to draw his shield before Arabeth fell upon him, striking the shield once, twice, before sending electricity coursing from her sword to the shield and into the defender.

As the Toa lay twitching on the floor, the Matoran still on top fired. The grenade destroyed what remained of the weakened section of staircase as she turned invisible and rolled away.

The Matoran on the ground floor turned away and stalked towards the Hapaka, perhaps hoping to hold him hostage.

IC: Ishi Polzin

A soft afternoon light filtered through the icy walls of the kitchen. Granite counters ringed the room, covered in a multitude of half-peeled vegetables and hastily discarded cookware. A pile of dirty dishes stood in the soapy water of a sink, frosty ice covering the liquid's surface. A pot of broth bubbled and boiled on the island stove. Ishi assessed the situation quickly, noting the small sliding door, half-open, leading to a pantry of canned goods. From his position near the island the writing was illegible, the ambient lighting too dim to make out more than the general glint of the tin. Ishi grabbed his right shoulder, feeling the tip of the bamboo sliver pierced into his flesh, as sharp pain lanced cross-laterally, snaking up his neck and down his opposite leg. It was trivial compared to the agony of watching green fire consume his fingers, but enough to hamper his physical response. He would have to compensate. The guard, who's patero wasn't loaded since the last volley at Dervish, burst through the broken doorway and bull rushed. Ishi spun around and was swept up in the grapple, the ko-matoran wrapping tight arms around Ishi's waist. The po-matoran brought his elbow down on the shoulder blades, denting the armor, but with herculean strength he was thrown into the pantry, cans raining and rolling across the floor. Clay jars of oil broke as they hit the icy floor, a slippery mess adding difficulty to the encounter. Ishi growled and sprinted forward. The guard discarded his patero, no time to pump or reload, grabbed a meat cleaver from the counter, and hurled it. By some trick of fate -- or was it inexplicable luck, a luck he'd seemed to gain since meeting Joske -- the handle slammed into Ishi's thigh rather than the blade, but the force of impact was enough to knock him prone, slipping on the oily surface of the floor. Groaning, Ishi pushed himself up only to have a knee in his chest. The air rushed out of his lungs and his eyes bugged, but the attack didn't stop. He worked his way to a standing position, grappling and screaming in the frenzy, finally escaping by spinning under a hay maker. They danced around the kitchen in their fierce melee, Ishi swiping food off the counters with his palms to trip up his foe between deflections. He ducked and bobbed, but the guard was powerful and experienced. More than once Ishi found himself lying on his back, his opponent bearing down with a utensil of deadly design. Each time he somehow escaped, dodged, or managed to counter attack, until the guard finally grabbed the bamboo bard and twisted it deeper. Ishi screamed as blood spurt from the wound and his body exploded with pain. The po-matoran felt himself slammed onto the island, his face perilously close to the burning flames. His neck strained, his back lurched. He was pushed closer. The oil on his face was growing warm. The guard grunted and shoved, keeping the pressure, sinewy muscles bulging and inorganic components screaming. Fear made Ishi's heartlight race, but instead of fighting he let go, the sudden release giving him room to move his head. He bobbed up and slapped his mutilated hands into the hot steel of the stock pot, yelping as he felt his palms start to burn. Boiling stock slashed over the guard from head to chest. He howled and screamed, pulling back as the burns popped and blistered the skin of his organics. Summoning his concentration Ishi slammed forward, plowing the guard into the wall near the doorway to the foyer and, focusing on the darkness between them, stabbed deep into his chest with a dark blade of whirling shadow. The guards mouth went slack, his eyes glaze, and Ishi let him slump to the floor. "I killed them because I like to live," said Ishi as the lights of Forsi's Inn glittered around their secret meeting in the booth. Ventra looked aghast. "I like to to live just as much as Poku, or..." The foyer was silent after the brutal combat. Ishi stepped through the ripped doorway of the kitchen to join Dervish, noting the twitching toa of ice with spittle drooling from his tight jaw, blood mixing from where he bit his lip clean off. The other guard wasn't getting up either. Ishi took a deep breath, doing his best to ignore the sharp pain in his arm, ripping the drapes with his blood-covered palms for a temporary bandage. He couldn't tie the fabric, instead opting to pull the bamboo out with his teeth and hold the fabric in place with his left palm. He was bruised and battered, and his hands ached from the light burns of the stock pot. Dervish looked far better. "Away one: Home zero." He joined her on the stairs and continued before continuing to the landing. "Good job." The somber disposition disappeared as Ishi entered the office at the end of the hallway. It, like the rest of the house, was quiet. Dervish and Ishi were free to rip the apartment to shreds during the chaos of the outside world, and no one would be the wiser. A large desk sat in the center of the room, and behind it a row of bookshelves. A few chairs were positioned near a fireplace, now cold and filled with last week's ash. "Ambages would have kept what we're looking for under his nose at all times, but he couldn't possibly leave it in his office at the Citadel. I was there, and there's no place to hide anything like what we're looking for. He'd have put it here, in his office, because it's the safest place on the island of Mata Nui. The ILF already rolled through this building months ago and didn't find anything suspicious. This place is hallowed in the eyes of heroes, which makes it even better." "And what're we looking for?" Asked Dervish. "Oh, just the kanohi of turaga Onewa." Ishi replied nonchalantly, and began searching the room for clues.

IC: Arabeth "Dervish

The mercenary cleaned her swords on the tapestry beside her. "Woah, wait. Onewa's mask? That's a pretty big theft, methinks. I hope you know what you're doing." ... "Who am I kidding, " Arabeth quickly added to deflect any impending snappy remarks, "you always know what you're doing, don't you?" the sarcastic tone was not lost on Ishi. The Toa of Lightning started searching from the other side of the room.

IC: Ishi Polzin

"Glad to know you're finally appreciating my superior intelligence," Ishi deadpanned as the short toa began her search. While Dervish set herself on the bookshelves in hopes of finding some secret entrance or safe, the matoran of stone took a seat on Ambages' desk. He observed the individual items in the room as a unit, taking stock of location and placement, noting any dust collected on their surface. The tapestry fluttered softly in a breeze cutting coldly through the hallway, and Dervish's swords clattered to the ground as the wind caught beneath the thick fabric. He shivered. "There's always something deeper with The Architect," he admitted, tapping his heels on the desk's side. "He's an iceberg; I'm only seeing the surface before I bump against what lies waiting beneath the waves. What goes on behind is little ruru is astounding, and I half wonder if he isn't a better mind then I. Maybe it's my wondering that makes me better... I see room for self improvement where, by the gist of my dealings with him, he sees himself already at the top. He's happy as long as he wins, but what happens when winning a battle is losing a war?" Ishi paused as a short burst of pain spread from his wound. The blood on his skin had frozen in the glacier temperature, and the bamboo bard, what was left of it after his fight in the kitchen, caused a pulsing pain in the organics of his arm. Sooner than later the Informant would need to see a doctor. Two were in the area, Agrona and Riaril, but both were dangerous and harbored the possibility of capture, more pain, and death. Resolving to figure out the riddle for his healing later, Ishi returned his attention to the puzzle of Ambages' office. "Alright Dervish, let's say you were a super genius bent on controlling Mata Nui's political, economic, and military systems and had a kanohi with the power to do so hiding in your office. Where would you put it? I'd keep it someplace obvious where others thought me too smart to do. Play the strategy right and the most obvious thing can become the most difficult. Like, behind a bookcase, though it seems you got that covered already, or in the ceiling, or..." He stopped, fighting the smile threatening to cross his face. There was no evidence, it was only a hypothesis, and yet... "The desk." Ishi hopped to his feet and placed his weight against the centerpiece of Ambages' office. "Help me move this."

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