Description: The answers which Nightwolf seeks come with a steep price. By initiating the conversation with the recently deceased Reptile, though, he is able to set the pace of the negotiation.
THE WARRIOR SHRINE
Mortal Kombat cannot be won through sheer strength alone. Though a stalwart believer of the warrior diligence, Nightwolf has learned through hard experiences of his reality that not battles are won like in the folk tales. The good guys not always win, and sometimes, staying true to the path of decency just puts you exactly where the evil mastermind wants you.
Hell, his very existence is proof of that given his ethnicity.
That non-withstanding, Nightwolf's encounter with the Ainu priestess Nakoruru was an enlightening one in several ways. Not only did it bolstered his spirit knowing that there was another one like him that followed the paths of the spirits. She also informed him of Outworld's very possible foul play. Up until now, the Apache warrior had taken Raiden's absence as a sign that he wanted all mortals to take matters into their own hands. This was their battle. It would be with sheer will and determination that they would overcome the odds and defeat Outworld.
But after his very first fight, Nightwolf knew that they were definitely going to need Lord Raiden's counsel. He is the protector of Earthrealm for a reason after all. He wouldn't abandon them just like that.
There was a way to know for sure. Nightwolf heeded Nakoruru's advice and took to the Warrior Shrine, were statues of those that had fallen in the tournament were already erected.
The wolf prowled in, turning back to his human guise once he was well within the chamber. All around him he could feel the barrier between life and death thinning. The point of entrance to the Netherealm being at its strongest here.
Momentarily did Nightwolf pause. His body froze as thousands of whispers filled his mind. The voices of the fallen, the trapped, those that had met a grizzly end in the tournament and could still not pass on to the great cycle. The shrine preserved the warriors in more ways than just simple statues. It kept their souls from being recycled into new life.
Shaking his head to pry his attention away from staring into the face of oblivion, Nightwolf returned to the task at hand and walked towards the statue created for the Chameleon.
Reptile had fallen in Kombat.. killed by that Darkstalker old lady.
It would prove challenging to try and bring Reptile back. If he were an Earthrealmer it would be a simple task to call out to them and bring them back to the folds of the living where they could fight again.
But Reptile was from Outworld, a foe. He did not know much of the creature other than he was one of the sorcerer's servants.
And then a great finding when Nightwolf searched the statue. Reptile's true name etched across the dais.
This would make things easier.
The shaman grips at the small totem of Lord Raiden that Nakoruru gave to him so as to draw strength from to begin his ritual. White eyes turn to glowing green and the Apache begins to call upon the spirits of this place, strengthening the link from the great beyond to the material realm.
"Awaken from your slumber Syzoth!!"
"The speaker of Haokah demands an audience!"
Syzoth did not go quietly into the night. As his flesh was torn asunder by the witch Eadni, his soul was forcibly ripped from his body and left to wander the depths of the Living Forest.
The souls there were most unkind to the Saurian enforcer, considering his role in condemning many of said souls to their earthly prison, never to attain the true bliss of eternal death.
The soul of Syzoth does not know how long it took -- only that it seemed like an eternity. His soul had none of the affordances granted him by his earthly body -- he could not lurk in the shadows. All was lain bare for the marauding spectres. Only his mettle and determination allowed him to break free of the ravages -- but to what end? Surely one as two-faced as the Sorceror would expect the Saurian to stab him in the back. Surely he wouldn't bat an eye for the loyal servant's death.
And yet, despite the pull of his soul towards Netherrealm, there was a glimmer of hope, however faint.
The shaman's invocation, at first, will appear as if it bore no fruit at all.
His patience, however, will be rewarded, as Syzoth's spirit rouses from its slumber, making its presence obvious to the Apache from within the statue -- as good a resting place as any, for the last of his kind.
The soul's head and shoulders pitch forward, freeing themselves from the statue as the rest of the spectral body remains anchored. His spirit appears cold and blue in the torchlit room, a stark contrast. His mask is preserved -- his attire a reflection of that which he wore most recently.
"... What doesss the ssspeaker of Haokah want with this humble ssservant? Sssurely there are other mattersss more befitting of hisss time..."
Nightwolf had been far too long in the business of spirits to give up easily. The voices beyond the material realm are fickle by their very nature. They do not perceive time and space as people of the mortal realm do. There is clear sensation, or too much sensation. For some, there is only bliss, and others only torment. Some others like Syzoth know nothing but the ennui of simply being lost, what some cultures would describe as Limbo.
There would be no great beyond for the Saurian. He would not feast with his fellows in great halls, or hunt forever in the great plains. He would not be awakened as a new life. He would simply know.. nothing.
But as Reptile finally answers his summons, the shaman's glowing green eyes focus on the ghostly figure the dead Outworld agent and see in it the glimmer of hope. To think that he would be so humble even in his unjust death.
"You think very little of yourself even after your noble sacrifice, warrior."
"I would first ask; why would you even align yourself with such cruel masters in the first place? Particularly knowing that you could end up as you are now."
Syzoth's humility is a self-defense mechanism engineered over a very, very long time. Those who know him better may see the words as the deceit which they truly are -- but most will probably be forced to take him at face value, as long as he has the mask on.
The body language of the head and shoulders suggests he might have been about to laugh, but instead, he just shakes his head. "There was nothing noble about my sssacrifice, ssshaman. But perhapsss we ssshall agree to disssagree..."
The soul's head lifts upwards after a moment, his pupilless spirit eyes lost in thought. "... Why? The matter isss sssimple. I was raised from birth as a ssseervant -- asssk the worker bees why they ssserve the hive, and they ssshall never have a sssatisssfactory anssswer. More to the point... the Sssaurian race would have died out utterly had I not obeyed the call..."
The Saurian looks back down to Nightwolf, narrowing his eyes. "... With Ssshang Tsssung there was alwaysss hope for rebirth."
Such is the, shall we say.. folly of trying to communicate with the creatures of Outworld. Theirs is a life so full of torment even from birth that they have never known what may pass for true kindness. If one is to extend a helping hand in that realm, it is either a sign of weakness or far from an altruist expression. There is very little compassion, only an insatiable thirst for power and the desperate struggle to survive to the next day.
But, as always, Nightwolf's experience is what keeps him focused. Other hopeful aspirants in the shamanistic arts would have dismissed the spirit immediately. Why help one that only offers mockery to their concern? Reptile should be thankful that he's been summoned and given even a small glimpse of the realm of the living. And yet he mocks Nightwolf for wondering about his well being.
Indeed, Nightwolf's patience is rewarded yet again when he listens to the Saurain's spill about being raised as nothing but a worker bee. Doomed to toil in servitude under the pretext that Shang Tsung might one day reward him for his efforts. A compassion would never come.. for such is the way of Outworld.
"And yet here you are." Answers the Apache simply. "Dead."
"With your demise your race will fade into nothingness, extinct. Joining thousands others that pledged their services to Outworld."
"Where is your rebirth now?"
It looks like Nightwolf is well versed in the cruel language of Outworld.
Syzoth does not respond for a good long while. If Nightwolf has intended to summon Syzoth merely to taunt him for being dead, he will find the laconic Reptilian to be even moreso.
Finally, though -- as if recognizing the great boon which Nightwolf extends in merely speaking to him, the Saurian speaks once more.
He chooses not to answer the obvious trap of a question.
"One could ask the same of you -- why do you fight for Earthrealm, if not in the belief that your way is better? Surely, one must find solace in the honor of glorious battle for one's mighty lords. To be freed of the burden of thought, to be granted foreknowledge of a clear and ultimate purpose."
Nightwolf makes certain to -not- smile when Reptile seems to tense up. Even with that mask on, and the fact that he is currently incorporeal, the shaman can tell that his words struck deep within Syzoth. He's reconsidering his words better now, which is good for the shaman's cause.
"My reasons for serving Earthrealm are entirely selfless." The Apache gives a subtle shrug and a slight shake of his head when Reptiel attempts to shift the conversation back at the shaman. "This path was offered to me, not forced, and it was my decision to take it. If I uphold the glory of Earthrealm in some way it is entirely by side effect." Though bound to Raiden, Nightwolf has made it very clear that Haokah does not wish to be viewed as a god or a master. In the same way, thought Nightwolf champions the cause of Earthrealm, its not for the sake of achieving great honor in Kombat or to bring glory to Lord Raiden. He couldn't even say that Earthrealm's way is better-- for indeed, in Outworld at least he would get the chance to serve a Lord in the hopes that he would restore his people, however futile that hope would be just like Syzoth. It would have been very easily for Nightwolf to make a pact with Shang Tsung and betray Earth in hopes that the Apache were restored.. he would get no such chance serving Earthrealm as he does now. Nightwolf simply does what he does because he feels its the right thing to do.
"That very same reason is what brings me to you now, Syzoth."
"Though we serve different masters, I come to give you the chance to live once more."
The real question here goes unspoken however. What's the catch?
Nightwolf may be very noble, but he's not naive. He wants something in return.
"You belittle your ssskillsss, and throw off the mantle of glory. The consssept of humility is not unknown, but I ssshall never underssstand the appeal."
Syzoth's shoulders quake, as if he is harboring a brief chuckle at Nightwolf's expense, but the reality is more in that he is finding ways to cope with his bond to the statue.
However, he stares at the shaman, wordlessly for a good long moment, lost in thought. Even if he were joking, the shaman's words confuse him somewhat. He knows what Nightwolf is saying -- but there are hidden meanings lurking behind every word.
All the more reason for Syzoth to be happy that he rarely offers much in his own words.
"Nothing free is worth having, and nothing worth having is free. You call yourssself ssselflesss, but I doubt you are ssso ssselflesss as to provide a sssecond chance without cosssts."
It's worth mentioning that Syzoth did not say 'no.' Indeed, his head tilts to the side -- a silent prompt for Nightwolf to explain the catch.
The Apache offers no comment about Reptile's inability to understand humility. He does not blame him for not, nor does he expect him to understand. Syzoth is from Outworld after all where the very concept of selflessness is unheard off.
Undaunted, Nightwolf merely continues as he answers the very expected question of what does he get out of this whole deal.
With Reptile not actually denying the offer of a revival, the Apache presses forth by explaining his terms. "You may have noticed that Haokah is distinctively missing from the tournament. Something that.. dare I say, is very uncharacteristic of him." What with this being the most important event in the world and all.
Nightwolf's still glowing green eyes grow sharp as he gives Reptile a cold stare.
"There is reason to suspect that there is Outworld intervention for the reason of his absence." The shaman doesn't mince words this time.
"You were once heralded as Outworld's best information gatherer. Tell me what you know of Lord Raiden's location and I will return you to life."
The spectral form of Syzoth shimmers in response, wavering. He remains silent for a few moments, the spirit's pupilless eyes remaining fixed onto those of the Apache. It is unfailingly clear that the Saurian is considering his words carefully.
"-- Before I anssswer, I mussst make clear that I am honor-bound to Ssshang Tsssung and the armies of Ssshao Kahn for all eternity. Punissshment for breaking the honored covenant transsscends beyond even death."
The eyes bore down into Nightwolf, his tone becoming dark and somber: "My... wordsss... will never betray him."
It may have -seemed- like a random point to clarify -- perhaps even rude to someone extending an olive branch of resurrection -- but it was a necessary preface.
The hollow eyes blink, as Syzoth continues. His shoulders slump, just the slightest amount. "You know of me and my hissstory, and your own hissstory ssshows you to be a man of great honor. You offer to return me to life for information of Lord Raiden's location, and I accept thisss offer."
The Saurian's shoulders and head lift upward, as he finally breaks eye contact with the Apache below. His proud gaze points off into the distance.
Can the Earthrealmer truly be trusted to understand? Perhaps it is of little consequence, should the race of Saurians escape extinction for another century or more.
At long last, he begins to speak. One might expect him to be hesitant with the notion of possibly betraying the Sorceror's will, but in contrast to that...
Reptile is -proud- of the conquest of which he speaks.
"The Sssociety of the White Lotusss had been a thorn in the ssside of my massster for quite sssome time. I can sssay that it was quite a difficult challenge to sssingle out each of the members for dissspatch. It was much lesss of a challenge to wring life from their wretched bodiesss."
One does not need to see his face to know that a smile lurks behind the mask.
"Lord Raiden, though... naturally proved to be the mossst difficult prey of all. In the end... alasss."
His head shakes from side to side.
"I was, sssadly, reasssigned before learning hisss fate."
Syzoth's eyes fall back towards Nightwolf. The head and shoulders of the spirit remain high and proud. There -is- more that he could tell Nightwolf, more details that he could spare.
But his words will never betray his master.
So he assents to only that which is asked of him.
"To anssswer your quessstion, the lassst time I sssaw your Lord Raiden was in the compound of the White Lotusss. It is mossst regrettable that it is ssso very... far... away."
If this were any other island on Earth, perhaps travel would be in the realm of feasibility. But here upon this waystation between Earthrealm and Outworld, travel is difficult indeed, and venturing outside of the island's borders is tantamount to forfeiting one's position within the grand tournament.
Nightwolf expected such a declaration. Though it would have been ideal that Reptile realized the futility of following Outworld's leadership and took this as his opportunity to break free from his bonds, the shaman is well aware that Shang Tsung's yoke extends far beyond simple spoken orders. Reptile has surely been blinded into fanatical zeal after years of servitude, not only that, but his soul might very well be under a geas, compelling him to follow the Emperor's commands under the penalty of death.
The shaman doesn't try to argue Reptile's continued loyalty. That wasn't part of the deal anyway, Nightwolf does not pretend that he's trying to sway Reptile to fight for the cause of Earthrealm-- all he wants is to know where is Lord Raiden.
Everything else is secondary at this point.
After offering a nod of understanding, the shaman looks up to listen intently. The Saurain's confession that he paid a visit to the White Lotus earns an understandable frown from Nightwolf.
So this is why none of the monks are participating in the tournament. The newly form Society of the Full Moon had always seen in the White Lotus a sister organization, and it pained Nightwolf to learn that it was Reptile's doing the reason why their cousins did not show up to the last tournament.
It would be easy to go back on his word and let Reptile's soul rot within the statue.
But the Apache knows that his hatred towards the Saurian for killing his brothers in arms would be misplaced. Ultimately, Reptile is naught but a tool, he only does as he is commanded, to cut him from the material plane permanently would be to follow in the steps of Outworld.
No, Nightwolf will not forget Reptile transgressions.. but he will forgive him, for in the end, when Shang Tsung is dead and the Shao Kahn is forever banished to Outworld.. then will the true healing process will begin.
The Apache offers no retort to Reptile's apparent mocking tone of Raiden's whereabouts. He is too busy already elaborating a plan in his head to deal with the alleged location of Haokah. What should he do now? Abandon the tournament and relinquish his position in search for the Thunder God? Or let everyone know of Raiden's fate and press on without him?
Nightwolf will have to think about this one, though for now, there is another matter that requires his attention.
"You've held your end of the deal." Speaks the Apache in a straightforward tone, if he holds Reptile resentment for what he did he's certainly not showing it. "I will now hold mine."
Just as he promised, the Apache Brave holds up his soul shard and begins to channel its power upon the statue in order to bring Reptile back from the veil.
Much like any other individual, Nightwolf is allowed to harbor his own opinion of the creature known as Reptile. But the Apache shaman is much, much, much younger than the Saurian, and much more trusting than he perhaps ought to be.
Syzoth is not compromised in such a fashion. Here in the very palace of the Sorceror, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The reptilian servant is well aware of the great variety of thaumaturgical rituals that allow the Tyrant Sorceror to scry into any room in his abode, at any time. The reptilian servant is also aware that Shang Tsung's unique powers of deception far exceed the sensory abilities of most mortals -- himself, sadly, included.
Accordingly, it is necessary for him to state things which he does not inherently believe.
Hence, the necessity of cloaking his admissions within a boast. In the eyes of the Sorceror, simple-minded braggadocio is exponentially more excusable than outright treason.
It was a dangerous admission for Syzoth to make. The thought of Nightwolf turning away was one that crossed his mind. The Saurian had rationalized it that he would be no worse for wear if Nightwolf had simply turned away in disgust: he wouldn't be -more- dead.
As the shaman receives the information he requested, with a stone-faced expression that renders no particular judgment, the Saurian assassin nods his head in gratitude. "I thank you, ssshaman."
It wouldn't do to say more . Any further words would cast doubt on an already tenuous relationship.
Syzoth raises his shoulders, his spirit nearly sinking back into the depths of the shadow. But rather than disappearing, his spirit begins to glow with a bright blue aura -- a halo that grows more and more luminous as the soul shard funnels energy into it.
The statue itself begins to shudder, as the luminous, pupil-less eyes of the Saurian spirit close. His arms and legs are drawn backwards, gravitationally drawn into position.
A low rumbling can be heard. It is not the statue this time -- but the beginnings of a roar from Syzoth's spirit.
Nightwolf is indeed entitled to his opinion. That is -ultimately- why he is fighting for. To be free to do as he wishes and not be under the influence of some maniacal despot that would own him down to his very soul. He doesn't want to be Reptile-but he is within the liberty to free him from his torment if he so wishes. It is his choice and not gods or tyrants can ever dictate that to him.
Whether it is the right or wrong choice, he is willing to live with the consequences of his decision.
Set in his decision to revive Syzoth despite his allegiances or what he may have done in the service of Outworld, the shaman begins to channel more power from within and into the soul shard that will bring Reptile back from outside the veil. The Brave even grins somewhat viciously when he hears Reptile's thanks. To hear words of gratitude from an Outworld enforcer.. perhaps that simple gesture is enough for him to following through with this little experiment of his.
Once the Saurian's spirit returns to the statue and it in turn begins to rumble with power, the shaman takes this as his cue to empower his enchantment; help Reptile in that last pull back from the Netherrealm.
'Shunka ciela, Oi ci cielo! Uncimala yu! Omakia yo!" Powerful life energies flow from the shaman's hands and into the statue seeking the spiritual flow of the reptilian warrior. One last pull to bring the Saurian among the living.
"Now Syzoth! Return to the realm of life!!"
In another time, another place, Reptile could possibly be allies with Nightwolf. If the opportunity ever arose to overthrow the Sorceror Tyrant and the Emperor... perhaps.
But not now. The Apache shaman is granting him a boon at a considerable bargain to what might be expected him from any Outworld denizen -- if any had even bothered. Nightwolf's act alone will stand out in memory more than any words, or that vicious smile, ever would.
Syzoth's spirit aura grows in intensity. As the life energies emanate from the shaman's fingers into the statue, its shuddering increases dramatically. The pores in the stone, each smaller than a pinprick, begin to glow from within with that same blue-green light.
The pinpricks widen -- each growing brighter by the moment. As the bass roar rises in volume, fissures begin to form between each pore. Fissures widen into cracks, empowered by the aura. The statue grows, its surface area forced out from the inside.
And then stone begins to crumble apart. The arms are first, as large chunks of the thinner stone fall to the floor with a massive and dull thud. The impact is enough to pulverize the brittle stone into dust. Left behind is only a luminous form -- blue-green light, devoid of detail.
The statue's head falls next, followed shortly by the torso, the hips, the legs, and finally the feet free themselves from the stony prison.
And then the luminous form leaps down from the pedestal, landing in a kneeling posture at Nightwolf's feet.
The blindingly bright light vanishes almost instantly, leaving behind the form of Syzoth, outfitted just as he was prior to his battle with the Earthrealm witch. His skin still bears some sign of being forcefully reaquainted from the Netherrealm -- a faint, pale glow that refuses to go away entirely.
Syzoth exhales, his scaled fingers pressing against the cold marble of the floor. There is a sense that he might speak -- but for whatever reason, Syzoth does not say a word. Perhaps it is because the action of genuflecting to a servant of Earthrealm may speak volumes in itself.
This is not the first time that Nightwolf brings a soul back to life.
Long ago, the Apache shaman bargained with the Gods of the Egyptian pantheon for the soul of one Earthrealm agent known as Daniel Little. This experience and many others that delve with the supernatural had prepared the Brave well for what obstacles may appear when one deals with trails from beyond the veil of mortality.
Where others might have faltered at the crumbling stone as energy from the great beyond begins to pour through, Nightwolf holds fast- his sightless gaze staring straight on and he holds tightly to Raiden's totem whilst channeling his borrowed power. Whatever consequences the act of reviving a being of Outworld holds are left to be pondered at another time. Right now he has a life to return.
When the Saurian finally takes form by falling by Nightwolf's feet, the Apache exhales, momentarily ignoring the physical exhaustion exerted on his body that comes from reviving someone.
He controls his breathing after just a moment, dashing away any impression that may make him appear weak in the presence of an Outworld denizen. The better appearance he can give that he too holds great power despite being just an Earthrealmer the better-- for he knows that Reptile may not be the only one watching this event. Surely Shang Tsung must be aware that his servant has been returned to life by now.
For his part, the Brave says nothing to the newly revive Syzoth, returning that silence in kind. What words could he say? You're welcome? Those are not the words shared between warriors from opposing sides. Perhaps when Nightwolf eventually finds the Thunder God he might be reprimanded for his actions, for indeed, the permanent death of Syzoth would have been a great victory for Earthrealm, to think that no monk would have to fear the invisible stalker prowling in the shadows. And yet, like everything he does, this was an action that he did for the greater good.
Nightwolf holds no regrets but he's not naive enough to think that Reptile's gratitude would instantly make him turn sides. The shaman merely looks at the Saurian for a moment before silently turning to leave. Thumbs tucked inside his belt in that ever so casual manner of walking of his.
Still, Reptile has been shown a kindness that he's surely not used to. Though there may be no immediate reward, the Apache knows that the seed of doubt has been placed upon Syzoth's mind. When the time crucial time comes, perhaps Nightwolf can look for Reptile to help overthrow the cruel masters of Outworld. Only time will tell if everything will play out as Nightwolf hopes it will.
For the moment, he has other matters to attend to.. namely figuring out how to reach Raiden without leaving the island..
Syzoth's nostrils flare, breathing in the stale air of the Warrior Shrine. The spirit was able to sense a great deal, but there were a number of things which he hadn't realized he'd been missing out on. Real air, going through his real nostrils through to his real lungs -- even the lingering scent of death in the Warrior Shrine is a welcome sensation.
The Saurian is, for a moment, lost in the fugue of acclimating himself to the world of the living once again. Yes, Nightwolf is able to stand without gaining any particular response from the reptilian -- he's even able to walk away for a few steps without acknowledgement.
A rush of air is exhaled, as Reptile stands once again. As if breathing in was such a luxury that he had forgotten of the need to breathe out again.
Slitted eyes open, staring at the withdrawing form of the Apache. Not retreating -- for there is no battle, not this time. Nightwolf has made a great sacrifice in bringing him back to life, and as long as the Sorceror does not explicitly order it... he may have earned himself a pass from the Saurian assassin's attention.
He may even have earned himself an ally on the inside.
Syzoth nods to the Apache. And then steps backwards, sliding backwards into rippling, disrupted airflow as if he were submerging himself through the waters of a lake, only horizontally instead of vertically.
The distorted airflow obscures his form for a moment, but when the ripples calm, Syzoth is nowhere to be seen. The Saurian isn't sure who was watching -- indeed, he was not even certain if Nightwolf -was- the Sorceror himself. But he is not so foolish as to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Log created on 20:15:16 10/19/2016 by Reptile, and last modified on 22:44:00 10/26/2016.