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Chapter One: The CubeEdit
Talia Sneeko was your average Avant Gardens stromling; she smashed minifigures that she came across and walked around aimlessly when no weak minifigures were nearby. She didn't smash minifigs as much as other stromlings though. She had seen stromlings and stromling mechs go down after only two seconds of life, which was enough to convince her to pick her fights wisely. And that is precisely what she did. Right now though, she had found a newbie and proceeded to chase him with a vengeance!
She growled as the minifig continued to evade her. She had to smash him!
'Yikes, this one is fast,' thought the frightened recruit, running for his little plastic life.
Suddenly, Talia tripped over something in the ground and face planted with an audible thump. "Yay!" yelled the newbie, zigzagging away at top speed.
Talia sat up with a grumble about how she was about to break her record for most figs smashed in one day. She looked at the place where she had tripped, and saw a sort of cube sticking three-fourths out of the ground. It wasn't that big, just a little smaller than a minifigures head. All of the tips and edges were rounded. The cube was a grayish color, with swirls of blue and purple. Intricate carvings crept all over it, and it almost seemed to glow ever so faintly.
(Now, you must understand that while some stromlings are brighter than others, none of them are really that smart. Because they lack imagination, it limits their ability to make theories, thus they must learn by trial and error. Which usually leads to bad things for them.)
"Is this what I tripped over? Huh," Talia murmured quizzically, slowly reaching for it. She touched it, curious.
Big mistake. Talia gasped as pain shivered though her arm, flowing into the rest of her. The cube began to glow for certain now, a light bluish color. She felt her whole body go limp without warning, and she fell over, unconscious.
Talia opened her eyes. Had she been sleeping right in the middle of the battlefield? How long? Why had no one smashed her? She looked up at the sun. It couldn't have been that long. She got up, looking for someone to smash. There was one some ways off, so she set off in that direction.
"Hey you, mech! Come help me smash that fig over there," she called out to and idle unit. It turned towards her, and actually began shooting its laser at her; other nearby stromlings heard her shout and ran to her with vicious snarls. "AH! No, not me!" she yelped, running to a clump of trees. She dove in, bewildered. "What were they thinking?!"
Talia paused. She felt funny... itchy all over. Reaching up to scratch her forehead, she stopped with a squeak. Her hand was yellow. Instead of a right claw she had a right hand. She was wearing a raspberry shirt with flowers on it. Jeans. Shoulder length hair, a shimmery light blonde. It fell gently around her face instead of sticking straight up. Talia stared in shock at the minifigure that was her.
"I... I've been infected!"
She passed out.
Chapter Two: In the Nimbus Station Hospital...Edit
"Hey, I think she's coming to!"
"How should you know? It's only your first day on the job!"
"Well if I couldn't tell then why would I have graduated medical school?"
"Oh whatever. Hey, I think that she is waking up!"
Talia opened her eyes with a groan, only to see two minifigures staring her down intently.
"AH! Don't smash me!" she squeaked in alarm, scrambling frantically.
"Whoa, calm down! Maybe you need to be alone for a minute. Steve here can be very scary, I know," the one to her right said.
The other minifig, apparently named Steve, puffed up indignantly saying, "What? Well look who's talking!"
They continued to bicker as they walked out the door.
Slowly, Talia remembered everything that had happened, including the cube. She was in a simple hospital room; a minifigure hospital.
Steve walked back in before she had time to recover from the shock. He looked rather disheveled and had a black eye... it took Talia a moment to realize that all minifigures had black eyes. Nonetheless, he looked worse for wear.
"So, how are you feeling, Ma'am?" he asked politely.
"Uh... I, um..."
"You must be experiencing slight amnesia! Not to worry, I'll explain everything! It's my first day on the job you know, so I'm kinda excited! A Nexus Force guy found you and brought you here. -Here being the Nimbus Station Community Hospital- He said you were in some trees at Avant Gardens. Can you remember your name?"
"Hmm. Uncommon name. Not that anything is wrong with it of course," he added hastily. "Anyways, you seem alright. We have been getting pretty crowded at this hospital, so we need to get people in and out. I'll show you the way out. That Nexus Force guy who found you paid two silver coins before he left. He said, 'Take care of her. When I return, I will pay you back for any extra expense you may have.' So I suppose you won't have to worry about money; that guy was really nice."
Talia was surprised. No one had ever had such kindness before, especially a Nexus Force recruit that she had smashed so many of...
Steve led her though the hospital, towards the exit. It was all Talia could do to not pounce on all of the helpless minifigures. They passed by a room that had its door open. Inside a half-infected minifig twisted and turned on a bed, with one of those IV things feeding imagination into him. Two elderly figs sat nearby, listening to the doctor say, "I don't know. It may be too late now..."
They arrived at the exit, and Steve held open the door for her. "I would say come back soon, but this job isn't very suitable for that phrase. So... have a nice day!"
"Um, bye," Talia mumbled, and quickly walked outside. What was she going to do now? She was infected and in the middle of some strange minifigure city. "The Darkitect can probably fix me," she thought. But this was a golden opportunity; the knowledge that she could learn for the Darkitect could be enough to turn the tide of this war...
"For the great and mighty Darkitect," she decided firmly. She would learn the secrets of her enemies.
Secrets to crush them.
Chapter Three: Decisions, decisions...Edit
The thought of joining a faction was revolting, but Talia knew that it was for the good of the maelstrom. It occurred to her that even if the Darkitect could uninfect her, she would never be able to get close enough to explain that she was a stromling before he blasted her into oblivion.
Then who could fix her?
Vanda Darkflame might. Slowly, Talia devised a plan. She would earn rank three gear, kidnap Vanda, and then force her to make her a stromling again! It was foolproof!
Or so she thought.
After a very long time, Talia stood before Nexus Jay, ready to join the Nexus Force.
"So," he began, "your choices are the Sentinel faction, the Paradox faction, the Venture League faction, and the Assembly faction. The Sentinels use raw power to plow though the maelstroms ranks, and have the highest armor levels seen almost anywhere, led by the courageous Duke Exeter! Paradox studies the maelstroms deepest secrets, intending to understand our enemy and turn it against itself, led by the mysterious Vanda Darkflame! Venture League explores undiscovered worlds, looking for strongholds for imagination, led by the daring Hael Storm! Assembly builds the unthinkable, and takes a more passive approach to the maelstrom, led by the brilliant Doctor Overbuild! And no, I will not repeat that."
Talia thought about her choices. Sentinels were far too aggressive towards the maelstrom for her! Paradox? No, what if they made her do experiments on her fellow maelstrom?! That was out of the question. Venture League was not for her, she knew that much. Assembly was the last one. Did he say a more passive approach to the maelstrom?
"I choose Assembly," she said.
"Good choice! Now get me an Assembly Awesome Ade, will you? All this talking makes my throat dry."
Chapter Four: Books and DaredevilsEdit
Talia jogged up to Meldric Steamvalve, the Assembly faction vendor. "I'd like to join Assembly," she giggled, strangely excited.
It was weird being excited; wait, she was a stromling. Why was she so excited to join the Nexus Force, her very enemies? These thoughts began to trouble her, damping her spirits, but Meldric didn't seem to notice. He smiled widely,
"It's always nice when a another creative minifig join us! So which kit would you like: Engineer, Summoner, or Inventor?" he asked kindly. Talia didn't know what the difference was between them, so she picked randomly.
"Um... Engineer I guess... uh, please," she murmured quietly. It was going to be hard remembering to say please all the time; stromlings almost never used manners.
Meldric smiled again, "You're a shy one, aren't you? Don't worry; you'll warm up soon enough! Once some more of that nasty maelstrom starts pouncing on you you'll begin wanting a good team by your side!" Talia had to stop herself from pouncing on him for calling maelstrom nasty.
"Well, here's your new gear! Oh, and read this book too. It will tell you about all the cool stuff you can earn," said Meldric, handing her a large package, "Enjoy!"
Talia walked away a little, equipping the rank one engineer gear. It felt almost good. She sat down against the Assembly tower and started to flip though the book. She finished quickly, probably due to the fact that she didn't know how to read. She closed the book and looked around.
Minifigures stood in the middle of the plaza, chatting, laughing, and trading. They all seemed so happy, Talia thought. A minifigure in green clothes came over from the Venture League vendor, Magnus Bumperdent, and started to sweep the Assembly pathway while whistling. How strange it all was to Talia! Her thoughts began to drift, pondering how in the Nimbus System a stromling got here.
That cube... it all started with that cube... it had disappeared when she had woken up. Why was she, of all stromlings, infected? Was it coincidence? (She tends to ask herself questions a lot if you haven't noticed.) That cube. She felt like some piece of her knew all about it, yet refused to spill the beans as it danced around in the back of her mind. Maybe the cube-
Talia winced as the minifigure that was sweeping began to whistle an extremely shrill note. His whistling was so annoying by now that Meldric Steamvalve had closed his shop for a break, and had pulled the metal thing that vending booths have down to cover the window.
Now the minifig was trying to surf on the broom. And still whistling. Talia couldn't take anymore.
"What is WRONG with you?" she exclaimed, walking over with her hands on her hips.
He gave her a goofy grin in return and replied cheerfully, "Oh, the usual." With that he attempted to execute a pole vault with the broom, but only half succeeded. He flipped though the air once or twice and splatted upside-down on the closed vendor booth, with his back to the wall, sticking there for a while. He smiled at her from his unique vantage point.
"I'm a daredevil!"
He fell off the wall and onto the ground face-first, producing another loud splat.
Talia cocked her head to the side and blinked. Minifigures were such strange creatures.
Chapter Five: Swing Moods and RocketsEdit
The Daredevils name was Peregrin, and he had joined the Nexus Force just the other day. He had been sweeping the Venture League area for extra coins, but Magnus Bumperdent sent him to the Assembly place after about three minutes. He was a rank one Daredevil, and fit the title quite well.
After being properly introduced, Talia and Peregrin decided to team up in Gnarled Forest. Both of them had been told that Gnarled Forest was having some trouble and that they should go help. Talia wondered if this trouble could benefit the maelstrom. (Of course, the trouble actually WAS the maelstrom, but she did not know that.) They found the launch pad with little difficulty and began to cross the bridge.
"UNNESSICARY RISK!!!" Peregrin yelled jubilantly, activating a speed boost and running over the bridge at a VERY unsafe speed. Talia followed with much more caution.
"Ladies first," he said, stepping aside and gesturing toward the rocket launcher.
"Talk about swing moods," Talia muttered under her breath then said aloud, "So... how does it work again?"
Peregrin face palmed. "You put a rocket on it then fly away. Don't you know that?"
"Um, no, and I don't have a rocket."
"Oh! Well good thing I have a spare!" He pulled a pink rocket out of his backpack and handed it to her. "I'm not sure why I kept it, but I guess it came in handy!"
Talia placed it on the launcher. "Thanks," she said quickly, and blasted off. Her new rocket was on autopilot, so she looked out the window.
It was kind of cool being in space. There were stars all around, with occasional planet chunks. Peregrin's Steampunk rocket twirled and played chicken with asteroids behind her, and she could make out other rockets in the distance. It was so calm, so peaceful, no looking over her shoulder for any sneaky ninja... 'No,' Talia thought, 'I have to snap out of it.' She began to rummage through her newly discovered backpack for something to distract her.
Right there, at the bottom, sat the cube, no longer glowing. Talia almost screamed when she saw it but quickly reached in and touched it, hoping that it might fix her.
Disappointed, Talia pulled out her hand looked at the approaching chunk of Gnarled Forest. She would look at the cube later; right now she had to learn more of the Nexus Force's ways, no matter the cost.
Chapter Six: SmashingEdit
Talia peered down the ravine fearfully. "Are you SURE that we can make it?" she asked Peregrin uncertainly.
"Of course," he replied confidently. He let out a loud whoop and double jumped off the cliff yelling, "GERONIMOOOOOO!!!!!"
As you can probably tell, they were at the ravine in Gnarled Forest. Talia had never had to deal with these sorts of predicaments before, and stared at the platform below with mounting dread.
Peregrin crash landed on the unstable looking platform. "Ouch." He stood up and turned around saying, "Hey Talia! Come on!"
'Now or never,' she thought nervously, and letting out a terrified shriek she launched off the cliff. In an instant she knew that she had fallen short. The wind rushing into her mouth prevented her from screaming again.
'No! It couldn't end here! She couldn't smash now! No!' Talia Sneeko thought, horror infusing her heart.
Suddenly, a huge force pulled her pieces back together, connecting them with little clicks. Talia staggered as whatever it was removed its support. She was back on solid ground, just a few feet from the edge. She gasped. How come she hadn't smashed? Was that huge, powerful force... Imagination? Sure, she had heard that minifigures could rebuild, but she had never believed it. 'But it's true,' a little voice in the back of her head said. She was rather discouraged now that she knew, for what chance did the maelstrom stand against enemies that just come back to life?
After a very, very long time with much convincing from Peregrin, Talia gathered every bit of courage yet again, and jumped again. This time she went all out with the screaming in terror. She landed on the platform safely, but was so shaken up that Peregrin had to pull her onto the bouncer; that sure got her to snap out of it!
So that is pretty much how things went as they traveled though Gnarled Forest. Besides, of course, when Swabby Bilgebarrel told them to go smash some Stromling Pirates. Talia was absolutely revolted at the idea, but Peregrin seized the opportunity with pleasure.
"Smash maelstrom mush!" he yelled, leaping into battle with flare guns flashing. Talia just covered her eyes.
After a bit Peregrin came back. "Hellooo? Anyone there?" he asked, knocking on her helmet. "Come help me, these pirates aren't your average cup of tea."
"I don't want to," Talia insisted.
"Oh come on! Don't you want rank two? They aren't THAT scary."
Talia sighed. She did want to be rank two, and she knew that it would be worth more in the end, but smashing her fellow maelstrom was like betraying the Darkitect! Finally, she decided that she had to. The information she would learn would make up for it, she thought, trying to justify her actions.
She slowly approached the nearest stromling pirate, and weakly swung her wrench at it. Total miss. It growled menacingly, retaliating with its claw. Talia let out a squeak as she blocked it, when some wild instinct for survival kicked in. She brought down her wrench upon the pirate, and in moments it was smashed. Talia felt sick at what she had done, but reassured herself that it was worth it in the end. One tiny part of her was proud of overcoming her foe. She took a shaky breath as more pirates approached, knowing that her journey would only get harder.
Chapter Seven: The Pirate CampEdit
Talia and Peregrin continued though the forest, helping various pirates along the way. Finally, they arrived at the cliff before the pirate camp. It seemed to be deserted; the only things there were bricks for a bouncer, some mushrooms, a banana tree, and a tiki torch. They walked up to the bricks and began to build, but froze at the sound of a thump and a snort behind them. Both minifigures slowly turned around.
It was a Stromling Ape, staring them down with beady eyes.
"Yikes!" Talia squeaked, and made a run for it. Peregrin did the same. Panting, they stopped at a relatively safe distance.
"So... how are we going to pass it?" Talia asked. Peregrin just smiled and twirled his guns.
Five minutes later they sat in the same spot, looking at the ape that had smashed them both numerous times.
"So much for your genius plan," Talia snapped rudely.
"Hey! I didn't see you trying anything," he protested. Their bickering came to a halt as a rank three Paradox space marauder ran by with a lion pet scampering behind him or her. Talia immediately ducked her head, trying to hide her Oh-Doit-A-Paradox-Please-Don't-Look-At-Me expression. Thirty seconds and that ape was creamed at the hands of the space marauder. Peregrin jumped up, pulling Talia along with him onto the now complete bouncer.
'Oh no not again,' she thought
The daredevil landed on his head and then fell down face first, while the engineer landed flat on her back. Both groaned in pain as they sat up.
"Again," Peregrin giggled dizzily. Coming back to his senses, he asked Talia curiously, "Why did you duck when that Paradox came though?
"I, uh, don't like Paradox very much..."
"That still doesn't explain why you ducked."
"Um, I'm kinda shy..."
"Ah. Got it."
Chapter Eight: JonnaEdit
Talia walked up ahead, excited to see this "Pirate Camp" that all the pirates had talked about. It was even more... impressive, if that's the right word, then she had thought.
An important looking pirate- he might have been the captain- stood just ahead, on what appeared to be part of a ship buried half-under the ground. An organ and a small cannon stood to his right. Behind him there was a steep drop, ending where the beach sprawled out. Multiple shacks, pirates, and crates dotted the beach. And hanging over the water in a large, scraggly looking tree was, of all things, a ship. The sea air was crisp and fresh, and it very much cleared one's sinuses.
"Whoa, so the ship really is in the tree! I'm surprised it hasn't fallen," Peregrin exclaimed, jumping forward. Talia followed him, wondering what had the strength to get it there. They jogged down the ramp leading to the beach. Peregrin let out a loud cheer and promptly did a flip saying, "Wheeeeee!" Talia shook her head, wondering how she would ever understand minifigure enthusiasm, then turned her attention to a minifig sitting on a crate with an orange parrot on her shoulder.
"Howdy, Peregrin," the minifig called out with a smile to the excited Venture, "It's good to see you! I see you finally got the Venture League approval. Congratulations!"
Peregrin looked up. "Hola, Jonna," he replied cheerfully, "You weren't kidding when you said the Pirate Camp was interesting!"
The minifig, Jonna apparently, raised an eyebrow. "You left out the part where I said that it was the coolest place in the Nimbus System," she said jokingly.
"Eh, I haven't made up my mind about that quite yet. Oh yeah, this is my friend Talia. She is an Assembly like you," he said with his usual cheerfulness.
Jonna offered her hand to Talia. "Howdy, my name is Jonna Fig. Nice to meet you," she told her with a smile.
"My names Talia... nice to meet you too," she murmured shyly.
"If you guys want, I can show you around," Jonna said, hopping off the crate, "This is my favorite place to be!"
Peregrin nodded and informed Talia, "She REALLY like pirates."
Chapter Nine: Forbidden ValleyEdit
They all blasted off for Nimbus Station after doing some favors for the pirates. Talia and Peregrin had earned enough tokens for some of their rank two gear. Both of them were quite excited, despite the fact that Talia tried to keep this feeling in check. Jonna already had rank two, and was working towards her first rank three piece.
As Nimbus Station came into view, Talia tried to calm her butterflies. She was not used to this particular sensation of excitement, and the fact that it was about getting rank two gear was confusing and disturbing.
"Remember what your job is," she told herself sternly, "Learn the Nexus Force's weakness, get rank three, force Vanda to make me a stromling again, and then tell the Darkitect how to destroy them." This plan had many faults of course, but Talia rarely thought things though. She thought that the plan was quite brilliant.
They all landed their rockets, and Peregrin took off at full speed towards the vendors. Jonna and Talia followed at a more moderate pace, chatting away. As Talia soon discovered, Jonna loved to talk. Talia had never really gotten the chance to spend time with another girl as a stromling, and enjoyed her chance to do so; being a minifigure had its perks. She also took the chance to inspect this new minifig.
There wasn't anything out of the ordinary about Jonna. She had a brown shoulder length hairpiece, and almost always wore a parrot.
They arrived at the plaza, and Jonna ran to the middle to do business while Talia bought some rank two pieces. Peregrin already had his new gear, and was playing around with his improved Fig on Fire. They all regrouped at the center of the plaza. Jonna was feeding a new green parrot that was sitting on her shoulder.
Talia just looked at it and said, "Don't you already have a parrot?"
"Yes, so far I have the blue and orange parrots, and now this little gal here. It's my lifelong dream to collect all the parrots," she replied in a dreamy manner. Peregrin shook his head.
"Let me guess: you're broke now," he said. She grinned and nodded, not looking up from her parrot.
"So where do we go now?" Talia asked.
"Forbidden Valley is the best place to earn rank two, unfortunately," Jonna replied, "Silly Ninjas. Can't trust 'em."
Peregrin broke in, "Well let's go! To Forbidden Valley and NINJA! Wait, if there is more than one ninja, is it ninjas, or just ninja?"
They all landed as a maelstrom dragon flew nearby, and Talia's first impression was how cold and dreary it was. It seemed to radiate power, mystery, and an icy, unforgiving air. A gravity defying rock bridge led to an impressive gate. Near the bridge there was some rock platforms floating and actually MOVING ever so slightly back and forth. Talia had never seen anything so... so... something...
"This way," Jonna said, jumping onto the floating rocks. Talia followed nervously while Peregrin leaped from rock to rock without stopping. Eventually, they came to a large windy chasm. On the other side the path continued. Jonna chuckled lightly, saying,
"Eh, you should have seen me when I first got here. I must have tried a billion different things in those fifteen minutes." With that she lightly jumped into the chasm, and began to float upward on the wind, towards the other side. Talia gasped, thinking only one thing: she had to go on that! And she thought going on a bouncer was bad... Peregrin was obviously delighted at the prospect, and flung himself into the wind with gusto. Talia followed shortly after.
They landed safely on the other side, proceeding past Mantis Rock, though a battlefield of Dark Ronin, and over another air draft.
Finally, they approached the Great Tree, with its huge branches and leaves providing shelter for many a ninja. They walked up the twisting roots to the top, where a peculiar sight met their eyes.
A pizza delivery fig was holding a box of pizza next to Master Fong Shader, who was trying a small bite. It didn't seem to strike his fancy, considering that he spit it out.
"Hmm. It appears I am lactose intolerant," he said, paying the fizza fig as Talia, Peregrin, and Jonna drew near. The pizza fig seemed rather disappointed until he saw them. He grinned and said like a true salesperson,
"Greetings, tired looking minifigures! May I interest you in a fulfilling pizza?"
Peregrin didn't have to be asked twice. "Oh, I'll take some, thanks!!" he said excitedly, reaching for the box. Talia didn't even know what a pizza was, (stromlings are so deprived) so she said that she was good. Jonna seemed interested and asked,
"Well what brand is it?"
The pizza fig smiled even more and replied, "Why, this here pizza is straight from the kitchens of Peter's Pizza, todays specialty; our Purple Pizza with a special touch of green and beige! Comes with a free side of Ron's Butter!"
Jonna's eyes widened in horror. "AHH! NO! NOT PETER THE PIZZA!! IT'S COME TO HAUNT ME!!" she screamed, running back down the tree. Talia, Master Fong Shader, and the pizza fig all exchanged confused looks, and Peregrin began to chew more slowly.
"On second thought, I'll just want one piece," he said, handing back the box.
"Um, what was that about?" Talia asked Peregrin.
"You don't want to know."
Chapter Ten: The Bouncers of DoOoOm!Edit
After the pizza incident, Talia, Peregrin, and Jonna regrouped and continued though the valley of the ninja. They had to do multiple things for the ninja masters before they received their ninja hoods. Talia picked a white one, and after wearing it realized that they were easier to breathe through then she had thought. They all set off on the Dragon Path excitedly, as none of them had ever been this way before. The path wound ahead of them, though another battlefield of Dark Ronin, and then though some sort of force field gate thingy, called the Fallen Gate. It wouldn't let them though if they weren't wearing their hoods. Once on the other side of the Fallen Gate, the path looped to the right, until they came to a mysterious bouncer. The landing place was nowhere to be seen.
"Um... where does this go to?" Talia asked fearfully, eyeing it with distrust.
"Only one way to find out," Peregrin asked cheerfully, and pushed her onto it.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Talia screamed in absolute terror. She hit multiple other bouncers while still airborne, and her screams only intensified.
"WWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!" yelled Peregrin, right behind- or was it in front? - of her. Flipping and changing direction through the cold air wasn't improving her inner compass.
"WWWWWWHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!" Jonna yelled as she followed her comrades.
Talia hit the ground face-first, Peregrin landed on top of her and Jonna landed on top of him. Talia let out a muffled "Ow" from the bottom of the pile. Peregrin giggled, and Jonna muttered something about Ping-Pong. They all struggled to get on their feet, while behind them the footrace host just stared at them with wide eyes. Talia growled at Peregrin,
"Why did you push me onto that evil, bouncy, no-good-for-nothing contraption?!?! I could have smashed!!" She knew that she was overreacting, but that didn't deter her from getting furious.
Peregrin looked at her, "Well, it's not like you were about to go on it anytime soon. Besides, it wasn't that bad! You certainly didn't smash either. And did you know that 'no-good-for-nothing' is a double negative?" He grinned.
Talia just glowered at him for a little bit, knowing that she had lost the argument, before looking around to see where they had landed anyways.
Before them stood the Forbidden Valley Paradox Research Facility. It was a rather impressive structure indeed. Brick Fury was nearby, guarding the whole thing without breaking a sweat, smashing maelstrom in one easy shot. Then again, it was nigh impossible to sweat in the cold temperatures of Forbidden Valley. Talia decided to stay some distance from Brick Fury- scratch that. A LONG distance!
They all went to go sell some random things they had found to Shu Fitts, and to buy three pairs of pirate sized ninja suits for *Cough* unknown reasons *Cough* from Kammy Kazei. It occurred to them that pirate sized ninja suits were rather odd things for a citizen of Forbidden Valley to sell...
Chapter Eleven: Dragons and LiesEdit
"HOW DO YOU SMASH A DRAGON?!?!?!" Jonna screamed in frustration. They had tried time and time again (and smashed time and time again) to achieve victory over a Maelstrom Dragon, but it wasn't working. Talia kept suggesting not trying to smash any of the dragons at all, but the others continued to refuse firmly.
"You keep hitting it," someone called.
"That's what the other guy said," Talia muttered, "I still say we shouldn't do it. Besides, our gear probably just isn't high enough."
"Then let's just wait for a rank three to come along and then we can ask to team up," Peregrin suggested. They all agreed and sat down to wait. (Well, Talia didn't really agree, but she went with it anyways.) Peregrin pulled out a picnic basket he said he had gotten from a drop, and gladly shared it's contents with the others. The three of them formed a neat little picnic in front the dragon statue next to the entrance to the Dragon Den.
'Perhaps I shall learn more of these minifigures from whatever rank three we team up with,' Talia thought, 'One thing is for sure; they have wonderful food!' She sat there chewing thoughtfully, then said casually in an attempt to understand minifigure kind better, "So why did you guys join the Nexus Force?"
Jonna smiled. "Well, I just sort of did. My friend Bela joined before me, and she thought it was great. Plus business just wasn't the same as usual. So I pretty much just decided to join... I'm glad I did," she finished. Peregrin nodded and began to relate his own tale, which took a bit longer than Jonna. After he finished, he turned to Talia and asked,
"So why did you join the Nexus Force?"
Talia looked down quickly and began to panic a bit. "Um, well, that's a long story... and... I was on Crux when it exploded, and... There was this dragon! Big dragon. Maelstrom Dragon. And it chased me! yeah... then... this, guy, saved me, and so... I, um, wanted to join... yeah."
Both looked a little skeptical, so she added hastily, "The dragon smashed my family... it's, painful, to recall..."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Peregrin said. Jonna put her hand on Talia's shoulder. It was a rather uncomfortable experience for Talia, as she had barely escaped from telling them the truth and was now being comforted by two minifigs. Thankfully, a rank three came up right then, and they all entered the Forbidden Valley Dragon Battle. It took a while, but eventually Blastbreath, Torchblight, and Burnshout were all smashed. The rank three ran off, intending to sell his rares and grumbling something about getting stuck with a bunch of rank ones and twos. Talia felt guilty after helping smash three of the Darkitect's most powerful minions. Upon exiting the Dragon Battle, Peregrin and Jonna high-fived. Talia just sighed. She had smashed so many of her own kind, even while trying to minimize the total. Worst of all, she was getting USED to it!
Jonna interrupted her distraught thoughts. "Hey, why won't you high-five? Something wrong?" she asked. The concern in her voice unnerved Talia. She was not used to someone caring if she was worried.
"Oh, nothing," she murmured, still lingering in her thoughts.
"Thinking of the dragon and your family?" Peregrin asked quietly. Talia bit her lip and nodded wishing that they would stop talking about it so that she wouldn't give herself away by accident. They did, and everyone decided for Peregrin and Talia to get the rest of their rank two gear. As soon as they got to the Great Tree, Talia blasted off for Nimbus Station with her friends.
Chapter Twelve: Nexus TowerEdit
Talia flipped the cube over in her hands. It was fascinating to look at. The carvings swirled in entrancing curves, not depicting anything in particular but rather branching out and curling in spirals at the end of any line. Sunken into every other line were beautiful shades of light blue and deep purple. The colors stood out wonderfully against the gray surface, and they never ventured over any of the curved edges. It was a magnificent piece of work, but Talia couldn't help but wonder what its purpose was. I mean, it was literally just this... cube. It was increasingly frustrating for her to stare at it, knowing in her gut that it was the cause of all this, yet know she would never be able to wretch it's secrets out like this.
"Come on Talia," Peregrin called as he raced past her, wearing his shiny new rank two Daredevil gear, "Let's go check out Nexus Tower!"
She stood up from where she had been sitting next to the Assembly tower in the Nimbus Plaza, tossing the cube in her backpack. This was a big moment for her. Nexus Tower was the heart of the enemy, and it protected the Imagination Nexus, the very thing that drove the Darkitect's enemies! If she could learn a weakness, or even just map it out, she would help her master immensely! She smiled dreamily as she followed Jonna and Peregrin, imagining the Darkitect praising her for her valiant work, pulling her out of the battlefield so that she wouldn't be in danger of getting smashed! But as she envisioned these things, something deep in her seemed to cry out for release. It cringed at the thought of the Darkitect, cruel and mighty upon his throne. Talia was confused. But this was her dream, what she wanted...
She shook of her thoughts as she blasted off. It was probably just a side effect of being a minifigure. 'Time for some real fun,' she thought with a mischievous grin, looking to where she knew Nexus Tower would come into view. She would even get to meet the four Faction Leaders!
She landed her rocket and looked around. It was huge! The landing pad was sticking out of the actual tower, and what she could see of the inside was impressive already. Peregrin and Jonna landed seconds behind her, equally awed by the structure.
"Wow, I can't wait to see the Nexus! And meet Doctor Overbuild!" Jonna said excitedly, rushing off. Peregrin zoomed off to explore the tower, leaving Talia alone to do what she pleased. She jogged forward. Four holographic symbols of the four factions wavered above her, and below them a holographic minifigure chatted with some other real minifigures. Talia set off down the left hall, which was green. A large opening on her right led to what must have been the Venture League area. The green part of the hall ended, and she entered an orange part of the hall. This part was fairly longer than the green part, and it curved to the right as it went along. Multiple other openings led to what seemed to be the Assembly area. Once the orange part of the hall ended, she came upon a dead end painted entirely purple. On the far wall there was some sort of contraption that had no apparent purpose. Talia walked up to it and stepped in, full of curiosity. Of course as you all know, it smashed her and rebuilt her in the Paradox area.
"Yikes," she muttered as she shook her head, trying to clear it. "They call that transportation?" She worked her way through the Paradox area, feeling rather at home with all the maelstrom fog. She also looked at Vanda a while, trying her best not to look suspicious. (She failed in that respect.) Kidnapping her would not be easy!
She came out into a blue hallway, which she assumed was the Sentinel hallway. After going all the way through it, she was right back where she had started. With a smile of pure enjoyment she trotted off to look at the rest of the tower.
The Imagination Nexus. Beaming in all its glory. It was awe inspiring, that light blue pillar with Imagination Orbs floating slowly and silently around it with utter calmness. Talia almost couldn't decide whether she admired it or despised it. Jonna ran up.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she sighed. Both of them stood side by side, gazing at it for a moment when Peregrin came dashing over.
"Let's go check out Crux Prime now!" he said cheerfully. They watched him as he did a flip.
"Hey, why not? I've always wanted to know what it looks like," Talia pointed out. Jonna nodded and said,
"Well, I kind of wanted to stay here and look around, but I'll come too!"
Peregrin jumped up with one hand in the air, "To Crux Prime!"
Chapter Thirteen: Crux PrimeEdit
After completing the tasks set before them by Duke Exeter, Talia, Peregrin, and Jonna make their way to the Crux Prime Teleportation Console. Meeting Duke had been a nervous confrontation for Talia, who had taken one dreading look and his massive imagination infused sword before uttering a strangled greeting. She had inspected him carefully while the others paid their respects to the faction leader. She had no previous notion to what any of the Faction Leaders looked like, and was surprised indeed.
He had blonde hair, and lines on his face indicating many a grim smiles in his younger years. His eyes struck her the most. She could tell he didn't like being cooped up in this tower, away from the battle. He had no mercy for the Maelstrom, putting her even more on edge. Thankfully, the encounter ended quickly enough.
But that was some time ago, and now they were standing in front of the Crux Prime Teleportation Console. Peregrin was, as usual, the first to go, creating a door of imagination and jumping through it. Jonna went next with a giggle, then Talia last. She hated using her imagination. It wasn't natural.
Everything around her seemed to flash away all at once, and was just a quickly replaced with... a room? "This can't be Crux Prime!" Talia thought with alarm, looking about wildly. It was a very tiny room, colored all a bright blue. Just in front of her was a small table that had seven buttons on it.
"Welcome, Anmithrayy," a automated voice said, "Please choose a destination."
Talia's hand reached forward without warning, and pressed the second button without her consent. Once again the world vanished around her, and was replaced with the real Crux Prime. For a moment she just stood there, hand in front of her and mouth hanging open. "Why in the Nimbus System did my hand do that?" she wondered, bewildered, "And who- or what- is Anmithrayy?" Then she saw Jonna and Peregrin staring at her from the side.
"Oh, er, hi guys..." she murmured, closing her mouth and sticking her hands in her pockets.
"Why did you take so long?" Jonna asked.
"Oh, well, I was... nervous... sorry," Talia offered quickly. Talia, as you can see, has a bad habit of keeping secrets. "Um... out of pure curiosity, did either of you see a weird little room with a table?
Peregrin gave her a strange look, "No, did you?"
"OH no, it was just this REALLY weird idea I got all of a sudden, heh, you know, out of the blue! My imagination at work and all that," she said hastily with a nervous smile. Now both of them were giving her strange looks. She broke the uncomfortable silence abruptly, "SO, let's go check out Crux Prime!" The others agreed, and the trio set off to explore.
Talia peered down from the floating rock she was standing on. "It looks awful hot down there," she thought as she gazed at the bottom of Caldera Mar, with all its Maelstrom Invaders milling about. She and her comrades were attempting to cross all the way across with out falling in. Peregrin zoomed from platform to platform without missing a beat, while Jonna followed at a more average pace. Talia was a nervous wreck, barely managing any of the jumps. Finally, she caught up with the others on a rock in the middle of it all. Many other minifigures were there too for no evident reason, conducting business with one another on a whole different level than Nimbus Plaza or the Sentinel vendor area.
"SELLING BAT STAFF ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND!!!"
"Buying Jester Cap please, please someone sell and selling MKIII!"
Selling Flogmore's Hat! Make an offer! Money only!"
"Buying Bat Shield! It's the last piece I need!"
At that the sound of that word, all of the minifigures rushed onto to other platforms, and merged next to the huge Maelstrom Dragon Invader that had just landed. With fierce battle cries, the crowd attacked it vigorously. Jonna, Peregrin, and Talia looked onto the battle from where they were, which was a good vantage point. Many minifigures smashed and rebuilt nearby, returning to the battle moments later. Theses Dragon Invaders impressed and frightened Talia; they were ruthless. When the dragon finally smashed several minifigs rushed forward to collect their loot.
"Jester Cap! WOOT!" one of them yelled. He was immediately besieged with offers for it, and business resumed its fast pace once again.
"So this is Crux Prime," Talia thought.
Chapter Fourteen: The RoomEdit
So far Talia had been enjoying herself on Crux Prime. It felt good to have maelstrom all around her, even in her particular situation. She and her friends had explored the rest of Crux Prime, done a little Spinjitsu, smashed some more maelstrom, spent some time with Sherland Powers, and most everything one would do upon arrival. One instance in particular she remembered, when they had looked across Rivendark Canyon and read the plaque. Unlike Jonna and Peregrin, she took very little interest in it. She already knew what was on the other side and what the strong source of imagination was.
Anyways, at the moment the three minifigures- well, really only two and a half- were sitting at Sentinel Point Zeta, counting their tokens and money to see if they could buy some rank three stuff.
"Would either of you like a banana?" Peregrin asked, shuffling through his backpack.
"Sure, thanks!" Jonna said, reaching for the banana he was holding out. Talia, after contemplating for a moment, took one too. Several things ran through her mind when she took her first bite. A ninja named Steve; Pirates; Phones; and last, but most likely not least, four weird, un-minifigure-like people singing about going bananas. "Well that was wierd," she thought," This banana is pretty good. I'll have to have another one later."
She stood up. "Well, let's go guys! I have enough to buy some rank three gear!"
Jonna sighed. "I don't have enough money. I spent it all on my parrot. I guess I will go farm in Forbidden Valley. What about you, Peregrin?"
"I'm going to go get some rank three too. Maybe after that we can all farm together," he suggested. Everyone agreed and set off towards the teleportation console. Of course, that also meant going on the bouncer.
Much to Talia's relief, they made it safely to the console. The others went first, leaving their friend pausing in front of the console. After a moment's hesitation, she made the door of imagination and stepped in carefully. The world swished away, and the tiny blue room appeared. This time she was ready, and her hand didn't do anything out of the ordinary. She looked around, inspecting this place that only she could come to.
The room was fairly small, about two yards wide and three yards long. There were no doors, windows, or any of the like, and occupying the space before her was the same table. It was small, made of cherry wood and only about two and a half feet wide and one and a half feet long. Seven buttons were on it in rows, four on the top row and three on the bottom row. Her eyes widened as she looked closer at them, discovering that they all had writing on them; except for the last one on the bottom row. It didn't have anything on it. She peered closely at the others. It was definitely a foreign language, but it seemed rather easy to decipher... yes, the first one said "Nexus Tower" on it... the second said...Crux Prime? The third, Nimbus Station, then Avant Gardens, then Gnarled Forest, and then Forbidden Valley! As she gazed at them intently, she became quite certain about it. "This must be like some sort of travel center. But how come the others don't come here? Maybe it's because I used to be a Stromling..."
The others! She had forgotten all about them! What if they had figured out her identity, and were telling the Faction Leaders?! (Yeah, she's a little paranoid.) Hastily, she jabbed at the Nexus Tower button, and the room faded in an instant to reveal the Sentinel Hallway. Jonna and Peregrin stood near her with confused expressions on their faces.
"Whoa!" Peregrin exclaimed in surprise when she appeared.
"What took you so long? Is this thing broken?" Jonna asked with a worried look at her and the teleportation console.
Talia shook her head. "No, it's working fine. I, er, it's a long story; I'll tell you some other time. I'm going to get my gear now!" She had, of course, no intention of telling them anything.
Chapter Fifteen: Talli!Edit
Talia thrust her wrench into the Dark Ronin Invader opposing her, allowing herself a small smirk as she crushed its breastplate. Enraged, the Ronin quickly lashed out, striking her on her side with its katana, causing the small smirk to turn into a grimace. Thanks to the Ronin's stupidity, she was hit with the flat side of the katana, thus no permanent harm was inflicted. Talia snarled as she whacked the maelstrom creature's helmet, which proved to be quite thin when the new rank three wrench slammed onto it. The invader crumbled in defeat, dissipating into chunks at her feet. Talia smiled, eyes darting around in search of her next prey.
She was grinding in Aura Mar with her friends and another minifigure by the name of Percevel. Talia was rather intimidated by Percevel, who was a Sentinel Knight and already had all his rank three gear, AND a Powerjouster! The maelstrom put up a poor fight against him.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw an ambitious rank one being smashed by a Horseman Invader. She saw the terror in the minifigures face as the last blow came in, she saw the pain in the minifigure's face as the lance met its mark-
She reeled as a sharp claw swiped at her head, barely missing and knocking her brand new wrench clean out of her hand. In an instant she spun around to face the owner of the claw, the infamous Talli Reeko. He snarled, obviously irked that he had missed. Talia flinched, caught unprepared by a dangerous enemy; he swung again, forcing her to sidestep quickly. She snatched up the first weapon she saw in her backpack; her rank two wrench. "Great." Talli lashed out again, and the flurry of combat ensued.
Evading. Swinging. Sweat in her eyes. Stabbing. Parrying. Pain in her shoulder. Talia did not acknowledge anything outside of the fight, and no thoughts penetrated her concentration. Her weapon whistling through the air at his exposed neck. The sound of bricks clattering on the barren ground. Stillness. Realization.
She had smashed Talli Reeko.
She had willingly destroyed him.
She had turned on her own kind when she could have run.
It hit her in full what she had just done, and the rest of the universe once again resumed its motion. Only then did Talia notice the throb in her left shoulder. She tried to turn her head to see it, but sucked in her breath at the wave of fresh pain it brought. Unable to inspect her injury, she started towards the place where the chef was.
Someone came to her side. It was Percevel.
"Yikes, what happened to you? We better get you to where it's safer," he said with a worried look at her shoulder. She nodded.
"Talli caught me off guard," she explained through gritted teeth, "I wasn't prepared." He helped her to the chef, who was buying things from Jonna and Peregrin. Between all four of them, they were able to fix her up pretty well. But Talia was not accustomed to such injuries, and none of them knew much of medical care, so they decided that she should see a doctor just in case it was infected. Peregrin, however, looked on the bright side.
"Talia versus Talli! The epic showdown!" he joked.
Chapter Sixteen: Back at Nimbus Station HospitalEdit
"Thanks, Steve," Talia said to the minifigure clearing up her lunch. A good lunch at that. She was in the Nimbus Station Community Hospital, where the doctor there had inspected her shoulder. It hadn't been that bad actually, and a full recovery was expected. What did surprise the doctor was that it hadn't been infected. He had told her that most maelstrom related deaths where caused by infected wounds, and most maelstrom related wounds were infected. She was lucky- all that would remain eventually would be a scar.
"Np. I mean, no problem," Steve replied, "How's your shoulder feeling?"
"So you ended up joining the Nexus Force, eh? I'm not surprised, after seeing what that guy did for you. What faction did you join?"
"Fancy that, my cousin's in Assembly! Anyways, visitor hours start in a couple minutes. I better go put this away, bye!" He jogged out of the room, balancing an impressive tower of dishes.
Talia leaned back in her neat little hospital bed with a sigh. She could almost get used to being a minifigure, with all these hospitals to go to when you're injured, rebuilding, pets, and friends...
Wait, what was she thinking?! Get used to being a minifigure, she should not would not could not! Never! She pinched herself on the arm as hard as she could as a self-induced punishment. Hospitals were a luxury she wouldn't need once the Darkitect promoted her for her valiant work! Why, he would make her stronger than Talli Reeko!
Talli Reeko... she tried to shrug off the upsetting thoughts that followed. Just then, Jonna walked in.
"Howdy! How's it going?" she asked cheerfully, taking a seat in one of the chairs next to Talia's bed. Talia smiled at her friend,
"Hey, Jonna. My shoulder has been getting better; the doctor said I'd be able to leave in a couple days. How are you?"
"Pretty good, thanks. Peregrin and Percevel would have come by too, but both of them were on janitor duty at Nexus Tower." Both of them paused for a moment. "Anyways, we found this," Jonna said, and reached for something in her backpack. She pulled out Talia's rank three wrench, the one that Talli had knocked out of her hand. Talia smiled with delight,
"My wrench! Thanks!" She took it and deposited it into her own backpack.
"Don't thank me. Peregrin's the one who found it. I'd stay longer, but I have to go get an inverted dish for Dr. Overbuild before the shop closes. He's building a scanner of some sort. I'll stop by tomorrow if a can. See you later!"
Talia waved as Jonna got up, "Bye!" Jonna walked out the door.
Chapter Seventeen: The Return of... I CAN'T SAY IT!!!Edit
Talia scrambled onto the nearby rocks for a respite, looking back at her friends briefly before chugging down an Assembly Awesome Ade. They were at Calvary Hill, farming for tokens and coins. Percevel plowed at a horseman, his Powerjouster emanating a soft, silver glow as it met its mark. Peregrin held up his twin flare guns in front of him, firing rapidly as he swept them back and forth at another horsemen. Jonna just pressed a button on her rank three vest, resulting in a Personal Fortress to form around her.
"HAHAHAHAHA, TURRET POWER!!! DIE INFERIOR TOAST!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. Talia rolled her eyes. Jonna had been obsessed with that turret ever since she had gotten it, and she wasn't about to stop anytime soon. Talia reached up to rub the scar on her shoulder, as was now her habit. She had gotten out of the hospital just the day before, and was eager for exercise. And there is not exercise quite like battling horsemen on Calvary Hill. Now refreshed, she leapt off the rocks to and joined the three other figs in battle.
After farming for a while, the four of them decided to take a break and get some lunch. (Then again, it might have been dinner. It's so hard to tell the time in Forbidden Valley's foul weather.) All of them jumped on the bouncer on the way out of the battlegrounds.
"WOOOT!!!" Peregrin yelled in exhilaration.
"Wheee!" Jonna called out.
"AAAHHHHH!!!" Talia screamed, fearing for her life.
"........" Percevel was content to keep his peace.
Of course, after the bouncer there is the air draft.
Once on solid ground again- or rather, solid tree root- they began to discuss the matter of lunch.
"I say we order some pizza," Percevel suggested casually. Jonna, however, did not appear very fond of the idea.
"AUGH, where?! Don't tell me it's Peter!!!" she stuttered, looking around in mortal fear. Peregrin face palmed.
"No, I don't think that pizza is a good idea, thanks to Miss I'm-Terrified-of-Flying-Pizza over here," he commented dryly.
"What? Where does flying pizza come in?" Talia asked with utter confusion. Jonna let out another strange noise that sounded like 'knee-ag knee-ag knee-ag-eh'. Peregrin sighed and replied;
"I say we stick to sandwiches today. I'll explain the whole pizza thing later."
"Ahumnee, don't tell them! Errrr, the horror..." Jonna quickened her pace.
"Oh whatever. Let's just go eat."
Percevel blinked slowly and said, "Okay then, I'm good with sandwiches too. Just as long as it has extra of Ron's Premium Butter!"
Jonna apparently couldn't take it anymore. "NOOOOoooo, not Ron the Slab of Butter too!!! I can't take it anymore!!!" she squeaked in agony, and ran ahead of them. Percevel and Talia looked at Peregrin.
"Hey, don't look at me! I haven't heard of 'Ron the Slab of Butter' before! All I know about is Peter the Pizza!"
They continued looking at him.
"I'll explain Peter the Pizza later. Right now, I'm just plain hungry. Come on, let's go find Jonna."
They followed him into the Great Tree, where they hoped to find her. And they did, behind Master Fong Shader's house, clinging to a branch. Finally they convinced her that no flying purple pizza or giant slabs of butter were around, and that it was safe to come out. They all came to a unanimous decision to order tacos.
"Mmmm, yum," Talia said as she finished her third taco. She was the last to finish, and had savored every bite.
"So, what's for desert?" Peregrin asked cheerfully.
"I've got some Flame-roasted Popsicles," Percevel offered. Jonna suggested cake.
"Or ice cream," Peregrin said with a smile as he looked past them. While the others contemplated his idea, he stood up and walked in the direction that he as looking at. For he had indeed caught sight of a minifigure with an ice cream cart, giving some ninjas low calorie, double scoop, rocky road ice cream cones. Peregrin had made his choice for desert: ice cream!
However, the ice cream minifig seemed to be in a rush, and pushed his cart down the tree hurriedly. Peregrin followed quickly, running after him. He reached the bottom shortly, but the ice cream minifig (who, for my fingers sake I will call Joe) nowhere to be seen. "Where did he go?" Peregrin wondered. "Chhhh-foooo!" He turned to see Joe blasting off for Nimbus Station in an ice cream cone rocket. By now the others had noticed Peregrin's absence, and peered over the edge of the tree to see him placing his rocket on the launch pad.
"PEREGRIN, where are you going?" Percevel called. "We better go chase him!" He and Jonna jumped off the tree onto the launch pad in hopes of catching up. Talia looked down and hesitated. "Eeehh..." She turned and came down the normal way. She was the last one to take off, and as her engines roared to life she muttered,
"I have a bad feeling about this..."
Chapter Eighteen: Daredevils to Catch!Edit
Talia landed her rocket in Nimbus Station and rushed after Jonna and Percevel, who were chasing Peregrin, who was chasing Joe with his ice cream cart. "Well, that explains why he took off so fast," she thought dryly. Joe had a fairly long lead, and was hurrying down the Red Blocks path. Peregrin was passing the Paradox buildings, and Jonna and Percevel were just exiting the Forbidden Valley path. Talia shoved a quicksicle in her mouth and caught up with Jonna and Percevel just as they turned onto the Red Blocks path. All three of them chased Peregrin past Johnny Thunder- who was licking a cone of mint chip ice cream- and saw that Joe must be well known around here. As he passed by certain minifigures he would hand them some ice cream and take the coins they were holding out all without stopping. Eventually they ended up looping around back towards the plaza.
A random minifig- let's call him Kevin- stood in the plaza, calling out to other minifigs to take a look at his rares. It was a normal day for Kevin, selling his wares and rares in Nimbus Plaza. He stumbled backwards as a minifigure with an ice cream cart pushed through the crowd at a remarkable pace saying,
"Make way, figs to see, ice cream to sell!" He came out the other side and headed for Brick Annex. Conversation began to resume again, only to be broken up by a Daredevil in hot pursuit of the ice cream fig.
"Pardon me, excuse me, figs to find, ice cream to eat!" he yelled, sprinting to Brick Annex. Everyone paused before they started to continue business once again, when three more minifigs came dashing through.
"Sorry, Daredevils to catch, accusations to make!" they yelped as they made for Brick Annex. After they went through everyone slowly resumed whatever they were doing before.
Business was considerably slower for Kevin after that.
Talia, Jonna, and Percevel kept chasing Peregrin through Brick Annex, although they did stop to gape at Mardolf the Orange licking his pink ice cream cone before giving chase again. They followed him to Pet Cove and back, through Nimbus Station to Gnarled Forest, through Gnarled Forest, (Jonna was fascinated by the fact that Joe gave the parrots their own bowls of ice cream, and decided to do that for her parrots someday.) back through Nimbus Station, and finally into Nexus Tower.
"Oh forget it, I give up," Talia panted as she sat down with a sigh. Jonna and Percevel sat next to her, both breathing heavily. For a few minutes they just sat there, trying to regain their breath, when, of all figs, Peregrin jogged up with an ice cream cone.
"Hola, guys! Why are you all looking at me like that? I brought you guys some ice cream!" he said without the slightest trace of exhaustion as he handed them vanilla ice cream cones.
".... Thanks...." Jonna said. Percevel and Talia replied in similar ways.
"So, what are we going to do after desert?" Peregrin asked with a big grin.
Chapter Nineteen: Rank Three and... Field Trips?Edit
One week after the ice cream chase:
Talia and Jonna held the last pieces to their rank three suits. They were standing between the Assembly faction vendor and Gwen Tweenbangle, giggling with excitement.
"Okay! On the count of three, put it on," Jonna said through her smile. "One! Two!! Three!!!" Both girls equipped the last pieces, and laughed as they felt their gear flow with energy. Talia squealed in excitement, savoring the feeling it gave her. Jonna laughed again, looking down at her dark blue Engineer gear with pride. They giggled as the pressed random buttons, squeaking in surprise and pleasure when it activated a new ability.
Talia wished it would never end.
Peregrin came up via the Brick Swirl- the thing that sucked you up into the vendor places.
"Hey, Per-" Talia was cut off by Peregrin as he triggered his new, rank three Fig on Fire. "WHOOOO-HOOO!!!" he cheered, rushing in a circle before flipping back down to the bottom floor.
"And, bye. I guess he's a little excited about HIS new rank three stuff," Talia chuckled.
"Well why shouldn't he be? We sure are!" Jonna giggled back. Both of them laughed and gave each other a big hug. Talia smiled. This was the best feeling in the world.
But alas, Talia's pleasure was not to last, as she remembered what the implications were. Now that she had rank three, she was obliged to continue with her plan and kidnap Vanda, then return to the Darkitect. The thought almost tore her heart in two. She would almost miss her friends.
But wait. She had not really done EVERYTHING she could, now did she? Maybe she could put it off, just a bit longer, so that she could, perhaps, try these valiant weapons she heard so much about! That would certainly please the Darkitect, and she would not have to leave quite so soon. Besides, Vanda was still extremely powerful, and a valiant weapon would help to make her fate a sure thing.
"Hey, you okay?" Jonna asked, breaking up her thoughts.
"Yeah, sorry, I just kinda spaced out for a second," Talia replied. "What do you say we go to Nimbus Station and celebrate?"
Jonna grinned and said, "Oh yeah, that would be so cool! We should stop by McRonalds or the Brick Bean Cafe and get something!"
Talia smiled back, her worries draining away for now. "Yeah, something with sugar and caffeine!" she giggled. Hand in hand, they jumped down and ran to the launch pad.
Talia and Jonna walked through the busy Nimbus Plaza, sipping their mochas as the bargained with other minifigures.
"Selling Red Parrot!" someone called.
Jonna was the first to reach him. "How much?" she asked excitedly.
"One million coins," came the confident reply.
Jonna gaped for a moment, taking her time to process the giant sum. "Oh. Would you consider lowering the price a couple hundred thousand? No? Fine." she sighed with disappointment, returning to Talia.
"Oh boy I'm in a jam now," someone mumbled as he pushed his way past Jonna and Talia. Much to their surprise, it was Nexus Jay, leaning over his clipboard as usual.
Talia couldn't help but wonder why he wasn't helping the recruits over by the Avant Gardens path- and who was substituting for him. He looked up with a worried look on his face and saw them.
Walking over, he began to talk rapidly. "Hi, you two rank three? Assembly? Engineer? Okay great listen I got a favor to ask of you, well you see I was asked to arrange for two Nexus Force folks to go to B.R.I.C.K. Elementary School Kindergarten class. But then the two figs that had agreed to go came down with a nasty cold so they canceled and it's scheduled for tomorrow and I told the teacher that I would send two Assembly Engineers, so I gotta find someone who will fill in for 'em! Will you two do it for me? Yes? Okay great thanks I appreciate it here's a paper with all the details I got to go I asked Shouty McBullhorn to take over recruiting while I was gone, better go make sure he is alright, thanks again see ya later!" He ran off with a gasp for air.
Jonna and Talia watched him running towards Shouty McBullhorn (who was yelling something through his bullhorn right into a minifigure's ear) then looked back at each other and the paper he had thrust into their hands.
"Um... so what did we just get signed up for?" Talia asked slowly. Jonna peered down at the paper.
"It says that we have to go to the B.R.I.C.K. Elementary School Kindergarten class and tell them about the Nexus Force at an hour before noon." She looked up excitedly.
"Cool! That's where I went to school! I guess this will be sort of like how firemen or policemen go and do demonstrations and stuff. And down here it says we should have a demonstration of our own ready! This doesn't sound too bad after all," she said with a smile. "Oh, I've got just the thing! I better go to my Block Yard and get it. Meet me here around 10:00 tomorrow?"
"Okay I guess..."
"Great! See you later!" Jonna jogged off past Nexus Jay scolding a rather indignant Shouty McBullhorn about trying not to make the recruits deaf. Talia bit her lip nervously, wondering how these kindergarteners would be like and how she should act around them. After all, she had never been around minifigure children before, and she was probably around eighteen herself by minifigure standards.
She let out a worried sigh as she finished off her mocha.
Chapter Twenty SummaryEdit
Basically, Talia and Jonna went to B.R.I.C.K. Elementary School, had a great time, passed out free toy swords they had bought from the store, and then left. And one of the Kindergarteners was determinded to be "a better fighter than Duke Exeter" when he grows up.
Chapter Twenty-one: Wrong.Edit
"Oh come on! Why not?" Peregrin asked again.
"No, I will not go smash Butterscorch with you guys! No, no, no, and positively no!" Talia answered stubbornly.
"But why not?" Percevel asked persistently, twirling his Samuraizor (his most recent purchase) around.
"Because I don't want to. I don't care if people say she has tons of rares, or if it experience is unmatched, or if it gives you bragging rights! I don't want to fight her," came the firm response. Talia may have smashed many dragons before, but she drew the line at Butterscorch.
Jonna sighed, exasperated. "Come on Talia, this must be the fifth time we've gone without you! Fighting Butter was the way I got enough for my valiant, and Peregrin too! Look, I promise I won't ask again. Will you please come?!" she pleaded.
Peregrin shrugged and sighed. "Fine. We'll see you later then, Talia." The three of them headed across Sentinel Point Zeta towards to bridge.
Talia sighed. She hadn't just not wanted to go fight Butter- there was something she had to do. She had put it off for too long now.
Time to go buy her valiant and continue with the plan.
She walked up the ramp to the teleportation console, and triggered the sparkling, blue imagination in her hands. As she created the door, she realized that the door and imagination she used were a slightly darker blue than it was supposed to be, reminding her of her maelstrom origins. Crux Prime fizzled away to be replaced with the blue room as usual, once again greeting the mysterious "Anmithrayy". She pressed the Nexus Tower button as a sweat broke out on her forehead, and appeared in the middle of a large crowd. Talia hardly noticed them. She trudged off through the Sentinel War Room, past the glowing core- she tried not to look up at it- and up to the Assembly Faction Vendor.
"One pair of Serratorizers please," she said quietly, putting down the required money and tokens needed. The vendor handed her order to her, scooping up his profit.
Talia wrapped her hands around the handles, slowly lifting them up and down to test the weight. Using them was almost natural for her, and within a half an hour she was confident in her ability. She jumped down onto a ledge, and from there onto the top of the blue, brick-swirly thing. She paused.
This was it. Her final moments as a minifigure. In a few minutes she would be a Stromling again, and she would report to the Darkitect. Then he would rule the universe.
Talia closed her eyes, trying to stop her tears. Something was wrong. Inside she thought she shouldn't be crying, but even deeper inside she knew she shouldn't be doing this. Oh, how she would miss her friends, for they would surely be smashed along with the other minifigures, but her duty called her to obey her master. She thought back upon all her short life as a minifigure, and one stray little thought soon became an overpowering need. She thought about Peregrin, Jonna, Percevel, her first time in Nimbus Station, the pain in that rank one's face when he smashed, the kids at B.R.I.C.K.... then she thought of the Darkitect.
She had been wrong.
Talia let her tears go as she internalized it all. Ignorance certainly was bliss, she thought, for now she faced the cold, clear, truth she had denied for so long.
She had been WRONG!
She finally let herself see the Darkitect as the chaotic tyrant he truly was. She knew that he would not hesitate to murder anyone- even the sweet, innocent kids at B.R.I.C.K. She knew that she could never go back to him and serve him again.
"This is it," she thought with silent sobs, "I can't go back to him. Nor can I just stay a minifigure here. I am no Stromling, and no minifigure either. I'll never be able to just forget my past and try to fit in as a minifigure here. There is one thing I can do though, to make up for what I have done. That is my fate, and I will not abandon it while I still breathe!" In her grief she let her judgment become clouded, not caring to acknowledge the absurdness of her plan.
She was the only one who knew where the Darkitect laid in wait.
She knew she couldn't stop him.
But she knew what she was going to do.
She prepared to face the Darkitect.
She prepared to say goodbye to her friends.
Chapter Twenty-two: Goodbye.Edit
Talia stood on one of the moving platforms leading to Butterscorch's platform, and flagged down her friends who were gathering their loot from the now empty ground.
Her friends... this would probably be the last time she saw them.
"So what's so important Talia? You look rather strained," Percevel commented worriedly.
"That's because I AM strained," she replied tightly. "Look guys, follow me. I've got something important to do." She made her way to Butterscorch's platform and strode across it. Her friends followed with puzzled expressions as she came to the edge facing Rivendark Canyon. She paused.
Then she stepped off.
They rushed forward with shouts, then came to a dead halt when they realized she wasn't falling, no, she was walking to a floating island in the distance! She looked back at them.
"Well, come on! It just looks invisible because of the light. You know, like in the movies!" They all exchanged shocked glances. Peregrin was the first to go, then Percevel and then Jonna. Talia led them over the invisible bridge towards the small island some ways away. The bridge felt cold and rough beneath their feet. The island was about the same size as Butter's platform. Jonna let out a sigh of relief as she stepped onto it, muttering something about nerve-racking situations. A series of rock platforms led up onto a cliff, and Talia- after a long hesitation- proceeded to go that way. They all walked along the cliff for a while, hardly daring to say anything in that cold, unwelcoming place.
"We're on the other side of Rivendark Canyon," Peregrin breathed in awe as he realized this. Talia began to shake nervously, sweating despite the freezing wind. The other looked at each other with concern as they followed her. Something big was going on, and none of them had ever seen Talia like this. Although they tried not to think of it, none of them had discounted the chance that she might have gone mad.
They walked for what seemed like hours, and for all they knew it might have been. Around this giant, black rock, over this ledge, past that turn... it was getting confusing. Even Peregrin was at a loss for direction; but Talia continued to navigate the twists and turns like she lived there, her shaking only increasing. Her eyes began to dart around, wide in apparent fear. She clenched and unclenched her hands repeatedly, and started to whisper under her breath. At every tiny noise she jumped, and her attitude was definitely putting everyone else on edge.
Talia stopped in front of a forbidding looking passage, its sides made of solid, pitch-black stone. It reached to high to see the roof- for it certainly had a roof- and inside it continued straight as an arrow, fading into blackness in the distance. Here Talia turned to face her friends, fog around her feet and a mist about her eyes.
"Thank you guys. You've done more for me than you could ever think. But I can't rest, knowing what others don't and not knowing what it is like to truly be among them." Her eyes softened, and a single tear slid down her cheek.
"I was wrong. But I've come to do what right I can. Don't follow me in. If I don't come back... then tell the leaders that what they have searched for has been found." She held back a sob as she gazed longing into her only friends dumbstruck faces.
"I'm so sorry for everything I've done."
With that, she pulled out her best gear and tore into the passageway, not able to bear looking back.
"Wait, Talia!" Jonna yelled, alarmed and confused. Talia didn't slow her pace as she disappeared from view. Percevel, Peregrin, and Jonna looked at each other with sadness, knowing that whatever she was doing, they could never have convinced her to stay.
They watched silently as her form became one with the shadows.
Chapter Twenty-three: The Darkitect's Offer.Edit
Talia ran, forcing back the knob in her throat and gritting her teeth. It ended here.
She pushed her little plastic legs to their limits, adrenaline shooting through her bloodstream. She did not grow weary, driven with iron single-mindedness. All sorrow fell behind her as the fog intensified, exhibiting a purple hue. Nothing but determination remained, determination and a deep-set hate.
She slowed her pace as some wild instinct whispered to her. He was here. Now walking very slowly, head down, eyes up, weapons ready, nerves tingling, the passageway ended. The fog still skimmed the ground; or rather, what should be the ground. It did not seem to be visible, but it was difficult to tell. There weren't any apparent walls either. Everywhere it seemed to be floating right above the Maelstrom Vortex, but no orange dots or the Darkitect's eyes were in the vortex. Yet what she was in was obviously a room of some sort. Or was it? It's a very difficult thing to explain, but if you ever have the misfortune to see it, it will be easily recognized.
Nothing was in the room with Talia. She knew that wasn't true.
She walked at the same, agonizingly slow pace until she arrived at the middle of the room, where she came to a decisive halt. She was deathly still for a full minute, not making a sound. Waiting. Then he spoke.
"You, are more powerful than most, and more than the one that followed you, yes, you are," a smooth, deep voice droned slowly, sending chills down her spine.
The mist in front of her swirled upward condensing then dissipating, leaving the one and only Darkitect standing before her. Talia threw off her helmet, letting it clatter across the floor.
"Welcome," he said with a malicious grin, "Talia..." She adjusted her grip on her Serratorizers. "How strange, and painful, it must have been. Torn, from all you knew, and thrown, onto the other side. Talia, come with me... I will make you what you once where, if you but come with me..." he smiled slyly, holding out his hand as one would for a great lady.
His offer hit home. To be what she once was, and forget all she had been through. It was so tempting, so easy.
"No. I choose the narrow way." With her head held high, she stared at him with hate, defiance. "Let him go."
He looked at her disdainfully, pulling his hand back. "Now, why would I do that," he scorned, then shouted out, "Flametongue!"
A dragon rivaling Butterscorch in size seemed to appear out of thin air, arching its neck and roaring fiercely. It circled above their heads, eyeing Talia with a hungry look and growling impatiently. The Darkitect laughed, and said grandly to no one in particular, "Behold, Flametongue, Butterscorch's mate! None shall ever fell him!" he lowered his gaze to Talia. "No, no, I shall not free the one you speak of. No, you, you and those other minifigures, who dared to near my presence, will join him, in captivity. Those other minifigs, I feel them, their presence, their imagination... Soon, soon you, and them, shall be mine, and I will subject you all, subject you to my will... Even, if they do not follow you in, I shall have you, you, Talia. I shall, spare you all the pain of infection, and make you use your, imagination, to do as I command. And I will command, be sure of this, I will command, the Nexus Force's destruction. Little fool, to come, then decline my gracious offer, look at the mess you've made..." He crooned, pausing to let his words sink into Talia's heart. "Flametongue! Take her away, away, for now..." he chuckled.
Talia stood there, with her feet planted apart firmly, her Serratorizers humming softly. The wind whipped back her hair as she stood in front of her true enemy and Flametongue's claws neared. After saying no to his "gracious" offer, she had expected nothing less. She had chosen the narrow way.
The fog began to circle the Darkitect once again as he smiled cruelly. The dragon growled at her. She knew what he wanted, and complied by dropping her weapons and taking off her Engineer vest. She disposed of her backpack as well, dropping it onto the floor.
Flametongue huffed his approval- though he obviously thought she would make a fine snack- and wrapped his thick paw around her, squeezing an awful lot. He took off with her still in his clutches, flying upward as a dense, purple fog surrounded them.
Talia coughed and gagged, blacking out as she felt the world shift around them. Meanwhile, a small pair of wide eyes continued to stare out from the passageway.
Talia awoke lying on a cold, hard, floor. She lay there listlessly, and no thoughts presented themselves to her. Finally she sat up, groaning as soreness penetrated her muscles, telling her that she must have been lying there for a while. She looked around with blurry vision.
She was in some sort of cell, with cold, stone walls and floor. Maelstrom fog gathered in the dark corners, and littered the floor. The door had bars running down and across it. Light was scarce, and darkness ruled with an iron grip. It was fairly small, around four or five yards wide and perhaps two or three yards long.
Talia shivered, chilled to the bone. None could escape the freezing temperature for the all-consuming darkness. Every aspect of her surroundings crushed her spirits. Hope did not exist here.
She slowly stood up, every part of her body aching. She turned her head around slowly, and then approached the door. It was difficult to tell what was out there. Darkness and Maelstrom fog shifted around mysteriously, unwilling to reveal what it hid from view.
A soft noise came from behind Talia. She whipped around, glancing back and forth nervously. Another small noise floated into the air, coming from the far left corner. She slowly crept towards it, cautiously searching with her eyes for the cause of the noise.
Yes, something was there, huddled in the corner. She approached with her heart thumping wildly. Whatever it was moaned, then slurred a most unexpected announcement: "Why yes, Hael, that IS my monkey!"
Chapter Twenty-four: The Consequences of Charging Into the Darkitect's Lair.Edit
Talia jumped in surprise, looking about rapidly. Monkey? What monkey? The minifigure, for it was a minifigure, rolled over. "Oh," Talia thought. Whoever it was, they were asleep. She poked the fitfully sleeping minifigure.
"WHA- um, who? No, I won't- oh, you're not maelstrom," he realized groggily, looking up. He rose from his unsteadily position. "You're a minifigure! Like me, eh? Well fancy that." He paused for a moment, squinting. "So what did they lock you up here for?" When she didn't answer immediately, he jolted and said, "Oh, where are my manners? The name's Typhonus. Welcome to my humble cell! Please, make yourself comfortable." Talia looked around at the barren room. "I would offer more, but, um, there is nothing more to offer."
(Yes, this is Baron Typhonus. However, he is not a Baron anymore. His land was passed onto Vanda Darkflame when he was pulled into the maelstrom, so I will refer to him as Typhonus. As it will become apparent, being in the maelstrom for almost two years has somewhat taken a toll on his mental health.)
Talia sat down. It was common knowledge among maelstrom creatures that Typhonus was a prisoner to the Darkitect. It was NOT common knowledge as to why he was a prisoner. He was missing his top hat and staff, and there was only his faded tuxedo and ragged cape left. His facial hair had indeed grown quite a bit as well. To be truthful, he was a rather pitiful sight.
He sat down next to her saying pleasantly, "So, how goes things outside of the maelstrom? None of the stromlings that pass by answer my questions- they just growl."
"Not to bad. I guess. The Nexus Force is growing a lot-"
"Hold that thought for a moment, Ma'am, but what is the Nexus Force? And I'm afraid I don't know your name either."
It occurred to Talia just how separated Typhonus was from the rest of the universe, and that she would have to recap EVERYTHING- not including her own past of course. With a sigh, she told him her name and began the long process of telling him everything she knew about the war. As if that wasn't long enough, Talia was not the best of storytellers, and backtracked often.
Peregrin stared in shock as he watched Talia and the Darkitect. Unfortunately, he was too far away to hear them. Much to his surprise, neither had made any move to attack one another- almost as if they knew each other. He realized that Talia HAD always been very shady and uncertain when it came to her past.
But how in the Nimbus System did she know the Baron?
Peregrin continued to gape as he caught snippets of their conversation, which did not help him figure out more than the Darkitect offered her something and she refused. He watched as a great dragon was summoned by the Darkitect, apparently named Flametongue. The Baron disappeared in a cloud of fog, and Talia dropped her weapons and shoulder pads. She had already taken off her helmet, and proceeded to dispose of her backpack. Then Flametongue picked her up and spiraled upward, disappearing in a similar manner as the Darkitect.
Peregrin blinked and whispered to himself, "Well I'll be..."
Jonna looked into the passage with worry. First Talia went in, then Peregrin goes in with way more speed boosts than are healthy, telling her and Percevel that he was going to figure out what was up.
"And don't follow me," he had said, "This is a sneaking job, and sneaking's meant for one fig at a time! I'll come back and tell you guys what I find." With that he had raced into the darkness, hugging the wall.
It had been at the very least twenty minutes.
Percevel stood ready for action; in full rank three Knight gear, including his Powerjouster. Jonna was pacing back and forth in rank three Engineer gear, not including her Serratorizers. She preferred the wrench with its armor restoring ability. She was just about to suggest going in despite Peregrin's warning, when Peregrin himself came dashing out of the shadows, holding something in his hand. He screeched to a halt in front of them, panting heavily.
"Talia- *pant*- Darkitect- *pant*- maelstrom, her backpack- *pant*- Okay, let me- *pant*- start over. *Pant*" They waited anxiously for him to get his breath back. "Okay. I'm good now. To be frank, we're at the entrance to the Darkitect's evil lair. He's got Talia, but something else is going on. She didn't resist at all! Here, I've got her backpack. She's completely unarmed. She was picked up by this HUGE dragon; we gotta save her!" Jonna and Percevel stared at her backpack with shock.
"Alright, let's make a plan," Percevel said evenly, and they made a huddle. A few minutes later they all crept into the passage, grimly determined to free their friend from the Darkitect himself.
"So why does the Darkitect keep you here?" Talia asked Typhonus after finishing telling him what she knew of the war. He leaned back on the wall and pondered for a moment.
"Well, it's well known that chaos has no order, and no imagination, so it can't make plans or form a strategy. So, I suppose that they use me whenever they're in a jam to get them out of it. The Darkitect is pretty much just chaos in a living form that looks like a twisted image of me. I'm not sure what the science is; I would need my lab and samples to be sure. However, I have come up with some interesting hypotheses about the maelstrom, but I don't think you would want to hear about that sort of thing. Although after a while of being here you may be to bored not to listen to them. According to what you told me, I've been her for nearly two years. Fascinating. what I wouldn't give for a good soda..."
(I should explain. Minifigures, unlike humans, do not need food for survival. However, it is a huge comfort, and even the poorest of families buy it often, Typhonus, however, had gone without this common comfort for over a year and a half, and that's enough to put a huge strain on any minifigure; especially a rich Baron who was used to large, regular meals.)
What he had said disturbed Talia. Almost two years... that was a long time.
"So... how do they make you get them out of a jam exactly?" she asked tentatively.
Their conversation died down, and time seized to matter as it crept at a pace any turtle could beat. Typhonus went back to sleep, leaving Talia to ponder her fate. A tear slid down her cheek as she realized how rash she had been. She never should have come. Now the Darkitect planned for nothing less than her utter obedience, seeming to believe she had great power. She knew she no such power, but if he learned the knowledge she once collected for him, it would be disastrous.
She had made such a huge mistake, coming here thinking she could free Typhonus.
Chapter Twenty-Five: What Happened Before and After the Rescue.Edit
Time passed slowly in that cell, painfully slowly. No doubt it had only been so long, but as they say, time flies when you're having fun; and they were NOT having fun. Talia rolled a pebble around in her hands.
The fog around them suddenly swished violently, increasing in size, creeping upward and towards them. Talia gasped, letting the pebble tumble onto the floor.
"Typhonus, the fog!" she wheezed, already unable to bear the toxic fumes as she shook him awake. He looked around with a start, "Hm, what? Oh no, not again!"
"What, what again?!" she asked franticly. But it was to late; they passed out from the maelstrom fog.
Talia opened her eyes. Purple. It was everywhere. Heat. She was sweating. She tried to get up, but found that whatever surface she was lying on was very squashy, almost jello-like. With a grunt she managed to get to her hands and knees, when the Darkitect's voice rang out.
"Ah, you're awake! Good, good, indeed. Welcome, to the Torture Sphere," he chuckled. Talia looked around quickly, realizing that "sphere" was not an understatement. She was inside a deep purple sphere, and nothing else was in it with her. Suddenly the jello-like surface hardened, allowing her to scramble to her feet. She flung herself at the side, and grimaced, as the only thing that gave way was her arm. The Darkitect laughed, and she looked around wildly, frightened.
"Ah, yes. This could be easier for you, so much easier, if, you would simply obey me. So, I ask, again, will you give me your loyalty?"
Talia snarled, "Never!"
"Too bad. I will have to get your obedience, a different way, then. I will break your will, and you shall answer to me, only... Tell me, Talia, tell me about the ones you brought with you. I feel them, their imagination... who are they, Talia?" he questioned slowly.
"I'll never tell you!" she screamed.
The entire sphere quickly rotated, and the side she was leaning on became the top. She yelped as she fell up for a second then slammed down on her right side.
"Tell me, Talia, tell me..."
The sphere spun completely upside down, and Talia fell flat on her back with a loud thump, whooshing all the breath straight out of her. Traces of maelstrom fog appeared in the sphere with her.
"Tell me, about the Nexus Force, Talia..."
The fog intensified, making her eyes water and forcing her breath to became shallow.
"I will conquer..."
She gasped for air. "Over my dead, plastic body," she whispered fiercely.
"You will serve me..."
The sphere slowly started rolling to the side.
Jonna peered around the corner, and gasped at what she saw. She whipped back around and whispered to Percevel and Peregrin, "She's in there!" They all looked at the room in front of them from the shadows.
Talia was inside some sort of ball, which they could see through just fine. (It was sort of like that type of glass you can see through one-way but not the other. So while all Talia saw was purple, her friends could see her scrambling franticly.) It was floating about ten feet up between two transparent, foggy, maelstrom pillars reaching to the very high ceiling and coming down to the floor. They could hear her screaming indistinctly at something, and as a result the sphere seemed to rotate upside-down, flinging Talia off her feet. She got up again, and her eyes passed over her friends as if they weren't there. Nor did they ever focus on anything in the huge, bare room.
"I don't think she can see anything outside of that thing," Percevel whispered. She screamed again, and seemed to be gagging on the maelstrom fog surrounding her.
"What's she screaming at?" Jonna wondered aloud.
"What's there to not scream at? She's trapped in the Darkitect's lair and in a weird ball-spinny-thingamajig!! We need to get her out of there," Peregrin urged. Jonna nodded in agreement.
"So.... who's got the plan?"
"I can end your suffering, my dear, if you will but do one thing. The enemy never cared, for you, and never will. They won't come for you, it doesn't matter to them what your fate is. But I, I will give you power, authority! Did the Nexus Force REALLY tell you not to touch the Nexus? Yes, and I, know why... it would have given you power, and they don't want you to be like them- POWERFUL. So join me, Talia, and tell me, what I need to know, and serve me, Talia, for what I need to do..."
Her resolve was weakening. She grimaced as he twisted the truth, making it seem so logical. His tongue was that of a serpent's, but still she resisted.
"No, that's not true! You lie!" she yelled, wincing as she inhaled some of the fog.
"Never, you snake!" she replied bitterly.
The sphere spun around quickly, and Talia screamed as she flew into the other side.
"Why, do you resist? It's so, futile..."
She cringed, curling into a tight ball. Oh, it hurt! Pain, pain everywhere! Oh please, let it end soon, soon! Suddenly she heard a different voice- the voice of a minifigure calling out for her. "Jonna?" she asked aloud in wonder. More people called for her. "Peregrin? Percevel?" She struggled up, yelling their names and walking around the sides of the sphere franticly. "GUYS!! WHERE ARE YOU?!" She heard the sound of glass shattering, and a blue liquid began to eat away a hole in the sphere like fire would to paper. She managed to wiggle through it, only to find herself falling ten feet right onto Percevel.
Well, he broke her fall. "Oof!" he groaned from underneath her.
"Thank goodness for notion potions," Jonna muttered, glancing at the part of the sphere that she had hurled a notion potion onto as she helped them both up. " Are you okay, Talia?"
"More or less," came the shaky response, "I told you guys not to follow me!"
Peregrin frowned at her. "And leave you to that thing? Not a chance!" He tossed her backpack to her.
Talia shook her head, fear in her eyes. "Well at any rate we have to-" An ear splitting roar interrupted her, and Tongueflame flew out of a cloud of maelstrom fog.
"-RUN!" she finished, tugging them along with her to the nearest door.
"Wait, not this way!" Jonna yelped, glancing back at the door they had come through. Tongueflame landed between it and them, flames flickering around his razor sharp teeth. "Okay, this way."
Talia led the way down the winding narrow hall, when they barreled into a group of Stromling Admirals. She grinded to a halt as they turned to look at her with hate and disgust. Percevel lowered his Powerjouster without stopping and drove into them with a fierce cry. Peregrin followed on his Rutcarver, letting out a loud whoop as it carried him over the Admirals. Jonna followed up with a turret. Talia equipped her Serratorizers, but the Admirals had already been eradicated. The four minifigures continued on their oh-so-merry way, when they saw a cell door to their left. Talia stuck her head in and yelled,
"Hey, are you in there?"
"Sheesh, there's no need to yell," someone yawned from inside. Talia rolled her eyes and tugged experimentally on the door frame.
"Here, let me," Peregrin said. He pulled out a flare gun and shoved the barrel into the keyhole. *BAM* Smoke rose from the mutilated lock.
"Well, that's one way to do it," Percevel muttered, pulling the door open. A somewhat groggy Typhonus stepped out.
"Well hello there!"
Jonna pushed her silver rifle against his chest, thinking that he was the Darkitect. Peregrin jumped up, aiming his gun at him. Typhonus looked down at the barrel pressing against him. "Oh, um, let's not be hasty now..."
"Jonna!" Talia scolded, pushing her rifle down, "This is Typhonus, not the Darkitect! Put those guns away, both of you!" They complied- slowly.
"Um... so they're not the same person?" Percevel asked, lowering his Powerjouster. Typhonus looked at him oddly.
"Oh no, and I hope it stays that way," he said. An uncomfortable silence followed. Talia sat down, physically and mentally exhausted.
"Um... Talia... I hope you don't mind me asking but... what on Crux is going on exactly?!" Peregrin asked. "I mean, I saw you talking to the Darkitect..."
Talia looked up sadly. "Look, I'm sorry guys, I really am," she sighed, and her voice began to crack. She raised her voice almost to a yell,
"I'm not a minifigure!"
She sniffed, and dropped to a whisper,
"I'm a Stromling."
Chapter Twenty-six: The Truth is Out, and so is Chat-Time!Edit
Peregrin's jaw plummeted. Jonna's eyes grew to an unbelievable size before she bit her lip and looked down. Percevel started violently and looked somewhat disbelieving. Typhonus just blinked at her like a sleep-deprived owl. Talia let her head hang, and all the emotion she had been holding back began to tumble out.
"I was just a Stromling," she repeated bitterly, "Just a Stromling, smashing recruits in Avant Gardens. Then that changed in an instant, one, single little moment. I found this cube, and I touched it... all I remember after that is pain. Strange, tingling, cold, pain." Trembling, she pulled the cube out of her backpack, holding it cupped between her hands for them to see. "I don't know what it did to me. But I woke up a minifigure. I thought that I could spy on the Nexus Force. I thought the Darkitect would reward me.
"I was WRONG!
"I realized what the Darkitect truly is. He is no ruler. He is chaos. Not capable of good. And I had followed and smashed for him so long!" The tears steamed down her face. The cube tumbled out of her hands, and she broke out of whatever trance of the past she was in.
"So now you know. Go ahead. Smash me."
A long silence followed.
Percevel gently placed a hand on her shoulder, making her flinch. "No," he said quietly, "We won't smash you. You may have been a Stromling, but you changed. You're our friend, Talia, and you always will be." He picked up the cube gently and placed it in her backpack. Talia looked up with an unsure smile.
"Well, I'm sorry to bring down the mood, but I think we've been found," Typhonus said casually, pointing down the way they had come from. Dozens of Dark Spiderling Invaders were crammed in the dark passage, hissing their disgust. Talia shot up off the ground, and immediately charged down the corridor in the opposite direction.
"This way," she yelled, dragging Typhonus along with her. The others followed quickly, Peregrin only pausing to thrust a firecracker into the Spiderling's midst. Up ahead the small corridor split in two. Dark Ronin Invaders streamed out of the left path, forcing the minifigures to veer right. There was light ahead! They sprinted towards it, having to practically carry Typhonus with them. Finally they exited the hall, only to come to a dreading halt. In front of them was not the Crux Prime they were hoping for, but a huge, purple room and the Darkitect smiling cruelly from under his top hat.
"Well hello, what a pleasure, it is to see you, all," he chuckled, "Leaving so soon? Oh, was it something I said?"
Talia and Typhonus flinched and stepped backwards, neither of them wishing for another day in the Torture Sphere. Percevel, after a moment of pure terror, bravely gripped his Powerjouster. Jonna shrunk back, wondering how in the Nimbus System it had come to this. Peregrin just stared, once again noting the Darkitect's size. (Two and a half times the size of a normal minifigure, to be exact.)
"Such a shame, you put up a pitiful fight. And now, now all of you, shall serve me. Our enemies, will learn to fear, your names," he droned in a low, exacting voice.
"Oh yeah, well I think that you are the one who will be learning to fear!" Jonna shouted, becoming rather hotheaded. She began equipping her best gear. Peregrin nodded stoutly in agreement, and put on his gear as well. Talia shakily donned her Engineer set too, while Percevel took a swig of a Sentinel Super Soda. Typhonus simply scratched his unsightly beard nervously.
The Darkitect laughed. "Oh, how entertaining! They wish to fight me!" he boomed, obviously tickled pink. "Ah, this will be almost amusing!" With a flick of his wrist Flametongue was by his side, stretching his thick, muscled neck. "Let us see how you fare against Flametongue, the greatest maelstrom dragon I have ever created!"
Flametongue snarled at them, flames glowing deep in his throat. Typhonus backed towards the door,
"I do believe I'll stay back here for the time being."
The four friends stood together resolutely. This battle could very well be their last as free figs, and they knew it.
But imagination is very difficult to extinguish.
Flametongue leapt upon them, breathing fire out of his fearsome maw. The two Engineers constructed their Personal Fortresses, and the others jumped to the side, flanking the great dragon. Peregrin swung onto its tail, climbing up despite its harsh thrashing. The Personal Fortresses crumbled to bricks far before the allotted time, scorched beyond recognition. Flametongue rapidly followed up with another fireball, striking both girls, but was distracted by the Knight penetrating his scaly leg. Jonna repaired their armor in the brief respite. Then Talia hit Flametongue with a charge up on her Serratorizers, taking the attention from a weakened Percevel. Peregrin revved up his Rutcarver and slammed it into the dragon's neck. Flametongue reared up on his hind legs, flinging Peregrin off of him. The battle dragged on, and I would write more, but that would take far too long. But at long last, Percevel rolled underneath the oversized lizard and drove his Powerjouster into its heart. With a roar of tremendous pain, it fell over as the roar faded to a weak groan. Percevel managed to get out before getting turned into a plastic pancake. He looked back at the great dragon Flametongue, dead.
However elated the minifigures were, they were given no time to celebrate or rest.
The Darkitect nodded slowly. "Very, impressive," he said, "very impressive, indeed. You've slayed Flametongue, but he was but one of my slaves. Now, we shall see how you do against the Spider Boss, first of my slaves!"
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Peregrin's I-Can-Fly Moment!Edit
The Spider Boss appeared in a whirlwind of maelstrom fog, hissing loudly to express its deep hatred for the minifigures. All eight of its sickly orange eyes blinked slowly at separate times as it took in the sight of the four weary adventurers staring up at it. It was as big as the four explorers had said it was, coming up to the Darkitect's neck. Behind them Typhonus cried out and covered his head, reminded of some horrible moment scarred in his mind. The Spider Boss gave them no time to gather their thoughts- it screeched, striking the ground next to them with incredible force. The shockwaves jarred them; Talia gasped, rebuking herself in her mind for trying to mix in the matters of such a powerful force. She and her friends leaped into action- for they had no other choice- and hacked at the leg nearest to them. In response, it fired multiple shots with its laser cannon at them with impeccable accuracy, forcing the minifigs to stumble back to avoid it. Jonna and Talia triggered their Personal Fortresses, but the energy bullets they produced did little more than tarnish the shine on the spiders thick, black legs. Peregrin shot at it, which made it blink rapidly, but was causing it little discomfort. Percevel slammed his Powerjouster into another leg. This also had little effect.
No matter what they tried in the long minutes that followed, they were losing. Its only soft spot was the head, and attempts to climb up to it were futile. Shooting didn't help much either, as the small bullets didn't change the oversized spider's bad attitude very much. Time after time again, every scheme they thought of wasn't enough. It fought relentlessly, causing no end of damage and injuries. Despite the minifigures habits to stock up well, their consumables were almost gone. Time was running out. Percevel, who had forsaken his valiant weapon for his sword and shield, was backed into a corner, and the Spider Boss was unleashing upon him. Percevel was able to block most of the blows, and used his dwindling consumables to repair what did hit him. But he was almost out, and his shield wasn't going to last much longer. The others did their best to get the spiders attention so that Percevel would get even just moments rest, but it paid them no mind. Peregrin came up to the others, drenched in sweat.
"Nothing's working," he panted, " We can't get it to stop tearing at Percevel!"
Talia nodded wearily, fighting off the urge to lie down and rest- or surrender. "We need a plan. Any ideas?" she asked desperately. Jonna jumped slightly and cried, "Oh, I have one! I just don't know if it will work though. Every time right before I wake up in the morning, I have this really weird dream. It has Bob in it, and a huge moving sign, Stromlings, Stromling Apes, racers... lots of stuff like that. But there is this one part where someone gets shot out of a cannon onto an ape, and the ape explodes! So, er, should we try that?"
Talia sighed, "That's an awful strange dream, but by now it seems to be our best bet. Who's got bricks?"
Talia and Peregrin handed Jonna bricks, and she hurriedly built them into a cannon. Percevel caught a glimpse of it, and assumed that it was meant for spider extermination.
"Hurry, guys! My shield wouldn't pass as a toy by now!" he yelled, squinting and staggering back as the Spider Boss fired again. Jonna shoved the last brick into place.
"So, who's goin' in this thing?"
"Ooo! Me!" Peregrin cheered, pulling out a long, golden sword. He wiggled in feet first and gave a thumbs up. "Getting shot out of a cannon was on my bucket list!"
Jonna pulled a string coming out of the back, and time and motion slowed to a snail's pace. With a puff of smoke, Peregrin came out of the mouth of the cannon with a huge grin plastered on his face. Although the minifigures were oblivious to it, there must have been a huge boom as well, because the Spider Boss slowly turned to see the Daredevil flying at it. Ever so slowly, Peregrin waved mischievously at the Darkitect while in mid-flight, his sword glistening with a deadly beckon. The Spider Boss tittered quietly to itself: "Oh snap."
Time and motion jumped back into existence as Peregrin's sword hit the gargantuan arachnid's square in the face. It let out a deafening screech, crumpling in defeat. It hit the ground with a solid and final thump, never to rise again. Peregrin hopped off it. "Eew!" he muttered. Percevel tiredly looked over what was left of his shield and smiled wryly. Talia just gaped. Jonna started to cheer, but the Darkitect allowed no such thing.
"WHAT?!?!?!" he roared, "YOU DESTROYED IT?!?!?!"
He had obviously not counted on their victory. And he was not happy Bob.
He was, in fact, furious. With a savage edge he addressed them once again. "You will all pay for your actions!!! And after that you will crush the Nexus Force for me!!!" he thundered, raising his hand in the air. A deep purple cloud swirled around it menacingly, presenting a foreboding sight. A deep, cold fear embedded itself in the minifigures hearts, a fear even worse than the one that came upon Jonna when Peter the Pizza was mentioned. Talia knew in her gut what the maelstrom cloud was for. It wasn't to infect them, or smash them. It was meant for pain, excruciating pain. The Darkitect knew he couldn't afford to smash them or infect them- with their imagination, he would be unstoppable. If they were infected their imagination would be tainted, and if they were smashed- well, they wouldn't be of much help then. He had to force them to obey him, and pain was the perfect way to do it.
The cloud rapidly condensed into a rough ball before being flung from his hand. With shouts the minifigs leaped out of the way, hardly escaping. They all exchanged dreading glances. To battle the Darkitect was unheard of, and daunting in the least. To know that if they lost they would be forced against their own was far worse.
But freedom is a very dear thing, and they were going to fight for it.
There was more on the line than freedom though. Family. Friends. Imagination itself. They were not willing to let even one fall.
With gritted teeth, savage cries and a determination to save what they loved, they charged the dark one.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: ApocalypseEdit
It was a desperate fight against all odds. They knew it. And they were tired, so very tired. After what they had been through, none could blame them. They couldn't inflict any damage on the Darkitect- their weapons simply swished through him, as though he were a phantom. Time after time again, he flung balls of crackling maelstrom energy at them. Dodging them became harder, weighed down by their gear and exhausted. It was hopeless, hopeless and terrifying because of it.
The Darkitect threw another ball at Percevel; he wasn't so lucky this time. He tried to dive out of the way, but his thick armor was too heavy. The ball hit him square on, losing its shape and spewing away. Bricks flew out of his backpack, clattering along the ground. Percevel yelled in pain, clutching his left arm, which had taken most of the blow.
"PERCEVEL!!!" Talia screamed, hating herself for pulling all her friends into this mess only to be left to such a fate. She started to run to make sure he was okay, but another ball landed right in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Jonna and Peregrin trying to get to him too, but they got no farther than she.
Typhonus looked on the whole scene despairingly. "Can anything stop this madness?" he wondered. He would be of no help even if he tried. He didn't have so much as a stick to fight with! A single tear slid down his grimy cheek.
His eyes passed over the bricks that had spilled out of Percevel's backpack, and idea presented itself to him. The idea brought him much sorrow, but as he saw and heard Percevel's grimace and shouts of agony...
Typhonus ran to the scattered bricks, scooping them up. Brick by brick, click by click, he built a bouncer. Then he looked up at the Darkitect with a calm look, one of no fear. He flung himself on the bouncer, and was sent in a direct crash course with the Darkitect. The Darkitect looked straight at him- yet not through him. He chuckled.
"You lose, Typhonus."
Typhonus simply smiled.
He flew right into his chest, closed his eyes and with a look of simple bliss, released his creative spark.
Typhonus flew out of the other side and crashed into the floor as a great boom resonated through the room. The Darkitect exploded, the shadows of his body fading from sight. Percevel felt the pain he had been so agonized by fade away. Talia felt freer than ever before. Jonna and Peregrin looked around almost disbelievingly. All of them slowly drew nearer to Typhonus and the place the Darkitect once stood. Typhonus dropped to his knees and clutched at his heart, staring into the distance with a small smile on his face. The four other minifigures knew the price he had paid for them. To release ones creative spark meant to die a slow, painful death. But Typhonus did not feel the pain. He smiled peacefully.
Talia looked up at the still purple sky. It was over. The maelstrom could be completely exterminated after this. The Universe would have peace.
She looked down, and noticed that no one was moving, or even seemed to be breathing. Then a voice came from behind her.
"Hello, Talia," said the Mythran with a smile.
Chapter Twenty-nine: Second ChancesEdit
Talia turned calmly to face the Mythran. "Hello," she replied quietly.
The Mythran turned to Typhonus. "He was a brave minifigure," he (for it was a he) said in a low voice, "He shall have a second chance." He walked over to him and placed a glowing hand on the ragged minifig's shoulder; this caused no reaction from Typhonus, and Talia could only assume that her friends were frozen for the time being through some great power on the Mythran's part. A little blue dot, slightly darker than the Mythran's shade shot out of the imagination orb floating in his chest, swirling through its arm and into Typhonus' shoulder; it entered with a small glow shinning from the Mythran's hand. Then he turned to Talia. "I have restored his creative spark. Now, Talia, how do you feel?"
She shrugged and shook her head, failing to wonder how he knew her name. "I'm just trying to absorb it all..." she looked up with a suspicious glance. "What are you doing here?"
He stared back at her with bright blue eyes. "I came for you."
Talia started, and her heart thumped in her chest. The Mythrans weren't going to smash her, were they?! She DID used to be a Stromling... The Mythran spoke again.
"I am Rarlivar," he said, "I have momentarily frozen your friends so that we may talk without interruption. I have been watching you for some time now, and I have become quite certain of my suspicion. You have an ancient Mythran relic, the Cciler-ebu (pronounced Sigh- ler- ee- b-you), as it is called in my tongue. It is the cube shaped object.
"I've come to destroy it."
Talia gasped in shock, her head whirling. Relief flowed through her once she realized that Rarlivar wasn't going to smash her. But why did he want to destroy the cube?
"You see, Talia, the Cciler-ebu has a long history. It was once thought lost, but now it has proven it is not.
"Long ago, a Mythran called Yithion (pronounced Yith- on) and his apprentice, Anmithrayy, (pronounced An-myth-ray) created it. This was long before any of the four explorers births. Yithion and Anmithrayy went to many lengths and went on fantastic journeys to collect the necessary parts, and the actual construction of it was a slow process. None of the other Mythrans knew of this at the time, for, although it would take too long to explain, it was forbidden; thus the two kept it a secret. However, once it was complete, Yithion perished for unknown reasons, and the Mythran Council learned of the Cciler-ebu. Anmithrayy fled with it, and Yatsgnillree (pronounced Yat-s-gn-ill-ree. Say it out loud a few times; you'll get the hang of it.)- Who was the head of the council at the time- gave chase with a party of his best trackers. They followed this rogue Mythran, Anmithrayy, for hours on end. When they finally came upon him however, he was dead, and the cube was gone. None have ever solved this mystery." His eyes narrowed, and he seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. "I am a descendant of Anymithrayy's brother. It is my responsibility to end this. Show me the Cciler-ebu."
Talia blinked, and then began digging franticly in her backpack for it. Once she had a hold of it she held it out in front of her. Rarlivar gave it a scrutinizing gaze, and then pointed at it.
It imploded, with a small noise that seemed deafening and quiet all at the same time. Reduced to the finest of dust, it sifted through her fingers and disappeared. Talia stared in surprise- her hand was entirely un-marred. Rarlivar sighed, and then looked at Talia, saying, "Now, Talia, you have been through much. I do not know what was in the Cciler-ebu that caused you to turn into a minifigure. However, us Mythrans would like to extend an offer to you.
"You are so deep in various Mythran affairs; it seems only fair for you to live among us; as one of us. I cannot make you full Mythran, as you still have a small amount of maelstrom in you; but I can make you mostly Mythran. So, Talia, would you like to leave your life here, and come dwell as one of us?"
Talia's eyes widened, and then dipped her head down. This was a huge decision for her- after all she had been through... maybe being with the Mythrans would be for the best. Settling down as a minifigure certainly didn't seem likely. She looked at her friends. They had been so brave and kind... how could she, a traitor- for good reasons, but still a traitor- ever stand among them? She felt so different; maybe she would feel at home as a Mythran.
"I... I accept," she told Rarlivar. He nodded and placed a hand on her shoulder. Another little blue dot swirled up his arm, a lighter shade this time, and darted into her shoulder.
Oh, what a rush! Talia gasped with rapture as the most pleasant sensation she had ever felt seeped through her shoulder, cool and soothing. It rushed through her, putting butterflies in her stomach and bringing a light to her face. Something seemed to click inside of her- and her Imagination began to flow as it was meant to.
Rarlivar disappeared, and her friends awoke from their slumber, unaware of the time that had passed. They all looked at Talia, shocked to see a soft blue light shinning from the place in front of her. Talia smiled, and when they saw her smile, they knew she was happy. Happy and without troubles. Her eyes began to glow a beautiful blue as she turned to she her only friends.
She let out a crystal clear laugh of joy, and disappeared in a swirl of blue imagination.
Jonna looked at Peregrin and Percevel.
Next to them Rarlivar appeared, and they all looked at each other for a timeless moment.
And Rarlivar smiled.
Talia did go to the Mythran City to dwell, becoming Mythran in all but origins. After she left, Rarlivar explained about the Cciler-ebu and where Talia had gone to Jonna, Percevel, Peregrin and Typhonus. Once they understood and promised to not tell a soul, he left. The four minifigures returned to Nexus Tower, and great a many celebrations were held in the knowledge of the Darkitect being smashed. Typhonus was put on trial for his crimes, but it was quickly decided that being in the maelstrom had been more than enough punishment. He asked for only a small amount of his money back, and bought himself a pleasant little Block Yard, where he built a small cottage and retired. Peregrin and Percevel became part of an elite squad, scouring new worlds for maelstrom, and destroying what maelstrom they found. Jonna wasn't one for change, and went right back to what she had always done: smashing maelstrom, preferring to store her memories in her heart to treasure. But the maelstrom never stopped its onslaught, for though they had thought it's master smashed, chaos has no master...