###Heralds of the Eternal
At this point, Maerkon wasn’t sure how his day could get worse. The Galis army, proud and unyielding, remained between the Onu and the Tay. It was a necessity; the only way to prevent the two from slaughtering each other in whatever delusion Clove had left them in. It couldn’t keep them from slaughtering his own people, though. Despite the efforts of himself, Friana, and generals like Saburo, the battlefield was lit with flashes of blue as Galin warriors were killed all around him.
Even now he bolstered the remains of a brave platoon of warriors, doing their best to do something they had never been trained for: to fight, to take scratches and fatal blows alike, and not to fell a single enemy in return. They weren’t perfect, but he was proud of what little they had managed as of yet. He swiped his axe, and with it came a crashing wave of water, sweeping the current wave of Onu attackers away. The matoran by his side couldn’t help but deflate under the reprieve, taking what respite and rest they could. The Toa could see their resignation. Hope was fleeting on days like today. He gripped his axe a little tighter, preparing for the siege to continue.
The next wave of attackers hesitated, driven back by something new: a shadow from above. He couldn’t blame them, knowing what that shadow signalled. Friana landed next to him with a squelch of muddy ground. She staggered, leaning against the elder Toa for support. She was still worn out from saving her own people, and he couldn’t help but admire how she remained on the battlefield even after his false assurances that she wouldn’t be necessary.
“Bad news,” she finally managed to gasp. “The rest of the Tay broke through. Sorry, I… I could barely beat them here.”
“It’s alright,” Maerkon assured, her, brandishing his axe threateningly at the encroaching Onu. “Just stay out of the sky from now on. You’re too tired.” His words had an immediate effect as she tried to stand on her own, forcing a sense of renewed vigor into her actions.
“Don’t worry sehnwyn, I’m fine, jus’ needed a mom-”
“Friana, I don’t want to see you falling out of the sky. Stay down.” Her displeasure was evident, but she made no further argument.
“One more thing,” she said, drawing a dagger and turning to face the Onu. “The Tay were bringing something with them.” That made Maerkon pause.
“Define ‘something,’ Friana.”
“If I didn’t know better, it seemed like they were escorting a prisoner. Don’t know why they’d take a prisoner, though.” Maerkon had a few ideas, and none of them were good.
“Friana, help them hold the line,” the elder Toa ordered, backing away from the approaching Onu. He had a feeling today was about to get a whole lot worse. He turned and rushed back to the opposite line, head spinning faster than a top in a vain attempt to devise a strategy to counter what was about to happen. It was still blank when he reached to opposing line and watched his fear come to life.
“Vhisola,” he whispered. The Turaga had remained locked in her office, obstinate to Maerkon’s attempts to sway her. He had ignored his stubborn leader at the time, figuring that even if she was still within Clove’s sway, there was nothing she could do until the situation blew over. He hadn’t counted on the Tay coming for her - no, there was no way for them to have known. Did Clove organize this? Or was it someone else? Vhisola began to speak, and she had no answers for him.
“People of Galis!” she cried. “I am a prisoner of the Tay! They snuck behind your back and kidnapped me!” Maerkon could hear shocked reactions around him - gasps of shock, derisive jeers, angry war calls. “And now they have you pinned, caught between them and the Onu!” The Galis cried their assent over the battle. “Are you going to let your friends, your family, die?” A ragged ‘No!’ tore free from throats all across the battle line.
“Then fight! For your freedom, for your survival, fight back! Fight and kill!” A collective war cry rose from the Galis army as they tore into their opponents with new abandon. Flashes of elemental energy ripped across the field like a thunderstorm as the fighting reached a fever pitch, a ferocity that appalled their hapless Toa.
“No!” he cried. “People of Galis, today you fight…” the words died alone in his throat, ignored by the people around him. He spun about, watching Vhisola’s new orders spread across the army. Soon enough it was everywhere, flashes of blue mingling with red and purple alike. Clove and whatever sick, twisted people he was helping had gotten their wish.
Vineon dove out of the path of the lightning, narrowly missing the deadly bolts and leaving singed earth where he had stood moments before. He hit the ground, hard, rolling back to his feet clumsily and glaring up at his new challenger.
“So that’s how we’re gonna play it, huh?” he growled, “In that case you can eat it, Sparky!” His fist slammed into the ground, his influence stretching into the forest around him. A nearby tree whipped about, trunk creaking as it bent to pulverize the enemy. The Herald turned on the spot and another lightning bolt lanced out, slicing through air and tree in quick succession, leaving the poor plant in two smoldering halves. The remains of the tree crashed to either side of him, the ground trembling from the impact. The Dyn remained between them, unharmed.
Chirox shrugged, returning his attention to his original task: slaughtering what remained of the Bo-matoran forces.
“Don’t turn your back on me!” Vineon snarled, clenching his fist into the dirt and summoning barbed roots from the ground. They clawed their way out of the dirt and ensnared the apathetic Herald, thorns harder than iron ripping gashes in his armor. The matoran were barely a passing thought to Vineon now. All that mattered was Chirox.
“Oh enough already,” Chirox drawled, punctuating his words with a surge of electrical power. The roots ensnaring him burned under the onslaught, reduced to mere ashes. “I have a job to do, okay? So do me a favor and die already.” A storm of bolts lanced out from his fingers before he even finished talking, and the Ironwood Knight grappled his way up to the treetops once more to avoid them.
Before Vineon could make any use of his high ground, lightning struck the very tree his was crouched in, sending him tumbling and swearing back down to the forest floor to meet the Herald’s fist. Thunder rumbled as more and more storm clouds started to gather around the battlefield.
“You moron, do you even know how lightning works? It takes easiest route to the ground it can, so sitting in a tree like that is just gonna make you easier to hit. I guess I should thank you though, you’re making this even easier than I thought it would be.”
Chirox smirked down at his victim, sprawled on the ground as he was, the Herald’s power building until it crackled between his fingers - enough power to fry even a Toa. Vineon didn’t quite feel like getting electrocuted today, however, and he swept his legs in a heavy arc across the ground, snatching his attacker’s feet from under him. As Chirox went down on his side like a sack of bricks, Vineon was scrambling back to his feet. All around, lightning was striking down, Borran warriors screaming in anguish as they were enveloped in searing hot lightning and reduced to ash and a flash of green.
The remainder of the Poisoner forces were running in any direction they could to get away, and Vineon couldn’t have that. As Chirox was getting up, Vineon threw up his arms: a tough cage of bark erupting from the ground to surround and cover the biggest gathering of them left. But even that wasn’t enough: he now had to divide some of his attention to keep reinforcing it from both the Poisoners’ attempts to break out with their weapons, and Chirox’s attempts to break in with his lightning.
Vineon’s eyes narrowed, meeting with those of the Herald’s as he advanced towards him, some kind of power welling up within him. Suddenly, Chirox’s slightly smug expression snapped into one of shock as he tensed, unable to move. The lightning immediately halted.
What the Karz?
The moment that Vineon broke eye contact, Chirox was moving again, roaring as his fist sailed through the air towards him. Power coursed through his arm and erupted forth into a giant burst of electrical power - a fair bit harder to dodge. The Ironwood Knight swore loudly, crossing his arms and making true to his title: iron-hard bark spreading across his forearms with a light creaking and groaning. The blast connected with a burning hiss, shoving him back from the force, his heels digging tracks into the ground.
When the smoke cleared, Vineon’s makeshift shield had been scorched, and practically had a hole punched through. It wouldn’t take another hit. Vineon snarled in annoyance and tossed it aside, the storm of targeted lightning already returning to pummel the cage. His eyes met with the Dyn’s again, reaching out with this strange new power and causing the Herald to freeze in the middle of getting up. The Toa of the Green raced up to him, making sure not to break eye contact this time. He grabbed the enemy by the throat, hoisting him into the air before smashing him back down into the ground again. Chirox couldn’t even struggle, only choke.
But just before Vineon could stab him through the throat with a barb of ironwood, the power disappeared without warning. Chirox’s arms clamped around the one Vineon was using to choke him out.
Volts of energy lanced through his body as he roared in pain, collapsing to the ground. He just lay there, twitching on the floor. The Dyn stood over him, and on him, his foot digging into his side.
“Just give up already, it’s not worth it.” He shrugs as he shocks him again, Vineon howling and writhing in pain, “I’ve almost broken through that sad excuse for shelter, so I’ll kill them all soon anyway. Then the starfall will hit and it’ll all be too late. So why even go through the trouble of fighting?”
“Because… I’m… not… gonna… let you… Karzing… WIN!” Vineon growled, grabbing hold of Chirox’s leg and digging ironwood barbs into it, making him cry out in pain and rip it away from his grip, ichor bleeding from the wounds as he staggered back. He then burst out laughing: honest, side-splitting laughter. He kept laughing, even in spite of Vineon’s baleful glare as the Toa staggered back to his feet.
“Ahhh, man, you’re a stubborn one, huh?” He sighs, starting to recover, “I think I might’ve been wrong about you; this might be fun after all!”
Yeela breathed heavily, her control over one of the maces slacking as it fell to the ground. In front of her, the remaining Kona troops fell back for what felt like the thirteenth time. The squadmen to either side of her had both fallen already, bashed to bits or dashed against the ground. She growled, raising both hands into the air and preparing to force another rush of elemental energy through the ground. “You… never… ever learn… do you?” She began to move her hands downward, power primed to throw the very landscape the matoran stood on into chaos-
-when suddenly, a rush of white light flooded into the air. Yeela froze, staring at the ranks with no small amount of surprise. Who in the-
A metal disc, with wickedly serrated edges careened madly through the Kona army, spinning as it severed matoran in half, cut them down, or sent them flying (most often in severed halves) across the battlefield. The disc flew with cruel purpose, slicing through ever more matoran even as the remainders broke ranks, trying to flee somewhere, anywhere away from the mad Toa and the flying disc.
The Toa in question roared, slamming her hands into the ground and releasing the pent-up elemental power she’d been holding within. It raced through the ground below, pillars of earth rising up and trapping the disc mid-flight, even as it raced toward another group of fleeing Kona. Yeela looked up, an emotion halfway between relief and displeasure at having saved the hated matoran running through her. A moment later, a sound reached her, clear and audible even over the screams of the still-living wounded, or the fleeing of the remaining warriors.
The sound of slow, sarcastic applause.
Her teeth ground together as the Toa of Earth turned backward, eyes drawn up to the sky. Atop a small island of earth, a rusted, metal-gray and black hued figure looked down toward her, red eyes gleaming with amusement. Icarax had foregone the spiked armor this time, it seemed. He continued clapping slowly, grinning widely out of his rusted and old mask. “Ah, the Puppet Sword Knight. The mad one. It is a true displeasure to make your acquaintance for a second time.”
Yeela spat onto the ground, gathering more power as she glowered at Icarax with scorn matching his own. “The rusted idiot. The feeling is mutual, I assure you. What in Karzahni are you doing here?”
Icarax shrugged, his patronizing smirk never leaving his face. “Why, I was just taking a stroll through the glories of nature around me, when I saw you here. I thought I would be a good neighbor and relieve you of the burdensome task of slaughtering all these matoran.” His smile grew yet wider and more patronizing, as he laid a hand across his heart. “I can’t let you have all the fun, after all.”
Yeela looked at him a moment, and then slammed her hands together, exerting control over the mass of earth he stood on. For one singular, glorious moment she watched his horrible annoying smile cease, replaced by an expression of genuine shock as the Herald fell to the ice far below. He crashed down into it, vanishing in a small explosion of ice and rock. Yeela blinked, breathing lightly and straightened somewhat.
Well. That was easy-
Another explosion shook the landscape, notably larger than the last. Icarax emerged from the rubble, a single hand raised and pointed in her direction. “Toa, I would tell you to move out of the way so I can commence my chore, but given I hate you, I would rather you stay.” He bared his teeth, hand clenching into a fist. “After all, if enough matoran give us what we need-”
“-how much power would a Toa grant us?”
Yeela felt her armor begin to constrict, slowly crushing her windpipe and lifting upward as if by its own will. She gagged once, and then coughed, rabidly pawing at the rogue armor strangling her. All the while, Icarax laughed, his terrible eyes staring down the Toa’s own as he watched her writhe. “I am of the Eternal, fool. I am not some mere Elemental to be cast aside, nor some useless matoran to manhandle and slaughter at your leisure! I am Icarax, and my goal shall not be denied. Not by you, not by anyone!”
He laughed cruelly, the noise sounding increasingly faint to Yeela’s hearing. She gagged again, forcing her hands to either side of her body and closing her eyes. She couldn’t break his grip, not now… but she had a different idea. The Toa focused all her strength through her hands, toward the ground below, willing it to rise to her aid, to crush this hateful monster attacking her. And rise it did, great pillars of earth tearing the frigid landscape asunder as they surged toward Icarax. The rust-hued warrior released his gravitic chokehold on Yeela, throwing up a shield of raw power that pulverized the offending pillars. Yeela dropped to the ground, coughing and sucking in air greedily, as she bent her neck armor back into its original shape. Her head snapped upward a moment later, just in time to recognize Icarax moving toward her, leg swinging in a wide kick.
A moment later, the blow made impact, and the Toa of Earth flew backward like a ragdoll. She flew for what felt like a mile, smashing through a screaming crowd of the few remaining Kona soldiers on the field (attempting feebly to run from the battle consuming their kin) and rolling to a stop several meters away. New and unique forms of pain worked their way through the Toa’s body, as she slowly rolled over and tried to rise, agony shooting through her limbs like fire.
And then, all of the sudden, the pain was gone. In its stead, Yeela began to feel… strength. An alien and new strength, slowly creeping through her veins and replacing the pain that had flooded them before. Despite her injuries, and the remaining pain, the Toa smiled slightly, laughing once. Icarax, now close enough to almost touch her, frowned to himself. “What do you have to be so happy about,” he muttered as he reached for the Toa’s neck. “You’re about to die quite horribly after all-”
Yeela reached out, hands seizing Icarax’s arm and stopping him mid-grasp. He frowned, pausing for a moment as if taken off-guard by this turn of events. And in the next movement Yeela was up, yanking down on his arm even as she drove her shoulder into his face at full force. The Herald let out a muffled “oof”, stumbling but seeming otherwise unaffected. The Toa grinned, raising a fist and striking him across the face, feeling more power shoot through her fingers as she did so. Icarax threw up his hands, another gravitic shield sending the Toa flying over into another patch of ground a yard away. This time she laughed as she flew, smashing into the ground and rising a moment later, energy encompassing her like a blissful, glorious haze.
“What’s the matter now, Icarax? Ancient, unstoppable warrior? Hiding behind shields? What, are you scared I’ll hurt you?”
The Herald roared in anger, charging this time at full speed, his power forming shield upon shield around his body as he got closer. “I’ll tear you to pieces, Toa! I’ll slaughter the remaining Kona with your vacant armor, and make you a real Puppet Knight!”
Yeela’s teeth bared in another grin, another insatiable urge to laugh running through her. She jumped into the air, with not even a thought for the gravity shields piling up around the Herald, for the ground she could have twisted around him again. She jumped, and with all the power of her element and her new strength flowing through her, she dived toward Icarax, fists aimed for his rusted, rotten face.
Maerkon had never seen so much death. Even battles against Yeela, a force of nature infamous for her bloodlust, had left more alive than remained today. He couldn’t help but step over the bodies of fallen matoran as he pushed his way through the Tay line. It sickened him to turn his back on his comrades like this, but there was nothing he could do for them. Not while he was standing by their side.
Instead he plunged into the enemy lines, shrugging off the Tay around him with his signature veil of water. Vhisola was the only way out of this he could see. He had to find her, find the people that had brought her here. He had to make sure whatever they had planned did not come to pass. Even if he lost the battle, he had to win this war.
Finally he broke through the enemy masses and saw Vhisola. It was hard to miss her, seeing how she hung, her feet level with most matoran’s masks, impaled upon a crystalline blade. The light left her eyes even as a flash of blue energy left her body, which in and of itself flopped to the ground mask-first. Maerkon found himself face-to-face with a crude wooden mask perched over a billowing cloak, one skeletal arm still held aloft with that same crystalline blade. The massive stature left him with zero doubts as to what he was facing.
In that moment, the Toa’s mind filled with static. His Turaga lay dead before him, his people threw themselves to their deaths all around him, a new enemy stared him down with cold, emotionless eyes, and-
Something clicked. Maerkon fell to his knees, suddenly overwhelmed. Is this some trick of the Dyn?
Who are you people? What’s going o-
“QUIET!” Maerkon roared aloud, earning a baleful glare from his opponent. One at a time. Friana?
General, what in Karzahni is happening?
And… who are you?
We can discuss that later. I need you all to come to me.
And where are you? He was pretty sure that was Friana.
Past the Tay line. The Dyn stepped silently over Vhisola’s body, ichor-stained blade still raised. Maerkon returned to his feet, raising his axe to a battle stance.
Ooooh, there you are.
Yeah, that armor is really sparkly.
Well, make it quick. I’m going to need all the help I can get.
Grillon couldn’t help but feel that he had fallen into a dream. He had travelled through Onu tunnels, and seen the work of Tay craftsmen so absorbed in their work they could only be described as perfectionists. No amount of skill, of attention to detail and expertise, could match what he was seeing.
The hallways he and Kerila walked were geometric; eerily so. The lines were too straight, the angles too perfect. There wasn’t a blemish of any sort that he could see, not even seams to denote the bricks that must have made up the walls.
He shuddered a little and followed on. Kerila had been able to quite easily get them around the guard patrols - she knew the Sons well - and they were venturing into the deeper reaches of the base now. As Kerila scoped out around the next corner, she gasped in surprise.
“What is it?” He asked in a hushed tone.
“Just look.” And so he did.
The already large corridor opened up into an even more vast expanse, well-lit like the rest of the place, but that wasn’t even the most important part. This expanse housed an ancient ruin: a whole city, it looked like - or what remained, at least. Some amount of the great structures still stood somewhat, but most of it had seemingly tumbled into disrepair. Architecture the likes of which Grillon had never seen before stretched out as far as the eye could reach, and it was honestly awe-inspiring.
“This has been hidden away in the caverns of the Spine all this time?” Grillon murmured in astonishment.
“I guess so… But no time to stare, we need to keep moving.“
And with that, the pair crept into the ancient city. It was silent, aside from themselves. There was something melancholic about the pure beauty of what remained - clearly an astonishing people used to live here - and what had become of it.
So many questions burned in his mind: how old was this place? Who used to live here? Were they from before the Awakening? What was it doing here, in the middle of a clearly unnatural tunnel complex? And… what happened here?
On further inspection as they darted from crumbled building to barely-standing pillar, it didn’t seem like mere age was the only factor: this city had been destroyed somehow. Though if that were the case, there didn’t seem to be any corpses…
Grillon’s train of thought was suddenly broken by the sound of movement nearby: heavy, but measured and even footfalls that indicated someone large in stature, probably a Dyn.
This was very bad. Very, very bad. Their previous encounters with the Heralds didn’t bode well for their chances against one on their own, and Kerila was plainly aware of this.
“Please wait here, I’ll be back soon.” She whispered, darting away to scout out the threat before Grillon had the chance to reply. So he watched, and waited, becoming intensely aware of the loudness of his breathing as the giant figure strode through the ruins around him. Time dragged to a crawl, as panic started to well in his gut.
Where is she?
That Dyn seemed to be getting closer… Had she just run off to backstab him again? Had she told the Herald where he was hiding?
No, she couldn’t… she wouldn’t… I need to trust her, I have to, no time for doubt.
But how did he know, honestly? He never could’ve even imagined that she would’ve betrayed them before, even if the warning signs were there in hindsight, so was the idea of her doing it again really that much of a stretch? Really?
But still… I… It wouldn’t even make sense…
And it hadn’t made sense before, either. Why would she help form the team she intended to betray?
She’s my friend, she wouldn’t do that!
But she’d lied before, hadn’t she? That would hardly be much on top of everything else. Who would want to be friends with some useless dreamer anyway?
… I… I have to get out of here. I have to leave. I can’t let them capture me again, I can’t - I won’t let them!
Grillon’s breathing was coming in short panicked gasps, his hands shaking. He started to rush back the way he came through the ruined city, stumbling in his hurry. He tried to tap into his powers as he ran to get out as fast as possible, but… nothing. The flame fizzled out before he could make use of its light.
Where is it?! Crap, it must’ve been what that other Dyn did to me… No, no no no! I’m not going back!
He stumbled again, and fell to the floor in a heap with a clang. The sound seemed to reverberate endlessly back and forth across the ruin, far too loud to his ears. Grillon cringed on the ground, both in pain and fear. Those dreaded footsteps started to head towards him.
Oh crap, oh crap, OH CRAP, NO!
He scrambled back to his feet, desperately trying to get away, but instead ran headlong into a sudden wall, falling back to the ground.
“What’s this? Ah, our missing Toa… what great timing you have, Grillon.” The giant chuckled, looming over the Toa in question.
“GRILLON!” Kerila screamed, running in their direction, thrusting her palms towards the Dyn and launching a wave of ice at Grillon’s attacker. Before the wall of freezing could reach him, the Herald simply melted it away with a wave of his hand. Kerila gasped, faltering, screaming again as the ground sprang up around her in the form of crude fingers, enclosing her completely, firmly. Her desperate struggles were no use.
“Stupid girl, what did you really hope to achieve there, hm?” He sighs, shaking his head, planting his foot on the sprawled Fire Toa to keep him down. He didn’t move.
She just… tried to save me… she… I… oh no… by Artakha, I…
Grillon’s own paranoia and distrust in his friend had shattered their chances, utterly. He tried to speak, but no words came. He tried to scream, but could barely make a sound.
What have I done?
“I suppose now we know where your true loyalties lie, hm?” He sneered at Kerila, his voice carrying the sophisticated tongue and measured weight of true intelligence, “How quaint… But, on the other hand, you did already go through with deceiving and ruining your so-called “friends”, did you not? A traitor twofold.” He chuckled dryly, nothing humorous about it. He turned a little to face her properly, foot firmly pressed against Grillon still, Kerila glaring back.
A powerfully built figure, clad in armour of deep red and black, Antroz was easily the most imposing of the four Heralds. Fitting, given that he was their leader.
“Antroz, always a displeasure.” Kerila snarled. He laughed, pitilessly, clenching his fist to constrict the cage even more tightly around her, causing her to cry out in pain, “I wouldn’t forget my manners if I were you, traitor. Your life is, after all, quite literally in my hands. So what was this ingenious plan of yours, then, hm? Infiltrate the most well-protected headquarters in our entire organisation, and attempt to destroy what we have been building here for centuries?”
He smirked a little at that, “Where has this bold streak been all this time? I remember when you were like a whimpering little pet: head down, yes sir, no sir, quiet and timid and obedient to a fault. Your new friends appear to be a bad influence.”
“Get to the point.” She snapped.
“As you wish.” He shrugged nonchalantly, a slightly smug look on his face, “You wretched Toa have been a thorn in my side nearly since the beginning: the Toa Stones a constant reminder of my greatest oversight. But no matter, I would simply plan around it: have you destroy yourselves. And it worked almost flawlessly. Look at you all now: divided, desperate and weak. Easily crushed by any one of the other Heralds. Even now, my brothers are on the battlefield, assuring that the starfall comes to fruition. But worry not: I will not kill your friends. Yet. For you see, I want you to know that you have failed utterly, that I have succeeded, and that I shall destroy all that you hold dear to ensure the rebirth of my master. When the Eternal has risen and all is lost: then, and only then, will I grant you the mercy of death. Is this petty? Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely not."