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Journey Into The Light
Part II: Peacetime
Summer 2 : 4 (again)
My nap was cut short this afternoon, but it turned out to be a good thing. As I was dreaming about the defeat of the Bohrok-Kal, and reliving the vision Toa Gali had sent to me from the Bahrag lair the day before, I heard voices. “Hey, leave him alone, he’s sleeping,” said one.
“Yeah, maybe we can catch him later,” agreed the other voice, closer to my head. I heard the unmistakable sound of a lava board scraping the stone floor of my hut, and my eyes snapped open.
“Aww, you woke him up!”
I sat up and looked around. My surfing buddies, Raku and Lito, were tiptoeing out of the room.
“It’s all right,” I smiled.
“Takua!” they yelled, running over to me. They piled onto my bed and started bouncing on it. “Come on! We have time to catch a few waves before it’s time to go to the party!”
And so we did. Puku, who had been snoozing in the adjacent cubicle, raised her eye stalks and chittered contentedly at me as we walked by with our boards. We crossed the bridge and hiked up the river bank above the village, then climbed the long staircase chiseled into the side of a cliff so we could surf the Maabu tributary that cascades into the main lava river fifty bios below.
I had all but forgotten the pure joy of riding a current of magma, the heat waves caressing my mask and the lava casting a reddish-gold glow on the stark stone channel banks. We zoomed down the river of fire, reveling in the sting of tiny droplets spattering our legs, glorying in the sensation of going airborne over the rapids and the thrill of grounding our boards mere bios away from the edge of the Maabu Falls. Then we would run back uphill and do it again.
Eventually Toa Tahu sailed wordlessly past us and disappeared over the Falls. We ran to the overlook and watched him plummet over the cliff, twisting gracefully around his magma-blade board and righting himself just before he landed with a splat in the hot fluid. He waved to us as he ran his board onto the rocks. Then he raced back up the jagged staircase with his Kakama and announced to us that it was time to leave.
We watched him go over the Falls again. Then we descended the stairs and headed for the village. Jala was just inside the gate, organizing his troops for the long march to the Kini-Nui. It’s going to take a whole day to get there. Since we’re bringing a lot of food, Koli staffs, gifts for the Toa, and so on, he’s organized the Guard regiments so they can carry everything. There are four Matoran assigned to carry the Suva, too. After what happened with the Kal, Turaga Vakama doesn’t want to leave it here, even with a group of guardsmen. He says we can’t afford to take any chances. And besides, this way we can all go to the party.
Turaga Vakama turned and glared at us as we came in. “You’re late,” he said sternly.
Raku and Lito hung their heads. “I’m sorry, Turaga,” I stammered, dreading another responsibility lecture. “We were just—”
“Skip the excuses, Takua. I know exactly what you were doing.” Then a smile spread across his mask. “You were enjoying what you love most, which your faithful attention to your duty has kept you from doing for over a month.”
I grinned sheepishly. “Yes, sir.”
“I think your friends really missed you,” he added, patting my back. Then he turned to the crowd and announced triumphantly, “Ta-Koronans, let us go celebrate the victory of the Toa over the Bohrok-Kal!”
Everyone broke out into a big, loud cheer. Then I remembered Puku. “Turaga, I’ve got to run upstairs and get—“ Then I saw my crab scurrying down the steps to meet me. “Never mind.”
Raku and Lito took their places among the ranks. Jala gestured for Puku and me to come walk next to him at the head of the column. He started singing a brisk military song, and the joyous procession strode out of the village, over the bridge, and onto the road, the guardsmen’s feet moving in rhythm to the music. I’m really glad we aren’t going to use the tunnel route, even though it’s a bit shorter because it goes under the volcano instead of around it. Those who aren’t in the Guard, about half of the villagers, walked in an unstructured group behind them. Toa Tahu and Turaga Vakama brought up the rear. Every now and then, above the sound of footsteps, the singing, and the low chatter of the Matoran, I could hear the Turaga’s chuckle or the Toa’s throaty laugh. It was a welcome sound after seeing our Toa experience so much rage and frustration of late.
The river of red, yellow, and orange villagers flowed over the foothills of the Mangai like a current of lava. I’m sure it would look about the same to a sunsoaring Le-Koronan, except that lava doesn’t go sideways. After a few marching songs, everyone got tired of singing, and the guardsmen broke ranks and just began to walk normally. Their training keeps them in good condition, so they maintained a good pace. The other villagers, mostly lava farmers, have good arm strength from turning winch cranks and pushing carts and so on, but they’re not used to so much walking. They didn’t mind, though, because it was a happy journey. I’m not much of an athlete, but after spending the last few years traveling all over the island, walking long distances has just become second nature, and I’ve got Puku if I do get tired. So keeping the pace is no problem for me.
When we got to the jungle, the going got tougher, obviously. Toa Tahu took the lead and started using his swords to clear the foliage and widen the path, which has become overgrown with brambles and vines during the time of the Rahi, Bohrok, and Bohrok-Kal. One of the things I’m really looking forward to, now that there is peace, is better road maintenance. Until now the only Matoran who traveled regularly were the Guard, and me. The Turaga kept telling everyone else it was too dangerous to travel unless it was really necessary. But now there is no reason why we can’t go visit other villages. Besides, it’ll reinforce the Unity that the Turaga hold so dear. (That’s personally my favorite virtue, because it’s the most fun.) In my own wanderings, I’ve heard a lot of Matoran—Taipu for example—express the wish that they could see the rest of the island. Now we’ll finally have the chance.
There’s just one thing I’m wondering about. If Makuta is still alive… is he going to try some new nasty trick? When I started to describe the Rahi Nui vision at the village fire last night, Turaga Vakama motioned for me to hush and took over the storytelling. He left out Makuta’s appearance altogether, and only mentioned himself in passing. He made it sound like his desperate last-second dive to get out of the creature’s way wasn’t really planned, and that the Toa’s efforts had so weakened the horrible beast that it was unable to pull its horns from the wall. But if Turaga Vakama is confident enough in our safety to leave our impenetrable fortress village and bring us halfway across the island for a party, that’s good enough for me.
Toa Tahu is obviously really glad to have his powers back. Whenever the brush resists his blades, he just hits it with fire, then extinguishes the blaze by drawing the flames back into himself. I think he’s overdoing it just a little, just because he can. But no one has any problem with it. Needless to say, no Rahi are going to challenge such a big crowd, especially with our Toa using fiery blasts to scour a wide swath in front of us.
We got to a big clearing by nightfall, and Turaga Vakama declared that we would camp for the night. Then we’ll continue to the Kini-Nui in the morning. We should get there right at midday.
Everyone was glad to set down his load and rest his feet for a few minutes. But soon the campsite was bustling with activity as we gathered firewood and prepared the food for cooking. Toa Tahu went from one group to the next, lighting fires. As he blasted our pile of branches, hitting it so hard that chips and sparks flew in all directions, he smiled broadly at me and Jala. “Now it’s my turn to do this for you.”
“That’s as it should be, Toa Tahu,” said Jala, his face bright with reflected firelight.
Raku, Lito, Agni, and Kalama—those last two are a couple of Jala’s guard friends—were also in our group. I was glad to let Kalama do the cooking. He grilled some meat and roasted some nuts, and we ate hungrily after our long march. Soon we were reclining by the fire, joking and telling stories. Finally Turaga Vakama came around and gently urged everyone to go to sleep, so we could get up early in the morning to continue our journey. But of course I pulled out my book and pen instead. Turaga Vakama nodded at me and moved on to the next campfire.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. It’s going to be wonderful to see my friends from the other Koros. The Le-Koronans are probably going to bring their birds and musical instruments, and the Po-Koronans will no doubt try to beat everyone at the new koli. The Onu-Koronans always bring their crabs to race, and the Ko-Koronans rule at the Juma-Juvo tables. And the Ga-Koronans will have beautiful linens and flower garlands to decorate the temple—as if their very presence didn’t add beauty enough.
Summer 2 : 5
This morning dawned clear and bright, and we lost no time packing up our camp and hitting the road. We soon reached the pass between the Mangai and Mount Ihu, and we followed it to the great temple. As the majestic pillars loomed into view above the treetops, Jala announced, “The Kini-Nui!”
A great cheer arose from the villagers, and we quickened our pace. We reached the clearing, the breathtaking stone structure standing proudly in the center to remind us of the enduring strength of our beloved protector, Mata Nui. As I craned my neck to admire the massive columns erected in his honor, I wished he could be as present to us as his temple is.
The Ko-Koronans were already there, setting up five giant sailcloth tents on the western side of the clearing. Turaga Vakama and Toa Tahu walked across to greet their counterparts from the village of ice. After we had set down our loads, we Matoran followed. As reserved as the Ko-Koronans usually are, their quiet smiles and spare greetings seemed positively effusive.
Jala organized teams to put up our tents on the southeast side and store the supplies in one of them. We’ll be here for two nights, so it’s worth investing a bit of time to get comfortable. Of course, with the Toa here, we won’t have to worry about bad weather. I suspect the tents are intended to make it easier for the Turaga to keep track of us all rather than to provide actual shelter. The Ga-Koronans wove and stitched them long ago for everyone to use during island-wide games, but because of all the Rahi and Bohrok trouble, they’ve been in storage for many years. In fact, we’ve all but forgotten how to set them up, and it took us a couple of tries to figure out the water girls’ clever system of bamboo poles, ropes, and stakes all over again. If the Ko-Koronans noticed our struggle, they ignored it. They probably didn’t want to insult us by offering to help with something so obvious.
As Jala and I tightened the last of the ropes holding up the supply tent and began to drag the food and equipment inside, the earth erupted on the northwest side of the field. Toa Onua popped up out of the ground. Toa Tahu ambled over, and they clanked their fists together. Soon dark Matoran, and a few Ussal crabs, were streaming out of the hole like ants from an anthill. And then we heard a shout. The Po-Koronans were coming over the hill, singing a loud Koli song. After hailing everyone enthusiastically, they set about preparing their camp to the northeast. Toa Pohatu and Toa Onua’s resonant laugher rang out over the happy chatter of the mingled villagers.
The stone and earth villagers helped each other set up camp, taking their places, as we had done, according to the geography of the island. Naturally the Po-Koronans were in a hurry to set up a Koli field. While the Onu-Koronans paced off the dimensions in the grass, their lighter-colored brothers hauled stones to mark the corners and goals. Toa Pohatu and Toa Onua, wearing their Pakari, picked up three huge rocks and carried them to the field. The bounce in their step made it obvious that to them, the boulders were about as heavy as Gukko feathers. Toa Pohatu gave two of the rocks a few strategically placed kicks, and the inside crumbled away to form a goal. Toa Onua carved out the other with his saws. Puku joined the Onu-Koronan crabs in helping to haul away the rubble. Then the group set about marking off an oval race track around the entire clearing. Onepu set colorful banners onto poles at the start and finish lines.
Meanwhile, the ice villagers were busily arranging flat stones into a series of tables on which to play Juma-Juvo. Jala glanced over at them as he walked out of the supply tent. “Kopeke’s always been the guy to beat,” he told me. “And Jaatikko’s no slouch, either.” The ice architect was putting a small rock under one edge of a bigger one to keep it level. He looked up, met the eyes of his rival, and saluted him. Jala waved back.
Raku and Lito had finished with their tent, and they came over to help us lay out a selection of food for everyone to snack on. Since we Ta-Koronans like to hunt, we had a variety of cold roasted Rahi meats. The Po-Koronans were serving up choice cuts of Maha, and the Onu-Koronans had crisp fried mushrooms in abundance. The Ko-Koronans shared their usual fare of fowl boiled in melted glacier water. They eat birds a lot, because the only edible animals in their region are the ones flying over on their way somewhere else.
We all milled around, sampling exotic foods we don’t usually get to try. There was a lot of joking around. I heard Raku ask Tehutti, “You guys eat fungus on purpose?” He picked up a mushroom, looked suspiciously at it, then crunched into it. “Say... this is really good!”
Faint strains of a lovely melody floated over the hills to the northeast, and a loud splash confirmed that it was the voices of the Ga-Koronans, coming up the Hura-Mafa River in a fleet of large and small boats. Everyone dropped his food and rushed over to the edge of the water. Maku led the procession in her canoe, with Turaga Nokama standing proudly in the bow. As the blue villagers docked and secured their watercraft, the rest of us scrambled to help them unload their cargo.
I looked around nervously for Nixie. I spotted her in the stern of Kai’s skiff, but she was looking down at an object in the boat. I started walking over, hoping to carry it for her, but she lifted it herself and handed it to Hahli on the shore. At this moment I slammed heavily into someone. It was a Ta-Koronan lava farmer named Tapuko, or at least, that’s what I thought his name was at the time. “Watch where you’re going,” he grunted.
“Sorry,” I stammered. I looked back at Kai’s boat, and it was already empty. With so much help, the Ga-Koronans were already setting up their tents on the northeast side of the clearing, between us and the Po-Koronans. Thank Mata Nui for the thoughtful way he put the bay next to the volcano when he laid out the island.
A flock of wild Kewa had taken advantage of the distraction to forage on our abandoned snacks, and several Matoran were driving them away with a flurry of disks. Turaga Nokama, trying vainly to hide her amusement, called for some fish to be brought out, and once the water villagers’ tents were up, everyone returned to the buffet tables. Once again I searched for Nixie. She was sitting in the grass with Kai, Amaya, Hahli, and Jala, and I headed in their direction.
A savage shriek split the air, and immediately the skies were full of Le-Koronans on birdback. Flapping and whirring, they began to dive-bomb the assembly, releasing melons at the nadir of their trajectories. The ripe fruits exploded as they struck, covering the tents, Juma-Juvo tables, and quite a few Matoran with pulp and juice. Everyone scrambled for the cover of the trees. Shouting and laugher followed as the pranksters landed and the remaining Le-Koronans sprinted into the clearing. Leave it to the jungle dwellers to make a dramatic entrance!
And bringing up the rear was Toa Lewa with Turaga Matau riding on his back. Their triumphant yells rose above the whooshing of air under his katanas as they surveyed the impact of their prank. I paused to chuckle at the sight of a Turaga swooping down from the sky astride the fastest airborne creature on the island. Who knew Turaga Matau was such a thrill-seeker? But I didn’t think about it long, because I had to dive into the bushes to avoid the last of the melons. Just as I jumped, a sphere of sweet, juicy goodness burst into pieces right where I had been standing.
Not everyone was taking the joke well. Tapuko pulled a large chunk of melon rind off his shoulder and strode up to Kongu, who was patting his Gukko at the edge of the clearing. “I believe this is yours,” he growled, smashing the rind over Kongu’s head.
Kongu burst out laughing, but this was apparently not the response Tapuko had been hoping for. The Ta-Koronan gave him a provocative shove. It would seem that Kongu isn’t used to grumpy Ta-Koronans, because his eyes got really wide.
Now, I really hate to get involved in this sort of thing, but I could tell trouble was brewing, and no one else was paying attention. So I decided to step in between my fellow villager and my highflying friend before things got out of hand. “Tapuko, it’s all right, it was just a joke. They didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
“My name is Tupako,” he snapped. “And what business is it of yours, anyway?”
“Well, none, really, but there’s no point in fighting. We’re here to celebrate a great victory! Why don’t you just let it go, and come join the fun?”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a crowd gathering to watch as Tupako clenched his fists. “I’m not going to take orders from a blue-masked freak who just wanders the island instead of doing his job,” he hissed.
I stepped back. “Come on, let’s not start any trouble.” Just as I finished talking, I saw his fist dart out. Then I felt a blow to the side of my head, and there was a bright flash of light.
I woke up on the ground, stunned and dizzy. I felt my head with my hands and realized my Pakari was missing. I groaned, rolled over, and got onto all fours to look for it. Then I saw a blurry blue shape hovering in front of me. My mask! I quickly took it and put it on. I breathed a sigh of relief as my strength was restored. Then I looked up and saw Nixie standing over me.
Well, I just about passed out again from embarrassment. Nixie sat in the grass next to me and asked gently, “Are you all right, Takua?” I smiled weakly and nodded.
Next to us, Kai had grappled Tupako to the ground. Kongu was trying to pull them apart. Then Turaga Nokama showed up, and after a few stern words from her, everyone stood up and apologized.
Once the Le-Koronans were settled, and Toa Gali had lined up all the sticky Matoran and washed them off, the Turaga gathered on the platform of the temple and announced the schedule of activities. After we cleaned up the mess from the Le-Koronans’ prank, we Matoran were free to play informal games and visit with each other for the rest of the afternoon. A committee of Matoran from each village, led by Turaga Onewa, would work out the rules for the new type of koli pioneered by Huki after the defeat of the Bohrok. Then at sundown we would eat a meal together and get some rest. Tomorrow there will be a ceremony before the tournaments begin.
As soon as the meeting broke up, everyone pitched in to pick up melon scraps, tighten tent ropes, and otherwise straighten up. The Ga-Koronans draped everyone’s tents with garlands of water lilies and put bamboo poles everywhere. We Ta-Koronans put torches on top of the poles to light as soon as the sun went down. Some of the Le-Koronans and Ga-Koronans pulled out musical instruments and began to fill the air with music. The ethereal sound floated over the buzz of happy activity. Jala tried to get me to come help with the koli rules committee, but I couldn’t care less about that. Koli is fun, but since I’m not particularly good at it, I’d just as soon let someone else come up with the details.
So I wandered over to watch the band, because Nixie was playing a fishbone xylophone. Fascinated, I stared at her hands, moving so skillfully over the notes. Then I realized she was looking at me. “Do you play an instrument, Takua?” she asked.
I went back to the tent and pulled my flute out of my pack. I’m not very talented, but with this many musicians, mistakes weren’t very obvious, so I joined the band. Basically, I just wanted to stand next to Nixie.
When we took a break, she invited me to look at her portable telescope. She led me into one of the Ga-Koronan tents. The apparatus she had unloaded from the boat was sitting on a wooden table. The protodermis frame held a blue crystal, and various gears and dials allowed the user to calculate angles and positions. As she talked about it, I nodded, and my mask slipped loose. I caught it with my hand before she noticed.
“They’re making you work?” I asked incredulously. “That doesn’t seem fair.”
“Since the Toa’s victory over the Bohrok-Kal, so much has been happening in the sky,” she said. “I can’t afford to lose three days of study, even for a celebration. But I don’t mind, because I love my duty.”
I smiled at her, because I understood exactly what she meant. Well, sort of. Work is intolerably boring, unless it involves traveling or writing or both. I’ve been lucky that my Turaga lets me do something I like, and yet I can still call it my duty.
I adjusted my Pakari again, because it felt strangely loose, and she looked at me inquiringly. “Takua, why is it that you have a blue mask?”
“Uh, well, I don’t know. I suppose I was just built this way,” I said awkwardly. I’ve always felt like an oddball with my blue mask, and at that moment I would have given just about anything to have a red, orange, or yellow one.
“Well, I think it’s fun that we match,” she grinned. Suddenly I decided I liked my blue Pakari, after all.
Someone tapped my shoulder, and I turned to see Turaga Nokama standing behind me. My heart started pounding. She was undoubtedly mad at me for being in the Ga-Koronans’ tent! Or perhaps I was about to get a lecture about starting fights. But she just smiled and escorted me out of the tent. “Takua,” she said kindly, “Nixie will bring the telescope outside tonight, and then you will be welcome to look at it.”
I nodded sheepishly. My Pakari slipped again, and I steadied it. After Turaga Nokama walked away, I found Jala at the koli field and pulled him aside. “Take a look at my mask,” I urged him. “See if you can find anything wrong with it. It keeps slipping.”
I sat down so I wouldn’t fall from vertigo while my friend examined my Kanohi. He put it back on my face. “The attachment rod is bent,” he explained. “You should ask Turaga Vakama for a new mask.”
So I did. Turaga Vakama smiled wryly. “Indeed. Let this be a lesson to you not to start fights!”
At that moment a terrible cracking noise came from the field. We both turned to look. Kopeke was on the ground, his broken Kanohi lying next to him. “Well,” said the Turaga, “it looks like we’ll need to get two new masks.”
Jaa helped Kopeke get up and put the fragments back on his face. He held them there as we walked behind Turaga Vakama, Turaga Nuju and Matoro. From time to time Kopeke stumbled and his friend caught him. The Turaga led us into the woods. After a brief walk we reached a cluster of boulders. Turaga Nuju produced a stone key and inserted it into a crack in the rock. A door slid open to reveal a vast cave.
A side passageway led to a chamber with rows of gray masks lining the walls. Turaga Nuju clicked and squeaked, and Matoro told Kopeke to choose a mask. He selected a Matatu and put it on. The mask immediately changed to his sand-blue color, and Kopeke took a deep breath and stood up straight again.
Turaga Vakama looked at me and gestured at the wall. “Takua?”
I scanned the rows, but I didn’t see any Pakari. “Maybe I don’t really need a new mask,” I said.
“Well, let me see your old one. I might be able to repair it,” suggested the Turaga of Fire. He studied it while I leaned against the wall. Then he applied his firestaff to it for a few seconds. Just as I was starting to feel really woozy, I felt the warm mask being shoved back onto my face. I shook my head, and even though it still felt a little bit loose, at least it stayed on.
Turaga Nuju was whistling and snickering, but Matoro wasn’t translating anything. “Click all you want to, brother, but my old skills do come in handy once in a while,” said Turaga Vakama, rolling his eyes.
I guess it must be another Turaga inside joke. But I’m just happy my mask stays on, and I still get to match Nixie. We returned to the party. The koli committee had just unanimously decided to add a rule making it illegal to throw a koli stick during a game. Various Matoran had started a big fire and were grilling fresh meat, and others were putting out vegetables and fruits. The Le-Koronans always set a colorful table.
All of us, including the cooks as they worked, were soon watching the Toa, who decided to entertain everyone with displays of their elemental powers. Since they lost them almost as soon as they became Nuva, most of us hadn’t seen what they could do. Toa Tahu was making fiery circles in the sky with his blades, and Toa Gali shot arcs of water through them. Toa Kopaka raised majestic hollow pillars of ice, and Toa Lewa was sending wind whistling through them to make a sublime music. Toa Pohatu was kicking big rocks at an immense earthen wall Toa Onua had erected at one edge of the field. Compared to accounts of the last time the Toa had tested their powers against each other, this was very good-natured and playful.
Soon we were silent for a blessing by Turaga Whenua, and then we ate a sumptuous feast of everything good the island had to offer. It was the first really good meal I’ve had in a long, long time. It seems good cooking is one of the first things to be sacrificed in wartime. But I think meals are a great way to promote unity. The Toa and Turaga sat among us, and somehow it felt like we were all really one big village. We ate until we couldn’t manage another bite.
Then Nixie set up her telescope. Unfortunately, I was just one of a big throng crowding around her to look, but it was still fun listening her tell about how it worked. Then the Turaga herded us all into our tents for the night. Jala is making the rounds checking on everyone, and Raku and Lito are arm wrestling. I’m just writing in my journal as usual, peeking out of a gap in the tent every now and then to study the one who’s out there studying the stars.
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Edited by GaliGee, Feb 10 2012 - 01:53 PM.