What Lurks Below
Takanuva stepped into the meeting room, noting the rather tense atmosphere between the current inhabitants.
“Toa Takanuva.” Turaga Dume’s voice echoed lightly off the walls. “Welcome. I am glad you could make it.”
The Toa of light nodded politely even though the Turaga didn’t seem particularly happy about anything at all.
“We shall wait a moment longer for Toa Onua and Turaga Whenua to arrive, and then start.” Turaga Dume informed the group, sounding thoroughly downcast.
Takanuva glanced over at Jaller, who shrugged, looking confused. Hahli and Kongu both sat on either side of the Toa of fire, both with the same expression on their faces that Takanuva was feeling. Nuparu was absentmindedly tinkering with some new invention, while Hewkii would occasionally prod him and whisper something about moving one piece elsewhere. The five present Toa Nuva all looked slightly worried that Onua had yet to arrive. The six Turaga all had looks of great sorrow- and was that fear?
“Let us begin this meeting.” Turaga Dume sighed.
“We should wait longer.” Tahu interrupted, leaning forward. “I am sure that Onua will arrive soon.”
“No Tahu, he won’t.” Turaga Vakama replied, ignoring a furious look from Turaga Dume. “Nor will Turaga Whenua.”
“Why do you say that, Turaga?” Tahu questioned, shrugging off Kopaka’s warning hand.
“If you will listen, Toa, I shall explain.” Turaga Dume said curtly.
Tahu sat back in his seat, gesturing for the old Turaga to continue.
“Seven days ago, a team of five Onu-Matoran discovered strange new tunnels in the Archives below Onu-Metru.” Turaga Dume began. “Curious, they entered the tunnels to investigate. They were reported missing hours later when they did not turn up for evening inspection.”
“What does this have to do with us?” Takanuva asked, finding he was unable to stay silent.
Turaga Dume glared at him before continuing. “None of the Matoran could be found until two mornings ago, when three stumbled out of the Archives entrance in Ga-Metru. One was unconscious and carried by the others. One had been driven completely insane. The third has not spoken anything since informing us of where the tunnels were found.”
“What about the other two team members?” Nuparu questioned, abandoning his project.
“They are presumed dead.” Turaga Dume replied darkly.
Nuparu fell silent as the Turaga continued.
“Toa Onua and Turaga Whenua went down to investigate that afternoon. Neither of them has been heard from since. All that we have managed to find without going too far in was Turaga Whenua’s notepad, upon which he appears to have only had time to determine how the tunnels were made.” Turaga Dume explained. “We fear they have found whatever that team of Archivists ran into- and believe they are in grave need of help.”
As he finished speaking, silence enveloped the room. The hopeless feelings of the Turaga were evident, as well as the stunned reactions of all the Toa, before Jaller finally spoke.
“You sent in a Turaga to deal with something that drove a Matoran mad?!” he exclaimed. “Why not send all of us? Why not send Nuparu, at least?”
“Thanks Jaller. I love you too.” Nuparu muttered.
“Onua was our most experienced Toa of earth.” Turaga Vakama responded. “Turaga Whenua was the most knowledgeable Archivist we know. It made sense for them to search. We did not send all of you because we were afraid this would happen, and we would be unable to do anything about it.”
Jaller fell silent.
“So you want us all to search now.” Tahu spoke again. “For Onua, Whenua, and the two missing Matoran.”
“Not just two Matoran.” Turaga Dume cut in; his face twisted into what Takanuva could only guess was fear or anger. “Over the years, there have been many reports of Archivists disappearing in that area, but only if they were alone. That was why it was a team exploring that area last week.”
Takanuva considered activating his Kanohi to provide some optimism, but decided against it. Now wasn’t the time.
“When do we leave?” he asked.
“You volunteer already?” Turaga Onewa croaked from his seat in the corner (which Takanuva now noticed was not actually at the table). “You are foolish, Toa.”
“All Toa are.” Takanuva retorted. “Otherwise we wouldn’t do what we do.”
Turaga Onewa nodded in agreement, and Turaga Dume began to speak once more.
“Who else will volunteer for this job?”
Tahu’s hand was the first to hit the table.
“I will go on this mission.” He announced, glancing at Jaller and Takanuva. “This team will need every source of light it can get.”
Jaller didn’t need the hint; he was already speaking himself.
“I will join as well.”
The rest of the Toa each volunteered too, giving Takanuva both a dose of confidence and a dose of fear.
“It is decided.” Turaga Dume nodded gravely. “Go, Toa. And I pray that you will return.”
Takanuva stood, his chair scraping against the floor as he pushed it back. The other Toa did the same.
“Farewell Turaga.” Takanuva replied, tension forming a knot in his stomach. “See you later.”
Later on, Onu-Metru, the Archives:
The group halted in front of a single tunnel. It was roughly the height of a Toa and a half, and looked wide enough for two Toa to stand next to each other. It was completely dark inside it, and Takanuva could feel something ancient in the air.
“It looks wide enough for us to go two at a time.” Tahu observed. “Kopaka and I will take the front, followed by Takanuva and Hahli. Hewkii and Kongu will follow, and then Pohatu and Jaller. Gali and Nuparu will be behind them, and Lewa can bring up the rear.”
Takanuva glanced at the Toa Nuva of air, who looked visibly shaken.
“You alright Lewa?” he asked.
“Y-yes... everything is good-fine...” Lewa replied nervously.
“Alright; fall in.” Tahu ordered.
Takanuva turned around and found Hahli. Once Tahu and Kopaka had entered the tunnel, they did so as well.
“Takanuva, turn on your light.” Tahu ordered.
The Toa of light raised his palm and an orb of light appeared, illuminating most of the group. Nuparu winced at the change, but the others looked reassured.
“This place is creepy.” Jaller whispered. “I think we should have two Toa in the back.”
“Fine, join Lewa.” Tahu replied without turning around. “You fine with that, Lewa?”
Lewa didn’t reply.
“Lewa! Are you fine with Jaller joining you?” Tahu asked louder.
No response again. Tahu sighed in frustration.
“Gali, Nuparu, make him reply.” He ordered.
The Toa Mahri of earth turned, and Jaller created an orb of flame to illuminate the passageway. Nuparu jumped back when the end of the line was revealed, and Gali gasped.
“W-Where is Lewa?” Nuparu questioned, his voice trembling. “T-There wasn’t any sound....”
Takanuva felt fear rising in his chest, but pushed it down.
“We have to keep going.” He told them all. “Perhaps Lewa was taken by whatever took Onua and Whenua.”
“Takanuva is right.” Tahu decided frustration evident in his voice. “Nuparu and Gali, be extra careful.”
The group continued along, until they reached a large, round cavern. Six different passageways branched away from it. Tahu cursed.
“We pick one and take it.” He ordered. “Nobody is to split up. Do you understand?”
Everyone replied except for Nuparu, and Takanuva’s heartlight felt cold.
“Nuparu?” Kongu called.
Takanuva was about to speak when a terrible screeching echoed throughout the cavern, bouncing off the walls, making it impossible to pinpoint the location. Kongu and Pohatu both sped into a tunnel to their right, while Gali and Hewkii went to the left. Takanuva hesitated before running after Kongu and Pohatu, Hahli still at his side.
“Are we going to disappear one by one?” Hahli asked him, fear in her eyes.
“I don’t know.” Takanuva replied. “It seems like it. This means we need to be fast.”
He crashed into something and he tumbled to the floor, his light winking out.
“Put that thing back on!” Kongu yelled from on top of him. “Put it on now!”
The Toa of light sighed with relief. He’d crashed into a Toa of air, not something from the shadows. He stood, activating his orb of light again. Hahli screamed when she saw the wall. Nuparu’s shield was embedded in the rock, and his Cordak blaster was in pieces.
“I tripped over the blaster.” Pohatu told them sadly. “He must have wounded whatever it was.”
“Why would he go off on his own, though?” Hahli questioned, shaking. “Tahu told us....”
“He was taken.” Takanuva told her gently. “He... he fought back.”
“We need to move on.” Jaller’s voice came from behind them as he approached. “If Nuparu did injure whatever it is, we need to move fast. There’s no telling what it’s done to him or Onua or Lewa.”
Takanuva nodded. “Where are the others?”
Jaller shook his head, shrugging. “They all split up into the different tunnels.”
Takanuva activated his Kanohi, spreading feelings of optimism in the surrounding Toa.
“Let’s go then.” Kongu said regretfully. “We need to find Nuparu.”
Takanuva took the lead, guiding Hahli away from the scene by the arm. After a moment she shook him off, continuing on her own. Jaller and Pohatu took the middle, and Kongu the rear.
“We should try and regroup with some of the others.” Kongu told them. “Otherwise-”
The Toa of air suddenly fell quiet, and Takanuva didn’t need to look back to know what had happened- but he did anyway. When he did so, there was no sign Kongu had ever been there- just a long, hollow blackness. Takanuva shivered, and knew that they were being hunted.
“It’s only a matter of time until we’re all taken.” Jaller told them, trembling. “Let’s... let’s go.”
They were turning back around, preparing to continue when the sounds of feet thudding on the rock began approaching from behind, and curses could be heard.
“Behind or in front?!” Takanuva exclaimed.
Pohatu felt the wall. “In front.”
Jaller lead the charge towards it; they ran for thirty seconds before crashing into three others.
“No! Go the other way!” Tahu cried out. “It’s coming! Run! It took Gali!”
Takanuva’s light had dimmed to the point where he could only make out Kopaka standing right beside him as he pulled Pohatu to his feet and began running in the direction they’d come. After several minutes, the group reached the circular cavern they’d been in before.
“Get us a light!” Tahu whispered hoarsely.
Takanuva sent a light to float over their heads, illuminating the entire chamber. He could see Pohatu, Hahli, Tahu, Kopaka, and Hewkii.
“Where’s Jaller?” he questioned. “Jaller!”
“He’s gone.” Kopaka responded harshly. “Shut up, and stop revealing our position.”
Sorrow washed over Takanuva, and he buried his head in his hands. His best friend was gone just like that. A reassuring hand rested itself on his shoulder, but Takanuva didn’t look up.
“We need to keep moving.” Pohatu’s voice said gently. “Come on, Takanuva. Without you, we’re lost.”
Takanuva nodded, standing to his feet. Tahu was waiting at another tunnel.
“Let’s go.” The Toa Nuva of fire ordered. “We don’t have all day.”
Takanuva followed him into the tunnel; one they were all in, a whoosh was heard and Hewkii swore.
“Pohatu’s gone.” The Toa Mahri of stone announced. “It seems to be getting-”
His voice vanished. Tahu broke into a run, and the others followed. Takanuva could feel the fear, the horror, and the tension sparking through the air between them.
“Gotta-find-somewhere-safe.” Kopaka muttered.
“You think?” Tahu muttered.
Takanuva glanced away from Tahu to check on Kopaka and Hahli- and then another whoosh, a blast of heat, and Tahu was gone.
“Everything’s going wrong.” Kopaka muttered.
Takanuva glanced ahead again, firing a laser of light to no avail. Suddenly, he and Hahli were blasted forward and the tunnel became freezing cold, a cocoon of it beginning to form around him and Hahli.
“Kopaka...” Hahli trailed off.
“We’re the last ones left.” Takanuva confirmed, breaking out of the ice. “It’s freezing in here. I don’t think we’ll see it for a little-”
He hesitated, listening.
“Not Hahli.” A voice croaked. “She is gone. We must find its hideout. You were foolish to come here.”
Takanuva turned around. The voice belonged to Onua, Toa Nuva of earth.
Hours Later, the Archives:
“How come it hasn’t attacked again?” Takanuva questioned.
“It thrives on shadow.” Onua replied, his voice still scratchy. “You repel It. It waits for a better opportunity to strike.”
“It knows I fear It. It has no need to worry about me.”
“You speak of “It” as if that’s its title.” Takanuva observed.
“I do not know what It is called, so that is what I called It.” Onua croaked.
“How did you get away?” Takanuva asked.
Onua fell silent; for the last several hours he’d refused to speak about his experience with It. Takanuva sighed in frustration before trying a different question.
“Are we close?”
“Yes... very close.” Onua wheezed, coughing. “I must... I must warn you about Turaga Whenua. He is not the same... and some of your friends may not be either.”
A faint hissing could now be heard; Takanuva readied for battle. Onua chuckled dryly.
“No need for that, Toa. That sound is not It. That is Whenua’s defence against It.”
“And it works?”
“It has not bothered him for awhile, so I suppose it does.” Onua said sadly.
Then Takanuva’s light revealed a chamber. It was smaller than the cavern he’d seen earlier in the day, but still large enough to house twelve Toa comfortably- if it hadn’t been located in the scariest place in Metru-Nui.
“There he is.” Onua pointed. “Turaga Whenua.”
The Turaga looked worse for wear; his staff was gone and one of his arms was twisted at an odd angle. At the sight of Onua the Turaga mumbled several things under his breath before continuing with the hissing.
“What’s wrong with him?” Takanuva queried.
“Driven mad by It.” Onua coughed. “It will do that to you, should you not escape.”
“This place is enough to drive someone mad.” Takanuva muttered. “Turaga Whenua, come. We are leaving.”
“No escape.” The Turaga replied. “It comes and feeds all the days. No escape from the Archived City. No escape from the puzzle. The day is a holiday of the first kind....”
Takanuva glanced at Onua questioningly; the Toa of earth shrugged before picking up the Turaga with no effort. Whenua did nothing to stop him.
“I thought he didn’t want to leave.” Takanuva commented.
“His mind is not the same, nor is mine.” Onua informed him. “You would do well to remember that, Toa of light.”
The two of them made their way out a different tunnel. After several minutes, Takanuva discovered a pool of water at the bottom of a section that sloped upwards.
“This was not here before.” Onua murmured. “Curious, is it not?”
“It’s Gali or Hahli!” Takanuva exclaimed, rushing up the slope.
At the top he found Hahli, bruised and worn out, but clearly happy to see another Toa.
“Are you alright?” Takanuva asked, crouching down to help her up.
The Toa Mahri of water nodded as she stood, smiling weakly when Onua made it over the slope with Turaga Whenua.
“We have found another Toa.” Onua coughed quietly. “Good, good. Let us begin our journey back to the surface once again. If we are lucky, a few of the others will be in this hall as well.”
As they made the journey back through the tunnels, they found Lewa wandering the tunnels fine but alone and frightened roughly an hour after the finding of Hahli. Tahu was found beaten near death to the point that he had to be carried by the others. Hewkii found them two hours into the journey, having broken out of a stone cocoon trap.
“I think some of the others might be in them too.” Hewkii told them. “And I saw Kopaka frozen completely in a block of ice.”
The knowledge that he could’ve saved Kopaka infuriated Takanuva, but he continued on his way.
“Why hasn’t It attacked us?” Lewa questioned. “It’s been hours.”
“I think we’ve been in here close to a day now.” Takanuva told him. “Half of that I’ve spent with it not being near us. It’s waiting for something.”
“You become wiser, Toa of light.” Onua nodded gravely. “It does not wish for us to leave. We could feed it for many months.”
“Feed it?” Hewkii questioned. “What do you mean?”
“Feeding necessary for all life forms.” Whenua muttered. “It must feed always. We’ll be here forever. The fourth law of the conservation of Rahkshi is....”
Hewkii glanced at the Turaga questioningly, and then to Takanuva and Onua.
“I mean precisely what I said.” Onua replied with his new grating voice. “If you stay down here long enough, you will learn what I mean.”
Hewkii fell silent, and Takanuva smiled grimly, shifting Tahu a bit to try and get a little relief in his muscles. Then the group halted, as the sounds of someone- or something panting heavily reached them.
“Is that...?” Lewa trailed off.
Onua shook his head as Jaller came into view. The Toa Mahri of fire’s eyes burned with desperation and his tools were gone. His armour had new scars and bits of... something were scattered over him. Jaller’s Kanohi was pitted and had a scratch down the left side.
“Jaller... are you all right?” Takanuva tried.
“So dark... so cold... always cold, so dark....” Jaller muttered as he stumbled towards them, limping badly. “So many... everywhere... all the shadows... so dark... so cold....”
Takanuva turned, dismayed, to Onua, who bowed his head.
“Jaller has survived and escaped from a direct encounter with It.” Onua told him. “He is lucky his condition is not worse.”
Tahu stirred, waking up.
“Where am I?” the Toa Nuva of fire groaned weakly. “Put me down.”
Takanuva and Hahli set him down gently; he staggered before leaning on the wall. Jaller seemed to recognize them for the first time.
“You are a Toa.” He said, squinting at Takanuva. “You are very bright... I know you.”
Jaller glanced at the rest of the Toa assembled, nodding to each of them in turn.
“I know all of you!” he continued proudly.
Takanuva felt a lump in his throat, and he continued on his way, guiding Jaller and Tahu with him. Hahli placed a hand on his arm, glancing at him in worry.
“He’ll be alright, Takanuva.” She whispered. “And we’ll save the others. Everything is going to be alright. We just need more time, and more of a plan next time.”
“More of a plan....” Takanuva repeated. “That might be suitable.”
A screech behind them made the entire group jump; Whenua and Jaller began scrambling, and Takanuva and Onua had to struggle to keep a hold on them.
“We must run!” Onua whispered hoarsely. “It’s out only chance!”
“Bad thing is coming!” Whenua muttered frantically. “Must run! Must hide! Hiss!”
The Turaga began hissing loudly, but the screeching continued to grow closer.
“Hiss is not working!” Jaller mumbled. “Run away from it!”
The Toa Mahri of fire broke free of his bonds and bolted in the direction he’d originally come from; Lewa immediately began to follow.
“Go!” Onua yelled, throwing Whenua onto his shoulder and running past them. “If you stay here, you will see horrors the likes of which you can never imagine!”
Takanuva shoved Hahli in front of him and she followed Onua; Tahu stumbled and fell to the ground, crying out in pain. One glance told Takanuva that Tahu wasn’t walking anywhere.
“Hewkii!” he called. “I need help!”
The Toa Mahri of stone summoned up a wall of rock to appear behind them, and then rushed over. The two of them picked up Tahu and ran; after a minute the wall of rock could be heard falling apart behind them.
“Did you do that?” Takanuva asked as they ran, gasping for breath. “Please tell me you did....”
“No, that’s It.” Hewkii replied, sucking in a breath.
Everything became a blur as they ran through the tunnel. Lewa fell down, dragged himself up, and kept going. Hahli was saved from tripping by Jaller, who appeared to be recovering slightly from his experiences earlier. Whenua thrashed in Onua’s arms as the screeching chased after them from behind, forcing the Toa Nuva of earth to knock him out. Hewkii collapsed and Lewa took up the burden with Tahu, Hahli pulling the Toa Mahri of stone to his feet.
“We’re almost there!” the Toa of water urged as they reached the cavern from before. “Run! We’ll be out soon!”
“It will not follow us into the Archives!” Onua called. “Make it there, we survive!”
The screeching sounded as if it had sped up, causing Jaller to scream in horror. It was a horrible sound to hear coming from a Toa, and the rest of them sped up in a battle to get out first. The tunnel grew smaller as they grew closer to the exit; Takanuva and Lewa were forced into last place as they tried to get Tahu out safely. Up ahead, Takanuva could hear Jaller woop with pleasure as he escaped, followed by Onua’s cry of triumph.
“Takanuva, hurry!” Hahli called from ahead. “You’re almost there!”
Lewa fell down and didn’t get up. Crying out in desperation, Takanuva threw Tahu ahead of them and began dragging Lewa behind him. Hewkii shoved Tahu up and the two began hopping away. Weakness began to spread through Takanuva’s limbs, as well as hopelessness.
“Leave me behind.” Lewa coughed as he failed to stand. “I’m too weak....”
“No....” Takanuva shook his head. “Gotta be It’s doing... we can do this....”
He pulled as hard as he could on Lewa, and the Toa of air pushed himself to the limits. Takanuva heard Hewkii’s cry of relief, signalling his exit from the tunnel. The screeching was nearby; one minute and they were gone.
“COME ON, LEWA!” Takanuva screamed. “We WILL do this!”
The Toa Nuva of air got to his feet and helped Takanuva stand, and the two stumbled along.
“I remember this....” Lewa muttered. “So close....”
They were there; the two of them stumbled out of the tunnel into the waiting arms of Hewkii and Hahli, as Onua made the tunnel entrance collapse. Takanuva sobbed with relief, hugging Hahli, Hewkii, and Lewa close in a death grip.
“We made it out!” Lewa laughed. “We’re alive....”
Onua stabbed a pole into the earth that had been the tunnel entrance, and Tahu burnt a marker into it. Takanuva let go of the others and stumbled to them.
“We’ll have to go back, won’t we?” Hewkii asked from behind them.
“Some of us, yes.” Takanuva sighed, staring at the marker burnt into the dirt.
Onua nodded, sadness etched in his face. Tahu sat back wearily beside Jaller and Turaga Whenua on the opposite wall. Turning around, Takanuva glanced up towards the entrance to the Archives at the top of a ladder nearby.
“Do the honours, Takanuva.” Lewa invited. “Show us the daylight.”
Summoning the last of his strength, Takanuva began to climb. When he reached the top, he gave a mighty push and the entrance scraped open, allowing sunlight to pour in. The Toa of light climbed out, helping Tahu, Jaller, and Whenua before the others joined him.
“Daylight....” Hahli said wistfully. “It’s wonderful.”
Takanuva smiled, and the others did too. Sure, they’d have to enter those tunnels again, but for now, they could enjoy the sunshine. After all, what would they be without it?
How was it? My apologies for the length, it ended up being longer than I anticipated. However, I think it might be alright.
Reviews are much appreciated, as this is only my third serious Bionicle story.