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Nick Silverpen

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  1. Whispers in the Sanctum Matoro stared at the wall. It took him several moments to realize his eyes were open. So caught up in Seeking had he been that perhaps he thought the wall was simply a visualization of his thoughts. All of the images seemed to blend together, so the Matoran thought for a while that this was just another part of the process. Whatever findings had crossed his mind however were gone. The thing he had been seeking was now nothing more than a fleeting thought, and something else had taken over his mind. Something had directed his attention away from the Seeking. What particularly it was, however, he could not put his finger on. Something had permeated into his mindscape, breaking concentration. and bringing him from his meditation. Matoro looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary in the chamber he was in. The fire at the center of the room quietly crackled. Near him sat Turaga Nuju, his mind elsewhere as his mediation went on uninterrupted. His assistant however looked around, continuing to wonder what had disturbed him. Other than the few Matoran Seekers allowed to meditate with the Turaga, uninterrupted in their own deep meditative states, the room was still. There it was though. A sound reached his ears. A voice, calling to him. He could not hear what it was saying, the words being just out of earshot. But he could hear the voice, ominous and calling. He could hear it more definitively this second time, coming from the hallway beyond the chamber. Conversation was frowned upon in the Sanctum. No one would make disruptive sound like this unless it was for a purpose. Yet this voice sounded different, and it seemed Matoro was the only one to notice it. Perhaps it was part of a vision he was experiencing? Matoro found himself walking towards the hall, drawn towards the voice. He felt as though he were in an almost dreamlike state. Behind Matoro, Nuju opened his eyes. The Turaga had heard the Matoran rise, and came out of his own meditative state to see his translator making his way towards the chamber’s exit. Generally he would not follow, but something seemed off about Matoro’s manner. Rising quietly as to not disturb the other Seekers, Nuju followed Matoro out into the hall. Click, click-click. Matoro turned to see the Turaga, alert and on his tail. In his trance like state, it took the translator a few moments more to understand the language of the flyers that Nuju communicated in. Upon understanding the message, Matoro nodded. “Yes, Turaga, I am fine,” Matoro insisted. “I am still Seeking. A voice is calling to me, and I can hear it leading me to the answers I Seek.” Nuju whistled, confusion in his tone. His assistant nodded. “Yes, a voice. It is calling to me. If I follow it, it will lead me to the part of the Wall of History which has the answers.” Will it though? Nuju wondered. He too remembered a time when he thought he could follow a voice. His brow furrowed at the memory. His concerns were growing for his right hand Matoran. I have been warned about voices afar before, the Turaga thought. He grappled for a long moment on what to do. Nuju allowed Matoro to go ahead, although he followed him closely. *** Ehrye had been staring at the Wall of Prophecy all day. He now looked at the glyphs written on the walls with a hard squint. The sun outside was sinking into the late afternoon, making it harder to see. He should go to the center of the hall he was studying and light a fire, he knew, so he could see better. Yet he was so engrossed in his Seeking that the fading light did not matter to him. But none of this was why he could not concentrate. For years he’d studied the walls until his back hurt, with nothing but the glow of his eyes and heartlight to illuminate the prophecies. No, the rapidly changing lighting situation was far from what was distracting him. It was the little voice which reached his audio receptors. “Fire,” said the voice. Ehrye looked up from his translation, searching for whom had spoken. No one showed themselves. He should have looked back down at his work, but his curiosity was piqued. He looked around for a few moments, before lowering his gaze to his work once more. “Fire!” came the voice again, this time more urgent. Ehrye looked up again. “Fire! Fire upstairs!” The voice chirped. The Ko-Matoran set down his translation tablet, comprehending what the voice was saying. A fire? “Evacuate! We need to!” the voice called again. Ehrye then looked around, utterly confused at what was being said. No one spoke in these parts of the Wall of Prophecy, and if they did the urgency for them doing so had to be of the utmost importance. Seeing no one else moving, however, Ehrye cocked his head. He strode over to his neighbor, another Matoran translating. “Did no one else hear?” he whispered to his cohort. The Matoran looked at him, eyes wild. Talking in the Sanctum… no Matoran would break this oath unless it were urgent. “Hear what?” he whispered back, anxious of the dirty looks anyone within earshot might shoot at them. “We need to evacuate the building,” Ehrye told him. “There is a fire upstairs.” “A fire?” the scholar asked. “Says who?” “There was a Matoran in the hallway who called in,” Ehrye told him. “Didn’t you hear him?” The second Matoran shook his head, alarm forming on his mask. “We need to get out of here then!” the second Matoran insisted. The two began tapping the rest of the Matoran, urging them to evacuate. Without haste, they set down their tablets and began to evacuate. They looked odd as they trode through the Sanctum, a group of Ko-Matoran walking together. Scholars and Seekers noted them curiously as the group descended toward the main chamber, spreading word about a fire in the upper levels. One Matoran looked up at the oncoming commotion, far from pleased about the interruption. He listened for a moment, hearing words about a fire. Something did not sound right, so he stopped the group to understand the full story. “There is a fire upstairs!” Ehrye cried to him. “A fire?” the annoyed scholar asked. He looked towards the ceiling for a moment. “I smell nothing burning.” “It probably hasn’t come there yet,” said Ehrye. “Who told you there was a fire?” asked the scholar, rather agitated at all the fuss. “Someone outside our Prophecy room,” the Ehrye explained. “Did you see someone?” asked the scholar. “No,” the Ehrye said. “They probably were evacuating and just shouting a warning to us.” “So you did not see anyone,” said the scholar. A few Matoran in the small group began to give looks. “No but we need to go! Now!” cried Ehrye. “Go?” asked the irritated scholar. “Seeker, you are the first person I have heard talk about a fire in the Sanctum. And, icicle head, has it occurred to none of you that there couldn’t be a fire here, this place being made of ice?” No fire had been found, and the only thing that had happened was that the rest of Ehrye’s peers were mad at him.The other scholars glared at Ehrye as they filed back into their chamber. The Ko-Matoran stood with his head hung, embarrassed at the whole scenario, not able to look anyone in the eye. He had heard a voice, he knew that much. He could not prove it, but there was a voice that had called out about a fire. Someone in the halls of the Sanctum had called into the chamber of study, and Ehrye had been the only one to get the message. Someone had made a fool out of him. Somebody in the Sanctum had played a joke on Ehrye, and made him look like a raving, disruptive lunatic. Crossing his arms, Ehrye only glowered angrily down the hall, furious at whomever that trickster had been. Until the laughter began. Ehrye’s eyebrows raised. Laughter, in the Sanctum? The Matoran’s eyes glowed wide with shock. It was the trickster again, pulling some sort of prank on Ehrye that only he could hear. The Ko-Matoran set off down the hall then, determined to find this trickster. Whoever they were, they were about to get a scolding of a lifetime. The laughter was right around the corner— but when Ehrye turned into the hall, he found no one there. How could that be? Ehrye thought. He looked around, bewildered at the sourceless noise. The laughing was suddenly behind Ehrye. The Ko-Matoran tensed, his shoulders raising in fear. But then his fear grew exponentially as his feet were lifted off the ground. Something had grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him off the ground. Ehrye found himself yelling indiscernible words as he tried to bring himself back to the floor, kicking and writhing as he resisted whatever was holding him. A shadow passed over his eyes, and Ehrye dropped to the ground. Something clattered on the floor nearby. Feeling a drain of energy, the Ko-Matoran realized it was his mask, torn away from his face. He grabbed onto the walls as he stumbled forward towards it, feeling disoriented. All around him, the laughing continued. Whoever it was he did not care anymore. All the scholar wanted was his mask. Bringing his mask to his face, Ehrye felt energy seep back into him. His vision began to clear, and he glimpsed the scene outside a window as he stumbled. A forest of evergreens surrounded the clearing that the Sanctum was set upon. The afternoon light was fading rapidly as clouds began to cover the sky above Mount Ihu. And the snowbanks below looked unbroken. Before he was able to catch his breath, Ehrye felt a pair of hands shove him, and found himself falling out of the window. Finding nothing to grab onto, the Ko-Matoran realized he was going to find out how unbroken those snowbanks below were as he fell towards them. “Gravity hurts!” laughed a voice out the window as Ehrye fell. *** Ducking under a tree branch, Toudo stepped into the clearing. Before him stood the Sanctum, its icy white sheen standing boldly against the grey sky. Breathing a sigh of relief, Toudo brushed himself off, eyeing the building as he began to walk around the building, leaving the treeline behind. Toudo had been out checking his traps in the wilderness of Mount Ihu when he had sensed a storm approaching Ko-Wahi. The endless blue sky of Mata Nui had become grey, and the wind had begun to pick up. The animals had disappeared, more than likely sensing the storm and taking cover, the trapper supposed. Normally he did not mind being out in the squall, but having found so many of his traps empty he decided it would be best to head back to the village. As he walked around the Sanctum towards Ko-Koro, he looked to the sky to see a few flying Rahi flapping overhead, most likely making haste towards shelter themselves. His would follow their cue and head to his home until the mountainside was clear again. “Catch me if you can!” came a voice. The Ko-Matoran looked up, seeing noone around. Someone had called, but there was nobody in the area around besides himself. The area was quiet. Not even the growing winds on the mountainside permeated the natural borders that surrounded Ko-Koro. Squinting into the scenery, Toudo looked around for anyone. He even looked up to the windows at the top of the tower, but no Ko-Matoran could be seen. Perhaps it was just his imagination, he supposed. Toudo continued on his walk. “You can’t!” came the voice again. Toudo whirled again, trying to catch the source of the voice. “Not quick enough!” Again, there was nobody in the area except for him. The trapper looked around, annoyed now. Someone was playing a joke on him. He started to stomp through the snowdrifts, determined to find whoever was playing this game. No Ko-Matoran usually acted like this; those villagers who resided around these parts of the village usually studied in the Sanctum, where near silence was almost required. Toudo knew a few scholars who would have insisted on a Ko-Matoran making noise this close to the Sanctum could carry out their studies with Takua the Chronicler or one of the Le-Korans. Yet someone out here was carrying on like a Brakas monkey. Another sound made Toudo spin, and he found himself being showered with a spray of snow as something landed in the snowbank. Sputtering the drifts out of his mask, he dashed over to see what had created such an explosion. The snow which had been relatively unbroken a few moments before was now scattered, something having come down from the sky to crash into the snowbanks. In the center of the crater that had formed, maskless and bewildered, was a Ko-Matoran. One of the scholars. “What just happened?” asked Toudo. “Did you get a glimpse of who pushed you?” asked Toudo, concerned upon hearing Ehrye’s story. The scholar’s mask had been dented in a few places, and would need repairs, but it still attached to his face. Ehrye shook his head. “I just grabbed my mask before I was pushed. I could barely tell which way was up before I found myself falling. That was terrifying— I could have died!” “Disrupting the studies of the Sanctum is one thing, but nearly murdering a Matoran is a serious matter,” said Toudo. “So you believe me?” asked Ehrye. The trapper nodded. “I heard a voice as I came out of the forest as well, mocking me,” Toudo explained. “Someone here bears us ill will.” “We need to apprehend this person,” said Ehrye. “Before they hurt anyone else.” “Let us go to Turaga Nuju,” said Toudo. He will sort this out.” *** Toudo and Ehrye made their way to the entrance of the Sanctum, where the two guards stood at their positions. They gave a nod to scholar as he approached the entrance, only to wince as he went into a wild accusation. He informed them to be on the lookout for any giddy Matoran, repeating the experience he had told the trapper. The Guards nodded and assumed their guard as the two took shelter from the storm. The Guards of the Ko-Koro Sanctum were known for their vigilance. Always standing at their positions outside the temple with a watchful eye, Talvi and Pakastaa ensured that the sacred place was well protected from the dangers of Mount Ihu. Many threats lurked in the snowstorms of Ko-Wahi; if any of the monstrous creatures were allowed to run rampant within the Sanctum, many prophecies of the Ko-Matoran would be lost. So the two sentries took their duty very seriously, never wavering from their task even in the harshest of conditions. Makuta, however, had found something rather peculiar in his observations of the Matoran. As much personality that the villagers exhibited— or in some of the Ko-Matoran’s cases, didn’t— at the very core of their being, they still machines. They worked fluidly and flawlessly most of the time, but just like any computer or lab dummy, Matoran were subject to lag. Up on the top of Mount Ihu— colder than many of the regulated environments of the Great Spirit Robot— the Ko-Matoran experienced extreme cold, perhaps more harsh than anything they were designed to withstand. Even as snow and ice formed around their Kanohi, Talvi and Pakastaa stood outside. Sometimes though, Makuta would send Rahi to get close to the two, only for them to not even react. Sometimes, they simply stopped noticing and just stared forward, still as ice sculptures, even when something clearly stared back at them from the edge of the horizon. It was imperative that these Matoran did not stop working, Makuta knew. They were engrossed in their studies, yes, but if not stimulated, they would cease working entirely. Sound was a good stimuli, he supposed; while he could send the vicious Muaka and Kane-Ra or any other of the larger beasts of the mountainside to frighten the villagers and keep them alert, in his experimentations Teridax had found there were much more subtler ways of keeping the Matoran moving, if not somewhat distracted. *** Nuju followed Matoro through the halls of the Sanctum, as the latter listened to the voices coming from somewhere ahead. Matoro insisted that they were close to the source— at almost every turn, to the Turaga’s annoyance. He was moments away from knocking the translator over the head with his Badge of Office, if that meant getting the translator to knock off the nonsense and think straight. Two Matoran rounded the corner though, in a fashion Nuju thought resembled his and Matoro’s. Nuju recognized the form of Ehrye, his Kanohi for some reason battered and dented, followed closely by Toudo the trapper. The scholar seemed annoyed while he walked— although he was always annoyed at something, Nuju knew— his head cocked to the side as he seemed to listen to something. “Turaga Nuju!” Ehrye called, recognizing the elder. The sound rang down the hall. The Turaga frowned, insistent on the silence that the scholars of the Sanctum must keep for their studies. But given what happenings were going on today, Nuju figured it may be appropriate. The elder of ice nodded, listening to the pair’s story and growing alarmed with each passing detail. His eyes flitted to his translator, who had been hovering a bio or two away as he listened himself. Matoro now stood next to him though, a new sense of clarity in his eyes as he listened to the story. “I have heard the voices too,” Matoro admitted once they were done. “I was Seeking as well, and thought they were some sort of revelation.” “Far from it, unfortunately,” Ehrye said. “It is someone in here playing a prank. Thank the Great Spirit I found you, lest the same thing happened to yourself.” Toudo shot the scholar a look of scorn, but Ehrye did not notice. “So now we all know about this trickster. They seem to be several steps ahead of us at all times. They can avoid all four of us. So how do we find them?” Something whizzed over their heads suddenly, coming from the depths of the hallways Nuju and Matoro had come from. Whatever it was passed by in a flash before disappearing down the next hallway. The four of them ducked, protecting their masks as the blur flew by them once more. “What in Mata Nui!” Ehrye exclaimed, holding tight onto his own Kanohi. Another shape flashed by, and Nuju was in the air. Toudo whipped out his bamboo disc and hurled it in the direction the blur flew. The Turaga fell, and Matoro dove, trying to catch his mentor. The Ko-Matoran ended up blocking Nuju’s body from the full impact of the floor instead, the two of them ending up in a tangled mess. Nuju whistled and cut through the air with his hand, utterly enraged. “Your mask is fine, Turaga,” Matoro insisted. “There are a few scratches, but otherwise you are in one piece.” “Scratches?” Toudo asked. “Wait a minute…” he turned to Ehrye, looking at the top of his mask. At first they looked like random scratches from the fall, but upon closer inspection the white Mahiki the scholar wore had several claw like marks on the top of his mask. “I don’t think what attacked you was a Matoran,” said the trapper. “Who did I hear then?” asked Ehrye. “Rahi do not talk.” “I am not sure,” said Toudo. The quartet stood back to back, tense as they waited for the next attack from the creature. Nuju gripped tightly onto his pick, ready to swing; Ehrye clenched his fists. His disc unsheathed once more, Toudo watched carefully, ready to hurl the bamboo at whatever the blur was. Extending and retracting his eyepiece, Matoro looked around, hoping to get a better glimpse at whatever had just come through. No doubt it was some sort of flying creature; but it flew faster than anything Matoro had ever seen. The sound of Matoro’s eyepiece shutter clicking went off, and the group was in scrambles again. The bamboo disc went flying, Toudo flinging it with breakneck speed at the blur coming by. The shape went tumbling, and the creature fell to the floor. Nuju’s ice pick pinned down one of its bony wings, and the four of them were able to get a look at it. Its hide was white with streaks of blue, able to easily blend in with the icy walls of the Sanctum. The creature was unexpectedly bigger than they expected, its size clearly demonstrating enough strength to pick up a villager. Between its incessantly flapping bony wings two green eyes shined, its beak screeching a mix of Matoran and jumble. “Let me goooooo,” the thing cried. The three Matoran jumped, but Nuju kept his pick firmly on the bat’s wing, unperturbed by the voice. So this is the creature that has been causing all of the fuss, he signed to Matoro. The translator nodded. “What are you?” asked Matoro. “Your nightmare!” the bat called back, in Matoro’s own voice. “That is not an ice bat,” Toudo said. “This cannot be the only one of them though,” said Matoro. “There has to be more of them.” “There were,” Toudo said. “I saw a group of flyers when I came back from the woods— I thought they were just snowbirds, but it must have been these.” “What are we going to do about them?” asked Ehrye. “I cannot study with all of these distracting bats around.” “We will have to find where they are nesting in here,” said Toudo. “Then I can make some sort of net which we can put over the windows of this place.” Nuju nodded, agreeing with the trapper. He knew Rahi of this Koro best— he and Kualus would have gotten along well— so it would be appropriate to let Toudo make whatever he needed to trap all of these birds. “Now that we know what is causing the ruckus in here,” Ehrye said. “I can get back to my studies. Thank you very much Turaga.” Toudo grabbed Ehrye’s arm, raising an eyebrow. “How about before studying, however, we go down and address the horde of angry Ko-Matoran down in the main atrium?” *** The main atrium of the Sanctum was in chaos. Matoran argued with one another, raving about the sacredness of the place. Others, like Matoro and Ehrye, were raving about tales of voices of phantoms in the halls. Some Matoran even spat Ehrye’s name, accusing him of being the one to cause all of this disruption. “This was all Ehrye’s fault! The Ko-Matoran who cried fire!” “Just because he can’t focus doesn’t mean he has to distract all of us from our studies!” Pakaasta and Talvi had looked in as well at one point, utterly confused about what was going on within the building they were protecting. This was more noise than they had probably ever heard at their posts. It was not their place to question, however, they both figured as they turned away. It was only their place to guard the Sanctum. Matoro, Nuju, Toudo and Ehrye walked amongst the arguments, observing the chaos. Very few of the Matoran noticed them, continuing their accusations. Nuju banged the head of his Badge of office onto the ground so it made a resounding ring which reverberated through the room. All of the squabbling scholars fell silent, turning towards the Turaga. The Sanctum was a uniquely crafted place, but it did not echo. Certainly not the way these voices were reverberating. Above them though, voices still chattered. The gaze of dozens of masks turned toward the high ice ceiling, where the voices of the Matoran still rang about. Green glowing eyes stared back at them, the bats somehow mimicking the voices of the entire village. “Look!” someone cried. “What are they?” another Matoran nearby asked. “Pests,” said Ehrye. “I told you I heard something! It was them!” “How do you suppose we get rid of them?” Matoro asked Toudo.” The trapper pointed to Nuju, who bewilderedly looked at the trapper. Toudo then indicated the Badge of Office. The ringing that the tool had produced the bats seemed to like, so the trapper had an idea. Allowing him to take the ice pick, Nuju watched Toudo as he worked. “What are you doing?” asked Ehrye. “These appear to be creatures of sound,” said the trapper. “If I can find a frequency I can lure them in with, then it will be easier to trap them.” Toudo banged the ice pick on the ground, holding it up towards the ceiling as it reverberated. It grabbed the creatures’ attention, several of them flying down to screech at the Matoran. It did not maintain their attention, however, as the bats flew immediately back up to their roost. “It is not holding their attention,” the trapper said, dismayed. How was he going to bring them down here? He doubted the Rahi had an appetite for bula berries. “I need something else, something that can hold their attention. We need another tool.” Nuju however, emitted a series of clicks and whistles, to which the translator shook his head violently. “I respectfully decline Turaga,” said Matoro. “We are not doing that.” “What is he suggesting?” asked Ehrye. Matoro ignored him, clicking and whistling back at Nuju. “Please.” Nuju slammed the butt of his pickaxe into the ground as the two argued. Many expected the Turaga to emit a number of angry bird calls, but he simply stared at his assistant, close lipped and silent. His deep blue eyes stared menacingly at the Matoran. “Fine,” Matoro said. “But we are having a talk about this later.” The Ko-Matoran turned away from the translator. The lens on his Akaku clicked as he scanned the ceiling, finding where the bats were hiding. They blended in well with the ice of the building, but if one looked hard enough, they were discernable. Matoro glowered at them, pursing his lips with dissatisfaction. He assumed a bold stance, similar to how he stood when he was translating. But clearing his throat, a much different sound came from Matoro as he began to sing. I see your face before my eyes I'm falling into darkness Why must I fight to stay alive? Snow is falling Wake me, can't you hear me calling? Out of darkness, they come crawling The Sanctum grew still as Matoro’s singing drifted over the building. The Ko-Matoran fell silent, mesmerized, never having heard Matoro sing before. It was the smooth sound of the wind blowing on the mountain peak, and the resounding of a drip of water, but it was also unlike anything they had ever heard. The sound of the bats overhead grew as the bats responded as well, emitting tiny little screeches. They were screaming in delight, Toudo realized as Matoro looked at him. “Are they… enjoying it?” he asked. “It seems so,” Toudo confirmed. “Keep going!” Here I am I am lost in your land And I hope you will be Creeping in my soul Shadows fall, let me out Hear my call And I always will be Creeping in my soul I fade away into the night My eyes are closing in Shadows are fleeing from the light My nightmares can begin Wake me, can't you hear me calling? Out of darkness, they come crawling The bats had come down now, swarming just a few bio over Matoro’s head. They opened their mouth, bearing their fangs, but made no move to carry Matoro away or take his mask. Instead, they began to join him, singing in a chorus. Here I am I am lost in your land And I hope you will be Creeping in my soul Shadows fall, let me out Hear my call And I'll always will be Creeping in my soul Matoro grew silent, ending the song himself. However, the bats continued to play it back, all mimicking the Ko-Matoran’s voice. Toudo nodded to the translator, a new strategy already forming in his mind on how to capture the bats. “This… helps, so much,” Toudo said to Matoro, preparing a net from his pack. “Pretty soon the Sanctum will be at peace once more.” The trapper set off, his work cut out for him. Nuju put a hand on his shoulder, nodding his appreciation of Matoro’s voice. “Thank you, friend,” Matoro told the Turaga. “I wouldn’t be able to see clearly if you weren’t there for me.” “Clearly you remember, Turaga,” growled a voice from Matoro’s mouth. Nuju jumped, completely surprised to hear Makuta somehow speaking through the Matoran. “But apparently you don’t remember enough.” It only lasted a moment, but Nuju’s mind began to whirl. “Turaga… are you ok?” Matoro’s voice reached him. “Come,” said the Turaga, speaking in regular Matoran to his translator’s surprise. “I will help you see more clearly, as I must tell you a story about voices.” *** Artinken sat in his hut, working on a sculpture as the storm raged around Ko-Koro. The snowstorm had come unexpectedly to the village, interrupting a peaceful sunset. The Matoran had quickly moved his workings into his hut, so he could carve and be productive while the storm blew over. Sitting on a stool, lightstones illuminating his hut, he worked, listening to the wind blow around him. The wind whipped and Artinken listened to it howl as he worked. The sound, the steady stream of screaming wind, helped the sculptor concentrate, and he kept an ear to the wind as he worked. “Help!” He could have sworn it was his imagination, but Artinken looked up, just in case it wasn’t. Was that a voice outside his hut? “Let me in!” That was definitely a voice. Setting down his tools, Artinken strode over to the door to peek outside. Ko-Matoran were resistant to cold, but this was a particular snowstorm that he didn’t think anyone would want to be caught in. So who would be out there in a snow storm like this? “Help!” Artinken opened the door to his hut a crack, peeking out to see who was calling. Flakes poured from the sky, the scene outside his hut completely white. Being outside in the wind, he could hear how much it was actually screaming as it blew. Squinting, the Ko-Matoran could not see anyone. He pulled open the door a little more, to see if anyone there was standing off to the side. Seeing no one, Artinken closed the door. The wind must have been playing tricks on him. Picking up his tools once more, the sculptor resumed his carving once more. “Help!” came a voice above him. Artinken jumped, startled. Someone was in the room with him! But above? He looked up, to see a pair of green eyes and claws descending upon him. Review
  2. Ga Koro and the Fog The canoe slid down the beach, stopping at the water’s edge. An oar planted itself into the sand next to it, its handler observing the ocean’s conditions before her. Whitewater spilled onto the untouched sands of the morning. Just beyond the break, a fog engulfed the ocean. The haze hung over the water, smaller puffs of fog rolling through as a faint breeze rolled over the water. No winds blew strong enough however to clear the water for the day, and the ocean beyond the shores remained curtained. “Can you… not go out today? Play some Kohlii with me instead?” Kai did not raise her Kanohi to respond, simply talking into the boat as she tied in her equipment. “No,” said the Ga-Matoran. “It could be like this on race day. I have to train through this.” “Nokama would not allow a race to happen in these conditions,” protested Amaya. “Yes she would,” Kai said. “It’s not even that bad out.” “‘Not that bad’?” Amaya mimicked her friend. She rolled her eyes and threw her arm to the sand around them. “You cannot even see the top of the beach, and the fog is still rolling in. How are you going to be able to see out there?” Kai looked out at the water, not sure if she wanted to answer Amaya. “Look, I know this upcoming race is your chance to beat Macku,” Amaya said. “But can you not do your long row? Practice some starts instead? That will really help you come race day.” There was a bitter silence as Kai tossed the decision around in her head. As she held the stern of the boat in the shallow waters, water lapped at her legs. It seemed to urge her back onto shore, pushing at her so she would go back to the beach and leave the ocean alone for the day. But Kai really had been looking forward to this workout. Kai was someone who created a plan and stuck to it. But the more she watched the fog, the thicker she could see it rolling in… “Fine,” she finally said. “I will work on starts.” “Thank you,” her friend replied. Rummaging through her pack, Amaya brought out a lightstone. “I’ll just stand here with this, so you have something to look for on shore.” Nodding thanks to her friend for the support, Kai jumped into the boat. There really was no stopping Kai and her training, Amaya thought as she watched Kai. Macku was the best rower of the village, and something just burned within Kai to outdo her. The Ga-Matoran’s hotheadedness rivaled some of the Ta-Matoran that Amaya knew. But Kai was determined more than anything to be the best rower in Ga-Koro, if not on all of Mata Nui. Kai could not beat Macku if she did not make it back to shore though. Amaya held the lightstone as high as she could, hoping her friend could see it clearly enough. She had hoped Kai would have stopped before going as far as she had. But before Amaya knew it her friend was swallowed by the fog. She waited several long moments, holding the lightstone as high as she could. But after what seemed like too long, Amaya realized Kai was not going to reemerge from the fog. “Oh no,” Amaya managed to say as dread filled her. It seemed to Kai that she had only taken a dozen or so strokes before the shire disappeared. The fog quickly shrouded the beach from her view while she rowed out. What the Ga-Matoran could see of the jungle beyond the beach quickly disappeared behind a haze. The sight of Amaya standing on shore was quickly engulfed by the fog as well. The glow from the lightstone she held above her was lost in the mists, as if it were never there. Not even the sound of the waves lapping the shore could be heard from where ever Kai was, lost on the ocean. Kai stopped rowing as she saw her friend disappear, knowing at that point she had gone too far. Pulling her oars in, she let the momentum of the boat run out. She would hold water and turn the boat around so she could row back to shore. Kai listened to the boat as it ran over the water, hearing the ocean trickle across the hull. The boat, however, kept moving. Instead of slowing down, it seemed to be picking up speed. Kai cocked her head as she listened, then looked out at the water. She was in a rip current that was sucking her boat out to see, yes, but that did not seem to be the reason Kai heard the water becoming louder as she drifted along the ocean surface. The sound of rushing water was all around Kai, her boat dipping and turning violently. The ocean spun as Kai tried to get a sense of what was going on, falling to the high side of the boat in order to prevent from flipping. Anxiety grew in her mind at the change of motion, unsure of what was going on. A whirlpool raged around her, sucking in water at high speeds. The boat lurched back at forth as it spun with the whirlpool, threatening to overturn at any moment. Grabbing an oar, Kai thrust it into the water, using it as a rudder to turn the boat around. She grunted as she resisted the strength of the rushing water, prying on the oar with all her might.Sweat trickled between er mask and face as she held on tight, resisting the momentum of the whirlpool. If she were taken down into the center of the whirlpool sh would be a goner… The boat lurched, suddenly coasting over calming waters once again as it glided away from the whirlpool. Kai fell back into her seat, listening to the slight trickle of water running along the bottom of the boat. Her mind was racing, hardly believing what she had just done. Kai looked out of the boat, seeing nothing but fog. She could practically see Amaya’s mask looking back at her in the mist, so upset about what she had done. She should have listened to Amaya, stayed on land and played Kohlii. Now here she was, lost who knows how far off the beach. She could not stay here, she knew, lest the whirlpool dragged her back in. Shipping her oars back into her oarlock, Kai almost begrudgingly began to row, starting her workout. Where in Mata Nui’s name is land? She wondered. *** Nokama looked out from the edge of her lilypad, watching the fog hanging over the waters of the Endless Ocean. Not much, if anything, could be seen out there. She could feel the ocean was for the most part calm, but Nokama in her wisdom knew there were dangers in calmness. She could barely see beyond a few dozen bio. She could glean nothing out there. Why Kai thought it was a good idea to go out in this was beyond her comprehension. She turned from the water, giving up on trying to see through the fog. Amaya was still standing behind her, nervously twiddling her thumbs. “That was very ill considered for Kai to go out there,” the Turaga said. “I know, Turaga,” said a very worried Amaya. “I tried to tell her that, but she is headstrong. She insisted she had to be out there.” The Ga-Matoran looked down at the floor, almost ashamed of herself. “This is on Kai, not you, flax-maker,” said Nokama. “I will have a talk with her when we find her.” “When we find her?” Amaya asked. “What are we going to do? Are we sending one of Marka’s ships out?” “Goodness no,” Nokama replied. “I am not sending more ships, and more importantly more Matoran, out to get lost in this fog.” “Then what are we going to do?” “Fog walks,” Nokama said. “It may not be at where she left, but Kai will make her way back towards land. When she does, you will be there to greet her. Gather the Guard and search the coastline. Bring lightstones. Position yourselves as you see fit from the Great Telescope to the Charred Forest. Walk together in pairs. Until the fog lifts, you are on patrol.” Amaya nodded, making her leave. “And Amaya,” said Nokama, her tone softening somewhat. “Please be safe.” *** Amaya walked down the beach, twin lightstone signalers in hand. Looking out at the ocean, she could only think of Kai out there on the water, rowing aimlessly and probably to her heart’s content. I hope you’re having fun, sister, Amaya thought. You have us all worried sick. “What in Mata Nui’s name made her think this was a good idea?” asked Nireta. Amaya shrugged, unsure of what to tell her. Amaya and Nireta were not the best of friends, but these were the partners that were picked amongst the group. “She shouldn’t have gone out at all,” said Nireta. “Fog is just too messy to take chances in. You can mess with rain and wind, but fog… that’s just something you do not mess with.” Nireta proceeded to go into one of her cartography adventures, talking about how she stayed at camp when she was mapping out some region. But Amaya was not paying attention, fixated on the ocean as she was. They had taken up a post at one of the beach chairs off of Ga-Wahi beaches, watching the waves lap the sands. Nireta told several more stories— this mapmaker had enough hot air to keep the talkative Takua the Chronicler occupied. But Amaya was only half listening. She was more preoccupied with the fog. Her friend’s safety was really the only thing on her mind. Nireta’s stories were just noise to her. She looked out at the fog with her Kanohi Akaku, the telescopic lens on her mask zooming in and out as the fog rolled by. Even with the advanced sight the mask gave her, there was nothing she could see. The fog obscured all, so thick that it was. “I thought fogs like this burned off by the afternoon,” said Nireta after a while. Maybe she realized that Amaya was not listening, and was trying to change tactics to get her to talk. “I thought the same, but this must be some strong cool front to keep it here,” Amaya said glumly. The worst part was that it was sunny as well. High in the sky, shining through the haze was the sun, a single burning ball in the sky. Amaya watched it for a few moments, able to look at the sun without squinting her eyes. The ball of light burnt steadily, but as much as it tried, it did nothing to incinerate the fog. It just hung up there, in the middle of the sky, a white ball of useless light. Amaya glared at it, as if expecting it to say something, but it just sat up there. She glared harder. But to her frustration, a stray patch of fog floated across it, obscuring the sun even more than it already was. Useless, she thought. I give up. “This breeze is nonexistent,” Nireta pointed out. She was turned around, watching the leaves of the palm trees not far off. More than twice the size of a Matoran, big leaves hung in the heat of the day, casually swinging in the air. The breeze really was nonexistent. Little puffs of fog rolled along the water, they both observed, but the mist shrouding the landscape was not moving anywhere anytime soon. Nireta hopped of the stand and went for a dip in the water. She took a few strokes out, and then came back in to Amaya. Even in the quick swim she took, Amaya was losing sight of her in the fog. “I am going to see who is adjacent to us,” Amaya said as Nireta climbed back onto the chair. “And yeah, I know the way around this beach.” It was Kotu who was stationed north of them, sitting on the sand and staring out to the ocean with her arms crossed. She sat slumped in another chair along the coastline. Kotu sat with no partner, just by herself. Amaya cringed as she realized whom she was approaching; Kotu was known not to be the friendliest of Matoran. Perhaps sticking with Nireta was not so bad. “This day is shot,” Kotu said. “If Kai could think sensibly for once…” “Macku is your best friend and just as much of a competitor,” said Amaya. “Are you telling me that she never wandered into dangerous weather when she should not have?” “Not in a manner that costed the entire village a day of work,” said Kotu. “I have Rahi to tend to. They have needs, and they power the village.” “Everyone else is anxious too,” pointed out Amaya. “I have been worried sick. Kai’s my friend, and I told her all morning that she should not go on this row. I saw her disappear and have been anxious all day. I just want her found and this stupid fog gone.” “I have never seen it this bad,” Kotu replied. “This fog is absurd. It’s thicker worse than the darkness in Onu-Koro or the heat in Ta-Koro!” The two stared out into the mist, having nothing to say for a few moments. “Who is your fog walk partner?” Kotu said after a moment of silence. “Nireta,” Amaya told her. “Does she have a lightstone?” asked Kotu, noticing the twin handles in Amaya’s hands. “I’m not sure, actually,” Amaya said. She turned from Kotu to see the path of the beach she had come from the fog floated through, and the path was even more obscure than when she had left. “I’m going to head back and check on her,” she said, taking a nervous step in the direction of her post. Kotu nodded, bidding her farewell. It only took a few steps for Kotu’s stand to be encompassed by the fog. Amaya turned to watch the phenomenon, growing slightly more concerned than she already was. Visibility on the beach basically was down to nothing now. The fog was so thick that she could not see a few bio in front of her. Even with the telescope of the Kanohi Akaku she wore, albeit powerless, it was getting harder to see. How in the world was Kai going to make her way back to shore? She would follow her footprints back to her post. They were still a good marker of her path. Amaya trudged back along the path she had come, tracing the relatively fresh prints that would lead her to the stand. She kicked shells as she walked back, idly curious about each one as she passed. She was trying to get out of her head, paying attention to what she was seeing on the beach rather than putting the full extent of her worry on her friend. Amaya spotted something on the beach that took away all worry from her friend. Her footprints were still in the sand, but a fresher set of tracks abruptly cut up the beach. Amaya froze, staring at the print on the sand. A singular wide track travelled up the beach, cutting directly through one of Amaya’s footprints. She froze, knowing exactly what those tracks came from. Tarakava. She gripped her tools fiercely, listening as best as she could for the sound of the Rahi’s approach. The Tarakava were largely a water hunting species, so whatever had drawn it to shore was not a good sign. A roar came from behind her, and Amaya spun, only to be sent flying. The punch of a Tarakava had sent her flying across the beach, crashing headfirst into the sand. Fear enabled her to spring to her feet in no time at all. Amaya jumped to her feet, comign face to face with the Rahi. It towered over her. It remained where it had appeared, growling as its forearms grew tense. She could not outrun a Tarakava, Amaya knew that much. But she also knew she did not want to meet her end at the means of this Rahi. So to outsmart it? For now, she knew she could do that. But what was she going to do? She saw her lightstones were not far away. If she could just get to them in time… The Tarakava growled, winding up for another punch. But as it charged, the Matoran threw a fistful of sand at its eyes, throwing off its aim. The creature roared as its eyes were hit with the sand. The punch missed, and Amaya went diving sideways for the lightstone. Amaya got a hold of the mineral and chucked it at the Rahi’s gears. The Rahi tried to launch itself forward in a rage, but it could not, its gears jammed. It fell to the ground, the stone in its gears throwing the creature off balance. By the time the Rahi’s struggling, flailing body hit the ground, Amaya was gone running. *** Giving one last hard stroke, Kai watched the puddles her oars made disappear off into the fog. Bringing the paddles into the boat, she sat in her seat, bent over and weary. She had completed her long row that she had originally intended on accomplishing. Secretly though, she had hoped partly through the workout she would stumble upon land and be able to call it a day on the water. No signs of land though kept her going, stroking the ocean and sending the boat deeper into the endless fog. Rummaging through her pack in the bottom of the boat, she produced a fruit snack that she had put in her bag that morning. The workout had depleted her of energy. She absorbed the energy from the fruit, feeling if only a little replenished. The nutrition from this small snack was not much, and would only temporarily sate her. Yes, Amaya, I should have listened to you, Kai thought to herself. She could practically see her friend’s face in the fog as she gazed off, telling her this or that about the risk she took. Something burned in her, this desire to row to her heart’s content, and she could not think straight sometimes until after she rowed. This hardheadedness was just something inside her hardwiring, she supposed. You were right. But please, friend, I will be back soon enough. I hope you did not go to Turaga Nokama about this. As she ate, Kai listened to the ocean around the boat. Little ‘bloops’ in the water could be heard as the ocean rose and fell around the shell. Other than that, it was quiet. No sound of the waves crashing could be heard anywhere. There was no discerning direction out here, something Kai found odd. One moment the sea rose to push the boat starboard side. The next moment it sent her drifting towards port. On her usual rows far off the shore there was a consistency in where the waves pushed. But this overlap was far beyond her understanding. She was out in the far seas, a long way from shore. What is it going to take for me to find land? Kai asked herself. Grabbing the oars and shipping them back out into the water, she began to lightly pull and get the boat moving. Kai began to get into her groove once more as she began to blindly look for land. A large thunk from the underside of the boat sent the vessel lurching upward. Kai fell backwards off her seat. The Ga-Matoran immediately crawled to the gunwhales, peering over into the water. What had she just hit? Something drifted in the water a few bio away from the boat. Kai peered wide eyed at it, wildly speculating. It looked like a Kanohi mask, but what specific one she could not tell. The waters around it were dark, shrouding half of the shape from view. Grabbing hold of the oars, Kai paddled over to it, hoping to scoop it out of the water. When she reached the spot where she saw the shape, all she saw was dark ocean water. The shape had disappeared. Kai looked around, confused. Where had the mask gone? Whom had it belong to? Had she hit someone swimming? Slightly quieter voices whispered in her mind of alternate possibilities, but she shook her head, shrugging them off. Kai looked around again, hoping to find that the mask had drifted in the wake her boat made. Her scans produced no results. The Ga-Matoran turned her head to see the other side of the boat to see if the mask was over there, but something caught her eye. A shape moved in the fog. Kai was not sure what exactly it was, but she squinted hard at the patch where she thought she saw movement. Was that…? It had to be her imagination. There was no way she was actually seeing a face made out of the fog, staring back at her, was there? The more she looked at the spot in front of her boat though, the more she could see a face coming into clarity. Two circles that could have been eyes were forming above an oval that could have been a mouth. Facial markings formed on the shape as several lines cut through the fog around the ‘eyes’ and ‘mouth’. The configuration could have been a bio or two high, but Kai was really not sure. She had thought she was getting lost in her imagination and picturing Amaya’s mask in her mind’s eye. But the more she looked closer at the shapes forming in the mist, the more she realized that she was not simply daydreaming about her friend. This was another face entirely. “W-wha-t-t are you?” asked Kai, not even sure if the thing could speak. The shapes twisted and contorted as if it were speaking, but no noises could be heard. More shapes began to form in the fog around the ‘face’. Several long columns, twisting and contorting until Kai recognized that they were fingers, reaching out over the air, coming into the boat, looking to grab her… A slight breeze tickled over Kai’s neck, making her scream. Looking again the area around her was blank, just shapeless fog around her. Feeling a pain in her hands, the Ga-Matoran looked down to see she had been holding onto her oars with a death grip. Letting out a rattled breath, she relaxed her grip. Kai then set up the oars, preparing to continue rowing. She had no idea what direction she would be going but anywhere was better than here. Grabbing onto the water with her oars Kai began to row away from this spot. She hoped that the shore was close. *** Kotu met Amaya somewhere in the fog, having heard the roars of the beast. “What in the Great Spirit’s name was that?” asked the Rau- masked Matoran. “Tarakava!” Amaya yelled. “Tarakava? On land?” Kotu repeated. Her eyes lit up wild at the mention of the Rahi beast. She cocked her head in confusion. “How did you outrun it?” “I jammed its gears,” Amaya explained. She panted as she caught her breath. “But that will not hold it for long.” “What? Where is Nireta?” “I didn’t even get to her after I left you,” Amaya said. “We need to get to her before it does!” “Hold on,” the Rahi tender said, dashing back to her post. Amaya stood slack jawed and confused until Kotu came back with several ropes over her shoulder. “Let’s go,” she said, a small smile on her mask. Nireta met them at the remnants of a crushed lightstone, where Amaya quickly caught her up to speed. The other lightstone was nearby, but the Rahi was nowhere to be seen. Kotu kicked sand over the glowing remnants and strode over to the other lightstone, plunging it deep in the sand. “No use letting the monster know where we are,” she said. The tracks led up the beach, towards the Le-Wahi jungles not far off. Kotu unwound her ropes, conjuring a lasso . She cast several of her tools across the beach. Fiddling with several knots here and there, she set a trap to her liking. She stood up, pleased with her work. “Aren’t we following the tracks into the jungle?” Nireta asked. Kotu looked at her skeptically. “Tarakava are primarily aquatic creatures,” Kotu informed her. “It will come back to its home soon.” “So we just wait now?” Amaya said, looking at the trap Kotu had set. The Rahi tender nodded. “Or we could lure it out, if you would rather prefer that method,” Kotu said to her. “And if you have sufficient bait.” Amaya looked at the two Matoran, then shook the idea from her head. “We will wait,” she agreed. *** Far below Ga-Koro, Makuta smiled at the controls of his machine. He could telepathically sense what unfolded on the beach, feeling the high levels of anxiety in the inhabitant’s minds there. It honestly brought a smile to his mask. “That is enough for today, I suppose,” he rumbled to the machine in front of him, shutting off the controls. The natural winds of the oceans above would blow away the fog, but it would take time. He would sit back and wait, letting the rest of the show play itself out. *** A slight breeze drifted through the trees, bringing the scent of Matoran to the Tarakava’s nostrils. It could not see them, however, as hard as the creature peered. Looking out at the beach, it glared, searching for its prey. It could not see them, but it would find them. The Makuta which controlled the Rahi’s mind wished it so, and so it would find them. The only thing that it did see on the beach was the fog, and the lightstone which shone on the foggy beach. It was shiny. But it was not food. The Tarakava knew that this was somewhat valuable to the Ga-Matoran. The voice of Makuta inside its head also told it that this was a trap of some sorts. The Ga-Matoran would not leave an object of value so open in the sand. It was a trap, the primal voice of reasoning in the Rahi’s mind knew. But the only way to get the Matoran to appear was to go into the trap. It would punch its way out if it needed. The Tarakava slowly crawled out of hiding, eyes fixated on the shining lightstone. As it crawled out, the beach remained still, and there was no sign of any Matoran. The Tarakava crawled closer, inspecting the stone’s quiet glow. Sand flew up, and a line appeared. The Tarakava whirled to see the line leading to the top of the trees in the jungle, where it travelled downward from a branch. But what it was connected to it could not see, as a net came up to obscure the Rahi’s vision. “Now!” shouted Nireta, holding as tight as she could to her end of the rope. The end was tied to the base of the tree they were hiding near, but she pulled to secure the net.The net came up around the Tarakava, and the trap was sprung. The Tarakava flailed, immediately throwing out its powerful forearms as it tried to escape the net. A roar came from its jaws. One forearm was stuck in the netting, and it pulled, trying to free itself. “It’s going to tear the net!” Amaya said, dashing onto the sand. Kotu shook her head, throwing her lasso at the beast’s forearm sticking through. The rope held, and she pulled. Amaya readied a bamboo disk, throwing it at the Rahi’s face where the infected Kanohi sat. It thunked against the rusted and pitted mask, knocking it askew but not off. “Watch yourself!” Kotu barked as she tugged on her rope. The Rahi struggled to reach for Amaya as she cautiously strode over to retrieve the disk. The next disk hit its target. It hit the infected Kanohi head on. As soon as the mask dislodged from the Rahi’s face, its roars dulled in ferocity, instead becoming whimpers as it struggled against the bonds the Matoran had on it. Kotu nodded, letting her rope slack. At Kotu’s signal Nireta did the same, letting the net fall from around the Rahi. The Rahi did not wait for the Matoran to clean it up. It went screaming away, darting back into the water from which it came. Only the discarded mask remained of it. “Turaga Nokama would be proud,” said Nireta. “Three Matoran, taking down an infected beast!” Kotu nodded, picking up the infected mask. “I will have to turn this into her upon our return to Ga-Koro.” “Wait a second,” Nireta said, looking out to the ocean. “Do you think the fog has let up a little?” *** Kai had finally found land. She was still lost in the fog out on the water. But she knew where she was going now. After Mata Nui knew how long she had been rowing in the endless void, she began to hear the sound of the shoreline. A breeze had began to form and blow the fog away, the visibility on the water getting better with each puff of wind. She still could not see clearly, but Kai was able to see more and more with each moment the breeze continued to blow. Waves could be heard crashing somewhere and Kai knew at that point the beach was near. Bringing up her stroke rate, albeit as tired as she was, Kai began to sprint towards the shore. She did not care where it was she was coming in to, even if she had wandered as far north as the Po-Koro coastline. Kai was simply grateful to have found land. The sound of the waves was extremely close now. The boat began to rise and fall, entering a small set of waves. Bringing up the rate even more, she chopped short strokes at the water, getting ready to ride any swell that might break early and bring her into shore. She caught one, and leapt up in her seat as she tilled the boat in. The beach came into sight, and Kai nearly wept tears of joy. She was maybe half a kio south of the village, on a beach not too far from the boatyard. Several Matoran were on shore, she saw, pointing at her in the water. It would not be that much longer of a day, she knew. Taking a few more strokes, she rode the wave into where the Matoran were. The wave brought her in smoothly as could be, and she was nearly grinning as the boat came into the shallows. Throwing her oar down into the boat, Kai jumped out into the water to push it onto the sand. As her feet touched the bottom of the shallows however, something wrapped around her ankles, and she went under. Kai screamed with alarm, but the sound did not even make it past her lips before she was underwater. Something held onto her, pulling her below the surface. She could feel an ice cold grip around her ankles, keeping a tight hold and keeping her on the ocean floor. Kai thrashed, fighting to break free of an invisible grip. Her thoughts initially pictured the foggy fingers she had encountered, but as she saw nothing holding her ankles her every being went into screaming to get to the surface, and get a breath of air… She broke the surface, several pairs of hands wrapped around her torso and arms. Now able to breathe, Kai screamed, scrambling to get free. The grip of these hands much weaker than whatever held her down, she was able to get free. Scrambling onto the sand, she panted heavily. “Are you ok?” asked one of the Matoran. Kai said nothing for a few moments, panting heavily. Eventually she looked up to see Nireta staring down at her, very concerned at Kai’s mannerism. “I- I j-ust-t sl-i-pp-ped,” Kai chattered, curled up in a ball. “It’s much colder than I th-ought.” “Next time, seaweed brains,” came Amaya’s voice. Kai looked up to see her relieved mask. “let’s just play Kohlii.” Kai nodded. “I will never go out in conditions like this again,” she assured Amaya. “It was much worse out there than I thought.”
  3. Kraata Hunting “So what was it?” asked Matau, impatient for answers. The other Turaga looked at Whenua with similar expressions, anticipating his answer. “The Matoran said it was some sort of ship,” said the Turaga of Earth. “Like the Vahki transport we drove?” asked Vakama. Whenua shook his head. “No— as in an actual ship. Some sort of warship. I have not been out there myself, but from the descriptions my scouts gave… definitely something used in war.” “What did they find on there?” Nokama asked. “Weapons, charts, all sorts of things,” Whenua said. He placed a parcel on the Amaja Nui storytelling circle. A series of very thin tablets, very flexible in nature as compared to what the six of them were used to. Paper. Passing it around, each of them looked through it, eyeing the peculiar text on the pages. Nuju clicked and whistled incessantly as he squinted at the contents of the parcel. Any attempt by Nokama with her mask of translation provided to be useless. None of them knew what the writing could mean. “Takua ranted about weapons when he returned to Ta-Koro,” said Vakama. “Something about wielding a sword with what seemed to be the power of a Toa.” “He does not even know what a Toa is,” the Ko-Matoran Matoro said, translating for Nuju. “I have never whisper-heard of power-charged elemental weapons before,” said Matau. “What super Toa could possibly have these?” Onewa asked. “I do not think what the Chronicler encountered was from a Toa,” Whenua said, the unease apparent in his voice. “Unless some other society south of Metru Nui that we did not know of which immigrated to the surface, it seems as if these weapons, this ship, all of it— comes from somewhere else. We may not be alone on this ocean up here.” “I second our earth brother,” said Matau to everyone’s surprise. Pulling something from his pack, he placed a mask on the table alongside the notebook log Whenua produced. “What kind of Kanohi is that?” asked a bewildered Nokama. Vakama, the only one familiar with masks from the group, shook his head. The shape was totally alien to him. “That is the thing, teacher-sister,” Matau said. “This is definitely not a Kanohi. I can think of all the masks I have spot seen in my life—add-including the ones the Toa Mangai wore-sported— and this resembles nothing I have seen.” “This isn’t even protodermis,” Whenua agreed upon closer inspection. “Where did you find it?” “A Matoran brought it to me,” Matau began. “The last time Nokama and I potion brewed, when Makuta spurred a sickness upon us— I sent my Gukko Force into the jungle for one of the ingredients. They said they ended up in the Fau swamp, and found a figure buried under the mud. This was what it was wearing.” The six of them sat in silence for a moment, each feeling uncomfortable in their own way. All were certain the figure Matau spoke of was not a Matoran. “This place was never on any maps of the universe, was it?” asked Vakama. Whenua shook his head. “There could be others, south of the sea gates, who came up through the Great Barrier as well,” said Whenua. “But no language like this— to my knowledge— was ever used in the history of the universe. Skakdi, Vortixx… nothing comes to mind when I look at this journal.” Onewa frowned. This discussion was getting them nowhere. “If there is someone out there coming to this island, let them come,” snapped Onewa. “We will deal with them then. There is no need to get worked up about something that may simply come to pass. We can sit around Amaja Nui all day telling ghost stories, or we can discuss more pressing matters. There was something else you brought us together for, Whenua, was there not?” The Turaga of Earth nodded. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out a long cylindrical container. The other Turaga leaned in, but could not identify the contents of the container. “You may want to step back for this,” he suggested to the group. The rest of the Turaga looked uncomfortably at each other before heeding Whenua’s advice. Twisting the lid of the stasis tube, he unscrewed it and placed it on the circle before all of the Turaga. A chilling hiss came from the tube as whatever was in there woke up. Onewa, Vakama, Nokama, Matau, and Nuju all peered suspiciously at the opening, only to withdraw in disgust when the creature within slithered out into the sand of Amaja Nui. The snake like thing peered groggily at each of the Turaga. Then it gave a hiss, recognizing what it was that stared at it. The creature coiled up and lunged at their masks. It only got its head in the air before it jerked back to the sand— if not for Whenua’s badge of office pinning the creature’s tail, it would have latched itself onto the Kanohi of one of the elders. “Seven levels of Karzahni!” Matau swore, brandishing his Kau Kau staff. The little buzzsaw on the Turaga of Air’s badge of office began to whirl. “What is that thing?” “Do not kill it!” insisted Whenua. Matau looked at him incredulously, buzzsaw whirling, before lowering his staff. “Kraata,” growled Vakama. “Where did you find it?” “In a mine, trying to corner one of the workers,” Whenua said. “As soon as I captured it, I knew the six of us had to talk.” “Another ugly Rahi beast,” Matau said. He watched the Kraata scream as it tried to writhe out of the grip of Whenua’s drill. “So what?” “These are not just Rahi, Matau,” Whenua shook his head. “Remember the Rahkshi from the Fikou Web, brother?” asked Nokama. “These are what pilot them.” “So they are Makuta spawn,” the Turaga of Air said. “Have any Rahkshi been spot-seen on the island?” Four of the Turaga shook their heads. Vakama, on the other hand, stared at the Kraata with an empty eyed gaze, his mind elsewhere. The Turaga looked at each other, familiar with this expression. “No, they are not here,” Vakama said. “But one day they will be. Makuta has made Rahkshi with several Kraata before, in one of his lairs between here and Metru Nui. One of his thousand contingency plans.” “Another vision?” Onewa asked. The Turaga of Fire nodded, frowning at the creature. “And that is not the only concern with these Kraata,” said Whenua. “Vakama, you brought the mask, as requested?” Vakama nodded, producing the requested item from his own pack. Even though he did not have his forge anymore, he did still produce masks, on the off chance they did run out of the cache they had retrieved from Metru Nui. He placed the Kanohi within the sand circle, near the still struggling kraata. The painful screams changed as the Kraata noticed the nearby mask. Whenua looked at his cohorts, and then lifted his drill. The Kraata squirmed free, slithering in a beeline for the mask. The grey silver sheen of the unworn surface became rusted and pitted where the creature touched it, infection coming over it as quickly as a passing shadow. The Kraata slithered though and around the mask while it changed, the screams a moment before now gentle growls. It was almost as if it were cuddling it. The Turaga watched this happen, repulsed— the perverse affection the infectious creature had for the mask made the elders feel uneasy. “Just as I thought,” Whenua whispered. “Is that—“ Matoro said, translating for Turaga Nuju as well as asking of his own accord. “That is how the Rahi here have come to serve the Makuta,” Whenua said. “Kraata can corrupt the masks they wear. I believe since these come from Makuta himself, it gives him the ability to assume control over the mask and the Matoran wearing it. Or in our cases, the Rahi.” “So what do you suggest we do?” asked Nokama. “Look for them in and near your Koro,” said Whenua. “I have more than enough stasis containers to store these things in.” “And just leave stasis tubes laying around for the Matoran, or even the Makuta, to find?” Vakama asked. “There are several caves in Po-Wahi, far enough away from where any Matoran would venture,” said Onewa. “We can store them there.” Whenua nodded thanks to the Turaga of Stone. “We need to find and capture these things before they infect the entire island.” Several of the Turaga nodded in agreement, accepting their new mission. “Why can’t we just kill these things?” Matau asked, raising his buzzsaw in confusion. “Because we need to study them,” Matoro said over the clicks and whirls of Turaga Nuju. “Like Turaga Whenua just said— I am not calling him that, Turaga Nuju—we need to figure out what they can do to the island.” “If they can corrupt Kanohi with just a touch, who knows what other havoc they can wreak on the island,” Whenua added. “It will be messy if we do just kill them, brother,” Onewa said. “We can’t leave our mess for the Matoran to find.” “There is still a lot we do not know about these things,” Whenua said. “The records in the Archives exhibits were vague at best. Aside from cutting them up, how else can they be killed? Can they infect masks even if they are dead? What other powers do they have?” “It sure seems you are skip-missing an opportunity-chance to experiment-test,” Matau grumbled, crossing his arms and nodding at the Amaja Nui circle before them. “The more we can capture, the more we can study,” Nokama advised. “Matau, this is more than Whenua wanting to play Archivist,” Vakama said. “The Kraata pose a danger to us. These are the Makuta’s creatures. After all we did to escape him, his Visorak, and all the other stuff he threatened us and the Matoran with, we are just going to let another one of his creatures slip into our villages and ruin all our hard work?” Matau looked down at the creature. “You’re right, firespitter,” he said. “Whenua is right. We’ve collect found the Great Disks, homes for our village people; what’s another scavenger find-hunt?” “Thank you Matau,” Whenua smiled. “May each of you go back to your villages with a sharp eye. I will have stasis tubes sent out to each of you. For now, Onewa, you can show me some of your caves on the trip back north. May your villagers be safe from the Kraata’s reach.” “And the Great Spirit watch over us all,” added Nokama. *** Matau swung through the trees of Le-Wahi, grabbing vines as he travelled back to his village. The meeting was on the forefront of his mind, very much annoying him. But why? He had collected a lot of things over the years on this island. Various fruits, types of bark, all little knick knacks in nature that caught Matau’s attention. What was one more scavenger hunt? he thought to himself. This collectible you cannot leave lying around your hut, a little voice in the back of his mind told him. That was the uncomfortable part. Matau enjoyed collecting fun things… but this was business. More serious business than just an ivy that made his organics itch from time to time. And on top of all the Rahi attacks they had to look out for, this was just more than a simple challenge. The Turaga of Air forced himself to stop thinking for a moment and enjoy the jungle around him. Rahi could be heard in the distance, but for the most part, it was quiet. The sun shone from some hole in the jungle canopy. The day was good. Perhaps he would go food hunting to lighten his mood. Collect something fun, and ease into it. There had to be some bush, some tree, something around here which grew some food for him to collect. Matau swung, grabbing onto each vine as he looked around for crop… Look up— no one ever looks up, he thought to himself. Matau looked up, eyeing the vines he grabbed. Each line was tough and firm, but coarse, the outer skin of the vines like a hard leaf. He grabbed them skillfully and he swung through looking for fruit— The next thing he grabbed was definitely not that. Instead of the firm, rope like texture of a vine, his hand closed around something soft and slippery. Matau’s eyes lit up with shock as he looked up to see what he had grabbed. You have got to be joke-kidding me! the Turaga of Air thought, as the yellowish Kraata screeched under his grip. The initial shock of grabbing something living made Matau jerk back, letting go. His momentum carried him forward though, and having let go of the previous vine, he fell fast toward the grounds of Le-Wahi. *** As a general rule, Onu-Matoran did not take well to brightness. Spending most of their time underground left their eyes weak in sunny circumstances— having adapted to seeing in the dark, daylight was almost painful. Their Turaga was no exception. Whenua's eyesight was terrible in comparison, if not worse than, his villagers. And having used a Ruru during his time in the caves of Onu-Wahi made his tolerance for the desert sunlight almost unbearable. Much to Whenua’s dismay, the journey back to his home in the Great Mine ventured through Po-Wahi. He and Onewa ventured on Mahi steeds over the desert, looking out onto the very sunny horizon. Onewa had said there were caves he knew of where they could store the captured Kraata. Whenua was eager to see them, so they could begin this new project. The brightness did not settle well with him, but nevertheless, he followed atop a Mahi steed. The Turaga of Stone led the way, dead set with a particular destination in mind. The majority of the venture through the canyons had passed almost wordlessly. Onewa hardly stopped to check for direction or rest. “You know Po-Wahi well, brother,” Whenua remarked. “Is this near where…?” “No, but I first ventured out this way when I looked for a way back,” Onewa said. “There were a few spots where I wanted to settle Po-Koro. When we returned with all of the Matoran, I spent a lot of time surveying the land. Spent the better part of ten years figuring out which tunnels connected to below, and which were just caves. Helped me figure out where exactly to settle Po-Koro— far away from anywhere a Matoran might figure out a passageway to below. I know this entire region better than the Makuta knows even his own shadows.” Ten years. Whenua raised his eyebrows. They had already been here on Mata Nui for a few centuries, but ten years in of itself…that was a long time to be cave exploring. “So this cave, for the Kraata… where exactly is it?” Onewa turned on his steed and smiled at his brother. He could see the Turaga of Earth’s eyes were straining in the bright light. “Not far now, Whenua,” Onewa smiled. Whenua spent the rest of the ride staring narrow-eyed at Onewa’s back. *** The Turaga of Earth was more than relieved when the canyons rose around them, shade finally falling onto their path. Whenua glowered for a bit as his eyesight adjusted, almost able to see Onewa’s smirk from behind him. They dismounted after maybe an hour of riding, somewhere deep in the winding crevices of the canyon. The two of them looked around, seeing the empty area around them. No Matoran was anywhere close to here. Besides their steeds, no Rahi roamed around the place. This was not somewhere one would roam to by accident. Definitely somewhere where you would go to hide something, Whenua thought. “Not even Takua could find this place,” Onewa said, satisfaction in his voice. Petting the Mahi, he nodded for Whenua to follow him just a little further. The cave mouth yawned open for them, a veil of deeper shadow hanging over the entrance. Whenua nodded his approval of the place. Isolated, protected from the elements, it could be the perfect hiding spot. Small little lights wandered over the walls of the cave, but Onewa dismissed them. Electric spiders. Natural guards, he insisted, in case the Kraata found some way to escape their tubes. Whenua nodded, remembering his Archival days where he put Electric spiders into stasis. Even after several transformations, he could still feel the shock on his fingertips. Whenua took his drill and traced it along the cavern walls. Just as he did in Onu-Koro, he sensed the walls for empty pockets, places unwelcome guests could nest in. The drill, combined with his connection to the element of earth, could sense tunnels and cavities in the walls. But here, he found none. “Well?” Onewa asked. “Do you approve?” Whenua withdrew the stasis tube from his pack and set it down against the wall. He was more than satisfied with the place. Smiling, the Turaga of Earth shuffled to the entrance of the cave. Raising his drill to the canyon wall, he carved in a quick sketch of the Kraata. *** The sound of chiseling was practically music to Whenua’s ears. After wandering with Onewa to Mata Nui knew where in the Motara desert, he finally had a sense of where he was. The pair had almost reached to Po-Koro— and better yet, in Whenua’s opinion, a tunnel that led back to Onu-Koro. After years of excavating for raw carving material, the area surrounding the Po-Koro Quarry was riddled with cavities, the result of years of Po-Matoran mining material for their statues. Little alcoves littered the open pit mine, as Matoran over the years would pull from anywhere and everywhere for stone to use. This had caused quarrels between carvers every so often, some Po-Matoran accusing others of toppling their greatest creations for material. (Hafu was a frequent complainer, to which a time came where Onewa was given him his own private section of the quarry-canyon.) The Turaga dismounted for a rest from their ride, having been traveling on the Mahi for the better part of the day. Onewa took a moment’s leave from the Turaga, going around to inspect the carvings his villagers were producing. Whenua watched as the Turaga of Stone dolled out advice to the craftsmen. He would point here or there on a statue, gesturing with his hammer to show how they could carve out the details they desired. Whenua surveyed it all, feeling satisfied with his day. He had traversed a good part of the island, and more importantly, accomplished something with the other Turaga. Other than the matters of the ghost ship, he felt as if they finally were competent overseers of their Matoran. Setting his staff down, Whenua smiled. A reverberation alerted Whenua. Looking around, he could feel something in the earth, something moving through the ground around the carvers. It was faint, it was small, but still, it was something. The Turaga of Earth looked over at his guide, whom was still occupied in teaching a Matoran. Another Matoran caught his eye. The carver was standing back from his creation, tools held up in a menacing manner. His carving however, looked far from finished. Whenua, curious at the observation, made his way to the carver. “What goes wrong with your creation?” he asked. “There is something— something coming out of the stone!” the Matoran said. “I was chiseling a detail on the lower part of the Kanohi, and my chisel went through the rock. Then dust came out— a lot of it— and something popped out! But it ducked back into the stone, and another hole formed!” Upon closer inspection, the Matoran’s confusion was clear. The carving, a larger rock, was slowly falling apart. The Turaga looked over the carving, concerned. There was something inside, slowly eating away at the rock. He placed his staff on the stone. The drill of Onua was not best when inspecting a stone removed from the ground, but it was still able to pick up some things. By this point, Onewa had come to the Matoran’s side, equally concerned as Whenua about the rock. Putting his hand to the rock, he nodded. “There is definitely something in there,” he said. “I am sorry carver, you have done wonderfully on this piece. But whatever it is, I need to do this.” “By all means, Turaga,” the Matoran said, stepping back. Onewa nodded, appreciating the Matoran’s understanding, and kicked the mask. With a solid blow, it crashed to the floor of the canyon. The stone rolled over to its side, where several holes bore into the back of the statue. Whenua’s eyes lit up as he saw the tail of… some sort of creature… slither into the back of the statue. He frowned, not liking the look of what he saw. “Get your brothers away from their carvings,” Onewa ordered the Matoran. “Who knows what this is, and what others may be in the stone. Turaga Whenua and I will deal with it.” The Matoran nodded, running off to his nearby cohorts. “It’s one of them,” said Whenua. “A Kraata.” “You act scared of them, brother,” Onewa said, brandishing his hammer. “I can take care of them with this.” Onewa concentrated hard on the stone, feeling the structure of the carving. With his hands on the structure, he could feel the space inside, the stone being eaten away from the inside out. He listened to the holes, listening for slithering noises coming from out of it. And before he knew it, two of them popped out of the structure. Two slimy, screeching Kraata, baring their mandibles at the one who disturbed their new home. Onewa pursed his lips, bringing his hammer down on the yellow and metallic colored one. The second, sand blue one sunk back into its hole as it listened to the hammer come down on its brother. But the rock rang as he missed his target. “What?” Onewa asked no one in particular as he raised the hammer. No concussed Kraata was underneath as Onewa lifted the face off the carving. “My aim never misses!” he cried out angrily. “Try again, brother,” Whenua urged. The Turaga of Stone did not look his way, simply focusing on the holes in front of him. Hand on the rock, he felt the Kraata slithering, coming up to check if it was safe… This time a light grey one poked its head out, before sneaking back into the stone. Onewa slammed the hammer down on the spot where it had been, completely missing the window in which the snake poked its head out. A second too slow to capture this one. “Your drill,” Onewa barked at the Turaga. “It can sense the changes in the stone?” Whenua nodded, noticing Onewa’s curt manner. “Place it on the side,” Onewa told him. “And tell me when they are coming up. There are three of them.” “Three?” Whenua asked, barely hiding the joy in his voice. Onewa frowned. “Yes, you lucky archivist you. You’re getting your Naming Day presents early. Just let me know where they are coming out. I will take care of the hitting.” Whenua nodded, standing to the side of Onewa with his own badge of office. He could feel the Kraata within as they forced away the stone, trying to find a new way out of the rock to avoid the hitting menace. “Ready?” Whenua asked. “Left!” “Down!” “To your right side!” “Up!” Whenua barked each time, and Onewa swung, but each time the Kraata dodged his attacks. The Turaga of Stone grew more frustrated with each miss, becoming more curt and erratic with his strikes. Soon he was not even hitting a hole, just wacking the stone at any point he could. Whenua noticed the carvers had gathered in a group not far off from them, watching the show. “You know what?” Onewa said, throwing his hammer to the ground after several dozen attempts. “Forget this. We are going a different route.” “I’m not sure if that’s—“ Whenua tried to caution. Onewa ignored him, his Komau beginning to glow. He stared at the rock hard, until almost as if on a string, each of the three Kraata slid out of the structure. Staring at them with an intense hatred, he smashed his hammer on each of them, knocking the first two unconscious. Whenua watched wordlessly, wincing as his fellow Turaga hit each of the specimens. The last one however, Onewa’s hammer froze just inches above. Whenua looked at his brother, then at the Kraata. “Why are you hesitating?” asked Whenua. Onewa gave no answer. Instead he just stood there, in a trance, hammer hovering over the creature. A moment passed, and Onewa brought the hammer down on the creature. The final Kraata went limp, and Onewa lowered his tool, using its staff for support. He breathed heavily. “Are you alright?” asked Whenua. “The Makuta,” Onewa panted. “He has a telepathic link with these creatures. One is stronger than the others. But he can feel their thoughts.” Whenua’s fingertips suddenly felt tingly. It was moments like these he wished he had archival tablets to write on. “What did you see?” he asked. “A bunch of things, things I couldn’t describe even if I wanted to try,” Onewa said. “But then I heard his voice.” All joy from the moment before flooded out of Whenua, leaving him with a sense of dread. “What did he say?” “He knows we are hunting the Kraata.” Whenua swore. *** He didn’t know how long he was out, but Matau jerked awake with a shock. Sitting up he gasped, and then immediately groaned. He was limber for a Turaga, yes, but sometimes he forgot that he was not a Toa anymore—despite how briefly he had been one— and that his current body did not take to impacts as well as a Toa did. Still getting used to this frame, even after a century or two, he thought to himself. As the pain subsided the Turaga of Air looked around, momentarily forgetting why he had fallen to the forest floor. He fell from vine swinging! Oh, how the Le-Matoran would laugh at him if they ever heard of this… He had been swinging, and grabbed onto a vine. Except it wasn’t just a vine, he remembered, the incident coming back to him. There had been… a Kraata on the vine. And if he remembered correctly, the Kraata had fallen off of the vine to the jungle floor with him. But his mask… with a cursory inspection, Matau took off his Noble Mahiki to see that it was fine. A few dents and scrapes over the years, but it was otherwise perfectly uninfected. No Kraata had touched it. If the Kraata hadn’t touched it, was the creature still around? Putting his mask back on, Matau looked at his surroundings. The snake like creature he had grabbed on the vine was a handful of hues of yellow, yet he only saw green around him. Picking up his Kau Kau staff, the Turaga looked around. But more importantly, he listened. The area around him was quiet. He could hear his breath and the sounds of the Rahi in the distance. But the sounds in between the two… There was faint breeze that blew through the jungle, and Matau stood attentive as it rolled over the plants. Yes, there it was, rustling much of the plant life, lightly but slightly… and the sound of shuffling on the underbrush made by a creature trying to stay hidden. Oh yes, it is still around. Matau smiled as the sound reached his audio receptors, his eyesight sliding towards where the sound came from. He raised his staff noiselessly to the brush, and gave a quick whirl of the buzzsaw to scare the creature. The Kraata shot out of the brush, frightened. In a blur, it snaked toward a tree. Matau lunged after it, swinging his badge of office at the creature. Hold on, he thought as it slid under another bush. The creature spawn I grabbed on the vine was yellow. This one… this is green? The Kraata had slipped through the bush, and was making a beeline for a tree a few bio away. Matau darted after it, swatting at the creature with his staff. He watched it as he chased, amazed that now the Kraata was taking on the color of the tree stump. Never mind what color it is, just grab the forsaken thing. Reaching the tree a few seconds ahead of Matau, the thing began to climb up the tree to allude capture. Matau was faster though, grabbing the thing by the tail. It hissed as it was pulled back towards the ground, the Turaga yanking hard at the creature. It hissed and looked back at Matau. “Get— back— here— you—slimy— piece— of—“ he grunted. The Turaga was unable to finish his sentence. The Kraata, not taking too kindly to the tug on the tail, forgot about its ascent on the tree and lunged at the Kanohi of the green one. Matau fell on his back for the second time that afternoon. The Kraata was in his grasp fully now, albeit an arms length away. It writhed and screamed whilst trying to wriggle free. The Turaga grabbed the creature with as much of a vice grip as he could, trying to keep the thing away from his mask. The Kraata refused to submit, resisting any attempts to be subdued by Matau’s hand. What was he going to do with the thing? “Don’t you ever tire?” He yelled at it. Getting to his feet, the Kraata still thrashing around in his grip, Matau went over to the tree it tried to climb and did the only thing he could do. Giving a solid swing, he swung the thing’s head at the tree it so desperately clung to moments before. That did the trick. The snake went limp, suddenly stopping its struggle. The brown hue of the creature’s skin changed, until it was back to the yellowish color Matau had originally seen it bearing. “So, you can camouflage-change,” the Turaga of Air said. He thought back to what Whenua said about the Kraata possibly having powers. “Well, earth brother,” Matau said aloud, “looks like you were right about that.” Kongu wandered through the village square of Le-Koro, helping transport goods from one end of the village to the other. He looked very surprised when Turaga Matau came bursting from the trees, swinging in to land on the platform. For his advanced age, it was always impressive to see the Turaga performing acrobats as if he were one of the Matoran. “Turaga Matau!” Kongu cried, excusing himself from the transport for a moment to greet the Turaga. “You have returned! Did the council-meeting with the other elders go well-fine?” The Turaga nodded, but there was clearly a sense of stress on the noble Mahiki the elder of Le-Koro wore. “As well fine as it could have gone, vineswinger,” Matau said. “Can you get a Gukko and a carry messenger ready? I have something to ship-send to Turaga Whenua.” *** Far beneath the Po-Koro Quarry, Makuta brooded. In the brief moment Onewa had tried to control the Kraata, he had glimpsed Makuta’s mind. In reciprocation, Makuta had sensed the Turaga’s simple thoughts, and seen what he and the others were trying to do. Now he contemplated the information he had gained. “The Turaga wish to eradicate my Kraata from their paradise,” rumbled Makuta. “They seek to capture the seeds of my sons.” “But Onewa,” Makuta said as he looked upwards to the ceiling of his lair. “Turaga of Stone… for being such a solid leader, your understanding of the situation is like the rocks you strike. Very hollow.” Makuta approached a control panel deep within the recesses of the Mangaia. The lair was his, yes, but the cavern predated him by many millennia. This panel, an ancient piece of technology, was one of the mechanisms original to the cavern. It allowed him to manipulate the island above, in ways that his powers could not yet achieve. Makuta now tapped into it, preparing to counter the elder’s plans. “I wish for the same things you do, Turaga,” Makuta rumbled as he activated the systems of the panel. He had great powers on his own, yes, but devices like these had power on another level. “The Kraata… they allow me to control the Rahi, and I do so in our best interest. They guard the tunnels, the ways back to Metru Nui. I keep the Matoran far away, in their villages, until the time is right— a time that I have chosen— for you to return to the City of Legends.” The panel whirled to life, and Makuta manipulated the controls with glee. “So, Turaga, you wish to hunt,” Makuta said. “But how can you capture what you cannot see?” Review
  4. The Ship from the Far Seas The ship started out as a dot on the endless ocean. A simple speck far out off the the shores of Onu-Wahi, which was barely distinguishable to the naked eye. Midak caught sight of it a few days after it appeared on the horizon, during a walk along the shores of the Papa Nihu Reef. He was out collecting the shells that would wash up, and noticed the speck as he looked out beyond the waves. Perhaps it was one of those deep sea creatures that would occasionally break surface far out there, he supposed. The Onu-Matoran looked at it curiously as he walked, not thinking much of the sighting. When he walked again a few days later, he began to think it might be something other than a sea Rahi. The speck was still there, larger this day than on his last stroll. He could still not tell what it was, only that there was definitely something out on the horizon. His curiosity kept him coming back to the beach, where he would watch for a few hours atop the ring of eight boulders. Even after days of watching, he could not make out what the speck was. But he could tell that it was something. After the northern winds began to pick up was when it really began to come into view. The ocean breezes which blew to the island began to carry the speck, its shape coming closer with each passing day. There were times where Midak believed he could almost distinguish an outline of the speck’s shape, and there were other times where it looked no more than a dark dot on the horizon. Either way, he knew it was something. The rest of the Onu-Matoran rolled their eyes when Midak marvelled about the speck coming toward the island, during a rare trip to the underground markets. No one believed him— even as the veiled and shadowed speck, whatever it was, came closer to the island each day. “Several centuries we have lived here on Mata Nui, Midak, and nothing has ever come to our shores before,” scoffed Onepu upon hearing about the speck. “Why would something suddenly show up now?” “Maybe it just took time to get here,” was Midak’s reply. “It could be a very big ocean.” “Your eyes have simply seen too much sunlight,” another Onu-Matoran insisted. “You need to not go above ground so much.” *** Eventually the speck disappeared in the storms which the northern winds had brought. The usual serene skyline one day was obscured by clouds and rain, and Midak could no longer distinguish anything out on the horizon. Once the storms passed it came back into sight, closer than it had ever been before. When it finally came into sight, Midak could not remember how much time had passed since he had first seen it on the horizon. It did not matter anymore. What mattered was that it was here, and he could finally glean what it really was— a ship on the horizon. It came to rest at the edge of the shallower seas off of Onu-Wahi, much to Midak’s glee. There were reefs out there, which most likely caught the bottom of the ship, giving it its first anchor in probably a very long time. He could immediately tell that it was not manned— the ship had drifted in haphazardly, its course directed by only the currents. “Maybe two kio out?” said Takua, estimating the distance to the ship one day when he came to visit Midak. “Too far to swim out to…” Midak muttered. “But with a boat we could easily manage to get out there,” said the Ta-Matoran, a mischievous smile coming to his mask. “It is a beautiful day out here,” said Midak as they cruised along in a boat towards the ship. “The sun seems to just come down perfect out here. It is the perfect amount of cloud cover too. Quite unlike Po- or Ga- Koro, where the sun comes down too brightly. Have you ever noticed that in your travels, Chronicler?” Takua shook his head, but smiled as the eccentric Matoran continued to ramble on about the marvels of pure light, as he was known to do. The Onu-Matoran was obsessed with the beauty of light… but the adventuring nature of Takua was more curious about the ship Midak had brought him out here to see. As they came into its shadow, its age and wear were apparent to them; The vessel looked ancient, rusted in most places and worn away in others. Lines of rust travelled up the seams of the metal panels that kept it together. Large bolts the size of a Matoran were equally as pitted, dried salt deposits sitting atop the surface. A small Keras crab scuttled up the side and over the deck. The waters of the endless sea had clearly not done any favors for the vessel in the years it had been out to sea. No flags or symbols stood out on the metal of the ship— perhaps they had been there once before, and worn away over time. And with the condition it was in, the two supposed it was not very well kept. Whatever this ship was and whomever owned it, they were either gone or very, very, ancient. “Do you think someone is on it?” asked Midak. He knew nothing of ships and boats. “I don’t think so,” Takua shook his head as he threw a grappling hook towards the deck above. “And I hope not, for their sake. I’ve seen Marka in Ga-Koro tidying her boats…. if anyone is up there, and she gets wind of the condition this thing is in, Marka will be having a very pointed conversation with them.” The weight of the two Matoran climbing aboard made the ship creak, and even shift a little. Under their feet the deck groaned, breaking a sense of stillness hanging over the ship. A bird fluttered past them, spooked by their arrival disturbing the quiet of the afternoon. In some places, a few empty nests could be seen. “Be careful of your step,” advised Takua as he walked forward. He winced, his voice seeming unnaturally loud on the quiet deck, even for him. “This metal could give out anywhere.” Time on the ocean had worn on the ship. Rust covered parts of the deck. Links of large chains— presumably for an anchor— had clearly rusted away, leaving stains where they had laid. The remains of barnacles and the waste of birds littered the rails, creating a crusty layer of crud aboard the ship. In some spots, on the deck were clear indicators of lightning strikes which had occurred some time in the past. The deck was largely empty, many of the structures having most likely been blown away by the winds of the far seas. Many of the rails were rotted through. A large tower stood at the stern of the vessel, its upper half missing. A large, long cylindrical structure ran the length of the deck, to what purpose Takua had a faint inkling. A cannon? he wondered. They explored further, finding a portion of the deck punctured by weapons. A flagpole stood behind the tower, wisps of what may have been a flag flowing slightly from side to side in a light breeze. A long slender sword was stuck in the hull. Turning his attention from Takua, Midak grabbed ahold of the hilt. Wrestling it with all of his strength, the sword fell free, albeit taking some debris still stuck on the blade. Midak went to clean the blade, but a tap on the shoulder found him dealing with another, this one with the tip at his neck. “Fight, ye darkness crawling coward,” Takua said in a growling, gravelly mock voice. Midak turned around, swatting at Takua’s blade with the one he had shaken the debris from. The two of them laughed as they play-parried, pretending they were pirates. They jumped and slid through the narrow hall between the gunwale and the remnants of a tower. The ship creaked as they ran around, but the deck remained stable. Neither of them had ever seriously held a sword, and fumbled with the tools as they made the blades collide, but either way they enjoyed it as the metal blades came together with a satisfying ring on deck. “You dare challenge the mighty Captain Takua?” asked the Ta-Matoran. “Conqueror of the endless sea, master swordsman—“ Before he could say anything more the hilt Takua’s sword rotated. The blade began to ominously glow. The playing stopped, Midak immediately dropping his blade to his side as his ‘opponent’ figured out what was going on with his weapon. A greenish hue began to emit from the weapon, which caused them to look at each other with concern. “What is going on with this?” asked Takua, his tone somewhat nervous. “What did you do?” asked Midak. “I don’t know!” the Ta-Matoran answered, lowering the blade. “Don’t point it at me!” said Midak. The Ta-Matoran looked worried as the weapon glowed even brighter. The hilt of the sword suddenly rammed into Takua’s stomach, and he went flying backwards. Midak felt a very strong breeze puff past his mask. The kickback of the weapon sent Takua careening through the wall of the structure they had found the weapons near. He flew into the darkness within and out of sight. “Takua!” Midak shouted as he leapt toward the dark hole the Matoran had flown into. He tripped, however, the deck of the ship shifting abruptly. The metal frame of the vessel gave a heaving groan as everything jerked violently. The ship seemed to give, and it felt for a millisecond as if the floor was giving out and he had nowhere to stand. It lasted only a few seconds, but it made Midak proceeded more carefully. He found the Ta-Matoran on the floor, wide eyed in shock. “Are you alright?” “That thing…sure packs a punch,” Takua groaned, rolling onto his side. Midak offered a hand, but Takua refused for a few moments, the wind totally knocked out of him. He them took clasp of his friend’s hand, stumbling to his feet. It was not that Takua had not been blown through a wall before. It still hurt every time. “Did the sword do that?” asked Midak. “I think so,” Takua croaked. “Something fired from the blade that I could not see… oh that hurt.” “What was that weapon?” asked Midak, bewildered and at the same time excited. Takua put his hands on his hips for a few seconds as he regained his breath, and thought. The pain was gradually leaving, though his stomach still hurt. “I’ve never seen a sword do something like that!” “The Toa who were prophesied to come,” said Takua. “They are said to control the elements and with Great Kanohi and tools.” “So maybe that was a Toa tool?” Midak asked. “I did not think the Toa would come on a ship though,” said Takua. “The way the legends tell it, they would come to Mata Nui… more heroically is the best way I can describe it. More nobly. Some other way.” Getting to his feet, Takua and Midak began to look around to where they were. Panels lined a wall of the room, with strange knobs and buttons and shattered screens. A few of the buttons near where Takua had been blasted into were glowing. Elsewhere in the room was a chair in the corner, half fallen apart and on its side. Beyond the chair was a doorway leading into further darkness, which Midak’s natural night vision could not glean what lay beyond. “Maybe it wasn’t the weapon,” Midak said. “Maybe the ship is haunted, and it was a ghost— the ship’s captain or someone who used to be on here.” “I hate ghost stories,” Takua glowered at him. “Just saying,” Midak said. He looked at Takua, surprised. “I never said I liked ghosts either. But wait— The explorer hates ghost stories?” “I like the unknown,” Takua said. “I never said I liked everything I find there.” From beyond the doorway came the sound of multiple footsteps. The Onu- and Ta-Matoran looked at each other alarmed. They thought they were alone. Who else could be here? “Ok, then, if it is a ghost,” said Takua his voice heavy with sarcasm, “how do we appeal to it to not fling us through more walls?” To their relief, familiar Kanohi emerged from the darkness.Coming from behind the glow of the lightstone, two Matoran made themselves known. Takua and Midak breathed a sigh of relief. It was more Matoran. “Chronicler!” exclaimed a purple masked Onu-Matoran. “How did you—?” “Hello, Damek,” Midak said, waving to his fellow Onu-Matoran. The guard nodded curtly to him. “What brings you two here?” asked Damek. “You know me, just can’t stay away from anything,” said Takua sheepishly. “Midak and I saw the ship, and wanted to explore it. What are you doing here?” “Turaga Whenua sent us to look this over. Onepu went to him about what Midak was saying, and the Turaga wanted a formal investigation,” Damek said. “He wanted to know what was coming.” “And you brought along a Po-Matoran?” asked Midak, confused at Damek’s partner. “A few Po-Matoran north of here saw it too,” said Hewkii. “I’m part of the Po-Koro Guard, and we protect the Koro from outside dangers. This is definitely qualifies as an outside danger.” Alarm had appeared on Damek’s mask. His head swiveled, and he shined the lightstone he carried into the dark hall they had come from. “Tehutti is with us too,” said the Onu Matoran, looking back into the dark doorway. “He was just behind us as we were coming—“ “You haven’t seen him, have you?” asked Hewkii. Midak shrugged. “We thought the ship was empty.” Damek had backtracked into the dark hall, calling Tehutti’s name as he looked for his fellow Onu-Matoran. Hewkii however looked at the lit up control panel behind Takua. Midak slipped next to the Ta-Matoran, nudging him in the side and mouthing,“The ghost took him.” Takua nudged him hard in the side. “None of this was on when the three of us passed through here,” said Hewkii. He stepped up to the series of knobs and switches that glowed. He then cast an eye at the hole in the wall. “What just happened?” “There were these swords on deck,” Takua said, pointing to the hole in the side of the room. “Midak and I were… looking at them. Then one of them turned on and sent out some blast that sent me through the wall.” “‘Turned on’?” Damek repeated, having come back into the control room. “How does a sword ‘turn on’?” The two of them shrugged. “These technologies are beyond our understanding,” said Midak. “So you two must have been what rocked the ship,” Damek said. “This place is not stable. We cannot be on here too long. Who knows how unsteady the ship is.” “Wherever it ran aground on must not be stable,” suggested Midak. “But what about Tehutti?” asked Takua. “You must have hit something important,” Hewkii said, having studied the panel long enough. “and whatever that was, it made Tehutti disappear. Maybe you opened some sort of door.” The Po-Matoran turned to Damek. “Did you see any doors back there?” Damek shook his head. “Did you explore the entire ship?” asked Midak. “We were just heading to the lower levels before we heard the crash you made,” said Damek. Midak and Takua looked at each other with a grin. “Oh so we didn’t miss much,” said the Chronicler. “I’m not the best with mechanics and switches, but it doesn’t look like we hit anything important,” said Hewkii, stepping back from the panel. “Let’s continue on. Maybe Tehutti just went on ahead of us.” Damek nodded, shining his lightstone down the dark hall. The darkness stared back at him. He only hoped that Hewkii was right. *** Tehutti was not just ahead of them, much to Damek’s concern. The group slowly walked down the hallways, finding nothing but the dark emptiness of the ship. The ship creaked and groaned around as they proceeded carefully, trying not to cause another abrupt shift.There were no doorways, nor passageways diverging from the hall they walked on that hinted at somewhere their companion could have wandered into. The purple masked Onu-Matoran led the way, shining his lightstone in hopes that at any step Tehutti would come into the light. He had just been by our side, Damek thought. What could have taken the miner so suddenly away from us? As the group ventured, Takua and Midak whispered amongst themselves. “You don’t think that maybe the ship is haunted? Spooked?” asked Midak. Takua gave him a skeptical look. “You are really insisting on this,” he said. Midak nodded. “Lots of miners talk from time to time about spooky sounds in the tunnels,” he said. “Tunnels that you can hear groans coming from as you walk by. You have to think about this sometimes, even a little, Chronicler— you love to explore the unknown.” “Ta-Matoran try to face things with courage,” Takua replied. Hewkii frowned as he listened to the other two squabble. It seemed as if there were no immediate danger to the island, but something did not sit right about this place with the Po-Matoran. It was so unnaturally still. He did not like this one bit. Part of him wondered who commanded this ship. The Turaga had never talked about any peoples outside of the Matoran of Mata Nui, so he had never given any thought about life beyond the shores of the island. But here was solid proof that there was someone other than them on the endless ocean. The hallway led them to a set of stairs descending below. Damek was reluctant, but he led the procession onward— he was worried for his fellow Onu-Matoran. They found a single room below, which extended the length of the ship. The level was largely empty, save for the wooden barrels and crates littering the perimeter of the room. At one point they had probably been stacked neatly and orderly, flush against the walls; now however, they were mostly decayed. Upon inspection, some of the more intact barrels contained pools of foul smelling substances. A few harmless Rahi crawlers whom had recently made this place home wandered through the lumber, growing accustomed to their new home. As they explored, the Matoran continued to argue about where the hard to find Onu-Matoran had gone. “He couldn’t have fled,” Damek insisted as they wandered the room. “We would have seen him go.” “The only other place he could have gone is deeper into this ship,” said Midak. “Maybe he found something that we missed, and is following it.” “But why would he go without us?” asked Hewkii. There was something more about this place than its initial stillness seemed to suggest. It made no sense to Damek. Nothing seemed to suggest that Tehutti had left. And he was not the type to disappear as a prank. Damek tried to keep himself of thinking of any alternate possibilities. Many miners disappeared in Onu-Koro, taken by Makuta’s Rahi, but there was no sign of a struggle to hint that Tehutti had been taken. The ship seemed to pose no immediate danger, he supposed just as Hewkii had. But that it made Matoran disappear did not bode well with him. At the far end of the hall, long bundles of cloth hung from the ceiling. Hewkii strode over to one and reached with his disc throwing arm, trying to see what was within. A flood of bats burst from it, disturbed from their resting place. The Po-Matoran ducked as the Rahi swarmed over him. The bats paid him no mind, instead flying away to some other undiscovered cove in this place in which they could rest peacefully. Something else clanged to the floor from the ceiling, to everyone’s surprise. The cloth had fallen from above, and the outline of a shape could be seen against it from underneath. With the bats gone, Hewkii lowered his arms from his mask. The others, quiet and wide eyed, looked at him but unwilling to step toward the cloth. Hewkii hesitantly strode over and slowly peeled back the cloth to see what was beneath. The skull of a figure looked back at them, eye sockets empty and jaw hanging slack. A hand flopped toward them, pulled by the tarp. “Ah!” Hewkii screamed, jumping back half a bio. A few seconds of non movement from the corpse determined it was not alive. It was a skeleton, they began to realize, bundled in what must have been a hammock. Slowly they stepped closer to examine the corpse. “Well at least we know now who was on this ship,” Damek said. “Even if they are odd looking,” he added. “This must be the sleeping quarters of the crew,” Takua said as he cast a glance around the room. “So this is a crew member,” Midak nodded. “But what kind of Kanohi is it wearing?” “It looks like a Le-Matoran party mask,” said Hewkii. “But I have never seen anything like it.” The ship creaked, and the four of them looked up. They could hear footsteps coming from below. “Tehutti?” called Damek. The footsteps picked up in pace, until out from the staircase emerged the Kakama masked Onu-Matoran. “Damek?” he asked. “Hewkii? Chronicler? Midak? Oh thank goodness.” “Where did you go?” asked Damek They clanked fists in embrace. “You disappeared into thin air!” “I was following you upstairs,” Tehutti said. “I was with you, until I felt… something pull me backwards. Before I knew it, I was somewhere else, in some sort of control room.” “We were in a control room too!” Takua exclaimed. “There must be a lower level one we haven’t gotten to yet,” Hewkii said. “Did you find anything there?” “Oh yes,” Tehutti said, looking at them wide eyed. “I’ve been trying to find you guys, because you need to see this.” *** Whereas the control room above deck was inoperable, the one which Tehutti had found was alight with activity. Complex systems and keypads abound glowed. Buttons and switches flashed, the panels beneath them humming. Screens, cracked in some places produced maps of the island of Mata Nui not far off— depth readers, heat signatures, information reports, all sorts of infographics— in a language the Matoran could barely discern. Regardless to however old the system was, it was still in somewhat working order. “I would not touch anything,” Tehutti advised. Takua jerked his hand away from the keyboard he was running his fingers across. Tehutti brought them all to a central display, which showed the side of Mount Ihu, amongst other parts of the island. A scope built into the screen was trained on the mountain. Midak and Takua cocked their heads quizzically, but Damek and Hewkii looked at the scope symbols with alarm. “Is this what I think—?” asked Damek. “The ship has something aimed at the island,” Tehutti nodded. “There are barrels on deck and along the sides of the ship that we found when we arrived—I think they are some sort of weapons system.” “What kind of weapons are we talking about?” asked Hewkii. “Definitely more high tech than Madu Cabolo,” said Tehutti. Damek’s eyes lit up wildly. “Explosives?” Tehutti nodded his head. “So are you telling me we are on some sort of warship, and Mount Ihu is targeted?” “Not intentionally,” Tehutti said. Damek stepped forward to the controls, taking a hard look at the panel below the screen. The symbols were all foreign to him, but taking some sort of stand made him feel better. “I don’t think pressing the right button would be good for the mountain,” Tehutti said as he watched. “We need to shut this system down, now,” said Damek. Hewkii nodded in agreement. “But how?” asked Midak. The others looked at him. None of them knew the language the keys and panels were in, nor what switches did what. The Matoran looked at each other anxiously; they could try to switch this off, but one slip, one wrong button and they would be sending friendly fire to Ko-Koro. “How then do you suggest we disable it?” asked Damek. “In Marka’s ships, there are mechanisms below deck,” Takua piped, coming to Midak’s aid. “They control things in the boat, like the rudder, steering—“ “So we switch the ship off manually,” Midak said. Takua nodded. “I don’t follow,” Tehutti said. “If this ship operates on the same principles as Marka’s ships, there has to be a mechanical room somewhere below,” said Takua. “We just need to find that room, find the right levers, and we can shut off whatever weapons systems this rust bucket has.” Damek looked at him skeptically. “So we have to continue further into this ship, just to find a room you think might be here.” “Hope,” Takua corrected, trying to be optimistic. Damek looked around as he pursed his lips. They had three options, the way he saw it: They could try to blindly figure out what switch shut off the systems. They could wait for the place to short circuit and accidentally activate whatever weapons systems were on this ship. Or they could venture further down and use a Ta-Matoran’s rudimentary knowledge of ships in a gamble. Damek was no engineer— he was a guard. He had not the skills to tinker. But without someone on board who knew this type of technology, he had no other options to turn to. “Downward we go,” he said. *** They ventured down multiple levels, finding more parts of the ship. But nothing appeared to be what they were looking for, simply more relics in an already ancient place. As they walked down the stairs to a the deepest levels of the ship, however, something odd came to their ears. “What is that noise?” someone in the back of the pack asked. Damek looked over his shoulder, eyebrows raised; upon listening closely there was indeed a sloshing and slapping sound coming from the bottom of this staircase. “I’m not sure,” Takua said back. “I can’t see anything.” “Wait,” came Hewkii’s voice. “Maybe my eyes have finally adjusted to the dark, but doesn’t everyone admit that they can sort of see?” Damek nodded to no one in particular. They still needed their lightstones, but not as much as the last few levels of the ship. It was not blinding bright, but there was a faint light coming from somewhere below. And it was not a technological light either— it seemed to be the sunlight from the outside. Noone seemed to move, so Takua burst through the line, taking the charge into the unknown. “Be careful,” Damek advised as he proceeded. They listened for a few moments to footsteps as he continued down the steps, and then the Ta-Matoran cried out. “Agh!” Takua gargled. The Matoran remaining on the staircase could hear him fall, and something else— a splash. “What happened?” called Hewkii. “It is flooded down here!” exclaimed Takua. “Flooded?” asked Damek. “It must have run aground on the reef when it came in,” Midak suggested. “Perhaps the the reef cut through the bottom of the ship.” “It’s not that deep though,” said Takua. “I am at about… knee to waist deep? Thigh deep. Definitely thigh deep.” “Can you see where the water is coming from?” asked Hewkii as the rest made their way down. “No,” the Chronicler called. “But it’s not rushing by. Perhaps wherever it is coming from got plugged with debris.” “Do you see any levers?” asked Damek. “I think…” Takua said. “I need more light to see. Come down, it isn’t that bad.” The group made their way down, sloshing through the water. Shining their lightstones, they looked down the flooded corridor. Pipes ran the length of the hall, numerous wheels and levers hanging from the ceiling. It was a narrow way compared to above, barely wide enough for a Matoran to walk with his arms extended. “Any idea on what we are looking for?” asked Hewkii. “Most of the pipes are probably connected to motors,” said Takua as they made their way down the hall. “But… I think—” Whatever Takua thought was cut off by a splash further down the corridor. The five of them were silent for a moment. “…That was you, right Takua?” asked Damek. The Ta-Matoran looked at him with eyes nearly as wild as they were afraid. As Takua shook his head, Damek’s expression turned to nearly incredulous. They slowly shone their lightstones down the hall, looking at a spot where water had just splashed. Ripples were starting to still. But slowly, they could see a fin raise out of the water, circling the flooded corridor. Below the water’s surface, two orange eyes could be seen dimly shining, eyeing its new visitors. “Takea,” Takua breathed. Hewkii whipped a disc from his back, but Midak grabbed his arm. “Don’t!” he cried. “Oh, so you planned on being shark bait this afternoon?” Hewkii said, his voice rising as it filled with panic. “I must not have gotten the memo. Did any of you get it? Because I surely did not.” “It’s not coming after us,” Takua said, observing the shark’s path. “Whatever hole the water came in through, it must have come through there as well,” said Midak. “This is probably its home now.” “We need to get past it, and find that lever,” said Damek. “Shut off whatever valve is controlling the computers upstairs.” “It will come after us if we go any further,” said Takua, continuing to watch the Rahi’s movements. “We are right on the edge of the territory it has claimed.” “So, we are just leaving the ship here?” Damek asked. “Leaving everything upstairs on, and hoping that it doesn’t go off?” “Given our options, we are going to have to,” Tehutti said. “There is nothing we can do here. We just have to hope… that the Great Spirit sees it in his sleep and protects the island.” “Then let’s get out of here,” said Hewkii. “I have had enough of being where the sun doesn’t shine.” The group turned around, only to see something drop from the ceiling and land on the stairs. Something flew through the air, rocketing past the five Matoran and hitting the wall behind them. The wall began to creak as a corrosive substance began to eat through it. “WHAT SURPRISE IS THIS NOW?” bellowed Damek. He was officially fed up with all the surprises he was finding today. “Makika!” was Tehutti’s cry. A large toad looked down at them from the steps. “There must be an infestation of them here. They must be making this their home, just like the Takea.” The disc Hewkii was holding launched from his hand, the Po-Matoran determined to strike before the acidic Rahi attacked again. The Rahi was struck by the bamboo, flying off the side of the stairs. “I am not going to meet my end in a ship taken down by a toad,” he grumbled. “That Rahi is definitely angry now,” Takua said as he heard it splash into the water. “If it spits again, it may bring this whole place down.” “We need to get out of here,” said Tehutti. The group broke into a run, sprinting as fast as they could to get out of the creaking and shifting ship. The weight of so many Matoran moving throughout vessel that was so precariously balanced on the reef below caused it to continually rock. They hit wall after wall as they stumbled to get out, trying to avoid being pinned or left behind as the ship slowly tilted. “The ship is definitely going to collapse,” said Midak as they made it to the top level. “Shut up and keep moving!” Damek ordered as they ran. Bursting onto the deck, the Matoran scrambled to the gunwales, where their boats awaited on either side. The ship had definitely shifted in their frantic climb back up, the deck making its way towards being parallel with Mount Ihu. “At least we don’t have to worry about the cannons anymore!” said Midak as they scrambled towards the edge. “Our boat!” said Damek. “It’s over there, but the ship is going to crush it!” “Go high side!” yelled Takua. “Jump!” said Tehutti. “Jump?” cried a bewildered Hewkii. “That’s almost an eight bio drop! The fall could kill us!” “No it won’t,” reassured Takua. “To water though?” asked Hewkii. “I’m a Po-Matoran!” “It’s not that deep out there!” Midak said, grabbing the Po-Matoran’s arm as he jumped. Hewkii cursed the Onu-Matoran as they fell towards the water. *** The five of them sat in the sand on the beaches of Onu-Wahi, utterly exhausted from the journey back to the shore. Nearly dodging death and then having to half swim, half wade almost three kios of shallow water had been a struggle for the group of them. Nevertheless they made it. They now looked out at the rolled vessel out on the reef, bleak and tired from the journey. “I really need to take swimming lessons,” said Hewkii. Water dripped from pockets in his mask but he was too tired to shake it out. The rest of them were covered in sand and sweat and seawater as well. “This is going to be one for the Wall of History,” said Takua. “Others better not come out here to explore it though,” Damek said. “You better put that in your writings, Chronicler. That place is too dangerous for anyone else to go out to. We shouldn’t have gone out there.” “But we got something from it,” said Midak. “And what would that be?” Damek asked. “And please don’t say an adventure.” “We at least found this,” Tehutti said, a parcel in his lap. In the setting sunlight of the afternoon he was paging through it, despite not being able to read what it said. “What is that?” Asked Damek. “Some sort of log, or a journal,” said Tehutti. “I found it in the second chamber. We will give it to Whenua, and maybe he can make sense of what it says.” *** Over the next few centuries that the Matoran lived on Mata Nui, the ship would disappear from their sights as it became part of the reef itself. Nature would eventually claim the ship. It would sink and become overgrown with brush and other sproutings that came from the shallows of the Papa Nihu to cover the vessel. Many Rahi would immigrate here and make it their own, finding it a safe haven from the intruding villagers whom constantly trampled over their territories. The affair would eventually be pushed to the back of the minds of the five Matoran, preoccupations with attacks from Makuta’s minions taking up their attention. But occasionally they would remember, and look out onto the horizon of the endless ocean. As they did so they would wonder sometimes—who else was out there on the far seas? Review
  5. Hi Aderia! Appreciate your reply. There were definitely a lot of things in the "Dark Time" that Makuta was involved in, but I don't think he could have spent every hour of every day terrorizing every aspect of the Matoran life on Mata Nui. There are some stories he is involved in, but there are some other things he has no connection to. The official dictionary definition of "Hauntings" is I want to see what is creepy, what could happen. I've explored some ghost stories and scoured Biosector for some stuff that is within the realm of possibility of happening on Mata Nui. Process wise, I feel as if the first few chapters I'm putting up are edited enough where I don't need to do a line by line edit/analysis. All of that work was done a while ago. Glad you're enjoying it!
  6. The jungles of Le-Wahi were dangerous, especially at night. There was always the threat of the fall from the trees, which could kill a Matoran unfortunate enough to slip from their perch. There was the marsh itself. If you fell into that, it would take more strength than that of a Great Pakari to get yourself out. There were also the plants, some of which were poisonous, and others which hankered for the taste of protodermis. And then there were the Rahi of the jungle— some wild on their own, some touched with madness from the evil Makuta. Any way you looked at it, the jungle region of Mata Nui was a hazardous place. Kongu held tightly onto the reins of Ka as he flew through the night, each of these dangers on the forefront of his mind. The bird rode through the jungle with absolute glee as he led the Gukko Force toward their destination, gleeful for the chance to ride through the darkness. But as the Gukko flew with gleeful thoughts, Kongu glared forward, anxious about what could be between himself, the rest of the Force, and their mission. The roar of a Rahi beast could be heard in the distance, yet it was the quiet in the immediate area which made the Le-Matoran anxious. Le-Koro was sick, many of the Matoran having fallen ill to a virus. The lethargy and illness the virus spread was felt especially in the Air village, a group of Matoran known for their vibrant personalities. The effects of it rippled throughout the village; Tuuli had not been out to trade for days, and no music had been heard from Sanso and his band in almost a week. Kongu felt rather run down himself, and had prayed to Mata Nui all week that he remained out of the virus’s infectious reach. No one knew where the virus came from, but Turaga Matau insisted it was the work of the Makuta. Whether it came from Makuta or not, a cure needed to be found. Matau and his cohort, Turaga Nokama of Ga-Koro, had determined a handful of plants, when stewed together, that would produce a healing aroma. The last few days and nights had been spent retrieving the necessary ingredients. All that was left now was this last ingredient, a leaf which could only be found in the depths of Le-Wahi. The leaf glowed, and could only be discerned from other plantlife of the forest by night. Kongu watched ahead of Ka’s beak, where he could see a glow emerging in the dark. The Le-Matoran breathed a sigh of relief as they drew closer, their goal finally within reach. The six of them landed. Dismounting their birds, five of their number made their way to the plants, filling empty burlap sacs they had brought with the leaves. Vira hung back with the steeds, chirping at the birds in Turaga Nuju’s language of clicks and whistles. If Makuta’s beasts were out to get the Matoran while they were on their mission, they needed eyes keeping watch out for their safety. “Does this look ripe?” asked Boreas. “It doesn’t matter,” Kongu said. “Just grab-seize as much as you can.” Boreas nodded, working as fast as he could. They stuck in pairs as they ventured where the plant grew, snatching as much as they could. To Kongu’s pleasure, he could already see new buds starting to form as they picked the plants. Much of the flora on Mata Nui were like that. Kongu sensed that the rapid plant growth on the island was somewhat odd, even though he was not an expert on botany and knew life nowhere else. “Either way, I cannot wait to breathe-smell whatever Turaga Matau and Nokama are going to concoct-brew with all of these ingredient-pieces,” said Boreas. “The air-smells of things they stir-make make my mask tingle with life-joy.” “This will definitely help-cure our leaf brothers?” asked Shu. “Have hope-faith,” Kongu replied. “The Turaga are doing what they think will work.” They continued picking quietly, something hard for Le-Matoran to do. Soon the deed was done, with six burlap bags stuffed to the brim with the leaves. “Bound-tie them to your saddles, and let’s go-leave,” Kongu said, mounting Ka once more. Tying his bundles to the bird, he readied for the signal from Vira that the Gukko could fly. “Vira, did you not see-find anything?” Vira put his sickle away, having cleared a path for the birds to launch down. “Deep-jungle is safe-empty,” the marshall signaler nodded. “Prepare-ready for take off!” Kongu nodded, looking at the darkness in the jungle beyond with almost a sense of relief. Perhaps Makuta and his forces were not out to get them tonight. With their packages secured, he felt far better than when they had set out tonight. Grabbing the reins of Ka, he nodded to Vira. The propulsers on the bird began to fire up, and Ka took off. They had soared for only a few moments when Ka lurched to the side. Something big had collided with him. The bird screeched in panic. Kongu yanked sharply on the reins, hoping to straighten out, but whatever hung onto the Gukko would not shake off. “Ka!” Kongu exclaimed. A screech that was not Ka’s made Kongu’s heart sink. As limbs flailed, Kongu could make out the shape of a Brakas monkey clinging to the side of his companion. “Orkahm! Shu! Look out!” Kongu cried into the darkness behind him. “Visit-company! Of the funky monkey kind!” Reaching into his pack, Kongu found a bamboo disc. He slung it, and it whacked the Rahi in the head, distracting it for a moment enough to stop clawing at Ka’s side. The Le-Matoran reached for another one, but the monkey leapt at Kongu, teeth and claws bared. Ka thrashed as he tried to stay aloft, suddenly supporting the weight of two instead of just Kongu. Before he knew it, Kongu was wrestling with a monkey in midair. The Brakas threw a punch at Kongu’s mask, hoping to dislodge it. Kongu caught the punch, struggling to maintain his balance while resisting the Rahi’s strength. Staying in his saddle as best as he could, Kongu lashed out with his free arm to throw off the wild beast. The Brakas stayed, screeching in his face. “Get far-lost, swamp-breath!” Kongu yelled at it. The Brakas screeched again. His eyes now having adjusted to the dark, Kongu could see the infected mask on the Rahi’s face. He could feel the rotting smell coming from the mouthpiece. The Le-Matoran retched at the stench. He threw a punch with one hand, fumbling with another to grab the reins. Ka crashed blindly through the branches as the fight continued. The limbs of the trees knocked Kongu in the mask, the shoulders, the arms as they tumbled through them, headed in a direction the Le-Matoran knew not where. The others would have helped Kongu, but were caught scraps of their own with more of the monkeys. Boreas lashed out with a knife at two Brakas on his mount, while Shu slung discs accompanied with roaring battle cries in response to the shriekers surrounding him. Orkahm tugged fiercely on his reins to try and outmaneuver the onslaught of Rahi, getting his Kewa to fly up and subject his attackers to the forces of gravity. Kongu was on his own for his fight. And suddenly it was quiet again. The Brakas vanished, and the Gukko force were tumbling through open air. Ka twisted and turned as he tried to straighten out. Kongu tugged hard on the reins, the world whirling past him as they plummeted downward. The world came up to meet Kongu, and suddenly all movement stopped. “Unf!” he grunted. All Kongu could feel was the blunt force of the landing rock through his form. He lay there, the wind knocked out of him, and closed his eyes, letting the pain envelop him. After what seemed like an hour, his eyes opened again. He could start to feel other things. Wet. Pointy. Muddy. Looking around, he realized he was in a marsh. Sitting up in the mud, Kongu looked around. Little trees could be seen here and there, but most of the region out here was mostly marsh and mud. The Fau Swamp, he realized. It was still Le Wahi, but something else other than what the Le-Matoran traditionally considered their region. They did not necessarily enjoy the region, preferring the treetops where you could vine swing instead of walking. But in the full moon and clear sky that shined tonight, Kongu had to admit it was kind of beautiful out here. A screech from afar brought Kongu back to his senses. The Brakas were still there, in the jungle not far away. They jeered at him from the darkness, like the cowards Brakas usually were. Tough-brave Matoran survive falls from the forest, Kongu thought. Silly-weak monkeys already screech when falling to another branch. Even with the Makuta controlling them, they are still cowards. “Is anyone out there?” Kongu called. “Ork? Boreas? Shu?” A hand came into his vision to pull Kongu to his feet, and he could see the mask of Vira. Beyond them, Ka and Vira’s Kahu bird were uprighting themselves, ruffling their wings. “Hard-rough crash-landing for you as well?” the marshall asked. Kongu nodded, rubbing his back. He gave a few twists. Something popped, and suddenly his back felt better. “Where are the others?” “I spot see someone over there,” Vira pointed north, to where a Gukko was picking itself up out of the marshes. Kongu mirrored his statement, seeing another of their band to the west. Making their way over to each of their members, the Gukko Force slowly picked themselves up from their brush with the wild. Taiki was the last to be found. They found him closer to the forest than everyone else. He was frantically digging at the mud, his bird pecking at the mud as it tried to help. “Help!” Taiki cried as he saw them. A hand could be seen in the moonlight, sticking out from the mud. The five of them immediately joined in, scraping at the mud. The birds were not far behind, With a click and whistle from Vira, the Gukkos were pecking at the area with their beaks to loosen the mud for their riders. “There is someone buried here! Trap buried!” “But Taiki,” Kongu said. “We are all here. Who could be buried?” Taiki stopped digging, looking at the masks around him. Everyone else slowed as well, a sense of dread coming over the group. The hand in the mud still stuck out, motionless. “If we are all here…” he said, panic entering his voice. “Then who is buried?” They all looked at the hand, and then at each other, anxiety running high through the group. Kongu swallowed hard, and strode over to grab the hand. He pulled, and was met with some resistance, but the mud broke, loosened by their digging. The moonlight however, did not help the Matoran as they looked at the figure. It was a Matoran, but at the same time, it was not. Short, wearing dark armor, if just with a different body type, the figure strongly resembled the Gukko Force members standing around it. But there were things off about the body. It was swollen with water, and partially rotted. But the amount of armor, the tissue sticking out. The ratio of mechanical to organic parts. None of it was right. The thing looked like a Matoran, but there was a lot of evidence to suggest it was not. And from what Kongu felt, it felt nothing like the bodies of Matoran. As if the person was made of something totally else from protodermis. But the most distinguishable feature that made them certain it was not a Matoran was its mask. “What make-kind of Kanohi is that?” asked Orkahm. “That is not a Kanohi,” Shu insisted. Could it even be a Kanohi? Kongu wondered. Kanohi usually attached to the front of a Matoran’s or Turaga’s face. Perhaps helmet was a better term. This sat on the corpse’s head more like a helmet than like a mask. Three prongs protruded from the back of it, almost snake like in appearance. The mask— if you could call it that— resembled flower and bamboo decorations which the Le-Matoran would adorn on their own Kanohi during one of Matau’s parties, in mock resemblance of a warrior costume. This helmet was metal, however, and definitely not for decoration. “What is this? Some sort of alien?” asked Vira. “It has to be a mutant,” Boreas said. “What if…” Orkahm said. “What if something lived on Mata Nui before us?” “No,” Kongu insisted, dismissing Orkahm’s comment. “This has to be some sort of mutated Matoran.” Any more guesses on the corpse’s identity were interrupted by a scream in the night. The Le-Matoran whirled to see the Brakas monkeys coming from afar, leaping across the marsh toward them. Each of the Le Matoran scrambled for their packs, whipping out discs and preparing themselves for combat. Vira whistled to Ka and the other Kewa and Kahu, which fluttered their wings in response. “See-look over there!” Orkahm cried. In the moonlight, there could be seen the Brakas scrambling toward the smaller Matoran— but also to the left, there was a single, larger shadow breaking the horizon. A large, tiger like animal could be seen leaping over the marshes, making a beeline for the loud and brash animals that more than likely interrupted its sleep. “Muaka cat-tiger!” Boreas exclaimed. The Brakas were so consumed with the Matoran almost in their grasp that they did not see the Muaka before it was too late. It pounced into their group, immediately breaking their formation. A number of the smaller monkeys were scooped up into the tiger-like creature’s jaws. The rest of them were swept aside by the Muaka’s claws, scattered on the marsh just as the Gukko Force had been minutes earlier. Growls and roars emitted from the Muaka rolled over the marshes as the beast reveled in the night’s victory. “Mount-climb your steeds,” demanded Kongu. “Let’s fly leave of here before we are battle fighting that Rahi. Those are just quick snacks for that tiger.” “What about the body?” Orkahm asked. Kongu looked at each of them. “Whoever… whatever that is,” Kongu said. “it has been here without anyone’s concern for a while. I will discuss with Turaga Matau, but we cannot take it home tonight.” “At least take it’s mask,” Shu insisted. Kongu frowned, but complied. They arrived back at Le-Koro in the early hours of the morning, greeted only by the night folk that guarded the village during sleep hours. Kongu approached the door of Turaga Matau’s hut, where a small light shined into the night. The rest of the Force had retreated to their huts to join the sleeping village. Only he remained awake in order to deliver the night’s bounty. He felt awfully tired as he knocked, more tired than he had felt in a number of nights. This was not sickness, he knew that much— this was the night catching up to him. The Turaga was apparently still up, for Mata Nui only knew what reason. A small grin was on the noble Mahiki at the sight of one of Matau’s favorite villagers, eager for the night’s tale. “High Flyer, welcome,” Matau said, “What adventures did you have tonight?” The Matoran handed over the bags of leaves, putting the helmet on top of the pile. “Turaga, what kind of Kanohi is that?” Review
  7. The Dark Time on Mata Nui was a thousand year period in which Makuta infected his darkness throughout the island paradise to the Matoran of Metru Nui. However, in a new and strange land, on an unknown ocean, there were bound to be odd and eerie occurrences which the Matoran experienced besides the Makuta. In an anthology of canon-compliant short stories, I hope to present a series of occurrences I've brainstormed that happened in the Dark Time. I've already posted a majority of this on Tumblr and Wordpress and AO3, but I thought it fitting to put it on here. (Also, I know it has been a while since my last posting, and I know I owe some people some stuff from Holiday contests, which I will get to posting. But for now, know that it will be here soon) The Hauntings
  8. Prologue: The Hauntings There were peaceful moments in living on Mata Nui. There were times where the Matoran would sit around the fires, or wander the beaches, marvelling about the paradise they were so thankful to live in. But for as much as the Turaga made the island— named in honor of the Great Spirit himself— out to be a paradise, there were times when the place was a living nightmare. The Makuta terrorized the Matoran of Mata Nui for a thousand years. He created infected masks to control the Rahi, turning relatively docile creatures into fearsome beasts. He sent out the signals to awaken the Bohrok swarms, trying to destroy the lands the Matoran called home. He created diseases and plagues to weaken the peoples whom would not bow to his rule. He even at times took control of the island itself, to show the might of his powers. The Makuta operated from the deepest of the shadows, using his extreme tactics to keep the Matoran in their villages, around their campfires, and as far away from Metru Nui as possible. Not only were there threats from the Makuta. There were other things lurking in the shadows that did not come from him. As domineering and sinister Makuta was, there were things that were not of his origin. Many of the threats the Matoran encountered bore the signature style of the master of shadows; However, there were eerie occurrences—few and far between— the Matoran encountered, deep within their Wahi, which were from some other origin entirely. Other events the Makuta could have not possibly have had a hand in. Terrors and odd happenings that the Turaga, despite all their secret keeping, could not hide that they had no explanation for. Makuta was responsible for many things on Mata Nui which would live in the nightmares of the Matoran for the rest of their days. But there were other unsettling things that happened on the island that haunted them even more. Review
  9. Scrapping 2 different outlines so far if that counts
  10. They will probably go out within 24 hours. Tufi is probably just busy with holidays.
  11. Submitted my entry. Definitely promising something better than last year! Looking forward to round 2
  12. 91. A lot of Toa and matoran over the years, plus I've never really sold anything, more just bought. A lot of stuff is in bins disassembled under my bed though.
  13. My only qualm is the crime that Krekka is being executed for— smashing machinery is penalized by loss of life? I’ve read this story several times, but I feel like it is missing an element to it. There could be something more that he was persecuted for, something more personal to the city. Besides the Great Beings and their creations being so great to the people, why does some security device in the mountains far away being smashed resonate so hard with the people of Xia? I like the character— it’s funny how most of us picked Dark Hunters for our stories— and appreciate the relatively unexplored bad guy. It was just lost on me as to why you picked that crime. Other than that, I loved this. I’ve never really looked beyond the serials in regards to the Melding Universe— always saw it as a great twist on the main story, “if the Great Beings managed to do things smoothly the first time around,” but never pursued exploring it further. Thank you for developing it into an awesome read! It’s amazingly interesting this Utopia that you’ve whipped up. I love how it’s placed on Spherus Magna and a polar opposite of the main universe city. It’s a utopia, but its not this holy “ in your face” place. It’s the place that I think the movie Tomorrowland was striving to be. Yet… there still is this burden that Antroz has on her shoulders. She’s a complex character at that she isn’t complete, and I don’t mean on just her sight. While she has accomplished much in this way of running the city, she still doesn’t see herself a full ruler, a decisive one like the Antroz of the core universe. It makes the interactions between her and Angonce’s— who is a wonderful bubbly character by the way— fun to read, because she knows what she’s doing but has this incompetence mentality, if I am reading it right. The little bit of dialogue leading to the central plot of the core universe is throwaway but done so well! I thought the cast you chose was very well written. Gorast is a savage yes, but she is quiet here, and I think I needed that. Your choice of the Great Being— he characterizes just the way a Great Creator should be, so curious about the results and interactions. And he doesn’t look down on them, he sees them as equals, which says something good about him as a ruler. Ugh there were so many good things about this story that I appreciate. And didn’t even know I wanted. Very well done, and thank you very much for writing this. If you are ever looking to continue this, please let me know.
  14. Part of the Fanfic Exchange for ReeseEH. You were interested in Dume and his early adventures as one of your prompts; I did my best to try and get a little slice of his Toa-hood butting heads with the Dark Hunters. I took older protector names and threw them in as Toa team members, because in the face of the countless Toa who'd been in the MU, who is to say they couldn't have been Toa? Clocking in at 3842 words, (and last minute, apologies) I hope you enjoy it! ________________________________________________________ The Dark Hunter ducked under the jet of water, a look of absolute disgust on his face as he retreated behind a hut. Toa Dume looked at his partner, nodding, and together they charged either side of the building. He could not get away, they would not let him this time. Hefting his Kanoka fire hammer, Dume charged left, ready to bash the Dark Hunter from here to Stelt. What the Toa of Fire met, however, was a jet of water to the face, his partner relentlessly firing on him. The Dark Hunter was not behind the building. He was not anywhere at all. “Kiv-od-a!” he choked as he found a pocket of air. Upon realizing whom she was firing at, Toa Kivoda’s stream died, leaving two confused Toa. “Where did he go?” asked the Toa of Water, looking all around. “Must have teleported away,” Dume replied, picking himself off of the soaked ground. With a dismayed look on his mask, he looked over the aftermath of their battle. The village had suffered a considerable amount of damage. But at least nobody was killed this time, Dume thought. “Any signs of his partner?” Kivoda pointed toward the path of rubble leading out of the village, not a dozen huts further from where they had been battling this Dark Hunter. “Looks like he made the retreat as well. Are you injured, brother?” “As long as the Turaga is still here, I am fine,” Dume said, coughing up some water. “Go check up on the others… I will start repairs to the village.” His Toa sister nodded, addressing some Matoran nearby waving for their help The Kanohi Kiril required concentration to use for such a large amount of repairs at hand, but Dume looked around with a troubled look on his mask. Was this a win or a loss against the Dark Hunters? He wanted to call it a success, but he was not sure whether chalking it up in that category would be right. Some huts had their roofs totally blown off. Others were disintegrated to dust. Half of the paths of the village were torn up, imprints dotted everywhere where Toa and Dark Hunter alike had been slammed into the ground. The village was a mess— a repairable one, but nevertheless, this fight had been a disaster. “There is a fine line between protecting and fighting, indeed,” said a voice behind him. Dume looked to see Turaga Narmoto walking up behind him, his Kanohi Suletu grim as he surveyed the scene. The Turaga looked physically fine, but the Toa of Fire could tell he had been unsettled by this attack. “But you fought valiantly, Dume, and for the umpteenth time, thank you for that.” “No village should have to pay this price for protection,” Dume insisted, gesturing to all of the destruction around him. “If the Hunters get what they came for, there is no reassembling the village from that,” said the Turaga. “You can put this place back together. You are here, and thank Mata Nui for you and your mask.” The Turaga gazed up to the peak of the volcano far above. Dume followed his eyes, but squinted at where he thought the Lava Crystal Temple was. The crystals, for some odd reason, or to at least what Narmoto and his predecessors believed, kept the fury of the volcanos in check. IF the crystals were taken, the lava would pour out of the volcano, traveling in all directions until it took what had been taken from it. However the Dark Hunters believed in principle of profit, not mythology. The composition of the lava crystals was apparently a powerful source for a weapon the Dark Hunters had, and the Shadowed One was bent on obtaining these crystals. This had been at least the fourth team of Hunters that Dume and his team had faced in the last several months. “If they get a hold of any of the lava gems, then that’ll be it for us,” Narmoto said. “Asking for permission doesn’t come to me as a standard Dark Hunter procedure. They’ll be back again until they get what they want,” Dume replied. He looked at the Turaga grimly. “Hopefully the Great Spirit smiles on your team then,” Narmoto said, as he watched the Kanohi Kiril mend the street back together. *** Several kio from the village, Ravager’s tail flew through the air, cleaving the top of a boulder clean off. Growling in rage, he attacked the stone again, claws scraping at the fallen slab. He intended to smash the great rock to smithereens, but it appeared to raise up on its own, floating just beyond his reach. “Destroy our hiding spot and alert the Toa to where we are all at once,” Conjurer said to his partner, controlling the rock with his telekinetic powers. “Your plans are truly brilliant.” “You know I don’t take boredom well,” Ravager spat. His unbridled rage was gone for a moment, replaced by disdain for his partner. “If I knew this would have been my part of the mission, I would have taken some other assignment.” “Think of the opportunities though,” marveled Conjurer, as he leaned against one of the surviving boulders to their campsite. “Three other teams of Hunters failed to complete this task. If we are the ones to succeed—if you can hold your patience just a little while— the Shadowed One will let you smash a whole chain of the southern isles.” “You just want to show your flair, you delusional magician,” Ravager said. “Shadowed One doesn’t care for fancy tricks— he cares that this rock comes back with us.” “Perhaps it is flair that is needed for this mission, if whatever our predecessors were doing wasn’t getting the job done.” “Maybe somebody just wasn’t hitting hard enough,” Ravager shrugged, sending his fist into another boulder. “Mata Nui must have had a laugh when he made you— all the grandeur of the Toa and Turaga, but too ugly of a maw to be one of them.” “You’re lacking reasoning, barbarian,” Conjurer sighed, dropping the telekinetic field around the rock. He ignored the insult. Ravager’s tail twitched, sending the rock into a million pieces in another million directions. The Shadowed One had a knack for pairing up Hunters whom could seldom stand each other. The pairing of himself and Ravager, two completely opposite beings— himself an intellectual, Ravager a straight up brute with no thought for anything but destruction— really had been another of their leader’s finest decisions. “The time will come to smash everything again, once our other comrade needs to be extracted. For now, try to have a little bit of self control.” Conjurer practically watched the words go in one ear and out the other of his partner. He didn’t know why he tried, the brute would never understand. Best to just keep him on his leash until Silence gave the signal, and it was time for brute force as a distraction once more. The brown armored Dark Hunter’s eyes drifted to his staff of disintegration to his side, studying the weapon. Ravager wasn’t the only one who needed patience. The lava crystal they were here to retrieve… he didn’t know what use the Shadowed One had for it, but Conjurer had his own plans for the crystal. A simple bribe for the two Dark Hunters, a lie that they never found the crystal, or the Toa destroyed it, but he had almost figured out how to integrate the crystal into his tool, to make his magic even more formidable. A trick that the Shadowed One would not anticipate, Conjurer thought. He has revealed all of his powers to us, a first— and vital— mistake. *** “That Arthron would serve you better if you used it,” Dume told the Toa of Air at the temple, whom looked at him with a surprised look on his mask. “It’s annoying,” told Toa Jagiri. “I get alerted to every change in the lava flow at the bottom, and after a while it gets to me. If there’s a Dark Hunter coming, I will see him, don’t you worry.” “I’d rather have someone use it,” Dume said, frowning. “If it annoys you, then switch with someone else.” The other Toa looked at him, unwilling to trade the Toa of Air their masks. “Korgot and I can hear you coming half a kio away,” said Nilkuu, Toa of Stone. Dume’s deputy stepped down from the temple to talk with his team leader. Dume frowned. “It is still better to have three Toa on board than two,” he said. “I understand Jagiri is younger than the rest of us, but four Hunter attacks in this short of a time— the learning curve needs to be shortened for him.” “He’ll learn, but you need to focus your energy on the Hunters,” Nilkuu said. “It does no use to try and forge a sword if the minerals are not purified.” “Something Narmoto would say,” Dume scoffed, rolling his eyes at the adage the Toa of Stone threw at him. “Even raw coal can still be used as a bludgeon. It just needs to do the job.” “You are suggesting a new strategy,” Nilkuu noted. Dume nodded. “Why? What we have done has worked before.” “Tacticians in the Dark Hunters are few, but eventually they’ll send someone,” said the frustrated Toa of Fire. “The last thing I want is for them to be able to anticipate our moves.” “Go back down the mountain,” Nilkuu said. “I will talk to the others and we will send someone else down, if you are really concerned about manning the front lines.” *** Silence crouched in the shadows above the path, watching Toa Dume walk his way back down the mountain. Once assured the Toa of Fire was long gone down the path, he leapt down from his hiding spot, taking care to keep out of sight of the temple ahead. Living targets were usually his specialty, but every now and again the Shadowed One would send the kidnapper after artifacts. He would never protest, though he preferred the missions where he had to continually keep the target quiet. That was half of the fun of the mission—the struggle, the protests, the continual use of force with his powers. But having to simply swipe an object, that made no noise whatsoever? That ruined the best part of the job. Still, he did not object to the leader of the Dark Hunters— this was an increasingly high profile mission for them. Silence figured if they succeeded, there would be plenty more missions made available to him where there were living victims abound. The Temple was elevated, and he was able to easily slip to the rear unnoticed. The Toa at the front gate looked bored, so cooped up with nothing to do. No other Dark Hunters had made it this far, so the guardians here had no reason to be on alert. Many others who would’ve been the first to the temple would go out of their way to pick a fight with Toa, to antagonize, but Silence kept his mind on the job. He knew Ravager would be looking for a fight, and he was not to deny his restless partner a fight. Creeping up the back of the temple, he made his way in undetected. The sound field projecting from his body muffled him from the Toa’s notice, so focused they were on anyone coming at them head on from the front entrance. Silence pressed himself against walls as he crept through, using the shadows the lava cast to get to his target. The room the crystal was actually in shimmered with the shadows from the lava that ran through it, providing him cover to slip through the center of the room without the Toa’s gaze catching him. Lava coursed around the perimeter of it, and Silence followed the darkness as it travelled with the flow of the stream. He swiped the crystal as he crossed the room, quickly retreating back to the shadows on the wall. As he pressed himself towards the rear of the temple, his eyes looked up to the ceiling. Silence did not believe in the Matoran myth— no crystal could actually control the temple of the volcano, could it? but he was curious. He wanted to wait, see if anything would happen, but there was also the pressing matter if the Toa discovered the crystal was missing. His moment of observation over, he made his way out of the temple. *** “Something is wrong,” Toa Nilkuu muttered, the brows on his Pakari furrowing. He gave a light shove to Jagiri, who was off daydreaming on the steps. “Did you hear me?” “What could be wrong?” asked Jagiri. “What do you feel?” “Tremors,” Nilkuu replied. Jagiri looked at him, feeling nothing. The Toa of Air doubted the Matoran superstition, but did believe in his brothers troubles. If that makes any sense, thought Jagiri. “Tremors from what?” he asked Nilkuu. “What would cause tremors?” The Toa of Stone said nothing, merely left Jagiri out on the steps of the temple. He went in to check on the other two guarding the crystal, only to find them coming out to him. Their masks did not look well. *** Dume was not far in his trek down the path as he felt the disturbances Nilkuu had sensed. The lava flows coming intermittently down the sides of the mountain, flowing smoothly one minute, began to writhe and boil the next. Reaching out with his elemental power, he felt the lava begin to rage. Dume frowned, unsure what could have caused it. Everything had seemed alright when he checked on his teammates… but something had happened. A tingling up his back made him realize something was definitely wrong, and the Toa of Fire had a good suspicion he knew what had happened. Instead of turning back up the mountain, he continued on his trek back to the village. Not only the lava flowed differently, but there was something else about the environment around him that was disturbing. It wasn’t what he would hear during the calm before the storm on his home island…but there was a silence about. “I should have figured you Hunters would try something like this,” Dume said as he reached for his Kanoka hammer. He whirled around, firing weaken disks at the Dark Hunter following him from a distance. Dume missed, not knowing initially where he was firing, but the Hunter’s disk was straight and true. On impact, a coat of ice leapt from the disk, freezing him from mask to toe. Caught unawares, Dume could not use his powers to thaw himself. He was helpless as he watched Silence walk around him, throwing the lava crystal up in the air as though it were a ball. A violent curse was the first thing that escaped Dume’s lips as Toa Izotor thawed him out. He thanked the Toa of Ice, but then spun on his heel, leading the charge to the village. “One of you flanking me would have prevented this.” “Or two Toa would have been frozen. We didn’t even see him,” Nilkuu said over the growing rumble of the volcano. “He was nowhere in sight of the temple.” “A stealth field, it extends from his body,” Dume informed his brother Toa. “The way he approached me… it was too quiet.” “I think I can get him to make some noise,” said Jagiri, wielding his twin axes. “There are two in the village now, causing a ruckus.” “Now you choose to use your mask?” Izotor asked. The Toa of Air ignored the jibe. As they reached the village, they could see Jagiri was right. Homes the Kanohi Kiril had repaired just a short while ago were reduced to rubble, the one Dark Hunter with the tail destroying everything in his path. The other one with the staff that Dume had been chasing earlier was locked in combat with Kivoda, the Toa of Water trying to remain out of reach of the crackling energy on his staff. “I’ll cover Kivoda,” Dume barked, already loading a disk into his launcher. “Jagiri, Nilkuu, subdue that beast of a Hunter before he destroys the whole village. My mask is going to crack just thinking about all of the repairs I’ll have to do when we’re done with him. Korgot, find that third hunter. Izotor, see to the villagers’ safety.” The Toa broke formation, leaping into the battle. Dume wasted no time as his Kanoka sailed toward the Dark Hunter, hammer swinging. Conjurer felt the weaken disk hit him. His arms fell as his back muscles were no longer strong enough to raise the staff. The Toa of Water took advantage of the weakness, blasting him with a jet of water that carried him far from their dueling grounds. I hate water, he thought as the blast carried him away. “Sister!” came Dume’s voice as roaring streams of water died off. Kivoda looked over to see her Toa brother, loading another disc. “There was another Hunter!” She cried, pointing beyond the huts. “These two—“ “Were just a distraction, yes,” he nodded. He grabbed the Toa of Water’s arm. “Let’s find him before he gets any further!” Leaving Conjurer to choke on water for a bit, Kivoda activated her Kualsi, taking Dume with her through a series of jumps to the village’s edge. He passed right by them as they appeared, Dume’s hammer swing missing the Hunter by inches. He fired another freeze disk, but it was batted aside, its power not able to activate. The Toa hurled his hammer at the retreating Dark Hunter, landing a solid shot in the back. The Hunter went down, tumbling on the rocky ground for a minute before leaping back to his feet. However, Kivoda was right there, pulling the lava crystal out of the Dark Hunter’s claw. “I believe this stays with us,” Kivoda said, wielding a trident at the Hunter’s throat. Thinking their stealthy cohort had made it out of the Toa’s reach successfully, Conjurer and Ravager had begun their retreat as well, appearing at the edge of the village dashing away rapidly. Not willing to let the three of them go, Dume ran to meet Conjurer. Soon the three Hunters were surrounded by the Toa, weapons and elements wielded and ready to go. “You make a move on us,” Korgot growled, a Cordak blaster cocked and ready. “and it’s your last.” “So what now?” Conjurer asked. Ravager snarled at the Toa, bound by stone and unable to lash out. “You kill us, the Hunters come after you. You let us go, more Hunters will be sent for that rock your Matoran admire so much.” “Hunters appear here again, and their ashes will eventually make their way back to your base,” Dume said sharply. “I don’t want to see any more Hunters on this continent, let alone this village.” Conjurer was about to say something, but a Cordak rocket blasting the ground in front of him shut him right up. He looked to the others… Silence said nothing, as per usual. Conjurer expected some sort of sneak attack out of him, but the Toa had stripped him of any Kanoka. Ravager was incapacitated. His disintegration staff would not be quick enough to outmatch the Kualsi wearing Toa holding the crystal. As much as he envisioned the victory of being the one team to successfully complete this mission, the Dark Hunter knew they would have to report another failure to the Shadowed One. “We’ll bring back your message, but there will be no promises,” snarled Conjurer. “No Toa will ever have authority over the Dark Hunters.” “For today, a few Toa will,” Dume said right back. He stepped aside, to where the countryside lay before the Dark Hunters. In addition to being loaded with a Kanoka, his hammer crackled energy. “It must be a long road back. Might as well get started.” *** Kivoda placed the crystal back before the tremors around the volcano became any worse. The Toa were all surprised that they were wrong, and that the tales of the Turaga were right. Arriving back in the village, they came back to the village almost reluctant to look the grateful Matoran in the eye. “What other Matoran legends are true, then?” asked Kivoda to the group when she had returned. “It cannot be the crystal, it simply cannot,” Jagiri said as he left for his hut. “It simply was impossible.” One by one the others peeled away, until Dume was left standing in the center of the village, looking up at the volcano on his own. “You weren’t foolish to doubt the myth,” came a voice as he pondered. His mask focused back on what was around him to see Narmoto walking up to him. “You merely stuck to your principles, that you were here to protect us, no matter what. And for the umpteenth time, I thank you for that.” “I feel like you don’t need a mask of telepathy to know we didn’t believe in the myth,” Dume said. “Nor do I need one to tell you are troubled by your team,” Narmoto said. “There are different styles of leadership. Yours is fine, and people will learn to listen.” *** The Shadowed One listened to the report silently. He wasn’t sure what to think— disappointment at the failure of such established, veteran Hunters, or the humor at their crushed pride. Conjurer looked the most damaged, as if the Shadowed One was making him spill all the secrets to his “magic”. Ravager brooded behind Conjurer, while Silence stood to the other side, an apathetic expression on his face. But the Shadowed One knew that under that mask of apathy was a gaunt fear for what the leader of the Dark Hunters would do to him as punishment. “Schedule a calling of all of those whom have failed this mission,” were his only words when the report was finished. “There must be a re-education session for those whom have shown their incompetence on this simple mission.” Next to the Shadowed One, the Recorder scribbled the note down on a tablet. When asked what he was to list the individual punishments of the returned Hunters, the Shadowed One thought for a moment. “They will be decided later. Keep your ears open for the re-education, but be warned— failure again is not tolerable.” He knew he had their minds racing as they left the room. They would sweat it out, be fearful of what was to come. But their punishments were not what bothered the Shadowed One. These Toa, they’d been bothersome on not just this mission, but several others as well. One name in particular stuck with him…. Dume. The name caught, and the Shadowed One knew it was not in a good way. This Toa sounded like he would be a thorn in the side of the Dark Hunters for an age to come.
  15. I'm wondering if Dume is worthy or not. But if he isn't, what if it's on the elevator at the Coliseum with him and the elevator goes up.... Is the elevator worthy?
  16. Definitely excited to see what comes of this! My entry is submitted!
  17. Is there any way to negotiate some prices? definitely interested in a few.
  18. The Toa looked up, the voice coming from the other side of the workbench. Barely peeking over the surface, a Matoran grinned at them. He hobbled his way around to Hahli, smiling as he took the scroll from her. The two Toa looked at him, mouths agape with shock. They had forgotten about him, in their wild journey though Voya Nui and Mahri Nui, and the mask he now wore was one from the hide of the Kanohi Dragon. One of his arms seemed new… and they realized in horror that it was the arm of Vohon, hastily latched onto his shoulder blade. The body was familiar, but the sound of his voice instantly sent them back to their time as confused Matoran in a twisted world. The Matoran whom had helped them escape the realm of Karzahni stood before them, staring wide eyed and cheery in this dark and mysterious factory. “You?” Jaller asked. “What are you doing here?” “A lot of people… forget,” the Matoran giggled. “But I… I remembered. You’ve forgotten me in your adventures, Metruan. But I forgive you, just as the Great Spirit forgave his playthings.” “Playthings?” Hahli asked nervously. She and Jaller looked at each other, and then to this decrepit Matoran. They were the able bodied ones, but somehow she felt this Matoran was the one with more power right now. “The Vortixx, the Skakdi, those who weren’t Matoran…” He answered, nodding. “All… playthings. And the Rahi too!” He gestured to the cluttered workbench. “While we worked, the Great Spirit, he played. But he never cleaned up. That was our job. My job.” Jaller shook his head. He was not following. “What is this place?” “It is my factory,” he replied. Hahli raised her eyebrows. This Matoran, own or be in charge of a factory? As incredulous as it sounded, it made sense to her worried mind. “It’s where the first of us was built by the Great Beings, and where the last of us will be taken apart.” “Taken apart… like the Rahi?” Jaller asked. “Exactly like the Rahi!” the Matoran said, excited his guests were starting to follow. “We were never meant to be here this long, it’s a wonder we’ve lasted in Paradise for the time that we have. The Great Beings never had a clue things would stray so far from the way they were supposed to.” “So you’re the one taking apart the Rahi?” Jaller demanded. “No… I am.” The two whirled at the sound of the raspy voice behind them, weapons drawn at a Vortixx they had thought snuck up on them. With a chuckle, however, the figure stepped into the faint light, revealing himself to be anything but one of the denizens working the factory. The Toa Mahri gasped. Strange silver additions to the being’s upper body gave an awkward bulkiness to him. He bore wicked looking claws, his left hand hidden by a shield strapped to his forearm. An orange glow seeped from under all of the armor, that, to which Hahli and Jaller could only assume were his bones given some sort of translucence. The being’s body looked almost unfamiliar, almost like a Vortixx, but the mask… there was no mistaking the Kanohi Volitak, or the sad smile that he looked at the two with. “Nuparu?” Hahli asked, almost hoping the being in front of her gave a different name. But the nod that he gave made her heart plummet. “What are you doing here?” “I think I know the answer but I don’t think we’ll like it,” Jaller grumbled. “Now I know I saw you, when I first came check on the Dragon. I wasn’t sure at first. Nuparu, are you working with the Vortixx to take apart the Rahi?” “It’s more along the lines of they are working with us,” the Toa of Earth grinned. “Explain yourself,” Hahli demanded. “It’s for the next step in the Great Being’s plan,” Nuparu quietly answered. “You’ve read some of these scrolls. All of the Great Beings’…research.” “Most of what we think of them is our own delusional myth, did you know that?” the Matoran chimed. And it looks like some of us are more delusional than others, Jaller thought, hand tight on his power sword. “Mata Nui was never meant for anything more than reuniting the planet,” Nuparu continued. “Once Spherus Magna was fixed, the robot was supposed to return to the Valley of the Maze and be shut down, and then be taken apart for uses in further projects they had in mind. Building the robot took up so much of the planet’s resources— and they were going to build TWO!— that they wanted to try and fully restore the planet.” “So were we supposed to be dismantled with the robot?” Hahli asked, incredulous at what she was hearing. “None of this was ever supposed to be integrated into Spherus Magna in this form,” he confirmed, a slightly apologetic tone in his voice. “The Great Beings just thought it was too dangerous.” “See, we’re all scheduled to be ‘disassembled’,” the Matoran said. Hahli shook her head. “Nuparu, how can you be behind this? How can you stand with this Matoran?” “I once saw a Spherus Magnan animal hunting in the desert,” he recalled. “It had come upon a recently deceased carcass of another animal, killed by some other predator but left otherwise untouched. The animal ate the spoils it found. But it later was hungry. It went and found another carcass, but the result was the same. The animal eventually died of starvation. When I looked at it, the animal had eaten the food, but there was no nutrition in it. “I know, it seems trivial, but it stuck with me. The sound of that animal dying of malnutrition, it seemed wrong. It seemed cheated.” “I’d gone wandering,” the Matoran said, sitting on top of the workbench and swinging his twisted leg. “And stumbled upon all of this. Nuparu eventually found me, and together we came and made this operation.” “It all seemed logical. I would take apart Rahi, figure out how we biomechs absorbed food. Because I wanted to figure out something.” He shook his head. “But there’s no solution. It’s not possible to try and make it right.” “And the Vortixx, they’re with you too?” Jaller asked. “They were… convinced, with the gift of the dragon, after we took it down.” Nuparu explained, extending his claws toward the fellow Toa. They shied away, leaving Nuparu with a disappointed expression. “They thought the project was promising.” “And there were Agori working with us, whom had some… feelings,” the Matoran said. “But they were willing to work with us. All in the name of the Great Being’s plan.” “This is madness,” Jaller breathed. “Nuparu, you’ve gone too far.” A noise made the three Toa Mahri looked around. A few Vortixx had arrived at the scene. Realizing Hahli and Jaller were unwanted guests/not allied with Nuparu, they began to brandish weapons. “No!” the Matoran screamed. Nuparu sent a column of earth forth at a Vortixx charging up their Rhotuka spinner. This was him nicely insisting they all back down. “They are my guests! They are mine to deal with!” “Then I guess we have outstayed our welcome,” Hahli said, brandishing her tri-claw. “Sorry Hahli, but I cannot let you leave,” Nuparu said. His whipped his shield forward, and Hahli braced for an attack. Instead, his claw reached under the shield, pressing a hidden button. Behind the Toa of Water, a mechanical crane came to life, grabbing Jaller. His power sword clattered to the floor where he stood. The crane lifted him into the air, throwing him around until it found a spot to pin him on a conveyor belt between two Rahi.“I know you think this is wrong, but this is what I feel is right.” Hahli spun, ready to rush for her friend. “No! don’t worry about me!” Jaller barked. “I can get myself out of this! Stop him!” Hahli glowered under her mask visor at his words, turning to lunge at Nuparu. She swung her claw downward, only to meet the face of his shield. Sparks flew. With a grunt, he pushed her away, slashing with his own set of claws. Catching them with hers, she threw his arm to the side, trying to open up his defense. Nuparu let her overextend herself, bashing the Toa of Water in the shoulder with his shield. She reeled from the blow, falling back with surprise from Nuparu’s strength. She didn’t expect the inventor could have been as strong as he was. Standing over her, the Toa of Earth pulled his fist back. When his fist came forward, it met her feet, as a kick sent him flying. He fell on the workbench on his back, rolling to avoid a protosteel talon piercing his mask. Hahli had leapt to her feet in a rage, thrusting downward towards Nuparu in what would’ve been a lethal jab. As Nuparu rolled away, he threw tablets from the table at her, which she slashed into pieces before advancing to her combatant. The Toa of Earth hopped to the ground, raising his shield as the Toa of Water slashed again. He slashed as well, and the two caught each other in mid air, claws locking into each other. Each of them struggled to gain the upper hand: Hahli had one claw and more ability to move, in addition to more strength, while Nuparu had more claws and more leverage. Nuparu eventually was the one to pull away, sending a kick towards Hahli’s way. Dodging it, she slashed again. He caught her tri-claw and twisted her arm, again with surprising force, bashing the Toa into the side of a nearby machine. Using her free arm she thrusted an elbow back, knocking him in the side of the head. The Toa of Earth remained steady however, throwing Hahli at the metal with even more force. As much as Jaller wanted to join the scramble, he was busy in his own fight, trying to avoid the mechanical arm Nuparu had set on him. The machine had strapped him down, readying him for some sort of deactivation process. His elemental powers did not seem to be effective; though he could feel the straps heating up, they would not succumb to the power of fire or his own strength. Another arm with a long needle of some sort hovered above him, and Jaller struggled against his straps, not curious to see what kind of surgery the needle could perform. “Help me!” he demanded of the Vortixx standing nearby. They did not respond, only faithfully watching Nuparu until he would call for their help. “Vortixx!” he called. “You realize that he plans on taking all of us apart? Yourselves included?” “Or maybe we have been paid royally enough that it will not matter, in the end.” A whisper came. Jaller’s eyes looked up to see the Vortixx that had been their host in the Dragon’s facility standing over him. “Or, we will get to chose our time of disassembly. We will be the last, and we will choose when.” “He wants you to think that!” Jaller tried reasoning. He struggled more fervently as the Vortixx operated a lever, causing the needle to come down further and faster. The Vortixx chuckled, returning to the shadows as the needle made the final bit of its descent, boring itself into Jaller’s chest pistons. He screamed in agony as he could feel the screwdriver twist. Letting out a bellow of rage, a burst of magma flew from Jaller’s hand, hitting him square in the chest. “Choose to deal with that,” the Toa of Fire grunted through his own pain. Hahli heard his screams, adding a bellow of her own as she charged at the Toa of Earth, ready to take him down. However, he had other plans, digging his claws into her back. The protosteel of his claws immediately cut through her back armour, piercing the tissue within. Hahli seized on the ground in pain, unable to defend herself. Hahli must have blacked out for a moment, but the next thing she recalled she was knocking her head against Nuparu’s. The Toa of Earth reeled back, and suddenly Hahli found she could breath easily. The pain in her back was still fresh, but it was easier to deal with now. Her mask must have activated on its own.. some Rahi with an extreme pain tolerance must be somewhere in this facility, she supposed. The Toa of Earth still reeling from the head blow, Hahli charged, pile driving the Toa of Earth towards the machine where Jaller was trapped. Jaller screamed again as the machine buckled, Nuparu’s body crashing into it. The needle boring into his chest became askew, and he felt it go too deep. Hahli appeared on the field of his vision, and yanked the needle from his chest. Jaller gasped in pain. The Toa of Water cut the rest of him free, and then pulled Jaller to his feet. They had no time to converse, however, as Jaller tackled her back towards the workbench. “No!” the Matoran wailed as he watched the another section of conveyor belts buckle under the flashes of the Toa’s strength and raging power. “Remember the factory, Nuparu! Preserve the Great Beings’ equipment! Preserve it!” The projectile shot at them passed right by where they had stood, flying instead into another conveyor belt. Hundreds of Rahi parts could be seen flying through the air, raining down between the three combatants. A piece struck the Av-Matoran in the head, and he slumped on the workbench, out cold. Nuparu stood enraged, a shoulder mounted Cordak launcher reminiscent of his Inika form still smoking. His mask glowed for a moment, before he disappeared into his stealth mode. “Nuparu!” Jaller yelled into the factory. “Think of what you’re doing! You’re a Toa! Think of what you stand for! All that we went through together… did Matoro sacrifice himself for the universe just for you to go slaughter your comrades and fellow biomechs?” “There was a lot we did not know then!” came Nuparu’s reply. “And what changed?” Hahli demanded. “What did you learn since then?” The Toa of Earth emerged from the shadows, deactivating his Mask of Stealth as he backhanded Jaller with his arm shield. “I’ve always done this, Jaller, I’ve always been this way,” the Toa of Earth informed him. “I invented the Vahki, and the Krahli before them. Turaga Dume told me. And the Bohrok on Mata Nui— did you know they were once Av-Matoran? Toa Gali told me that one. Matoran! Our brothers and sisters! I took them apart! How is this much different? I told myself when I started this. How much further will I g—?” Nuparu’s rant was cut short as Hahli had charged at him one last time, swinging a pipe that connected with the distraught Toa’s head. He crumpled at the blow, falling into a heap on the floor. “Hahli,” Jaller breathed. The Toa of Water looked at her close friend, still wincing from the blow to the head. With Nuparu down for the moment, she leapt to aid her friend. “There’s no way we can win this,” he told her. “Nuparu may be down, but there are still who knows how many Vortixx around us. You have to get out of here, while you can.” “That’s not the only option!” she snapped, knowing what her Toa brother was thinking. But he would not listen, his hands and body already heating up with raw power. “Just go!” he demanded her, closing his eyes as she felt his power build. He listened to her footsteps as she walked away. However, he felt his power shift slightly, and he opened his eyes. He was donning Nuparu’s mask, and Hahli was holding his Arthron. The Toa of Fire understood. The Vortixx shot at her as she leapt into flight, but the heat of Jaller’s building Nova incinerated anything they threw her way. Gripping tightly onto the Arthron, she shot forward toward the tunnel they had come through. Darkness flew by as she raced to outpace the fire behind her, conjuring her powers to create a cushion of water around her. She sent a tidal wave ahead of herself, crashing into the metal door leading out to the mountain. The skies beyond the mountain appeared as the wave did its work, and Hahli emerged into the air, surrounded by water, fire and air all at once. Review
  19. How much are you asking for the box or?
  20. "Once Were Warriors" is a 1994 film on Maori culture that covers the conflict of abandoning the old ways of the family's culture and living in the modern world. There are some graphic moments (R rated), but it is a it's a really powerful film discussing heritage. (The actor who plays Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones is one of the main characters) Definitely one to watch if you're looking for movies in race and identity.
  21. “Are you ok?” The Toa Hagah asked when they met the fresh air of the mountains. “Keep walking,” Jaller responded, eyes forward on the path. Hahli and Kualus waited some ways away from the entrance to the facility, keeping hidden amongst the snowbanks. They immediately descended back to the path when they saw their comrades, equally as puzzled by Jaller’s silence as Norik was. The three of them watched the Toa Mahri fall to his knees. His fingers became a whirl in the dirt, tracing something that only he could see. Any attempts to get an answer from what he was doing were met with only silence for a few moments. He stood up, brushing his hands off to the side, and the other three gathered to see what he had drawn. A depiction of the north, but there were paths between here and the Great Volcano that none of them recognized. “What is it?” Kualus asked. “Our host let something slip,” Jaller began. “When we were leaving, I happened to get glimpse of this on one of the tablets he dropped. I used my Arthron to memorize it as best as I could— the mask isn’t too precise. But there is something out here—“ he indicated a section in the Black Spikes, midway between Roxtus and Iconox. “and where we are. We need to continue north to check that out.” Using her power, Hahli sent water into the ruts the Toa had carved, allowing Kualus to freeze them into a sheet of ice. They pried it from the ground, smearing the original drawing Jaller had rendered as a precaution. When they were finished, they rose to see Norik gazing up at the slopes, troubled. “Is something wrong?” Hahli asked him. “The path is clear,” Norik said to Jaller. “I would’ve thought otherwise.” “Why shouldn’t it be?” asked Kualus. “I just would’ve thought… that the tremors inside would’ve shook the snow loose and down to here,” Norik responded. The Toa of Ice and Water looked at him quizzically. “What tremors?” Hahli asked. The Toa of Fire met eyes, Norik cursing. Another of the Vortixx’s tricks, they realized. “We need to get going,” Jaller said, leading the way. The makeshift map showed them paths that were definitely not known to any travelers, they realized after a day of hiking. The four of them had crossed from Iconox’s icy slopes to deep within the Black Spikes, now walking single file along a path entrenched between two mountains. On either side of the path, black slopes reached high toward the sky. There were no sign of any animals, let alone other travelers, which kept Jaller on edge. Though he led the way, scouting with his Arthron, he was so focused on interpreting the returning signals that he continually tripped on cracks in front of his face. “How much more of this?” Norik asked, picking up Jaller for the umpteenth time. “The path ascends soon,” Kualus said, using one of their Akakus to spy a trail on the mountain not so far away. “Wherever the map leads… its close.” “It better be,” Jaller said, crushing a rock with his power sword. “Because I’m sick of—“ A loud crack cut him off. To their side, a rumble sounded, and the Toa stiffened, knowing the sound of an oncoming rockslide. Tripping and tumbling over one another, the Toa began to sprint down the alley that was their path. Out of the corner of their Kanohi, they could see tons of rock coming closer with each stride they took. “Go! Go!” Kualus urged them. As far as they could run in the short time they had, Jaller thought, they were not going to get clear of the rubble. Wielding his sword with both hands, Jaller turned and sent waves of intense heat at the rocks, trying to split the stone before it toppled onto them. A figure on the mountain stood satisfied when he saw the rocks settle, the Toa buried far beneath them. He breathed a sigh of relief. The Toa were close, but they were not going to get any closer to uncovering his operations. That he was certain of. Satisfied with his work, he unlatched the door that would lead him into the mountain. Though the sounds of muffled agony could be heard several boulders down, but Jaller’s power sword still carved toward the surface. The rock above him exploded in a molten mess, and he emerged gasping into fresh air. His chestplate had been dented, and he set his sword down to fix it, before beginning to carve to where he heard the sound. Clearing the rubble, he found Norik trapped, a larger slab of rock pinning his leg. The sounds of yelling had come down, but the expression of pain on his mask remained intense. The armor on his leg had twisted under the impact and weight of the rock, and now the Toa laid amongst the rubble, fighting blacking out from the pain. Kualus freed himself and made his way over to the pair, freezing the rock and shattering it, but it did no help. In an extremely short period, the injury had turned gruesome. They could not remove it, Hahli noted—the weight of the rock had caused the injury, but now it kept it all together. Whatever Kualus did to the rock, it would have further hurt his comrade. Hahli bent down to him when she freed herself, sending healing water powers into the Toa Hagah’s injury. “You have to go on without me,” Norik said to Jaller and Hahli. The combination of the two Toa’s healing powers had done all it could now. “I’m of no use to you like this now.” “We can’t leave you,” Jaller said firmly, but Kualus’s look said otherwise. “It’s your mission,” Kualus reminded Jaller. “We are merely here to help. Go find out what the map led to; if we can catch up to you and serve as backup, we will.” The Toa of Fire opened his mouth to argue, but Hahli’s claw on his shoulder shut him up. Exchanging goodbyes with a fist bump, the two Toa Mahri made their way toward the mountain path. Hahli was unsettled with how calmly she was breathing in the crisp air as they walked up the path. It wasn’t leaving the Toa Hagah behind that bothered her; only Mata Nui could possibly fathom what they were walking into now, and it might’ve been best to have back up or someone else to tell that they had gone missing. No, it was nothing about the injuries Norik had sustained; it was the quiet surrounding her and Jaller. Even without her Mask of Kindred, she could sense something looming in the nature ahead of them. “I don’t like this,” she said to Jaller. “We shouldn’t have left them down there.” “You’re the one who agreed with them to do it,” Jaller reminded her, a little surprised at her sudden change of heart. “But the rockslide was too convenient. We can’t let a few tricks from a species of tech geniuses scare us away. Whatever the Vortixx are hiding, they’re really desperate to keep hidden from us. We need to keep going at all costs.” The Toa of Water gave a small smile; Jaller’s sense of justice, though strict, was somewhat comforting in the face of her building anxiety. Her fears returned and intensified when they saw the door. It stood against the face of the mountain, locked by a large gear. Hahli could feel its coolness with her protosteel claw, a chill running up her spine as her fears began to take on a solid form. Jaller grabbed its handles and cranked it open to find a dark, featureless tunnel. There were no signs of anything as far as they could see, but Hahli knew there had to be something deep in the tunnel. A door this well hidden had to be there for reasons she didn’t want to think about. They stepped inside the yawning entrance, and Hahli pulled the lever to close the doors, the view of the mountains disappearing as she did so. Where the Toa of Water before could see blue skies and mountaintops, was now solid stone and metal, the crack in the two halves of the door impenetrable. She didn’t like the feeling of confinement overcoming her, but she turned to Jaller, calm and collected. Neither torch nor lightstone illuminated the tunnel, and Jaller used his Arthron to guide them. The Toa of Fire was only visible by the glow of his eyes, but somehow her hand found his, and she let him lead the way. While he concentrated on his mask power for ‘sight’, Hahli relied on her other senses to keep alert. As the Toa of Water walked blindly, her thoughts drifted to her hearing, and she listened to their footsteps. Though they walked quietly, their armored feet resounded far down the tunnel, giving her the slightest idea on how large the tunnel was. Something was not right about the way they echoed, and Hahli listened more intently, the nerves on her neck suddenly sensitive. Jaller squeezed his partner’s hand as he felt her pace pick up, but she did not reciprocate while she concentrated. Something was not right about the way their footsteps echoed, but she could not discern exactly what it was. There was the pair of footsteps coming back to them, but something was off about the way they sounded. Hahli suddenly realized what it was as she stopped, her hand jerking Jaller and bringing him to a stop as well. But the sound of footsteps kept resounding behind them, and Hahli’s worries were confirmed. There was a third person in the tunnel with them. She whirled, slashing her tri-claw at the darkness. “Who is there?” she cried, her question repeating itself down the tunnel. Jaller directed his Arthron behind them, ‘listening’ for any response, but the footsteps had stopped. After a few eternal moments of silence, they continued onward again. Hahli continued to listen, but all she heard was two pairs of footsteps. The shadows seemed to soften, but it took Hahli a while to realize she could see again. She and Jaller walked through shafts of grey light now, a soft glow coming from somewhere ahead to dispel the shadows. Hahli glanced over her shoulder to see a wall of absolute black, and looked forward again. Yes, there definitely was a difference now, not just her imagination playing tricks on her. Jaller slowed to a stop, putting a hand on her shoulder to caution the fellow Toa. “There's movement up ahead", he told her, his voice troubled, "but I can't discern any details. Be prepared for anything.” Hahli nodded, and cocking their Cordak blasters, they slowly advanced. Their path narrowed into a catwalk that wound around a chamber, where an assembly of machinery criss crossed into an elaborate factory line. Lightstones mounted high above cast a cerulean glow on a series of eerily still conveyor belts, mechanical arms paused over the shells of Rahi resting on them. A few Vortixx wantered the machinery, hauling boxes of pieces to another room. The Toa looked at each other as they glimpsed the Rahi there, as well as a ladder that would take them to the floor. As quietly as they could manage, they snuck down the ladder, keeping hidden from the Vortixx as best as they could. On the belts the Rahi lay still and dark, devoid of any sign of life. Gone was any organic tissue that had been inside of their frames, the beasts appearing as haunted skeletons of what they once were. The eye of one Muaka tiger was dark, gazing blankly into the strange facility but not seeing the doom that it brought the beholder. As the two Toa walked further along the belts, they stuck to the shadows, precariously trying to keep hidden from the Vortixx workers. The two looked further along to see more Rahi, dozens of species and samples in various stages of disassembly. One belt contained multiple Rahi with their limbs detached— A Nivhawk with its wings removed, a Phase dragon with its limbs disconnected from its torso— whereas another belt had a Nui-Jaga completely taken apart, each piece laid out in a frighteningly precise manner. Following the belts led them to a hefty workbench in the middle of the factory, the stools surrounding it strewn about as though they were thrown in frustration. Scrolls and tablets were scattered along the tabletop, which the Toa began to sift through, until Jaller pulled up one of a diagram of the robot that had housed the Matoran universe. Some of the writing was Agori, but it was the few notes on it in Matoran that the Toa of Fire did not understand. Setting that scroll down, he dug through the pile he had plucked that one from. Hahli took that tablet as Jaller sifted more, reading notes about the giant robot, which from the context had to have been written by the Great Beings. There were some notations of Mata Nui and his mission, as well as the reformation of Spherus Magna, but it did not stop there; something that trailed off into Agori about the shutdown of the Mata Nui intelligence system, as well as reorganization of the materials within the robot… Hahli took a hard swallow as she looked around the factory, and then back at the text. “What is this place?” she asked aloud. “The place of our beginning… as well as our end.” Review
  22. Jaller and Hahli, Have been looking into the Muaka specimen you gave me. Had to go consult Turaga Whenua in Tajun about it. Will find you when I return. —Nuparu Jaller read the note on Nuparu’s workbench in his Vulcanus home, irritated at the Toa of Earth’s disappearance. As much as the earth types were tied down to their projects— mining, history, inventing— they were extremely difficult to keep track of; once they were set on a project, they would go far and wide to find whatever they required.He would find Nuparu later then. Hopefully the Toa Mahri returned within the day. A Matoran came up to Jaller as soon as he left Nuparu’s hut, scroll in hand. “Toa Jaller!” the villager cried. “I have been looking for you everywhere!” “What for?” the Toa of Fire asked. “Toa Norik asked me to give you this, said it was urgent,” the villager said. Jaller opened the note, which held a meeting place and time. Jaller thanked the Matoran. “Have you seen Toa Hahli? I was asked to pass on the same message to her.” “Don’t worry, I’ll find her,” Jaller replied. “Thank you for this.” *** Hahli was the last to arrive at the campsite, immediately launching into the news that she had found. Jaller and the two Toa Hagah across the fire listened intently, shaking their heads at what she had found. “Of course the little vermin was selling parts,” Jaller spat after Hahli told him the tale. “Anything he could do to make a profit.” Across the campfire, Toa Norik shook his head. “Never have I heard of a Matoran so far from virtue,” the Toa Hagah of Fire said. “From Makuta’s Turaga in Metru Nui to this?” “He was working for Makuta long before we made our way back to Metru Nui,” Hahli told them. “But this is a new low for him.” “He wouldn’t tell you the supplier?” Toa Kualus asked. “No names, but what he gave was a small hint of where to look,” she said. “If it is true, then the eleven of us trusted the wrong people.” “What did you two find though?” Jaller asked the two Toa Hagah, breaking an uncomfortable silence hanging over them. Kualus looked at the two uncomfortably. “Something felt off about the Kanohi Dragon’s attack. Onua Nuva and I took a trip up there a few years ago, to check its status since leaving the old universe. There was no real reason which it would want to even come back down here. It seemed… at home.” “So what changed?” Jaller asked. Kualus shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “The Great Volcano was a mess last time I was there, but…” he shook his head in disbelief “There is nothing to describe it now.” “The ‘volcano’ itself is in shambles,” Norik told the Toa Mahri. “There is no heat coming from the area whatsoever. The land is torn apart. Where the Rahi’s nest was is a bunch of chasms now.” “An earthquake?” asked Hahli. “Or possibly a bigger beast from the Great Jungle?” “Not both though,” Norik said. “But we haven’t felt any seismic activity down here,” Jaller reminded them. “You’re not saying…” “Something forced the Kanohi Dragon out,” Kualus finished. “What could have the power to do that?” Hahli asked. “There was… a lot of machinery when I went to the Vortixx’s facility in Iconox,” the Toa of Fire cursed. “I didn’t know what a lot of it was. Nuparu would.” “Maybe he can accompany you to another trip there,” Hahli suggested. “But Norik, Kualus… are you saying the Vortixx could be responsible?” “The Vortixx have operated unchecked— here and on Xia —for millennia,” Norik said, glaring into the fire. “They could want to ‘revisit’ old projects.” “What reason would they have for wanting the Kanohi Dragon?” Hahli asked. “Weaponry, at the very least,” Norik said. “They don’t know all the players of this world, but they may want to be prepared for the day another Barraki or one of those Element Lords seeks them out.” “Nuparu did say they couldn’t bring all of their tech off of their homeland,” Jaller recalled. “But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t take a lot of it.” “Ahkmou isn’t the only one who wouldn’t do anything for a little extra income,” Hahli remarked. “What Jaller could have seen could have been anything,” the Toa of Ice said, annoyed with the conspiracy theories bouncing around. He used his ice powers to lower the height of the flame, the two Ta-Toa unintentionally feeding their power as they grew eager in their conversation. “We have no confirmations. We all have dislike for their society, but we cannot let prejudices push our suspicions.” “Yes, but it never hurts to investigate further, if the Vortixx are up to anything.” Jaller reminded him. *** Vohon closed the door to his shop, the sun beginning to dip past the western dunes on the outer reaches of Vulcanus. He watched the yellow orb of Solis Magna until it had sank behind the dune, and then turned to put his wares away. Selling was done for the day, and it was time to go home. A feeling of eyes on his back as he cleaned his shop made Vohon wary, and he almost expected the click of his shop doorknob. The Ta-Matoran stood there, laying his hands flat on top of the table he was at. “I’m closed for the day,” he said as calmly as he could, knowing the words wouldn’t discourage the intruders. “Come back tomorrow.” “We aren’t here to buy,” a voice chuckled, and Vohon turned to look at who had trespassed into his shop. A Vortixx and an Agori stood across his doorway, dropping their cloaks to the floor of the hut. The Agori took off his seemingly empty backpack, a grin coming from under the half mask that they wore. Vohon had thought they were wearing Kanohi at first, but the more he looked, the more he could see they were not Kanohi at all, or even Glatorian helmets. They were masks, but not even poorly crafted ones; they seemed much more warped than that. The thought crossed Vohon’s mind that he may not be dealing with simple thieves. “Now wait just a second—“ Vohon started, whipping out a loaded Kanoka launcher from under his table. Aiming at the Vortixx, he pulled the trigger, and threw the launcher unexpectedly at the Agori as the disk flew. The pseudo mask on the taller figure was knocked off, but the disk was too weak to have any effect on him. The Agori had dodged the launcher thrown at him, a grin growing on his face as he began to advance on the Matoran. Night was arriving in Vulcanus, darkness coming in the form of these two bandits. Vohon raised his fists halfheartedly, thinking he knew what was about to come. *** “Still think we shouldn’t be accusing them?” Hahli asked Kualus the next morning. He said nothing, simply gazing in shock at the mess that was Vohon’s ruined shop. The Matoran in question sat with Norik, sporting a new mask and nursing his socket where his arm used to be. Another Matoran medic was there, studying the spot where the limb had detached. Hahli reread the scroll she carried with the Matoran’s account of what had happened. The only word with meaning on it was ‘Vortixx’, describing one of the assailants. Kualus frowned, upset with the tortured Matoran’s physique. “We’re headed north as soon as this investigation is over,” the Toa assured her. “but not necessarily with Cordak launchers blazing.” “The interrogation should be more hostile than the last visit,” Jaller’s voice reached the two. In his hand he held the deformed half mask Vohon had presented to them when they had arrived. “I’ve never seen that kind of mask before,” Hahli said. “That’s because it’s a scale,” Norik corrected. “A decoy mask from the dragon, meant to lure in unsuspecting Matoran to feed on when they were close enough.” Kualus looked at his brother, disgusted. “The Vortixx are definitely doing more than keeping the dragon in stasis,” he said. “I’ll ask Ackar to borrow his Thornatus again,” he resolved. “Did Vohon have anything to say other than what he told us?” Jaller asked Norik. The Hagah shook his head. “No, but I told him we would personally see to it that he received a new arm,” Norik informed Jaller. The group of them nodded to Vohon and the medic, their work in the hut done. It was time to travel to Iconox again. “Before we leave, have Takanuva on double patrol tonight,” he asked the Toa Mahri. The Vortixx at the gate of the Iconox facility were concerned when Jaller and Norik brought them the news. “But the dragon has been here since you entrusted it to us,” one of the guards said. “How could an incident with the dragon happen in Vulcanus, if it never reached there?” “That’s why we’re worried as well,” Jaller said. “We want to take a look at the dragon. I just want to assure its well being. Norik here is an expert on reptiles, and he wanted to look as well. If you allow us just a few hours to observe, then we will be on our way.” “We weren’t expecting visitors today,” one Vortixx commented. Norik’s mask did a double take, sarcastically incredulous. “Toa Nuparu did tell you we would be checking in,” the Toa Hagah reminded the guards. Their brows darkened, and they nodded, letting the two Toa in. Their bluff got them into the dragon’s chamber, where the behemoth lay in stasis. An icy Spherus Magnan substance covered the dragon, keeping it dormant; whatever was on the dragon frosted over the surface of its hide, and the Toa could barely make out the details of its armor. Bringing two Kanohi Akaku from their packs, they saw past the substance, and began scouring up and down the length of the creature. It had some damage from the wrestling match with Bomonga, but the majority of its armor was undamaged. The Rahi’s midsection was where the Toa found something off. In the bulk of its body, where the Rahi’s ‘masks’ lined its hide, the stasis substance appeared patchy. Jaller and Norik crouched down to where they saw the disturbance. One section of the substance appeared patched— investigating further, the Toa could see no mask scales on the creature. The Toa looked at each other, eyebrows raised. While Norik glanced up to check on any spying Voritxx, Jaller used his powers to burn away the substance to investigate further. Underneath the patch, it was as they suspected; a broken scale stuck out from the rest, the Kanohi-like appendage missing. Jaller looked at it grimly, while Norik’s eyes were raised. They said nothing, repairing the seal quietly before moving on. More patches were visible further down the hide, various spots here spread out to try and look random, but the Toa could distinguish a pattern. They were undetectable from the platforms surrounding the dragon, where Vortixx walked to and from different facilities within the place, but down here, the more they looked, the more the Toa could see the substance had been tapped into. “Dozens of ‘masks’ missing,” Jaller said. “But why? A powerless Kanohi doesn’t hide that much. Vohon was clearly able to tell it was a Vortixx attacking him.” “Perhaps they’re not using the masks as disguises,” Norik suggested as they walked further down the dragon’s side. “The question is, then, what else they could be using them for. And how does this relate to the deaths of Rahi you found in the desert?” “They’re not just taking the masks,” Jaller realized as they came to the rear of the Rahi. Curled up behind the massive beast was its tail. Covered by the stasis substance, it was hidden, but with the aid of their Masks of Vision, they could see the raw muscle of the tail. Some of the armor from one of the Rahi’s greatest weapons had been removed. “They’re stripping the Rahi.” “For weaponry?” Norik queried. “There are thousands, if not millions of other weapons on Spherus Magna. Why would they waste their time stripping a dragon of its parts for—“ A sudden rumble cut Norik off. Tremors began to shake through the cavern, dust descending from the ceiling high above. The Toa looked at each other, surprised. The shaking did not last long, but it came in and out. Next to them, the comatose dragon began to shake as well. The two Toa nodded that it was best for them to leave. “What is going on?” Jaller demanded of their guide as they exited into a side tunnel. “Minor tremors, we have them every so often,” the guide explained, a collection of tablets and scrolls piled into a satchel he carried. “Nothing severe enough to awaken the dragon, but as a safety precaution we must ask you to leave.” “What is causing said tremors?” Norik answered. The Vortixx shook his head, saying something they could not hear in the rumbling. He turned to lead them toward the exit, and stumbled as another tremor hit them. The Vortixx tripped, his open bag spilling onto the ground. The Toa went to help him collect everything, but the Vortixx scrambled on his hands and knees, picking everything up as fast as he could. Jaller went to help him, and Norik could not help but notice the dark expression on his mask as they continued to the exit. Review
  23. Toa Jaller had seen his share of dead Rahi as a Matoran on the island of Mata Nui; there were plenty of casualties in the battles with the infected beasts of the Makuta. But what he saw now was another level of grotesque for him. The corpse of a Muaka tiger rested some ways from of Vulcanus, the gelatinous mass of organic material usually underneath its armor sitting exposed in the desert sun. The Rahi had only been dead a few days, but its hollowness made it seem as though it had been deceased for ages. Numerous parts were missing, more than when Kapura and Takua had initially found it. “This has to be the fifth or sixth one we’ve found,” the Toa of Light informed his friend. “But this one is the freshest kill.” Only one half of its face remained, its clean skull showing huge gaps into its body. One eye looked darkly into the sand of its final resting place, where the other parts of its being were scattered. Jaller shuddered, unable to shake off the memories as a Matoran being stalked by this creature. A powerful forearm that had been lined with armor and implants was completely bare, now nothing more than a tendril of lean muscle shriveled in the desert day. Even the toenails were stripped of its parts. A few wild birds had been pecking at the flesh, but they had flown off at the approach of the the Matoran and the four Toa. The five of them now looked over it, trying to comprehend what the dead Rahi meant. “The first two we thought were random,” Takanuva said. “But once more were showing up…” “How do we know that it wasn’t simply attacked by some larger Spherus Magnan animal?” Hahli asked her Av-Toa friend. “It’s too cleanly done,” the Nuparu answered her. The Toa of Earth had met up with the group on Takanuva’s request, the Toa of Light hoping to use his engineering expertise to gain insight on the trail of corpses he and Kapura had found. eHe pointed to mechanical parts on the Rahi’s head which were still intact. “Look here. The skull is gone, but there are no actual ‘breaks’ in its parts. It’s as if the pistons were taken off very deliberately. Other than what the birds have taken, no predator has gone after this. The flesh looks otherwise left alone.” “So are you saying… someone took the Rahi apart?” the Toa of Water inquired. Nuparu looked at her, an unsettling truth hanging silently in the air. “It was not a natural death,” Kapura said. “I found it during a scouting mission, with a few others just outside of Vulcanus. There was a roar we heard, and I volunteered to investigate it. Staying hidden within sight, I crept over to see the Rahi already dead. There were a few parts missing, but not as many as there are now.” “There aren’t claw marks or anything of the sort signifying an assault, and that’s the odd thing,” Nuparu added. He led Jaller to a bare shoulder. “Look at this. The armor over there is removed, not torn off. And none of the tendons are ripped particularly brutally. This happened after it died. I highly doubt that anything that was trying to feast would have pecked so evenly; a large predator would have made marks within the meat.” “Why would someone want to… disassemble a Rahi?” Jaller asked, uncomfortable with the word. “And how did they kill a Muaka themselves?” “Perhaps the answer is not in the dirt, but on the horizon,” Kapura said. They turned in confusion to see what he meant. The Ta-Matoran was pointing in the distance, where a dot was rapidly growing, and the four Masks of Power grew concerned. This was not an area on any trade routes, and the being was coming from the east, whereas Vulcanus was south of here. There were no villages east. Who could be coming out here, and why? Jaller wondered. His Arthron quickly scanned, and he did not like the returning signals. The three Toa armed themselves, cautious of who it could be. A sole rock steed galloped into sight, the particularly nasty Bone Hunter known as Fero mounted atop, sword wielded. The Toa glared at him as he sneered from atop his ride. “What brings you out here Toa? Your kind are like statues, only present where you can be admired.” “We could ask the same thing of you, Hunter,” Hahli growled. “This animal was found dead, hunted down. Was this or your clan’s doing? And what did you do with the parts?” “A coincidence that I pass this spot,” he chuckled sinisterly. “But I have the native right to travel my own territory, without assault from other worlders,” he spat. “I know not how this robot died, but I can tell you that it is not the first that I have seen.” He then flashed his spurs, which held a piece of a Nui Rama stinger that Jaller knew was impossible to get without losing a hand. “Your beasts make good trophies, but I would not waste my time hunting your kind. Better to wait until you’re like this one here, rusting in the sands and prime for scavenging.” With that, the rock steed lunged forward, jaws bared. “That’s evidence!” Jaller snarled, letting a warning burst of flame at the bandit and his mount. “That’s Skirmix’s dinner,” Fero laughed. “But I will tell you where I got this, before I go on, for I have elsewhere to be. There is a market far from here, to the north, where someone of your stature wouldn’t go. That is where I got these, from a merchant. I know not of how he gets his products, but I those in the market have high demands. Expect more carcasses like this one as the demand increases.” He kicked the steed in its sides, and they went off into the distance. The five watched Fero depart for a long time before they turned back to the deceased. “Bone Hunter scum,” Takanuva snarled, gripping his Toa tool. “Should have lit him up till he told us more.” “He told us enough,” Hahli said, flexing her claw. “We move this body somewhere where we can investigate it better. Jaller, you can use your Arthron to find out more clues, and I’ll use my mask to see if any animals know where this market is. If what Fero mentioned was true, I can get us more information.” “We’ll take what we can back to my workshop,” Nuparu suggested to the Toa of Fire. “And I can look at it more in depth there.” “I’m going with Hahli,” Jaller said, shaking his head. But the Toa of Water aggressively shook her mask. “You’re not coming with me. Two Toa sized travelers will give suspicion.” *** Not far away, under the sand, a figure was watching the group investigate the Rahi, fear rising in him as he noted who they were. He had been on his way to retrieve more of the parts of the Muaka, but the arrival of the investigators forced him into hiding. This was bad. Jaller and Hahli could be fanatics about nature, that much he knew about them. If they investigated this and caught on to what he was doing, he would have to be especially careful about how he conducted his operations. They seemed to be leaving, but he would wait a while, and slip away under the cover of nightfall. *** Ahkmou stood amongst the tables in front of his shop, a tarp overhead to protect his wares from the oncoming rain. Grey clouds were rolling in from beyond the Black Spike Mountains, shady and silent as they travelled across the sky. A few drops he could feel blowing in on the deathly quiet breeze, but the Po-Matoran did not retreat into the depths of the tent behind him; it would take a little more than water to hurt the Po-Matoran. His gave a small smile as he silently observed the passing crowd. The slave caravan being marched through the market was a rich mix of roughened Spherus Magnans and Matoran Universe inhabitants, somberly marching through the market by their master for exhibition. Some merchants taunted them, offering their products to those who clearly could not afford them, but the Po-Matoran kept silent, instead letting his merchandise speak for him. Their master would beat them if they dared turned their heads, but Ahkmou could see a few eyes lingering for more than a casual second before being rushed down the line. A number of customers required his attendance, and the afternoon wore on as Ahkmou sold his keep. The faceless and nameless customers came and went, only remembered by the piles of widgets they left. They disappeared when the storm seemed to strengthen, scrambling for drier quarters, but the merchant remained outside. His pockets were full of money, but his curiosity was still to be satisfied, as he observed one customer who remained: a cloaked being stood across the way between shops, indifferent to the rain. Much taller than the Matoran, that much he could tell, but no more. Ahkmou cocked his head as he finally turned his attention to them, as they had been facing his booth all day. Knowing they had caught his attention, the being trudged towards Ahkmou’s booth, effortlessly trudging through the mud. It was impossible discern a mask or helmet under the hood, no eyes even visible, and he simply waited for the being to speak. “Impressive wares you have,” they commented. “But…I hear you have more inside.” A large bag emerged from the stranger’s robes, landing on the table next to a Nui Rama shoulder bone with a number of clinks satisfying to Ahkmou’s ears. “Right this way,” he offered, pulling the flap of his tent back to allow the stranger in. “These pieces, they’re… fascinating,” the being said, noting the horn of a Kikinalo. Ahkmou said nothing, but let the stranger wander around his assembly. They did not draw their hands from their sleeves, keeping their features hidden. Ahkmou was slightly disappointed, hoping to get some insight into this high paying client. “How does one get such a stock?” “Now, a merchant can not tell the secrets of the supplier,” Ahkmou replied, admiring a claw on a table. “I am afraid, in good business, that I cannot reveal where I get these.” “I’ll pay extra,” the figure insisted. Still entranced in the claw, the merchant shook his head. “I cannot disclose where I get my product,” Ahkmou told them. “Then maybe the price of your miserable life is enough to interest you,” the customer snarled. The Po-Matoran whirled to see the cloak on the ground, and Toa Hahli in his tent, tri-talon bared. “Treacherous slime merchant. Talk, or you’ll find your shares here will become…liquidated.” “Toa Hahli, so nice to see you,” Ahkmou grinned. “I take it the Toa are learning of the new craze of fashion on Spherus Magna? Are you come to join in?” “Who is giving you these pieces to sell?” Hahli demanded. “There was a Rahi found brutally murdered, and its parts were missing. Why are people poaching Rahi for parts?” “Oh, Toa, always trying to find someone to bring to justice.” Ahkmou chuckled. “What’s a few Rahi gone from the universe? Think about it. People hunt animals all the time. Everyone did it on Mata Nui, I’m sure you Ga-Matoran were no exception. What are you trying to prove?” “There is something not right about it, Ahkmou,” Hahli insisted. “Of course, someone like yourself wouldn’t understand, the matter being about other lives than your own.” “Well, Hahli, there’s nothing that I can tell you,” Ahkmou shook his head. “It’s nothing more than friendly poaching and profit.” “If it’s no serious loss then, you probably won’t mind if I flood this entire black market back to the endless seas,” the Toa of Water growled. Ahkmou began to notice the rain pattering on the top of his tent. It was coming down heavier. “Your supplier, Ahkmou. Who are they?” “Where did you find the corpse?” he asked. “Somewhere near where you aren’t welcome,” she snarled. “Their hunting skills are pathetic,” the Po-Matoran laughed. “Whoever is helping me turn a profit, they are definitely more on the mechanical side. It takes someone with mechanical skill to acquire these parts,” Ahkmou smirked. “Whomever may giving me these parts, that’s one thing they do have.” Hahli glared. It was not much, but she thought she sensed where he was leading her. Nodding, she draped her cloak over her, exiting the tent without another word. Ahkmou remained inside, waiting a long time for the rain to lighten up. The entire market was a sinkhole a few hours later, ruined by Hahli’s powers. The Po-Matoran exited his tent to witness the damage, grimacing. Silently, he hoped nobody in the market would know an enraged Toa of Water had come through, or that it was because of him. “The Toa of Water,” came a voice from the shadows. Ahkmou jumped, suddenly aware of another cloaked being. The figure was just as tall as Hahli, just as featureless, but this time, the Po-Matoran knew who they were. His supplier. “What did you tell her?” “I sent her a clue, but it was down the wrong path,” he promised. “Nothing to allude to who you are.” “You know what happens if you violate our deal,” the stranger said. He stepped aside to reveal a large sack that had not been there before. More merchandise, was Ahkmou’s thought as he unwrapped the bag eagerly. He turned to say more to the figure, but they were gone, disappearing as suddenly as they appeared. Shrugging, he went to cataloging the new inventory, only to stop in shock at the non-Rahi pieces he found within the loot. Review
  24. Nick Silverpen

    Disassembly

    This was originally posted in Short Stories, but due to an error with the forum, a good portion of the ending is not showing. I prompted the SS Leader GSR, and he said this was an appropriate means of reposting it. The story can be read in full on my Wordpress or AO3. One The shadow of the Kanohi Dragon passed over the eleven Toa as it flew overhead, deciding whether to continue being a pest or to eliminate the pests below. While it made up its mind, Toa Hagah and Toa Mahri alike were sweating it out in the fiery inferno which raged in the surrounding plains, gripping their tools tightly. Far to the north, a path of destruction loomed in the dragon’s wake, as it used its fiery breath on the land. The Toa were determined to stop the destruction right here, but the battle had been a shaky one—the Kanohi Dragon was a more formidable beast than any Rahi any of them had ever faced, and they wondered if there was any hope of taking it down. “Behemoth creatures with loads of armor,” Pouks grumbled. “Why did the Great Beings always have a fascination with behemoth creatures with loads of armor?” “Maybe that can play into our benefit,” Nuparu piped. “We could overheat its systems, perhaps?” “The dragon thrives on heat,” Norik reminded him. “And under each of those mask scales the Rahi has a ventilation system. Too many vents to try and plug.” “Whatever we do, we just have to keep it from using its fire,” Hewkii growled as he summoned a boulder to throw the dragon’s way. “And we can’t let it reach the villages south,” Gaaki reminded them. “It came from the Great Volcano,” Jaller said. “How are batteries like us supposed to have enough power to suppress something a power plant couldn’t satisfy?” “Precision,” Kualus answered, firing the tri-bladed staff he carried as the Kanohi Dragon dove towards them. What was intended as a strong stream of frost aimed at the dragon’s underbelly resulted in a thick coating of ice which adhered to its underside, the staff amplifying the Toa of Ice’s elemental abilities. Kualus continued his offense, bombarding the Rahi with ice colder than his Sub-Zero Spear could ever manage. The dragon’s maw opened wide as it roared in pain, fire beginning to conjure in its throat. The conjuring was short lived, however, as a growing Toa of Earth rose up to tackle the dragon. It lashed out with its double bladed tail, catching Bomonga in the back. He grimaced, but he did not falter. Instead he reached back to grab the behemoth by its tail, ripping the creature out of the sky. Bomonga grappled with the dragon, distracting it as the two Toa of Water created moisture for Kualus to freeze. Feeling weak at the sense of the cold, the dragon let itself drop to the ground, slamming into the earth with the force of an earthquake. It wriggled furiously against the Toa of Earth, trying to escape from his grip. The remaining Toa of Earth and Stone rushed to assist their brother, willing the ground of Spherus Magna to help their enlarged brother pin the gargantuan. In the meantime, Jaller and Norik rushed to either side of the beast, using their control of fire to suppress any flame the dragon tried to shoot, whilst Iruini and Kongu used their elemental powers to suffocate the ravening infernos spreading along the plains. Spherus Magnans who saw the fight claimed it was nothing they’d seen since the Core War, while historians from the Matoran Universe recalled the fight the dragon had given another group of eleven Toa millennia before. The beast both times had been a ravager of the land, but perhaps this time it would be put down for good. To the mountains of Iconox it would be shipped, where the cold would inhibit its power. The Toa had originally let the beast go, and it had been peaceful. But apparently it would never be content to leave the Matoran and their new Agori peers alone. *** The eleven Toa watched the sun set to the west, sweat of the battle turning cold under their armor in the arriving evening. At the bottom of the hill where they stood, the Kanohi Dragon was being loaded onto a platform by hundreds of black armored denizens, of which half the group looked skeptically upon. “Do we trust the Vortixx to take the dragon?” Kualus asked. “The last time they had it they—“ “The only place it can go is the northern reaches of Iconox,” Jaller nodded, understanding the Toa Hagah’s concerns. “We have to trust them with the dragon.” “But if they do anything like they tried to do last time…” Iruini said, uneasy. “My mask shows me nothing of the dragon’s future,” Gaaki said. “I think it will be alright with them, this time.” “They don’t have access to all of the technology they had on Xia,” Nuparu pointed out. “The disassembly of the robot made them leave a few things. And since Roodaka isn’t leading them this time, I think they’ll be on the right path.” The Toa Hagah of Ice nodded, watching the silhouettes of the Vortixx rushing to finish the work before nightfall. “Is everything alright, Kualus?” came the voice of Norik. The others had left, leaving only the two of them on the hill. The Toa of Ice shook his head. “No brother,” he said, pointing his staff to the north, “There is somewhere you and I have to go.” *** The hannah crab clacked its claws excitedly as it scuttled through the maze of furniture before it. Eagerly venturing through the closed quarters, it bumped on every possible chair leg it could come across, ricocheting onto the wall and back. Each collision made the Rahi more excited, looking for the way out of the absurd arrangement of furniture. There had to be a gap somewhere to duck out of this… after all, there was food outside of here. The crab continued to crawl through the maze, nearly passing the exit in its furious search. It crashed into the wall as it tried to reverse direction, then managed to crawl backwards to the break in the furniture. It shot through the gap to a wide chamber, nearly scuttling into a pair of blue columns in the middle of the floor. It was only the swift sweep of a big red arm which prevented it from a painful collision. “We come here every week, little one, yet you get lost back there every time,” Jaller chuckled as he nestled his pet in the crook of his arm. The crab began to coo as its legs came to a stop. It curled up in the Toa of Fire’s embrace. “It would also help if someone didn’t rearrange the furniture every time we visited,” he jabbed at the winged Toa standing in the middle of the room. “You don’t have to come over for these healing treatments,” Hahli retorted, fluttering her wings. “Surely the Kanohi Dragon didn’t burn the Toa of Fire too bad.” A knock on the door whisked his comeback away, and Jaller set his drink down as he went to answer it. His evening with Hahli was interrupted, and he wondered by whom at this time of night. The door opened to reveal a gold and white Toa, standing behind a Ta-Matoran, and Jaller was curious as to which odd character led the pair. “Takua! Kapura!” He exclaimed. Kapura gave a courteous nod, but when the Toa only exchanged a solemn hello, it seemed strained, and Jaller saw that there was something painful in his old friend’s eyes. He pulled them in, asking what was wrong, but Takanuva could not answer. “Nothing to be spoken of in doorways, Toa Jaller,” the Ta-Matoran responded for his companion. ' Review
  25. This was originally posted in Short Stories, but due to an error with the forum, a good portion of the ending is not showing. I prompted the SS Leader GSR, and he said this was an appropriate means of reposting it. The story can be read in full on my Wordpress or AO3. Chapter One
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