Whoo! Chapter 4! Two-thirds of the way done through “History of Artakha” (Prologue here )(Previous chapter (The Distressed) here)! Thanks for waiting if you have been, and thanks for reading if you haven’t been! Or if you have. Or if you didn’t read, thanks for looking at the page, I guess? Thank you all, please leave feedback, it helps me a lot.
Chapter 4: The Tyrant
Sanso strummed happily at his little guitar. He had memorized at least twenty songs perfectly, quarter note by eighth note by sixteenth note. He can ■■■■■ octaves in less than a second, and has even gotten to the point to where Sanso does not need to be aware of the music to play it. Which is why as he and his happy band play their melodies, he can study his surroundings.
The Le-Matoran musicians stood on top of a floor made of tightly woven hay and straw, creating a film held by the Great Tree that can carry the weight of fifty Matoran. However, it was not large enough to hold fifty Matoran. Sanso and his two other musicians stood at the edge of the floor, protected from falling only by a thin rope. A Ga-Matoran dancer in the center kept to the beat of the song. They had practiced for hours together, yet Sanso did not even know her name. On the left hand side was King Tarduk and his guest, the king of Mangai, or the Mighty Dume. Tarduk sat on a throne of vines and armor tightly strung together to form a chair of dead Matoran. It was terrible to look at, but, then again, King Tarduk was terrible to look at.
Food was brought to the kings by a youthful Le-Matoran, but she did not receive a “thank you” or a tip for her work. She ran off as quickly as she had run on. Sanso noticed that Dume did not eat. King Tarduk asked him about this, and Dume just said, “I do not eat in public.” Sanso thought for a moment and realized why: His mask, the Kirii, did not give him and mouth hole to eat out of. He would have to remove the mask to eat. And every Matoran knows that to be seen in public without your mask is like being seen naked. It’s embarrassing and disgraceful.
King Tarduk slid the plate away from him. He was polite enough to not eat when the guest chose not to eat. This surprised Sanso. The King only was polite when he wanted to impress someone. The last person King Tarduk tried to impress was his wife. Sanso wondered where she was, and then he remembered: she was dead.
Half a season ago, the Queen was found dead underneath the floating city of Kanae. The forensic experts assumed she must have fallen off of the city’s linking bridges. The people of Kanae did not believe them, however. No Kanaean falls. The people told rumors about her taking her own life. They claimed she was abused by Tarduk, or hating him for being so wicked, or just feeling ignored. However, Sanso had played music for the couple many times. If anything, King Tarduk’s wife was even more wicked than King Tarduk. He knew about love, and he could see it in them. Sanso knew the Queen was not suicidal.
Dume and King Tarduk talked about politics and Glatorian for a good cluck before they began growing bored of talking. They watched the dancer for fifteen clocks before they grew bored of her. King Tarduk told King Dume to wait a moment, and then strolled over to Sanso, close enough that Sanso could see the odd scratches on the King’s helmet. He flipped a silver coin onto the floor in front of Sanso.
“Play something faster. I want that girl to dance so fast her Kanohi Tryna falls off,” King Tarduk ordered. Sanso knew the King could just tell him to do something and he would be forced to do it, so he knew the King was being generous in paying him for it. Sanso began playing. It was easy for him, but he saw the struggle on the dancer’s face. She was scared about what might happen if she messed up. Sanso closed his eyes. It would be easier that way.
When the song finished, Sanso reopened his eyes. The Ga-Matoran was breathing heavily, but she still wore her mask. Dume and King Tarduk clapped, whistling in delight.
“Impressive, um… Dancer!” Tarduk cheered. “Be sure to practice more, and you’ll do fine here in Kanae!”
The dancer smiled. Sanso knew she was robbed from her home of Naho. That’s what King Tarduk did. He stole people from different regions to create a larger workforce in Kanae. King Tarduk loved slavery.
As the cluck ended, and the sun was high in the Kanaean sky, Dume returned home. As King Tarduk and Dume were exchanging goodbyes, Sanso, the dancer, and the two other musicians received a break. A Po-Matoran brought water to the group, and Sanso made sure to thank him. The Po-Matoran smiled and retreated back to work.
“Sorry about the song,” Sanso apologized. The dancer took a while to realize he was talking to her. She shook her head and said nothing.
“What’s your name?” Sanso wondered.
“Nixie,” came the reply.
The musician stuck out his hand. Nixie stares at it for a click before shaking it. She but her lip and shrunk away. Sanso felt bad for her. She must have experienced terrible things. She lost her family, her home, her friends. The musician looked at his two partners. He couldn’t bare to be stolen from them. The grief would hurt him so much he couldn’t play another instrument again.
King Tarduk reappeared from the bridges. He threw himself messily onto his throne. He started munching on his dinner. As he ate, the fruit leaked out of his mouth. He looked like he had spilled blood on his face. Sanso felt a burst of anger. Kanae was having its massive food supply drained by Motara and Mangai, while its people were left hungry. They picked at the roots of dead trees for spoiled fruit, while King Tarduk let half of his food onto the floor. After finishing his meal, the King moved on and at Dume’s.
Nixie poked Sanso’s arm. She held two large fruit in her hands. She took a juicy bite from one, and tried to pass the other to Sanso. However, not being used to Kanaefruit, the bite she took made a loud crunch. King Tarduk leaped off his throne and went straight for Nixie’s throat. Holding her two inches of the ground by her throat, he glared into her green eyes with this own orange ones.
“You stole from me?” he questioned. She tried to say something, but she couldn’t speak. Tarduk shook her like a rag doll. “You know what happens when people steal from me, don’t you?”
Nixie tried to mouth “no”. Tarduk tightened his grip, and the Ga-Matoran started to lose color in her eyes. Tarduk looked to Sanso.
“Did you accept her fruit? Did you give her the stolen food?” Tarduk asked.
Sanso started to reply, but one of his musicians shouted “No!”. Tarduk turned his awkward helmet towards him. The musician blinked behind his Kakama.
“It was me!” the musician cried. “I stole the fruit, and gave it to her. I felt bad she had to work so hard. Sanso had nothing to do with it.”
Tarduk made a growl that sounded quite like a Muaka.
“What’s your name, musician?”
“I’m- I’m Mukara,” the Le-Matoran answered.
“Then you’ll be spending the night in the thieves’ quarters, Mukara,” the King told him. “Four guards, now!”
Four Kanaean guards emerged from the bridge. “Take this Mukara to his punishment! But two of you stay here,” Two guards took the musician away.
Mukara’s screams would never leave Sanso’s ears. Sanso never saw him again. But then again, Sanso never saw very many slaves.
King Tarduk pointed at Nixie. The two other guards grabbed her arms and forced her down on her knees in front of the King. Grabbing his ruthless Whip of Ten Fires (given to him by King Dume), King Tarduk struck Nixie’s back. Sanso was facing her, so he could not see the immortal scars that would be on her back. However, the sound of burning skin was enough to disgust him. He heard another whip, another whimper, and then a whisper. King Tarduk told Nixie something, and then shoved her onto the ground. The guards left. Noxie struggles onto her feet and glanced at the King. King Tarduk just impatiently pointed to the two-thirds of a band. She limped over, years in her eyes. As soon as she reached the stage, she collapsed, sobbing. Sanso caught her, and held her shoulder firmly.
“Hey, it’s okay. It’s all over, it won’t happen again,” Sanso assured her.
“No, no, it’s not that,” Nixie whimpered. “It’s that- He never touched the fruit, he just lied to the King to keep me-“
“I know, I know,” Sanso told her. He pulled her into a hug, which, under any other circumstances, would have been awkward. Sanso glanced at her back. Blackened scars still flowed with embers.
The King paced across the floor, staring outside at the canopy of the Great Tree. He turned around and looked at the three entertainers.
“If you’re quite done, you have a show to finish,” he said. Sanso nearly lost it. He stood, fists at the ready, and turned to see a frightened Ta-Matoran staring at him. King Tarduk turned and greeted him as the driver of the shipments.
“I have brought in the ■■■■■■■■ of textiles, weapons, and Kanohi,” the driver said.
“Yes, and what about the special cargo?” King Tarduk asked. The driver stared at him, confused. “King Brutaka must have sent large boxes with what he called ‘special cargo’. Does this ring a bell?”
The driver thought for a moment and replied, “Yes, I do remember! The boxes were loaded in, and not taken out. It was a rather messy trail, lots of bumps. They must have fallen off. I’ll pick them up the next trail.”
King Tarduk’s eyes almost glowed red with anger. “You lost them? You irresponsible fool! Do you know what it means if the contents are let loose?” he shouted.
The driver thought for another moment before answering, “I’ll lose a raise?”
King Tarduk nearly murdered the poor Mangaian. “It- means- WAR!” The Kanaean King roared. “Inevitable, unescapable, costly, hurting, destroying war!”
The Ta-Matoran shrunk in fear. King Tarduk stepped away. He tapped his fingers to his sides, thinking. He turned and said, “Do you know about the Great Tree?” The driver shook his head. Only Kanaeans knew about the Tree. “Well, it is a legend that has been passed down for years. In the legend, Uxar, Lord of the Air had the ability to accelerate plant growth, by giving them the air and nutrients they need. During the creation of Kanae, he had spent a long day of doing so. At the end of this long day, he grew very tired and laid on a floating chunk of rock to sleep. As he slept, his powers leaked off, accelerating plant growth around him. When he awoke, Uxar found a Great Tree encasing him in wood. He transformed himself into air and simply flew out of the small holes in the bark. Looking back, his first thought was to destroy it. But then he thought, and decided it would make a fine place for a Kanaean king to rule. And so he did not kill the tree. Legend even says he sleeps inside of it now.” King Tarduk poked at a rope holding the canopy up. “Another legend says if one were to fall, as long as Uxar found you worthy, you would be caught by the Great Tree. However, these are all just legends.”
In a quick movement, the King dashed across the canopy, shoving the driver off into the darkness below. Sanso heard the scream of the Ta-Matoran, and winced, waiting to hear more deafening sounds. King Tarduk chuckled to himself, an evil, deep chuckle. Looking over the edge, his face turned from happiness to anger.
“So, Uxar has found you worthy, hasn’t he?” King Tarduk barked. Apparently the Ta-Matoran must have caught one of the branches. Sanso sighed in relief. Two guards appeared from the bridge. “Wait until morning. If he is still in Kanae by sunrise, send him to the slavers,” the King ordered. The guards nodded and marched off. Tired, King Tarduk threw himself again onto the throne. He sat there, propping his large helmet up with his hands, thinking. He turned to Sanso, Nixie, and the other musician and said, “You can still play three-fourths of a show.” Sanso blinked, and almost felt Nixie’s sudden exhaustion. “Well? Get to it!” the King shouted. Sanso propped up his guitar, Nixie entered the stage, and they prepared for a night of show business.
Not as light-hearted as the last one. Sorry about that. Prepare for war with Tiro in Chapter 5! Thanks, and have a wonderful day! (I’ll be honest, I’m just waiting for Star Wars)