The bird song in the trees made Vira feel relaxed and peaceful, despite aching all over. So he lay there listening to the sound, until the moment was broken by nearby rustling. He jolted upright, but then a familiar voice called “Vira” and he realised it was safe to reveal himself. He struggled out of the shrub he was nestled in, and into the jungle clearing.
“What are you doing down here in the brush?” laughed Orkan. “You’re like Tamaru!”
“I am ever-grateful for the brush,” Vira said. “It broke my fall.”
“High-falling does happen,” Orkan said. “You were reckless to think you could just go up there immediately.”
“How?” asked Vira. “You told me everything I needed to know about high-flying as a Kewa pilot.”
“And did you follow my orders?” asked Orkan. “I recall saying to grab a vine in the case of a fall, and to swing to the safety of the upper branches. The brush can break your fall, but protect you from an Ash bear it will not. And why did you fall in the first place?”
“My ride was spooked, it shook me off,” Vira said guiltily.
“I said to know your bird. She should know who you are, and what you want her to do, and know that you trust her to do the right thing. What do you call her anyway?”
“Pala is everything in my life,” Orkan said. “I named her for the Lake, for both are things of beauty.”
Vira sighed. He wasn’t going to win this argument, and it was foolish to try. Orkan had agreed to teach him to be a Gukko pilot, and rejecting his advice would be stupid. His brooding was interupted by a distant buzzing, that rumbled through the trees.
“Makuta calls,” Orkan said, shivering. “We should quick-run to the Koro, we may be needed.”
“High-branch wind-sprint?” suggested Vira, as they began to crash clumsily through the undergrowth.
“Good plan,” Orkan said, not breaking his stride but running up an angled tree, leaping majestically into a vine swing, before landing in the canopy overhead, scurrying along the branches.
Vira was greatful for Orkans company. He knew perfectly well that Orkan had a well-trained Kewa to call if he wanted, and if Vira hadn’t been there, it would have been a no-brainer to call the bird and get back quickly. He quickly scrambled to the top of a mossy mound, and dived off it to swing from a vine, up into the trees just behind Orkan.
Vira soon lost sight of Orkan, but eventually flew out of the canopy of leaves to land squarely in the middle of Le-Koro. But immediately he knew something was wrong.
The village was silent. No drums. No flute song. He stood on the platform, looking to the kites rippling in the roaring wind. The loud buzzing of the Makuta’s Rahi was still the dominant sound, and as Vira raised his eyes, he saw the Nui-Rama, darting about the sky, no sign of the defending Gukko Force. Then suddenly one of the insects separated from the swarm, and swooped towards him. He looked round frantically for something, anything to fight. Before his eyes fell upon a desirable object, something wrapped tightly round his ankle and he was pulled onto his stomach, dragged towards the edge of the platform.
Seconds later he was hanging upside down, face to face with Orkan, who gestured for him to be quiet. Taking in the situation, Vira realised that three Matoran were lodged in the branches beneath the Le-Koro platform. Orkan and Tamaru had been responsible for rescuing him, and the musician Sanso was hunched on a branch not far away, looking a little shocked.
“Where is everybody?” whispered Vira.
“Gukko force high-fly to fight Rama swarm,” Tamaru said, shuddering at the thought. “Tuuli fell below, but he is safer in the bush than those in the sky.”
Vira nodded as Orkan used another vine to pull his hanging body towards him, and untie him. Lodging himself carefully in a branch below Orkan and Tamaru’s perch, he whispered: “What happened to Sanso?”
“Rama swarm tried to take him,” Tamaru said. “Luckily for him, my disk-arm is well practiced.”
“Yet you refuse to ride shotgun as disk thrower,” Orkan said bitterly.
“Gukko-flying is too…high,” Tamaru said guiltily.
“And how did Tuuli fall?”
“Rama swarm severed his escape vine,” Tamaru replied.
The buzzing was becoming less dense now; the swarm was starting to disperse. They could hear them whooshing over the treetops back in the direction of the hive.
“Toa Lewa protect us,” Tamaru said. “If they got Matau…”
“Matau has powers of his own,” Orkan said. “I’m sure he and Kongu will return with a planned counter-attack to rescue those who we’ve lost.”
The four Matoran all grabbed vines and swung away from the tree trunk, then each grabbed other vines to climb back onto the Le-Koro platform. The village was in a bad way, the Rama swarm had bombarded many of the huts having not found more Matoran to abduct.
There was a loud screech, and Kongu crashed landed his Kahu spectacularly into an adjacent platform.
“Where on Mata-Nui were you?” he yelled at Orkan, dismounting clumsily.
“I was teaching Vira to fly!” replied Orkan. “He fell of and I had to fetch him!”
“When Rama-Swarm calls, you should come ever-quick!”
Vira felt guilty, Orkan was taking a telling off from Kongu on his behalf. He was also disturbed by the absence of Matau as the rest of the Gukko force descended. After neither Orkan nor Tamaru drew this to attention, Vira felt he had to speak up.
In a split second, Kongu went from being an angry authority figure to being someone completely hopeless and lost.
“They took him.”
The others said nothing. This was a big problem for the village. No one knew what to do. To make matters worse, there was a noise coming from the entrance to the village. Someone, or something was coming up the pod-lift. The Matoran scattered, heading for the intact huts, or diving into clumps of leaves on the branches.
Vira and Orkan swung underneath the platform again, and sat listening carefully to any sign that it was safe to come out. What they heard surprised them. What they heard was flute-song.
A few hours earlier Vira’s hut had been hanging higher than it was now. Not to mention the door hadn’t been big enough to fit a Kewa then. This turned out to be a convenience though. What with most of the villagers being Gukko force, and the village pretty much in ruins, the plan was to attempt a rescue the next time the swarm attacked. It was risky, but they were out of options. The villagers who were not Gukko force would hide below, along with the flautist Ta-Matoran who had turned up out of the blue. Vira had insisted he attempt to join the rescue, they needed every man they could get. Orkan wasn’t happy about this, but had sent him to bond with his Kewa in the hut to wait for the Rama swarm.
Vira had named the Kewa ‘Hope’, as this was all they had left, and was the only thing that would get him through the ordeal to come. He sat, listening to the silence and stroking the bird. He hated silence. It meant no action, but no happiness either. Years ago Le-Koro was full of singing, and you could here the birds in the trees joining in. Now the birds were scared off by the Makuta’s Rahi, and there was nothing to sing about.
Then there was a low and distant rumble, which came with a fast approaching buzzing sound.
Time to fly.
Vira was moving fast, weaving between Nui-Rama. G-Forces pulled at him, and the wind flooded through the eyeholes of his mask. He was doing well. He wasn’t the only risk in the mission, the adventurer from Ta-Koro was flying co-pilot with Kongu, as a disk-thrower.
Rahi after Rahi dived for him, and he dodged each and every one. Kongu was far ahead, his Kahu cutting a path directly through the swarm, rather than dancing around the Rahi. Orkan swooped in front of him, giving a brief thumbs up, before going into a spectacular dive to fly close to the surface of the trees. Vira followed, a long train of Nui-Rama shooting out of the cloud in hot pursuit. The Rama would have an advantage chasing him low, open sky was his best advantage when in close proximity to the Rahi. He pulled up as sharply as he could, willing Hope to keep turning. The Nui-Rama shot past impossibly fast, continuing towards the jungle, to pursue Orkan.
Then something collided with him and his Kewa, and as Vira began the long tumble towards the ground, he saw the glowing red eyes of the Nui-Kopen. The Makuta’s work was done.
Then Vira’s brain kicked back into gear, and he remembered Orkan’s words.
“And did you follow my orders? I recall saying to grab a vine in the case of a fall, and to swing to the safety of the upper branches.”
Vira plunged into the treetops, feeling the ends of branches and vines pass through his flailing fingers. Then he got a grip, and felt a jolt as it went tense, and his momentum carried through. He swung gracefully back up, launching back out of the tree tops, and landing again in the upper branches of the trees.
Looking up, he saw Orkan’s Kewa diving towards him.
“No!” yelled Vira. “Rescue Matau! Get to the hive. You don’t need to come for me!”
He gestured desperately at the descending pilot and his ride, and at the last second he pulled up, swooping over Vira so close he could feel the wind from it. He watched Orkan become a spec in the distance, and then turned to his current predicament. He began to swing from tree to tree back in the direction of Le-Koro, but quickly became aware of a low flying Rahi just above the canopy of leaves that was following him.
He grabbed a vine, and let it carry him around a tree trunk in brisk hundred and eighty degree turn. He was now heading in the direction of the Onu-Koro pass, which was nearer. If he could get there before Makuta’s Rahi slave got him, he could seek cover in the caves. It wasn’t an appealing option; Le-Matoran hated solid rock, and darkness. But it was better than being taken off to the Rama hive.
As he picked up speed in his tree-sprint, he made a long leap across a clearing, but the Rahi made a dive. It swooped beneath him, and pulled up. Vira realised he wasn’t quick enough; the Rahi had got him and was carrying him upwards, back towards the swarm. But then he realised he was wrong. He wasn’t on the back of a Nui-Rama, or a Nui-Kopen. It was Hope.
With a yell of a triumph, he adjusted his position, patted the bird appreciatively, and turned in the direction of the Nui-Rama Hive. He had a lot of catching up to do.
As Vira approached the Nui-Rama hive, he saw a sight to improve his spirits further. Toa Lewa, astride a Nui-Kopen carrying several Matoran, and Kongu and his Kahu carrying more, were speeding out of the Hive, flanked by the rest of the Gukko force. He whooped, but then saw that the swarm was now emerging from the hive in pursuit of the Matoran. Before the escaping Matoran were aware, they had downed one of the Gukko Force Kewa’s. Lewa was quick to react, a powerful gust of wind, meant that the Nui-Rama were unable to pursue, but that one Gukko Force member was still spiralling towards the ground. The hive was in an open area, no brush to break the fall, or vines to swing from.
Vira went into a downward corkscrew, willing Hope to fly faster than gravity. As he descended, the pilot separated from his Kewa, and Vira saw it was Orkan. A second later he had pulled up, Orkan clinging onto Vira as they went into a more controlled descent.
“Why are you going down?” grinned Orkan. “We can go back to Le-Koro.”
“We don’t want to leave Pala do we?” Vira replied.
As they approached the site where Pala had fallen, Orkan leapt off before they reached the ground, running to his injured ride. Hope and Vira landed nearby, and Vira dismounted, patting his faithful Gukko on the beak, before joining his panicked friend.
“We’ll carry her back to Le-Koro,” said Vira. “She can rest and recover there.”
”How?” asked Orkan.
“Hope can help take some of the weight, I’m sure Pala’s got enough energy to maintain some flight.”
Orkan looked sceptical, but he agreed, rushing to grab some vines from the edge of the jungle. They strapped the two birds carefully together, then Vira clambed onto Hope’s back. Orkan had tied himself to Pala’s underside, to try and offer the bird some encouragement.
The birds and Matoran crash-landed onto a Le-Koro platform half an hour later. Vira rolled off Hope, giddy with relief. He could hear music playing in the village for the first time in ages, but it came to an abrupt halt as everyone became aware of their arrival. He blacked out.
Vira awoke to find Orkan, Kongu and Turaga Matau standing over him.
“Orkan’s told us the full story,” Matau said. Vira was alarmed, this sounded rather ominous. Then Kongu cracked a smile, and said:
“That was some serious wind-flying, Vira. You’ve earned your place on the Le-Koro Gukko force.”
“I don’t think I deserve to,” Vira said. “Hope did all the work.”
“Spoken like a true Gukko pilot,” Orkan said. “You’re ready.”
Edited by Taipu1, Feb 20 2012 - 06:07 PM.