Chapter 5: Take 5
Things have been… uncomfortable, to the say the least.
Sure, Voriki had settled down. But since Karzahni decided that it would be best to cease the harsh tests and evaluations a couple of weeks ago, the lightning girl had become rather elusive around the citadel. Karzahni was still sure she was within the walls of his fortress; but he would only see glimpses of her, scuttling away behind a door or a turn in a hallway, like some sort of startled fikou crab. On the rare occasions that she managed to stay within his sight, he noted that any movements in her direction would cause her to flinch.
It was also in these rare occasions that Karzahni would see how tired she looked. Her clear blue eyes have become dim and muddied, her body was hunching over as if she was weighed down by some massive, unseeable burden. Anytime Voriki decided to move, her limbs would sluggishly perform their tasks like it was an unbearable torture.
But the worst part was her staring. Those eyes would always track him, watching every minute detail of his movements. Even he, the abomination with many eyes and all-seeing vision, couldn’t help but feel uneasy sometimes.
It was safe to conclude that Voriki was traumatized. Without her drive for revenge, the matoran’s fear had overtaken her mind.
And Karzahni… didn’t know what to do.
Which is why he now stands at the main stairway to the Palace of the Great Beings, fingers clicking nervously together in apprehension.
He really doesn’t want to do this. But at this point…
“Brother, I would like your insight on something.”
The whetstone pauses against the end of the massive sword. The giant figure slowly exhales, but doesn’t raise his purple eyes towards Karzahni.
“You desire my opinion on something?” the voice of Makuta rumbles.
“Yes, if you can take a break from your ever-so important task.”
The worn-down armor creaks as The Overseer rises from the steps, looking down at his malformed brother. His purple eyes narrow.
“You understand that I find this very suspicious.”
Makuta shifts his sword to his back, where it clicks into its magnetic sheath. He cross his arms with an annoyed grunt.
“Alright Karzahni,” he sighs, “I’ll humor you. What is it you want my aid for?”
“How does one overcome their fear of something?”
“We, as Great Beings, have very little to be afraid of.”
Karzahni rolls his multiple eyes.
“I’m not talking about us, you fool. If a lower being, like one of those matoran for example-”
The eldritch being hears the metal of the armor grate together before he realizes how much closer Makuta is standing from him.
“What. Did. You. Do.”
Makuta’s eyes glint with anger as Karzahni instinctively curls his tentacles closer around his body.
“Relax, brother; I’m just talking theoretics-”
“It sounds more than just theoretics.”
Their eyes are locked with each other for a tense moment before Karzahni barks a gross laugh.
“Oh come now, Makuta. I know for a fact you don’t care for Ekimu’s little ant farms he’s grown on the island; what’s the problem with messing with a few? It’s not like there’s already enough of them.”
“You are toying with the matoran to satisfy your perverse curiosity then?”
The monster snarks, “You make it sound like my hobbies are a bad thing.”
Makuta groans and shakes his head, “I don’t care what you do; as long as it doesn’t interfere in my business then feel free to go wild, you sickly worm.”
“Also, I shall make this clear; if Ekimu discovers this behavior and throws a tantrum, I will not hesitate to bring an end to your games. Understood?”
Karzahni shrugs, “Sure, whatever. Now about your advice?”
Makuta gives his brother a long glare before turning towards the stairs.
“Fear manifests as a natural instinct to survive, to be aware of potential dangers. If one wishes to overcome it, one must realize that whatever they are afraid of is not a threat. Whether that be understanding the true nature of the subject, or becoming something greater to the point of the subject being unable to harm them. To put it simply; one must embrace fear, or destroy it.”
With that, Makuta ascends the steps, leaving Karzahni processing his words.
Embrace… or destroy…
He’ll keep that in mind.
The archive spire, the second tallest tower of Karzahni’s citadel, was home to the many tools, maps, and journals the eldritch god has made over the years in his quest to catalogue everything. From the island of Arthaka to the vast sea to the array of lights in the sky; every interesting detail was recorded onto tabletures of stone and crystal. The tablets vary from size and color, each glowing with their own light to bask the large room in a rainbow.
It is here that the lightning matoran finds asylum; judging by the amount of dust and how the various records are carelessly organized, it’s reasonable to assume that Karzahni no longer visits the room.
Which means Voriki is able to close her eyes and relax.
While she is unable to entirely forgive Karzahni for his treatment of her, Voriki understood it was not completely born out of hatred or sadism. The Great Being seemed genuinely invested to see her grow.
Voriki wanted to trust him, wanted to believe somewhere deep down in Karzahni, there was a sliver of care towards her.
But it’s not easy to forgive. And it’s much harder to forget.
After weeks of continuous thrashings, probing evaluations that lasted days to pick apart every thought in her head, sleepless nights waiting for the possibility of death or worse; Voriki’s body was conditioned to fear him.
Karzahni had an oppressive aura; it always felt like he was watching her, that at any moment the floor would shift and he would rise out like fountain of nightmares.
But here… she was safe.
Her breaths began to slow, and soon she was asleep, curled up on the floor, surrounded by her own bright stars.
Slowly, Voriki’s eyes begin to open.
The bright colors of the crystals wash over her sight as she groggily rises from the floor. She has no idea what time of day it is; hardly any of the rooms in the fortress have openings to the outside.
It’s when her eyes become focus and that she can see clearly is when Voriki notices it.
There’s a small stone tablet on the floor that wasn’t there before.
Her chest clenches up as she shakily kneels down and picks it up.
When you wake, please come to the main chamber.
We need to have a conversation.
Voriki lets out a strangled cry as she flings the tablet across the room, as if it were the vilest thing she had ever laid her hands on. With a sharp crack, it impacts off the wall, falling into stony fragments on the floor. Within a second, the matoran realizes what she did; she clenches her fists and bangs her mask.
Stupid stupid stupid! Stop being so afraid!
Her arms are shaking.
Breathing becomes difficult.
Calm down… calm down.
She feels like she’s about to pass out.
… calm down..
Her heart is racing, Voriki tries to breath but it comes in painful gasps for air.
Tears start flowing down the sides of her mask.
Karzahni is eyeing his wounded hand when he hears the creak of the door opening.
He found her earlier sleeping in the archive spire; not wanting to disturb her rest, he left a note for the matoran to meet him later. He left the tablet for her early afternoon.
It is now night.
He watches her slowly peek into the room, eyes wandering about until-
Ah, there it is. Now she sees me.
Her eyes lock onto him and she goes rigid. He can hear her fingers grip the wooden door so tightly that squeaks under her pressure. Her teal eyes dilate like a startled rahi, fixed on the Great Being.
Karzahni sighs, “I promised I had no intention of harming you anymore; come in Voriki.”
She doesn’t move her spot, but her hand does relieve some pressure on the poor wooden door. Her eyes are still on him, blue eyes meeting his multiple green and singular red ones.
“You don’t have to be right in front of me,” he tries to compromise, “but at least enter the room fully.”
Reluctantly, she emerges from behind the safety of the door and enters the room. She takes a few steps before her body forces her to stop.
Karzahni gives a long exhale, sheepishly closing his eyes.
I suppose that’s good enough.
“Now then,” he starts, clasping his clawed hands together, “let’s get to the point. I know you are afraid of me, given how much you scatter and hide around my citadel like a Pokawi bird. And to be honest, it’s very reasonable to be afraid of me, based on all of my actions thus far.”
Voriki doesn’t look up, as if she feels ashamed to admit that he was right. She wraps her arms around her torso tightly as he continues.
“However, there is work that needs to be done.” If Karzahni had noticed her withdraw more into herself, he doesn’t say. “And that work requires that you be cooperative and at your fullest functioning capacity. So this-?”
He gestures at the large space between them. He holds his arm out and waves his hand until the matoran finally peeks up as sees what he’s addressing.
“-this? This needs to end. Quickly.”
The Great Being folds his arms and observes the lightning girl, judging whether she understood anything he said. She doesn’t look up, her eyes fixated on the stone floor. Noticeably, her hands were clenched into fists.
Karzahni’s tentacles twitch anxiously. It would be so easy, so so easy, to just fling her against the wall and just start over. Take the lessons he learned from this attempt and just apply it to the next one. It would take just about two weeks to reach the same point of progress. He’d have to get new parts, but he wouldn’t have to deal with a traumatized wreck.
“So let’s try this,” Karzahni finally muses, after a long awkward moment began threatening to suffocate the both of them.
“Can I… Is there anything that could be done to make things more… relaxing?”
Voriki continues to look down, but her body is ever so slightly shaking. Karzahni is convinced that a wall would have a better conversation with him at this moment, if he didn’t want to bash his head against it in frustration. Maybe he should just take his losses and-”
Her voice sounds hoarse, as if she hasn’t spoken in weeks (which was very likely). Her position remains the same, but her shaking gets more agitated.
“Would you kindly repeat that?”
Voriki takes a sharp inhale, as if breathing was becoming difficult.
“You’re too... big.”
“I’m… too big?”
His voice is laced in confusion. The matoran quickly nods.
“So… you want me to be smaller. Your size?”
She hesitates before slowly nodding again.
Thankfully she remains looking downwards so she doesn’t catch the eldritch deity roll his eyes in fatigued annoyance.
These mortal beings are such bizarre creatures…
Voriki hears gross, wet sounds as he begins to shrink down. When it at last finishes, she steels her nerves and slowly looks up.
Karzahni stands about five feet in front of her, a miniature version of his larger self. Despite that, he still stands a good foot taller than her, though it’s mostly due to the length of his pointed mask.
“Well?” he inquires, but already the Great Being notices her shaking has died down, and she’s able to look… well, in his general direction. Close enough.
“Better,” she finally breathes, a small yet thankful smile appearing on her face.
Karzahni internally sighs.
This was going to be long, annoying, frustrating, and absolutely awkward.
He dismisses her and watches the lightning matoran quietly disappear behind the door.
It would be so much easier to start over.
A smirk creeps up behind his mask.
“But where’s the fun in that?”