Description: Looking for council, Charlie seeks out the enigmatic warrior maiden in white and poses to her his questions and challenges. Her answers may not be the solace he hoped for, but even still, his path forward becomes more clear.
A passing squall had drenched the lonely island throughout the night, washing away a small amount of the blood and dusty bones left from bygone konquests in the grim prison's past. Now, in the morning hours, the Eastern horizon is clear, golden, strangely beautiful for how horrific the circumstances are for humanity's champions that are trapped in the blood sport designed to determine Earth's future. The Western sky is still black and angry, the storm front slowly retreating away, having spent its fury until an hour or so ago.
Even still, the winds that rip along the shores are swift, pushing the tress hard, whipping their frond-like leaves to and fro. Even in the harbor where many of the wanderers who found themselves here were dropped off has large waves crashing against the oddly picturesque sandy beaches.
But this island has seen millennia of storms, and the one that passed in the night would not be strong enough to erase its stain upon the world. The waves, the winds, the water pouring down from the rocky cliffs above will pass, but the fortress of Shang Tsung and the desolate landscape that surrounds it will remain until the fate of Earth is determined once and for all.
A rocky outcropping juts a ways out into the ocean, forming one of the sides of the harbor here. Hundreds of feet tall, its walls are a sheer drop should one take a tumble, and the surface at the top a narrow stretch that allows for two, maybe three people to walk adjacent along it. At the end furthest out into the sea, it widens some, becoming a landing where a small gathering could stand, but the drops off any of the sides to the water below would prove fatal to most.
It is there that the sword maiden in white currently stands, her back to the island, her face gazing after the storm moving slowly away to the West. The wind is no more gentle up here, whipping about her, sending her long hair against her shoulders and sides of her face, her ankle length robe fluttering about her pants-clad legs.
It is a curious place to stand and gaze at the ocean, yet it is also a spot that would leave one almost completely immune to ambush. From out on the outcropping, one could see anyone venturing from the island for over a hundred meters before they would arrive. At the same time, however, it is also a self-made trap. There is almost no where to go but either back along the narrow stretch to the island cliffs, or to plunge into the ocean far below. Safe, yet risky all the same, should a threat advance along this way.
The quiet girl is not alone - keeping the company of a large, brown hawk that sits perched on a sharp stone on the landing. And, seated on his rear haunches, a large Siberian grey wolf sits, his eyes back toward the island, serving as the Ainu warrior's eyes along the bridge of land to warn her of any who would seek to approach.
With the storm passing, it doesn't take long for those who had taken refuge from it to finally start to emerge. Here at the shore, however, there seem to be precious few places one could take shelter, a rather open area deceptive in its seeming serenity compared to the rest of the Island.
The sheer cliffs and outcroppings surrounding the beach provide just as little cover either, which may explain the drenched figure that seems to approach the thin stretch of cliff that the Ainu stands upon. The figure is tall (for a human) blonde, bespectacled, and looking like he got caught in the worst of the storm until only recently. The man known as Charlie Nash has clearly seen better days, his vest and green standard issue cargo pants still heavy and darkened by water.
But it's not his drenched state that is the most disconcerting about him currently, as he approaches. It's the look in his eyes, one of a man who looks rather driven into a corner. There are clear bags under his eyes, telltale of lack of sleep, and the occasional flinch as if stricken by something similiar to a headache, or perhaps something more. Then there's that gem embedded in his forehead, a dulled yellow save for occasional flashes of...something that seem to swirl in it.
"You....I've been looking for you..." he manages to get out, struggling with his words a little as he tries to focus upon the small robed girl. "Since the ceremony..." he adds, before flinching again, hand coming up to his forehead as the gem glows briefly again.
She turns to face him well before he gets close to the end of the outcropping, hand lifting to hold her hair out of her face as the crosswind now seems intent on blowing it there from one side. Behind her head, a crimson bow sways with the gusts, the long ends of the ribbon also whipping out to the side.
One thing's for sure - he is bound to get dried off rather quickly up here. There's no way she could have heard him with the wind blowing as it is, so that she knew to turn and look toward him implies that one of her companions alerted her in some way - the golden eye of the wolf never leaves him, in fact, as he finally steps onto the rocky landing. He will find it mostly featureless, covered with rough grains of sand, a single, sharp rocky protrusion atop which the wind-rustled hawk perches, a small brush sticks out of the center of it, mostly dry but for a few green leaves. And finally, a lone tree jutting out of the side of the cliff and rising up above the landing, barren but for a few leaves on its mostly lifeless branches, a curious sentinel here at one end of the island.
The girl waits for Charlie to approach, watching him for some time as he finally arrives to join her there. She makes no move but to stare in his direction, hand at the side of her head, trying to keep her hair in check, steel blue eyes offset from the crimson geometric borders of her fluttering robe. Only when he is close does she finally react, leaning her head to the side slightly as she steps to the side, finally ending up so that the wind is blowing against her face, allowing her to no longer have to worry about her hair being blown into her eyes.
"In my village was a man stricken with a curse that prevented him from ever knowing the rest of slumber again. Day by day, he grew more ill, more sickly, his strength leaving him. His eyes were red, his skin pale except under his eyes... I had never seen anything like it before." She sighs softly, mouth a visible frown, her tone somber yet not rushed. He became increasingly paranoid until descending into pure madness. On the eighth day he died, a troubled, miserable husk of a man."
The time lost wanderer pauses for a moment, studying the face of this man who has come out here to see the maiden in white. "Charlie Nash." she speaks, clearly having been paying attention to those sent here to represent Earth. "I see the same curse in your eyes. If you do not rest soon, it will not be the harrowing tournament that claims you in the end."
Such a cheerful greeting from someone he's never spoken to. She must not be one to waste words - the Chosen of the Kamui, one who speaks with the gods. "I am Nakoruru. Why have you sought me out? If there is anything I can do to help, I will do so eagerly. But like you, I am a prisoner here, and I must abide by the same limits as all the rest of us who's blood will speak for Earth in the end. There is only so much I can do.""
Even with the watchful eye of Shikuru on him, Charlie doesn't remove his eyes from the mysterious Ainu girl, one with a clear maturity beyond her apparent age. He doesn't respond immediately, letting Nakoruru speak. As he watches her, he's forced to lean upon that sole tree, one arm outstretched and palm against the gnarled bark as he remains propped up by it.
"The voices," he says rather directly, another cringe with eyes narrowing and brow furrowing, before his features relax again. "Ever since this damn thing, all I've heard are voices, telling me to stop holding back" His grip tightens upon the tree, fingers starting to slowly dig in to the bark and embed into the wooden flesh underneath. "And every fight there's more. Asking for blood. They don't stop, even when I try to sleep."
He finally pushes himself away from the tree, unsteady and lumbering with a strange gait rather than his usual upright stature, befitting of a Major. "You...you know more about what's happening here than any of my allies," he continues, not bothering to swipe away the limp trademark bang that has flopped between his eyes, just barely keeping the gem in his forehead visible. "I need to know."
Now that he is on the landing with them, the large wolf gets to his feet, no longer relaxed but rather moving in around Nakoruru, standing behind her, looking from his side up toward the man. This close, Charlie can see that the old wolf has seen its own share of violence, his left eye replaced with a X shaped scar, his snout gouged with a deep scar horizontally across it. The protective warrior is wary - they may be fighting for the same cause, but there are others on the island that could say the same yet have taken a more... costly approach in demonstrating it.
The feathered sentinel, sticking to her perch, also studies the man, though her posture seems far less guarded at the moment. Here, on the outcropping, they are closer to her world - the world of the sky, clouds, and winds, than of the dusty earth, and in that the bird seems pleased.
He speaks of voices as the girl is quiet, eyes opening further before the moment passes, her expression composed, attentive as he continues. The token in his forehead is mentioned and her steel-blue eyes shift focus to it, a frown forming at her lips. The sacraments from the Elder Gods seem to have taken many forms, and the souls stored within them... some have been supportive, others thirst for blood, eager to be joined by more stolen from the shards of other kombatants it seems.
"I see," she murmurs. It is a difficult situation. The stone cannot be removed until the obligations of Mortal Kombat have been fulfilled. And there is no way to quiet the souls without powerful assistance. She flicks her eyes to the side for a moment, arms lifting, to rest flat against the base of her neck as she contemplates what he has to say about his condition.
But when his fingers squeeze into the wood of the rather meager tree, Nakoruru's eyes flash back to him, "I bid that you do not take out your misfortune on this ancient sentinel," she gestures with her right hand, sweeping toward the tree who's bark he cracks. "Like you, it has suffered grievously being bound to this forsaken place - only its agony has echoed throughout millennia, and in that, it deserves nothing but our respect for enduring this long."
She relaxes as he moves away from the tree, even if the damage of his powerful grip will remain a lasting testament to this encounter. "There is a lot I could tell. This... is not the first time I have seen these events play out," she murmurs, pain in her voice, memories of the slaughter of others in a centuries old tournament just like the one taking place now. "What you have been told is true - the nature of this horrific battle determines the outcome of a thousand year long war. Failure here will mean complete domination of our world by the bloody armies of Shao Kahn. Our planet will become desolate, a hellscape of ruin, destruction, and suffering, and all who survive the onslaught will be subjugated to slavery to the Emperor himself except for those malevolent few who will find welcome within the ranks of his endless legions."
She pauses, the girl seeming to want to let all that soak in for a moment. "One by one, Earth's own fall, power is being collected by those darkest and most consumed. I do not understand the will of the gods in this matter... I do not know if any of this is playing out as they imagined."
She lowers her arms, clasping them behind her back then, looking up at the tall American, "To give us a fighting chance, we were given these soul shards... for some, they are a blessing," her left hand shifts, reaching behind her waist and tapping the end of the black sheath strapped there, the lower end of it embedded with a crimson gemstone. "For others..." she glances back up at the stone of amber in his forehead, "Fortune has not smiled on them quite so fondly. I wish I knew why, but..." She furrows her brow. "The souls ask you to stop holding back, demanding blood. I understand your reservations, but in this war, blood must be shed. I wish it wasn't necessary, but if you could sate them with the blood of our enemies, maybe they would afford you the respite you desperately need..."
Only spare glances are given toward the guardian animals as Charlie stands before Nakoruru, mostly to take their positions into account. He doesn't exactly plan on going after either, but if it comes to defending himself....
Her warning about the aged tree doesn't quite phase Charlie, having already pushed himself away from it, the Major himself apparently barely conscious he even did so. He lays silent for now, a rather strained stroke at the gem on his forehead as Nakoruru speaks of their purpose.
The answer he ends up receiving finally to the question he had been most concerned with is...not a terribly welcome one, judging by how deep the ridges in his brow furrow. It's not like he hasn't worried about the need to kill a foe in a fight before. But to sate voices in his head, rather than for necessity...it's not the response he had hoped for, not by a long shot. "Nnmm...what are our chances?" he adds, returning to tha matter of the tournament as a whole. If the stakes really are as high as she says...
She watches him, clearly reading his reaction to her grim suggestion that he give the blood thirsty shards exactly what they have been asking for. Why push the man in that direction? With his sanity stressed to the degree it is, twisted by the demands of the tournament, the fate of the world, and the relentless, murder hungry souls in his head, there is very much a risk that she is sending him down a path to eventual ruin. But right now, all around them, the world they know is facing the same imminent danger... is she asking him to chance his own weakening grip on his soul for the greater good?
The burden of being among those chosen seems to exact a toll from all who were drawn to this island. Same may lose their lives, others their minds... but in the end, Earth must succeed.
He asks about their odds and Nakoruru is quiet for a moment, the wind dying down, giving her hair and clothing a brief rest while the two animals stay quietly attentive on the proceedings between the two individuals. Finally, she begins to speak once more.
"Every Spring, each mother Sea Turtle of Japan will bury over a thousand fragile eggs beneath the beach sands. The two months prior to hatching are perilous times for the eggs which might be stepped on, dug up, or sniffed out by scavengers for consumption. But the loss of life during that time is nothing compared to the slaughter that happens when the eggs finally hatch and the newborn turtles scurry for the sands. Between their escaped shell and the safety of the deep waters a swarm of predators will gather to consume the easy prey, killing them by the thousands."
She pauses for a moment, her right hand lowering unconsciously to begin scratching the to of the large wolf's head behind his ears, a gesture he seems to appreciate as he presses back into her fingers.
"Through that bloodshed, only three or four baby turtles in a thousand will make it to the ocean. Yet those few desperate survivors are enough that the creatures to continue existing in spite the horrible odds against them."
Her shoulders slouch a little, Nakoruru finally breaking her focus to glance back out to the infinite ocean at their side. "In the end, chances are meaningless. We need one to win even if all the rest of us might fall by the wayside in the process." She flicks her eyes back to Charlie, concern radiating in her gaze, but it is backed with a certain hardness, an acceptance that a nearly impossible task has been set before them.
"For our world to survive, sacrifices will have to be made. I wish it wasn't so, but..." Wishing doesn't change anything, and the sooner Earth's unfortunate chosen accept that, the better.
It doesn't take a mind reader to tell from Charlie's reaction that this was not the answer he had been hoping to hear from Nakoruru. not that he's a stranger to having to make sacrifices. Even in similar circumstances during Jedah's siege of Metro City, Charlie was forced to make some hard decisions for the good of both his squadron and the city. But this is something on a rather disturbing scale.
Narrowing his eyes a little, Charlie's expression turns less pained and more glowering. He doesn't even spare a word before turning around, still with the ungainly gait of someone far too affected to stand up straight at the moment. He doesn't walk away quite yet, the drenched airman seemingly content to just have his back toward Nakoruru.
"Nature will do as nature will do. But if you're trying to say that nature and these Gods are only giving us those odds..." There's a pregnant pause, broken only by a small hiss as Charlie seems to inhale through gritted teeth, either from the strain of the souls in his head (mentally and literally) or the circumstances. "...Then I'm getting my people to make some new odds."
She stares quietly at the tall, powerfully built soldier as he turns his back. She never promised easy answers or magical solutions to the impossible. If it were within her capability, then the last time around would have...
"Good." she softly replies as he refuses to accept the gruesome odds the nature warden implied with her account. "Our chances are that bad - maybe even worse than the sea turtle young. You will need to rally those you can to change them... if such change is even possible."
She looks away from his back then, eyes sweeping across the see in the direction of the golden sunrise. "When last I was pulled to this island, there were seventy seven chosen of Earth, many of them my closest friends and allies... Powerful warriors with a lifetime of violence, fighting, and experience in deadly trials behind each of them. Only myself and a few others survived." She closes her eyes, tone somber, reflective of the massacre she must have witnessed. "This time there are fewer of us and while I have sensed great and noble spirits among our number, there are also souls far blacker than any who stood alongside me in the eighth of these horrific tournaments."
She sighs softly, hands lifting to rest at the base of her neck again as she bows her head, "Even now, our own side is tearing itself apart. We lack for leadership, our divine arbiter no where to be seen to offer guidance. If you can lead your people, you may first have to cleanse the corruption of our own side before being able to focus on the enemy we face."
She releases a soft sigh, turning now that her back is to him, staring at the lonely tree outstretched at an angle into the open air over the ocean. It seems that she is done speaking to him, having nothing else to offer, nothing to bolster his faith that the task can be done. But finally she lowers her head, shaking it slowly, and turns to face him again. "Wait." She pauses, making sure he hasn't left.
"If you are going to lead your people, you will need your wits about you. There was something taken from me that might buy you time... It can't silence the voices, but it might let you own your thoughts for a few days longer. I will try to get it back and find you. Until then, if this is the path you are choosing, you must hang in there a little longer."
The first faint smile since he arrived works its way into her expression, "I see in you the will to make that happen. I believe in you... I will do what I can."
Charlie doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave, even if he remains with his back toward the seemingly supernatural young girl. He stands, and listens, listens to her reflect on the 'last time'. He's not sure how to process it completely, but he doesn't let his posture or his expression, however hidden it is now, show.
It's only once she seems to be done speaking that he starts to move, his expression set outside of small tics from the continued effects of his current state. He looks far less haggard, but even a resolved will strains against the issues of the flesh. It's a good thing he's not particularly fast currently, stopping well before he makes any headway as Nakoruru bids him to wait.
Looking back over his shoulder, he listens to her offer. He does his best to stand up a little straighter once he faces her again, though, the fatigue is still far too apparent over his entire posture. "...then I'll keep an eye out," he reponds before turning away again, returning to his slow gait back toward the direction of the castle. Even if the voices are still haunting him, even if the lack of sleep is haunting him worse, he's had his resolve steeled for what's to come. And that may be more valuable right now than any other answer Nakoruru could've given him at this particular moment.
Log created on 22:49:39 10/17/2016 by Nakoruru, and last modified on 02:13:45 10/20/2016.