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This article was written by Toa Roden. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
Rain
Story
Setting
An unknown island
Date Set
Unknown
Timeline
Previous
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Rain is a short story telling of Pridak's early life as a slave, his eventual escape, and his later revenge. It was created as an entry for The Shark Slave short story contest.

Story[]

It was raining.

It was the kind of rain that turns the earth beneath you into hungry mud. It was the kind of rain that blinds your eyes and chills your body. Ga-Matoran love the rain. I do not.

I swung the pick. Once. Twice. Three times.

I lost count. I had swung the cursed pick more than three hundred times that day, how much more I do not know. It did not matter, then. One more blow would be as nothing, I told myself. My mind struggled to convince my body, but my body only laughed mockingly, as it had before.

I was strong, but I was not so strong as I once was. The days of grueling labor and short rations had sapped my strength slowly, but I was still able to swing the pick, and watch it bite hungrily into the heavy clay.

No, I was not worried so much about my body. It was my mind that worried me.

I could feel madness coming, slowly.

* * *

My name is Pridak. You will, no doubt, have heard of me, often in connection with the words 'conqueror', 'warlord', 'League of Six Kingdoms', and perhaps the often-used word 'evil'.

I must admit to having done deeds that were... disliked by many. But I believe in the code of survival of the fittest, and my deeds are therefore justified. Not that I would care much if they were.

I have come to power quickly, and as the leader of the League of Six Kingdoms, it is indeed a great power that is mine.

But it was not always so. There were many things to happen, deeds to be done, swords to be crossed, before I began my conquest, a conquest that would shock the civilized word to its core, indeed, its very heart.

I will try to explain...

But perhaps it will be easier to simply tell my story, and let you come to your own conclusions.

* * *

The boat was old and weary, but it stayed afloat. That was all I, we, asked of it.

I stood on the storm-battered bow and stared ahead into the cold mist. A dash of salt spray splashed my armor, and I shook it off impatiently.

"My leader?"

I did not bother to turn.

"Yes, Kalmah?" I growled. I must admit that I was not the best mood that day; perhaps the cold rain and wind had something to do with it.

"The storm..." he hesitated. "It is growing stronger. The pilot says we should find shelter on a nearby island."

I pondered. I was impatient to reach our destination, but drowning would be inconvenient at the moment, to say the least.

"Tell him to do so," I ordered.

He left, and I was free to continue my thoughts.

* * *

I had felt myself becoming more bestial, more primitive, as the days passed. My intelligence and thought processes seemed to remain the same, but a vicious rage was slowly creeping, hungrily consuming my existence.

When I had time, I began to closely study the other miners. They went about their work without complaint, without struggle. They worked as animals, broken, and their eyes were weary, for the spirit within burned low.

I pondered this. I had no love or even pity for them, for it was not in me to love or pity.

It was in me to hate.

I had always been rather savage and unforgiving, but under the stresses of my labor, these traits increased, fueled by my frustration and anger.

Surprisingly, I did not welcome the madness. I fought it, desperately. I did not wish to lose my calmness, my sanity, my existence. I wished to remain whole, whatever that condition might be.

* * *

A tall sailor sprinted past me, leaning forward into the rising wind. I followed him, my boots thudding on the rough wood planking.

Ahead of me, a line of dripping-wet sailors were bailing frantically. I knew little of the art of sailing, but I knew that one bails when one's ship is leaking. If I could judge by the effort these sailors were making, we were in bad shape.

Some beings would have disdained to help, but I am not one of them. I hurled myself into desperate action, using my superior strength as best I could.

My hands became raw, and the saltwater stung as it seeped into the torn flesh. My straining body screamed in protest, but I drove myself on. If mere sailors could stand the strain and still make such enormous effort, so could I.

I worked as one in a daze, lift the bucket, hurl the water from me, pass the bucket back, lift the bucket, hurl, pass...

I remember nothing of the next few hours, only a vague sense of driving on, fighting solely with my last reserves of willpower.

And, of course, the cursed driving rain.

* * *

In my struggle to keep my sanity, I turned to a new, and incredibly interesting, pastime. I plotted my escape.

There was little chance of it succeeding, but it gave me a tool to use against the spread of the madness.

I stole a pick for use as a weapon, hiding it under my rusted cot. I hoarded my few widgets, and managed to steal more from my fellow miners. I planned, and studied. I attempted to discern which guards could be bribed, and how I would do so. I worked as little as I could without being punished, attempting to stay strong.

Then came the day when the quarry-master sent for me.

He attempted to hid his purpose, but I soon realized that he was intrigued by my unique reaction to my enslavement.

He asked carefully guarded questions, and I did not mind, for time I spent answering them was time spent away from the harsh conditions of my workplace, the mind-numbing weariness of hard labor.

He took his time, summoning me for a short period each day. I believe he was trying to study my behavior over time, and I took great pleasure in showing false symptoms of madness. I was using the situation to my advantage, attempting to fool him into thinking I was becoming hopelessly insane.

* * *

I stepped onto the wind-swept island, expecting to feel relief at our new-found safety. Instead, I found only a deep desire to sleep.

And sleep I did, sprawled out on the wet sand under the pouring rain. The wind whistled angrily, blowing sand against my armor, but I did not feel it. I slept deeply, unconscious of the harsh world around me.

I awoke. I was stiff and tired, but the bone-deep weariness of a few hours ago had passed. I rose and carefully stretched my aching organic tissues, and shook sand from my armor.

I surveyed my surroundings. The storm had gone down, but the cold rain still fell. Our boat, still intact, was beached on a narrow sand bar close to the island. Several sailors were hard at work repairing the damage.

I turned, and my eyes found the majority of the sailors, as well as my teammates, huddled around a small fire that fought defiantly against the rain.

I strode across the hard-packed sand, and joined them. For a long moment, no one spoke. Then Ehlek raised his head.

"Sleep well?" he asked, cold green eyes taunting me.

I did not answer, but must confess I longed to draw my sword and remove his miserable head as painfully as possible. I did not yield to this sudden impulse.

Instead, I contented myself with practicing my most effective fighting moves.

* * *

After several days, the questions ceased. Instead, we played war games with small carvings of soldiers; Toa, Matoran, and many others. We would gather the playing pieces and build our armies, and then we would play at fighting.

At the time, I was weak in body, but I quickly found that I was his equal, if not his superior, in battle strategy and tactics. I won most of our major battles, usually because of my willingness to sacrifice pieces to lure his stone warriors into traps.

I favored guerrilla tactics, fighting fast and hard, and using every possible advantage at my disposal. I punched through supply lines, exploded small clay lumps that represented buildings. I used swarms of Matoran and weak Toa to overwhelm my opponent with numbers, while sending my most powerful pieces in a lightning-fast strike at the heart of his armies. I created miniature avalanches, started forest fires, blocked rivers.

And I won. I lost rarely, and when I lost, it was not without a good reason.

I believe it was at this time that I began to find a way to control the madness. I could feel it when I assembled and moved those small stone figures, felt it struggling, eager to fight. And I found a way to unleash it safely.

* * *

I watched impatiently as the sailors finished the last of the repairs and hoisted the ragged, storm-battered sails. I was eager to reach our destination where, if all went as planned, my teammates would have fighting to the full. And I...

I would have my revenge.

* * *

It is difficult for me to explain how I was... am... able to control the rage that dwells within me. I will not attempt to explain, for I am a warrior by trade, not a poet.

It will suffice to say that I was able. It was hard, at first, but it became gradually easier until, after much practice, I could easily transform my madness into a formidable battle weapon.

* * *

The island appeared on the far-off horizon, tall and menacing in the dimming sunlight.

I was prepared for the rush of unpleasant memories that flooded through me at sight of the place, but I was not prepared for the black rage that exploded within my consciousness, sending sudden, sickening waves of anger-madness through my body.

I clenched my fists until they ached with pain, and a thick red haze shrouded my vision as I fought bitterly to maintain control of my maddened existence.

With a mighty effort, I fought and subdued the madness. I retained control of my mind, but I was shaken by the experience. I had thought that the rage was completely subject to me. I found that I was wrong.

* * *

But my life was not all war-games and struggles against madness. There was my work to do, the long hours when I hacked wearily at the thick clay, searching for the riches that were rarely found.

I received payment for my work, though only a pitifully small amount. Because of the few widgets we earned, we were called workers, but those who retained a sense of humor, however twisted, laughed at the name. We were slaves, and we knew it, and our quarry-master knew, and he knew that we knew.

We hated the quarry-master, loathed him with every atom of our existence. He was the source of our misery, the arch-villain in our tiny island world.

After all this talk of the quarry-master, perhaps I should describe him to you.

He was of an unknown species, one that I had not seen before nor since. He was perhaps around the size of a short Toa, very strong and heavily-built. He wore thick, spiked armor of a dingy grey color, with hints of tarnished silver.

And he had a temper in him, that one.

* * *

I strode quickly down the steep boarding ramp to the wave-licked sand, razor-edged sword clenched in my fist. Behind me walked my team-mates, the five strong rulers who had been chosen to accompany me on this mission.

I did not mind their company. They would be quite useful in dealing with the defenses of the island, and I would probably have need of several blades besides my own.

But I had a job to do here, a job that was mine, and mine alone...

* * *

I was down, beaten. My tired body was smeared with clay and dripping with the cold rain that was falling.

The quarry-master stood over me, his jagged blade at my throat.

After so many days of war-games, the idiot had finally gotten a simple fact hammered through his thick skull: I was smarter than he.

It was a blow to his pride. Someone smarter than he could not, would not be allowed to exist.

Of course, even Po-Matoran were smarter than he was, but obviously he did not realize this.

He spat in my face, and his heavy jaw and jagged teeth dripped with scorn.

"You think you 'kin best me, eh? Well, I...

I did not stay to hear what he had to say; I was not quite as beaten as he had thought.

I rolled to my feet, coming up in a tight crouch. I could feel my anger rising, and with it, the madness. But my body could not fight. My strength was nearly gone, and there was only one slender chance of survival left to me.

I ran.

* * *

The rain had stopped, and the heavy clouds were swiftly vanishing into a warm blue sky. The newly exposed sun beat relentlessly down, and I could feel a trickle of sweat running down my neck.

The island was proving surprisingly difficult to conquer. The guards fought with a rather modest enthusiasm, and they had laid defenses well.

I had received a minor shoulder wound from one of the more unique defenses; a pressure-triggered spear trap. But for my excellent reflexes, my wounds would have been much worse. As it was, my shoulder was beginning to stiffen and throb with a dull pain.

But it was only a minor wound, as I have said before. Nothing that would prevent me from laying waste to the groups of guards, more courageous than wise, then charged me time and time again. And certainly nothing that would prevent me from obtaining my goal, and regaining my pride...

* * *

It was pure adrenaline that kept me on my feet. What else could it have been? I had no strength left, and my vast reserves of will-power were all but gone.

Nevertheless, I managed to reach the jagged coastline, my breath coming in ragged gasps that shook my aching body.

And for the first time in months, fortune smiled upon me.

There, anchored several dozen feet off-shore and bobbing in the rough surf, was a battered trading barge. It was incredibly ugly; blunt-nosed and heavy-hulled, but at that moment it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

The traders asked no questions as they pulled me aboard, and I gave no answers.

* * *

An enormous guard loomed up before me, silver armor glittering in the blazing sun.

I rolled to avoid his flashing axe-blade, and came up in a crouch. He was caught off-guard, his axe still moving downwards. It was the perfect opportunity to open his body for the gulls. I did so, with only a brief flicker of regret. And then I stepped over his writhing body and continued on.

And suddenly, there he was.

Our eyes met, mine a sinister deep-sea blue, his a sickly acid-green. Somewhere off in the distance, I heard the clash of steel on steel, a cry of pain. I felt the sweat rolling into my eyes, felt the hatred flowing between us like a tangible substance. The moment stretched on forever, and then...

I smiled wickedly. "Remember me?"

The sight of his blade lifting in a deadly flash of light was answer enough.

* * *

Suddenly, I felt good. The pain from my wounds was placed aside as the rage flooded through my body, mingling with a throbbing rush of adrenaline.

I began to rock back and forth on the balls of my feet, a strange action, and unknown to many, but one that would allow me to hurl my body in any desired direction in a single split-second.

There were no pleasantries, or even insults, exchanged before this battle. There was no need for them.

The quarry-master, who had settled into a strong defensive position, suddenly growled in rage and sprang forward, jagged sword razing the air. I met his rush, and drew back.

We circled each other warily, each searching for an opening in his opponent's guard. Evaporating water rose in wisps of steam around us, as the hot sun beat down, scorching the wet clay.

I was patient, and willing to fight defensively, but the quarry-master was a brute. He possessed knowledge of only rage, and offensive tactics.

The quarry-master growled and came in fast, but warily. He knew my skill.

I parried the blow, fell back. My opponent swore under his breath and moved in again, holding his blade with the cutting edge up.

I feinted, then lunged forward, striking with the speed of lightning and the agility of a Le-Matoran. Ignoring my sudden whirlwind of attacks, the quarry-master lowered his head and bored in, forcing me back into a defensive stance.

A sudden glint of desperation, of anxiety, appeared in my mind. I could not hope to outlast the quarry-master, for his strength and endurance were far superior to mine, but attacking him was as fruitless as assailing a stone wall.

Something had to happen, and happen soon, or I would be simply another corpse in the quarry-master's brutal past.

I parried another blow, fell back. The quarry-master moved in, hot sunlight glinting on his dull grey armor, acid-green eyes glittering with hatred. I felt the grate of sand beneath my feet, the whistle of wind as my sword spun, deflecting that of my opponent...

Another parry, another step backwards...

This was becoming monotonous. I hate monotony, have always hated it, always will.

* * *

Our duel continued for some time in this manner, the quarry-master on the offensive, myself content to let him remain there, at least for the moment. But the moment stretched on for endless minutes, and I began to falter, my sword growing heavier, my reflexes slower.

But not the madness. The madness was in full strength now, a strength that sent tearing, stabbing, crippling blows into what was left of my tortured mind, a mind clouded with the blood-red haze of a terrible fury... For the first time, I was afraid, but not of the quarry-master, not of his soldiers, not of any thing of flesh and blood, not of death. Nay, it was none of these that frightened me...

It was myself.

I blinked sweat out of my eyes, frantically struggling to keep the madness from overwhelming my existence, crushing all thought and reason, and sending me into an undefiled berserker rage. I felt my jaw clench in anticipation of the quarry-master's sword-stroke, felt shock waves ripple through my aching fingers as our blades met with a bone-jarring impact, felt myself reeling backwards, sparks flickering in the red haze of madness...

The quarry-master lunged forward, a dark gleam of triumph in his eyes. I watched him come, struggled to lift my blade, to defend myself against the final, inevitable blow...

I parried the stroke. But that was all, and then my knees buckled, and I felt myself slipping, falling...

The sand was wet, but warm, and strangely comforting. How easy it would be to just lie still, let the quarry-master take my head, let him end it all... just a bit of pain, only a moment...

No! I rolled to the side, heard the grating snick of a blade through sand, heard the quarry-master's low grunt of anger. From the dark depths of my being, from the rage, I drew a last ounce of willpower, a final burst of strength, and hurled myself up and forward...

I felt the blade twist in my hand, heard the quarry-master's choking growl of mingled pain and astonishment as he lurched backwards, slow comprehension dawning on his ugly face...

And then I was standing over his limp form, staring dully at the blood spilling out over his heavy chest armor and soaking into the thirsty sand. The madness had left me, and all that was left was the overwhelming desire to sleep, to find a soft place to lie down and let it all go away...

I realized, dimly, that his heart-light was still glowing, pulsing slowly, weakly... I dragged my eyes away from the crimson blood and found his face.

His eyes were still the same sickly shade of acid-green, but the light in them was fading, drifting into that place where all light goes when its time is done... He coughed weakly, glanced up at me.

"You got me good an' proper, thet stroke. Live by the blade, an' die by it, I guess."

His eyes closed, but he kept talking, the words weak and hollow.

"Aw, Karzahni. I hate teh go, an' I sure hate yer guts, but I-"

He coughed up some blood, and then his eyes opened, fastened on mine.

"I ain't ashamed to lose to you. We're brothers, you an' I, like it or not, brothers of th' soul an' mind..."

And then his ugly face cracked into a twisted smile, and then his heart-light went out, and his eyes closed.

Brothers.

And it began to rain.

* * *

I dug the grave myself, dug it deep in the slippery clay, unconscious of my weariness and pain. And when I finished, I carefully lowered the quarry-master's body into the hole, placed the jagged-edged sword next to the limp corpse. As he said himself, he had lived by the blade, died by it, and it seemed fitting to me that he should be buried with it.

I stood looking down at his ugly face, still twisted in that cracked smile, but it meant nothing to me, and after awhile I filled in the grave and walked away through the pouring rain.

"We're brothers, you an' I, like it er not..."

Something about those words haunted me. Were they true? Had I unknowingly become the thing I had hated most? No, it couldn't be, and yet...

Karzahni, was I tired. Never had I been so tired, not in all my life. Little black dots danced in my vision, and several times I fell asleep and only awoke when I fell to the ground. Finally, not far from the sea where my ship rode at anchor, I fell once more and could not find the strength to rise.

And so I slept, the cold rain sluicing in torrents off my crumpled, motionless body.

* * *

When I awoke, several hours later, I had changed. On the surface, I was the same lean warrior I had always been, but my mind and spirit were... different. Colder. More ruthless. Perhaps even a little insane. Something within me had snapped, and now...

I yawned, contemplating this change. I really did not mind it at all. My whole mindset had shifted, and I liked this perspective better, somehow.

And then I knew. It hit me with the driving force of a hundred axe-blows, with the undeniable reality of a poisoned arrow.

The madness had won.

I had thought it conquered, controlled... but I was wrong.

Karzahni. Karzahni, Karzahni, Karzahni.

I numbly shoved myself to my feet, unconscious of the frigid breeze that whistled across the surface of the island, unconscious of the dreary layers of clouds that blocked the sun, unconscious of the light drizzle that dripped water onto every surface it could find.

I had lost. But I had won, also, for I knew, finally, that the quarry-master was right.

I was whole.

I was Pridak.

Brothers.

And the rain fell.

The End

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