Kerila sat in her room, staring listlessly at the wall. She did that a lot these days. The halls were quiet, as the other Kona had been gathered to the barracks in preparation for when the last day came. The coming battle would be death on a scale as yet unheard of, and all of Kothe could be wiped out. Kerila shrugged at the thought. Kinda funny, really. Father wanted me to save everyone, but he never gave me reason to care for a single person. Of course, that had been a lie anyway. All she’d done was ensure the death of everyone, and she wasn’t even sure why.
“I wonder if you knew that, Father?” Kerila wondered aloud. “Did you really want this, or were you fooled along with everyone else? Was this secret plan really worth enough to kill All? I guess so, if it was worth sacrificing me.”
I wonder how things would’ve been if Father was more like Maerkon, or if I’d had a sister like Friana. Except... I had that. We really were a family of sorts, for a little while. I wonder how they’re doing now...
“I know exactly how one of them’s doing. And I can’t do anything about it.”
Well, I could…
“NO!” Kerila shouted. “It’s too late for the both of us. The die’s been cast, and I can’t just turn back now. I’ll only ever be an enemy to him now.”
And you’ll just let that stop you? I thought you cared about them.
“Of course, but-”
Do you abandon family just because they’re mad at you?
“How would I know?” Kerila muttered bitterly.
Maerkon couldn’t help but be proud of his people. He was proud of them most of the time, of course - the Galin were a people worth being proud of - but sometimes they really showed it. Like right now, for instance; they knew full well that he was the Diamond Knight and there was no way they could even touch him with normal weapons, but they were still going to give it a shot. And wouldn’t you know it, they aren’t doing so bad. He thought ruefully to himself as he caught another screaming Galin soldier and tossed him away. It was just a mile left before he entered the capital of Galis, but the entire army was in his way. Sword strikes rained down from all sides, testing his shield, but it remained solid. With a grunt of effort, he took a step forward, pushing soldiers out of the way.
“This would be a lot easier if I was using my axe. Just putting it out there.” He said, knowing it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“The Toa is threatening us! Redouble your efforts, men!” One of the commanders shrieked.
Oh for goodness’ sake. Maerkon reached out and grabbed the offending officer, lifting him to eye level. “Skjarl, if I meant to harm anyone, don’t you think I’d have done it by now? I’m on your side here.” The Galin drew a dagger and drove it into Maerkon’s eye--tried to, anyway. It slid off his barrier along with the others, and Maerkon couldn’t help but laugh.
“That was good, just how I taught you! If I’d been an actual enemy, you’d have got me right then.” Shaking his head, he dropped him and continued pushing forward. It felt like hours before he finally made it through the gates. Of course, then the townspeople came out to greet him as well, throwing rocks and detritus at him. By now Maerkon was panting with the effort of keeping his armor up, and merely shook his head. Just a little farther, just a little farther… Finally, he saw his goal: the memorial statue. With one last rush, he brushed aside those in front of him and took hold of the statue. Panting a bit, he turned to face his attackers. Hundreds of Galin, soldier and civilian, stretching out as far as the eye could see. Perfect.
“PEOPLE OF GALIS!” He thundered. Silence fell like a shroud, smothering all noise as the attack temporarily halted. He had a brief window of opportunity, he just had to make the most of it. “People of Galis, I come here today, not as Maerkon, Toa of Water, and not as Maerkon, former commander of the Galin army. I come here as a fellow Galin, one who was born and raised on the coast, less than a mile from where we stand here. Who trained and fought and bled alongside you in battle, who celebrated victories with you, and mourned the same friends as you. My father, and my father’s father have their names on this very statue.” He paused, letting his words sink in.
“Surely you must realize that I love this nation, and would give my life for it. If nothing else, remember all the times I nearly have.” The people muttered to each other, considering his words. Maerkon sensed he was starting to win them over. Or he hoped he was, at least. “If I thought this war was just and right, and would be good for us, I’d resume command of the army here and now. But we’ve been manipulated by forces from behind the shadows, doing their dirty work for them. We owe it to the fallen warriors who preserved our nation in the past to stand strong now and show them what Valor really means!” There were a few isolated cheers, but the majority of the crowd still seemed uncertain. Time to put all my cards on the table.
Taking a deep breath, he let the barrier drop. As the entire city watched him with bated breath, he set his axe down and kicked it away. Then he dropped to one knee, facing the crowd. “I know what I ask seems impossible, maybe even treasonous. And so, I put myself at your mercy. If there’s anyone, anyone at all, who thinks I’ve been half-hearted in my service, or thinks that I’d try to trick you, then step forward and end my life right here and now.” For a second, absolute silence. Then another. Then, a matoran stepped forward, walking up to him. Maerkon recognized him as Skjarl, the one who’d tried to stab him earlier. He drew his knife... and dropped it on the ground.
“You’ve never led us wrong before, and you’ve saved my life more than once. If you said our enemy was the legions of Karzahni himself, I’d march right down with you.”
One by one, and then in groups, more and more matoran stepped forward and dropped their weapons by his side. Maerkon got to his feet, eyes just a little misted. “My friends, you do me great honor. I will endeavor to be worthy of it.”
Huddled in a nervous murmuring herd, the inhabitants of Flormortem looked around them in distress. There was no way to escape, nowhere to run (for those that could); every opening was covered by a towering wall of thick, impenetrable vines.
There had been rumors, whisperings among those that spoke of what their “great Toa” had been doing over the past few weeks - none of them were good. Outposts destroyed, sentries slaughtered, and sometimes a solitary survivor to flee in terror back to the capital. Not that they were usually the type to care of these matters, but the Toa of the Green was hitting fairly close to home, and some had started to get anxious.
It appeared that their fears had been realized.
From the darkness - barely any light reaching here from the twisted, oppressive trees - stepped a hulking, powerful figure. The panic in the crowd began to grow, desperately trying to get away from their attacker.
Those that had still kept their heads in the midst of the chaos felt foolish to have played into his hands so easily. He’d started from the outermost edges, drawing those on the outskirts further in, and slowly wound his way around and around, planting those seeds of fear in already uneasy minds to box them in and make them even easier to slay.
The giant shadow stepped closer and closer, red eyes burning like a roaring fire. Weak slivers of light cast onto his dark form, revealing the deep green of the trees among which he was born; shrieks of alarm erupted from the tangled throng.
He simply stood, waiting for the crowd to calm somewhat. The noise faded to an apprehensive silence, as they watched, waited, and silently begged not to be killed.
He cleared his throat.
“I know that probably wasn’t an ideal way to gather you all in one place, but I didn’t really have many other options with this little time. Uhh, sorry about that.”
The matoran gaped at him, hardly believing their ears. A few awkward coughs could be heard near the back.
“Anyway, you’re probably already aware that I’ve been hitting different Poisoner targets for a little while now, and it’s because Clove is planning something big: as in whole island level big. He’s gotten this gas into the air that’s managed to bend most of the island to his will, and he’s going to use that to march every army in Inoria to one spot and make them fight to the death.”
“Why should we care!” A surprisingly brave Borran called from the crowd.
“BECAUSE I’VE GOT YOU ALL TRAPPED AND I CAN KILL YOU WITH A SNAP OF MY FINGERS!” He snarled, causing the panic to return, “SHUT UP!”
Vineon pinched the bridge of his mask and sighed, “Look, I know none of you have any reason to trust me, or to believe me, or even like me, but if you don’t help me, thousands of people are going to die. I’ve never considered myself very sympathetic, but even I think that’s too far. Can you seriously tell me you can just sit by and do nothing? I’m going to handpick a team of volunteers to come with me to try and at least stop the Poisoner march from getting there, and I’m not gonna lie: some of you will absolutely definitely die, but it’ll be with the knowledge that you helped save countless lives - because I know for a fact that if I’m doing this that the other goody-two-shoes Toa are gonna try something like this too.” He paused dramatically, leaving his words to sink in a moment, “So, who’s ready to save the island?”
As Grillon stirred from another sleeping nightmare to his waking one, he looked blearily around him for the source of the disturbance of his poor imitation of rest. For once it hadn’t been searing hot agony.
There was a stiff ache in his bones, and the kind of dull, muted pain that came from a lot of experience. His throat was raw, and hopelessly dry. He felt like a corpse, if not for the fact that he was still alive, much to his dismay.
As his vision began to cloud over and flirt with drowsiness once more, the lazy, resigned doze was thoroughly shaken from his body as the source of his wakefulness stabbed through his vision with a great blast of ice. The white shape that he’d written off as just some random Kona became far more distinct with recognition, and his stomach tightened with anger and confusion.
What is she doing here?
The bars shattered with little force, and Kerila stepped into the cell, brimming with confliction and regret. She was almost tempted to turn back and try to correct the uncorrectable move that she’d just taken when she saw the look of dull fury on his face. But no, he wouldn’t abandon her if the situation was somehow reversed.
She had to stop herself from blurting out a stupid and pointless “I’m sorry”. They were far, far past “sorry”.
“I’m here to free you.” She said instead, as if to prove it to herself as much as to inform him. He gave a hoarse grunt of protest.
By the stars, he’s so weak…
Pushing that thought aside, she moved in to freeze and shatter his bonds, and quickly had to grab him to keep him from falling to the ground in a heap.
“Can you walk?” She asked, mentally slapping herself an instant later.
Another grunt, along the lines of “not really”. How else could she have honestly expected him to answer?
So she supported him as they half walked, half shuffled, across the room.
“I-I’m going to get you out of here, you’re safe now.” She managed, as they started to head unsteadily up the stairs, as they passed the frozen or incapacitated guards, as they made the bid for freedom.
As I try to redeem myself.
But the question still gnawed at the back of her mind: could she?