What Lurks Below
Time: 0100 hours after BoRoD (Beginning of Reign of Darkness)
“Helryx, this is Sayphay, do you copy? Repeat, Helryx, do you copy?”
All the transmitter gave in reply was static. Frustrated, Queen Sayphay chucked it across her throne room, not caring what kind of condition it would be in when it landed, than slumped down in the throne itself, rubbing her temples and wanting to know how the whole business had gone wrong. The restoration of the Great Spirit Mata Nui should have been foolproof, and should’ve had next to no friendly casualties – more importantly, no casualties of leaders.
Judging solely from the fact her attempts to raise the Toa of Water were failing, that last part was proven wrong. The fact Makuta Teridax’s Plan had succeeded was another nail in the coffin. When dealing with a creature as slippery as Teridax, when she got static, the most logical assumption was that her ally was dead.
On one hand, this wasn’t good. Helryx was the leader of the Order of Mata Nui – an organization that Sayphay belonged to, and was a general in their army – as well as being the first Toa in the universe. Her experience, power, and knowledge would be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
On the other hand, though, there had been undeniable tension between the Queen and the Order’s leader. As the leader of the Guardians – an all-female species said to be the keepers of the Light – it was Sayphay’s Duty to protect her people’s lives and interests, and the most important rule of their culture was to keep knowledge of themselves hidden from the universe. Helryx had wanted them to expose their existence to the universe by integrating the Guardians with the Order’s troops – a cause for the greater good, no doubt, but for the cost it would be to them.
The Guardians were not a populous species, after all. To do what Helryx had wanted would likely have spelled the extinction of them all, including the Queen. Inwardly, Sayphay had wondered if that had been her intention all the while.
The fact remained – Helryx was likely dead. Teridax had succeeded with his Plan, and was hunting down his opponents as she sat and brooded. The only reason Riaya had not yet been invaded was that her powers – the powers granted to her and her predecessors by Mata Nui himself – masked the island’s exact location. Those same powers had also granted her people, who were already capable of protecting their minds from outside influence, the type of invulnerability that only the Psionics tribe had until now.
Outside her palace, the Iron Queen knew her people were preparing for war – but in dead seriousness now, as they lacked the safety net of Mata Nui’s grip on the universe. With Helryx gone, she was the most powerful warleader, with the possible exception of Tahu Nuva.
However, she knew there was another that they could lean on.
Shutting her eyes, Sayphay cast her mind out, seeking what she knew she would not find. Where there should have been a powerful presence there was nothing but a void. Beneath her Kanohi Kakama, she smiled – she had not been the only one to lock down with Teridax in power.
Without opening her green eyes, she murmured, “Ready my ship.” Necra, the leader of the Shadow Division, was always lurking nearby these days, prepared to protect her if anything foolish enough to enter her domain tried to attack the Queen. “Have Ragne, Aroka, and Aura be ready to join me – I will need them.”
“Destination?” Necra’s whispering voice inquired.
“38 kio south-southeast of Shi-Nui. The island’s name is Rohaya.”
Time: 0300 hours after BoRoD
Kronus bit down hard on his bottom lip, watching the sleek ship that had cruised effortlessly through the protective dome that shielded his home base from Teridax’s hungry gaze. The Toa of Gravity wasn’t sure just how long this implement would last – the Brotherhood had attacked the island in the past – but by Mata Nui, he and his team would make the most of the protection their patron Great Being could give them.
A scarlet-orange blur heralded Paytah’s return to the fortress. Beside the purple-black Toa were Ares and Eos, Kronus’ deputies and a Toa of Magnetism and Water respectively. Normally a jokester, this time the Toa of Fire didn’t waste time giving the report. “Atlas and the others have them – there were only four of them at first, but Sirien detected another lurking in the shadows. They’re escorting them here now.”
The words had barely escaped his lips when crashing in the underbrush announced the team of ten more Toa trooping towards the stronghold. As the other Toa Rohaya emerged from the forest, revealing their captives, the leader of the Toa Rohaya quickly assessed them – all of them were female. Two were wearing matte black armor, making them uncomfortably resemble Shadow Toa: Stara, Alvis, Egan, and Baird all had their weapons out as they flanked the pair. Another resembled a female Toa of Magnetism, while the fourth had the white and gold of the Light element. Kronus caught the gaze of Sirien, quirked an eyebrow, and let some of his surprise filter out of his mind. The Toa of Psionics shrugged: she had no idea how there was another Toa of Light, either.
Continuously, though, the violet-black Toa’s eyes constantly fell back upon the largest and tallest of them, a female that wore the gunmetal and orange armor of the Iron tribe. All four of the others had gemstones that were embedded into their shoulder plates, but she just had one golden topaz set into the brow of her Kanohi Kakama.
The group halted in front of those gathered. All four of the lesser females – at this point, Kronus was convinced they were subordinate to the Iron one – were glaring angrily at him, but their commander met his gaze calmly.
The Gravity Toa took comfort in that the others were just beyond the gates of their fortress, waiting for something to go awry, then addressed Atlas and Sirien, who had been leading the group. “What can you tell us?”
The Toa of Iron shook his head. “They refused to tell us how they found the island, who they are, or why they’re here. They said they would only speak to you.”
Kronus shifted his gaze to Sirien, who nodded agreement. “When I touched their minds, they were shielded as strongly as another of my tribe,” she reported. “I could not read their intentions.”
The Gravity Toa nodded, and looked again at the females that were still surrounded by their wary-eyed guards. “Well?” he asked, when a few moments went by with no one speaking
The one with the topaz-brow stepped forward as much as the Toa would allow her, locking fierce emerald eyes with the Toa. “Kronus Rohaya,” she said briskly, with the air of someone used to command. “My name is Sayphay, and I am the Queen of my people. I have a preposition for you and your team.”
Underneath the rock and soil, the grass and trees, the water and the ancient structures built by a civilization long gone, there lurked an energy that was the color of fire. It swirled, like the arms of a galaxy, while the furthest edges were forced to curl back on themselves, because it could not extend beyond the borders of the island above.
Like the antidermis of the Makuta, the energy was the life-force of a powerful being. Unlike the Makuta, though, this being was far older, far stronger, and far wiser.
Its name had been lost to time, so it went by the name given to its Toa: Rohaya, the Matoran word for “Heart of the Volcano.” Once it had had a true body, laboring to create this universe alongside the Great Beings, and now it was trapped as energy inside its work; had been trapped for millennia. Rage at the betrayal had once caused it to vent the molten rock its anger produced out of the mouth of the Krycai Volcano and expand the island’s borders, but for much longer it had been quiet, dedicated to fulfilling its Purpose, the final task the Great Beings had set upon it.
For the last two thousand years, Rohaya had given its Toa its power to perform their duties and take a stand against the Brotherhood, but now it was tired and fearful. Immobility was wearing thin: while the shields it had erected against the arch-Makuta were strong, it would not hold forever. Funneling strength would not be enough to defeat the usurper.
It wanted to be free again: free to walk on two legs; free to speak with a mouth and vocal cords; free to fight without relying on surrogates. Its original body had been seven bio tall and made from steel and obsidian, but it had been destroyed for aeons. It would settle for a Matoran-sized body made of dirt and rock, if it meant freedom.
Treading the surface of its prison were people new to its Toa, but Rohaya had known of them since life had begun in the universe. From afar, it had watched their civilization grow and prosper; sensed the power of the Queens, and – with the instinctive knowledge of a chained animal – realized their power could set it free, if only they would come to the island.
Yet up until now, none had. Perhaps the gifts given to them by Mata Nui had caused it, but the Queens had been aware of Rohaya, and had forbidden their people from setting foot upon the island. This Queen, though, the third – ah! Refreshingly open-minded, and willing to ignore taboos to achieve what was necessary.
Far below, it waited for her to reach the place where its chains were binding it. There, she would speak, and there, it would answer.
The chamber had three walls: where the fourth should’ve been, there was only empty space that opened into the Krycai Volcano’s shaft. Waves of smothering heat pelted Saypahy and her entourage, and while Necra, Ragne, Aroka, and Aura stoically gave no indication that they were uncomfortable, the Guardian Queen wished that she hadn’t insisted that the two Rohayan Water Toa stay behind.
Beside her, Kronus stepped forward and rose up his arms in a gesture of greeting and summoning. Behind his Kanohi Iden, the Toa of Gravity’s eyes reflected the red glow of the molten rock in the magma chamber, as he solemnly addressed the forced that dwelled below.
“Rohaya, you know of our peril. The Makuta have usurped Mata Nui’s place. Before you stands Sayphay, Queen of the Guardians, and her guard. I ask of you to manifest and converse with us, for they wish to form an alliance.”
For a moment silence engulfed the chamber again, save for the faint bubbling of the lava below. The Guardian wondered if Rohaya would remain aloof, but then noticed that the heat waves seemed to be consolidating into a faint outline, roughly the size and shape of a Toa. Blue, disembodied lights materialized as the outline became almost solid. When Rohaya finally spoke, it was with the shape of a Fire Toa, and a voice that fluctuated from feminine soprano and masculine bass. Hail, Sayphay, Third Guardian of Guardians.
“You know who I am,” the Iron Queen said, eyes fixed upon the spirit: for all she cared now, everyone else might as well have been gone. “You know what I will ask of you.”
You are bold, to try and break chains forged by the Great Beings.
“I am bold because without you, we are lost.”
You speak truly. Rohaya’s body began to shimmer and shift, turning into the shape of a dragon and stretching half-formed leather wings. It would be a relief to escape my prison, though it would cause the destruction of this island.
“If I break your chains, will you fight beside us?”
I will … but I must ask another thing from you in return.
The Guardian braced herself for whatever might be asked as she replied. “What is it?”
Rohaya’s dragon head turned to fully lock eyes with the Queen. When we win – and I know that we will – there will be much rebuilding to be done. The universe will never be the way it had been before the Great Cataclysm. During the time that the people are picking up the pieces, the Great Beings will come. They will try to imprison me again, and punish those that set me free.
I ask of you that when that time comes, that I protect you. Let me be your Guardian.
Sayphay considered the idea for less than a minute, than nodded. “I agree to your terms.”
The imprisoned Being seemed to smile, before shifting its focus past the Queen. Kronus.
“I’m here.” The Gravity Toa’s soft voice was jarring after the fluctuating tones of Rohaya.
I will send you back to the fortress. Gather the others, your weapons, your possessions. The moment I set foot off this island, it will be destroyed. We will relocate to Riaya, the Queen’s homeland.
A surprised look crossed the male’s face, but he quickly disguised it. “Yes, but what of our agreement with Shi-Nui?”
If they are wise, they will adapt. There are no more ships to raid here: the Makuta can move anything anywhere he desires now.
A soft sigh wafted through the chamber, and an abnormally cool breeze pressed against Sayphay’s cheek. When she turned around, Kronus was gone, along with Aura, Ragna, and Aroka: only Necra, eternally faithful Necra, remained. For whatever reason, Rohaya had not sent her away.
Turning back, the Queen found that the dragon-shape had rolled over onto its side, and its shackles began to materialize. Forged of a substance similar to protosteel, bands of a grey-violet metal were tightly wrapped around each ankle, with the chains that sprouted from the cuffs meeting in the middle of the dragon’s belly. A thicker chain sprouted from the common joint, plunging into the volcanic rock and vanishing from view. While it was clear that Rohaya had struggled against them in the past, for the most part it was as perfect as the day the Great Beings had shackled their creation to the island that became its prison.
Before Sayphay had become a ruler, she had held a job at a forge, and she still remembered what she had been taught about metalwork. Examining the chains, she determined that the best place to focus on was the link that tied the separate chains together. Sever that link, and Rohaya would not be tied to the island, though the cuffs would remain. Hopefully Rohaya would be able to destroy the manacles itself.
Kneeling before the links, she locked eyes with the spirit again. “Kronus said that you share your strength with him and his team. Will you share with me?”
There is nothing that can stand before us when we unite our powers. In her mind, the Iron Queen felt an alien presence manifest as Rohaya slipped its consciousness into her own, merging and becoming one. It was a rush as its raw power filled her, like she had been raised to a level of power that Mata Nui had felt, and as she crouched, body shaking from the energy that racked her frame, she felt like she could stand alone, against an army of thousands, and kill each and every one.
Opening her eyes – she had closed them involuntarily – she pressed her hands against that link in the chain, wrapped her fingers around the metal so tightly that she quickly felt sore, and focused every iota of her power to that one task: to destroy it completely.
But creations forged by the Great Beings are difficult to destroy, even with the wills of two powerful entities pitting against them. By the time the metal began to rust, Sayphay’s limbs were shaking in exhaustion. Necra tried to approach and add her powers into the mix, if only to ease the burden on her friend and Queen, but the Guardian of Iron raised her eyes away for a brief moment to glare at her guard, and the Head Shadow retreated.
Beads of sweat dripped from her organic components: even with Rohaya’s nigh-inexhaustible wells of strength supplementing the powers that were said to have been granted to the Guardian Queens by the Great Spirit himself, it felt like it was taking years to weaken the metal. A migraine was forming, her legs felt like they were turning to jelly beneath her, and Sayphay felt like she was nearing collapse.
Rohaya noticed it before Sayphay did: the link that tied the spirit to the island had fallen into three pieces, with one third clutched in her hands and the others on the ground. As the Queen collapsed in exhaustion and Necra – face pale behind her Kanohi Tryna – hurried to her side, the spirit moved, for the first time in eons, unhindered by its chains. With a cry of delight, the dangling chains snapped away, for without the rock below and the common link to keep it secure, the chains were no match for the might of a being that was over one hundred thousand years old.
Free at last! it exalted, spinning in unbound joy and shifting shapes faster than Sayphay’s dazed eyes could comprehend, metal flowing up from below to forge a new shape.
The Guardian of Magnetism ignored the other being as she helped her kneeling Queen back to her feet. “I wish you could have let me help, M’Lady,” she murmured into the other’s ear as she took Sayphay’s weight into her shoulders.
“It was my choice to make, old friend. Even with Rohaya’s help, I fear we could have lost you if you joined in.”
“I would rather expire knowing you were alive than stand idle again, my Queen.”
A small, sad smile crossed the face of the Iron Queen. “I need you alive, Necra – after all, there is not much time to change my line of succession, should my heir die.”
Astonished, Necra fell silent: it was the first time Queen Sayphay had told anyone about her chosen heir, much less to the heir herself. Satisfied, the Guardian of Iron turned back to Rohaya, who was now standing still, waiting patiently for them. The spirit had reassumed bipedal form, resembling a Guardian of Fire, and for a moment she marveled at the similarities between Rohaya’s shape and the legendary Guardian hero Lady M.
Smiling, the spirit held out its right hand, and Sayphay reached out to return the handshake. You have fulfilled your promise, it whispered, now feminine to match the shape. Now I shall fulfill mine. I will fight beside you – I and my Toa – and when the Great Beings come, I shall act as the shield between their fury and you and your heir, should circumstances be less than ideal.
It was less than an hour after Rohaya was released that its island prison was destroyed. Like it had never existed at all, trees, rock, and metal sank into the sea, washing away all traces of the civilization that had thrived there millennium ago, before the native people had been destroyed by their own infighting.
Rohaya remembered them, as it remembered every being that had walked upon the surface of its prison. Standing on the deck of Sayphay’s ship, the Toa-shaped being smiled fondly as it remembered each and every face that had lived and died on that land: sometimes dying by each other’s hand, but usually it had killed them. Even if the only body it had was its prison, the island had still been its body, and much of the time it loathed those that had violated that simple fact.
Kronus and the other Toa Rohaya were different, though. That had been why it had called them to the island, brought them together and given them its strength. They had been the embodiment of its Purpose, to protect Mata Nui. But now that Mata Nui was banished from the universe, they could not remain on the island any longer. They would need to find the Great Spirit before it could take up its Purpose again.
No more would Rohaya be an underground lurker, a dweller in the darkness.
Let the Great Beings think what they wanted.
In the meantime, there was work to be done. Rohaya sent a mental final farewell to the place where its prison had floated, and then turned away and vanished inside Sayphay’s ship.
A/N: Wow, that was one of the weirder SSs’ I’ve written. For the sake of readers that are unfamiliar with my work, this is essentially a crossover between two different Bionicle storylines I’ve written over time: the Heroes and Halflings series, and the Guardians series. My MO for writing this was to remove the one major event that defines H&H (the Massacre of Rohaya) and the fallout from it, place the Toa team into the Guardian universe (where everything happens as it should, per the official canon), and let things kick off from the beginning of Reign of Darkness.
C&C is always appreciated. Thanks for reading, and may the best writer win.
Edited by Inferna Firesword, Nov 15 2011 - 11:42 PM.