Back during the 8th Epics Contest, I wrote two incomplete drafts for the final product, Rising Immortal. This was one of them, now complete, taking place during Chapter 15 of Lightning Strikes Twice and told from the viewpoint of former Spirit Chieftain Cascata. As well, this is part of a trio of songfics, which foreshadow events in my upcoming epic Wings; the first being Hero, the second being Believe.
Disclaimer: Bionicle belongs to Lego, story belongs to me, song belongs to Death Cab for Cutie (I had to cut out a few parts of the song, sorry guys).
Meet Me On the Equinox
New moon night. It's one of the few times during the year that we spirits can leave the underground of Notus and walk amongst the living – the others are on the shortest nights and longest nights of the year, along with Hero's Eve. All together, there are only about fifteen nights when we spirits can leave the Kingdom of the Dead that exists beneath this island.
Who am I? you may ask.
I am Cascata, the former Spirit Chieftain of the Cavern of Souls. Former being the keyword here.
Meet me on the equinox
Meet me halfway
When the sun is perched
At its highest peak
In the middle of the day
It's all that Gravity Toa's fault I'm not that anymore. My old friend Ajax (the real power and king of the Underworld – I just spoke for him during my time of service) had nothing to do with my demotion, even though he had publicly told us that I was being replaced. If that Gravity Toa – Kronus is his name; I feel ill just thinking those two syllables (is it even possible for a ghost to become sick? I'm bound to find out someday) – hadn't had to die and wind up being on our plane of existence, I would still be the Chieftain, and I wouldn't be lurking in the Hall of Statues like some common ghoul.
The interesting thing about this Hall is the amount of statues that are lined up in rows. Each reflects the ghost that they resemble: the older the stone, the longer a spirit has been down under the dark rock. If their glass eyes glow green like our trails, it means we are inhabiting them. For these stone figures show how long our souls have been here, and how weakened we are as well. Right now, many aren't in as great a shape as they should be, since a halfling has been attacking Notus as of late.
Since there are only two chambers before the Cavern itself, we have to be careful. I know from eons of experience that halflings are dangerous creatures; not the garden variety of Rahi beasts that we faced off with in life. It doesn't matter how strong you are: a halfling can roll over you without even pausing to make a snide comment if you're not their progenitor or you carry Ajax's weapon.
The weapon that led to my own death in the end, along with his and Audra's.
Let me give my love to you
Let me take your hand
My dark sulking is interrupted by another member of my current group, a former Air Toa who was called Enlil in life – and in death, as well. Can you feel it? he asks me silently. What's going on above?
Surprised, I reach up through the stone, feeling for the amalgamation of half-willing spirits in our service. They aren't there, though: temporarily scattered and unbound from each other. Eventually, though, they'll reaffix themselves together into the form they've shaped themselves into over the years: a tri-headed Muaka, guarding the gates down to the Hall of Statues.
The more important thing is the fact someone managed to defeat them; only that could temporarily break their bonds. And with the halfling in the chain we lurk on, in the area we share a non-existence with Matoran, we can't afford to think of anything less than the worst-case scenario.
"Cascata?" Elabz, a former Fire Toa asks me, eyes meeting mine as my group rises out of our statues, the better to communicate with each other. "What will we do?"
Feeling the eyes of Elabz, Enlil, Keahre, Othuh, and Flearea on my mask, I realize I need to make another choice, one that I haven't made in a while – not since I was usurped in my position have I made such a decision. There's no time to return to the Cavern of Souls and ask for orders; I'm in charge here.
Feeling some idea of authority pleases me, like I haven't changed position at all down here in all these centuries. "Stay in your statues," I order. "When the intruders come in and are about a quarter of the way down this passage, Enlil, create a blinding wind, than follow my lead."
They nod as we drop down back into our statues, the Air Toa trying to bite his lip and failing – that's hard to do when you have no flesh to bite. Looking through the crystal eyes of my stone double, I see a group of four, maybe five, people enter through the shadow-shrouded passage that connects the Hall of Statues to the Underworld Gates above our heads. The majority of them are Toa, that's certain – I can feel their powerful store of elemental energies, so much more powerful than ours is, from clean across the room.
As we walk in the dimming light
Or darling understand
They've frozen; they aren't crossing the threshold into the hall. They're more interested in the statues that line the walls, like soldiers ready for war – even the weapons we carried most in life have been preserved in them. Silence drags on through the room, and only their breathing mars it.
Then a voice shatters it.
"Are we gonna stand here all night?" asks a female voice, slightly defensive and sharp. A foot – cobalt-colored, I notice – boldly slams down on the floor, and then the rest of its owner follows suit. A Water Toa with a Mahiki, eyes gold and smug with her success stands there – I'm struck with surprise at how similar she seemed to me, when I was alive. Her expression, her stance, her impatient courage – they were all aspects I had and still have; Mata Nui knows how many times Audra and Ajax have called me out on it.
Like they are pushed on by her triumph, her companions follow suit. Soon, a Toa of Ice, Air, and Lightning have joined the first, with a Turaga I and my companions recognize as the ruler of these islands. Together now, they start towards the other end of this room.
As they draw closer to where my group lurk, hidden in our stone sheaths, I begin picking up feelings that emanate from their very souls. It's a gift I had when I lived, to sense when secrets are being kept – it's partly why the Brotherhood targeted me. My talent has only increased in death – I can feel the very nature of those skeletons in the closet.
After all, every being has secrets: harmless, dangerous; simple, complex; benign, malicious; dark, bright. Even the dead have secrets that we take to the grave and beyond. These five are no different.
The males have little to interest me; their secrets are small and nothing to raise an eyebrow at. The three females, though . . . if my sense could be represented by ears, they'd be lifted all the way.
The Lightning Toa's secret is small, something she's been holding back for years, though it's not dark: she has merely neglected to bring it up to her closest friend. Her Turaga's secrets are not so to we spirits of the Underworld: we were watching when she was unjustly exiled and when her name was cleared and her honor restored, when we moved amongst them and pushed one of their own into confessing her wrongs. They've been out for decades; they're not so much secrets now as part of her black history.
That Water Toa, though . . . the brazen one has something that would match up the Turaga's secrets when they were still that. She has hidden her secrets for years, telling no one even a hint of them. She hopes they're just part of her past now, since the Brotherhood is all but gone.
Maybe it's true; maybe it isn't. But I know this is true: secrets will destroy their keepers if held too long, especially those of the dangerous kind.
But enough of this; I can't afford to let their appearances deter me from what I might be forced to do. With as much noise a butterfly makes when it flaps its wings, my signal is sent to Enlil, telling him to send up that wind I ordered.
He obeys. The wind whistles down the passages and between the statues' gaps, flinging century's worth of dust into the eyes of the intruders, even as they throw accusatory glances towards the Air Toa; obviously they suspect him of this. He merely tries to rescue his pride by looking confused and abashed by their glares, but their glares transform into stares as I and my group rise out of our statues, stepping lightly in the air to surround them. Elabz is the last to join us – he was a rather recent addition to our force, so his statue is in the back of the room – and as he passes through the final ranks, he sends a blast of fire towards them, if only to try and intimidate them.
When they don't seem threatened, only surprised, he rolls his eyes behind his ghostly Zatth. "It takes three of us to do anything large," he states.
"Enough of that," I order, holding his eyes and silently ordering him to not touch them that way unless I tell him, in the silent way we spirits can speak. I can't help being paranoid – I was paranoid almost all the time during the war while I was alive, and having a halfling knocking on Notus' door every day just makes it worse.
That, and I want my old position back.
Meet me on your best behavior
Meet me at your worst
"We aren't supposed to be telling these ones our secrets," I sternly reprimand my group. "What if they are servants of the half-being we've been striving against for the past weeks?"
Yes, I know it's unlikely, but it is possible. We're good, but we can't see everything that goes on in the Amari Islands.
"Wait a minute, sister," Enlil says to me, catching my gaze and holding it. "Hasn't the Chieftain been saying that Ajax had foreseen visitors from among the living coming here?"
Rule number one of debating something with me: Never bring up the fact I've been usurped. I'll just press my case harder, if only to make up for that fact.
"Even more reason to be rid of them!" I snap back, angry that he brought it up. "He never told us whether to allow them on or not! (Well, it's true; he didn't.) We can't take chances with a Black One near; we ought to erase their memories of what they have seen and send them away." I use the term we used to label halflings before we figured out what the Brotherhood called them by reflex – old habits, especially when you're dead, are difficult to break.
"We could just ask," Enlil says sardonically to me, right after the echoes of my last sentence fade. It's about that time that the living Water Toa speaks up.
"Actually," she says cheekily, "if you're asking us, I think we'd rather not get our memories wiped." Her friends look mortified on her behalf, while I'm struck by her similarity to me. The Lightning Toa elbows her and says something, but her words get drowned out as – to my horror – my fellow spirits start laughing at me.
Never have I suffered such a humiliation. Not even when I was usurped.
For there will be no stone unturned
Or bubble left to burst
"Looks like someone stood you up, Cascata," snickers Flearea, eyes gleaming as she gives the Water Toa her approval, while I just barely avoid sulking again.
Eventually, though, their mocking laughter dies down, though I can tell they're gonna rag me forever about this whenever the opportunity shows itself. "Like I was saying: we should let the Chieftain decide what to do with them. We can't go playing Mata Nui with their heads until we know we're supposed to," Enlil continues, voice firm. Much as I'm loath to admit it, he's right: I don't have the right to decide their fates. Kronus isn't Mata Nui, but neither am I or Ajax. If Kronus knows we shouldn't, we won't.
Let me lay beside you, darling
Let me be your man
Very well, I say to them, and begin floating down the aisle, towards the gates of the Cavern of Souls. Behind me, I hear Flearea urging them forward after me, and without looking, I feel the minute changes in the air as they move in formation around the five living beings.
I pause at the gates, allowing the guardians to see me and my comrades escorting the living. They rise out of their statues – I would say their names, but I speak to them so rarely that I cannot remember them – and I silently inform them of our intended destination. They give their consent, allowing us to pass through, and they themselves pass through, intending to inform Kronus of our approach.
And let our bodies intertwine
But always understand
I notice the Lightning Toa has stared at the spirits that just left, but she quickly closes her mouth as she notices my gaze upon her. "Come," Enlil says, offering his hand to her; she is doubtful, but takes it, and she becomes as substantial as myself and the other dwellers beneath this island. When the dead touch the living in such a way, they temporarily become one of us, and even when contact is broken, a small piece of them has become part of the spirit realm forever.
I wait for them to pass through before going through the gates to the Cavern of Souls, the place we call our home until the curse is broken. That curse will not break until the Ajax's true heir – someone for whom the Spear resonates as it resonates for him – wields that weapon, marked as he was, and releases us from our duty. Until then, we are forever bound to the spirit realm; not alive yet not quite dead.
"Follow me," I command, passing them by and moving through the crowd; they move aside to allow me leeway, as they rightfully should. With my eyes level and back straight, I don't turn, but from the whispers of our host of wraiths I know the living are following me; following me to the place I once held as the Chieftain, but now belongs to Kronus and his train.
It's easy to pick out the hut that the Chieftain resides in, even if I hadn't spent countless millennia "living" in it. Three stories tall against the single-story jobs that make up the rest of our spiritual village, highly decorated – a Steltian bruiser could figure out someone important resided there, if one actually showed up there.
It's through that hut's wall that I lead them through, leaving the others in the antechamber while I approach Kronus and his dead teammates in their hall. The hall, like the entire building, used to belong to me, but now has the deceased Toa of Gravity holding sway over it; it, and the entire Cavern of Souls.
An opened tomb
The sun crawls
Across your bedroom
The Toa within end what little conversation they were engaged in when I pass through the wall that serves as our doors. I ignore the others that make up the entourage, locking eyes with Kronus, who stares back at me with a level, calm gaze. He was the leader of his band when they died, and though I am loath to admit it, he has the attitude of one.
"What is it, Cascata?" he asks me, voice as smooth as the surface of a mirror.
"The ones Ajax foresaw," I reply. "They are here."
The others that surround him break out in excited conversation, hissing like water on hot steel, and Kronus looks like he's barely restraining himself from flying through the wall to see them. "The same ones he spoke of? The ones that would gain the Spear?" he asks, a tremor of excitement in his tone. I hesitate, then give my assent.
"Bring them within," he orders me, a light in his eyes showing eagerness. "Then go to Ajax and tell him what has happened – and to expect us down soon."
A waiting room
I silently nod assent again, then turn and dart through the wall, rejoining the others in the antechamber. "He wants to see them – though maybe a better term would be that he insisted to see them," I amend, remembering how he and his deceased teammates watched for fifty long years over Stara, their only living blood-sister. "He wants them to enter; I am to go inform Ajax of them being here." And with that, I pass over their heads and go outside the hut, flying to the Cavern's back.
I pause there, before the carved walls that depict our history and how our little Kingdom of the Dead came to be. This is the most dangerous part of the Notus tunnels; it is between the Cavern and Ajax's Chamber that the spirits we exile to the black rock dwell, forever corrupted by the cold stone. After gathering my courage, I plunge through.
Your last breaths
Moving through you
Passing through and into the tunnel of black rock is like diving into freezing-cold water when you are dry – a terrible shock to your physical shape. My soul shivers as I feel the tunnel's cold aura sweep about me, and though I cannot see them, I know the Dark Ones – those exiled ghosts – are watching me.
No time to waste. Retrieving my strength – which drains insidiously away, the longer I remain motionless – I fly down the ever-winding path that spirals down, down, down beneath Notus.
Meet me on the equinox
Meet me halfway
Almost before I know it, I have reached Ajax's Chamber, and I waste no time entering it. I don't fear the Dark Ones here – they fear Ajax with good reason, and keep their distance from him.
Ajax and Audra are in there, like I knew they would; they hardly ever leave this chamber. As always, Ajax is kneeling in the air behind his weapon, which has lain untouched for countless millennia. The three of us had gifts in life that increased with death; with Ajax, his power to see the future has grown to the point he hardly breaks his meditation. It was originally granted by his mask, this power of his, but now he only uses it to share visions with others, or to see something close at hand.
Audra is the scribe: she reads his mind and translates each fragment of the future into words, than carves the words into the rock. She has written from the entrance rocks (outside and inside) down to the walls of each hut and side of the Cavern of Souls above, mostly in no order at all. She is also the voice that warns explorers away when they come too close to the entrance, and the one that controls the chilling fog that swathes Notus.
When the sun is perched
At its highest peak
In the middle of the day
Audra greets me and grips Ajax's shoulder, taking his attention away from the fragments of possible events that stream before his eyes and to the plane that exists for us. "What is it, Cascata?" he inquires, in those harmonious tones of his that managed to survive the transition from physical being to spirit. Many of the reluctant agree to serve when he speaks to him, thanks to that voice and his undeniable charisma. Whatever annoyance I might've had with him fades on the spot; its' hard to remain angry with him for long.
"The existing that you saw fifty years," I tell him, swallowing my bitter memories of the night he stripped me of my rank. "They have come, and are in the company of my … replacement."
Let me give my love to you
Let me take your hand
His and Audra's eyes flash, and he looks to the deceased Lightning Toa for confirmation. She nods a quick affirmative; while my ability to sniff out secrets and his to see the future have been the traits that grew in death for us, hers was the instinctive knowledge of truth. She automatically knows when you lie in her presence; there's no point in trying if you know.
The shade of the Fire Toa I knew so well – well, I don't really know the words for expression that crossed his face, so I'll just say what it wasn't, and maybe I'll figure out what to call it. It wasn't a frown or a pout, or even a grimace; not a grin or a smirk, either. It didn't look like he was displeased by this piece of news, but he didn't look too thrilled either. Mostly, though, he looked tired.
Maybe I'm just out of practice when it comes to reading expressions.
As we walk in the dimming light
Or darling understand
Whatever it was, it vanishes as quickly as it came, and he looks again at Audra, who focuses her energies. A series of ringing noises move through the air, and I hear the message conveyed in them – Ajax is summoning Kronus and several of his group to this chamber, along with the five living that I helped escort.
"Is it almost over?" I murmur to him, as I move to stand beside him; referring to the time he foretold our release from our own curse.
"Perhaps," he says cryptically; hardly anything is simple with him nowadays. I know better than to try and press him for a clearer answer: he can't give one these days. All I can to wait and watch.
And there we have it. All three stories are done and posted. Hopefully you H&H fans that were reading caught the mentions that Cascata made about Amphitrite; I can guarantee that will play a huge part of Wings (the sequel to LST). =P
C&C are appreciated; thanks for reading.