Welcome to The Perfect Cage, the second epic in the second Saga of the Bionicle Paracosmos, an Adventure Mystery series that mirrors official story but is often different, for reason that are central to the plot. As always, feel free to jump right in without reading past story; if you would like a brief summary see the review topic. My collection topic is here: Tapestry of Time.
This story centers on Toa Onua, during early 2003 story, as well as a Ko-Matoran fisherwoman named Nijire, and Toa Kopaka. It has 48 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. The beginning takes place just after the defeat of the Bahrag, before the Kal attack. To followers of my blog, it should be no surprise that the shaky alliance the Paracosmos Toa and Kal have may be challenged -- expect to see winners of the Bohrok Kool contest here.
Onua walked alone through the savannah land of Kini-Wahi. His eyes were barely focused on what was in front of him.
All he could think about was how unfair all this was, that this burden was on him.
Those were the words that had appeared on a mysterious tablet moments ago, as the Turaga concluded their meeting with the Toa and others who were helping them. The tablet had been found the day before, and it was blank. But then messages kept appearing... and changing...
The Turaga believed the messages came from the mysterious people who called themselves the 'Unknown.'
Along with these words were a map to a spot deep in the Fau swamp, and three more words.
Claw of Strength.
What did that mean? The right-hand one of his glovelike Toa Tools was missing. Maybe this would replace it? But why couldn't he bring help?
Onua was nearly where he wanted to enter the jungle, when he heard loud sounds to his right.
More. It sounded like huge stones crumbling.
Saw nothing on the slopes of the volcano to the north. Higher still, at the very top.
Huge orange threadlike tendrils were cutting into the rocky ring of the Mangai’s caldera. Pulling the rock inward.
From the caldera, a constant river of lava flowed into a lava tube, to the east. Ta-Koro sat on an island inside the tube, and the river parted around it, though from here all you could see was the glowing orange hole in the roof of the tube over Ta-Koro. Several other holes along the path hinted at the river, and at the ocean, a constant cloud of steam rose, and faded into the sky.
Now, Onua could see hole after hole going dark.
Something’s choking the flow off.
Ta-Koro's hole went dark.
The sounds stopped. The tendrils disappeared, but something that looked like a huge orange-glowing spiderweb now held the rock dome in place where the caldera should be.
Something that’s inside the volcano.
A twig snapped in the jungle.
Pairs of eyes. Watching him.
He looked left, to the east. Eyes dotted the front of the forest for as far as he could see.
Looked right. The same.
He knew who those eyes belonged to, though nobody had managed to see – or remember – their actual forms. For they had arrived on the island a few days ago and attacked mysteriously from the shadows, kidnapping some. But one thing they did not keep secret. Their name.
A few hours ago...
Onua sat heavily down at the table in Kini-Nui Hall.
The Turaga and others had gathered here to discuss recent events and plans for the immediate future. Most importantly, proof had been found that Makuta Teridax had been captured alive by a mysterious villain named Vaurukan. A team of loyal servants of Makuta were planning to free him.
The Toa could not let that happen. They had to find that villain's prison and stop the servants. But so much had gone wrong lately, and they'd put off dealing with things that normally would be emergencies. Could they put it all off any longer?
The others in the room discussed this vigorously.
But Onua couldn’t focus.
All their words sounded like background noise to him. Occasionally he managed to listen long enough that he could add a tidbit to the discussion, but not much.
Onua had been singled out by the cryptic shapeshifter named Surkahi twice with prophetic statements. The first time, Surkahi said Onua would have to leave the island soon.
And then Surkahi – along with all the Unknown – had disappeared, saying they would not be seen again for a long time.
Except possibly by Onua, he’d added.
He hoped he would see the shapeshifter soon. He had a thousand questions.
He felt off-balance. Not only because just after the defeat of the Bahrag, the Toa’s bodies had been changed in mysterious ways, but literally off-balance due to his missing glove-Tool.
And maybe for a reason more psychological, but he wasn’t sure. He had a quiet wisdom, or so he thought of himself, but the great mystery to him had always been himself. Why he chose to keep quiet when a word of advice could have helped, why he was more interested in the scenery than the endless debates of his fellows.
Why he was different.
He had started to gain some confidence as the Toa defeated Makuta and then the Bahrag. But then the Kuambu had swept through in a raid too one-sided to really call a battle. They had knocked everyone unconscious. The Toa fell first, and others saw blue sparkling light from strange lanterns be shone upon them.
They had changed form. The rules were different now. Onua still wasn't sure he knew what those rules were. And Lewa kept muttering that this wasn't how it was supposed to be.
“Onua, are you ready, then?” Turaga Vakama asked.
Onua looked up. He remembered the deal he and Rathoa – a villain they were in a temporary alliance with – had made, and assumed that was what they meant.
“Good. Let’s get going, then.”
Everybody stood up, and walked out, as if they all had a purpose and a clear plan. He wished he’d paid attention.
Rathoa walked up to him. He was huge, colored black – he was, in fact, a Makuta, though not naturally. Once he had been a mere Matoran. “I’ll meet you at the Seahopper when you’ve got it.” Then he nodded in farewell and walked out. Five of the Turaga left too.
Whenua lingered, as did Onua. “What island are you on right now?” the elder asked.
Onua shrugged. “Sorry. Just… all of this is too much to absorb so fast.”
“Did you even hear, about the tablet?”
He frowned. “The what?”
Whenua held up the gray rectangular stone. The last contact with the Unknown. It was apparently able to change the message inscribed on it, though he had no idea how.
Now, it displayed only five words. Onua slowly absorbed what it said. Only he could come? What was this 'Claw of Strength'? And shouldn't Lewa and Gali come along if he had to go to the horrid Fau swamp?
But he had already agreed, hadn't he?
Kopaka ran out of Kini-Nui.
Pohatu came with him. Kopaka thought the Toa of Stone looked very strange now. The transformation had made him much bulkier than before, and even changed his secondary color to yellow. His main Tools were still attached to his feet and now were silver. His hands each had two silver claws, plus he carried a long brown sword, currently stored on his back.
Of course, Kopaka looked strange himself now, he realized. He wasn't much bulkier, but he was more heavily armored, his shield was larger, and he now had two silver skate-tools in addition to his sword.
The first thing the Toa had discovered about their changed bodies, besides the different shapes, was that all the other masks they had previously collected were gone, except one per Toa.
Each Toa was left with only the one mask they originally had, and one other. Their other powers had previously been fused into one gold-rimmed mask, but now they had two distinct masks only. And the shape of their main mask was changed slightly.
On the plus side, they could now share the powers of their main masks with others. That could come in handy, but they all commented that it was disappointing to work so hard to collect so many only to have them disappear.
Kopaka especially missed having his own Mask of Speed. He’d learned his lesson about the value of Unity, but he still preferred to work alone.
Especially for this trip.
Instead he was stuck with the 'Kanohi Nuva', as Rathoa called it, of Vision... and a normal mask of Translation.
Not a problem, they had thought.
For recently they had collected many extra masks from a ghostly enemy, including Great Masks, and stored them in Kini-Nui Hall. They walked down the stairs, went to the storeroom...
And found it empty.
Someone had stolen the extra masks.
But they had reason to believe something far more important had been stolen. Really, not things... but people.
Now Kopaka and Pohatu arrived at the gates of Ko-Koro.
It was deserted.
This morning, when the Toa had awoken from being knocked unconscious and changed by the Kuambu – they’d discovered that all the Ko-Matoran who had joined the battle against the Bahrag were gone.
Tahu retained perhaps the most valuable mask of all – the one remaining Mask of Telecommunication. He’d tried to contact Ko-Koro, but nobody answered.
Gukko scouts had already flown near and confirmed no sign of an enemy, nor of inhabitants.
Kopaka turned to the Toa of Stone. “If you don’t mind… I want to go in alone.”
Pohatu had an especially serious look on his face, for him anyways. “Understood.”
The Toa of Ice tried to ready himself... but there was no readying for this. His own people...
So he just took a breath, gripped his sword and his shield firmly, and walked in.
The first thing he wanted to see was someone – anyone – perhaps cowering in a corner, perhaps running out to report who had taken the others, or which direction they had gone.
This turned out to be a vain hope.
The second thing was footprints.
The Kuambu’s appearances were kept carefully secret. They’d swept over all their footprints in sand, and tried to walk on plants wherever they went so far. It didn’t surprise him now that he saw no footprints.
But he was surprised to not even see any hint that footprints had been erased.
And there were little pockets of ice here and there in the snow, where ice shouldn’t be. Looking closer, he saw they were tiny holes that had melted snow, which had later refrozen.
In the center of the village, there was a single larger hole, large enough for a Matoran to fit inside. He looked down.
Strange threads of glowing orange seemed to be worked into the ice and rock walls of the hole. Down about fifty feet the sides of the hole had collapsed in, sealing it.
So... the Kuambu's one rule – no killing – seemed to have held. His people were not dead. He could not be sure, though, so he didn't allow himself to relax. And being captured was nothing to brush aside.
“What could do this?” he whispered to himself.
“Vaurukan’s creatures,” a voice answered.
Kopaka whirled, lifting his sword and shield defensively.
There was a small dark red being with wings hovering there.
Next to him stood a tall blue and white titan with goat-like hooves, and carrying a sword that looked like Kopaka’s.
“Sairiph!” Kopaka exclaimed to the small being, who had spoken. “And Toggler. What are you doing here?”
“We heard what happened,” Toggler said. “Sairiph said he had a hunch what did it. He was right.”
Pohatu walked up. “What do you guys want?” He looked on the defensive too.
There was something about these two, especially Sairiph, that was disturbing, though they claimed to be on the side of good. They had come to the island as crewmembers of the ship named the Seahopper, and friends of its Captain, the reptilian Bhukasa, on his voyage to investigate the Kuambu, which ended last night.
“This orange, this hole,” Sairiph said. “It’s a trademark of Vaurukan’s creatures.”
“Who’s Vaurukan?” Kopaka asked.
“Weren’t you listening in the meeting?” Pohatu scolded him. “The ruler of the island where Makuta is being held.” Kopaka had meant the question to be more about the person, not the name, but Sairiph's eyes flashed at the word 'Makuta' and he spoke before Kopaka could.
“Makuta Teridax, yes. Vaurukan is… a collector.”
“But the Kuambu did this!” Kopaka exclaimed. “We have several witnesses who saw Kuambu take Ko-Matoran away at the northwest prison island, and on the Bahrag battlefield.”
“Oh, Vaurukan wouldn’t be involved here unless the Kuambu had hired him,” Sairiph said. “The Kuambu are to blame, but surely by now you realize they prefer to work through others?”
That made sense. They wanted to keep as much about themselves secret as they could, except that they were the rulers of the surface ocean.
The Seahopper crew had dealt with mercenaries already. And when the Kuambu did let you see them, they hit you with energy spheres that blurred your memory of their appearance. Kopaka had such a blurred memory himself from the battlefield.
“So, the Ko-Matoran were taken to Vaurukan’s island?”
“I’m afraid so,” Sairiph said, though his tone was off – he almost seemed happy about it. “They won’t be easy to free.”
“But we will try,” Toggler assured him. For these two, as well as Onua and Rathoa, were all going to try to go there on the Seahopper, though only Sairiph knew the way, to make sure Teridax stayed contained.
“If you fear that the Rahunga,” Pohatu said, referring to the Matoran servants of Makuta who used a black mutagen called rahudermis to become powerful, “can free Makuta, then that means it’s possible to free the Matoran too. And you’ll need all the help you can get, so—”
“You mustn’t come,” Sairiph said. “One Toa Mata… or Nuva, or whatever you’re calling yourselves now, leaving this island is risky enough.”
“Rathoa said it’s a volcanic island,” Kopaka said. “My power will be a great help.”
“I have every ounce of your power,” Toggler said, holding up the sword.
Just like Kopaka’s sword, it was fused with a Btou staff, which granted the user the elemental power of whatever Toa normally used a Toa Tool. Such Tools looked fancier than their unmerged versions. Toggler's was strangely identical to Kopaka's.
“How did you get it?” Kopaka asked, unable to hold back the question any longer.
“I found it. At home. In the mountains.”
Not helpful. “But it’s just the sword for you. The power is in me, even if I lose the sword, as I have before. You might lose it.”
“It shall not happen,” Sairiph insisted.
Kopaka stepped forward three times, getting in Sairiph’s face. “Who are you to deny me this? They’re MY people!”
Sairiph’s red eyes flashed. The little winged being hovered a little higher. “I have the authority, Toa. There was once a time when I said go, and you went. You may have forgotten, and Teridax may have corrupted it, but the title of Makuta still means ‘you obey me, by the will of Mata Nui.’”
As he said it, a crackling sphere of blue electricity appeared in one hand.
Kopaka couldn’t help himself – he stepped back in surprise and more than a little fear. “You’re a… you’re…”
“My name is Spiriah – I go by Sairiph, for I was exiled from Teridax’s corrupted Brotherhood and to use my real name is more dangerous. But I am true to what we were. Loyal to the Great Spirit, the one you serve.”
He was so little, though! How could someone so—
Sairiph’s face curled up in anger. “You think size defines strength. I could destroy everyone on this island if I wanted to.”
Did he just read my mind?
“You said creatures,” Pohatu said, as if this little… disagreement wasn’t happening. “What kind of creatures?”
“Creatures that eat molten rock for breakfast, that shimmer with the heat of a thousand suns, that reek of sulfur, that clothe themselves in smoke, before whom the very ground trembles in terror. Creatures neither of you would stand a chance against.”
“I’ve heard tales,” Toggler put in. “If the rumors are right, your Matoran friends are lucky the creatures were in obedient moods, to kidnap instead of kill.”
Kopaka turned and started marching out. “That’s it. I’m going. I will NOT leave them to the likes of you as saviors.”
“Stop!” Sairiph barked. “That’s a direct order.”
He kept going, shouting over his shoulder, “Come on, Pohatu! I don’t remember any rank system that says I have to obey a Makuta!”
“Uh, maybe we should…”
Light and pain.
Blue crackling electricity.
All over his body.
“Wait!” Pohatu objected.
Kopaka’s vision faded.
Faded back in, to see snow obscuring his vision – he must have fallen on his face.
Heard more crackling, but didn’t feel it. Heard someone else – Pohatu, he realized – fall to the ground.
He tried to get back up.
But more lightning wracked his body.
This time, his vision faded to black.
There were pains all over the Ko-Matoran's body, as if she’d been burned and dragged through a long, narrow tunnel.
Which she had, she remembered, grimacing. Thankfully the burns weren’t bad, though she’d seen the glowing orange tendrils melt ice before capturing her. Whatever had grabbed her had been holding back its heat.
The room she was in shook.
She jerked to her feet, looked around.
Heard a terrifying roar, so deep it shook her bones.
She was in a room made of metal, protobronze by the look of it, but with corners made of cool gray stone. A strange green crystal at the top apparently was recycling the air, as she felt a fresh breeze wafting off of it – instantly telling her the room was airtight.
Roar again. The room shook so violently she fell on her side.
She rolled off of whatever she’d fallen on – the floor was littered with tons of objects of all types. Gearwork clocks, fishing nets, shovels, lightstones, torches with proto-flint lighters, candles, and unlit proto-oil lanterns, and just about anything else you could imagine, if it was small enough to hold with one hand. She recognized all of it from Ko-Koro.
A rapid, repeated scraping sound on the other side of the wall in front her.
A powerful thump, rocking the room again. In the exact moment the sound rang out, a part of the wall bent inward.
Again, and bent in more.
The metal started to glow.
She felt heat radiating from it. The chilly room warmed quickly.
The fisherwoman turned around, looking at the walls. No sign of a door. The metal portions strongly braced around the rock portions.
Why am I always getting trapped?
Now the monster moved to the left.
Pounded now on the stone instead of metal.
A piece broke, fell on the floor. She heard more breaking off on the other side.
The creature sped up the attacks then, roaring louder. Eager.
She looked around frantically. She’d been trapped by enemies before. Twice – and she'd found a way out both times. She was confident she could again, especially with so many tools here of various uses.
Too slow compared to that. But she grabbed it anyways and slammed it into the opposite rock corner.
It bounced off and slipped from her grasp.
Not a dent in the rock, but the shovel was badly bent.
She picked it up, tried again.
This time the scoop bounced right into her face. “Ow!” she cried aloud.
ROAR in response, and the creature rammed harder and faster still.
Tried the shovel on metal. It didn’t give.
Tried a miner’s pick. Nothing!
Tried object after object. Threw a clock with all her might at the metal, smashing the clock, and leaving the metal smooth as a puddle in Ko-Wahi.
Nijire turned and stared at the breaking wall, horror frozen on her face, crouched defensively, clutching a proto-iron rod the wall had just snapped in two.
There was nothing she could do.
Edited by bonesiii, Nov 13 2012 - 05:55 PM.