Based off of @IllustriousVar 's pitch in Episode 253 of the podcast.
… I think I might have gone a bit too dark with this one. Whoooooops.
The wind rushes past Vizuna, her ragged cloak wildly whipping around her. Her arms are frozen, reaching for the floating island above her that is slowly getting smaller and smaller. Her eyes are locked on the small ledge, widened in fear.
Or is it rage?
He push-shoved me.
The same thought keeps looping in her head, as if she is trying to figure out what it means.
He push-shoved me.
Vizuna looks up- or rather down- at the incoming forest of dark green trees,
I’m going to die.
Accepting her fate, she closes her arms around herself and waits for darkness.
Vizuna stares at a crate of dragonfruit. The shop owner- a sheepish matoran with a teal mask- slowly blinks his eyes in irritation. “A’right kid; you’ve been standin’ here, starin’ at my fruit, for ten minutes. Are you gonna buy somethin’ or not? She cocks her head, peers up to the sky, then makes a popping noise with her mouth. “Maybe… but I’m hard-luck right now to pay. Could you perhaps… lower the price?” She gives him her most pleading eyes. The shopkeeper returns with a deadpan look, “The cost is twenty widgets; You don’t got it, you ain’t having my goods.” Vizuna pouts, “You’re terrible-bad at bartering.” The matoran snorts, “Look kid, if you ain’t buying anything, then stop wastin’ my time-” There’s a rustling in a nearby bush. Suddenly, another matoran leaps out, a frantic look on his face. “Everybody run! Rama nest is loose! They’re quick-soaring this way!” The shopkeeper gives a squeal, then bolts down the dirt path near his stand. “Nui Rama! Not again!” he cries, almost tripping over himself. He disappears into the forest. The two matoran stare for a moment, before chuckling. “See Vizzy, I told you he’s slow-thinks. A swarm of Rama can be heard ever-far.” Vizuna grabs the crate of dragonfruit, “Who cares, let’s take the food! I’m near-close to starving!” Iruini laughs and grabs the bags of food behind the counter. “Ooh, look what he has!” smiles Iruini as he holds up a box of silver canisters. Vizuna’s eyes grow wide, “Koronan! I’ve heard they only make them in Ihu! How did he get them!?” Iruini shrugs, chuckling. After a few minutes, Iruini and Vizuna have stacked crates and bags in their arms. “With this, we shouldn’t have to worry-think about food for about a couple of weeks!” Vizuna cheers. There’s a shout from behind them. They peek past their boxes to see a group of matoran. One of them looks extremely furious, wearing a teal mask. “OI! That’s my stuff you thieves!” the shopkeeper yells. The other matoran, who now appear to actually be enforcers, rush at the duo. “Right! Time to quick-run!” Iruini laughs, already beginning to make a fast waddle into the bushes. Vizuna follows suit, trying to run while not losing balance of the stolen goods. They weave through the bushes until they emerge into a clearing with a small rahi farm. However, despite their efforts, the guards have no problem closing in the distance. “They’re going to catch us!” scowls Iruini. Vizuna frantically looks around before something catches her eye. “Ah! This way!” She runs to the pens, and loads her loot on the back of a resting Kahu. The beast, seemingly confused by the newcomers, rustles its huge wings. Iruini joins and throws his cargo on as well. The enforcer matoran now emerge from the bushes, scanning the area until they see the thieves. The Kahu shuffles around as the two matoran try to get on its back. “I’ll hold on to the stuff, you steer-drive this thing!” Iruini shouts, wrapping his arms around the stolen goods. Vizuna smacks the beast on its back. The Kahu screeches, then flaps its huge wings and lifts from the ground. The enforcer matoran rush to the Kahu, but it flies out of their reach. In a swooping motion, the bird loops around and soars off over the cliffside. Rounding the rock ledge, they enter an open area of sky, with the great floating islands off in the distance. “Hahaha! We did it!” Vizuna cries, fist-bumping the air. Iruini joins in on the laughter, “Yeah! I thought we were going to be caught, but you got us out! I didn’t know you knew how to ride a Kahu!” Vizuna laughs, “I don’t!” Iruini stops laughing, leaving Vizuna alone in her celebration. “... wait, you don’t know how to steer it?” he asks skeptically. “Nope!” As if on cue, the Kahu barks and does a barrel roll. The matoran grab on for dear life, but a majority of the goods fall into the clouds below. “Nooo not the Koronan!” Vizuna wails, the prized treasures disappearing below. The Kahu then dives down doing a tailspin, trying to throw the matoran of its back. They hang on for dear life as the rotations get faster and faster. “This… was… a… mistake!” Iruini tries to shout. He has a death-grip on the remaining goods. Vizuna lifts one hand up and puts on a huge cheeky grin. “WOOOOOOOOO-” Her face buries into the creature’s fur as it sharply soars back upwards. Iruini, though terrified, can’t help but stifle a chuckle. The beast eventually calms down and begins to descend to one of the floating villages. Iruini taps Vizuna’s shoulder, “I think that’s enough quick-learning how to fly today, Vizzy.” There’s a muffled agreement from in the fur. He smiles as the Kahu glides down to the outskirts of the village.
Not exactly as she thought, though. She didn’t expect to still be able to think after dying. And there was this strange sound, like a pounding sensation yet also a buzz-like drone. And there was this nagging weight where her leg should be, yet she didn’t actually feel it. Or maybe she could? It was all very weird.
She opens her eyes. After a brief blinding of the light, she looks upwards.
Leaves, branches. A hole in the foliage where light poured through.
Oh. I’m alive.
Vizuna thinks she should be happier just for being alive, but something in her mind leaves her in a state of dullness.
She slowly picks herself up, getting used to movement again. Everything seems to be fine, quite shocking given the height of the-
Oh. That’s trouble-bad.
Now Vizuna wasn’t exactly a medically savvy person, but she was pretty sure her leg was NOT supposed to bend that way.
Upon seeing it, she begins to feel the pain seep back into her form. She clenches her teeth and beats her fist on the ground, trying not to cry out.
No idea where I fell-land. Could be some dark-bad rahi about.
She lays there for a long couple of minutes, panting. Then, realizing the threshold of the pain has been reached, she slowly picks herself up and begins limping into a random direction.
If I walk in any direction, I’d either reach the earth-seekers or the water-maidens. Either is not mean-bad like fire-spitters. I can get help.
She continues deeper into the shaded forest.
It’s a while later when she spots an unusual sight; A wooden shack alone in the woods, almost rundown looking. However, there’s still rahi penned up nearby, like a gukko bird.
Get whatever supplies I can from the shack, then wind-fly the Gukko back up.
She limps as quietly as she can to the window of the shack and peeks in. She can see hunting gear, some old wooden carvings, parchments, and unlit candles.
She ponders at the window, but then shakes her head and hobbles around to the front entrance.
“Let’s not hurt-bust the leg any further, Vizzy.” she mutters as she limps into the door.
“… Vizuna,” she corrects herself.
She looks around the shack, peering through shelves and various boxes. She finds some dried vegetables and some old Mahi meat.
“It’ll have to do.”
She also comes across an elegant bow, its handle decorated with a blue-green crystals. It almost looks like lightning is shooting out of the handle. Curious, she packs it on her back.
After a while, Vizuna emerges from the hut with her bounty; some food, the bow, and some herbs that could probably be medicine. She staggers over to the pens to get the gukko bird.
She looks around.
The gukko is gone.
“Ugghhhh,” she groans, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “Why did you have to quick-fly while I was busy-”
There’s a screech, and suddenly she’s in the air.
Vizuna sits on a ledge near an old stone temple, looking out at the clouds around the floating island. A flock of Kewa soar off in the distance, circling around an old statue of some old being with a crown-like mask. “Vizzy!” she hears from behind. She turns to see Iruini running towards her, a huge smile on his face. “Hey! Why are you so happy-cheer for?” Vizuna chuckles. Iruini pulls out a small bag and dumps its contents in front of her. Vizuna’s eyes go wide. Widgets. _Lots_ of widgets. “Iruini, how much is-?” Iruini snickers, “Around 500 widgets.” Vizuna jumps up, “What?! 500 widgets?! Who did you take-steal from?!” Iruini folds his arms, “Actually, I got this from not stealing.” Vizuna looks at him skeptically. “Then where did you get this? It certainly isn’t a day’s worth of pity-sad money.” He sits down on the temple steps, reclosing the bag. “I met this guy- a Mangaian named Norik- who runs this group called the Brotherhood. They take in outcasts, homeless, lost matoran and help them out!” Vizuna eyes the bag, “So… is the money some kind of loan thing?” Iruini shakes his head, “Oh no no no! I ran some errands for him and he paid me. He’s like one of those warlord people in Mangaia, so he’s wealthy.” Now Vizuna folds her arms, “This sounds like a lie-trick; no group called the ‘Brotherhood’ does charity without some dark-secret.” “That’s what I thought at first too,” says Iruini, “but after meeting them and checking out their workplace, it looks pretty real-true. They’re a little bit religious for some old gods, but hey; they don’t have any prejudices or anything.” “Old gods?” Vizuna inquires, raising an eyebrow. “Makuta, I think.” Vizuna raises her hands up in a defensive pose, “Whoa whoa whoa, hang on. Makuta? Wasn’t he a bad dude or something?” Iruini shrugs, “Everyone’s terrible-bad from someone’s view-point; besides, I thought you hated Uxar?” Vizuna sighs, and plops down besides Iruini. “Because I can’t wind-fly like everyone else.” Seeing his friend bummed out, Iruini places a hand on her shoulder. “Listen; aren’t you tired of stealing? Of worrying about getting ever-close to starving? These guys can help us, Vizzy.” “I don’t know,” Vizuna mutters. Iruini suddenly stands up. “Look Vizzy; we’re nobodies around here. We’re poor, we’re thieves-” “Shunned for not being able to fly,” she mumbles. “- right! But the Brotherhood, they’re not them! They’re different! We can start over, not be outcasts anymore. We could… we could have a _family_.” Vizuna perks up. She stares at Iruini. “A… family?” Iruini takes her hands and pulls her up, nodding excitedly. “Yes yes, we can be part of a family for once.” Vizuna looks down at their interlocked hands, before looking up and smiles. “Ok.”
The gukko weaves in between the trees, Vizuna dangling from its clawed feet.
“Put me down you stupid rahi!” She shouts as she struggles.
The claws open up, and Vizuna falls into the dirt. She rolls and crashes against a tree. There’s a sharp pain in her broken leg.
“… I didn’t think you’d actually listen, gukko,” Vizuna wheezes, trying to pull herself up.
She hears footsteps approaching, along with the sound of a walking-stick hitting the earth.
“Well well. Ever-good catch-ah, Hoa.”
She looks up an old matoran petting the now landed gukko bird. The bird tweets in appreciation.
Vizuna reaches on her back and tries to pull out the bow. The walking stick slaps away her hand.
“Ye’re not using my own bow against me, child-ah. Here.”
The matoran offers his hand.
She skeptically looks at it. Noticing her reluctance, he crouches down to her level.
“Yer leg is wounded ill-bad; if not healed soon, ye’re gonnah need a peg instead-ah.”
Vizuna eyes him, “Why are you helping me? I took-stole from you.”
The matoran chuckles, “I know ya feel guilt-uh. For many things.”
He reaches down and pulls her up. He slings her arm over his shoulder.
He gives a knowing look, “Am I wrong?”
Vizuna looks down, slightly ashamed. She then gives him a wary glance.
“Who are you?” she quietly asks.
A hearty chuckle.
“Just an old matoran that wants to help-ah.”
They walk over to Hoa, who’s pecking at the stolen goods.
“But ya can call me Bingzak.”
Vizuna follows Iruini into the boarded up old shrine, the dim light peeking out between the cracks of the wooden planks. It sits like a giant creature, glowing eyes in the darkness of night. They have been coming to the Brotherhood’s hideout for a couple of months, and now a thought continuously begins to enter Vizuna’s mind every time she crosses through the maw of the door. _I don’t want to be here._ It started off very well; she met the leader Norik, who had very welcoming, despite his soft-spoken nature. He explained some stuff about the group, and their belief of how Makuta was betrayed by his brother and the elemental spirits, and it was their duty to bring him back to restore peace or whatever; Vizuna really didn’t care too much. Then they were sent out to do some simple errands. Deliver a package. Keep watch of the hut. Participate in rituals. Even those were easy; all she had to do was bow at certain phrases and say “rise Makuta” with everyone else. And at the end of the week, they received the payments. And it was a thrill for Vizuna. To finally go up to a merchant and buy their goods. Walking through town rather than sneaking around it. Norik telling her she was doing a good job, that she was a wonderful addition to the Brotherhood. She finally _mattered._ It was all going so well… until a few weeks ago. She remembers Kaulus approaching her with a new task. “Norik says you need to get this.” he says with his gravelly voice. He shows an inscription of a key-like item. “Where is it?” she asks. “A matoran named Kongu has it; he lives near the rahi market.” Vizuna eyes him warily. “You… you want me to take-steal?” “Is that a _problem?_ ” Kaulus growls. Not wanting to enrage the large Ihuian, she shakes her head and quickly walks off. On her way out she bumps into Iruini. “Hey Vizzy,” he says cheerfully. “Hey,” she says, eyeing over her shoulder. “You ok?” Iruini asks. She looks back at Iruini. “Kaulus told me I had to take-steal from a matoran” she whispers. Iruini raises an eyebrow. “So?” Vizuna stares at him. “But- but you said we didn’t have to steal anymore! I thought we could-” His hand grasps her shoulder. “Oh come on, Vizzy. I was talking about food and money; this is a special mission!” he chuckles. “The item is important to the Brotherhood. We just need to get this item, no big deal.” “But I don’t-” Iruini steps closer, his mask almost touching hers. “Think of what the Brotherhood has done for us. Without Norik and everyone else we would be still ever-close to starving on the outskirts! _We owe them._ So just get the thing and stop worrying about it.” Vizuna opens her mouth, but words fail to come. “I’ll see you later, Vizzy!” smiles Iruini as he walks past, almost as if his mood never changed. Vizuna stands there, slightly shocked. She had returned later on, having completed the mission; she was lucky Kongu was not in his home. She gave the key to Norik. “Thank you.” And that was it. No praise, no smile, nothing. Then the errands changed. Oversee a “special” ■■■■■■■■ of some cargo by a matoran named Ahkmou. Intimidate some nearby shopkeepers to extort payments; Iruini did most of it, but she was still there to see the frightened matoran give his widgets to the cloaked strangers. They painted some group sigil on her mask, “sealing” her to the group. No, she _really_ didn’t want to be here at all. Gaaki, a Naho matoran new to the group, hands Iruini a parchment. He reads it over, then nods. “Hail Makuta,” says Gaaki. “Hail Makuta,” returns Iruini. He turns around to Vizuna. “Alight, we got our mission.” She puts on a fake smile, “Let’s go!” They walk out. “May Makuta guide us!” cheers Iruini. Vizuna remains silent. Something clenches in her chest tightly. “... Yeah.”
Bingzak stirs some herbs into a bowl as Vizuna sits quietly in a beaten-up chair. Her broken leg is propped up by a log from outside.
“Now the paste is gonnah sting-bite a bit,” says the old matoran as he sits by her lifted leg. “But it should heal any bruisin.’”
Vizuna winces a bit as the paste is applied to her lower calf and ankle. However, she also feels that the swelling is fading away. Bingzak, satisfied with the amount placed, puts the bowl down.
“Now, I have to fix this leg; it’s gonnah hurt. Here.”
He hands her a dried looking fruit. She grabs it and eyes it warily.
“Do I… eat it?”
Bingzak is holding her leg out, studying it.
“Yah,” he says, not looking up.
She places the fruit in her mouth. She tries to chew, but it is almost impossible; the skin is thick like leather, and feels like-
C R A C K
Bingzak quickly bends the leg back into position. A muffled scream erupts from Vizuna, the chair creaking under her death-grip on the wooden arms. The old matoran gently puts the leg back down.
“Sorry, had to fool ya,” Bingzak says, getting up. “Ye’ll probably get back to using it in a few days. Until then, rest-ah.”
Vizuna pulls the fruit out of her mouth and tosses it aside, slight tears forming around her eyes.
“…thanks.” she sighs.
She watches the old matoran pour some hot water into a mug and stir.
“Why are you helping me?” she asks. “I tried to take-steal.”
Bingzak returns with two mugs of tea. He hands one to her. She nods in thanks as he sits down in his seat.
“Like I said-ah, I’m just an old matoran who spirit-lifts,” he smiles.
Vizuna rolls her eyes, “No one is nice without some dark-secret. Why are you really helping me?”
Bingzak laughs, “Ya think I’m really a rotten rahi? Believe what ye wish; but I’m just an old matoran who sees a troubled girl who has run into ill-bad luck-uh.”
Vizuna sighs, lowering her eyes.
“Sorry,” she mutters, sipping her tea.
Bingzak takes a drink, then adjusts himself in his seat. He gives a warm smile.
“So… how’d a wind-flyer like ya end up here?”
It’s a quiet night outside the gates to the Temple of Uxar. The nearby buildings are mostly dark, save a few lit windows here and there. The pens are near-silent, with the kewas and gukkos perched on their branches like statues. Two hooded figures glide through the street. They stop in front of a small stone building, left of the gates. “Are you ready?” asks Iruini. His voice is more raspy nowadays. Like every mission, Vizuna is silent. Iruini picks the lock, and they enter the house. A matoran is sitting at a desk, writing on parchments. Iruini smirks, and closes the door with a noticeable _click_. The matoran perks up, and turns around. Horror flashes on his face as he quickly stands. “Who are you! Get out of here before I call-shout-!” “Boreas, I suggest you stay ever-quiet. Or things will turn dark-bad,” Iruini warns. The matoran named Boreas is shaking. “You’re… you’re from the Brotherhood! Oh no oh no no no…” He has his head in hands. Iruini cocks his head to the side and walks forward. “Come now Boreas, you didn’t think you could just far-walk away from your duty, could you?” Boreas shakes his head, “Please, I just needed the money, I needed to get food for Tuuli…” “So you took advantage of the Brotherhood?” Iruini hisses. “You think Makuta is just gate-path for stuffing your face with widgets?!” Iruini roughly coughs. Vizuna watches the panicked Boreas, a weight beginning to crush her. “I had no choice! I couldn’t let my daughter starve-” “YOu still hAVe a hOme!” Iruini roars, his voice hoarse. He pulls out a slender blade. Now Vizuna steps forward, “What are you doing!? You said we only were going to take the money back!” He ignores her and closes in on the matoran. Boreas backs up against the wall. “No! Please don’t!” Boreas begs. “I’m- I’m sorry!” A wicked grin spreads on Iruini’s face. “Ask-beg Makuta for forgiveness.” With blinding speed, the blade drives forward into Boreas’ heartlight. It shatters into pieces, and Boreas heaves sharply. Vizuna is motionless as she watches the lights fade away from Boreas’ eyes. His knees hit the floor, followed by the rest of his body. Iruini twirls the blade around before pocketing it. “Greedy filth, just like the rest,” Iruini snorts. “Thinking that he’s above the true Master of Masters-” Vizuna’s fist impacts against his mask, a crack forming over the right eye. Iruini is almost shocked with disbelief, before he gives a snarl and glares at Vizuna. “What was that for!? That hurt!!” “Why did you kill him!? We were just supposed to get the money!” Iruini chokes out a laugh. “You really think that’s all we were supposed to do?” “Iruini… you lied?!” “..._dad?_” The small voice shocks them both. They whirl around and see a small matoran in a doorway, eyes glued to Boreas’ body. Her tiny hands are shaking. She screams. If the neighborhood didn’t hear the fight before, they certainly heard that. Voices start coming from outside, footsteps heading towards the house. Iruini dives out the window with ease; Vizuna is stuck watching the bawling child huddled over her deceased father. Something cold pierces Vizuna’s heart. A bang on the door brings her back to her senses, and she bolts out the window. Vizuna manages to get to the outer perimeter of the island. She rests her hands on her knees, panting. She hears the footsteps behind her. “If you’re done being crazy-mad, we should head back Vizzy.” Iruini grunts. A violent cough erupts from his throat. Vizuna turns around. Iruini is hunched over, his red-tinted eyes shining through the darkness, his cloak bundled nicely under his arm. She glares at him, “You lied to me. Why?” Another cough, then he spits on the floor. His saliva touches the dirt with an acidic _hiss_. “You think I haven’t noticed your behavior lately?” he mutters. “Every time I see you with the Brotherhood you look miserable.” “Iruini,” Vizuna whispers, “you _killed_ someone.” “So?” The response made Vizuna go frigid. “Iruini, please. Something’s happened to you-” “YES!!” Iruini suddenly roars, “I’ve found my home, my place in this world! And my _duty._” He points up to where the Temple of Uxar lies. “The elemental spirits betrayed Our Overseer; now it our task-duty to lead Makuta’s revenge!!” Iruini snarls. “That temple will fall into ruin, and Makuta will live-rise from its ashes!!” Vizuna rushes forward and grabs Iruini, shaking him. “Since when did you slow-think!? This… this stupid group is making you dark-bad!” Iruini looks at her blankly. “What are you saying?” Vizuna looks into his eyes. “We… we need to leave. I don’t want to be in this anymore, I don’t want you to be there anymore-” Iruini is quiet. “Can’t you see what’s happened to you?” she pleads. “We were supposed to have a _family_, not a dark-luck cult.” Iruini looks downcast. “I… I see…” Vizuna nods her head, “Please, I don’t want you to be hurt any-” His hands spring up to her neck. He growls. “**_You’re just like them._**” He pushes her forward to the edge, crimson eyes glaring into her skull. Panicking, Vizuna pulls out Iruini’s knife and stabs his thigh. “Aghh! You… _YOU TRAITOR!!_” He surges forward with a huge shove, sending Vizuna over the edge with a roar. Her blue eyes lock with the red flames behind his mask. Then she disappears over the edge.
Bingzak hands Vizuna a walking stick.
“This will help ya stand upright for a while.”
She takes it and looks up the wooden length, carvings of birds and wind swirls to the top.
“You didn’t have to make it so nice for me.” Vizuna says softly, eyeing the designs.
Bingzak chuckles, “It’s not just some fancy artwork-ah. It tells a story.”
Bingzak walks out to the doorway.
“There are two birds flying over a shinin’, but deep lake. The birds want to get close to it, to taste the water, to feel the waves. One dives ever-quick to the water, and is enveloped by the lake. The other skims the top, but continues on flyin’.”
Vizuna watches the old matoran, who’s looking out at the quiet forest.
“The bird who dove in the lake got its wish, but at the price of its life-ah. The other bird lives, and keeps the water at a distance. While the lake felt nice upon its feet, it saw what the other did not.”
He pauses. Vizuna walks up behind him.
‘What did it see?” she asks.
Bingzak gives a warm laugh.
“It saw itself. It was a bird, and its home was high-flying in the sky, not the lake.”
Bingzak gives her a knowing look. Vizuna smiles.
“Thank you, Bingzak.”
He gestures to Hoa.
“She’ll take ya back up, drop you off at the Temple.”
Vizuna walks forward towards the bird. She pauses and turns to the old matoran.
“… Will I be able to see you again?”
A hearty chortle.
“As long as you know where I be. Just be safe.”
Vizuna smiles and gets on Hoa, who gives a chirp in greeting.
“Oh and this time, don’t touch the water, eh?”
With a last look at her friend, Vizuna is lifted into the air and they soar past the foliage and into the open sky.
Everything in his body hurt. Iruini limps quickly through the icy path, trying to keep up with other members. Flurries circle all around them, as if the mountain was trying to swat them off. The wound in his leg had not healed, and oozed a horrible sticky green fluid. It smelled like… something _decaying._ And his back had begun to hurt on top of it; he felt his spine more than usual on the rocks, and often had to sleep on his side to get comfortable. He continues to trudge forward, snow seeping through the crack in his mask. Norik was right. You really don’t know who you can trust. He pulls his cloak up tighter. The lost bird fades away into the snowstorm. ^^^^^^^^^ Up Next; Onua. Stay Tuned. **-DarkMaestro**