... it's 2:30 AM, I've got class at 9:30, and I've spent the last three hours listening to epic battle music while typing so furiously that Microsoft Word legitimately threw a 'not responding' window at me for a while... Yeah, I suspected this chapter was going to be intense to write, and I'll probably regret all this come morning, but for now: enjoy!
“Well, what is it!?” Tahu demands.
“I do not know,” I reply, much to my own surprise. Those are Skrall! How do I not know? “Definitely not friendly, though, and wielding the element of Shadow, by the look of them.” I notice a number of shadow bolts being hurled ahead of the black horde as they reach the dunes.
“Great…” Lewa sighs. “More Shadow-Men!? After Karda Nui?”
“Our allies should know more about them,” Gali suggests. “It’s their planet, after all.”
“Good thinking,” Tahu replies. He turns and walks back to the edge of the escarpment. “Cover me,” he says as he deploys his wings again. “I’m going to check with Ackar about what’s going on.” Gali, Pohatu, and Onua nod immediately and take up positions along the edge as well, watching and covering Tahu as he flies down to the melee below.
“Over here!” I shout; a number of Rahkshi are making their way up to our position behind us. I duck as one of them launches up a heat vision ray. Lewa immediately turns to face our aggressors.
“Enough of you!” he declares. “Can’t you see we have more important stuff to deal with over there!?” He points out with one of his blades at the Skrall, who are rapidly approaching, but are still well behind the Rahkshi, then rapidly raises it sky-high, commanding the air around the Rahkshi to surge upwards, whipping up tons of dust in the process. “Have fun, Kopaka!” he declares as everyone but me is momentarily blinded by the cloud; my Akaku allows me to see the stunned and confused Rahkshi clearly. I move in among them, felling them with my blades as they, panicked, stab with their staffs in random directions, hitting nothing but the ground and each other. For a few seconds, it’s as though I’m a phantom to them, and by the time the dust begins to settle, none are left standing. “Not bad,” Lewa nods, smiling as I make my way back up to our position.
“DISENGAGE!” I suddenly hear a voice shout over the fight below.
“What the…” Lewa and I quickly move to the edge where Gali, Pohatu, and Onua are already standing, trying to figure out what’s going on below. The voice was Ackar’s, and all over the field the Glatorian start to draw back, leaving the Toa to fight the remaining Rahkshi, who seem to make little effort to harry their retreating foes. Flying back out from the carnage is Tahu, and boy do we have some questions for him.
“What are they doing!?” Gali demands as Tahu reaches our position.
“Their… their villagers, their Matoran…” Tahu explains, “they’re hiding over there.” He points over our heads in the direction of the Skrall horde, who are still rapidly covering ground, and… are pursuing something. Small figures running about the dunes. Are these the Matoran that Tahu’s speaking of? They look more like Agori to me. “I told him we’d handle the remaining Rahkshi,” Tahu continued, “while they go protect their people.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Pohatu agrees. “We should be able to handle what’s left, right?” Looking down and around us, it’s obvious that dead Rahkshi are everywhere, but their staggering numbers mean that many are still bearing down on us and the other Toa down below; most of the Glatorian are already heading in the direction of the Skrall and the hapless Agori.
“I don’t have much fire left,” Tahu admits, “and no doubt we’re all feeling the strain, but I have my swords, and I swear these Rahkshi will come to know them well!”
“Better not waste time,” Onua notes, having already deployed the rocket boosters that grant him flight. He leaps off of our high ground. The rest of us follow suit, and before long, we all land in the middle of the battleground, knocking down several Rahkshi in the process.
“REGROUP! FORM CIRCLES!” Tahu orders at the top of his lungs. With Rahkshi swarming all around us, it’s our best option; standing in a circle, each of us facing outwards and fighting off what comes at us from the front by whatever means necessary, knowing that our back is covered by all the others. All over the battlefield, other Toa are already doing the same, grouping up around whatever feature provides even a modicum of cover, or at least serves as a landmark to rally around. I want to conserve what elemental energy I have left, and resort to fighting swords-and-shield against the incoming Rahkshi. I decapitate one while maneuvering my shield to block the staff of another, then wheel around, bringing my upper sword down to slice said staff in two. A lunge plants the sword straight through the creature’s chest and up into its back, goring the slug-like abomination controlling the armor from inside. I barely withdraw my sword in time to block a third Rahkshi, coming at me from the right; for a moment, our weapons are locked, both of us pushing to try and bring ours down on the other, but I have my shield, which I thrust forwards under the Rahkshi’s staff to knock its legs out from under it, causing it to fall down flat on its face; I plant my lower sword into its head to ensure it will not rise again, then raise my shield, providing cover while I look to see how those behind me are doing.
Tahu is positioned to my left; he lacks a physical shield, obviously, but is making generous use of his mask to conjure up spectral ones to block staff strikes from the Rahkshi in front of him, then exploits the momentary confusion on their part to hack them down in spades. He doesn’t aim for the head or back, specifically; the surgical strike isn’t his style. Instead, he goes for whatever’s exposed, whether that means hacking off an arm, a leg, or a head with wide, reckless, occasionally flaming slashes that would seem to leave him dangerously exposed. In doing so, he’s taunting the Rahkshi to come close, but his guard is never as down as it seems, and inevitably they are maimed or killed outright. Tahu’s reveling in this, dominating his foes through a mix of tactics and brutal strength, fighting not just for his own survival, but also that of everyone else here, for the lives of everyone still trapped inside the titanic Makuta. I do not know whether or not the Makuta feels the deaths of his wicked creations, but if he does, Tahu must be causing him a splitting headache.
Fighting to his left is Gali, wielding her twin axes in, perhaps, a far more controlled manner. Her mask provides her no benefit here, and she can’t take the time to switch, but agility and acrobatics make her a difficult target nonetheless; she dodges a staff left, then right, weaving herself between two Rahkshi only to bring an axe down on both their necks, cleanly decapitating both. A third Rahkshi attempts to strike her with a low sweep of its staff, but a jump, a flip, and another axe swing bring its plans to a halt, and puts my sister back in her position in the circle, just in time to whack a fourth staff out of the way. She keeps her axes going in a continuous, swinging motion, a constantly changing pattern that exploits the momentum of the heavy weapons to deliver a series of devastating strikes that break staffs, limbs, and anything else in their way while leaving the Rahkshi no opening to exploit. She jumps, flips, turns and twists through the blurred, silver streaks, a near-liquid form in a ferocious, yet tightly controlled and almost elegant dance of destruction that the Rahkshi simply don’t have an answer to.
Next in line, and directly opposite me, Onua revs up his weapons, a set of chainsaw-like devices that easily outweigh Gali’s axes and make for very potent armor breakers; he merely has to make contact with a Rahkshi for the rapidly spinning threads to proceed shredding off plates and whatever lies beneath, and while he can’t deflect or dodge blows the way Gali can, he doesn’t need to. The Toa of Earth’s thick armor easily absorbs the impact of the Rahkshi staffs, and in a melee this close they don’t dare to use their heat vision. Heedless of whatever they do, Onua simply raises up the howling contraptions and brings them down on the heads of whichever Rahkshi are closest, easily ripping off the armor plates and making mince-meat of the slugs inside, a display vicious enough to make any others think twice about approaching him. Yet, pressured by ever more of their kind pushing up behind, the Rahkshi move forward, trying vainly with their staffs to find a weak spot in the armor. Their attempts are curtailed as Onua activates his mask and swings his weapons upwards with all his might, sending two more Rahkshi flying backwards in pieces from the sheer force of the impacts.
“A-ha! Saw ya coming!” Lewa declares, parrying a staff coming at him with one sword while thrusting forward with the other, planting it cleanly into the neck of the staff’s owner, who falls to the ground with a disgusting, gurgling sound as wisps of shadow energy erupt from the resulting gash. “Not today,” Lewa mockingly declares, attracting the attention of a number of other Rahkshi, all of which begin to converge on him. The Toa of Air responds by leaping into the air, tumbling over as he parries their first strike. “And one…” he exploits the tumble by bringing his other sword down to block another, “…and two, and three…” he whirls his swords back and forth, parrying more staff thrusts in the process. He lands behind the Rahkshi that attempted to hit him, swinging a sword to his side to block the strike of a fourth, “…and four.” He stands up, spins around, and gives a sly smile. “My turn.” Suddenly, it’s as though his swords become a silver blur; he charges forward, spinning wildly, slashing in every direction and delivering numerous cuts to the monsters. Having reached his position in the circle again, he stops. “And… fall,” he says; the Rahkshi he just mowed through fall down behind him in pieces. Lewa doesn’t even look, knowing he finished them already, but it’s not long before more come up to take their place, and the Toa of Air has to turn to face them again. “More!?” he asks, feigning surprise. “Oh, it must be my lucky day!”
Lastly, fighting beside me and with decidedly fewer words, is Pohatu. He doesn’t have swords, axes, or anything like that; no, a small set of curved, blunt pieces of metal affixed to his wrists are all he needs. They’re hinged, like claws or pincers, and just as he dodges a staff coming down to his left, the Toa of Stone reaches out and uses them to grab onto the arm of the Rahkshi it belongs to. He pulls back, dragging the creature down, exploiting the movement to plant his knee under its chin, producing a distinct ‘crack!’ as the yellow, armored form goes limp. Pohatu drops it, then turns his attention to two more coming from his right; they sweep low with their staffs, perhaps intending to floor the Toa, but he doesn’t let them, leaping up and delivering a roundhouse kick to both of their faces. More crunching sounds, and more fallen Rahkshi, and upon landing Pohatu picks up one of their staffs, swinging it upwards to block a strike from a fourth trying to advance on him from behind. Knocked off balance by the upward impact from the Toa’s stolen weapon, the creature staggers back, and hasn’t even regained its balance by the time Pohatu leaps forward and delivers it a kick to the chest, knocking it prone. He plants his staff into its waist, pinning it to the ground; part of the Rahkshi’s carapace opens up, revealing the hideous head of the slug inside, which splits into three sections, each squirming and hissing at the Toa in a vain attempt to retaliate in spite of being pinned down. In response, Pohatu produces a fist-sized rock and shoves it down onto the exposed slug, squishing it and ending the disgusting sounds it was producing.
“You okay!?” He turns and calls to me, dropping the staff.
“Do you need to ask?” I turn back and plant a sword into the chest of a Rahkshi that’s been trying to get past my shield for a while now. It hisses, gargles, makes all sorts of revolting noises, but I quickly end it by sending a bolt of freezing cold down my blade, turning the slug inside in to an icicle; another Rahkshi down.
“I guess not,” Pohatu smiles as he raises his right arm to catch the staff of another Rahkshi coming at him. He twists around, dragging the creature past himself and tripping it in the process, causing it to land right at my feet. “Have at it,” he invites, before turning his attention to the prone Rahkshi’s companions. I ensure that this particular one won’t bother us again by planting my lower sword into the top of its head, right where the armor splits, then return to making sure none of the Rahkshi in front of me get past.
“You deal with yours,” I remind Pohatu, “and I will deal with mine.”
“Whatever you say,” Pohatu replies, but in the heat of battle the conversation goes no further. All my concentration is now on holding off the Rahkshi, whose lines do indeed seem to slowly, surely, be thinning, and they’re becoming all the bolder and more reckless for it. Surely, there can’t be much left in these Toa? True, I should be getting tired, but… I’m not. I fight on, only feeling stronger, more alert, taking the Rahkshi one by one. It’s like I’m entering a trance, acting automatically, recognizing how to parry or block their swings and thrusts and instantly calculating how to respond; my brain is running at a million miles per hour; my vision blurs around the edges, but my target is always crystal-clear. I should be out of breath; my muscles should feel like they’re on fire, but I’m not and they don’t, and none of it matters. I will survive! I will beat them! Another one goes down, victim to my blade. The next one comes with an overhead swing. Dodge left, slash downwards onto head. Done. Another one tries to sweep low. Jump forward, bash the shield into its face. It’s dazed. Go for the neck. Done. Two more stab at me. Turn and block with shield. Blocked successfully. Step forward and slash right-to-left with both swords. Their staffs are cut in two. Step forward again and slash back. They’re finished. Another one on my left! Block. Step forward again, spin around. Plant lower sword into its chest. Finished. Next!
The cacophony of the battle around me is fading now. The shouting, the clanging of metal against metal, the screaming and hissing of the Rahkshi, it’s all blending into a droning noise... I spin around again and again, fighting off Rahkshi on all sides. Block left, slash right, turn, stab backwards, jump, parry, dodge, thrust forwards. Freeze! Retract blade, block left again, parry right, spin around and slash both! The droning has become a pulsing, throbbing sound, a heartbeat racing out of control. My vision… my vision is blurring more and more, an increasingly tight window through which I have to focus on my enemies. Argh! A sudden stab of pain in my head; I close my eyes. Did one of them get me!? No, there’s no wound, it’s just a headache. ARGH! Another one! I shake my head. I must go on. Parry right again, twist into lunge… Argh! Again! My vision’s blurred now to the point where I’m effectively blind, yet I know I’m still fighting. Block again; I can feel the impact in my shield arm. The heartbeat’s getting louder, each beat sounding like an enormous, terrifying drum, and each accompanied by an awful burst of pain in my head. I’m spinning again, I think, I don’t know; I can’t see. It’s sickening. I feel pressure in my arm and hand; something is pushing against it. A stab, a thrust? Argh! Headaches! ■■■■ it! I can’t fight like this! Yet… I am, I think. I don’t know any more! My vision’s going black; what’s going on? I’m still spinning, spinning out of control; I must be. I’m feeling sick, the heartbeats merge into a constant, deafening noise. Someone’s driving nails into my head! It’s… what’s going on? I can’t take this!
author's note: easily the most intense thing I've ever written, this chapter. Describing each of the Toa Nuva fighting at the peak of their ability was always a goal of the final battle, in my mind, and I'm really, really pleased with how each one of them came out. The images it conjured up will stay with me for a while. Also, listening to "Two Steps From Hell" and the more exciting parts of the soundtrack of "Ori and the Blind Forest" really helped to get me into the mood; seldom have I felt as epic at the end of writing something as I do now.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!