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Found 23 results

  1. Story Topic This is my entry for BZPower Fanfic Exchange 2018. I'm writing for Darth Jaller, who's prompt was to write about "the members of the Chronicler's Company, working together to do their bit to resist Makuta's control of the MU." I've decided to tell a side story involving some of the Company's quirkier members, Tamaru, Taipu, and Kapura. (I later realized that the prompt could be interpreted as happening in the post-Makuta takeover of the Matoran Universe... but I prefer MNOLG stories, so I set it there and decided not to change. Hope that's still acceptable, Darth Jaller!) Because my story ended up being a little too long, I decided to split it up into a mini epic. I have the first three chapters written, and plan to extend it out into seven chapters overall, although I'm still working on the middle and ending. I hope to get the rest up in a timely manner, but gosh it has been hard trying to find the time to write! A couple of notes about the story:Yes, Tamaru is written with female pronouns. There was a fan theory going around a few years ago that Tamaru was trans, so I wanted to write her that way, although that specific identity will not be a major focus of the story.I am aware that certain Rahi like the Burnak are not deemed native to Mata Nui. My story assumes they're an uncommon Rahi but a few did make it up to the island.The story takes place shortly after Takua's adventures in Le-Koro in the MNOLG, but before he embarks on his journey to put together the Chronicler's Company.Critique and criticism is appreciated, so please leave a review. Hope you enjoy the story! Thanks!
  2. BZPower Fanfic Exchange 2018 for Darth Jaller Tamaru crouched low, as she sighted her quarry perched on a branch up ahead. The green Kewa was preening her feathers, but looked up as the Le-Matoran walked out from underneath the foliage. “There you be, Kunono,” Tamaru said softly, as she started to approach the bird. “I have been search-seeking much for you today. Would you be up for a little wind-fly?” The Kewa Kunono tilted her head slightly at the advancing Matoran. Tamaru took cautious steps forward, taking care to make no sudden movements that might startle the Rahi. Meanwhile, she maintained eye contact with the Kewa, hoping to build upon their bond. But it wasn’t enough; when Tamaru was only three strides away, Kunono suddenly cried out and spread her wings. Before Tamaru could pounce forward, Kunono took to the air and disappeared into the canopy of Le-Wahi. “Braka-bones,” Tamaru cursed. “I got ever-close that time!” Tamaru had in fact been tracking down that particular Kewa all day. Kunono had been assigned to her for the Gukko Force. Kewa were normally fairly docile Rahi, and many of the Le-Matoran pilots were able to quickly train them and use them in aerial combat. Tamaru had learned how to groom and feed the other Kewa, but she had never flown one before. Kongu had assigned her Kunono, saying that once she trained her they could join in practicing for the Gukko Force. Yet for whatever reason that particular Kewa was unwilling to put up with Tamaru and refused to bond with her. As such, Tamaru had decided to name her Kunono, which roughly translated to “Stubborn.” Of course, there were other reasons why Tamaru was reluctant to take flight on a Kewa. She briefly wondered if Kunono could sense her fear of heights and if that was why she wouldn’t let her approach. Tamaru was working very hard to overcome her vertigo, but how could she improve when her assigned Kewa refused to fly with her? Tamaru’s frustrated thoughts were soon placed aside as she heard something rustling in the forest behind her. She glanced back, wondering if it was a Rahi of some sort. However, from the sound of it, whatever was walking nearby was clumsily moving through the jungle; any native Rahi would be making far less noise, and certain predators would be nearly silent. So who was this outsider who was wandering the dangerous jungle floor of Le-Wahi? Tamaru drew her bamboo disc and approached through the jungle. She soon sighted the source of the commotion; a short Onu-Matoran was pushing his way through the brush, looking around widely for something. Tamaru jumped up on a log next to the Onu-Matoran. “Why are you down-tree out here?” she asked. “Ground-path is much-far away, and it ever-dangerous out here.” The Onu-Matoran yelped out and toppled backwards. As he unsteadily got back to his feet, he asked, “Where did you come from? I swear you weren’t there earlier!” “I am good leaf-runner,” Tamaru explained. “Make sound-no. Unlike crash-bang Onu-Matoran.” She paused, recognizing his black noble Ruru Kanohi. “You were visitor in tree-bright Le-Koro, right? Survivor of Rama hive?” The Onu-Matoran nodded. “Yes, I’m Taipu, a digger from Onu-Koro. I’ve seen you in the village before, but I don’t think we’ve met.” “I am Tamaru, Highfly Vinesman, Deepwood Wayfinder,” Tamaru said, introducing herself. “And I am confused why earth-digger is not in sing-song Le-Koro.” “I really do like it up there!” Taipu said. “But the thing is. . . well, I have been away from my work for too long. I know Turaga Whenua hasn’t summoned me yet, but I should probably head back home.” “You have been in Le-Koro for many moon-nights,” Tamaru agreed. “But ground-path to earth-city is far from here. How you up-end in jungle-deep?” “I’m actually looking for something,” Taipu said. He bowed his head guiltily. “I dropped my pickax when I was up in Le-Koro. It wouldn’t look good if I return without it, so I’ve been trying to find it before I leave. However, the jungle is very confusing down here, so I haven’t had much luck with my search.” “You’re looking for something you tree-dropped?” Tamaru asked, and she couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Well, you are far-off, friend Taipu. Village not up-tree from us here.” Taipu frowned. “I was worried about that,” he said. “Le-Koro is so spread out up in the trees, and it’s difficult to tell where everything is from down here.” Tamaru nodded. “It is ever-confusing, yes. Even some Le-Matoran orient-no when they come down-tree. When most Matoran tree-drop stuff, they deem it lost-gone.” “But I can’t just give up my pickax!” Taipu said. “It’s sentimental to me, in a way; I used it to dig the tunnel from Onu-Koro to Le-Wahi, and it’s very sturdy, better than most. Plus, it would be very costly to replace, and Onu-Koro doesn’t exactly have the resources to get me a new one. I’d feel like I’d be letting Turaga Whenua, Onepu, and the others down if I return without it.” “I understand,” Tamaru said, placing a hand on Taipu’s shoulder. After all, she herself felt like she was letting down her fellow villagers by not being on the Gukko Force; she knew that Taipu must be in a similar situation. “What-tell-you, I can ever-help,” she said. “Once Matau tree-dropped Kau Kau staff, so I seek-searched ground and found it for him. Turaga was ever-pleased. Maybe I can same-do for your tool.” “You’ll help me?” Taipu asked, his spirit rising. “Thank you so much, Tamaru.” “First, from where did you tree-drop pickax?” Tamaru asked. “Important for seek-searching that is.” “I had it propped up on a trunk behind the band area,” Taipu described. “But I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally kicked it while dancing, and before I could grab it, it fell over the edge.” “I know where on ground-level to go to be beneath band platform,” Tamaru said, leading the way. “Me-follow!” Tamaru did her best to lead Taipu on the easiest route to the spot beneath the village. Taipu had in fact wandered quite a ways away from the trees that housed Le-Koro; if he had continued he would’ve gone deeper into the Fau Swamp, where he could’ve easily turned into a Rahi’s supper. However, Tamaru had heard stories of how the hardy Onu-Matoran had survived in the Nui-Rama hive, so perhaps he was not so foolhardy after all. Tamaru shuttered at the remembrance of the Nui-Rama attack. Less than a week prior, the jungle village had been besieged by evil Nui-Rama insects, controlled by the Makuta. They had captured most of the Le-Matoran, but Tamaru and a few others had managed to escape. Kongu led a desperate attempt to rescue the others with the Gukko Force, but Tamaru had been one of the few Matoran forced to remain behind. The guilt and shame still ate away at her, even though everyone had eventually been rescued by the Toa. Tamaru came to a halt at the edge of a shallow marsh. She gestured to a large tree growing out of the swamp, and said, “Tree-bright Le-Koro above. If tree-dropped from band platform, it should be in this area.” “Ew, you mean it’s in the swamp?” Taipu said, making a face under his mask. Tamaru nodded, already wading in. “It deep-not, so unless you afraid of mud-grime, nothing to ever-fear,” she said. Taipu slowly waded in after her, and tried to feel around for something with his feet. “I thought Le-Matoran hated the swamp,” he said. “I heard stories that they fear water.” “Water is not to be feared,” Tamaru said, reaching her hands into the swamp to search for the pickax. “But further in Fau Swamp, Rahi-beasts hide in deeper waters, and fast-attack Matoran from below. If you want to keep mask in one piece, you avoid being down-tree in Le-Wahi.” “You don’t seem too afraid down here,” Taipu said. Tamaru shrugged. “I am good leaf-runner,” she said. “I can out-pace all but the fastest of Rahi-beasts. I even know how to swim-stroke, although I often-not get the chance to.” “I guess not all Le-Matoran are the same,” Taipu mused. Tamaru nodded. “You also seem strange-odd for an earth Matoran. I thought you would not like being up-tree.” “Oh, it doesn’t bother me,” Taipu said. “I don’t have a fear of heights; I have lots of experience with them.” Tamaru gave him a look. “Please tell-explain.” “Oh, I mean in the Great Mines,” Taipu said. “There are a lot of very deep drops from where we’ve dug deep pits in our search for protodermis. It’s not uncommon to look down and not see the bottom. However, in the Great Mines, we do put up guard rails along the edges so we don’t accidentally fall over; I noticed there isn’t anything similar in Le-Koro.” Tamaru chuckled. “No, if Matoran tree-falls, they’re expected to vine-grab on way down.” She paused, and then added, “So you no-fear flying?” “Well, that’s different,” Taipu said. “Flying is scarier, especially when you’re relying on a Rahi to keep you in the air. Luckily, I was with Toa Onua on the flight back from the Rama hive, so his confidence helped me get by.” Tamaru couldn’t help but grin; the Onu-Matoran was a lot more like her than she expected. Together, the two continued to search through the marsh, trying to locate Taipu’s fallen pickaxe in the mud. Tamaru was the one who finally made the discovery; her hand closed down on metal, and she pulled the tool up out of the muck. “This yours?” she asked Taipu. “Yes, you found it!” Taipu exclaimed. “Thank you so much!” “Problem-no,” Tamaru said, handing the tool over to Taipu, who gleefully started examining it for damage. “I know source of nearby clear-water, where we can off-wash mud-grime.” Taipu followed Tamaru until they reached a small stream flowing into the edge of the swamp. Although the stream itself was shallow, its waters were clear and ideal for a quick bath for the Matoran. “Waters off-flow from Mount Ihu and enter Fau Swamp here,” Tamaru explained, washing the mud off her arms. “Rahi come here to drink-sip; good for far-watching.” “You do know an awful lot about stuff down here,” Taipu said, rinsing off the handle of his pickaxe. “Are all Le-Matoran so knowledgeable about the jungle?” Tamaru was quiet for a moment. “I know more than most,” she finally said. “Many are not tree-bound as I, so do not come to down-tree as often.” “What does tree-bound mean?” Taipu asked. Tamaru sighed; she never liked explaining this part to outsiders. “It means I fly-not. To tree I am bound; sky is out of reach, only for those who can Kewa-fly. For I have heights-fears, so I have trouble learning how to train Kewa.” “Wait, you have a fear of heights?” Taipu asked, confused. “But you’re just fine up in the canopy.” “Yes, because if I fall from tree-high, then I can vine-grab,” Tamaru said. “But when sky-bound on Kewa, vine-grab not always possible.” To her surprise, Taipu nodded. “That totally makes sense,” he said. “But there’s more fun stuff to do on Mata Nui than flying. Maybe someday you can journey to Onu-Koro and I can show you the lightstone mines! I’ve seen a lot of beautiful sights in the jungle, but still nothing quite beats the sight of the lightstone mines.” “Maybe one day I will journey-take around Mata Nui,” Tamaru said. “But for today, I should really back-get to Le-Koro. I can ever-lead you to the ground-path to Onu-Koro first, so you get lost-no in jungle.” Taipu sighed. “You’re right, it is time to go home,” he said dejectedly. “Please lead the way, Highfly Vinesman Tamaru.” Tamaru was about to lead them away from the stream when she heard a twig snap nearby. She froze, and gestured for Taipu to remain silent. Something was in the bushes nearby, and this time it was moving stealthier than Taipu had. This time, it could be a Rahi. Tamaru drew her disc, even as her eyes scanned the jungle. She heard more sounds; whatever was approaching them was moving slowly, but she knew that the mighty Muaka would often creep up on its prey before pouncing. She waited until she saw a shadow move between the bushes, and then she flung her disc with pinpoint accuracy, hoping to strike whatever was approaching. There was a rustle in the bushes, and in a blur the figure dodged her disc just before it would’ve struck. But it was not a Rahi who appeared from under the foliage, but rather a Ta-Matoran with a red great Pakari. “Please do not shoot; I mean you no harm,” he said. Tamaru blinked, surprised to find another foreign Matoran in the jungle. “A fire-spitter?” she asked, confused. “I am Kapura of the Ta-Koro guard,” the Matoran said, addressing Tamaru. “I am seeking the Chronicler.” “How did you quick-get here?” Tamaru asked, confused. “You travel through jungle with stealth; it is odd-much for a Ta-Matoran to do.” “I move slowly to get to where I am not,” Kapura explained. “I was in a forest of black, charred trees. There were no lush, green trees there, but then I am here, and the trees are big and healthy. I am no longer in the Charred Forest.” “You funny-speak,” Tamaru pointed out. “Why you seek-search for Chronicler?” Kapura shrugged. “Turaga Vakama wishes an audience with him, but as he is often traveling, it is hard to find him. I have learned how to travel great distances by moving slowly, so I was sent to seek him out.” “I know the Chronicler!” Taipu said. “He helped me in the mines, and then rescued me from the Nui-Rama! It was quite an adventure.” He waved. “I’m Taipu, by the way, from Onu-Koro. And that’s Tamaru of Le-Koro; she really knows her way around the jungle!” “That traveler was the Chronicler?” Tamaru mused. “I am sorry to say, but he has been-not to Le-Koro in many moons.” “Then I shall find him where I am not,” Kapura said. “But I would like to meet with Turaga Matau before I travel on; Turaga Vakama has sent his regards.” “I should go back to Le-Koro too, one last time,” Taipu added. “Just to say good-bye, of course.” “Okay, then I will ever-lead you to the village,” Tamaru said, taking off. “Close-stay to me, else you might be attacked by Rahi-beast.” “I fear not the beasts of Makuta,” Kapura said. “We have fought many in Ta-Koro, and I have the strength to contest them.” “I’m actually pretty strong too!” Taipu said. “In fact, Onepu said that I’m so strong that I can do the work for both of us in the mines!” As Tamaru marched through the jungle, she soon became annoyed with the Ta-Matoran. While Taipu was a bit clumsy and slow walking along the jungle floor, Kapura was unreasonably sluggish. His movements were deliberate and consistent, but extremely slow. Tamaru had met some Ta-Matoran before, and she knew they could be quite speedy in their own right, but she had never seen a Matoran dawdle as much as Kapura. She and Taipu had to pause quite a lot to wait for him to catch up. Since Tamaru knew about the dangers of the jungle, she wanted to keep moving as quickly as possible, and so the Ta-Matoran’s lack of haste was both irksome and dangerous. “We’re nearly to elevator to up-rise to village,” Tamaru said over her shoulder. “If we could quick-hurry, that would be happy-good.” However, she suddenly paused herself. Something was wrong. The usually noisy jungle had suddenly fallen quiet; all the chattering Rahi has ceased their calls, and Tamaru knew that meant danger was nearby. She strained her ears, trying to detect the sound of a charging Kane-Ra or Ash Bear. Instead, what she heard was a faint buzzing that originated from above the treetops. Fear gripped her heartlight. “Rama swarm!” she gasped, and took off at a sprint. “They must be attacking the village. We must quick-return and help with defenses!” Taipu rushed after Tamaru, and they quickly left Kapura behind. Tamaru found the main pathway to Le-Koro and raced down it. However, as they approached the great tree, she saw that the Le-Koro elevator had already been severed, and the wreckage was floating in the swamp. “Oh no, how do we get up there now?” Taipu asked. “There’s a vine-ladder round-back of tree,” Tamaru said. “We can use that to up-climb!” Tamaru led Taipu around the trunk of the tree and reach the ladder, whose steps were woven into the branches of the tree. Above, Tamaru could already hear the sounds of battle; the Gukko Force must already be facing the attacking Nui-Rama swarm. Their defenses were better prepared now, but they would need every Matoran to help, and Tamaru was determined to join in. She may not be able to fly, but she could throw a disc with pinpoint accuracy. She quickly grabbed onto the ladder and shot upwards, even as Taipu struggled to climb up himself. But Tamaru hadn’t gotten very far before she saw a dark shape descending towards her. Only it wasn’t a Nui-Rama or some other forest beast she was familiar with; rather it was a dark armored canine, and it was clawing its way down the tree trunk right towards her. Review Topic
  3. Survival of the Skrall Foreword Greetings! Hope this story finds you well. My apologies for extending my submission all the way up to the end of the deadline and presenting it in an incomplete state. I wanted to avoid posting it as a serial even if it meant being a day or two late, but the finale is still undergoing rewrites and the following chapters are still pending proofreading and polish. I hope you are okay with waiting a little longer and just having the first chapter given to you now. The tentative release schedule I have for the story is as follows: Chapter One: February 4 (Released) Chapter Two: February 17 Chapter Three + An unrelated vignette from the time before time: March 3 On or before these days, you will find the original post edited to add content, and I will bump the thread. On the occasion that I reach some character limit that I'm unaware of for the original post, any subsequent chapters will be found in a new post on the thread. On a final note, one of your requests was for the story to not be overly serious. I apologize in advance for any perceived grimdarkness. I tried to write a tale worthy of the Skrall, but they tend to not allow too much happiness. I hope that the short story included with the last release will satisfy any tonal disappointments you might have. Without further ado, I present you with Survival of the Skrall. I hope you enjoy it. Chapter One: The Desert “Now, time for your assignment. You pitiful ignoramuses are only good for civil unrest, so this is your task: cause rampant chaos in Atero Nui. If those fools wish to be the successors to the cities of old, then they will inherit their problems as well. The Dark Hunters will rise again… but first, we need instability. Target the council, especially that old fool Ackar, but do not spread your forces thin. Attack as many places at once as possible. Your mission is disruption. Stronius, see to it that they complete their task. “You underestimate their intelligence, leader. Savage though warrior-class Skrall may be, they are hardly brutes. Even now they could be carefully plotting your downfall.” “You underestimate my capabilities of managing my inferiors. I had a double agent serve under me as my right hand and he never knew that he fell completely within my machinations. The Makuta of Metru Nui may be a keener strategist than I, he’d have taken the city within hours, but to question my intuition offends me. I am well aware of your Skrall’s capabilities. If I was not, I would not have accepted you as refugees in this encampment. Head off and fulfill your mission before I send a Hunter to torch your belongings and chase you off.” The Shadowed One retreated, followed by his scribe, who had stood silent and dutifully carried out his work until this moment. The Stronius soldier, now called by his rank as if it was his name, pondered for a minute. The treatment he and his men received was far inferior to what they had earned. Going to the city would be tantamount to suicide. Just a little over a dozen Skrall, ranging from rookies to blooded veterans, stood behind him. The least experienced would surely die on the over twenty-five thousand kio journey east. He wasn’t very optimistic of the chances the rest of his company had; or even his own, for that matter. Stronius wasn’t very keen on the idea of dropping in the middle of nowhere and becoming one less of a dying breed. Refusing the mission was not an option, but neither was carrying it out as demanded. What to do? “Stronius, we will do as you ask.” “We’ll begin the journey. I will not let you die out there. If the sands are too rough, we’ll turn to wherever we can find refuge. Rai, I want you to make sure that the caravan the Dark Hunters gave us has enough supplies. Kirida, make sure all armaments are in good shape. The rest of you stand by near the transport and be ready for leaving in a few hours.” The Skrall dispersed, the two lieutenants going off to do what was asked of them and the rest seeking something to keep themselves occupied. After a few seconds, Stronius followed a group of three rookies, for they were heading to the same place: their hut. The hut that Stronius shared with his fourteen underlings was not a very large one to begin with and felt exceedingly cramped with everyone inside. Any given night, three Skrall were stationed to guard duty outside; not out of fear of an attack, but because no matter what they did, they could never find enough room for more than twelve soldiers to sleep inside. Stronius himself stood guard with two Skrall for many a night, which dulled his senses. He couldn’t possibly hope to cross the vast expanse of Spherus Magna’s last remaining desert at his best, let alone when he was debilitated as such. Stronius arrived at the hut and sifted through the tiny sack of tools he had. The Hunters’ leader threatened to destroy their things, but it was a meaningless threat; all that’d get burnt up would be a compass, a map, a thornax launcher and less than half a dozen overripe fruit. Thornax were in high demand among the Hunters, since the majority of the thornax plants just past Atero Nui’s eastern city limits. To the west of the Hunters’ base was more desert. To every direction, there was more desert. Some six hundred kio to the west lay the vast sea of the former Aqua Magna. Far north were trader camps with Glatorian guards. Far south fertile unexplored land. There had been an expedition led by Seeker and Tracker, who had yet to return. It had been two months, and they were assumed dead. Stronius’ ruminations were cut short when one of the Skrall with him tried to get his attention. He recognized the group as a tight-knit circle. They had often volunteered to be on lookout together. “Excuse us, may we ask a question?” “Yes, go ahead. You’re… Arita, correct?” “Yes, thank you for remembering my name. Stronius, my brothers and I had been thinking that we would be dead weight. Perhaps it is best for us to part ways here and— “No, we have plenty of supplies. The company is small enough as it is. You three may be green, but you have potential. You will earn your red armor in time, but to do so, you must accompany us.” “…very well, but know that we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the mission.” “Your courage is admirable, but foolish. The mission is not as high priority as ensuring the survival of the Skrall. We look after our own first and foremost.” The three rookies said no more and quietly left the hut. Stronius went back to studying the map, trying to triangulate the best route to take. Since fulfilling the mission was out of the question, their best chance was traveling south until they reached the restored area. It was possible that the two missing Dark Hunters had set up some sort of base that they could hijack. The plan was uncertain, but better than any other. Less than an hour later, the wagon was ready. The Skrall piled up into covered rear as Stronius took the reins up front. Once everyone was on board, Stronius whipped the two ravenous Spikit into motion. They set off east at first to give the Hunters the impression that they were headed to new Atero. As soon as Rai signaled that the encampment was out of sight, Stronius forced the Spikit to veer right in towards the south, still maintaining some degrees in an eastern direction. The name of the game now was endurance. As long as the Spikit remained seething with anger, they would keep moving forward. As long as supplies lasted, the Skrall could remain within the confines of the wagon. There were enough supplies for two weeks; the main threat were desert beasts such as Skopio, which could lurk beneath any inch of sand. The first three days of travel were uneventful. The Skrall in the back kept themselves entertained with whatever they could, whether it was whittling away at a thornax fruit’s spikes or counting how many sand bats they saw. The fourth day heralded trouble. At the crack of dawn, just as the lush region became visible on the horizon, one of the Spikit gave out. The other kept going, which put the vehicle off balance and tipped it over and broke some of their cargo. The soldiers had to spare supplies for the fallen Spikit, which appeared to be dehydrated. The lively one had to be calmed down until the other could run again. Things went well and they were on their way once more within hours, but the day’s troubles had only just begun. As the midday ticked over, a rumble shook across the desert. One of the Skrall who had kept to himself up this point exclaimed when he saw the cause of the quake. “Skopio!” A massive monster rose up from the sands behind them. Stronius was confident it could be outrun, but the Skrall in the back would beg to differ. The creature began moving much faster than one might think possible for its size, closing the two kio gap between them in seconds. “Present arms! Get ready for battle!” Stronius heeled the Spikit, forcing them further right to avoid the lunging leg. Unbeknownst the any of them, the Skopio had made a massive mistake. Its bladed appendage struck down and impaled a sleeping sand dragon beneath the sand. This was not the problem, though. The problem was that it was a nest. There were three other hulking dragons that lay asleep, shaken away by the smell of their kin’s blood. The monsters sprung to life and leaped up at the four-legged titan. Within seconds, its metallic skin was ripped to pieces. The dragons made short work of what used to be the Skrall’s largest threat. Now the just-awoken hungry dragons turned their eyes to their next prey. The Skrall had made the Spikit stop amidst all this commotion and began arming themselves with their blade-launchers and shields. “Aim and shoot!” The entire company unloaded their launchers at the dragons. Their stash of thornax included roughly 50 given to them by the Hunters and the small stash of supplements that Stronius brought along. The volley of explosive fruit was only enough to fell one of the dragons. Firing just once used up a fourth of their ammo. If they fired again, they’d be down to half what they had. Even then, the dragons had closed the distance. “Aim for their wings! If you clip them, they are immobilized!” Stronius knew these creatures well. They had powerful wings, but weak legs. If they lost the ability to fly, they would lose their mobility. The Skrall divided themselves up evenly to attack the three dragons. Stronius, Rai and the group of the least experienced three Skrall wailed away at a dragon that appeared to be wounded, since it didn’t try to take flight. They were successful in destroying its wings, officially crippling it, and were ready to move on to the next one when it started crying out in pain. A shrill noise reverberated across the battlefield. The glass vials safeguarding their water supply in the wagon shattered, drenching it and rendering it wasted. Even more shaking followed. All around them, four, five, six, seven, eight… at least a dozen more sand dragons rose up from their slumber. Stronius put the wounded dragon out of its misery and ended its wailing, but it was too late. The awoken dragons began feasting on the Skrall. Half the company was wiped out in seconds, becoming morsels to be processed as sustenance for the creatures. The Spikit and the wagon they were saddled with, too, became prey. Stronius’ group was unharmed, but the group of five that had stood close to them just moments ago was gone without a trace. Only Kirida, the strongest of Stronius’ warriors, was left standing, having broken free of one of the dragon’s maw by slicing his way out. All the survivors grouped together. Stronius and Kirida kept up the defensive, slashing away at the dragons whenever they attack and making them think twice before lunging for a snack. The rookies and Rai got to work slashing away at the recently fallen dragon’s armored belly. Once they pierced through to its stomach, they were able to rescue the Skrall that it swallowed. His armor was half-melted, but the warrior was safe. His armor had protected him from being crushed by the dragon’s teeth and he was itching to fight. As this happened, another dragon began seizing. The Skrall it ingested managed to cut his way through and quickly joined the struggle. His armor was in far worse condition, but it didn’t deter him. Stronius fired a thornax at a charging dragon and brought it down. The group rushed over and hacked away. This time, the eaten Skrall wasn’t so lucky. This one did not survive the chewing. Rai shot another one of the dragons down, hitting its belly, and quickly cut through. This Skrall was not fortunate either. It was unknown whether or not he made it down unscathed because the dragon’s powerful digestive system had fully broken down the Skrall by the time Stronius and his men opened up the stomach. The liquefied remains of black and red metal kept dissolving, even with the creature dead. None of the other Skrall had anything resembling a chance. Without needing to communicate it verbally, Stronius and his men knew that their only choice was to fight their way as far from the dragons as possible. They had not even taken down half the monsters and two of their nine men were only fighting on sheer willpower. “Stronius! We can’t hold them off! Let me stay back as bait.” Rai knew he had a decent chance at making it out alive. The dragons’ digestion worked fast, but no one was more skilled with a spinning shield than he. If it came down to it, he could cut through the inside of the dragon before becoming its food. Stronius considered his options for a moment. Sacrificing Rai would buy them little time and there was no way they could make a clean getaway without the Spikit. What they needed was… now within reach. Stronius looked ahead and saw a pack of Vorox in the distance. He quickly loaded a thornax and aimed it at them. The overripe fruit shot off into the horizon and caused an explosion upon colliding with the ground, kicking up a cloud of sand. As the cloud subsided seconds later, he got the sight he was counting on. The pack of Vorox was livid and charging straight at them. The Skrall got as clear as they could and let the Vorox ravenously attack the dragons, thinking them the source of the explosion. The dragons quickly forgot the Skrall and set to attacking the Vorox. Stronius led his party away from the battlefield. They ran as fast as they could until the conflict was well out of sight and the roars were out of earshot. They all breathed a sigh of relief at narrowly escaping their predicament. No such relief came to Stronius, who had to think of what to do now. Their supplies were no more, they were all wounded to some degree and the desert still stretched for a considerable distance. “There is no time for rest. All we can do for now is keep moving forward. There is no telling what other supplies may lie in store for us if we carelessly wander for too long.” To be continued…
  4. Sometimes, it's easier to do things for others than it is to do them for yourself. You might have a thousand ideas bouncing around in your head that you'll "eventually" get around to writing, but if somebody gives you a prompt? Now we're cooking. And when the gifts are flying all over the place, it feels even better. That's the BZPower Fanfic Exchange 2018. It's the same idea as last time: sign up and tell us a little something about what you do and don't wantyou'll be assigned somebody to write for and given the intel on themwrite a story you think your recipient would like to readat reveal time, post your storybask in a job well doneHalf the fun is in the surprise, so don't reveal who you're writing for until the end! Another part of the fun is in the constraction set you get for completing your end of the deal. We'll have more details on that closer to the end. You'll have until November 30 to sign up, guaranteeing you will have absolutely no new writing obligations until November ends. I'll match you up by December 7 (if I don't finish before then), and no matter what, you'll have all the way until January 20 to write. Starting on January 21 and going for the whole week, you can start posting your stories for all to see! IF you have any concerns that you might not make it for the week of January 21, please let me know as soon as possible so I know you'll be a bit late. The following members currently owe stories to their 2017 recipients and cannot participate in this exchange: Endless Sea (Alaki Nuva)A*PersonAZBlueRove RandomSo come on and sign up - join the party! Rules 1) All stories must follow the BZPower Rules & Guidelines.. Inappropriate or offensive stories will be reprimanded. 2) Bionicle stories and prompts only, please - remember, they're the greatest gift of all! Though this topic is in Short Stories, they can be for any of the subforums (though if you're wild enough to write a full-blown epic, please see rule 5.) 3) If, for whatever reason, you think you might be late or unable to submit a gift, let me know! We can sort through just about anything as long as I know you need a little help. Just leaving your giftee hanging, however, is inadvisable and will carry consequences for you. 4) When posting your story, don't forget to say who it's for! Detective work is not a traditional element of the fanfic exchange. 5) Please don't overextend yourself; a nice short story is fine. At the same time, please make sure your gift is more than a couple of paragraphs. If a prompt really calls to you and you won't be satisfied until you write a whole epic from it, please have at least a first chapter ready to go for January 21st. You'll be able to post the rest at your own pace after that. Schedule You will have from now November 30 to sign up for the exchange. Matches will be sent out December 7. You will have from December 7 to January 20 to write and finish your stories. Midpoint check-in is December 29; let me know what you're writing, or if you need help. After January 21, post your stories! Please try to have them posted between January 21 and January 28, or let me know if you won't be able to get on BZP during that time. In that case, I'll send your story to your giftee so they'll be able to read their gift along with everybody else. (You'll have to send your story to me to make sure that happens, though.) Prizes Successfully fulfilling your part of the exchange means you get a select constraction set of your choice. More details will be available in January. Thanks to LEGO for the vast bounty of sets! Exchange Runner Tufi Piyufi Go on and have fun!
  5. This story is part of the 2018 BZPower Fanfic Exchange, and was written for Torran! He wanted to see grand adventure, character development, and internal conflict — I hope I did a good enough job for you. Enjoy, buddy! The Mask of Irritation Lewa… he was the worst. Kopaka took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders as he stifled a scowl. He trudged along the underbelly of the jungle, plowing his way through mud and leaves and roots as his companion flitted easily alongside. The Toa of Air was in his element, leaping and swinging across branches, humming a happy tune as he waited every few minutes for Kopaka to catch up. He was — as he always seemed to be — in a wonderful mood, and that annoyed Kopaka to no end. “I’m quick-telling you,” Lewa’s voice echoed as he dangled like a monkey a dozen feet up. “Just try leap-swinging, brother! We’ll make much faster progress.” Kopaka’s sword sliced through a thick vine as he waded through murky, calf-deep water. He glared straight ahead. “That’s not how I work.” “Suit yourself, bog-foot walker.” Kopaka pushed forward, suppressing an urge to fire a bolt of ice at the Air-Toa. It had only been a few weeks since their arrival on Mata Nui, and in that time he’d gotten to know his fellow Toa well enough. Onua and Pohatu were alright; he admired their prowess, and while he normally preferred to work alone, their strength was sometimes useful to have around. Gali was wise and had proven herself a peacekeeper when tempers were hot, which he felt was a necessary addition to their team. Even Tahu, an arrogant, hot-headed, impulsive, fire-spitting — Kopaka took a breath. Even Tahu had a strong sense of duty, among a few other redeeming qualities. But then… but then. There was Lewa. His sword flashed through the misty air, slicing a path through leafy-green foliage as the Air-Toa flew overhead, his green armor glinting as he perched on a branch, humming some tune from Le-Koro. Lewa’s head was in the trees, literally and figuratively. He was overconfident, aloof, wild, without a care in the world. He had no sense of duty or purpose, and had yet to prove himself capable in any sense of the word. Sure, he had managed to find a Kakama, but he’d been ambushed afterward and had lost his mask in the process. Onua had managed to get him out of that situation and all was good in the end… but still. It was sloppy. And they were up against Makuta. Kopaka hacked his way through a broad cluster of undergrowth. They were Toa — they didn’t have the luxury of being sloppy. Up ahead, Lewa had climbed to the forest canopy, looking out above the trees. His voice carried down, muffled slightly by all the leaves. “Daylight wanes, and we have long-miles to go. Perhaps it is best if we rest for the night?” Kopaka looked up, halfway through a bramble patch, only now realizing that the light had faded into the golden-orange of early evening. His response was short. “We can go a bit longer.” “…Bad-Rahi prowl the jungle at night, brother.” “Then we’ll deal with them.” Kopaka retorted. He began hacking his way forward once more. Lewa gazed down at him, stifling a concerned look before continuing to swing through the branches. But Kopaka paid him no attention. He had to get this mask, if only so he could stand being around Lewa. With the Air-Toa having both a Miru and a Kakama, Kopaka figured it was in his sanity’s best interest to at least obtain his own Mask of Levitation. Lewa had heard rumors of one nestled in the depths of Le-Wahi, quickly offering his expertise in reaching it, and while Kopaka dreaded putting himself in this situation… one way or another, he had to get this mask. And so the two continued, Kopaka following Lewa’s lead as he hacked and slashed his way through the jungle, wading through murky waters and streams, weaving through towering trees and grasses, climbing up creepers and vines, all to get a few feet deeper into the rugged rainforest. The hours went on and soon the light faded, turning from yellow to orange to blue and then, eventually black. A mist fell upon the trees and the temperature dropped, going from hot and humid to… well, chilly, but still humid. Not that Kopaka was complaining about the cold, by any means. Crickets, cicadas, and other creatures of the night awoke, their calls soon echoing through the trees, muting the sound of Kopaka’s sword has he pushed his way ever forward. His blade never failed him, but as he kept going, as he kept lashing out, carrying his shield on his back, trudging through waist-deep water and mud, Kopaka soon found himself exhausted. His breathing became labored, his legs strained with every step, and his arms grew heavy from cutting through miles upon miles of jungle. And all the while Lewa hung effortlessly overhead, pausing every few minutes as he patiently waited for the Ice-Toa to catch up. It was. So. Annoying. Silent as ever but stifling a storm inside, Kopaka swung his blade at a tangle of vines, cutting, tearing them apart as he advanced, slowly, steadily. This way and that his blade sang through the air, his face emotionless as his body tired, as his eyes struggled to see in the shadowy night. But still, he wouldn’t stop. He kept up his grind, he kept moving, he kept cutting and hacking and slashing, delving deeper and deeper into the mass of green and brown, refusing to be beaten by the jungle’s snares, until — A hand on his shoulder. Kopaka whirled around, ready to defend himself from an attack, only to see Lewa’s dim outline before him. The Toa’s lime eyes glowed in the darkness, the only light for miles around as the trees towered quietly around them. “Perhaps we should rest, brother.” And Kopaka stared at him, his armor scratched and muddied, his mask stoic but his shoulders slouched, arms hanging low at his sides. He took a few deep breaths, regaining his posture as he took in his surroundings. It was late. Night entombed the untamed jungle, and the Ice-Toa crossed his arms. “If you insist.” ~~~ “Where is this mask, exactly?” Lewa paused for a moment, the firelight reflecting off his Miru. “Deep-wood. Perhaps a day or so more. I’ve only seen it from a far-distance, but it is hard to miss. Atop cliff-bound, old-bone ruins. Matau says they’re spirit-haunted, but I don’t think so. Rahi, maybe, but not ghost-demons.” Kopaka squinted, managing to make sense of his treespeak. Even the way Lewa talked managed to get on his nerves, and he wondered if he had come to Mata Nui speaking like that or if he’d learned it from the Le-Matoran. He wasn’t sure which option annoyed him more. His response came as a grunt from where he sat, and Kopaka leaned back against a tree trunk, trying to put it out of his mind. Trying to rest his tired body and nerves. Across their fire, Lewa lounged on a low hanging branch, his axe sunk into a great root below him. And for a moment, their small, secluded camp was quiet, just the way Kopaka liked it. He took a deep breath, crossing his arms as he listened to their crackling fire, to the sounds of the forest, and Kopaka closed his eyes, allowing himself a moment of reprise. But it couldn’t last. “So what masks have you search-found?” Kopaka’s icy blue eyes opened, narrowing as they stared at the fire. His response was short. “A Hau.” “Shielding?” Lewa plucked a leaf from a nearby branch, fiddling with it before blowing it into the air, using his powers to send it skyward. “I could pass on that one. Way I see it, why does a Toa-hero need shielding when he has ever-quick agility? Miru and Kakama are the most important, I say-think.” Kopaka attempted to close his eyes again. “We need all the masks to defeat Makuta, Lewa.” “Yeah, but I can slow-wait on a few of them. Like Kaukau? Mask of Water Breathing? Why water-breathe when you can dry-stay on land?” Kopaka grunted, choosing to end the conversation and focus instead on his breathing. It was easier to meditate in the mountains, where the snows muffled sound, and where Lewa didn’t like to go. He fixated on the cicadas, their constant drum serving as a backdrop to the night, a subtle white noise that he could use as a canvas to drape over his turbulent mind. He relaxed his shoulders, letting go of the day’s worries, returning once more to his calm, collected self — “You ever get shiver-cold up in those mountains?” Kopaka’s eyes snapped open. “No.” “What about wet? All that freeze-water, it must soak into you after many long-walks, yeah?” He gritted his jaw. “If it melts, I freeze it.” Lewa cocked his head, the orange firelight flickering off his armor. “So when you’re thirsty, do you drink water, or does it quick-freeze the moment it touches you?” And Kopaka looked at him, unable to tell if he was joking. He closed his eyes again, not granting Lewa a response. But again, the Air-Toa was undeterred. “I just don’t understand how you do it,” he went on as he looked to the dark canopy. “Snow… it’s water, but cold. Gross-bad. And it sticks to you. Annoying.” “Not as annoying as certain people.” “Ah, people!” Lewa laughed, clearly not taking the hint. “What would we ever-do without them?” he sniggered for a minute before looking out at the forest again. “It is good to be out in the quiet, don’t you think? In the ever-wilds.” Kopaka sighed, his patience waning faster than ever. “Lewa — I’m going to sleep. You take first watch. Wake me if anything approaches, or when it’s my turn to take over.” “…Oh,” Lewa paused. “Alright, deep-sleeper. Your closed eyes are safe with me.” And again, Kopaka was quiet. His mask still, his body relaxed, he once again focused on the trees, on his breathing, on the ever-constant rustle of leaves above. It was, now that he finally had some peace, quite calming. Different from the mountains, yet similar in many ways — instead of the snow’s quiet embrace, the mist hung around him. Instead of the frost-dusted pines, the jungle’s broad leaves — “You want the fire doused? The flames keep away bug-Rahi, but might attract bigger —” Kopaka’s eyes erupted, and his stare alone was enough to freeze the Toa of Air in place. Fiercer than Ko-Wahi’s winds and colder than its glaciers, his mask was somehow stoic yet menacing at the same time. Lewa hovered halfway over the fire, a water-filled gourd in one hand, suddenly not sure how to move. “…I just thought it might be a little bright if you want to deep-sleep.” “Do what you will.” And Kopaka closed his eyes. Again. It took a while for sleep to come, as he kept expecting Lewa to make some other sudden, annoying noise, but this time the Toa of Air seemed to get the message. The night remained quiet, it remained calm, it remained everything Kopaka needed it to be in order to get just a little bit of rest. The crickets chirped, the fire cracked, the leaves rustled, and all around, Kopaka let the forest embrace him. He let himself relax, and finally, he rested. For a while, at least. ~~~ Vibrations. Twigs snapping. Leaves… moving. Something was coming. Kopaka stirred. He lay still as his mind awoke, his spine tingling as his body went on edge. He opened his eyes, though he couldn’t see much — the fire was out; only a few coals glowing beneath a pile of smoking ash. The leaves were motionless, the mist hung low, and Lewa lay across from him, unmoving on his branch, facing away from camp. It seemed to be just before dawn. There it was again. Leaves pushed out of the way as something stalked the forest floor. It was coming towards them. Silently, Kopaka reached for his sword, looking to Lewa. He had to have felt it too, right? A slight thump to his right — a leg, pausing on a tree root? It had to be big. Kopaka braced himself, his muscles tensing as everything went silent, ready for anything. Squeezing the hilt of his sword, his heart pounded as the seconds ticked by, and he knew it was coming. The world paused and time froze as he took a deep breath, holding steady… steady… and…. Nothing. Kopaka squinted, looking to his right as he activated the powers of his Akaku. And for an instant his vision lit up, an orange heat signature confirming that something nearby was — Skreee! The screech filled his ears as a monster flew towards him, barreling through the air as it pounced. Kopaka rolled out of the way just as its claws sank into the earth, popping to his feet, whipping out his shield and readying his blade as it turned on him again. Behind, Lewa stirred, but Kopaka had no time to spare any attention — the beast was on him. It leapt forward again, its eight, spindly legs scraping against his shield as he stumbled, pushed back by its weight. He swung his sword in retaliation, and the giant spider-thing screeched, retreating for only a second before pouncing again, but this time Kopaka was ready. Sidestepping, it flew past him, sinking its claws into a nearby tree, and Kopaka fired one, two, three icicles through his sword, each spike embedding into the wood as the Rahi scuttled upwards, narrowly avoiding his attack. Kopaka looked up just in time to see it jumping down, flying forward, but this time he didn’t have the speed to dodge. With a thud he hit the dirt, the spider on top of him, its dark eyes shining just inches from his mask as he tried to shove it off, drooling fangs yearning to sink into his armor. But with a roll and a kick he was free again, and he swung his sword as he sprang to his feet, unleashing his ice at the monster once more, forcing it back once again as Kopaka — Fwoosh! A fire erupted behind him and Kopaka had to pause, shielding his eyes as light engulfed their camp. The large spider-Rahi squealed, sinking away from the flames, pausing for only a second before it scuttled off, a trail of foliage fluttering in its wake. Kopaka turned to see Lewa, standing across the fire, smugly having used his air to reignite the smoldering coals. But Kopaka wasn’t happy. “What are you doing?” he demanded, his voice calm but stern. “I thought you were keeping watch.” Lewa frowned, obviously expecting a different reaction. “Sorry for quick-saving you, I suppose.” “I had that under control. Why weren’t you keeping watch?” he insisted. “I was watching.” “I specifically told you to wake me if anything approaches. You fell asleep, did you not?” “It was just a Fikou,” Lewa crossed his arms, obviously avoiding the question. “Maybe a big-strong one, but not too dangerous.” Kopaka felt his chest warm. “And it if wasn’t? If it was a Nui-Rama, or a Muaka, or something that could’ve crippled us with one hit? What then, Lewa?” “Easy, brother, everything is alright.” “It is not, Lewa!” The clearing was silent as the two Toa stared at each other, both in a bit of shock after hearing Kopaka raise his voice. The fire flickered as a dim light began to shine through the leaves, and they both knew that dawn would be arriving. Another day would soon be upon them, along with many more miles of travel. Kopaka sheathed his sword, placing his shield on his back as he went on. “There are only six of us,” he said plainly. “We have a responsibility to the people of this island, and we need to take this threat seriously if we’re going to succeed. Everything is very much not alright, Lewa, and if you want to survive all of this, something is going to have to change. I suggest you think about that.” And Lewa didn’t have much else to say. He stood there, motionless for a second, before answering with a quiet nod. He loosened his shoulders and walked over to where his axe was still embedded in its root. And then, picking it up, he turned and pointed to his left. “About a day’s journey, southeast. Look for tall spire-cliffs; the mask should be at their peak-top, in the middle of the ruins.” Then he turned, looking over his shoulder at Kopaka. “I know when I’m not wanted, Ice-Toa, and I work better alone. So if you need me, I’ll be search-finding my own masks.” He swung his axe over his shoulder and hopped onto the nearest, low-hanging branch. “I suggest you quick-think about that.” And in a moment, Lewa was gone. Disappeared through the trees, leaving Kopaka to fend for himself. The Toa of Ice didn’t move for a minute or two. He stood there, letting dawn shine ever brighter through the canopy of leaves as the jungle slowly awoke to start another day. And as Kopaka prepared to leave, he made sure to douse the fire. With a swing of his sword ice shot into the coals, which sizzled for a moment before turning dark and dying. It would be another bright, warm day in southern Mata Nui, but Kopaka liked it cold. ~~~ As it turned out, Lewa’s directions were wrong. Maybe it was a day’s journey at his speed, swinging and levitating through the air, but it took Kopaka three until he could even see his destination: a cluster of tall, spire-like cliffs, standing in the middle of a deep, overgrown valley. From where he stood now, at the edge of the basin, he could almost make out the stone ruins that rested at their peak. He could almost see where his next Kanohi waited. The journey had been long, hard, and exhausting, and Kopaka had spent it in a foul mood, but he had made it all the same — even without Lewa’s help. He had always preferred to be alone, and perhaps that was the one trait he shared with the Toa of Air; perhaps that was Lewa’s one redeeming quality. Kopaka huffed, securing his shield before beginning his final descent into the valley. It had been foolish to accept the Air-Toa’s help in the first place. He knew the only person he needed was himself. Still traversing at a snail’s pace, Kopaka was ever-patient, cutting, climbing, working and wading his way through the valley, until finally, after hours, he stood at the base of the tallest spire, looking up at the great cliff before him. It stood, tall as a mountain, rising almost straight up into the sky, daring him to try and climb it. It’s peak, barely visible from so far away, gazed down on him, as he would the tiniest of insects. The Toa of Ice cracked his neck, rolling his shoulders. He had climbed many mountains in his time, but never as steep, as abrupt, or as intense as this. The Mask of Levitation… he thought. How fitting that one would need to levitate to find it. And so he began his ascent. Searching for handholds, he climbed the vertical rock, carefully placing his boots, cautiously wedging his fingers into whatever crevice he could find. He climbed and he climbed, rising above the treetops that grew from the valley’s floor, soon finding himself exposed to the open air of Le-Wahi. It was tiring, pulling himself higher and higher, bit by bit, but he knew he could do it; he could do anything he put his mind to. He just had to focus, and he would make it, in time. Kopaka was beginning to notice a trend about this island, about this strange land of Mata Nui. There was a certain… logic to it, a certain dry humor to the places he could find these Kanohi. Makuta seemed to be testing them, choosing hiding places that were never impossible to reach, but always difficult enough to test their merit. As if finding these masks were simply a game to play, a puzzle to solve, a riddle to understand. Kopaka pulled himself onto a narrow ledge, frowning as he spared a minute to rest. He looked out to the valley. He had always hated riddles. Although only a third of the way up, he still towered above the treetops. Able to see for miles, the vast expanse of Le-Wahi stretched out before him, ending in a green haze at the horizon where the endless jungle met the bright blue sky. The mid-morning sun shone upon his armor, and a cool breeze brushed against his mask, smelling of earth and soil and life. Allowing himself this moment, he stared to the horizon, taking it all in: the sun, the sky, the trees, the earth, the air. Le-Wahi, as vastly different as it was to Ko-Wahi, was still… beautiful. Kopaka took a deep breath, filling his lungs to their brim before exhaling. But alas, he still had much work to do. And so Kopaka turned his back on the view. Up and up he went, climbing ever higher, the distance between him and the ground rising to terrifying heights. But he never looked down, always keeping his mind on his prize. Eventually he managed to find a broken, narrow ledge that wound its way up the cliffside, some parts of which were still wide enough to walk upon, and so he shuffled his way along it. It seemed to have once been a trail, perhaps to reach the ruins at the summit, but if that was the case it was last used ages ago, and was by no means reliable, or safe. But still, the narrow, inconsistent platforms helped his progress, and he found himself another third of the way up by midday. It was here that his narrow path stopped, instead turning into the spire itself, and the Toa of Ice found himself staring into a gloomy tunnel, carved into the rock by forgotten hands an uncountable number of years ago. The sun shone bright at his back, but he gazed into the dark, unsheathing his sword, knowing that it had all been too easy. He would’ve been a fool to think Makuta would leave this Kanohi out in the light, unguarded. And so Kopaka stepped into the mountain, his icy eyes glowing as he left the light behind. Come now, Makuta, he challenged. You should know by now that I do not fear the dark. The black consumed him quickly, and soon, everything was silent. Drip… drip… drip…. Water, falling somewhere nearby. The quiet tapping of his boots, echoing on tunnel floor. The steady, in and out of his breathing. Kopaka’s fingers were white around the hilt of his sword. The air was still. The air was quiet. The rock watched from all around. Tap… tap… tap…. He wished he could walk quieter, but in a world as silent as this, every movement echoed. He wasn’t alone here, in this twisting, climbing tunnel — that much was obvious. He could feel it in the air, in his spine, in his bones. With a twitch of his neck he activated the powers of his Akaku, allowing him to scan the gloom for any trace of life, for any signature of heat, even through rock. And there it was: a ways upward and ahead, somewhere deep within the rock: a great blur of heat, far larger than himself. Something massive, some great and terrible Rahi, lying in wait for him. But without any light, how would he know when he was close? Exactly how large was the beast, and which way would the tunnel take him? If he moved straight forward, would he soon meet his foe, or would the tunnel twist and turn for miles before forcing them together? Kopaka took a deep breath, readying his shield just in case. There was only one way to find out. Keeping one hand on the wall to guide him, he marched onward, steadily climbing through the inside of the spire, keeping his gaze on the strange heat signature. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen — seemingly without a head, tail, or even a clear body, it displayed as an orange blob through his mask, like the entire thing was one twisting mass of appendages. He kept it in his vision no matter how the tunnel twisted, and as he drew nearer it grew larger and larger, until it was far beyond the size of any Rahi he’d ever encountered. Blind, and up against something massive he wasn’t familiar with, he feared for a moment he was in over his head, but he soon pushed that thought away. He was a Toa. He had no room in his head for doubt. Moving, walking, shuffling through the darkness, he eventually found himself at the same level as the beast, and he knew he had to be close to the spire’s summit. And then he turned one last corner, and the wall quickly fell away from his hand. Realizing he was in a larger cavern, with the orange blob ten times his size now, he readied his sword and shut off his mask, seeing light for the first time in what seemed like hours. It streamed through a small opening at the other end of the cavern, barely highlighting the edges of boulders and rock columns, and providing just enough light to see the massive, twisting beast that sat before him. Kopaka froze in place. What… what was it? The light silhouetted it from behind, and so he couldn’t see much, but his initial instincts seemed correct. It was a mound of armored legs and claws and tails, twisting around each other, with no head or body to be found — a huge, disgusting, horrid thing that clustered in the center of the room. Kopaka hoped he could avoid it by skirting along the cavern’s edges, and so carefully, he took a step to his left. But… His boot met a puddle of unseen water, making a splash. A tiny, small, trivial splash — one that echoed throughout the cavern. And suddenly, the beast had eyes. First two, then four, then eight, then a dozen pairs of eyes, all glowing orange in the dark, all turning to the Toa of Ice as he cursed to himself. It wasn’t one massive Rahi, it was many, clustered so tightly together they had seemed to merge. Kopaka stood on the balls of his feet and readied his blade, channeling his power as he realized what he was up against: a dozen stingers, two dozen claws, six dozen legs. Nui-Jaga. A nest of them. “Come on then, you…” Wasting no time, he unleashed his power, throwing giant spikes of ice as he sprinted for the exit, but he wasn’t the only one to move. All at once the Rahi came alive, scuttling across the cavern floor, walls, and ceiling, making a beeline for him as they dodged his attacks, closing the distance in seconds. Thinking quickly, Kopaka coated floor around him in ice, and the nearest of the Rahi slid, scrambling for traction as they smashed into each other and the cavern wall. Dazed, it granted Kopaka a precious few seconds, which he used to get just a few feet closer to the light. Crunch! A boulder to his right crumbled, crushed under the power of a Nui-Jaga’s claws, and the force of the blow sent Kopaka sliding sideways across the cavern floor. Wincing, he whirled around, just barely able to dodge the nearest one’s stinger, which sank into the ground above his shoulder. The massive scorpion struggled to free its tail from the rock, and Kopaka retaliated with one great swing of his sword, a spear of ice slashing through its armor, sending the beast flying backwards, pinning it to the cavern wall. In a second, Kopaka was back on his feet. One down, eleven to go. He jumped back as three more lunged at him, just barely avoiding their claws before turning to run again, raising a wall of ice between him and the monsters — but with a crash they broke through; they were too strong, too quick! Another had scuttled down from the wall, cutting off his escape, and he fired another ice spear at it, but to no avail: it scuttled out of the way, and he was surrounded as two more came from the sides. Kopaka turned to face them. “Foul beasts —” But he didn’t have time to finish his taunt. The Nui-Jaga to his right lunged, its stinger plowing forward as Kopaka leapt into the air, twisting his body as the poisonous barb sailed underneath him, and with a flick of his arm, his blade cut through flesh and armor, lopping off the end of Rahi’s tail. With a thud Kopaka landed safely, the Rahi’s high-pitched squeal reaching his ears as he whirled around, ready for the next attack. It came from his left as he dodged a pair of snapping claws, rolling back before popping again to his feet, and — “Aah!” His eyes. Kopaka cursed. His eyes! He stumbled back as a cloud of venom hit him in the mask, and his already poor vision went blurry, disorienting him as he whirled around again, ready to fend off another of the beasts. Swinging his sword wildly, he fired a stream of ice at the large shape in front of him, trying desperately to clear his vision… Slam! A hit from behind and Kopaka was down, losing his grip on his sword as he slid across the cavern floor, gravel and dust cutting into his back. He winced, throwing his shield above him as he heard scuttling, as something massive came down upon him, the full weight of a Nui-Jaga pushing him down, the blurry forms of its pincers trying to bite through his shield, trying to tear at his flesh and armor. He kicked upward, still blind, still desperately trying to get the Rahi off him, fighting for every inch of space. But there was more scuttling, and he knew he only had seconds before the rest of them came down as well. He didn’t have the strength to push it off… he didn’t have the time! Already he could feel the others coming, and he had to move, but the Nui-Jaga clawed at his shield, its drool dripping onto his mask, its great weight pinning him down, and… and… A sudden gust of air — no, a hurtling burst of wind, with the speed and power of a hurricane! The Rahi above him grew lighter, its weight lifting, and with one final kick, Kopaka pushed it off, springing to his feet and feeling for his sword. His fingers closed around its hilt and he swung it upwards, unleashing the power of winter. His frost merged with the wind, a blizzard forming before his blurry eyes, the whirling sheets of ice and snow forcing the Nui-Jaga back, back to the darkest end of the cavern. And Kopaka put distance between them, moving towards the light as he regained his bearings, already knowing who had come to his aid. “Couldn’t just let you become Rahi-bones like that, could I?” Lewa’s voice reached him as he finally managed to wipe the venom from his eyes, and he moved backward, keeping up his constant stream of chill until the Toa of Air appeared in the corner of his vision. They stood just before the cavern’s exit now, and Kopaka’s response was calm. “I had that under control.” “Uh huh, and I’m the Toa of Water.” But with a subtle nod, the two Toa put forth one final burst of power, moving back into the light as the Nui-Jaga scrambled at the other end of the cavern, trying to gain their footing. But Lewa was relentless, pinning them to the far wall with his hurricane, his Miru smiling, his axe glinting in the streaming sunlight. And Kopaka turned his sword to the stone around them, his power freezing everything he pointed at. His ice coated the rock, crystals forming atop each other, growing and growing as he moved his weapon back and forth, back and forth, slowly forming a wall of ice between them and the Nui-Jaga. And in a minute, it was over. Lewa lowered his axe, cutting off his wind as Kopaka plugged the final hole in his wall, a dozen feet thick and spanning the cavern edge to edge. He admired his work for a moment before turning around, satisfied, knowing that even in Le-Wahi’s heat, it would take weeks to melt. Finally, he turned to Lewa. “Not bad, I suppose.” And he walked out of the cavern. “…You’re welcome for quick-saving you!” Lewa called after him, pausing for dramatic effect before hurrying to catch up. “Again!” But Kopaka ignored him. As usual. He stepped into the light, greeting the outside world at sunset, finding himself atop a small, stone temple surrounded by tall, broken spires. The peak of the summit was flat, only a few hundred feet in diameter, and was covered in thin grass and mossy boulders. But what caught Kopaka’s eye was another temple — or perhaps more of an altar — placed directly across from where he stood, near the opposite edge of the summit. Atop it, he could see a shining silver object, glinting ever-so-slightly in the setting sun, and he paused, his heart almost fluttering. The Mask of Levitation…. But all was not well. His moment of triumph fizzled as he realized the air around them was humming, and they were not at all alone. His attention diverted from the shining mask, and he finally saw what they had stumbled into; he finally saw the horror that they were up against. All along the edges of the summit, clinging to the cliff walls, clustered within the grass, and climbing across the boulders, were Rahi. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of fast and agile Rahi, each large and winged, all with grabbing pincers and all-seeing, compound eyes. And Kopaka, exhausted as he was, drew his sword once more. The scourge of Mata Nui’s skies; a great swarm of Nui-Rama. “Kopaka…” “Ready your blade, Lewa,” Kopaka retorted, feeling energy surge through his blade once more. “We have the fight of our lives ahead of us.” “Brother!” Ready to run straight for the mask, Kopaka didn’t have time to listen to anything else Lewa had to say. Standing on the balls of his feet, his muscles twitching, he braced himself for what was to come. His shield up, his sword ready, he scanned the summit, watching the countless pairs of wings, ready for this last stretch, this last challenge. He lowered his weight, ready to charge, and — A hand on his shoulder. Kopaka whirled around, seeing Lewa standing there, relaxed, his axe slung across his back, completely unprepared to fight. Confused, and at this point completely exasperated with the Toa of Air, it took all his willpower to not lash out. “What are you doing?” he snapped, settling on an icy glare instead. “Relax, Toa of Slush,” Lewa walked to the edge of the temple and sat down, beckoning him to follow. “Have a sit-rest. Sheath your knife-blade.” And Kopaka, so bewildered by his actions, was unable to move for a second. At a loss for words, he looked from Lewa to the Nui-Rama and back again, unable to comprehend what was going on. “Come on, Brakas,” Lewa beckoned again. “Trust your local king of know-nothingness.” And after a few moments of hesitation, Kopaka obeyed, if only because it seemed the swarm hadn’t noticed them yet, and maybe Lewa had some sort of plan. He walked over to stand next to his companion, still gripping his sword, but allowing the Toa a moment of his time. But instead of laying out a plan, or a well-thought course of action, Lewa took a deep breath, stretched, and laid back to stare at the sky. Kopaka gazed down at him. Lewa, in turn, closed his eyes. And still Kopaka stood there, his momentum all but dissolved, waiting, but not necessarily expecting something to happen. The air around them hummed with the beating of wings, the sun moved closer to the horizon, and a cool breeze blew across the spire’s summit. And eventually Kopaka sighed, asking his ever-constant question once more. “…What are you doing?” “Taking a nap.” “Do you realize where we are right now?” “Do you realize where we are not?” Lewa peeked open an eye, his Miru smiling as it always did. “Because we are not in ever-danger.” Kopaka was about to retort, about try and make Lewa see reason, but as he took another look around at the swarm, he realized, begrudgingly, that Lewa might be right. The Rahi’s masks… they were clean, and matched the insects’ natural color. There was no rust, no scarring no pitting… Kopaka lowered his sword, suddenly quiet. The swarm wasn’t infected. It didn’t belong to Makuta. Lewa looked up at him, noticing his change in demeanor. “You see?” Kopaka didn’t reply. “The buzz-flyers are big and irritable, but not evil.” Lewa added, sitting up again. “You quick-run into their swarm and they’ll attack, but leave them be and they’ll slow-move on. They just want to eat the moss-grass, and not be bothered.” He took a moment to breathe, motioning again for Kopaka to sit. “Come on, might as well slow-wait it out.” And this time, Kopaka complied. So together, the two Toa sat, quiet as the swarm moved, feeding and crawling and buzzing about, content to ignore them as long as they did the same. Kopaka watched, quiet as the breeze blew and the evening wore on, their humming ever-constant in the background. The sunset soon spread across the sky, casting yellow, orange, red and purple against thin, wispy clouds, and for once — Kopaka realized as the minutes went by — Lewa seemed content to stay silent. It was peaceful, Kopaka thought as his shoulders relaxed. Tranquil, even, watching the sun inch closer to the horizon, watching these Rahi go about their lives. He had always meditated, of course, but this seemed different, somehow. As if here, in the jungle, there was something offered that he couldn’t find in the mountains. A different kind of peace; a certain connectivity, a bond with all the life that was constantly in motion — a tie to Mata Nui that the snows couldn’t quite grasp. Sure, it was good to be alone, in the quiet, but perhaps — not often, but maybe every once and a while — it was good to be surrounded, too. Perhaps — he thought as the Rahi slowly, steadily, began to move — for all his flaws, Lewa did have something useful to offer. And so Kopaka leaned back, breathing the fresh, cool, evening air as the swarm made their way across the summit. One by one the bugs buzzed over the side of the cliff, having had their fill of moss and grass, flitting to the next spire, or to the trees at ground level below. And one by one, more followed, the swarm slowly thinning, slowly quieting as the two Toa watched. They didn’t speak a word to each other, instead content to simply sit, to relax, and to exist in such a strange, beautiful world as this. The sun eventually dipped below the horizon, its colors fading to a soft orange glow, then yielding to the dark blue, starry sky. And as the last of the Nui-Rama passed on, the Toa were, finally, alone. “See?” Lewa said after a few minutes of silence. “Calm-relaxing isn’t so bad, is it, snow-walker?” Kopaka took a moment to respond. “…Perhaps.” Lewa smirked, and the two got to their feet, Kopaka marching forward, finally ready to claim his prize, and Lewa tagging along behind, because what else was he going to do up here? They crossed the open summit in a minute, the light of the moon reflecting off their armor as Kopaka approached the mask. Eager to feel its power, he soon stood before the stone alter, the shining silver-grey Miru gazing up at him, finally — finally — his for the taking. He reached down, his fingers feeling its cold metal, lifting it from the stone, and — he put it on. Power. Power! It surged through his body, tingling his nerves, the Miru imbuing him with the energies of levitation, adding to those he had already obtained — shielding, vision, his elemental mastery of ice. He felt alive, fulfilling this little part of his duty, his destiny, and he knew that soon more would follow. He knew, with this power, he could go farther, faster, reach places he never dreamed of reaching before, and — “Alright fellow Miru-wearer, quick-race you back to Le-Koro! Ready set go!” And before Kopaka could react Lewa had sprinted away, throwing himself off the cliff ahead, plummeting straight down to the jungle below. “Lewa…!” Kopaka ran to the edge of the cliff, only to see the small shape of his companion disappear within the canopy far below. And Kopaka realized that he was alone, hundreds of feet up with no easy way down, except for a brand-new mask that he still didn’t quite know how to use. He took a step forward, teetering at the edge of the vertical drop, confident in his abilities, yet secretly wishing the Toa of Air had stayed a moment to teach him how, exactly, to use this new-found power. Kopaka took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders as he stifled a scowl. Lewa… he was the worst. The End Author's note: special thanks to my wife, my beta with absolutely zero Bioincle knowledge, who asked if Lewa's character was basically "Yoda, but younger, and possibly in a frat."
  6. Here's my end of BZPower's 2018 Fanfic Exchange for Toa of Gallifrey. Their prompt included memoirs from the Matoran Civil War. I'm really sorry for being late at posting this. Without further ado, here's... BURNING FLAMES METRU NUI - THE MATORAN CIVIL WAR (79,500 YEARS AGO) Often times at night, Kwaaser would dream of darkness. Then, a spark of flame would ignite in its center. And like every other flame, it would spread. The longer the flame lived, the more fierce it roared. And the more fierce it roared, the more unstoppable it would become. When Kwaaser awoke, that flame he knew, was him. Kwaaser awoke in a cold sweat. He kicked away his blanket and sat against the headboard, breathing heavily. He rubbed his temples before checking the clock on his drawer. 4:00 AM, he had only been asleep for half an hour. It wasn’t that he was not used to it, but it wasn’t always that he had the chance to sleep in his own bed. He hoped to get at least an hour of sleep after all the work he went through yesterday. He let out a hard sigh, before he got off his bed and looked through his window. Despite the darkness of the sky, the lights of Ta Metru still burned as bright as ever. He half-expected an explosion or some sort of attack on the city as he looked out of the window, but none of that occurred. Things have gotten significantly quiet these recent months. Even though the war had not yet ended, victory he knew, was in his favor. Dawn had yet to rise. For now, the sky was still dark and illuminated with the glimmering stars above. He never noticed this before but the stars seemed to glow a lot dimmer than they used to be. When exactly was the last time he spent contemplating them? Centuries ago, he assumed. Back when he was a simple blacksmith smelting protodermis in his small forge. He was more than that now. To think that mere hundreds of years ago he was living the life of a nobody in Ta Metru. Now here he was, at the very top of the mountains. All he had to do now was reach for the stars. Some time later, Kwaaser walked out of the room equipped with his gear and armor. His double-sided blade in his right hand. His other mask was replaced with a custom red Kakama with golden streaks across its edges, representing authority. His armor was a perfect blend of black and red, able to intimidate any lesser foe in battle. He wore his attire with pride, always giving off a regal demeanor to his troops and anyone around him. To his men, he was a great leader. To his allies, he was a fearful friend. And to his adversaries, he was a great force to be reckoned with. He strolled through the halls of the tower. The few workers and guards that were still on their shift he passed by bowed in respect. He took a few turns before entering an even larger hallway, a beautifully decorated entrance stood at the end. He entered into a large room as the entrance automatically shut behind him. This room was his personal den for him to train early in the mornings, or for him to meditate and relax, or just simply to release tension by throwing anything he found in the room. The room was large and had various weapons neatly sorted on both of its sides, along with several other decorations to give off a peaceful atmosphere. He clapped his hands twice and the artificial lightstones in the room came to life. If Kwaaser had not possessed such quick reflexes, he would have had a sword slice through his neck. He took a step back and blocked the attack with his double-sided blade, eyes narrowed and fixed on his assailant. The attacker was a Matoran who wore a black cloak and a veil that covered most of his face. Clearly he was not native to Metru Nui. What nearly surprised Kwaaser was the attacker’s red armor, it took him a moment to face the fact that he was facing off with one of his own kind. The attacker smirked under his veil, “You’re pretty fast, I shouldn’t have expected less from the tyrant of Ta Metru.” Kwaaser scowled, he lashed out his blade at his attacker. The attacker successfully dodged Kwaaser’s attacks, stepping back as he did. He then blocked them with his sword. “Tyrant, I am not. I am the very guardian of this city, and my duty is to protect it from the likes of you, traitor.” The attacker grinned, “Traitor? I’ve had nothing to do with this depressed Makuta hole in the first place. And I’m privileged to be the one to take out its leader.” It was the attacker’s turn to strike his sword at Kwaaser. His attacks were swift and fast, but no issue for Kwaaser to dodge, much to the attacker’s surprise. Was this Matoran a Dark Hunter? The Po Metru alliance must have been utterly desperate to employ mercenaries. Kwaaser decided that it only meant that he was better at winning the war than he thought. Kwaaser parried his attack and lunged towards the Dark Hunter, sending a swift strike with his blade. It happened in a blink of an eye, but before the assassin realized, he already began coughing up blood. He dropped his sword, and moved his hand towards his neck. He didn’t want to look, but he knew exactly what had just happened. His eyes widened, before he fell on his knees and onto the floor. The blood now pooled under his body. Kwaaser eased himself and straightened his back now that the danger was relieved. “And you are privileged to have fallen to his blade,” he said. He took a few deep breaths and stared at the Dark Hunter’s corpse for a while, somewhat lost in thought. He thought of what he would be doing next. Call the guards, tell somebody to clean this up, yell at Captain Vopudi and his right hand Jaller for a bit, and probably even hold a meeting with the War Cabinet to arrange an attack towards the opposing Metru as retaliation for trying to assassinate him. He let out a long sigh, today was going to be another busy day. “Wow. I have to admit, that was actually quite impressive.” The voice came from behind, but Kwaaser turned to see no one. He took a defensive stance once more. The voice now seemed to be circling around him. “When I happened to find that Dark Hunter, Snake, lurking around the building, I actually thought he was going to save my pal and I the effort.” “Pal?” Kwaaser asked. “Yeah. I should warn you, though. He’s...not that good looking as I am. I suggest that you close your eyes.” He didn’t, and Kwaaser turned to see a monstrous creature appear behind him. Before Kwaaser could respond, the creature laid a hand on his shoulder and the two vanished, leaving behind a cloud of black smoke. Jerbraz rested both his hands behind his head as Kwaaser and Botar were now gone. Another job well done, he thought. Can’t say I didn’t warn him, though. Nevertheless, the Ta Metru leader should be thankful that Helryx was merciful enough to slam these trouble-making warlords in The Pit rather than let them get mangled by Makuta Teridax. Or was getting slashed by the Brotherhood second-in-command more merciful than spending an eternity in prison? Whatever, it wasn’t Jerbraz’s problem. Speaking of Teridax, he should really get going before the maniac arrives on the island any time soon. Too bad The Pit doesn’t have enough room to fit an entire city. And with that, the invisible Jerbraz left the room and casually walked outside before taking off into the sky. The sudden gust created by his wings startled a few nearby Matoran. Often times at night, Kwaaser would dream of darkness. Then, a spark of flame would ignite in its center, and like every other flame, it would spread. The longer the flame lived, the more fierce it roared. But like any other flame, this one finally came to its end. This flame burned on nothing and even after it was extinguished, nothing was all that it left. Not even a scorch, only the original blackness that was already there. Whenever Kwaaser awoke in his hut in New Atero, that flame he knew, was him. He would wake up in a cold sweat, before getting ready for the day. Preparing to go to work at his new forge, and resume his duties as a humble blacksmith. ~~Author's Notes~~ So there it was, my story for Toa of Gallifrey. I hope you like it and I'm really sorry that this story was super short. I actually have a different and longer story saved in Word. I thought of posting that one but the story felt kind of convoluted in the end. There was also a lot of other stuff that happened that by the deadline (which, yes, was about two days ago) I felt like the story didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. It just...really sucked in my opinion. After some thought, I finally decided to scrap the draft I had and start a totally different story that still focused on the Matoran Civil War and Kwaaser as the main character. I think it's because I'm more used to writing stories with simple plots like this one that the other story I had turned out not as good as I wanted it to. Again, I'm really sorry that this story is really short, Toa of Gallifrey, and if it wasn't what you hoped for.
  7. Torran

    Red Sky at Morning

    This epic is dedicated to Toa Jaxus as fulfillment of the 2018 Fan Fic Exchange. The requests were to read something interesting that did not contain powerless protagonists. Specifically, it was suggested that I continue the plight of Pohatu and Kopaka on the Red Star. So that's what I ran with. Hope you like it! Chapters will be posted as I finalize their edits. -T Be sure to read The Powers that Be if you have not recently. This epic is a continuation of that serial. __________________________________________________ Chapter 5 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - o O o - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - With the noises outside the room getting louder, Toa Kopaka knew they didn’t have much time. Glancing around the room, he saw piles of scraps, tables covered in bent metal, and jars containing substances he thought better than to ask about. Mavrah had locked the door, but Kopaka wasn’t convinced it would be enough to keep those horrid creatures out. “How long have you been here, Mavrah? What’s going on in this place?” Toa Pohatu asked. The Onu-Matoran moved over to a chair near a table and sat down. He motioned to the two Toa to come over. Kopaka didn’t budge. “How long, I’m not sure,” said Mavrah. “But I’ve been here long enough to have gathered some information from the Kestora.” Kopaka thought back to the three he had frozen moments ago. Mavrah continued, ignoring the scraping and plodding of heavy metal against metal outside. “It turns out the Red Star, which is where we are in case you wondered, is not a Star at all. While it does orbit the planet, it is used by the Kestora as a place to heal those who are wounded in our universe.” “Heal? What do you mean heal?” Kopaka asked. Mavrah shuffled a little. “In truth,” he started, “I’m… well, I’m actually dead.” Kopaka shot Pohatu a concerned glance. Pohatu simply slapped the Matoran on the shoulder. “Little one, you’re as dead as that Toa of Ice,” he said, pointing at Kopaka with a smile. “And I know his heart beats stronger than most in our universe.” Mavrah shuddered at the touch, unused to physical contact, but collected himself. “I mean, I died, back home, in Metru Nui.” Kopaka was glad for a piece of information he understood. “I was washed out to sea after a battle. I remember the earthquake, the destruction, the chaos… I remember Toa Onewa, and the Vahki, and then… nothing.” “Onua? Vahki?” Pohatu said. He couldn’t remember ever facing any Vahki, only hearing about them in stories from the Turaga. “Are you sure you remember correctly?” Mavrah nodded. “Toa Onewa was with the rest of the Toa, and I didn’t understand why they had come,” Mavrah said. “But when Toa Whenua was hurt in the fight –” “Did you say Toa Whenua?” Pohatu asked Mavrah nodded again. He turned to Kopaka. “You don’t think…” “…That this Matoran has been here for more than 1000 years?” Kopaka finished. “We need to find a way out of here.” Pohatu’s eyes betrayed his regular joviality. “I knew I should have changed my mind about coming here back when we had the chance.” - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - o O o - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Mavrah finished telling the Toa about the Red Star. It was designed to be a booster for the Great Spirit to visit other planets while looking for a cure for Spherus Magna, but it also served as a sort of repair station for beings from within the Great Spirit who were injured beyond regular repairs. Beings that required extensive repairs – those who seemingly had died, as Mavrah had – would be teleported up to the Red Star, fixed by the Kestora, and then sent back. “But the return mechanism has been broken for so long, according to the Kestora,” Mavrah said. “They blame someone they managed to send back, since it all failed shortly after he left.” Kopaka and Pohatu looked at each other. They knew Mavrah was talking about Gaardus. “What about energy? How have you stayed alive up here for so long?” Kopaka asked. Mavrah pointed to a vent in the center of the ceiling. “These vents are dotted all over the Red Star,” he said. “They give energy to the beings who reside here. Not having to stop and recharge has been very handy for getting more research accomplished!” “I imagine with all your time researching, you’ve seen the teleportation device that they use to send beings back?” Pohatu asked. “Oh yes,” Mavrah said. “I even tried fixing it at one point. Thankfully my mask allows me to blend in with the Kestora well enough, so anytime they might see me at a glance, I look like them. Plus, it helps that I can see well enough in the dark – I don’t have to keep the lights on.” He tapped his purple Pakari. “Can you get us to the teleporter?” Pohatu asked. Mavrah shook his head. “No point,” he said. “It really doesn’t work. We’ll have to find some other way to get you home. Besides, it’s probably crawling with those monsters outside. They’re all over the Star.” “What are those creatures, anyways?” Kopaka asked. “It was dark, but with my Akaku I could see they were… beyond words.” “Those are the remnants of a vast number of beings the Kestora tried to repair,” Mavrah said. “When they could no longer teleport anyone, some of them began experimenting on the new arrivals. I can’t say it necessarily ended well. Kestora weren’t made to create, only to fix.” A sudden slam against the door made Pohatu jump. Mavrah remained calm. “Don’t worry, nothing will get through that door.” The Toa of Stone turned his attention again to the Matoran. “How do you manage to roam around with all of them out there?” Pohatu asked. Mavrah motioned to the other side of the room. “My room is connected to service tunnels,” he said. “The door you came through can’t be opened from the other side anyways. I use the tunnels to get around, retrieve supplies, whatever I need to continue my research in this place.” “We came here looking for answers, not about this place – although it certainly is yet another mystery to ponder,” Kopaka said. “There have been some murders recently back home, and I saw a vision of the Red Star before getting here. If this place really is what you say it is, maybe the beings who were murdered are here. How could we find them?” “If you’re saying you want to find someone that someone else took the efforts to kill, I can’t say you’ll want to find them up here,” Mavrah said. “When the Kestora do their work, beings who arrive here tend to have their circuits a little… scrambled upon arrival.” Pohatu laughed, catching on to Kopaka’s train of thought. “Mavrah, if you knew who we’re looking for, you’d know he couldn’t get more scrambled than he already was.” The Matoran looked curiously at the Toa of Stone, who continued. “Have you heard the legends of Karzahni?” - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - o O o - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Review Topic
  8. This is my story for the BZPower fanfic exchange 2018. tamaru34 is who I am writing for. behind the scenes facts and figures will be included at the end. The storm surged above... Adaliki woke up with a jolt. He surveyed his surroundings immediately and allowed time for his vision to adjust to the cell. He looked at the primitive metal bars lining on of the walls. This confirms his suspicion. He has been captured by Yohanex and imprisoned in this hidden alcove. Just yesterday, Adaliki thought. Just yesterday he had been the brave defender of New Atero; the greatest city on spherus magna. It seems his latest attempt to defend the city had ended in failure. His arch rival, the tyranical Toa of air Yohanex will no doubt have claimed the city by now. Adaliki tires his best to muster his lightning energy to blast the metal cell bars to molten slag, but he is too weak and can only summon a small spark which hits the bars and disperses into them. One of Yohanex's gang members, a skrall enters the adjacent chamber and looks at Adaliki through the bars. "He told me to wait until you were awake..." The skrall sneered. "Awake for what?" Adaliki replied. "Just a new method of torture we'd devised" The skrall menacingly added. The skrall laughed and then grabbed the bars in an effort to taunt Adaliki. To both of their surprise, the sparks Adaliki had summoned had remained within the metal bars; when the skrall touched the bars he was swiftly electrocuted and fainted to the floor. Siezing the oppurtunity, Adaliki reached through the bar and stole the cell key from the Skrall. He uses the key to open the door and exits the cell. Before leaving, Adaliki turns back and takes the Skrall's blade, although he hopes he won't have to use it. Adaliki clambers up a stone staircase within the cavern and is greeted by two more of Yohanex's gangsters, two enraged Vahki. Adaliki channels more lightning into his blade and jumps into the thick of the action; a duel of blades ensues. The vahki are swift and elegant in their movement but Adaliki's rapidly recovering strength proves to be too much for them to handle. Within moments they too are lying on the floor have been struck by lightning. More gang members try to apprenhend Adaliki as he ascends up through the cavern. Each and every one finds themself defeated by the toa who is finally at full strength. Skrall, Rahkshi, Vahki, Skadi and Rahi all try to stop the Toa of lightning but they all are no match for Adaliki and are left tumbling down into the depths of the cave. Adaliki defeats a bone hunter with and elegant air-kick and claims the ganster's ancestral blade. This blade was unlike any other Adaliki had seen this era and would channel his lightning with pure and true majestic ease. Readying himself for battle, Adaliki charges towards the cave's exit. The remaining thugs hurry to barricade the cave entrance. They toss boulders, crates and debris in front of the opening and stand guard preparing for battle. Some of the gang guard the barricade from the inside, others wait out in the desert for Adaliki's inevitable escape. Adaliki arrived at the barricade and was confronted by the first part of the guards. All at once these gangsters charged at him, their blades arched out in front of them. Their effort was greatly in vain, Adaliki used his power to send an incredible bolt of lightning through the attackers. The bolt was so great that it blasted all of them away, smashed the barricade into pieces and left even the exterior guardians lying in sparks on the ground. As the dust settled Adaliki cooly stepped out of the cave and back into the desert, passing the unconscious gangsters who earlier had been his captors. He clambered up and out of the cave's valley and got a better view of the surroundings. He could see New Atero in the distance, but something was wrong. A huge storm had engulfed the air above the city and was pummeling the settlement with waves of rocks and sand. No doubt this was Yohanex's doing. [Continued onto the next post - There are only two posts so I am assuming it therefore still qualifies as a short story rather than an epic - The next part shall be released tommorow as it is still being written and finalised]
  9. THE OVERLORD Makariri. Some 10,000 years ago. “Vesker? What are you doing?” The being called Vesker turned from packing his belongings to address the question. He saw his wife, Tohra, standing in his doorway, a concerned and confused expression on her face. Dropping his case, he held his arms out to her. “My dear,” he said, “I’m afraid I have to go.” “Go?” “Yes. The wider world has called to me, and I must answer.” Tohra drew close, and wrapped her arms around her husband’s chest. “But the war is almost over, Vesker! We’re this close to victory! Can’t you stay for just a little bit longer, and leave when the fighting’s finished?” “I can’t, Tohra,” purred Vesker, stroking his wife’s head. “Conquest waits for no man, especially not me.” “Conquest?” Tohra withdrew, her expression now mixed with a small amount of fear. Vesker resumed his packing. “Yes. Conquest. That is the call that the wider world has issued to me, in the form of this.” Rummaging through a stack of parchment, he withdrew a particular piece of it and held it out to Tohra, who slowly took it. Before she could ask what it was, he explained: “It’s a letter from my fool older brother. Apparently, he dodged the war and conquered himself a nice little island. Did you know that he’s apparently taken to calling himself ‘The Conjurer?’ As if he’s some sort of grand wizard.” He gave a single dark chuckle. “But from his letter, it sounds like he can’t even conjure up a proper army.” “What does your brother have to do with you leaving? Or conquest?” asked Tohra, incredulous. “Conquest, my dear, is a delicate game that my brother has played, and spectacularly lost. Father must be practically rolling in his tomb at his eldest son’s incompetence. I intend to show him up, show him how conquest is really done, and let Father rest easy once more.” “So this is about your pride.” “Our pride. I can’t have my older brother tarnish our family lineage with his sheer incompetence. We’d be the laughingstock of Makariri. ‘Oh, look at that Conjurer and his family, they can’t properly subjugate entire islands!’” he said mockingly. “I won’t stand for it.” Tohra began to tear up. “You’re abandoning your home- your family- because you’re afraid of a bruised ego further down the line? That’s so selfish, I could vomit,” she said quietly, her voice trembling mightily. “No, no, don’t cry,” said Vesker soothingly. “I’ll go out and conquer us a nice little island south of Odina, that we can all go to when the war is over.” He attempted to hug Tohra again, but she recoiled. “That doesn’t make it any better.” Vesker’s brows beetled in anger. “Fine. If that’s what you think.” He closed his case and made to leave. “You still can’t stop me. I’m going to conquer that island. I’m going to show up my brother. Now get out of the doorway, Tohra.” “No!” cried Tohra. “I won’t let you! You can’t just leave! What about me? What about your son? If not to win the war, at least stay for him! He needs you!” That was enough to make Vesker stop. His expression changed from stubborn anger, slowly, to something resembling repentance. “Our… son…” he said quietly. He dropped his case. “He… he does need me.” For a third time, he held out his arms to his wife, who, equally slowly, wrapped herself up in them. “I’m so sorry. You’re right. I should stay for him.” And then Vesker drove his bladed tail directly into her stomach. “But I’m not going to,” he whispered, a nasty grin on his face. “He’ll get along just fine on his own. Won’t you, son?” he added, sneering at his now-awake son standing near the doorway, aghast. With a wet noise, he withdrew his tail, leaving Tohra to fall on the floor, gasping heavily, bleeding. He picked up his case again, stepped over her body, pushed past his son, and went out the door. Before he left, he turned to gaze at his rapidly dying wife. “I told you that you couldn’t stop me, no matter what you tried. See you when I see you, my dear,” he said. Vesker made his way to the docks, vaguely aware of the sound of his son crying in the background. The sea, off the coast of Maero. Months later. The prow of the ship sliced easily through the waves, carving a steady path towards the beaches of Maero. Aboard, three beings stood at the bow. Vesker was one of them. He peered through a telescope at the approaching coast, observing every detail and the activities of the gathered natives. Above the three, a black flag waved, bearing an angular insignia. The universal sign of warmongers and conquerors. Vesker put away his telescope. A smirk bedecked his face. “Those tiny little Matoran appear to be bolstering themselves for battle. Likely they’ve seen our flag and know that we’ve come for them.” “Shall I prepare the cannons, Vesker?” queried Riingter, the tallest of the three. “No, no,” said Vesker, holding up a hand to stop his companion. “Let us see what they do. Let them have the first move. We will answer accordingly.” Riingter stood down, but his expression indicated he was eager to battle the Matoran of Maero. On the coast, Vesker could see a large increase in some sort of orange shimmering light. A pinprick of it suddenly sailed high into the air, arcing up, and then down. Down toward the ship. As it drew closer, Vesker could discern its details. It was an arrow, tipped with fire. The Matoran sought to burn the ship, or burn those on it. It was of no matter to him, but to his compatriots… He stepped easily aside, and let the burning arrow hit his other companion squarely in the neck. The struck being let out a strangled cry, a stream of smoke issuing from his throat, before falling heavily to the deck. “That looks like the first move. Prepare the cannons, Riingter.” Within moments, crackling booms were heard as Riingter launched cannonball after cannonball at the Matoran. They scattered as each shell breached the shore; some were flung high into the air, dead before they hit the ground. Full volleys of flaming arrows now rained down irregularly upon the ship, and soon, it was up in flames. And through it all, Vesker remained unperturbed. The heat bolstered his strength. The flames fortified his body. Though his face was blank, inside, he felt a giddy joy. He hadn’t expected Maero’s natives to put up such a delicious fight. There was a crack, and the rear mast slowly toppled. Vesker was aware enough to hear it, but Riingter was not. The mast fell directly on top of him. His scream was lost among the sound of the roaring flames. The crippled ship finally made landfall, despite its damage. The attacking Matoran slowly ceased their volleys of flaming arrows, clearly thinking that they had succeeded in destroying those who were aboard along with the vessel. A small group of them approached, slowly, slowly… Vesker drifted down from the blazing bow of the ship, the heat in the air helping him almost hover down onto the charred beach. One, two, three arrows stuck out of him. His armor and skin glowed a crackling orange. An expression that was more grimace than grin was upon his face. He approached the group of Matoran, who had now stopped dead in their tracks, very afraid. “What an appropriate response,” Vesker hissed. “Exactly the kind of welcome that a conqueror deserves.” One of the Matoran fired another flaming arrow directly at Vesker. He caught it in one hand, and ate the flaming tip of it, to the horror of everybody on the beach. He unleashed a massive burst of fire from his mouth, instantly severely burning or completely cooking all of the Matoran in front of him. And then the real carnage began. Vesker pounced effortlessly from Matoran to Matoran, using his claws and bladed tail to score deep gashes in, or dismember, his targets. Every now and again, he used his tusks to impale an assailant that got too close. Blood soaked the sand with every slash, every swipe; their armor crumpled like paper. Many Matoran ran in fear, but others charged him with weapons, shot at him with burning arrows. It was inconsequential. His skin was scored, his hide pierced, but the pain and the heat and the fire goaded him on in a rage. When his strength had reached its peak, and he could no longer absorb heat, he breathed out another inferno. Once, twice, three times. After what seemed like hours, the onslaught slowed to a crawl. The Matoran ceased their attack and dropped, now aware- woefully late- that they could not defeat this new enemy. Vesker tried to goad them on, but reluctantly, he too stopped attacking. Though he had sustained injuries, he was happy. This battle had been an exhilarating experience, the first time in a long time he could really let loose and revel in making carnage. Exactly what an aspiring conqueror needed to start his career off on the right foot. He hoped that there would be more fights like this in the years to come. But before they came, he had other matters that required his more immediate attention. “Who among you is leader of this land?” he asked loudly, walking over the charred, bloodied, dismantled bodies he had created in his gleeful rage. One Matoran, a brown one, hesitantly, fearfully, approached Vesker. “I am, my lord,” he stuttered. My lord. Good. These Matoran knew just who they were dealing with now. Vesker did not immediately reply; instead, he bent down to pick up a spear from the ground. The Matoran leader cowered, but with two strokes of Vesker’s bladed tail, he ceased cowering. He ceased everything, for his head had been separated from his shoulders. An outcry issued from the survivors as Vesker took the rolling head and planted it firmly on the spearhead. “Not anymore, you aren’t,” he said to the head. Naturally, it did not respond. “Listen here, you Matoran worms,” he addressed the crowd. “Your leader is dead. Your people have been slaughtered. You have seen what I am capable of. If you wish to avoid seeing it again in the future, then you will do exactly as I ask, when I ask you to do it, from now until the day you all die. Am I understood?” There was a hesitation. Vesker tossed a fireball at a random Matoran, who was promptly consumed. “AM I UNDERSTOOD?!” he bellowed. At that, there was a resounding “yes.” “Then grovel before me, your new king.” In waves, the Matoran survivors, despite their injuries, prostrated themselves before Vesker. He grinned. The easy part was over. Now the real challenge of conquest was at hand: ensuring the continued obedience and competence of his subjects. If he could maintain that, then his goal of overshadowing his brother would be reached. “That’s enough groveling,” he said, waving a dismissive hand. “Quit licking the sand, and start building me a tower. A big one, maybe 50 bio high, made entirely of black stone. With a point on top. Come on, chop chop. Or I’ll burn another one of you to a crisp, and eat you for dinner.” Maero. Two years later. Vesker ambled carelessly through the huge construction site, watching his Matoran subjects scramble about as they continued construction of the tower he had ordered. Their progress had been swift and, so far, satisfactory: the tower- made entirely of black stone, as he had commanded- stood unwavering, unyielding in the wind that rocked Maero. Its cylindrical bulk was jagged near the top, where construction was still incomplete. About at that point, the tower began to taper into the point that Vesker had desired. He smiled to himself. These Matoran, so far, had turned out to be much more obedient and capable than the ones his brother had described in his letter. “My lord?” came a voice from around his knee. “What is it, foreman?” Vesker replied, not bothering to make eye contact with his new conversational partner. “My lord,” continued the foreman, “we, ah… we’ve hit a snag in the construction of your tower.” Vesker cocked an eyebrow, silently prompting him to go on. “Our miners have turned up dry. They can’t find any more black stone anywhere on the island. I’m afraid… that we can’t make your tower any taller.” Vesker was silent for a long moment. “No more black stone? Anywhere?” “No, my lord, and because you closed the docks, we can’t send for Odina and ask them to ship us more.” “How tall is the tower currently?” “45 bio, my lord.” “And how tall did I ask you to build it?” “50 bio, my lord,” stammered the foreman. There was another long silence. Then Vesker smiled. “Very well,” he said. “If those are the circumstances. Order your men to dismantle the unfinished portion of my tower. Then have all the workers gather at the foot of it.” “Yes my lord,” said the foreman, before scrambling off to relay the orders to his workers. Two days later, the black tower had been completed. Its height was now 43 bio, and it lacked the point Vesker had requested on top. A small swarm of Matoran miners, masons, stonecutters, and other workers gathered at the foot of it, as had been ordered. They nervously muttered and chattered to one another, wondering just what was going on. From the very top of the tower, Vesker drifted down, rocked by the wind that still blasted the whole of Maero. The air beneath his feet shimmered with heat as he descended. He alighted on the ground directly in front of the gathered masses. A displeased expression was on his face, but he otherwise said nothing for several minutes, opting instead to nonchalantly examine his claws, pick up a discarded chunk of black stone, and examine it. Internally, he relished keeping his subjects in suspense. “When I first arrived here, two years ago,” he said finally, “I gave you all three simple instructions. Do exactly as I say unquestioningly, grovel before me, and build me a tower 50 bio high, with a point at the top, out of black stone. And yet, you lot have only done one of those.” He pointed at the monolithic tower behind him. “The tower you have given me is only 43 bio high. There is no point on top. By failing in that task, you have failed in doing exactly as I say. And when you don’t do exactly as I say, it makes me a very grumpy king.” “You’re no king!” came a voice from the crowd. “You’re a tyrant!” Vesker whipped his head around to glare into the crowd. “Who said that?” he asked, his tone remaining relatively calm and passive. “Come on, no need to be shy. Who said that? Come here and make yourself known. I promise I won’t bite.” Slowly, a single Matoran, blue in color, pushed her way to the fore of the crowd to stand directly in front of Vesker. The overlord gazed down at her, cocking an eyebrow. She was an overall unremarkable specimen, he thought. “Now then. Go on. Say that again. Vent to me, if you want to. I want to hear exactly what you think of me.” And she did. “You’re a tyrant!” she repeated. “A dictator! All you’ve done since coming here is kill us and drive us to work constantly, like slaves! You claim to be a benevolent ruler, but you haven’t shown one scrap of kindness to us in these two years! No king should ever treat his subjects like that! I’d rather die than be subjected to one more day of your rule!” She spat on the ground at his feet, punctuating her short speech. As she vented, Vesker internally boiled with every word. He struggled to maintain passivity on his face; the only indication of his growing rage was the tightening of his fingers around the chunk of stone he still gripped. “Is that truly how you feel?” he hissed, clearly struggling to keep the rage out of his voice. “Would you rather die than remain under my thumb?” The Matoran’s expression changed from defiance to fear. “I can arrange that.” With his bladed tail, he swept the Matoran’s feet out from under her, and pinned her to the ground with his own large foot. She struggled against the pressure, but to no avail. He lifted the chunk of stone, and with a roar from him and a scream from her, he brought it down hard directly onto her head. Once, twice, three times. She twitched, then did not move. “I promised I wouldn’t bite,” he whispered. Panting slightly, he straightened, dropped the bloodied stone, and removed his foot from the Matoran’s oozing body. He glared at the crowd of workers, fury now clearly evident in his eyes. The crowd was pallid, shaking, and silent in horror. “Let this be a lesson to you lot, and all on this island,” he announced. “If you dare to question or challenge my authority, you will meet the same end as this unfortunate soul. Maybe worse. I am a king and a conqueror, and I will not stand for being treated or spoken to in any other manner! Add this to the list of my commands I give you: do not fail to treat me with the glory due to my position! “And as for you…” he finished, “you who have failed to follow the greater part of my very simple instructions… I promised her I would not bite. But I promise you no such thing.” The sun set that day on a small swarm of headless bodies. Maero. Many, many years later. Some 3,500 years ago. It was nighttime. Vesker sat lazily on his throne, in the very top story of his tower, staring at the ceiling and picking out all the intricate patterns carved into it for what felt like the millionth time. It had been a long several thousand years. Subjugating an entire island had been more difficult than he had thought early on, what with rebel cells popping up every other week, subtle workers’ revolts, protests in the streets, and so on. He had had to perform a lot of executions in order to drive the concept of obedience into their heads. Obedience, or death. The piles of bodies had finally gotten to them around 500 years ago, and molding them had grown much easier. He now had a sufficient workforce, a small army, and a select few councilors who rarely disagreed with him, else they be executed spectacularly. Sure, the population of Maero had been drastically reduced, but that was sometimes the price of conquest. He grew bored with picking out the ceiling patterns and returned his attention to the letter from his brother, which he had kept for all these years. Oh, if only he could see me now… The door burst open, and a Matoran messenger hustled through, flinging himself at the foot of the throne. “My lord,” he panted, “a ship approaches! We just saw it five minutes ago.” Vesker sat up. “A ship? Coming here? But I thought I closed the docks.” “You did, my lord, but they don’t seem to know that. Or if they do, they don’t care.” “What insignia does it fly?” “A new one, my lord. One I’ve never seen before. Three fists, one black, one gray, one yellow, all on a white field. I don’t know if it’s a new conqueror’s insignia.” “Hm. I should hope not. I can’t afford to have competition. It would make me look bad.” Of a sudden, there was a noise not unlike a sharp pop, and two new figures appeared in the throne room, seemingly out of nowhere. One was a being clad in black armor, with yellow accents and a black cloak worn over his shoulder; in his hands, he held a staff and a strange disk. The other was a tall and wide blue-skinned being in gold armor, with a barbed tail poised over his shoulder; he too held a strange disk, similar to the one that the black-clad being held. Their sudden appearance frightened the Matoran messenger into fleeing, but Vesker sat impassive, merely cocking an eyebrow. (That particular expression was getting to be one of his most frequently-used.) “Who are you, and why have you come into my presence so suddenly?” he asked. “Such imperiousness,” sneered the black-clad being, hiding away his disk. “But then, you were always that way, Vesker.” “I’m sorry. Do I know you?” “You should. You abandoned the war in our homeland when you were needed.” “Ah. And how did the war go?” “We lost. Not that it matters.” “I’m sorry.” “You’re not.” “You’re right. I’m not. But you still haven’t answered my questions. Who are you, and why have you come into my presence so suddenly?” Vesker asked again, his brows beginning to beetle. “I am The Shadowed One,” said the black-clad being, “and this is my cohort, Ancient-” The Shadowed One was interrupted by Vesker’s chortle. “Oh, what delightfully edgy titles!” he laughed. “How positively juvenile! Did you have an adolescent Namastean come up with those for you?” The one called Ancient growled, but otherwise said nothing. “We have come for you, Vesker,” The Shadowed One continued, after Vesker had stopped laughing. “Our organization has engaged in dire warfare with the Toa of Metru Nui, and we are running low on forces.” “So? Find some somewhere else.” “You do not understand. You are the one we need.” “Why?” “That is none of your immediate concern. You will come with us to Metru Nui, and aid us in our struggle against the Toa.” Vesker held up a hand to his ear, frowning. “Is… is that what I think it is? I think it might be. It sounds like you’re… ordering me around. You must be mistaken, Shadowed One. Around here, I order people around. Nobody orders me.” “Until today.” “Apparently so. Regardless, I will not help you. A regime needs to last at least 75,000 years before its ruler can be spirited away. Find someone else to fight your stupid battle. Go away, and never come back.” Vesker pointed at the door with finality. Ancient growled again. The Shadowed One sighed. “Rest assured that after tonight, we will never come back to this island. But neither will you.” “Is that a threat?” Vesker hissed. “It is a command.” Vesker rose from his throne. A fearsome look was on his face. “I thought I told you, Shadowed One, that nobody commands me here.” His skin and armor began to crackle orange. He felt a buildup of heat in his throat, and prepared to release it. “I command you… to leave. NOW.” He opened his mouth, the air around it shimmering with heat. “I grow tired of telling you, Vesker,” said The Shadowed One. “If you will not listen to me, then perhaps Ancient will be able to convince you.” Just as Vesker released his flaming breath, Ancient leaped between it and The Shadowed One with surprising alacrity. The fire dissipated around him, leaving hardly a scorch mark. When it cleared, Vesker saw that the large blue being wore an expression of quiet fury, clearly displeased about the attack on his companion. Vesker smiled, his tusks gleaming wetly. A challenge. How… lovely. Without warning, Vesker lashed out with his bladed tail. Ancient deflected the blow and answered with one of his own, which just barely missed. Vesker used his claws to strike one, two, three times at Ancient’s chest, but the larger being’s hide had become thick and hard with age; the slashes did nothing. A fist was driven hard into Vesker’s diaphragm. The overlord staggered back, the wind knocked out of him. He tried to catch his breath. Out of seemingly nowhere, something struck out and slashed him in the left eye. He roared in pain, his vision blurry. With his good eye, he saw Ancient’s barbed tail retreat. He remained impassive, but he, Vesker, was furious. He released another roar, this one in anger, and charged Ancient, tusks aimed below the ribs. Surprisingly, they met their target. Ancient let out a grunt as the tusks pierced his body. Vesker’s momentum held up for another few seconds, driving Ancient back a solid ten feet. Suddenly a great pain hit Vesker’s head as Ancient drove his knee into his assailant’s chin, the force knocking free some of his regular teeth. Vesker groaned, but did not dislodge his tusks from Ancient’s body. He instead opted to release another fiery blast from his now-aching mouth, absorbing a small amount of further strength from the heat that engulfed Ancient. Releasing himself, Vesker stood back for a few seconds. His slashed eye dripped on the floor, and his good eye never left Ancient’s burning form. But Ancient did not seem to be roasting. With a final charge, Vesker leaped over Ancient and wrapped his tail around his opponent’s neck, pulling it tight, choking him. Ancient’s growl weakened as his air supply diminished; he could not breathe in too much, else the heat would scorch his lungs. A sinister, chipped grin spread across Vesker’s face, as he grew close to driving Ancient to his knees… And then he felt a sudden pain in his right arm. It felt… lighter. Looking down, he saw that his right arm had been severed at the elbow. The stump had been cauterized, but not completely; it oozed slightly. He could see a bright light fading around The Shadowed One’s eyes. The pain was excruciating. He let out an involuntary moan of pain, released his tail from Ancient’s neck, and dropped to his knees, cradling his stump and futilely trying to put his forearm and hand back where it belonged. The flames dissipated around Ancient, who returned to stand behind The Shadowed One, seemingly unperturbed by the holes left in his stomach by Vesker’s tusks. Vesker was aware of the two of them leering at him. “I’m impressed,” said The Shadowed One. “Most of the individuals we’ve recruited did not put up as much of a fight as you. Your tenacity and rage will be a valuable asset to us.” Through the pain, Vesker stammered, “I cannot be removed. I will not be removed. I… I am a king!” He let out a weak puff of fire, struggling to his feet weakly. He had never felt such pain before. But Ancient batted him back down to the floor with his tail; his head slammed heavily on the floor. His ears rang. The Shadowed One’s voice permeated the ringing. “You are a tyrant and a war deserter. For the former, you have my respect, but for the latter, you must be punished.” The Shadowed One grabbed Vesker’s shoulder tightly and turned to Ancient. “Let’s go,” he said. Though his vision was cloudy with pain, Vesker could see Ancient toss the two strange disks into the air, letting them fall and hit both him and The Shadowed One. And just like that, all three were suddenly relocated to the deck of a ship that had made haphazard landfall. A crowd of curious and confused Matoran gathered around. “Your overlord has deigned to relocate himself,” The Shadowed One announced to the impromptu assembly. “No more will you have to subject yourself to his rule. You are free. Free to live your lives as you did before this conqueror came. Go. Live. Work. Play. Love. You are, now and forever, out from under this tyrant’s thumb.” As the boat drifted offshore to the sounds of scattered cheering, Vesker felt hot breath on the side of his face as The Shadowed One bent down to whisper in his ear. “One last thing, Vesker. In our organization, we do not use names,” he said. “We strip ourselves of them, and only use titles, like the ones Ancient and I have, which you so rudely mocked. I think for you, we will call you by the name your people call- or once called- you behind your back. “Henceforth, from now until forever, you will no longer be called by the name ‘Vesker.’ You shall be known… “As TYRANT.” Stelt. Two years later. “There you are.” Vesker- no, he was “Tyrant” now- tossed a body onto the desk of the client that The Shadowed One had assigned to him. The body was covered in slash marks from his claws, puncture wounds from his tusks and tail, and charred marks from his flaming breath. It flopped heavily onto the desk before sliding slowly to the floor, leaving a trail of fluid. The client started as the body hit the desk. He examined it as it slid to the floor, with a confused expression; that confusion turned to anger as he reached a realization. “What? No, no! I asked for him alive! Alive, blast you!” “Hm,” hummed Tyrant, scratching his right elbow where his prosthetic arm fused to his original flesh. “The Shadowed One told me you wanted him dead.” This was, of course not true. The Shadowed One had said that the client wanted the target alive, but Tyrant had chosen to deliver the target dead. “I told him alive!” “And he told me dead. Clearly there was some miscommunication.” The client slammed his fists on the desk. “Is this the sort of service that the Dark Hunters offer?!” he yelled, spit spraying. “Ignoring the specific requests- no, demands- from their clients? Because if it is, I have some strong words to give The Shadowed One! Unbelievable! How am I supposed to learn the location of the secret vault, if the only one who can tell me lies dead and oozing on my floor?!” “Perhaps you should take your complaints directly to The Shadowed One, to avoid any further miscommunications,” suggested Tyrant. The client snarled. “Maybe I’ll shoot to be the new leader, because clearly the current leadership is lacking.” “Would you like me to take you back to Odina?” “Yes.” Tyrant grinned. “Very well. Come on, Sidorak. I’ll take you to my ship.” Odina. 210 years later. Crouching in the rafters of the Dark Hunters’ fortress, Tyrant and his companion, Vanisher, loomed over The Shadowed One’s throne. The plan was simple: while he was otherwise occupied, they would drop down on top of him and attack. Short, sweet, surprising slaughter. Tyrant swung his bladed tail slowly from side to side, practically itching to get this done and over with. Though that could have just been his elbow. This was due justice, he thought to himself. This coup, this assassination would rid him of the one who had forced him away from his perfectly lovely kingdom, stripped him of his pride, and forced him to do menial tasks alongside a bunch of undisciplined riffraff. And with him gone, he would take the vacant seat and rule the Dark Hunters as he once ruled Maero. He grinned. Oh, the executions he would perform… He moved his foot. The rafters creaked loudly. The Shadowed One looked up, his red eyes immediately locking on to the two Dark Hunters poised above him. And Tyrant felt a sudden impact on his spine. He lost his grip and balance, and fell hard to the floor, the wind knocked out of him. A great pressure landed upon him, pinning him to the floor; he felt hot breath on his neck, viscous liquid dripping on his head and back. Claws dug into his shoulders. He bit his tongue to keep from whimpering. “Hello, Tyrant,” said The Shadowed One. “So sorry to have Sentrakh interrupt your pleasant stroll in the rafters.” He rose from his throne and approached Tyrant, crouching down to get on his level. “But I’ve had enough people drop down from the rafters to know what’s going on. You were trying to assassinate me, weren’t you? Planning on dropping down while I was busy and slitting my throat? Hm?” Tyrant did not say anything. “Your silence says more than your words ever could,” said The Shadowed One, smirking. “You really should be more creative with your assassination plans. I’ve had other Dark Hunters try that one out countless times.” Of a sudden, The Shadowed One grabbed Tyrant’s prosthetic arm and tore it away. Tyrant screamed as the metal tore away from the flesh, taking with it skin, bone, and blood. Lots of blood. He panted heavily through the pain, pain he had not experienced since the first removal of his arm, back when The Shadowed One had come to claim him. His good eye blurred with… were these tears? They were. He bit his lip hard to keep him from crying out more, drawing more blood. Sentrakh increased the pressure on his back, claws still digging into his shoulders. “Enough. Sentrakh, release.” Mercifully, Sentrakh stopped stepping on Tyrant. The former overlord remained where we was, whimpering pitifully at the pain. His false arm clattered to the floor, just out of reach, its claws twitching weakly. Odina. 280 years later. Some 3,000 years ago. Tyrant knelt in his cell, his wrists and ankles bound behind him, his jaw clamped together with a steel muzzle. His right elbow itched mightily, but he could not scratch at it now. His body ached, covered in bruises and still-open wounds from the beating he had received from Eliminator two months prior. It was a testament to the skill of the Dark Hunters’ executioner, if he could beat his victims down so hard that they still hurt so long after. The cell door opened, and Tyrant looked up weakly to see The Shadowed One looming in the doorway, still carrying around that staff and cloak. Tyrant glared as defiantly as he could through his one eye, to The Shadowed One’s apparent amusement. “Hello, Tyrant.” Tyrant, having his jaw clamped shut, said nothing. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Cooked up anymore assassination attempts since I put you here?” Still, Tyrant said nothing. The Shadowed One knelt down to Tyrant’s level. “It won’t work, you know,” he said. “No matter how much you try to undermine my authority, no matter how many times you try to have me assassinated, I will not fall. I will not be deposed from my position as rightful ruler of the Dark Hunters. Does that sound familiar?” It did- Tyrant had said similar things when he had first been approached to join the Dark Hunters. “I hope, for your sake, that you take this discipline to heart now, and stop. Not only are you getting on my nerves, but you’re also getting repetitive. Predictable. I can’t really be on my toes around you anymore, because now I know what’s coming.” He was mocking him. Tyrant’s eye burned. “But enough of reminding you of your sins,” The Shadowed One continued. “You are being released, given an opportunity to receive your due justice. I have urgent need of you in the battle.” Waving his hand, he released the restraints binding Tyrant. Tyrant stood slowly, his joints aching from disuse, and took the opportunity to finally itch his scar tissue-riddled elbow. “What… do you need?” he asked, the words rusty in his throat. “Your full cooperation, firstly. Have Screamer patch you up, and I will tell you the details when you return.” Slowly, Tyrant left the cell block for the Dark Hunters’ medic, ignoring the wails, jeers, and reaching limbs of his once-fellow inmates. He was too hurt, too weary, to rebel against The Shadowed One right now. The sea, off the coast of Metru Nui. Two weeks later. For the third time in his life, Tyrant found himself on a ship heading for a life-changing destination. This time, it was to Metru Nui, to lead an assault on the Toa defending the city, and breach their defenses to create an opening for the Dark Hunters to enter and take hold of the city. With him were five other powerful Dark Hunters: pompous shapeshifter Devastator, trophy collector Gatherer, former Kane-Ra Bull Charger, cell-bound Savage, and fellow troublemaker Primal (whose leash he, Tyrant, was tasked with holding until the attack). Tyrant looked down at his prosthetic right arm, now outfitted with an impact launcher in place of a hand. It was not as dexterous, but it was significantly more deadly. Primal suddenly barked and tugged on his leash, alerting Tyrant. He returned his eyes to what was in front of the ship, and what was in front of the ship was Metru Nui, specifically the coast of Ga-Metru. Lined up to meet them was a small contingent of Toa, prepared to face the Dark Hunters. They had arrived. Tyrant smiled his still-broken smile. How he longed to lay into these Toa, redeem himself in the eyes of the Dark Hunters, cement his position in glory. Glory that he deserved, that had been stripped from him so many years ago. The boat made landfall. Tyrant handed off Primal’s leash to Devastator, and disembarked, using his heated air to hover down to the beach. He met the battle-ready gazes of the assembled Toa head-on, unflinching at the seemingly overwhelming odds that faced him and his fellows. But he relished the opportunity for challenge; his first battle against Ancient had helped him appreciate difficulty in battle. He would rise to the occasion once again here, he told himself. He would be an integral part of capturing victory here today. And he would be one step closer to returning to the prestige that had been his, so long ago. “Attention, worthless Toa!” declared Tyrant. “We offer you this one chance to surrender. Release your claim on Metru Nui and leave forever. If you do, we will spare you, but if not, you will die.” A red-and-gold-clad Toa stepped forward, brandishing two large cleavers. “We offer you this one chance to surrender,” he said, mirroring Tyrant’s words. “Cease your attempts to capture Metru Nui and leave forever. If you do, you will be spared… for the moment.” “I decline your offer,” said Tyrant. “And we decline yours,” replied the Toa. “I suppose, then, that it must come to battle.” “It must.” “Have at you, then.” The Toa said nothing, instead getting into a ready stance, cleavers at the ready. Behind him, the whole squadron of Toa did the same. Tyrant cracked the knuckles on his remaining hand, rolled his shoulders, and prepared himself for battle. He had never faced a Toa before, let alone a whole squadron of them; it would be a refreshing new experience. One that he could hopefully use to his advantage later on down the line. “Dark Hunters, to me!” he cried. There was no response. “I said, Dark Hunters, to me!” he said again, more emphatically. Still no response. Tyrant turned about in anger to face his allies, who were still on the ship, doing nothing. “Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to help me beat these Toa into submission?” he asked. “The Shadowed One didn’t send you with me just so I could do all the work, you know.” Still again, no response. “If you don’t help me in this, then I’ll get all the money that The Shadowed One promised you lot,” he finished, trying to appeal to the base greed of all Dark Hunters. Then Devastator spoke. “Reverse your two statements. That would be the truth of this situation.” Tyrant cocked an eyebrow. “What does that mean? You know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to lay into these Toa, by myself or not. Feel free to join me when you’ve grown spines or decided to stop talking in nonsense.” And with that, he began his lone assault on the Toa, bellowing as he charged them.The Toa did the same, and they met on the beach. Tyrant had the first blow, his tail slamming hard into the midsection of a silver Toa. He swiped with his claws at two others, and hit one. The one he had missed, a Toa of Water, spewed a jet of water at him. It splashed over him, knocking him backward slightly. In response, he thrust his tusks at the Toa, puncturing the soft flesh of their lower jaw, killing them. He aimed his impact launcher and fired at the red-and-gold Toa, who batted the shot aside with his cleavers, a familiar orange glow flashing around him. Oh my. A Toa of Fire. How delicious. This was to be his new target. Tyrant fired other shots from his impact launcher to get another Toa off his back. In the brief freedom, he charged at the Toa of Fire, who launched a fiery blast at him. This was no problem, as Tyrant absorbed the power of the heat into his body. His skin began to glow orange; the glow grew brighter as more heat was pulled into his veins. Bursting from the fire, he pounced upon the Toa of Fire. The Toa did not react in time, dropping his cleavers as he fell. The two struggled, interlocked in what could have been a lover’s embrace if they hadn’t been trying to kill each other. Tyrant snapped his jaws at the Toa’s masked face. Somehow, the Toa’s hand found its way to Tyrant’s throat; the Dark Hunter felt a searing heat as the hand around his neck heated up mightily. He roared, but the roar was not from pain. Not immediately. He felt a Toa try to wrench him away; he stabbed them in the leg with his bladed tail, and chopped off their head. He opened his mouth at the Toa he grappled with, preparing to release a scorching blast. A sharp pain hit his side, interrupting him. A black Toa had thrown a dragon-tail-and-chain at him, and hit him. This time, the roar was one of pain. He yanked the weapon out of his side and pulled on the chain, drawing the Toa closer so he could drive his claws into their neck. But in doing so, he let go of the Toa of Fire, who kicked him off. Tyrant stumbled back, grabbing at his dripping side. He opened his mouth again, and released that blast of fire, heat, and death at the Toa. But a gust of wind blew the fire back at him. A Toa of Air had leaped between Tyrant and his target, blowing a steady, strong stream of wind from his scythe. The blowback bolstered Tyrant, the heat absorbed into his body. He tapped these new reserves and strengthened his fire breath, to little avail. The backdraft just kept coming. For many moments, the two were locked in a stalemate, until Tyrant had to pause to inhale. At that moment, both the Toa of Fire and the Toa of Air leaped forward to attack directly. Their blows landed on Tyrant, who stumbled back again in surprise. He growled, and fired his impact launcher once, twice, three times at them, but missed. He was slashed across the chest with the scythe, and bellowed in pain. His good eye blazed in rage. He charged them again, and was knocked back by a joint attack. Tusks, claws, launcher, tail, fire. Tyrant used them all, but the two Toa matched him blow for blow. Cleaver and scythe opened his skin, pierced his armor. His body burned, but not with heat. Why hadn’t his fellow Dark Hunters come to help him yet? Could they not see that he was in need of aid? That he had, gods forbid, gotten in over his head? Reverse your two statements, Devastator had said. The Shadowed One… had sent him to do all the work himself? He would not be paid for his fellows’ lack of initiative? This didn’t make sense! A heavy slash hit his shoulders. He groaned as he felt his armor and skin part. The Toa of Air lopped off his remaining original arm. No. The pain. The pain. THE PAIN. Tyrant fell to his knees, his impact launcher failing to cradle his new stump as his hand would. His groan grew louder, louder, until it was a scream. A scream of primal rage, pain, sorrow, betrayal. In his scream, he released one last burst of fire, one that was much, much larger than any he could have made at any other time, fueled not just by the residual fire in him, but his almost tangible emotions. Ever after, it would be said that a star seemed to descend on that beach in that moment. The Toa of Air hit Tyrant in the diaphragm with the butt of his scythe. With a burst of air, the Dark Hunter was knocked, flung back, where he crashed into the Silver Sea. Blood and armor trailed as Tyrant sank. His consciousness began to ebb. As everything grew black, one thought crossed his mind. The Shadowed One had ordered the other Dark Hunters to abandon him. Betrayal. With one last shout, muffled by the water surrounding him, he cried vengeance on The Shadowed One, even if he had to come back from the dead to have it. He promised that he would make The Shadowed One suffer for all the abuse, all the abandonment, all the glory and prestige that he had robbed him of. Never once did he think that this was a result of his own treachery. That this was the justice he was due. CREATOR'S NOTES: Here's my end of the bargain for this year's Fanfic Exchange. I was assigned a story for Xccj, who asked for stories focused on secondary characters or events not directly addressed in the main story. So I thought, why not combine the two and write a story chronicling the life of perhaps one of the more interesting Dark Hunters? I set out to fill in some of the blanks presented in Tyrant's biography in the Dark Hunters encyclopedia, as well as flesh out what was already there. I suppose I was in a bit too much of a Dragon Ball mood, because all throughout the writing process, I tried to characterize Tyrant sort of like Frieza: an imperious, arrogant conqueror who ultimately got in over his head. As always, comments and criticisms are welcome. Hope you enjoy, Xccj.
  10. Welcome to the review topic for the BZP Fanfic Exchange epic, Red Sky in Morning. This epic was written for Toa Jaxus, who requested an interesting story without powerless protagonists. Leave your reviews and comments. I intend to update this post with a little bit of research material supporting a somewhat... irregular setting for BIONICLE (dare I say, lore-breaking?). Your input is appreciated and although the whole story is already written, insights will help me develop in future projects. Cheers! EDIT: Some References I used BS01 a whole lot to confirm certain characters' existence - or lack thereof - on the Red Star. Do you know how many Toa were killed by electrical attacks, thereby destroying their core circuitry and rendering them unable to be revived on the Red Star? Like, more than 10. The TTV Channel This apparently comes from a conversation with Greg F. regarding the recreation of masks. Red Star Revelations Some lengthy conversation on BZP regarding Red Star functions and purposes, from a podcast with Greg. GregF Answers A few tidbits of info here that are fun to consider. One point of note, Greg states that the Red Star "can't teleport right now" but I do not think that would stop someone from teleporting someone else to the Red Star if needed. (ie. why Karzahni is on the Star now instead of just dead in the Canyon). BS01 - Red Star General information regarding the Star.
  11. Author's Note This fic was written for the BZPower 2018 Gift Exchange. This story is for Dane, who requested a story set on Mata Nui about the Chronicler's Company. Not every member of the Company makes an appearance and some are more prominent than others, but I hope Dane enjoys the story anyway! Masks It was to be a two-pronged attack. Nuparu and a squad of Boxor-mounted Matoran would challenge the Nuhvok, the Bohrok of Earth, in the plains outside Le-Wahi. Their plan would remove the advantage the Nuhvok maintained by fighting in enclosed spaces, like the dense jungle. Onepu would lead a second squad into the jungle and attempt to drive the Lehvak out of Le-Koro itself. Taipu felt safer being a part of Onepu's three-man squad. He didn't know the third member of their group very well, but Onepu trusted Kaj and that was enough for him. Taipu was on high alert. The heavy footsteps of the three Boxors sounded like pickaxes striking metal but he could still make out the sounds of distant rahi fleeing through the underbrush. Despite not being a member of the Onu-Koro Ussalry, he had been given a Boxor to pilot on Onepu's order - Taipu had not only helped build the prototype Boxor, but he was also one of only a handful of Onu-Matoran familiar with the Le-Wahi jungle. Taipu felt honored to be chosen to be a member of the Ussalry Captain's team - even if they were best friends. They marched between a dozen enormous trees that had fallen, the earth beneath their roots eroding away. The destruction of the beautiful jungle caused Taipu's heartlight to ache. The vivid flowers of Le-Wahi had once filled him with joy. Now they were trampled into the ground, their petals gone and their color faded. Their group climbed over a hilltop, only to witness more devastation. Below them, a dank swamp slowly ate away at a tree. A single leaf fluttered into the swamp. It shriveled, sizzled and in moments, was gone. "This is the doing of Lehvak," said Onepu grimly. "They are surely nearby. Be on the lookout for them." Taipu felt a chill run down his spine. The Lehvak were said to be the most dangerous of the Bohrok types, and he was hardly a proper warrior. Taipu longed to return to the safe, comfortable mines of Onu-Koro. But they weren't safe nor comfortable anymore, they were caved in and flooded. Taipu looked to his leader. Onepu was ahead of him, bravely heading on to protect the Matoran despite the danger. Taipu forced his fears down. He would be brave like Onepu as well. They continued on, leaving the acrid smells of the pool behind as it consumed the foliage. Onepu held out an arm, motioning them to stop. "Quiet!" he hissed, stopping in his tracks. Taipu listened, only hearing the insistent flapping of kahu bird wings. He focused harder, trying to detect whatever had caught Onepu's attention. There! The pitter-patters of metal on earth could just barely be heard, too light and fast to be the result of Bohrok. "Matoran?" asked Kaj. "It must be," whispered Onepu. "If they are being controlled by the Krana, we should strike swiftly and free as many as we can." Soon they might be fighting against their own kind. "What if we hurt them?" Taipu asked. Onepu clenched his fist for a moment. "They will be better off sore and free than controlled by the Krana." Taipu took a deep breath of the thick jungle air, soothing his nerves. Onepu always knew just what to say. "Kaj," commanded Onepu. "If we get into a scuffle, you move to the right and I'll circle to the left. Taipu, you will face them head-on. This way, we can hem them in for a sound victory." Onepu led them further on, seemingly unphased by the potential danger. Within moments they came to a small group of Le-Matoran scuttling through bushes and cutting into enormous trees. These Matoran did not wear the beautifully crafted protodermis masks that Taipu had come to expect. Instead, their faces were covered by Krana, masks made of flesh instead of metal. Taipu had heard that wearing the Krana made a Matoran enslaved to it, in much the same way that Makuta's infected masks allowed him to control Rahi. Taipu swallowed hard as Onepu boldly strode forward in his heavy Boxor. "Fine villagers of Le-Koro!" Onepu shouted. "I know you can still hear me! End this ceaseless destruction now! Remove your Krana and take up arms against the Lehvak who order you to defile your homes!" The Le-Matoran turned to face them, their eyes narrowed and determined. One stepped forward. "Greetings, brothers," he said in a calm, yet commanding tone. "We wish for you to join us. Step down from your machines and help us clean this land of impurities." Behind half-burnt bushes stirred a half-dozen emerald-green Lehvak, moving to investigate the disturbance. When they noticed the trio of Matoran not wearing Krana, they raised their claws in anticipation of a struggle. "The Great Spirit would not want to see his paradise destroyed like this!" shouted Taipu, hoping that he might get through to the Matoran before the Lehvak attacked. "This is madness!" "'Madness' would be trying to prevent the Bohrok from completing our task," said the Krana-Matoran. "Why do you insist on preventing us from completing our duty?" Taipu noticed two Lehvak rolling to his right. Three more moved to block any escape to the left. Taipu checked to see if Onepu had noticed, but the Captain showed no sign that he had. "This wanton destruction cannot possibly be your duty," insisted Onepu. "Remove the Krana from your faces, or we will do it for you." Hissing, two Lehvak suddenly lurched forward, the scissor-like shields on their arms snapping open and closed. Taipu stepped forward to meet the closest one, ready to take the attack head on and anticipating the range of powers the Bohrok had at their disposal. In melee combat, he had the advantage of the Boxor's long reach, but between the Boxor's slow movements and the way it left the pilot undefended from frontal attacks, Taipu felt terribly vulnerable. Taipu's hand trembled at the controls, but he forced himself to wait for the right moment. The foremost Lehvak finally came into range, and Taipu jammed the left lever forward and the Boxor's hooked claw swung out, catching behind the Lehvak's faceplate perfectly. Taipu pulled back on the lever and ripped the faceplate open. The Lehvak stopped moving as its Krana fell helplessly to the ground, the Lehvak dropping a moment later. Taipu turned to find another target just in time to see another Lehvak slipping out of Kaj's reach, too focused on its opponent to be aware of its surroundings. Taipu pressed forward, ready to rip the Bohrok away even as he heard the sound of another Bohrok plate being ripped open nearby. Something fell on top of him, and two hands clawed at Taipu's face. Taipu yelled in shock as he clutched his mask, holding it firmly in place. A pair of angry Matoran eyes behind a Krana squinted back at him. The Matoran's grabbing hands tried to pry his mask free but they were no match for Taipu's strength. With one hand still holding his mask in place, Taipu snatched at the bright crimson Krana, but fumbled and missed. The Matoran moved to pin one of his arms against the cockpit of the Boxor. Taipu pushed against the attempt, grabbed ahold of the Krana-Matoran, and threw him to the ground. The Matoran scrambled back to his feet, backing away. Taipu moved to chase after him and – "Taipu, watch your left!" Onepu's voice shattered his focus. Taipu turned as he heard the slurp of acid being launched. The acid splashed over his mask, sizzling as it touched metal. Taipu coughed from the fumes as he pulled the mask free, feeling his fingers begin to tingle. He threw his mask to the ground. His hands felt like they were on fire, and he wiped them clean of the acid against the Boxor controls. He began to feel tired, his energy escaping without his mask. He glanced to where he had thrown it. The mask was already eroding, the eyeholes widening, giving it a sad, misshapen appearance. He barely had time to notice the Lehvak rushing him and it was all he could do to push his control forward to throw a punch from the Boxor. The Lehvak slipped to his left, reared up and prepared to launch its Krana at him. A Boxor claw appeared out of nowhere, striking the Lehvak to the side. Onepu marched forward, sending out a flurry of strikes aimed to quickly rip the Bohrok's Krana out. Taipu felt someone's arms unstrap him from the machine, but his vision was blurring and it was becoming difficult to keep his eyes on. "I've got you," came Kaj's voice, but Taipu found himself drifting away. "My mask…" he muttered as the world went dark. "My mask… my mask…" Taipu blinked the sleep out of his eyes. His hands moved groggily to check his mask. It was there. Of course it was there, he wouldn't have woken up if it wasn't. He relaxed for a moment, brushing his hand over it. Something about it didn't feel quite right. It felt bigger, it came down further beyond his chin, and in the corners of his eyes he could see it was tinted green and not black. "What happened to my mask?" "It was lost," came Onepu's voice. "Do not worry! I have procured you a replacement." Taipu pulled himself up. The sun was now high overhead, the brightness forcing him to squint. The Lehvak were lying in the mud, helpless and inactive, and there was a faint smoky scent in the air. There were no more masks on Mata Nui, not that Taipu knew of. The Toa had collected their Masks of Power, and every powerless mask left belonged to a Matoran. "Where did this one come from?" Onepu grimaced for a moment, his eyes sliding towards a bubbling lake nearby. "Best you put it out of your mind. Are you ready to continue?" Taipu pushed himself up from the dirt, and kicked his legs out to test them. "I feel good, I think." In truth, he felt awful and he couldn't stop touching the mask that wasn't quite right, but they were deep in Lehvak territory now and he wasn't about to let Onepu down. "I am glad to hear it. Mount your Boxor, we shall move out at once." The thought of the Le-Koronans remaining under the control of the Krana spurred Taipu on. As soon as he was back in control of his machine, they once again set off towards Le-Koro. Nearby, birds he didn't know the name of sang sweet songs. He hoped their homes wouldn't be destroyed like his had been. He reached a hand up to touch the edge of the strange mask, wondering where it had come from. Perhaps Onepu had taken it from a Le-Matoran's hut. Taipu had heard of villages that handed out trophy masks to particularly skilled athletes, and he remembered the ceremonial golden mask that Lewa had been granted when he and Onua had rescued the Le-Koronans from the Nui-Rama swarm. The more he thought about it, the more Taipu was convinced that it must be some sort of ceremonial mask the Le-Koronans used. Perhaps someday he would be able to return this mask to its rightful owner. "What happened to the Matoran we fought?" he asked. "They fled like cowards before we could liberate them from the Krana," answered Onepu. "Once they saw that we were defeating their Bohrok, they knew they stood no chance against our might." Taipu heard a stifled laugh from Kaj, and wondered for a moment what he could find so funny. "Thank you for saving me." He stroked his new mask one more time. "A Pakari?" "The Pakari - the Mask of Strength," answered Onepu. "Now our masks match, and you look just as strong and brave as I do!" If Taipu had to wear a new mask, he was glad it was this one. In Onu-Koro, Masks of Strength were a symbol of bravery, and were worn by both Onua, the Toa of Earth, and Onepu, the High Commander of the Ussalry. As such, the mask carried a lot of prestige. Of course, this mask only bore the shape of the Pakari - it held no real power, and a Matoran wouldn't be able to harness the abilities of a Mask of Power even if they wore one. Taipu still felt a pang of regret for the loss of his Ruru. As they got closer to Le-Koro, the chirping of birds disappeared, and the stench of burning and decay grew stronger. When they finally reached Lake Kanae, spread out below the village of Le-Koro, Taipu saw a dozen Matoran lying maskless in the dirt, moaning uselessly. A squad of Boxors furiously traded blows with a group of Lehvak while Matoran wearing Kanohi grappled with Matoran wearing Krana. "Onward!" shouted Onepu. "We must defeat the last remnants of the Lehvak and free the Le-Koronans!" He rushed forward, showing no sign of fear. Taipu's heartlight swelled at Onepu's bravery. He pushed his Boxor forward, following behind him into the furious melee. The battle was soon over. Taipu climbed out of his Boxor to help the defeated Matoran. Without their masks, the villagers were helpless. Taipu walked past the empty hull of a Bohrok to pick up yet another mask half-buried in the dirt, abandoned like so many others when the Bohrok used their Krana to control the minds of the villagers. No-one looked at the mask that he had borrowed, nor asked for it back. "Sir!" someone shouted, trying to get the attention of a captain. "Sir!" A hand grasped his arm, and it was then that Taipu realized that it was him the Matoran was shouting at. The Onu-Koronan looked at the mask Taipu was carrying. "Sir, there's a Matoran here who could use that mask!" Still clutching Taipu's arm, the Onu-Koronan led him into thick ferns. "I'm not a captain," Taipu said feebly as he pushed the leaves out of his face. "You don't need to call me 'sir'." "Oh. Sorry, I just assumed with the mask. You know what it's like." Taipu hadn't thought about it much, but he knew some Matoran would make assumptions about other Matoran based on the mask that they wore. A Mask of Strength didn't just signify that a Matoran was physically strong - it was common to assume that a wearer of the Pakari would be courageous as well. In Onu-Koro, Matoran with Pakari were often members of the Ussalry. Maybe that was the same for Le-Koronans as well. He wondered what the original owner of the mask was like - perhaps he was a heroic Kewa flier who had been knocked out of the sky. If that was the case, had Taipu really earned the right to wear this mask? He was no hero. Not really. What had he actually done, after all? He hadn't even tried to help fight the Bohrok invading his home. He hadn't been able to save Onu-Koro. No, real warriors joined the Ussalry, and his penchant for exploration didn't translate much to fighting. A real warrior wouldn't have walked face-first into a burst of acid. Did Nuparu have to deal with people assuming he was in the Ussalry too? A moment later, Taipu was shown a fallen villager struggling to stand, and Taipu placed the mask on his face. The Onu-Koronan nodded to him. "Stay here until he gets up," he suggested before running off, perhaps in search of more Matoran who needed help. While Taipu waited for the glow of the villager's eyes to appear, he caught sight of the ugly flash of a red Krana nearby. He walked over to pick it up. It was disgusting. Soft. Like muscle, but muscle without armor. Spongy too, and flexible. Not like leaves or flowers, which might show off their beauty as they swayed in the breeze. It wasn't natural for flesh to be exposed like this. A thought came into his mind, that he should take off his mask and put this one on, and he wondered how such a horrible idea could have come from him. "What are you doing?" Onepu's voice came from behind him. "That's still dangerous! Throw it on the ground, I will deal with it." "I just wanted to look at it." Taipu dropped the Krana anyway. Onepu grabbed his throwing disc and slammed the edge it into the flesh-thing three times. The Krana faded from an angry red to a gross-looking gray as a strange type of liquid began to leak out. "There. If a rahi accidentally got caught in that, it might have caused trouble. Don't you fret, I won't let the Krana hurt anyone else." Taipu supposed it was for the best. "Have you found any more Kanohi masks?" "The Le-Koronans have been finding lost masks in the treetops, so it shouldn't be long before we find a mask for everyone." Onepu watched with smile in his eyes as two Le-Koronans dropped out of a tree carrying three masks, and vaulted over a log to each place one on a maskless Matoran's face. "We've done great work here. We saved the Le-Koronans! Just look at all the villagers we've rescued." "What about the mask I'm wearing? Doesn't it belong to one of them?" Onepu's eyes drooped. "I told you not to worry about that. Wherever he is, it's probably far away from here." "Do you think Nuparu will have found him?" "Perhaps." Onepu's voice was commanding, but he didn't look at Taipu as he spoke. "I expect he's found another mask of his own. You don't need to worry about him anymore, that mask is yours now." They watched as more Le-Koronans slowly converged nearby, one wailing over the destruction of their home by their own hands. "But where will we go now?" asked Taipu. "Onu-Koro is flooded, Le-Koro is destroyed, and the Bohrok will return." "There are other villages," answered Onepu. "Surely they will take us in." "Ta-Koro," said Turaga Whenua. "It is heavily fortified, maintains a militant defense force, and most importantly, is nearby. Vakama will welcome us all into his protection. Onepu, Taipu, please gather the Matoran so that we can soon march to Ta-Wahi." Taipu nodded in agreement. "Of course, Turaga." They stood on the plains of Le-Wahi, where Nuparu had led a squad of Boxors against the Nuhvok. Even now, Nuparu was hard at work directing some helpers to build a new Boxor from the remains of their enemies. Two villages worth of Matoran filled the field. "Whenua, I would like to take Nuparu to Ga-Koro." Takua spoke to the Turaga with a familiarity that most outsiders wouldn't be comfortable with. "We haven't heard from the Ga-Koronans since the Bohrok emerged. They might be able to make use of a Boxor if they're in trouble." Whenua took a moment, as he always did when answering such questions. It was not his way to respond hastily. "I should have known you wouldn't return with us to your home, Chronicler. Take Damek with you as well. One Boxor may not be enough to make a difference, but two might - and Nuparu has already built enough for us to be able to spare a few!" "Thank you, Whenua," answered Takua with a gleam in his eyes. Their group soon headed off again. Onepu led the march with a group of Boxors, but Taipu had given his to one of the victims of the Bohrok attacks who had not entirely recovered from a splash of acid to his foot which made walking difficult. Taipu didn't mind. He relished the opportunity to really appreciate a walk through the Le-Wahi forest. Although the lush greenery and thick air served to remind him that his underground home was gone, it comforted him to know that the curious creatures eating the fruit in the treetops still had a home in the jungle. The Toa would find a way to stop the Bohrok, but in the meantime he knew he would have to work to protect the island. It wasn't just home to the Onu-Matoran, or even the Matoran in general. Hundreds of species of wild rahi nested on this island. At first, Taipu had marched alongside Onepu, but he soon fell back in the hopes that he might find someone who would recognize the mask he now wore. But all Taipu received from the normally chatty Le-Koronans were pained eyes staring back, their voices too weary from the loss of their homes to hold a conversation with a stranger. Eventually, he spotted a pair of familiar eyes. "Tamaru!" He waved, shouting excitedly. "Tamaru! Hello!" Tamaru glanced up and down at Taipu. "Hello, ground-walker," he answered. "Need help with something?" "I just wanted to say 'hello' to you." "Didn't know I was so far-famed," said Tamaru, sounding embarrassed. "Who are you?" Taipu almost growled. "I'm Taipu!" "Oh. Oh! Forgive but I knew not who you were! Fresh mask you have, wondered what earth-dweller wore such a color!" Taipu crossed his arms, feeling his frustration rise. "Just because I'm wearing a new mask?" "Never seen an earth-dweller wearing tree-bright colors," said Tamaru. Taipu clenched a fist, but said nothing. Regardless, the two walked quietly together for some time. Taipu tried to not let his bitterness over not being recognized get the better of him, and before he knew it the jungle smells had put him at ease and his anger was forgotten. Even so, the endless weight of sadness pressed down upon him. Up ahead, Taipu could still see Onepu and the rest of his squad keeping a watchful eye out for any sign of Bohrok. So far they hadn't encountered any. "Good to be long-walking with you again," said Tamaru. "It is good!" answered Taipu, with an enthusiasm he didn't feel. His eyes drooped to the dirt path. After a moment, he mumbled, "Both our villages are gone." "But Matoran long-live," said Tamaru. "Ground-walkers saved Le-Koronans, so Le-Koro lives on. Even in dark-time, Matoran have unity." Tamaru's optimism was infectious, and Taipu nodded in agreement. "You're right. There is still hope for our island, so long as we can work together." "Perhaps in peace-time Onu-Koro will be rebuilt." "I think so. We have always been miners and diggers, and so we will mine and dig again." Taipu took care to climb over a fallen tree branch. "And Le-Koro, too, perhaps, will be rebuilt." Tamaru's eyes lit up for a moment. "Jungle always grows. Many-years it takes, but Le-Koro is not ever-gone." He pointed to what looked like a clearing a touch to the right of their path. "Lake Pala coming up. Many-time been but not recently. Will show, if you allow it." Tamaru darted off the path. Taipu followed, cutting off a Matoran riding an Ussal crab. He barely registered the angry shouts that followed after him as he tried to catch up to the much faster Le-Koronan. Tamaru was already sitting at the waterside when Taipu got there. For a moment, Taipu thought he must be at the ocean. The lake seemed to go on and on forever, with trees only tiny little dots in the distance. Little birds drank from the lakeside and a strange creature with a mask covering its back slowly drifted across the surface of the lake. He thought there was enough water here to flood Onu-Koro a hundred times over. The reflections of leaves and branches caught his attention and when Taipu looked down, he saw a Le-Matoran staring back at him from the water's surface. It took him only a moment to realize that it was his reflection. His mask looked so different from the way he was used to seeing it when he looked into the waters in the Cavern of Light. If he didn't know who he was, then how would anyone else? He closed his eyes and wished that when he opened them that everything would go back to the way they were. His home drained of water, his mask back to normal. When his eyes came back on, the Le-Matoran was still staring back at him. Lush trees gave way to rocks and hillsides, revealing their destination. Ta-Wahi was all jagged edges and flat plains, and rising smoke marked where open flows of lava streaked down from the Mangai Volcano. However, despite the region's history, there was still greenery here. Groves of trees bore berries and fruits, and Taipu could hear the bleats of Mahi goats as they munched on grass. They soon passed through what must once have been a thriving forest, now dead and desolate. Taipu knew about this place. Once this forest had provided an abundance of food to the Ta-Koronans, but the Ta-Koro Guard had set it aflame to stop Makuta's beasts from attacking the village. Would this happen to the rest of Mata Nui as well? If the Toa couldn't stop the Bohrok, what would? Life on Mata Nui would end. "Almost there," Tamaru panted as they marched up the slopes. In the distance, Taipu could make out the stone tops of a great fortress. "Oh, heat-dry Ta-Wahi is leaving me mouth-parched!" Ta-Koronan guards with their bidents and shields shouted out a warning of the approaching Matoran. As they approached, Taipu could see the bubbling lava stream to his right. The glowing oranges reminded him of the magma in Onu-Koro - dangerous, yet beautiful. Perhaps this was a small part of his home that had survived. They passed through a majestic stone building that would put the Po-Koronan carvers to shame, and Taipu laid his eyes on the familiar Lake of Fire that Ta-Koro rose out of. Four guards carried the husk of a defeated Pahrak over to the edge of the lake. In a coordinated movement, the guards hurled the Bohrok off the ledge to be consumed by the lava. There was a shout from a nearby guard tower. A moment later, great stones began to rise from just above the lava. The air was sweltering - already he could see Tamaru panting - but the sight of the lake of fire filled him with a sense of awe. Taipu carefully placed a foot onto the stone bridge. Despite having just risen from the molten moat, it was surprisingly cool to the touch. As the caravan reached the other side of the stone bridge Turaga Vakama, the leader of Ta-Koro, stepped out onto the platform to greet them. Taipu spotted his friend Kapura standing at Vakama's left hand. The refugees piled into the fortress. With so many Matoran in Ta-Koro's courtyard, some were forced to climb up on ramps and steps, while others gathered around Toa Tahu's Suva. Turaga Whenua and Matau approached Vakama, and the three spoke in hushed tones that Taipu couldn't make out. Taipu remained silent, but murmurs began to spread throughout the group of survivors. Suddenly, Vakama thrust the end of his fire staff into the ground, and raised his hand. "The Village of Fire welcomes its friends from the Villages of Earth and Air," he said. "Our dwellings may be limited in number, but as long as the Bohrok threaten your homes you will find safety within these walls." Despite his enthusiasm, it took a long time for Vakama to organize shelter for everyone. Storage sheds had to be repurposed, and Ta-Koronans had to make room in their homes for the newcomers. Grumbling Matoran carried tools and furniture for the refugees as everyone tried to make room in a village in which the population had tripled in a single day. Taipu slipped away from the long, tedious discussions. He walked back over the stone bridge, down the staircase carved into the stone itself and to the very edge of the lava flows. A Ta-Koro Guardsman watched as Taipu reached the edge of the river, but said nothing. Taipu's throat was incredibly dry, and he had to work to hold back a cough. If it was hot inside the fortress, it was scorching down here. He reached down to pick up a pile of ash. His hand felt like it might burn, but he smeared it over his mask anyway, trying to turn it black. He couldn't be sure he had spread it evenly without a river to peer into, and he accidentally breathed in some of the ashes, coughing uncontrollably for a moment. His hands were covered in soot, but he grabbed for more ash despite his hands feeling like they were on fire. "What are you doing?" Taipu nearly fell over. He turned around to see Kapura watching him. "How did you get here?" "I saw you leaving the village, so I followed. Ashes do not make for good paint - not unless they are mixed with water." Taipu felt his face get even hotter. "I wanted to see what it would be like." "You can buy paint in Ta-Koro, if you wish," answered Kapura. "Will you take me there?" asked Taipu. "I will, but we will have to be quick. I am to head to Ko-Koro to bring word of them to Vakama." Kapura squinted as he carefully looked over Taipu. "Who are you?" Taipu almost couldn't believe his ears. He felt a sob catch in his throat as he realized his efforts were for naught. "It's me, Taipu!" "Oh. New mask." Taipu seethed as they walked back up towards Ta-Koro. Not just one, but two of his friends had failed to recognize him. His hands balled up into fists, and his palms throbbed with pain as he realized they were burnt. He drew a deep breath, and coughed from the ashes. "I can't believe you didn't recognize me," complained Taipu. "Neither did Tamaru. No-one knows who I am anymore." "Then you should put your old mask back on. Then we will know who you are." "It's gone," Taipu uttered. "Oh." Kapura finally made it to the top step, and they set back off under the gate. Taipu followed, thinking of all the things he could do. Paint might help him feel a little bit more normal, but he really needed to get a Ruru. Although there were hundreds of Matoran in Ta-Koro, he worried that they would be too busy to trade masks. Who would want to worry about masks that at a time like this? "Taipu," said Kapura. "Would you like to come to Ko-Koro with me?" Ko-Koro meant snow, something he had only ever seen a handful of times. It was lovely there, even if the Ko-Koronans didn't say much. "Oh, yes! I would love to!" His anger was forgotten, but Taipu still thought about it for a moment. "Can we paint my mask first?" "Yes. You will have to be quick. I will pack supplies, and then we will head off." His mask had dried, leaving it black and scaled. With a bamboo disk in his hand, Taipu prepared to set off. Kapura met him at the gate - along with Tamaru. "I'm coming too!" exclaimed Tamaru. "With the three of us together again, it will be like when we ground-walked to Kini-Nui with Takua!" "We do not have very far to go, but we should set off," said Kapura. "Should we bring a Boxor?" asked Taipu. Kapura shook his head. "We will be going by cable car. Vakama has asked Onepu to travel to Ko-Koro with two Boxors, but they will have to take the long way. We will reach Ko-Koro first." "Cable car?" asked Tamaru. "The most direct way to reach Ko-Koro is by the cable car that spans over the Tren Krom Break," explained Kapura. "The Bohrok have not yet reached it." The guard at the cable car stepped aside as soon as he saw Kapura, but Kapura flashed his symbol anyway. One by one, the Matoran fastened themselves to the cable that spanned over the lava flows. Eyes wide, Tamaru shivered when he reached the opposite ledge, but Taipu helped him to his feet and the three adventurers set off again. "Do you think that Ko-Koro is still there?" asked Taipu, as they trekked through the snow. Kapura's eyes drooped for a moment. "If Ko-Koro is unharmed, it will not be for long. Ko-Koro is well protected by Mount Ihu, but it has fewer guards than Onu-Koro or Le-Koro. That is why we are providing support." "But then why are you the only one being sent?" asked Taipu. "Vakama could send an army!" "Ta-Koro lost many members of the guard when we fought against the Makuta's beasts," explained Kapura. "Vakama has already allowed Jaller to travel to Ga-Koro. If more of the guard leave then there will be none left to protect Ta-Koro." The path to Ko-Koro ran through numerous narrow passageways of ice and rock. Cold winds blew through the ridges. Kapura shivered, but sternly marched on at a steady pace. Taipu marveled at the sights. Despite being so exposed to the wind and elements even as they walked by enormous outcroppings, he wasn't about to let the cold spoil his enjoyment. The snow glistened in the sunlight, painting Ko-Wahi with a white sheen. They got closer and closer to Ko-Koro, beginning to pass by entire cliffs that looked as though they were carved out of the ice. Distracted by the beautiful peaks, Taipu forgot to take care with his footing until he felt his feet begin to slip. He overcompensated and fell, knocking his head on the frozen lake beneath him. It only stung a little, but as he pulled himself up, he saw his reflection in the ice. The obsidian-colored mask looked less jarring than the bright green he last saw himself in, but he still cringed at the appearance of the Mask of Strength. He supposed it should fit him. He had often been praised by his fellow miners for his endless strength and stamina, and he had long admired Onepu and the Ussalry. Yet, despite having modeled himself after Onepu's bravery, he didn't really think he had earned the right to wear a mask of a warrior. He was only a miner, after all. It was silly, he knew - Matoran wore masks that didn't match their personalities all the time, and very few ever chose to trade them. Still, each mask had a meaning behind it and Taipu couldn't help but think about how that reflected on himself. Those that wore the Ruru were thought to be like Turaga Whenua, offering wisdom and shining a light forward in the darkness. As Taipu was the Left Hand of Whenua, he had always tried to emulate those traits. He still had a long way to go, but he felt he had made some progress, and what he lacked in sagely advice he made up for in enthusiasm. Regardless, he was proud of wearing the same mask as the Turaga of Onu-Koro. "Don't worry about ice-admiring," said Tamaru, holding a hand out to help him up. "Close to Ko-Koro now, let us hurry over-snow to reach it!" Ko-Koro loomed in the distance. Taipu hurried on, trying to keep up with Tamaru and Kapura's pace until they passed through the crystal-like gates. Chaos awaited them, the once peaceful village bursting with frenzied activity. A trio of warriors rushed up the stairs to the largest building, the Sanctum, where more shouts were echoing from. Two Matoran huddled near a hut carved out of ice, their whimpering loud enough to cut through the clanging from the soldiers' armor. A villager peered from a dwelling, before sneaking around the side, a knapsack bursting with trophies and tablets clutched in his hands. Without breaking his stride, Kapura continued on into the Sanctum. Taipu and Tamaru exchanged glances, and hurried up behind him through the enormous archway. To Taipu's surprise, the Sanctum was full of dozens of guards, each grasping a pickaxe. Lantern flames danced around the chamber, providing enough light to read the writing that covered every inch of the stone walls. To the left, guards ran in pairs into a tunnel had been bored into the wall of the Sanctum itself.
  12. For this year’s exchange I was asked to write a story for Glimmer. His prompts included mystery and comedy, so with that in mind I set about crafting the tale of… Detective Jaiya and the Baffling Barrier The main floor of the Archives was as busy as ever, but this time it was for all the wrong reasons. There were as many Vahki as there were exhibits, and though only a handful of nervous Matoran worked alongside them, a massive, bustling crowd swelled at the edge of the perimeter they had established, hundreds of Matoran all pushing and straining for a look at the law enforcers at work. At first glance, nothing was wrong in the area they had sectioned off: every display was perfectly lined up, not the slightest crack in their cases and hardly a speck of dust upon them. Even the massive, shimmering barrier protecting a very special exhibit appeared to be in perfect order. But a closer look at that very barrier would reveal that, for some reason, there was nothing behind it. “Simply exquisite,” one of the Matoran said. “Truly a wondrous work of modern art. All this security set up to protect what we hold most dear, but in truth what we value most…means nothing.” Another Matoran squinted at them. “What? No, there’s been a robbery. The exhibit that’s supposed to be there is missing.” The first Matoran closed his eyes. “…Are you sure?” “Uh, yeah. Don’t you remember? An ancient sculpture was brought to Turaga Dume a month ago, and when he had it analyzed they found it wasn’t made out of protodermis. Until a more thorough study could be commissioned, it was given to the Archives to be displayed, but they were required to implement some special security—word had gotten out and the Turaga was worried someone might try to steal the artifact. They spent a fortune on this shield, more than they usually spend in an entire year, but looks like it didn’t get the job done.” The first Matoran nodded slowly as he absorbed this exposition, and then sheepishly backed away into the crowd. Two Rorzakh maintaining the perimeter looked up suddenly. The disorganized masses were parting ever so slightly, and through the opening came two figures: one an Onu-Matoran wearing a purple Kaukau, and the other yet another Rorzakh. The guards moved aside to allow the pair past, and then quickly stepped back together before anyone else could slip through. Behind them, the two newcomers slowed to a halt in front of the strange barrier, the Matoran reaching his hand towards it. A powerful repulsive force pushed back against him, halting his advance inches from the surface. “Detective Jaiya!” The Onu-Matoran turned to see a very flustered-looking Archivist running up to him. The Rorzakh beside him stepped forward, saying, “UNKNOWN ENTITY APPROACHING! ENGAGING DEFENSIVE PROTOCOLS!” While the Archivist skidded to a halt, the detective calmly raised his hand. “Easy, Roz. Disengage.” The Vahki turned to him. “…BUT…” “Disengage.” “…UNDERSTOOD,” Roz said, drooping as they stepped back. “Apologies,” Jaiya said to the Archivist, “my partner can be a bit excitable. Name please?” “Uh, my name is Dumon,” the Archivist replied. “…Your Vahki talks?” “ALL VAHKI SPEAK,” Roz said. “THIS UNIT SIMPLY DOES SO AT A SPEED AND PITCH DISCERNABLE TO THE AVERAGE MATORAN.” “I-I see.” “I PROPOSE THAT DUMON IS THE CULPRIT.” “What?!” “CULPRITS ARE KNOWN TO RETURN TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.” “I work here!” “ARRESTING NOW!” “Roz,” Jaiya said, “disengage. We lack proper evidence to be certain.” Roz paused for a few seconds, and then turned around and squatted. “Apologies again,” Jaiya said. “Dumon, what can you tell me about the theft?” Eying Roz warily, the Archivist said, “Uh, well…as you know, recently a strange sculpture—“ “Yes,” Jaiya said, “that exposition has already been covered, please skip ahead.” “Oh, of course. We installed this shield to keep the artifact safe: it’s an experimental barrier based on chute technology, making it easy to maintain and virtually impenetrable at its maximum settings. Yesterday’s showing went fine, and when we closed up for the night, we left a Matoran guard right next to it as an added precaution. I came in today to find the shield intact, but the artifact missing. I don’t understand what happened! The Head Archivist is furious about this, he—“ Roz sprang up. “THE GUARD WAS THE CULPRIT! LOCATING NOW!” “Disengage,” Jaiya said. “Dumon, can you tell us where the guard is? So that we may ask for his side of the story?” Dumon nodded. “We have him here. There’s also a few suspicious figures the patrol Vahki found loitering nearby, and they’ve been detained for questioning too.” “Lovely. With any luck you’ve conveniently rounded up just the people I need to talk to in order to get this sorted out. Let’s get started.” The Archivist led the pair down a corridor, eventually stopping at a rather cramped break room with one table and an empty vending machine. Another Onu-Matoran was already inside, as well as two other Rorzakh, and they all looked up in surprise as the door opened. “UNITS IDENTIFIED,” Roz said. “EXPRESSING DISPLEASURE AT SEEING ZK-87 AGAIN.” One of the Rorzakh shook their head, emitting a series of beeps. “ERRONEOUS! THAT INCIDENT WAS CAUSED BY XH-22—NO BLAME IS TO BE PLACED ON THIS UNIT!” The Rorzakh waved their staff as they replied. “SUCH COMMENTS ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE REVISED 3RD EDITION ETIQUETTE HANDBOOK! YOU WILL BE REPRIMANDED!” Jaiya stepped forward, announcing, “Excuse me. Would you mind giving Roz and me a moment with this guard? I believe we have a significant chance of progressing our understanding of the case.” After exchanging a look, the two Rorzakh reluctantly walked out of the room, glaring at Roz as they did. Dumon stepped out behind them and shut the door. “It wasn’t me!” the guard said. “I know this looks bad, detective, but it wasn’t me! I swear!” Roz started to say something, but Jaiya tapped their arm and motioned. The Vahki took a few steps to the side, and Jaiya sat down at the table, folded his hands, and said, “Name please.” “Uh…Tinnei.” “Tinnei, tell me what happened.” Nodding, the guard shifted in his seat and looked down at the table. “Um, thing is, I’ve been making some big mistakes lately. The Head Archivist was threatening to fire me, but I’ve been trying real hard to turn it around, you know? So when he gave me this post guarding this special thing—“ “I only need to know about last night,” Jaiya interrupted. “Oh, uh, right. So I was here, you know, watching the exhibit, but at some point around, uh…” He took a very long time to think. “Half past four? I guess? I felt something. It was this super painful shock, like sticking your hand in a power socket.” Jaiya raised an eyebrow. “Have you done that?” Tinnei’s eyes widened. “Wh—bah, who, me? No! No, never! But, ah, point is, I passed out from the pain, and when I woke up, well, uh, the thing was gone. That’s it.” “FALSEHOOD SUSPECTED,” Roz said, leaning forward. “I don’t think so,” Jaiya said. “He doesn’t seem capable of telling a convincing lie.” “Yeah, I’m not!” Tinnei said with a smile. “Thanks detective, I knew you’d understand!” “I think that’s all we need from you. You’re free to go.” Tinnei breathed a deep sigh of relief as he left the room. Dumon poked his head in and asked, “Well?” Jaiya shook his head. “It wasn’t him. He’s not clever enough to pull this off.” “Ah. I thought as much.” “I should ask, what other security does the Archives have?” “Well we’ve got a few squadrons of Vahki, but they didn’t register anything out of the ordinary last night. There’s also the cameras, but they all went out at the same time…we still don’t have an explanation for that either.” Jaiya rubbed his chin. “Hm. Interesting.” Roz walked over, asking, “WHO IS THE CULPRIT?” “Hard to say. Dumon, who else was detained?” “We’ve got a Ko-Matoran with a shady background who has been very vocal about his distaste for the Archives. He was stalking around outside early this morning, and tried to run when we asked what he was doing.” “Well he sounds a bit too obvious, but bring him in anyway.” Dumon was off. Roz said, “I RECOMMEND WE ARREST THE KO-MATORAN. CASE SOLVED.” “You’re jumping the gun, Roz,” Jaiya said as he sat back down. “ERRONEOUS. I HAVE NOT LEFT THE GROUND, AND THERE IS NO FIREARM DETECTED NEARBY.” Jaiya sighed. “Just calm down, please?” Roz grumbled to themselves and went back to stand in the corner. It wasn’t long before the Ko-Matoran was brought into the room. His eyes darted about as he circled the table, finally coming to rest on Jaiya as the detective raised his hand in greeting. “Name please.” “It wasn’t me!” the Ko-Matoran shouted, recoiling as the words exploded out of him. “First I need your name.” Crossing his arms, the Ko-Matoran said, “What for, eh? You think you’re gonna get me talkin’, think I’m gonna confess to something for ya? Well I ain’t guilty!” “Please tell me your name.” The Ko-Matoran eyed Jaiya cautiously for a few seconds, and then slowly pulled out a chair and sat down. “…Name’s Abcel. And you are?” “Detective Jaiya.” “Here to solve the robbery, eh? It wasn’t me!” Jaiya nodded and asked, “Why were you brought into custody?” “Beats me!” Abcel said, throwing his hands up. “I was just walkin’ by, mindin’ my own business, then some Vahki grab me and drag me in here! Just takin’ a nice, leisurely stroll through your lovely Metru! I didn’t do anything wrong!” Roz turned their head. “YOU ARE NOT NATIVE TO THIS METRU. YOUR PRESENCE IS VERY SUSPICIOUS!” “It is curious,” Jaiya said. “I’ve also been told you’re not a fan of the Archives. Why go for a stroll in an unfamiliar Metru, one that you’re known to have a grievance with?” Abcel averted his gaze, scratching his head as he reclined in his chair. “Well, eh, I was just, eh…look of course I’m not a fan of this dusty ol’ place, how many Ko-Matoran are? Is it so wrong I can’t wrap my head around why the Turaga would want to put that precious artifact on display here when our labs could be makin’ some real progress?” Roz suddenly approached the table. “INCOMING REPORT FROM CENTRAL HIVE. SEARCH OF YOUR LIVING QUARTERS HAS REVEALED SEVERAL PIECES OF CONTRABAND. YOU ARE GUILTY! ARRESTING NOW!” Abcel leapt to his feet, shouting, “Hey, hey! Easy! Easy!” Before Jaiya could say anything, Roz vaulted over the table and tackled Abcel to the ground, producing restraints to bind his wrists and then hauling him back to his feet. The Vahki turned to lead the Matoran out, but Jaiya was up now, standing in their way. “Hold on, Roz.” “HE IS IN POSSESSION OF CONTRABAND! HE IS A CRIMINAL, AND THUS MUST BE ARRESTED!” “I’m not disputing that. But tell me: was the sculpture found in this search?” After a moment, Roz answered, “NEGATIVE.” Jaiya turned to Abcel. “Then we still have questions to ask.” Abcel sighed deeply. “…Look, detective. I didn’t steal the thing. Would I really lie about it now that you’re already takin’ me in?” “Hard to say.” “Yeesh. Alright, I may’ve heard from…certain sources…that someone was planning to sell the exhibit. So, I was curious, y’know? I came to take a look if it was still here. But it was long gone by the time I arrived. Ya believe that, at least, right?” Jaiya tapped his foot as he thought. “Did your sources specify when or where this sale was going to take place?” “Nah, none of that. People in, ah…a certain line of work…learn not to offer more information than is needed, y’know? But if I had to make a guess, I did catch wind that Xia was in the market for rare metal. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were involved.” “I see. Thank you for your help, Abcel.” “Yeah, yeah…” Jaiya stepped aside, allowing Roz to shove Abcel out the door and into the hands of another Rorzakh. Dumon said, “Was it him after all?” “No, he was arrested on different charges,” Jaiya said. Dumon groaned. “So we’re still no closer to finding the artifact? Oh dear, the Head Archivist won’t like to hear that…” “We are closer. He says someone is planning to sell the sculpture, most likely to Xia.” “Xia?! There’s no way we’ll see it again!” Jaiya turned to Roz. “Notify the hive: block off all ports until further notice. If we’re lucky, it might still be in the city.” Roz nodded and turned aside to send the message. Dumon said, “So what now? We just wait for the Vahki to comb the city looking for it?” “That would take much too long,” Jaiya said. “We need a way to narrow it down. If only we could figure out how the crime was committed, then we’d have a better idea of what to look for. Maybe if we knew more about how this special barrier works?” “Well, we have two people from the company that made it here right now.” “Perfect! Send them in!” Jaiya sat and waited. He could hear shouting long before Dumon opened the door again. Two Le-Matoran were brought in, one of them yelling angrily at the other—the second tried to greet Jaiya, but the first cut him off. “I hope you’re happy, numbskull!” he was saying. “Who’s gonna want to do business with you now, huh? This is on you!” “Sykit, please!” said the other. “We’re here to get to the bottom of this. We can settle blame later!” “I’ve got it settled already.” Sykit turned to Jaiya. “Oi, can you arrest this guy for incompetence?” Blinking slowly, Jaiya said, “Um, I believe we should start at the top. Your names, please?” The other Le-Matoran shook Jaiya’s hand and said, “Torpat, sir. I run the shop that invented the barrier technology. This is—“ “I’m the one who actually made it,” Sykit interrupted. “I told this idiot it wasn’t ready! It’s still in the experimental stages, years away from being ready for public release! But no, the Archives were willing to pay you handsomely for it, so you just sold it without any regard for the consequences, didn’t you? Short-sighted oaf.” Torpat sighed. “Detective, we just want to help you solve this case. What can we do to make that happen?” “I would like to know more about how the barrier works,” Jaiya said. “Same as any chute,” Sykit said, crossing his arms. “You just need liquid protodermis and a way to maintain the high magnetic field density and you’re good to go.” “And in what ways could it be disabled?” “Flip the off switch.” Roz took a step forward. “OFF SWITCH FOR BARRIER IS LOCATED IN ARCHIVES CENTRAL SECURITY CONTROL ROOM. VAHKI PATROL REPORTS NO UNAUTHORIZED INTERACTION WITH CONTROL ROOM AROUND THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT.” Sykit’s eyes went wide as he turned to look at Roz. Murmuring to himself, he said, “Standardized speech? Never seen a Vahki wired for that. It sounds almost natural—must’ve been a heck of a job. And now that I look at it, that custom finish is gorgeously subtle.” “NO ONE EVER NOTICES!” Roz said. “YOU ARE DESIGNATED AS ONE WITH GOOD TASTE.” Meanwhile, Torpat took Jaiya by the shoulder. “Please, detective: this much bad publicity could shut down our shop. Isn’t there some proof that our technology isn’t what’s at fault here?” Jaiya shrugged. “Hard to say. But if the switch wasn’t used, it certainly seems like someone found another way through it.” Torpat wrung his hands. “Dear me…how did this happen? We only just installed it! Who could have known so quickly, and who could know the machine so well that they could find a way to disable it?” He stood there a few moments longer, and then he gasped, turned, and pointed at Sykit. The other Le-Matoran was almost too busy admiring Roz to notice. “Wait, what?” he said. “You can’t be serious!” “You have all the necessary insider information!” Torpat said. “Motive, too! You were so against me selling the barrier—now that it’s failed, you’ve been proven right, and taken your revenge on me!” Sykit stalked forward, saying, “Listen here, dimwit! I don’t have to stoop to the level of exploiting unfinished work to make you look bad! I take pride in my work—you think I want something I made failing? That’s why I was so against this sale in the first place!” “Oh, I’m sure. Do you have an alibi?” “I was working! You’d know that if you weren’t out celebrating! Just ask anyone at the shop, they’ll tell you I was at my station!” Jaiya stepped between the two of them. “Calm down, everyone. Roz, can we verify that?” “VERIFIED,” the Vahki said. “SYKIT IS ON SECURITY FOOTAGE FROM HIS WORKPLACE.” Torpat grumbled something as he shuffled off to the side of the room. Sykit grinned and said, “Roz? That’s cute. You come up with that?” “No, that was the chief,” Jaiya said. Leaning in closer, he added, “You’re not the only one who finds your superior troublesome.” “Hah! Glad to know!” Jaiya backed up and grabbed his chair, spinning it around before sitting so he could face the door. “Well then. At the moment it seems our culprit managed to get past the chute barrier somehow, without outright destroying it. Can you think of any way that might have been done, Sykit?” Sykit threw his hands up. “Beats me.” “What if the culprit had a degree of control over electricity?” Sykit craned his neck. “What?” “The guard on-duty claimed he was knocked out by a powerful electric shock. Could an ability such as that interface with the barrier?” “It would take more than just a shock. I mean maybe if it…” His eyes went blank as he trailed off. “…Shoot. That could actually work, couldn’t it? Why the heck didn’t I think of that?” Everyone turned towards him. Jaiya asked, “You’ve got something?” “An Electro Chute Blade!” Sykit said, gesturing for emphasis. “They must’ve had one of those!” Jaiya turned to Roz. After processing a moment, the Vahki replied, “ELECTRO CHUTE BLADE. WEAPON PRODUCED PRIMARILY IN XIA UTILIZING SIMILAR PRINCIPLES TO CHUTE TECHNOLOGY. BLADE IS MADE OF LIQUID PROTODERMIS SUSPENDED IN A MAGNETIC FIELD AND ELECTRIFIED FOR STABILITY.” “It’s a canon weapon,” Sykit said, “you can look it up on BS01.” “Of course!” Torpat said. “They have knobs on the hilt to modify the field density—the blade will pass through solid objects at low density, but the electricity will still shock anyone it passes through!” “More importantly,” Sykit said, “if you got just the right polarization and field density, you could jam the barrier field just enough to make an opening. Then it’d be easy pickings. Hole would be gone as soon as the blade is taken out.” “I see,” Jaiya said, nodding along. “Yes, that does seem in-line with what we know. Someone able to obtain one of those would even have connections with Xia, and we know they’re interested in this sculpture. Roz, is there a way to—“ “IT WAS HIM!” Roz declared. Jaiya furrowed his brow. “Pardon?” “CRIME WAS COMMITED BY ABCEL! ONE ELECTRO CHUTE BLADE WAS AMONG THE CONTRABAND DISCOVERED IN HIS LIVING QUARTERS!” “You know who did it?!” Sykit said. “Great! Let’s go arrest the poor sap!” “HE IS ALREADY IN CUSTODY!” “Oh. Well, uh…good. Good.” “Hold on a moment,” Jaiya said. “When we arrested him, he said he wasn’t the one who stole the sculpture. Why not just confess, if he’s headed to jail anyway?” “Perhaps he simply wanted fewer charges,” Torpat said. “But it won’t make that much of a difference. And you said the settings on the blade would need to be precise—how could he know what those settings would be?” “KO-MATORAN HAVE ACCESS TO A WIDE VARIETY OF INFORMATION,” Roz said. “IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE TO ASSUME HE HAS GATHERED SOME KNOWLEDGE OF CHUTE FIELD DENSITY.” Jaiya stared down at the floor, putting a hand over his mouth as he said, “I don’t know. Something just doesn’t seem right…” “THE CRIME IS SOLVED. CASE CLOSED. WE MUST RETURN TO HQ TO PROVIDE A FULL REPORT.” Torpat grinned as he shook Jaiya’s hand again. “Thank you, detective! With this, we just might be able to save our reputation!” “Maybe next time you won’t hand out experimental tech like it’s a Bula basket on Naming Day!” Sykit said. Turning to Roz, he smirked and said, “Thanks for the help. If the next line of models is half as sophisticated as you I’ll know we’re in good hands.” “IT IS AN HONOR TO SERVE,” Roz said. “YOU ARE WISHED THE BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR CONTINUING ENDEAVORS.” The Le-Matoran left then, and Roz filled Dumon in on the case’s resolution. Jaiya remained silent through all of this. As they were on their way out, they bumped into Tinnei again, and upon hearing the situation the guard gave them a sad smile. “At least you got the guy,” he said. “Too bad I won’t be able to see you bring back the exhibit. I was just told I’ve been fired for letting it get stolen.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Dumon said. “Maybe we can try to convince the Head Archivist to change his mind now that the matter’s solved?” Tinnei shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think so. He’s been wanting to get rid of me for a while now. I guess this is just the excuse he needed, haha…” The former guard sighed and continued on his way. Dumon and Roz resumed walking, but after a few steps they noticed Jaiya was not with them. Turning back, Dumon said, “Detective?” Jaiya’s eyes were focused, but on what, no one could tell. The Onu-Matoran caught up in a few quick steps. “Roz. I want you to cancel the request to have the ports blocked off.” “EXCLAMATION! REPEAT ORDER FOR CLARITY!” “Leave the ports be. I think I’ve figured out what’s been bothering me, and I know just how to find out for sure.” *** Curup, the Head Archivist, was just reaching for the door handle when a knock came from the other side. He paused a moment in surprise, and then set down what he was carrying and punched a number into the keypad, opening the door to find Jaiya standing there. “Ah, detective!” Curup greeted, clasping his hands together and smiling brightly. “I’m glad to see you: I wanted to thank you personally for your hard work in solving this case!” “I am happy to help,” Jaiya said. “Though, thanks feel a bit premature since we’ve yet to discover where Abcel has hidden the sculpture.” “Nonsense, the hard work is done! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we have our exhibit back.” Curup headed back towards his desk. Jaiya came further into the room, shutting the door behind him; the detective’s gaze wandered as he said, “Well, thank you for the vote of confidence. I was a bit nervous coming here: Dumon said you were livid when the theft was discovered.” “Indeed I was,” Curup said, reaching down to flip through some papers. “Wouldn’t anyone be angry in such a position?” “Most certainly. However, it did strike me as a bit odd that you weren’t on the scene. I would assume you’d want to be as close as possible to stay on top of matters.” Curup nodded as he slid the papers into a folder. “Yes, I would have preferred to, but regrettably I had some other matters to attend to. The Archives cannot grind to a halt for one theft, regardless of how great the loss.” Jaiya took a seat. “I imagine this will be quite the blow. I’m told you pushed quite fervently for the chute barrier, and spent a great deal on it despite typically being very frugal. You must have believed in it.” “That I did,” Curup said, looking up for only a second before reaching for a drawer. “But, I think I’ll find a way to make back what we spent. Having one less guard on the payroll certainly helps in that.” “Ah, yes, Tinnei. He mentioned he’d been having some trouble lately.” “Since he began. He’s been a nuisance for so long, his departure is the only silver lining of this whole fiasco.” Jaiya leaned back. “Curious. If you feel that way about him, then why did you trust him to guard such a valuable exhibit, especially one you knew to be at risk? I would think you would choose a more reliable guard, or perhaps a dedicated Vahki or two.” Curup slowly slid the drawer shut. “…Well…I thought it might be nice to give him a chance. But if he can’t even handle one Ko-Matoran, then firing him is simply the wisest course of action.” Jaiya hummed. “Isn’t it remarkable, Curup? That Abcel was able to short out the security cameras, slip past the Vahki, and find the exact right setting that would allow him to get through the barrier? All immediately after it was set up. Most criminals would need more time to become that familiar with their opposition, but it’s as if he knew what measures you were going to put in place as soon as you decided upon them.” Curup stared at Jaiya as the detective rose to his feet. “Yes, remarkable.” “But more than that…I cannot believe that he would lie about committing this crime after being arrested.” “Detective…are you saying you think someone else stole the sculpture?” Jaiya nodded. “I believe so.” Curup inclined his head. “I see. Then who, would you guess, is the true culprit?” Jaiya turned and took a few slow steps. “It would need to be someone who knows the Archives very well, and could disable its security cameras at just the right time. Someone who would have intimate knowledge of the chute barrier, knowing exactly how to disable it. Someone whose profession would make communications with a place like Xia seem like normal business.” Curup said nothing. “That’s a large suitcase sitting next to your door, Curup,” Jaiya observed. “Are you going on a business trip?” He received no response. When he turned around, Curup had an Electro Chute Blade in hand, the tip mere inches from Jaiya’s mask. “You really do notice the little things, detective,” Curup said. “It’s a shame you couldn’t just leave well enough alone—no one would question that a lowlife like Abcel stole it, and soon enough they’d just forget and the whole thing would blow over. Would that have been so bad?” “My job is to find the truth,” Jaiya said. “And the truth is that you arranged things in just the right way that you would be able to steal the sculpture and sell it to Xia.” Curup sighed. “It worked perfectly, too. But now that you’ve shown your hand, I’ll have to dispose of you, find a way to make it look like an accident…goodness, I’m going to need to hurry to catch my boat.” Jaiya shook his head. “You aren’t going to Xia, Curup.” “Beg pardon? You are unarmed. My door locks automatically, and requires a password from either side—you have no escape.” “Answer me this, Curup. Do you know how the Rorzakh’s Staff of Presence operates?” Curup stopped to think. The realization dawned on him mere moments before Roz broke down the door. “HEAD ARCHIVIST CURUP!” the Vahki shouted. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!” Jaiya dove to the side as Roz came barreling through. Curup twisted and swung, managing to make contact with Roz’s arm. The blade passed through the Vahki, but the electricity coursing through it interacted with their circuits, shorting out the limb so that it dangled uselessly at Roz’s side. Curup grinned when he saw this. His grin faded when Roz simply fell forward on top of him, pinning him to the ground with their body. “You underestimate how stubborn Rorzakh are,” Jaiya said as he picked himself up. “IT IS TENACITY,” Roz corrected. “It’s reckless is what it is. Now hold still a moment.” With some difficulty, Jaiya cuffed Curup, and then Roz got up and hoisted the Archivist with their functional hand. Jaiya then walked over to the suitcase; undoing the latch, he opened the container to find a sculpture roughly a bio tall made of silvery metal that gleamed as if brand-new. It was shaped like some sort of lifeform, that much he could tell, but he could not recognize what kind. The body was blocky with piston-like supports around its joints, and the face reminded him of a Toa without a mask. He paused for a moment to admire it. “I’m a bit curious why Xia would want rare art,” Jaiya said, turning back to Curup. “They want the metal, you idiot,” Curup said. “Testing revealed that it’s resistant to energized protodermis—if the Vortixx have it, they can work with that substance and make even deadlier weapons.” “Ah. And they’re willing to pay well for that?” “More than I make in a decade here! How could I refuse an offer like that?” Gesturing to the sculpture, Jaiya said, “You would really destroy this just to sate you greed?” Curup rolled his eyes. “Oh, spare me. If you’re going to arrest me then just get it over with.” “AGREED!” Roz said. “THE REACTION FROM UNIT ZX-87 WILL BE VERY ENJOYABLE! WE ARE DEPARTING NOW!” Roz ushered Curup out. Dumon entered as he left, saying, “I just happened to be passing by and saw Roz taking away the Head Archivist. What’s going on, detective?” “Curup was the real thief. He abused his power and authority to steal from the Archives, all so that he could make a bit of extra money.” “Wow! That’s a surprise.” “To be frank, I don’t find it all that surprising.” “I guess I’ll go put the sculpture back on display. Though, I wonder…” “Hm?” “What is this sculpture supposed to be, anyway?” Jaiya turned and examined it once more. Something seemed vaguely familiar about this gray, strange, robot-like figure…but ultimately, he shrugged. “Hard to say.”
  13. The BZPower Fanfic Exchange 2017 What's better, giving or receiving gifts? Why not both? Not everything has to be an O. Henry story. And why not make those gifts the greatest gift of all, Bionicle fanfiction? We're bringing a time-honoured fandom tradition to BZPower this year with a fanfic exchange. It's pretty simple. You let me know what you want to write and read, I take that info and find someone wanting to write the sort of stuff you want to read, and everybody gets a-writin'. Then, in late December, you'll post your stories for your giftee and all of BZP to read. You won't know who's writing for you until then, so it's a fun little surprise. They'll most likely be a different person than who you're writing for, though. As part of the exchange, you'll submit the following info through this form. Once you receive your giftee's details, you'll have until December 26 to write your gift. There will be a couple of check-in points along the way to make sure everything's running smoothly. If you finish early, then great! The party doesn't have to stop there. You can ask me for more people's prompts, or lend your proven heroism to stepping in for someone who can't submit a gift. I may also put out an open call for people to do just that later in November. Please don't post any stories until December 26, though; part of the fun is seeing all these new stories pop up one after the other! Successfully fulfilling your end of the bargain will also qualify you for tangible prizes. Write a story, get a story, and also get a select constraction set of your choice. Not a bad deal, eh? Again, to participate, you'll need to fill out this form. If you've got anything to add between now and October 27, just PM me and let me know. After that, though, it's time to get writing! Rules 1) All stories must follow the BZPower Rules & Guidelines.. Inappropriate or offensive stories will be reprimanded. 2) Bionicle stories and prompts only, please - remember, they're the greatest gift of all! Though this topic is in Short Stories, they can be for any of the subforums (though if you're wild enough to write a full-blown epic, please see rule 5.) 3) If, for whatever reason, you think you might be late or unable to submit a gift, let me know! We can sort through just about anything as long as I know you need a little help. Just leaving your giftee hanging, however, is inadvisable and will carry consequences for you. 4) When posting your story, don't forget to say who it's for! Detective work is not a traditional element of the fanfic exchange. 5) Please don't overextend yourself; a nice short story is fine. At the same time, please make sure your gift is more than a couple of paragraphs. If a prompt really calls to you and you won't be satisfied until you write a whole epic from it, please have at least a first chapter ready to go for December 26. You'll be able to post the rest at your own pace after that. Schedule You will have from now to October 27 to sign up for the exchange. Matches will be sent out before November 5. You will have from November 5 to December 26 to write and finish your stories. -First official check-in is November 22; let me know what you're writing, or if you need help. -Second official check-in is December 10; you should have a draft you can show me. After December 26, post your stories! Please try to have them posted between December 26 and January 7, or let me know if you won't be able to get on BZP during that time. In that case, I'll send your story to your giftee so they'll be able to read their gift along with everybody else. (You'll have to send your story to me to make sure that happens, though.) Prizes Successfully fulfilling your part of the exchange means you get a select constraction set of your choice. More details will be available in December. Thanks to LEGO for the vast bounty of sets! Exchange Runner Tufi Piyufi Go on and have fun!
  14. Hero This story was based very loosely off the events of Ignition and the surrounding stories. It has been quite vastly changed to fit my storytelling needs. This story was written for Disciple, for the short story write-up jam for Christmas. I hope you all enjoy. I’m so sorry it’s so late. The entire story got very long so I decided to put it in a Google Doc. Read it here.
  15. (I decided to participate in this year's Fanfic Exchange, and was matched up with Nick Silverpen! The suggestions offered included alternate universes and Makuta, so I ended up writing about Melding Universe Antroz. Merry Christmas!) The Gargoyle Knight In the corner of the sandy plains of the Great Desert, curling protectively around the lava that flowed from Iron Canyon, was the sprawling, shimmering city of Xia. Vortixx, Agori, and Matoran hustled busily from small skyscrapers to stout factories, most moving some sort of goods or raw material. An oasis filled with clear water lay just beyond its borders, and the sky over it, while marred by a few clouds of pale smoke, still looked bright and clean. At the very center of it all was a tall tower, almost taller than the walls of the nearby canyon. A wide ledge reached out from just beneath the tower’s roof, and on one side of this ledge was perched a single being who stood above all of Xia. Much of her armor was white, but at least as much was a dull, stony shade of gray. Her hands and feet were clawed, two large, streamlined wings were attached to her shoulders, and while she wore a white and gray Kanohi Kiril, its shape had been altered just enough to give the appearance that its wearer had vicious fangs. She knelt on one knee, head bowed, eyes closed, hands locked around the hilt of the sword planted directly in front of her, its simple iron sheath having no decoration aside from the white “M”-like insignia emblazoned upon it. She was Makuta Antroz, appointed by the Great Beings as Guardian of Xia. And she was troubled. Her head inclined. The telepathic field she had laid over the city had been wavering in her introspection, but a powerful presence now shocked her senses straight, and she bowed her head once more as she teleported to its side. Antroz, still kneeling, rematerialized at the gates of Xia, and knew at once that her two guests had taken note of her arrival. One was another Makuta, whose white and gold armor shone a little more brightly than hers, possessing four arms and a weapon for each stored on her back. Her eyes pierced out from behind her gold Mask of Conjuring, quickly sizing Antroz up. The other had the appearance of a Glatorian, though the armor beneath his brown cloak was an odd shade of lavender that didn’t match any particular Tribe. He smiled as he faced Antroz. “Lord Angonce,” Antroz greeted. “It is truly an honor for you to visit my humble city.” “An honor to be here, Antroz!” said the Glatorian. “I always look forward to checking in on Xia. So many people, always working, always smiling—it’s simply wonderful!” “Thank you for your praise, my lord. I am pleased to inform you that we are as productive as ever. Our crafters have made great strides in refining a new protosteel alloy that should—“ “Yes, yes,” Angonce interrupted, “but let’s save the business talk for a bit. I want to look around first! It really has been too long since my last visit.” Antroz rose to her feet, magnetically fixing her sword sheath to her hip once she was upright. Her eyes remained closed. “Of course, my lord. Right this way.” Antroz walked through the gates, hearing the other Makuta grumble, “You sure you know the way?” Not stopping, Antroz nodded and said, “All will be fine.” Angonce followed. “Let’s be courteous to our host, Gorast. Though Antroz, I feel I should remind you that the offer to heal your eyes still stands.” “I greatly appreciate your kindness, my lord. However, I still feel that I should continue to live without my sight, unless the Great Beings should deem otherwise.” Angonce glanced to Gorast, who shrugged. “No, if that’s your decision then we’ll respect it. Ah, here we are!” He clapped his hands together as they came upon a small city square. The inhabitants quickly took note of the three, and all immediately stopped what they were doing to bow. “Oh no, that’s fine, we don’t need all that—please, as you were!” After a bit of a delay, the crowd began moving again. As they did, a Toa of Ice wearing a white Mahiki ran right up to them, earning a glance from Gorast which he seemed to ignore. “Lord Angonce!” he exclaimed, bouncing up and down. “Spectacular to see you! I heard you were due for another visit, but I had to see it for myself!” Bouncing slightly himself, Angonce said, “Oh this one’s so excited! Hello, little one! Antroz, could you introduce us?” Antroz stepped forward. “This is Toa Ehrye. He joined us approximately eight months ago, and has managed to earn a position in the Great Forge faster than I’ve ever seen.” Gorast snickered a bit at her final word. “That’s right!” Ehrye said. “I help keep the machinery from overheating. I’m super-tough, so I’m able to stay in the access tunnels longer than anyone else!” “How astounding!” Angonce said, crouching and lightly poking at Ehrye’s armor. “Hm, did we slip a little Ta-Coding into you, perhaps?” The Great Being and Toa laughed, meanwhile the Makuta didn’t make a sound. Ehrye soon turned to Antroz and said, “Makuta Antroz? You seem a little quieter than usual—is everything alright?” Smiling, Antroz said, “Indeed it is, Ehrye. Forgive me, I suppose I was a bit distracted.” A whistle sounded in the distance. Ehrye turned and said, “Whoops, I have to get back. It was fantastic meeting you Lord Angonce, sir!” Angonce grinned and set a hand on Ehrye’s shoulder. “Fantastic meeting you as well! I won’t keep you—hurry along now!” As Ehrye scurried off, Angonce stood and turned to Gorast. “I like that one! We need more—remind me when we get back, I want to make more energetic Toa sometime next week.” Gorast grunted. Turning then to Antroz, Angonce’s enthusiasm dimmed a bit. “…Still thinking about our house guest?” Antroz hung her head. “I must admit, my thoughts are still lingering there. I apologize.” “You apologize too much. Come on, let’s find something entertaining to get into! What is it you do for fun around here? I always just watch the people, I can never remember where the actual buildings are.” “I’m afraid I don’t have much ‘fun’, my lord,” Antroz chuckled. “I take my duties as Guardian very seriously, and I think getting back to those might be what’s best for me.” “In that case,” Gorast said, “let’s talk about Krekka.” Antroz turned to her. Angonce frowned before doing the same, saying, “Gorast, this isn’t really the…oh, boy…” He slid a hand over his face. “Sorry, Antroz, I wasn’t planning to bring that up until later.” Turning back, Antroz said, “That’s alright. If you wish to save this discussion for later, I shall wait until then.” “No, now that it’s on the table I suppose I should get it over with. Let’s get to your tower.” “As you wish, my lord.” The group continued on, though Angonce continued stopping to observe groups of workers. Eventually Gorast suggested they simply teleport, and upon breaking free from his latest subjects, Angonce agreed and snapped his fingers. At once, the three of them stood in a massive foyer with tall windows on all sides that allowed sunlight to totally fill the room. The walls were made of gray stone, but the floor was covered in polished white tile, and an elaborate chandelier filled with hundreds of small lightstones hung from the high ceiling. Angonce walked until he had nearly reached the staircase on one side, and then stopped and thought for a time. When he finally turned back around, he had a grim look on his face. “So. Krekka.” “He is being held beneath our very feet,” Antroz said, quickly gesturing to the floor. “I have plans to carry out his trial and, most likely, execution tomorrow.” Angonce nodded. He placed one hand on his hip, covered his mouth with the other, and took a few paces to his right. “And the trial? Your typical method, I assume?” “That is correct. I will give form to the darkness within him, and have him combat it to determine his fate.” Angonce breathed deeply. “So if he beats this…doppelganger, ‘Shadow Krekka’ or what have you…you would set him free?” “That is the condition typically put forth, yes. However, of all the trials I have conducted, none have been able to pass, and to be somewhat blunt, I find it extremely unlikely that Krekka will be the one to change that.” “But, still…the possibility remains,” Angonce said. “And you always carry these things out in private. I’m just concerned…if, by some freak chance, Krekka stumbles upon some secret to defeating the trial, and he walks out of here, you’re going to have to justify that decision to everyone.” Antroz nodded. “…Antroz, I really am concerned by that possibility. This is quite a high-profile prisoner you’ve captured—the populace would likely be up in arms if he walked free, and I can tell you for a fact that Velika would be livid. You have any idea how hard it was to get him not to come here? I thought we were going to have to shackle him. I’m not totally convinced he’s not watching us.” Angonce paused to glance around the room. “My point being, if you end up letting Krekka free, the backlash you’ll get is going to be…well, I don’t know, I’m a Great Being and even I don’t know how to describe something that strong, it’ll be that intense.” “I thank you for your concern, Lord Angonce,” Antroz said. “However, with the utmost respect, I do believe you may be worrying a bit more than is necessary.” Angonce raised his hands and shook his head. “I know, small chance, probably going to lose, probably right. But you’re a talented Makuta, Antroz—one of the finest we’ve ever made, I’d say! I’m still trying to convince Heremus to transfer you to the Maze to take over the opening Teridax left. In the incredibly unlikely event that this goes wrong…well, I would hate to see so much potential go to waste.” Antroz took a moment to figure out how she wanted to respond. “Shall I transfer Krekka into your custody, Lord Angonce?” “No no no, he was caught within your jurisdiction, I can’t just take him or we’ll have a whole new problem. I was just hoping you might be open to…suggestions.” “Always, my lord.” “Great! Wonderful! Here’s what I’m thinking: just kill him.” Gorast added, “In front of a crowd.” “Yes, good! It’ll be cathartic for everyone who hates the guy, which is…well, everyone!” Antroz turned slightly. “…If that is what you order, my lord—“ “No, it can’t be an order. It’s a suggestion.” “…Well…then, may I respond to it as such?” “Of course.” Antroz nodded. “My lord, I am afraid I do not feel entirely comfortable with that alternative. I devised the trial because I believed it to give the condemned a fair chance, and a meaningful one. If they are able to defeat their doppelganger, if they can find a way to best their own darkness in one sense, then does that not prove that they have the capacity to do so in another sense? If someone proves that they are capable of changing, of growing, of overcoming that darkness and stepping into the light, then I would feel great remorse at robbing them of that chance. I…I do not honestly feel it is right for me to take that from them. Even if I do not think Krekka has that capacity, I feel compelled to erase all doubt before I act.” Angonce just stared at Antroz, absorbing her words. Gorast, on the other hand, rolled her eyes and reached towards the floor. “I’ll just flood the dungeon with plasma. This is a waste of time.” Antroz turned her head immediately. Suddenly, the air in the room began to feel heavy, and as Antroz set a claw on her sword, she calmly and clearly stated, “You will not.” Gorast stopped and looked up at her. “What?” “Xia is my realm. You do not have the authority to execute my prisoner without my permission. I will not allow you to.” Sneering, Gorast said, “Really…” Just as she started to move again, Angonce flourished his hand, and both Makuta collapsed. With a sigh, the Great Being said, “This isn’t going the way I’d hoped…” He walked over to Gorast first. “Gorast, she is right. You can’t just go over her head like that. Just calm down a little, alright, and we’ll talk this out, and it’ll be fine, okay?” Gorast grumbled something. Angonce waved his hand once more; both Makuta stood, and then he walked over to Antroz. “You make a fine argument, Antroz. However, under the circumstance, I just can’t leave it at that. So, my next suggestion is that we compromise: we will allow Krekka a trial to earn his freedom, but, it’s going to be a little different…and public.” “Different in what way, my lord?” “You just let me worry about that. You know, just…we’ll do a trial, that’s your part, but I’ll decide the details of it, that’s mine. Compromise! What do you say?” Antroz felt something odd in the back of her mind. For a second, her thoughts wandered, remembering her last visit to the Valley of the Maze, but she quickly snapped back to the present. “Very well, Lord Angonce,” she said, bowing. “I formally request you oversee the trial of Krekka.” Angonce’s entire body relaxed as he breathed out. “Delightful.” Perking back up, he went on, “Let’s talk about something else, then! I’ll have the full report on Xia’s status, and then we can go watch the people some more—I’ll tell you what I’ve decided about the trial in the morning, and then we’ll do it around midday.” “Of course, Lord Angonce. Where shall I begin?” Antroz related all the information she could about Xia in excruciating detail, taking some time to complete. Angonce nodded along, if somewhat absently, while Gorast slowly tapped her foot. When the briefing was finally complete, Angonce practically ran back outside. Antroz resumed showing him around, and they carried on quite a ways into the night, before Angonce eventually decided it was time to return to the tower and get some sleep. As he went to the prepared quarters, Gorast went to stand at the tower’s door, taking a seat and sharpening the sword she carried, and Antroz returned to her perch and knelt. Using her telepathy, she could be vaguely aware of everything that went on in Xia. Many Vortixx and Glatorian were still hard at work. Toa casually patrolled the outskirts. Matoran and Agori were sleeping peacefully. And directly below, she felt a being radiating hatred, a being who wanted only to fight against his inevitable doom. No, she thought, Krekka will never be able to defeat his darkness. She was not one to question the Great Beings, but despite that, she felt displeased with the change in the situation. Even if he was acting out of concern, Angonce seemed to lack faith in her trial, something that she had grown quite proud of. He had decided it best to slant it against the condemned—and while she understood why, given the circumstances, a part of her couldn’t help but feel it was unfair. But, he was a Great Being, and Antroz dare not step out of line. She moved to push the thoughts from her mind. With that aside, she found her former distraction returning. She remembered the Valley of the Maze. She remembered visiting it after hearing that something had happened to Teridax. She recalled the explanation of the Great Beings, the tale of the visitors from another reality, and the invitation to observe one of them. Antroz had walked into a narrow control room set next to a large cell with transparent walls. Inside had been a being the size of a Toa, with red and black armor, and a Kanohi she did not recognize. He had immediately looked up and squinted at her. “Antroz?” he had said. She had been startled. “How…do you know my name?” “Great, you’re here too. Seems like all the Makuta from my world have twins in white running around over here.” “Ah, I see. So there is another Antroz in your reality.” “Gotta say, though, you two don’t look much different. What’s with the claws and bat wings? Aren’t Makuta here supposed to be bright and sunny?” “We were not always ‘bright and sunny’. We had our demons. But we defeated them. And when I defeated mine, I decided to take their visage as my own, to serve as a warning to any other demons who would try to threaten my charges.” The stranger had twisted his head, as if baffled and disgusted, and turned to walk across the chamber. “…Does this mean the Makuta you are familiar with are not beings of light?” He had laughed harshly. “Farthest from it.” “Do you mean to say…your world’s Makuta are made of pure shadow?” “It’s not hard to follow.” “…Absurd. Makuta could never be twisted by the darkness!” “Maybe that’s how it works over here, but back home, you’re all pretty completely evil. It’s a lot nicer, really.” After a long pause, she had asked, “Even the other Antroz?” “Yeah. I mean sometimes he says something about ‘honor’, but I’ve never seen him act any different than the others, so I don’t really buy it. Ugh, you’re probably all about that stuff though, aren’t you? I’m starting to figure out how these reversals work.” Snapping back to the present, Antroz turned—she sensed a sudden burst of emotion nearby, but it subsided just as quickly. Someone was just surprised… She faced forward again. ...In another reality…there’s another me. One who is evil. An evil…me… Throughout her life, Makuta Antroz had always sought to do the right thing whenever she could. She took matters of morality very seriously, and had developed a strict code of conduct for herself, honing her into the person she was today. Everyone saw her as a beacon of righteousness, including herself. She had come to feel that she was, frankly, inherently good. But if another Antroz could become a being of evil, then it was impossible for that goodness to be inherent. Is my goodness truly a result of the person I am…or have I simply been shaped by the circumstances of this reality? Am I merely a passive element, thrust into goodness by sheer luck? Everything about me…it seems I may only be a result of things far beyond my control. Xia slept through the night without incident. It was fortunate, for Antroz may have been too preoccupied to notice otherwise. When Angonce awoke in the morning, Antroz and Gorast made their way to the foyer to meet him. The Great Being yawned, stretched, and held out an open palm—a green fruit appeared in it. “So.” He paused to take a bite. “Krekka’s going to fight Gorast.” Gorast grinned at this. Antroz would have tensed if she had muscles. “I mean, with conditions, of course. Gorast will stay in the form she’s in now, can’t use weapons, no Light or Kanohi or Kraata powers either—you’ll just use your fists.” “Fine by me,” Gorast said. Angonce glanced at Antroz. “And by you?” “…If that is your decision, Lord Angonce, then I will abide by it.” Angonce hummed, but then nodded. Consuming the rest of the fruit, he shook his arms and said, “We’re gonna need a place to hold this trial, of course. Antroz, tell all the citizens they’re invited to watch. Gorast, I’m having trouble waking up, think you could give me a push?” Gorast held out one hand and called upon her Kraata power of Creation, wreathing her palm in brownish-orange light. Angonce inhaled sharply and his eyes lit up. “Ah, there go the creative juices! Thank you, my dear!” The Great Being and his guard made for the outskirts of Xia, and not long after a storm of movement appeared there. Steel and mortar rose from the ground, or simply blinked into existence, and floated into place piece by piece, gradually shaping into a structure of some kind. Afraid the citizens might grow worried, Antroz took to her perch quickly and reached out with her mind. Once she could sense every mind in Xia, she gave a gentle push against each one, and within seconds, each citizen opened a part of their mind to hear what she had to say. “Greetings, my citizens. I can feel that some of you are perplexed by the developments in the outskirts, but I assure you there is no need for concern. Lord Angonce is constructing a building to host an event…the trial of the criminal Krekka.” Those minds that were tense relaxed at once. At the mention of Krekka, many more started to grow angry, or even excited. “Today at midday, Krekka will battle for his freedom against Makuta Gorast. All of you are welcome to spectate.” The excitement grew. “That is all I have to say for now. Though, if you do attend the trial, please be sure to check your work station before you depart—we don’t want to see a factory damaged by forgetfulness.” Antroz withdrew her mind and faced in the direction of Angonce’s construction. Thinking about what was about to happen there, she wondered if it might have been kinder to kill Krekka when she had been asked to. When it was complete, the new structure looked like an open stadium with more than enough seats for everyone in Xia. Nearly the entire city crowded through its gates when midday came, and when they were all settled, Angonce rose from the throne at the back of the stands and spread his arms, signaling them all to grow silent. “Hello, everyone!” he said. He wasn’t speaking very loudly, but something was transmitting his voice throughout the stands. “Sorry if I startled you earlier, but I wanted to get to work right away. This event has been a long time coming!” He paused, beaming as the crowd gave him a round of applause. “I’m sure you all know why we’re here. Last month, my associate Velika installed a new type of security drone at key locations across Spherus Magna. Shortly after the installation, however, the sentinel in the White Quartz Mountains was found in shambles, broken beyond repair. After salvaging its memory, we found footage of someone attacking the drone, and immediately put out an order for his arrest.” Angonce turned and gestured to Antroz. “And what do you know, it was your own Guardian, Makuta Antroz, who finally managed to subdue the criminal just a few days ago!” The crowd applauded again. Antroz bowed, saying, “It is my honor to serve you, my lord.” Angonce smiled and turned back to the crowd. “Well, why wait any longer? Let’s see this outlaw!” At the snap of his fingers, there was a flash of light in the center of the stadium. Where there had once been empty space, there now stood a tall, hulking brute clad in white and blue armor, who looked around in bewilderment as the crowd jeered at him. “Krekka!” Angonce declared. “Why don’t you tell us why you destroyed Velika’s invention?” Krekka snorted. “It got in my way.” Angonce cocked his head. “…That’s it?” “It bothered me!” Shrugging, Angonce said, “Well, I’m not sure what I really expected. Regardless, you have committed treason against the Great Beings, and the penalty is death.” The crowd cheered. “Of course, the noble Makuta Antroz feels you should at least have a chance to earn your freedom. As a sign of respect for her act of capturing you, I have agreed to give you such a chance. Krekka, if you can defeat just one opponent, you will be set free. But of course, if you lose, you will be executed.” Krekka laughed. “That all? Who’s the sucker I gotta fight?” Angonce gestured over his shoulder. “Oh, just Gorast here.” Krekka frowned. “Gorast, if you would be so kind.” Vaulting over the edge of Angonce’s balcony, Gorast leapt into the stadium and landed a few yards away from Krekka. She spread her arms as the crowd roared. “Makuta Gorast is forbidden from using any of her numerous powers in this fight. This will be a competition of raw strength! Do you have any objections, Krekka?” Before Krekka could form a syllable, Angonce said, “Oh, wait, you’re already condemned. Never mind! Let the trial begin!” Gorast advanced slowly, but before long Krekka panicked and rushed her. He threw a haymaker at Gorast’s shoulder. The blow seemed to turn her slightly, but then two of her arms wrapped around Krekka’s, a third took hold of his other wrist, and the final was thrust directly into his face. Krekka’s body rocked from the force of the blow, and was soon reeled back in so that an elbow could be placed firmly into his gut. He managed to headbutt Gorast when he hunched over in pain, and then tried kicking her feet out from under her. The Makuta shifted her leg to absorb the blow, twisted around, and pulled Krekka off his feet and over her head to be slammed down into the ground. Krekka’s senses went dull for a moment as he bounced up, and were quickly snapped back in place as Gorast used a kick of her own to send him flying into the wall. The tremors from the impact reached all the way to Angonce’s balcony, where Antroz shivered. While it was always difficult “watching” a fight the way she did, sensing where the combatants were and feeling the sparks of pain burst from them at every blow, this time she felt it cut deeper for some reason. Krekka pulled himself onto his feet and looked at Gorast. She was making her way towards him, walking only a bit faster than before. He turned and tried to scramble up the wall, but the surface was too smooth for him to find any handholds. “Hold on a sec!” he shouted, still clawing at the wall in vain. “Fightin’ a Makuta ain’t fair! What kinda sick joke is this, you crazy old—“ He realized too late that Gorast had quickened her pace, and had now grabbed the back of his head and given his skull a quick shove. The wall cracked around the point of impact. “You really shouldn’t continue to harass the Great Beings,” Gorast said as she peeled him off the wall. “You’ll only make it worse for yourself.” Angonce waved his hand, and in a second the wall had returned to its pristine condition. He turned to Antroz and said, “You know, I’m glad we did this. The people are loving the spectacle! You were really onto something with this trial business, Antroz, I should’ve known it.” As Gorast effortlessly hurled Krekka into the wall on the opposite side of the stadium, Antroz nodded once. “I am content simply to hear that it pleases you, my lord.” Krekka pushed himself off the ground, coughing loudly. Stumbling back to his feet, he staggered around a little, and then bellowed as he rushed headlong at Makuta Gorast. When he was almost on top of her, one of her arms shot out, almost too quick for the crowd to see, and grabbed onto the side of his face, stopping him short. With a grin, Gorast twisted, producing a hideous crunching and tearing sound. Krekka’s screams intensified. Gorast turned and took a few steps away, tossing one of Krekka’s eyes up into the air before catching it. “You disappoint me, Krekka. I would have hoped someone unafraid of the Great Beings would be someone who knows how to fight.” Krekka collapsed in a heap, clutching his empty eye socket. “Rrrgh…you…you stupid Makuta…” His hushed grunts were drowned in the cheers of the crowd. Antroz clenched and unclenched her fists, trying to keep her eyes on the fight (so to speak) without being overwhelmed by the agony radiating from Krekka. Gorast looked directly at her. Without a single word, the Makuta in the ring crushed Krekka’s eye into paste. “Lord Angonce!” she shouted. “He cannot continue. May I kill him now?” Angonce waved a bit, quieting the crowd. “Hang on, hang on. Krekka? Do you concede?” Krekka spat. “Hm, seems he’s not quite done yet.” Striding over, Gorast stomped on Krekka’s leg. Antroz flinched as she felt the limb fracture. Gorast hoisted Krekka by his neck and said, “It’s over. Accept your death with a little dignity.” Krekka bared his teeth and swiped, trying to grab Gorast’s Kanohi. She grabbed his arm with one of hers. In the next instant, her white and gold armor was doused crimson. “Now, Lord Angonce?” The Great Being tilted his head, smirking a little. “Krekka? Will you concede now? You have been disarmed, after all.” Krekka found the strength to writhe in his opponent’s grasp. “Curse…you…” “Drat. Gorast, it seems he’s not quite ready yet.” Gorast shook her head. As she turned back to Krekka, Antroz decided she had had enough. Gorast raised two of her arms…and Antroz retreated into herself, no longer able to feel anyone’s mind but her own. A scream more terrible than any before came next. It was followed by Krekka mumbling something, Angonce declaring Gorast the victor, and the cheers of the crowd saving her from having to hear Gorast finish the trial. She opened her mind a bit then, just enough to sense Angonce as he rose from his throne. “Feeling a bit squeamish, are we?” he quietly asked. Antroz hung her head. “…I am sorry, my lord.” “Well, I suppose it’s a bit different for you, isn’t it? No harm done.” “Thank you, my lord.” With the event over, the spectators slowly made their way out of the stadium and back to their workplaces. Angonce disposed of Krekka’s corpse, told Antroz to keep the stadium as a gift, and then bid farewell to the Makuta with the promise of visiting her again as soon as he had the chance. Antroz saw him off, and then half-heartedly walked back towards Xia. “Oh, did he leave already?” Sharpening her mind, she realized Ehrye was nearby. “Ah, yes, Lord Angonce has departed. He expressed interest in returning soon, however.” “Think he’ll bring someone other than Gorast next time?” Ehrye asked in a hushed tone. “I mean, I’ve heard she was tough, but that…well, it’s just that Makuta are beings of light, so I wasn’t expecting…” Antroz nodded. “Light comes in many forms, Toa. Gorast’s light is that of the harsh sun beating down on the desert.” “Huh. Well, at least Krekka won’t muck anything else up. Bet you’re relieved this whole thing is over, right?” “…I suppose so.” Ehrye raised an eyebrow. “Are you alright, Makuta Antroz?” Antroz smiled. “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you, Ehrye.” As the Toa went on his way, Antroz turned back towards the stadium. She thought of the screams she had heard. She thought of the agony she had felt, and of how she knew this event could only play out horrifically as soon as it had been mentioned. And what did I do about it? She realized that she had chosen to do nothing. She had chosen to simply accept Angonce’s decision, despite her misgivings, and had let Krekka die in agony rather than swiftly and painlessly. This was wrong. I knew it was wrong…so why did I let it happen? She knew why, of course. It had been Angonce’s decision. She had been so preoccupied wondered if she was truly good, and so had just passed Krekka’s fate on to someone else. He was a Great Being, of course, but she found it curious: in lamenting that her circumstances might be more important than her own decisions, she had chosen it best to forfeit an important decision. …I truly have become blind. She had always thought the light of the Great Beings was a brilliant beacon, something that granted life and prosperity to all life on Spherus Magna. Now, she wondered if perhaps that light was the kind that obscured something. Whatever had made her who she was, she did not want to be a person who simply handed morality off to others—she refused to think that could be right, even if she was handing it to the Great Beings themselves. Makuta Antroz turned back towards Xia. She had allowed something terrible to happen, and that had been her decision. But she silently promised herself that she would never allow such a thing to happen again.
  16. Merry Christmas BZPower! This is a short story (technically a novelette, coming in at 10582 words) summarizing a back story for Ancient. It is written for Click. The guidelines followed as offered were: Dark Hunters; Character/location exploration; expand the lore of a DH Hope you all enjoy - especially you, Click! EDIT UPDATE: Not sure what happened, but the end of the story has been missing for the past two weeks from this topic... I've added another post to fix that mistake. I apologize for a story that had no resolution! * * * As soon as he walked through the flap of his tent, Ancient threw down his sketch tome and removed the tool belt from around his waist. He tossed the belt beside the small lamp on the one crate in his meager dwelling and fell onto the bed roll next to it. The night air was crisp, and the clang of chisels and stone could still be heard from the sculptors’ pits a few hundred bio away. Ancient breathed out a heavy sigh as he shuffled in his bed, weary from the day. No sooner had he found a comfortable position than someone spoke from outside his tent. “Friend, allow me to enter,” the voice said. Ancient knew the voice well enough. “Come in, Carana,” he said, sitting up again on his bed. Carana opened the flap, quickly closing it again to contain what little heat the lamp had toiled to produce. “Good to see you in one piece. Heard there was a bit of a mishap at the pits today?” he asked of Ancient, sliding the belt aside and propping himself on the edge of the crate. Carana and Ancient had met many years ago. They quickly struck up a friendship and found themselves able to work around one another, keeping the other company during the longest of working shifts, though Carana had recently been transferred to a different line of work. Ancient valued his friend as a beacon of light in a realm where light was so often snuffed out. “Well, coming home in one piece was about all I was concerned about,” Ancient said, rubbing his eyes. “It’s not every day you find a nest of subterranean Nui-Kopen.” Carana raised his eyebrows a moment, then scoffed with a smirk. “And it’s not every day that you protect an entire working squad from monsters such as that!” he said. “Word travels quickly. You’ve accomplished something great today.” Ancient sighed. “What you say holds some truth, yet here we are,” he replied, motioning to the small room they were in. “We’re still in the same hole we’ve found ourselves in from the beginning.” “Oh that’s not quite true,” Carana said, a glint in his eye. “Your master gave you this lamp not too long ago! That’s quite an upgrade from some other dwellings not far from here.” Ancient managed a gruff snort. Carana did have a way of seeing the bright side of things. “Besides,” Carana continued, “it’s only a matter of time before this success of yours propels you even further up the chain.” “Until when?” Ancient replied. “There’s a top. That’s the problem. We can only go so far and then bang,” he slapped a raised palm with his other hand. “We stop. And you know those up top look down on us for nothing more than where we fit on this social ladder.” Ancient stood from his bed, his blue armor casting long shadows against the wall. He began to pace in small lines in the cramped tent. “No matter how hard we climb, they’ve cut the top rungs off. I’m growing tired of always being subclass. There’s got to be a way to get past that.” Carana remained seated on the crate, watching his friend. “I can’t see a way around it,” he said after a few moments. “We’re where we are, and this is the way it’s always been. Always will be. You’ve seen the higher ups. Who’s going to challenge them? Like you said yourself, it’s not every day you face a horde of Nui-Kopen.” He stood and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Let’s keep it that way. There’s no reason to stir up the island and break what we’ve worked so hard to create. We’re in this together.” Ancient turned again to his friend. “Yes, together in this pit.” Carana shook his head, a light laugh escaping his lips. “It’s not always easy, sure, and some days are rough. But we’re here. We have people around us. We have purpose and we can see the fruit of our labour. You’re a hero in the eyes of your comrades.” He raised a hand in front of himself, palm up. “Maybe we don’t have the bliss and luxury that others do, but do we need that?” He raised his other hand in the same fashion. “We’re also not as low as some others, so why risk falling back to the bottom, or worse, being exiled from the land completely?” Ancient knew his friend spoke to sooth and encourage, but he was not comforted. He was about to retort when another voice beyond the tent called to him. “Sculptor?” Ancient pulled open the flap. Just outside stood one of the royal guards. “You’ve been summoned to the fortress a week from today at the ninth hour.” It was a rare occurrence in Ancient’s line of work to be called to the fortress. “I will attend,” Ancient replied hesitantly. The royal guard bowed slightly, and turned away. Ancient turned back to Carana, who stood amused. “Well, maybe you’re getting that promotion you hoped for?” He patted Ancient on the shoulder. “I’m off tomorrow morning myself for an export check to Zakaz. Granted, I’d take a horde of Nui-Kopen over that place any day.” “Take care my friend,” Ancient said. “Better Zakaz than Karzahni.” Carana nodded in agreement, then he was off into the night. Ancient shut the flap, the room having lost some of its warmth from before. He bundled up in the bed roll again and tried to make the most of his sleep. The morning would come quick enough. * * * The corridors of the fortress were cold as Ancient was led to his master’s hall. The island empire was led by nine members of the highest social class on the island, who called themselves the Miraki. Each was powerful and charismatic, and devoted themselves to maintaining the order of the land. The oldest and wisest of the Miraki had summoned Ancient personally, and the rest of the Miraki looked to him for guidance. No wonder that’s the case, either, Ancient thought as he entered the grand hall where the Miraki stood waiting by windows the height of the room. His red-clad form reached over two bio. Specks of gold shimmered in his armor as he turned, drawing awe and wonder any time he made public appearances. He was old and it showed, but he hardly seemed worn or fatigued. Rather, his age brought a feeling of security and persistence to the realm, and especially to those under his direct control. Despite his hatred of the system, Ancient had to admit that the Miraki standing before him inspired allegiance and peace. It helped that the fortress was massive. The Miraki glanced over his shoulder when he heard the clang of the guards making way for Ancient to enter. He turned and beckoned Ancient. “Ah, here he is,” he said, a smile gracing his face. “The hero from the pits.” Ancient bowed at the doorway, and made his way across the lengthy room. The floor was polished stone, the walls of similar make. Guards were stationed at four other entrances on the sides of the room, and torches dotted the walls, filling the hall with warmth and light. The vaulted ceiling stretched high enough to allow a second floor to look down into the hall, a balcony on either side. The room itself was separated into three parts. The main floor, arguably the largest portion, contained the entrances and had many tables at the sides to display trophies or serve as dining areas. There was a set of stairs two thirds of the way into the room leading to a second floor a few feet above the first, which in turn led to another set of stairs that made a way to the top platform. Upon this platform was a carved throne, behind which were the huge windows where the Miraki stood. Ancient came to the bottom of the first stairs and stopped. Guards stood at either side. He glanced at one and the guard motioned for him to step up to the platform. Ancient ascended the first stairs and couldn’t help but recognize even here the social distinction between him and the Miraki. He then just as quickly realized his own physical separation from the guards on the main floor. Yet again, a demonstration of how this society thrived on its social order. Ancient swallowed his hatred of the system as his thoughts were cut by the voice of his master. “You saved countless lives yesterday,” he said, walking from the windows and taking a seat in his throne. “There could have been much more loss had you not intervened.” “I was simply looking out for the safety of those around me,” Ancient replied. “We still lost a dozen good men.” “Losses are expected,” the Miraki said. “That is the cycle. It is not our place to ask why. But for a sculptor to step in and risk his life for a handful of miners? That is unheard of.” Ancient shifted slightly on the spot. He wasn’t sure where this was going. “You know we rely on a social order to prevail in this world,” the Miraki said. “An order we dare not break, for it has been held for generations of our ancestors.” There it is again, thought Ancient. Always the code. Always the way it was, the way it has to be. I’m sick of this. But he held his expression so as not to reveal his thoughts. “I am sorry if I have disturbed the peace,” Ancient began. The Miraki held up a hand and Ancient held his tongue. “You have not done such a thing as that,” the Miraki said. “But, we have convened and chosen to send you across the island to the Visionary Fields. There you will be honoured among sculptors as the best of the island.” Ancient was confused. He saved his fellow workers, so he was being relocated? “You will be accompanied by a group of my guards, who will see you reach your destination by the end of the week.” A handful of guards came from one of the side entrances. “You have served well here, Sculptor – it’s time you set your sights on bigger things.” Ancient bowed again. “For the empire,” he mumbled out absently, knowing that to be the correct response to a direct order from a Miraki. The Miraki nodded, and the guards led Ancient back out of the hall and down to the road. There a carriage loaded with supplies was waiting, hooked up to a pair of Kikanalo. Ancient was ushered onto the carriage and soon was off for his newest assignment. * * * The carriage carried Ancient across mountain and valley, the Kikanalo moving at a steady pace. Ancient had not been beyond his area of the island, though the sights on the trip were not as astounding as he had hoped. The island was calm. Dull, yes, and sterile – but calm. For many years the winds and slogging ice flows had carved the landscape, jagged peaks rising high overhead and twisted crags splintering underneath. There wasn’t much in the way of vegetation, but closer to the coast, the smallest of pockets of lush greenery poked up through the cold stony slabs that made up the island. Toward the edge of the land the ice flows relented and melted into furious riverways and waterfalls, forming the idyllic façade that beckoned weary travelers to rest a moment and take in the sights. Here though, the whole land was grey. Cold, stony, foreboding. And here I thought the pits were bleak, Ancient thought to himself. The trip gave Ancient time to reflect, to consider his spot and what was to come. He knew the Visionary Fields were a dream for most sculptors – and he should be thrilled to have the honour to work among the best of the business. But the people of the island were very much the same as the island itself. Those who were green to the society saw opportunity, saw ideals, grasped for beauty in this foreboding place. Ancient, however, was not new to the order of things. He, like those who had spent millennia living on the island, knew better. Their own dreams of grandeur and progress slumped against the driving force of a strict upper social structure. Those in power saw fit to ensure that those below them understood there was no way to reach higher, no higher place to reach for anyways. How it was – that was simply how it would always be. It worked, for the most part, and the people of the land built their empire on the stable, unshaken ground of this understanding. One was wise to quickly recognize that where one was placed was where one stayed put. And that was exactly the problem. Ancient no longer had any intention of staying put. Granted, in one way he was no longer staying put – the Visionary Fields would be his new home. They were making good time and should have arrived at their destination ahead of schedule. Suddenly, one of the Kikanalo roared and slumped to the side, dragging the other Kikanalo off the path. The carriage stalled as the first beast fell, jostling the crew and supplies. Ancient hurried to hop off the cart to inspect the situation, as did the guards. One guard was standing by the felled beast, and as Ancient joined the group of guards surrounding the Kikanalo, the guard yanked a long, thin dagger from the Rahi’s neck. “We’re under attack!” shouted one of the guards. As the words escaped his lips, another dagger planted itself in his back, and he fell to the ground, motionless. The guards scrambled for their weapons, and Ancient threw himself under the carriage. Without warning, they were surrounded by a group of dangerous looking foes. And just like that, the guards entered combat. Blades and staves clashed against one another. Punches were thrown wildly between parties. The Kikanalo that was still alive struggled to pull away from the mayhem, and drew the cart away from Ancient. A body slammed up against the side of the carriage. Ancient, in response, grabbed the ankles of the being and dragged him down. The guard engaged with him quickly disposed of their enemy and breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks,” the guard said as Ancient clambered to his feet. No sooner had Ancient stood than another dagger sailed through the air, narrowly missing both he and the guard. They turned to see a warrior in dark armor seemingly flying through the air, bouncing off the ground and rocky walls of the narrow pass where the carriage was stopped. Ancient felt both fear and awe at the gracefulness of the warrior, though he quickly snapped out of it when the warrior planted another dagger into the chest of another guard. Glancing down, he saw the weapon used by the recently incapacitated foe at his feet, and picked it up. It was unlike any weapon he had seen before, sleek and well balanced. It sat comfortably in his hand, braced against his forearm. Before he could consider its function, a flailing thief came running toward him, knife lifted above his head. Ancient instinctively pointed the weapon at the thief. A brief burst of light surrounded the weapon, and a blast of energy shot from its end, flying straight for the thief. Without warning the thief was struck by the ball of energy, and crumbled to the ground in a heap. He lay there, his knife lying next to him, unable to stand or move or much else. Ancient looked at the weapon and wondered just what sort of device it was. He didn’t have long to consider though, as another, bigger raider came around the cart and rammed Ancient. The raider, a Skakdi, so it seemed, slammed Ancient against the wall of the mountain passage. Ancient threw a punch straight at the Skakdi’s grinning face, and his grip loosened. Ancient tumbled to the ground and quickly grabbed his enemy by the spine, whipping him around and tossing him into an oncoming partner. Both fell with a clatter to the stony ground, and Ancient fired two more energy blasts at them from his weapon. Glancing around, he noticed that there were no other guards around him, nor raiders. It was relatively still. But he also didn’t see the dark warrior from earlier. Then a dagger landed in the ground on either side of him. He whirled around and glanced up to see the warrior sitting atop the path’s rocky walls, leg swinging over the edge precariously. “Not bad,” the warrior said. “If you’re done playing, let’s talk.” “Who are you?” Ancient asked. The warrior stood and jumped down to the ground. Ancient lifted his weapon up to the warrior. “Come now Sculptor. Let’s not be hasty.” Ancient backed up to the cart, and the warrior pulled the twin daggers from the ground. “I have an offer for you.” “How do you know me?” Ancient asked. His back now was up against the cart. The warrior sighed, clipping the daggers to her hip. “All these questions,” she said. “Too many, if you ask me. But, don’t. Look, we found out about you just after you did your thing with the Nui-Kopen a couple weeks back. Let’s just say I can use someone with your talent.” Ancient wasn’t sure what she meant. “I’m a sculptor,” he started. “I don’t think I’ll be much use to someone like you.” The warrior laughed. “I don’t need your sculpting talent,” she retorted. “You have more than just that pent up in that mind of yours. No, I heard about the way you took down the horde pretty much singlehandedly, and saved some miners while you were at it. Not a usual spectacle. Nui-Kopen aren’t exactly the smallest of bugs, either.” “I still don’t follow,” said Ancient. The warrior rolled her eyes. “Keep up, Sculptor,” she replied. “I want to hire you to deal with a problem I have.” “Hire me?” Ancient said incredulously. The warrior clapped. “There you go, up to speed. Yes, hire you. I’ll pay you if you get something done for me. I’ve already seen you break social code from your conduct at the miners’ pit. I don’t expect this to be too far of a stretch for someone who obviously has no regard for order.” Ancient considered the words of this warrior. Was it so obvious that he was tired of the way things were? All he had done was save some seemingly lesser workers, though Ancient valued them nonetheless. But it was true, he was frustrated with the system, and was even being sent away just for helping those who couldn’t help themselves. Maybe the warrior had a point. “What sort of job?” Ancient asked. The warrior smiled. “Thought you might agree. It’s a simple task, really. Here, I’ll show you.” The warrior beckoned Ancient to follow her, and turned back the way she and her raiding party had come. “Hey, don’t you want to wait for your friends to come to their senses?” Ancient replied. The warrior scoffed. “They fell here, so they stay here. Besides,” she said, turning back and winking at Ancient, “If you succeed in this job, I don’t think they’ll be of much importance to us anytime soon.” * * * This criminal must be crazy, Ancient thought, finding himself hiding behind a rocky wall just like this warrior and her band of raiders had when he was ambushed by them. She wasn’t much for talking, but she did give him the details of the job she had in mind for him. The warrior, who went by the title Lariska, had scouted a convoy earlier in the day and managed to track it again after encountering Ancient. Now the two of them waited to spring on the convoy and release the diplomat of his riches. “Here it comes,” she whispered. The convoy rolled passed the hiding spot. Lariska had figured that the middle carriage of the three would house the diplomat. She would take out the rear carriage while Ancient entered the second, leaving the first in darkness about the whole ordeal. “Alright, here goes,” she said as the second carriage passed. She dipped out just as the Kikanalo stomped by so as not to spook them. She dispatched the carriage driver in a matter of seconds, taking the reins without letting the Kikanalo miss a beat. The guards sitting on the rear of the carriage didn’t notice a thing. The diplomat’s carriage was something else to behold. If the Miraki had grand fortresses, the diplomats lived in fortresses of carriages. The thing was at least six bio long and three bio wide. It was pulled by four Kikanalo, boasting of the superiority and sheer size of the carriage. There was even a staircase on the back to exit from the main chamber and go to an upper floor. The exterior was ornate, a stark comparison to the landscape through which the carriage traveled. This is what our society lives for, Ancient thought bitterly. Miners die by Rahi and diplomats live in their cages. He came out of hiding as Lariska finished off the driver of the third carriage, and quickly caught up to the second. The rear Kikanalo didn’t seem to notice, thanks to her handling of them. Ancient shot two blasts at the guards on the back of the diplomat’s carriage, and they fell sideways in their seats, unmoving. I really need to know what this thing does, he thought. He grabbed hold of the bars next to the guards’ seats and hoisted himself into the carriage. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, he swung the door open and stepped into the lavish room. Padded cushions, golden walls, a startled diplomat dropping the tome he was reading. Ancient quickly pointed his weapon at the diplomat’s chest. “Scream, move, breathe, and you’re the next one to take a hit from this thing,” Ancient said. It wasn’t his best threat – but it was one of the first he’d ever uttered anyways. The diplomat swallowed hard. “Please don’t shoot,” the diplomat said, shaking. “I’ll pay you twice whatever you’re being paid.” Ancient stopped a moment to think. “How much will you offer?” Ancient asked. After all, he thought, if I’m only here because the pay was better than that sculpting gig… The diplomat motioned to a chest across the room. “I’m tasked with taking that to the docks for transit,” he said. “They won’t understand when they find out it’s been stolen, but they’ll be merciful. Please, just spare me.” Ancient had no qualms with this development. He glanced out the back window to see that the third carriage had pulled farther back. Ancient replied, “Fine. Now, sorry about this.” And with that, Ancient shot a blast at the diplomat, who slumped back on his seat. “Should wear off in a couple hours, don’t worry,” he said, and then picked up the chest. He opened the back door, jumped off the carriage, and saw the warrior do likewise. The third carriage caught up to the diplomat’s convoy and no one could tell there had been any altercation. “Clean job,” Lariska said. “I see you got a little extra, too. Let’s get moving before anyone else comes by this way.” She and Ancient scurried into the forest and hid amongst the trees. They waited a few minutes before turning to the chest. “My my, Sculptor,” Lariska said. “You have quite a knack already for getting far better than we expect!” She rifled through the chest, clinking gold and goblets of fine artistry together. Ancient stood off against a tree. Lariska turned to him. “Something wrong?” Ancient spoke. “Not long from now and the carriage with the diplomat should be arriving at the docks. They’ll find out I was the one to rob it. What happens now?” “Ah, you’ll be fine,” Lariska said without missing a beat. “Look at you, strong, bold, without a care. You’re armed with that launcher and I’ve see the way you wield it. Besides, even without it you aren’t one to be tried.” Ancient looked at the launcher. “How does this thing work anyways?” he asked her. “I took it off your friend back at the ambush.” She came over to him and took the weapon from his hands. “It’s a Rhotuka launcher,” she explained. “Artificial as opposed to some of the natural ones you find around the world on Rahi and the like. But just as good, if not better. You can modify these ones, and by the way it looks this one already works a lot faster than most. That’s unique.” She held the launcher in her hand. “Everyone uses a different energy to power the launcher. I haven’t seen energy like yours before. My teammate who used this before you would poison his targets. You seem to cause your targets to lose their balance, or something.” She tossed it back to Ancient. “What happens when you use the launcher?” Ancient asked. She shrugged. “I’m more of an up-close and personal kind of fighter. My daggers are my way, and I’ll keep it like that. But come on, we have a few more raids we can make before the sun goes down.” * * * Ancient and Lariska spent the next few days ambushing and raiding small caravans. Along the way, Ancient wondered how long it would be before he was targeted for his actions. But, at the same time, he had never felt so free. He thought back to his life before meeting Lariska – arguably only a short time ago, yet it felt already as though he had only just come to life. As a sculptor, Ancient had toiled long days, months, years under the eyes of his superiors. A working-class citizen, he was slated to remain in subpar conditions for the duration of his life. He was strong, and had been good at his work. All his superiors said he was among the best – why it had taken them so long to send him to the Visionary Fields, he didn’t know. But each of his masters would just as quickly remind him of his place, and that he would serve them well for the rest of his time – since that was all he would ever attain. For some time, Ancient had thought the same. The unending years, the work that always lay ahead of him, it all made him believe that they were right. There was much work to be done, and someone had to do it. Someone had to be in charge. There were rules and structure for a reason. He had been convinced that perhaps he really was cut out for this labour, and nothing more. But no matter how hard he worked or tried to prove his worth, they never really cared. And Ancient had grown bitter over time. Carana still saw the hope of a society built on order and rigid stability, but what good was the work if it was always to benefit someone else? He and his fellow workers still lived in dingy, overcrowded camps while his master lounged in decadent opulence. Was it worth supporting a society that would not support the likes of him, or those even further below him? Time had worn against Ancient’s resolve, his mind slowly turning against all that he had come to appreciate and work for. It was only a matter of time before something – or someone, like Lariska – gave him reason and opportunity to break free. Ancient snapped back to reality. Now, there was no one telling him what to do – other than Lariska, who taught him a couple of moves and some techniques of sneaking and stealthily executing missions. The first couple of hits were not at all as successful as the diplomat’s carriage. Ancient found himself at the receiving end of a few guards’ launchers and lances because of his novice appreciation of silent work. He was, after all, a sculptor by trade – and sculptors were not known for their silence. Lariska was Ancient’s foil. She was graceful, working from shadows, never entering a fray without knowing six ways to get out in one piece. She was a quiet being, though eager to work with Ancient and help him reach his full potential. By the end of their first week together, they had amassed a small pile of gold and other valuables. This pays better than anything I’ve done before, Ancient thought. Despite his slow uptake of stealth and swiftness, Ancient quickly became proficient with his launcher. He traded his belt of sculptor’s tools in for an assortment of daggers and short swords, just in case things got a bit personal. Lariska taught him how to parry and slice and a host of moves with the blade and he aimed to become as good with the blade as his companion. They were walking through a mountain pass about a month after his disappearance when Ancient’s training came to be tested. “Sculptor!” a voice cried out. Ancient looked ahead and saw three dark masses coming over a hill in the road. “We’ve finally found you.” Ancient looked to his partner, who just seemed amused by the sudden encounter. “And you are?” Ancient asked. “We’ve been sent by the Miraki,” one of the three said. “They’ve found out about your betrayal of the code and they seek to rectify the situation.” Ancient understood that this rectifying would spell out his demise. He placed a hand on his launcher. “I recognize that one,” Lariska hissed at Ancient, pointing to one of the beings. He was green and thin, but looked dangerously quick. “That’s Tenuhi, a bounty hunter from off-island. If the Miraki hired him to get you out of the picture…” She didn’t have to finish her thought. “I’ll tell you what,” Ancient shouted back. “You can walk away and live, or you can try to take us and see what happens.” The three laughed. “If that’s what you want,” one said, and ran down to meet Lariska and Ancient. Tenuhi stomped the ground and took off into the sky, flying, while the third blinked out of sight. That one reappeared a moment later in front of Ancient. A teleporter, Ancient thought for but a moment. Thankfully, Lariska had seen this sort of enemy before and was quick to deliver a blow to their foe. He stumbled backward, away from Ancient. She followed him to finish the job. Ancient looked up to see Tenuhi soar down from above, while the final being closed in. Ancient shot a few blasts from his launcher into the sky but missed as Tenuhi twirled around. “Try again, Sculptor!” he taunted. Ancient scowled and tossed a dagger toward the running being. He swatted it away with a shield and charged Ancient. Thankfully, this one was a touch slower, and Ancient managed to line up a shot with his launcher and fired. The shot was clean, and the being went down. Ancient glanced back up to the sky but didn’t see Tenuhi. Suddenly he was grabbed from behind and lifted off the ground. “Ever flown, Sculptor?” the greenish fighter asked mockingly. “Or have you always felt more at home on the rocks?” Tenuhi spun around in the air with Ancient dangling below him, while Ancient threw a punch at him. “Careful Sculptor,” he said. “Unless you want me to drop you!” There was a shift in the weight above Ancient and he looked up to see the third being collapsed on top of Tenuhi. He let out a screech as the trio tilted to the earth. Ancient quickly jabbed Tenuhi as they got close to the ground and he dropped him. Ancient rolled onto the ground while the two fighters crashed to the earth below. Lariska ran up a few moments later. “What happened?” Ancient asked. The warrior smiled. “Gave him a choice,” she said. “Either die, or teleport onto his friend over there. Was an easy choice, really.” The pair ran over to the fighters, who were laying on the ground near one another, obviously in pain. “You’re going to pay for what you’ve done, Sculptor,” said Tenuhi. “The Miraki won’t stop until you’re defeated.” Ancient was about to reply when a fizzle from Tenuhi’s boots caught his attention. Then it dawned on him. “These boots are what allow you to fly, aren’t they?” he said. He shot the two beings with a blast from his launcher, then went to work removing the boots. “They might come in handy for someone like me.” He slid them on, and they fit near perfectly. “Hmm, a bit of refitting and these will do nicely. Thanks for stopping by.” “You won’t make it long, Sculptor!” the teleporting fighter choked out. “They’ll send more after you any day now!” Ancient shrugged. “If they’re anything like you, I’ll be fine I’m sure,” he replied. Then he turned to his friend. “I think we’d best pay the Miraki a visit.” She raised an eyebrow. “Going straight for the heart of it, eh? Alright, this could be fun.” They ran off in the direction of the Miraki fortress. After these past few months, I’m going back home, Ancient thought. But… it’s not home anymore, after all. * * * It took a few days to arrive on the outskirts of the capital of the island, where Ancient had begun his journey. But as they climbed over the crest of the ridge surrounding the city, it was obvious that things had changed. Dark smoke billowed above the city, and fires were lit across the horizon. The fortress rose as a shard of blackened stone above a sea of blacker cloud. “This is… nice,” Lariska said sarcastically. “It wasn’t like this when I left,” Ancient replied. They noticed a figure moving toward them. As the figure got closer, Ancient stepped up and stopped them. The figure turned out to be one of his own, obviously shaken by encountering these two in the road. “It’s, it’s you, really, really you,” the being stammered. “You’re, you, you’re the, the one who started, you started all, all this.” “What are you talking about?” Ancient asked. “The whole island, it’s… it’s chaos,” the being let out. “We’ve heard about youre escapades and the way you dealt with the hunters who came fore you.” Carana was right when he said word travels fast, Ancient thought. “What’s happening down there?” Ancient said, motioning to the city. “It’s a factory down there, everywhere,” the being said. “It all happened so fast. As soon as word of your betrayal reached the ears of the people, they turned against the Miraki. The Miraki turned against one another too. Only the eldest remains here – the others have all squared off for dominance of the island.” Ancient couldn’t believe what he was hearing. In only a few short weeks, the island had crumbled into war. Maybe the social structure wasn’t as solid as they had thought. “Is the Miraki still in the fortress?” Ancient asked. The being nodded. “He commands the people as an army now,” he replied. “They turned from sculptors to soldiers overnight. It’s… it’s all too fast…” and with that, the being rushed off. “He sure was having a good day,” Lariska said to Ancient. “Come on,” he said. “We’re going to visit the Miraki.” * * * Ancient and Lariska quickly dispatched the guards at the fortress. The people of the city had cheered as Ancient entered, hailing him all the more as hero. Ancient couldn’t help but feel mixed over the outcome of his actions. He hadn’t wanted war, but if that’s what it took to overthrow the order… The Miraki stood in his throne room, gazing out over the people below as he had when Ancient came only a few weeks earlier. At the sound of his arrival the Miraki turned and scowled. “You have the audacity to enter my city, my fortress, after all that you have done?” He shouted. “You’re lucky to be alive at this point. The whole island wants you dead. The Miraki have turned against one another, and now we’re fighting our own. Is this what you wanted?” “I’m not here to have you shout me out,” Ancient replied coolly. “This isn’t what I wanted but if it’s what will free the people, I’m not going to apologize.” “Free the people,” the Miraki spat. “You’ve signed their death wish. There’s war out there, Sculptor, not freedom.” “Sometimes it takes a war to find freedom,” Lariska said boldly. The Miraki burned a glare at her. “You should know that this city is not the worst, either. The Miraki have halted communications but from what I’ve heard, they are setting up their own fortresses and domineering over the people under them. It’s not freedom,” the Miraki said, falling into his chair. “Worse yet, we’ve had our supply cut off from the iron mines north of here. That’s another Miraki’s territory now. And in the east, our fields have been ravished by yet another Miraki. Your actions will spell the death of us, Sculptor.” Ancient thought a moment. “What if I get the fields and the mines back?” The Miraki looked puzzled. “You insult me now by offering your assistance?” he fired back. “After all you’ve done?” “Either that or you can starve,” Ancient replied. The Miraki bit his tongue and thought. “Perhaps… no… you are a cruel being, Sculptor,” the Miraki said. “But I see no other choice. If you started this, maybe you can end it. Fine, I’ll take your offer.” “Oh, it’s not an offer,” Ancient said. “You’ll pay me to do it.” The Miraki rolled his eyes. “And you continue to fall down the ladder,” he said. “I’m not on any ladder, anymore. You need something, I can do it. Plain and simple.” The Miraki summoned a guard. “I’ll pay you this much now, and the same again once the task is completed,” the Miraki said. "Don’t come back until it’s done." “Pleasure doing business, Miraki,” Ancient said, and turned away. As he got to the door, he glanced back and remembered his manners: “For my empire.” * * * The next week was spent traveling to the western empire. The Miraki there had set up on the coast, well-guarded and defended by the rising rocky spires. At least, that was if you couldn’t fly. “You find a way in from the ground, and I’ll start at the top,” Ancient told his companion. She nodded and ran off. Ancient stomped the ground and took off to the top of the fortress, similar in fashion to his own home city’s fortress. He landed on a balcony and entered, winding down staircases to a room of obvious importance. Walking in, he found the Miraki, a pale yellow member of their species with silvery armor. The Miraki looked up from his table and stood in shock. “How did you… guards!” The Miraki called out. Ancient sent a shot of energy at the four guards who entered the room first, and they fell to the ground motionless. The rest halted their approach. “Greetings,” Ancient said. “Here to make a deal.” “Why would I make a deal with you, traitor?” the Miraki exclaimed. “You’ve ruined our society. There’s no use for you here.” “Allow me to let you in on my purpose here,” Ancient said calmly. “The Miraki of the west sent me to find a way to get access to the fields you now control. Now, I’m a reasonable person, so I’m willing to strike a deal with you. But, I’m also willing to crush you and your cronies into the ground and just hand the fields over to the Miraki. It’s up to you.” The yellow Miraki frowned and furrowed his brow, considering the options, one of which was not favourable. “Alright, we’ll make a deal. I’m in need of supplies to defend my southern border against Rahi attacks. It seems that by upsetting our order you also threw all of the island itself into chaos. Your Miraki fashions good weapons. If you give us access to weaponry, which we will pledge not to use against your people, we will share the fields’ produce with your people.” Ancient nodded. “That sounds almost reasonable. The only problem, I’m going to need to be convinced myself.” The Miraki looked puzzled. “I’m giving your people food, what more do you want?” Ancient rubbed his thumb and fingers together in the air. “They aren’t my people anymore than they are your people. All I want is to be paid for securing the deal. How much will you offer to protect your people?” The Miraki shook his head. “Take our food, take our finance… you’ve really turned yourself into something different, Sculptor. We’ll pay.” The Miraki opened a chest on the shelves next to his desk and pulled out a fair-sized bag. He placed it on the desk, and Ancient scooped it up, opened it, and nodded. “This will do. Do call if you need something else,” Ancient said merrily. The Miraki scoffed. Lariska entered the room at that moment and saw the scene before her. “Taking all the fun, eh Sculptor?” she said. He turned and walked out with her, careful to step over the wake of bodies she left behind. * * * Over the course of the next few months, Ancient saw his business of making deals and settling disputes rise in popularity among the people of the island. Not long after the break of the skirmishes, the Miraki declared all out war against one another. Citizens were being targeted at random in crowds, towns were being bombarded by Rahi, supply networks were cut and broken as trades were interrupted between empires. And Ancient’s influence grew all the more. The Miraki did not deal directly with Ancient, but sent envoys to him to request his help. True to his new life, he was quick to take up an offer, and even quicker to change sides if a better offer arose. Lariska often worked separately from him, and a few others joined their band of mercenaries. Ancient’s business was doing well. The most recent development in the war – Ancient had been summoned by the Miraki of the east to assassinate the Miraki of the north. I wish they’d just drop their stupid titles and go by their real names, Ancient thought to himself. All this Miraki stuff is long over. He was promised a good sum of gold for his actions. Ancient knew that if he went through with this plan, there would be no going back. And he also knew that if one Miraki fell, the fragile remnants of order would be thrown away, resulting in power struggles even he might not be able to control. Still, money was money, and worst come to worst there were other islands to visit and rule. Ancient slammed a guard against the wall of the keep, knocking him out. Another guard charged him with a lance, but Ancient’s Rhotuka struck him with ease, felling him instantly. This Miraki was clever and installed a few architectural challenges which proved difficult for Ancient, though. First there was a room in which the floor would fall away into a lava pit if the wrong path was chosen. Then, there was a room of Muaka, who had not been fed for some time. After that Ancient encountered a room of levers, only one of which would open the door – the rest would fill the room with poisonous gas. That one wasn’t too hard to figure out though – Ancient simply smashed down the door. He arrived in the Miraki’s personal chambers, and found the bronze Miraki brandishing a sword. “You’re a disappointment to our species, Sculptor,” The Miraki barked. Ancient sighed, exasperated. “Why does everyone… I’m not a sculptor anymore,” he said. “And I’m just doing my job.” “Your job?” the Miraki exclaimed. “If you had done your job, we’d have a couple more nice statues outside. But no, you thought you could ‘free the people,’ and ‘everything would be better’ and ‘there would be no need for Miraki.’” Ancient knew the being in front of him was mocking him, but he held his temper. “I’ve been sent to kill you, collect a bounty, and go,” Ancient said. “That’s what I’m here to do. So if you’ll just die quickly, I’ll be on my way.” “No!” the Miraki shouted. “I’m not going down today!” With that he thrust his sword swiftly at Ancient. The sword reflected off Ancient’s new golden armor, which protected his body from most attacks. The Miraki stumbled in front of Ancient, dropping his sword. “How… who can stand before you?” Ancient grinned. “Make me an offer,” he replied. “Money speaks volumes louder than words.” The Miraki looked around the room. “I have… I have… If you spare me, I can…” Ancient allowed him to try to come up with something. “Time’s wasting, Miraki,” he said. “You have ten seconds to come up with an offer.” The Miraki stood and frantically shifted through his shelves to find something of value, some treasure to offer, anything less valuable than his own life. He could not. Ancient sighed. “Sorry Miraki, it’s only business.” He shot the Miraki in the back, rendering him still. “It’s unfortunate that the other Miraki asked for you to be brought back and executed in front of him. I’d much rather take care of you myself right now.” He slung the Miraki over his shoulder and stepped to the balcony. “It’s a good thing you can’t move.” He stomped the ground and jumped over the ledge. The Miraki screamed on the way down, not realizing Ancient’s controlled descent. Landing on the ground effortlessly, Ancient tossed the Miraki in the back of his cart and began the trek back to receive his pay. * * *
  17. Tick Tock A gray Toa stood at the helm of a small ship, humming to himself as the spray washed over his mask. He relished in the sound of the hull skipping over the water, trying to match his own tune to the cadence and resonance of the craft’s rising and falling. Most of his kind hated the constant crashing and splashing of the ocean, and so made a point of avoiding it at all costs. He had, however, never quite fit in with them much anyways. His name was Toa Krakua, and he had been dispatched on a mission of utmost importance by Turaga Vakama himself. Really he was thankful for the opportunity to get away from the reconstruction efforts on the mainland. Though there had been no lack of excitement since the death of the Great Spirit robot and the evacuation of its inhabitants onto the newly reformed Spherus Magna, Krakua had found himself more often serving on salvage teams than fighting whatever menace had risen up against the union of Toa, Turaga, Matoran, Agori, and Glatorian. His knowledge of terrain and passageways in the now-dead universe he had served as a member of the Order of Mata Nui – and his ability to “see” with his sonic powers in the total darkness inside – were thought to be of better use in salvage operations than in combat by the Toa Nuva. Though he understood the necessity of this work, it was often quite dull, other than the occasional troop of Zyglak they’d encounter. Though of course that never provided much of a thrill, as Krakua could hear their lumbering and growling from a kio away. It was far from what he had become accustomed to in his time as an agent of the Order, but even in those days he had felt that Helryx was holding him back, sending him only on missions where things were unlikely to get too out of hand. He had almost felt that the Toa Nuva saw him in the same way at times, and so was more than thankful when Turaga Vakama sought him out for what he was told was a mission of great importance. Vakama had called for Krakua to meet him by the Wall of History in New Atero at sunset just a few days before. Kopeke the Chronicler had had a monumental task set before him when he was asked to carve this new Wall of History, now that all the great secrets of their former universe had been laid bare. Krakua had sat through a few bumbling interviews himself with the awkward Ko-Matoran, recounting what he could remember of his most important missions with the Order. Though it was still not finished (and though he loathed the constant sound of hammer on stone that assaulted his senses day after day), Krakua had to admit he was impressed with the little Matoran’s work as he stood looking it over in the waning sunlight. He heard the sound of shuffling feet and robes as he turned to see Turaga Vakama approaching from the other end of the great hall. “Walking amidst such history does have a way of making one feel small,” he mused with a grin, “and standing alongside a Toa certainly does not help for old relics like me.” “Your heroism stands taller than I or this wall ever will,” replied Krakua with a small bow. “Nonsense!” replied Vakama with a chuckle. “I’m quite certain you Toa get taller every time I see you.” The old Turaga’s eyes turned towards the sprawling wall. He walked slowly over to a rather large and ornate glyph and gently put his hand on it. It depicted a Toa floating in mid air, the great Kanohi Ignika on his face and beams of light shining outward from him. “He did not look quite so imposing when I knew him,” he said with a look of nostalgia. “Toa Matoro?” replied Krakua, turning to look at the carving as well. Vakama smiled. “I can still only think of him as a little Matoran, staring wide-eyed at Nuju as he told another one of his stories. He had a look in his eyes as if that was the only place in the world he wanted to be. I never knew him when he stood as tall as you, but I know without a doubt that his heart was still the same.” He sighed. “He of course bore the greatest burden, that of laying his life down for others so that we all might live on. But in the peace of death he no longer has to bear that burden. Those of us who still live cannot lay ours down just yet.” The old Turaga walked slowly along the wall, running his hand along the carvings. Krakua followed behind, examining Kopeke’s handiwork. He observed that they were walking backwards through the adventures of the Toa Mahri and their quest to obtain the Ignika and save the life of the Great Spirit. He had read the stories before, but was always taken aback anew by the terrors these Toa had endured. From the nightmare realm of Karzahni, to the hellish wastelands of Voya Nui, and then into the black waters of the Pit, their journey had been far more terrifying than any legend whispered in fear among the Matoran. Krakua had seen much in his own journeys throughout the universe, but even he could not imagine the trials these six heroes had faced. Vakama came to a stop where the chronicle of the Toa Mahri began. He stared at it for a moment, running his fingers along the Matoran symbols until they reached those that spelled out his own name. “All that they went through, all that my little villagers suffered and endured and fought for, and even the death of noble Matoro – it was all, in a way, because of me. It was I and my fellow Turaga who sent them on their quest to aid the Toa Nuva and that lead them down the perilous road to their Destiny. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Matoro.” Vakama lowered his hand from the wall and turned to look into the sunset. “That is why I do not take lightly what I am about to ask of you, brave Toa.” “Time is a funny thing,” mused the Turaga as he walked, this time more briskly, further down the wall, continuing their journey into the past. “Though we perceive it as linear, it has yet a certain circuity to it. What has been has a tendency to come around again. What has died often is reborn, though it may not quite be familiar at first.” As they strode down the stone monolith, the two beings came to a portion where the sections of writing were more sparse, separated by increasingly large gaps until eventually the wall before them was entirely blank. “The time before time,” mused Vakama as he ran his hand along the smooth stone. “As of yet we know little of what was so long ago. But, it has proven to have a habit of showing itself to us.” Vakama’s finger glowed subtly as he traced lines and shapes on the blank wall, his gestures leaving trails of soot behind them. After a moment the shape of a kanohi mask was clear, one with dramatic wing-like flares on either side of the mouth and only a thin shaft and bridged eye slits extending above the lower structure. It was adorned with a pattern of round holes and edged with a series of small curves. “The Kanohi Vahi,” said Krakua, “Mask of Time. Your handiwork I am told.” Vakama smiled. “Perhaps my greatest creation had I remained but a mask maker. But of course Destiny had other plans in mind.” “The final reports put together by the Order said it was in the hands of the Dark Hunters when the Great Spirit robot fell. I remember others who had been in Metru Nui with us said that Voporak stole it from the Coliseum,” said Krakua. “Another time when I wished I still had your stature and power, friend,” replied Vakama. “Then perhaps I could have stopped that monster. But what has come to pass cannot be undone. The Hunters are indeed in possession of the Mask of Time, and though we do not yet know the extent of their plans for it, we have learned that they have put another scheme in motion. If what we have learned is true, they are planning to steal the other Mask of Time.” “Other Mask of Time?” Krakua asked in incredulity. “I had never heard that you’d made a second one. I’d thought there was only one set of great Kanoka disks.” “This mask is no creation of mine,” replied Vakama, turning again to the blank wall, “nor of any other being like us. Legend tells us it belongs to a time long before our own, before even that of the Great Beings themselves. It was unknown to any inhabitants of our universe save perhaps the oldest and most powerful for much of our existence, and even when the legends about it were unearthed it was kept secret among but a few. But now that the secrets of our dead universe are laid bare, and in the knowledge that the Dark Hunters possess the Vahi, the time has come to see if the legends are true.” Vakama turned to Krakua, and he noticed for the first time that the Turaga held an ancient-looking map in his hand, a scroll of paper rather than a stone tablet. “This is the most complete map we have of ancient Spherus Magna, unearthed in the catacombs of the Great Beings’ labs. As far as we can tell it depicts all that they charted in their exploration of the planet. Spherus Magna as it is now is not exactly as it was then, but if the legends hold true this map should be enough to help you find your destination.” The old Turaga knelt down and carefully rolled out the ancient scroll on the stone floor in the path of a waning ray of sunlight. He set his finger down on the approximate location of New Atero and traced it out into the oceans of Aqua Magna to a tiny island isolated from any other landmass. Krakua could not make out the ancient symbols that spelled out the island’s name. “Okoto,” said Vakama as if knowing the Toa’s thoughts. “It is a land untouched for millennia, the cradle of the Great Beings’ civilization. Their ancestors lived there and laid down the foundations of what would come in the ages ahead. As far as we know little is left there, other than that which you are seeking.” Vakama further unrolled the scroll, revealing a crude depiction of what looked to be a stone building, wide and rectangular with two pointed upper towers, and what appeared to be a pendulum protruding from one side. “The ancients called this place the Temple of Time. It was a sacred site for them, as it housed this more ancient Mask of Time. It is said that they revered it as a source of prophecy and means of seeing into the future. What it actually was we are not sure, but it is undoubtedly an artifact of great power just like the mask that I forged myself.” “I’m guessing then that the Hunters are hoping to combine this mask’s power with the Vahi to try and influence the flow of time,” mused Krakua, squatting down to examine the map. Vakama chuckled. “No one who wears a kanohi Suletu gets to pretend they are guessing my friend. You have seen my thoughts correctly, to the best of our understanding the Shadowed One and his minions have reason to believe that with the two masks joined together they will be able to alter time. I know from my own attempts to use the mask that it possesses more power than most beings can control, so perhaps the Hunters think that the two masks together will allow their power to be more easily manipulated.” “So you need me to get to the mask first then,” said Krakua, rising again to his full stature. “We can use it to see a way to beat the Dark Hunters and take back the Vahi before they can complete their plan.” Vakama sighed, leaning on his staff. “You sound too much like Helryx still, my friend. Always seeking to exploit.” He tapped his staff twice on the stone floor, then chuckled lamentfully. “The mask is not a weapon to be put to use for our own purposes. That is the Dark Hunters’ aim. And anyways, that is not the nature of such a mask.” Vakama turned to look at his drawing of the Vahi. “The future can only share so much with the past, Krakua. That is a law even a Toa does not have the power to change. If this mask is like the Vahi I forged then it would not be possible to control by one of our kind to see that of which you speak. No, friend, your purpose is to protect it.” Krakua’s heart sank. Guard duty. He was going from guarding a salvage crew to guarding an old mask on an ancient, probably uninhabited island. Not much of an improvement - a demotion really. He was starting to think this mission would be just like all the others after all. Vakama must have noticed the Toa’s expression behind his mask as the wise Turaga smiled almost knowingly and added, “Don’t worry my friend, I have a feeling you will be anything but bored in your quest.” . . . . . At least I’m outside, mused Krakua as his craft skimmed over the waves, the sunlight washing over his frame as did the ocean spray. Even if this was guard duty, at least there was light out here. Moreso, he was thankful he wouldn’t have anyone else to account for. He wasn’t a loner by any means, but he couldn’t help but enjoy the freedom of his independence as he gazed out at the wide expanse of water surrounding him. The thrill of adventure coursed through him as he gazed towards the horizon, kios of open unknown ahead. For once it was satisfying to know that however dull his assignment might turn out to be, he was serving the Matoran and their allies as a Toa should. Because he had been rescued by the Order before he received his Toa powers, he had never served on a Toa team or as the defender of a Koro. His life as a Toa had been as a servant of the Order, separated from his other powered companions only by the stipulations of the Toa Code he still chose to abide by. He knew he had done much good serving the Order, but as one of its agents he was well aware of the darker deeds they had committed in the name of the greater good. Helryx was careful to shield him from being sent on such missions so as to protect his adherence to the Code, but he knew of them nonetheless from bits and pieces he picked up from reports and overheard conversations. Again he looked out towards the horizon. This island of Okoto wouldn’t be more than a few days’ journey, but as far as he could see there was water. An ocean bigger than my entire universe, he thought. And yet, I spent my whole life fighting for it. I masqueraded all about, calling myself a Toa, working for ‘the good of all,’ all for what? For it to be possessed by some egomaniac Makuta and then crushed by a meteor? He slumped down, sitting on the floor of the boat. He looked out again over the waves. Well at least I’m a true Toa now. I’m fighting the good fight. An image flashed into his mind. A Matoran, dead, killed in cold blood. A Toa of Water standing over the motionless form, a sickening grin on her face. Tuyet. Krakua had been briefed on this rogue Toa. So hungry for power was she that she killed the Matoran she was sworn to protect to secure it. She was as much a monster as Teridax himself. Another image flashed in Krakua’s mind, this time of a four-legged insectoid being. Nidhhiki. As monstrous on the inside as on the outside, the former Toa had willingly lead his own team into an ambush in order to secure a position of power. As if that weren’t enough, he had served Teridax himself before being absorbed into the Makuta’s body. Countless other stories began resurfacing in Krakua’s memory, tales of the horrors rought by Toa who had abandoned their Duty to pursue their own hearts’ desires. A dejected look spread over the Toa’s face. We’re no better than the Makuta or the Dark Hunters. When the opportunity presents itself, we Toa will turn on our friends just as quickly. We’re not heroes. We’re just loose cannons pointed in the right direction. Krakua lowered his head in dismay as he streaked onward across the vast ocean. . . . . . Three days had passed since Krakua left New Atero for the mysterious island of Okoto. He drew a stone tablet from a satchel as the sun sank lower on the horizon. On it was etched a copy of the ancient map shown to him by Vakama. As far as he could guess, he expected to reach the island’s shores by nightfall. From there he would have to head inland through a dense jungle to reach the Temple of Time. He had been scanning the surrounding ocean for any sign of a ship or other craft that might indicate that the Dark Hunters had followed him, or worse, were ahead of him, but so far he hadn’t spotted anything. He had begun to tire of seeing nothing but water and so was looking forward to being on dry land again, even if there was little promise of excitement. Maybe there will be some rahi that will try to make a meal out of me, he mused. Or at least whatever it is they call their beasts there. Krakua caught his first glimpse of the island just as the sun dipped below the horizon. He turned to take one last look at the setting sun and was surprised to see a faint glimmer in the distance, there and gone in an instant as the sun fell out of view. For a moment he thought of a possible pursuer who had somehow dodged his watchful eye. Even at this distance though, he thought, he surely would have heard the engine any such craft would require, and so dismissed it as the reflection off of a takea shark’s fin or something of the like. The sandy shore was dark when he beached his boat, but he had no trouble “seeing” thanks to his ability to echolocate. Never could get over feeling like a big gray ice bat, even if I am outside this time around, he thought to himself as he dragged his craft up to the treeline and covered it with loose brush. Krakua used his Kanohi Suletu to probe the area for sentient minds, a practice he had made a habit of in his days as an agent of the Order. He detected none, and so made his way into the dense mass of trees ahead of him. He drew his sonic vibration sword and made it quiver just enough to cut a path through the vines and bushes. He realized he was making quite a bit of noise even to a being without his powers, but he figured if somehow someone had followed him here he was better off making his presence known. After all, between his enhanced hearing and his Suletu he’d see them coming long before they could sneak up on him. After a less-than-enjoyable amount of bushwhacking, Krakua noticed the brush had begun to thin and spotted a clearing up ahead. He emerged from the jungle into a wide open area of hard dirt with patches of grass which sloped up in the center forming a small hill. At the top was an imposing structure, clearly that which was depicted on the scroll. It was beyond ancient, yet somehow a bit too well-preserved for its age. It loomed over the jungle landscape almost with a presence of its own, watching and waiting for eons while all else grew up, died, and was replaced by other things that would do the same. As Krakua stepped into the clearing he realized he had not kept up his telepathic pings as he strained to push through the thick underbrush. He decided to do one more for good measure before mounting the hill and entering the temple. Immediately he sensed another, malevolent presence. He had barely enough time to dodge a flying kanoka disk which shot past him and into the hillside. Stunned, Krakua turned to face his attacker, but “saw” nothing. Even more confusing was the realization that he heard nothing either – not the creaking of joints or the rising and falling of breaths or the minute scrapings of armor that even the tiniest of beings made without hardly moving. There was nothing but his own noise and the sounds of the jungle. Crouching low and readying his sword he tried to reach out with his kanohi to probe the thoughts of his attacker. He found the other mind without difficulty, but when he tried to read it he heard but one thing. Silence. Another kanoka disk ripped out of the shadows, this time barely missing Krakua’s head. He caught just enough of a glimpse of the projectile as he rolled away to guess where it came from and peered eagerly into the darkness in that direction. His echolocation could make out no figure, but he did notice something that caught him by surprise. Though the shape of every stone, tree and vine was clear, there in front of him was a perfect circle of darkness – not darkness void of light but void of sound. Shutting off his echolocation, Krakua stared into the pitch black of the night. He barely glimpsed a faint pair of red eyes before he had to dive out of the path of another kanoka disk. Now knowing his attacker’s position, he unleashed a deafening wave of sonic energy from his sword. He could see the shapes of trees blown out of the ground flying in all directions, ripped out at the roots as a massive sonic boom rang out through the forest. As the dust cleared, Krakua lowered his sword only to see that the circle of blackness and the beady red eyes hadn’t budged an inch. Bewildered, Krakua took the opportunity to again raise his sonic sword, this time striking the ground and raising up a cloud of dust to cover his dash into the temple doorway. If he couldn’t hear his attacker in the open clearing, perhaps the stone corridors of the temple would at least make an echo to give the Toa of Sonics an edge. The interior of the structure was illuminated by the dim light of ancient runes carved into the wall and filled with some luminescent stone. These runes ran in columns up and down the interior walls, giving off just enough light that Krakua didn’t need to rely on echolocation any longer. After making his way through the grand archway Krakua had dashed around the first corner passage he saw and stood with his back against the wall, waiting for his pursuer to follow. The second he heard so much as a pebble shift he would use his sonic sword to bring down the stone doorway and trap the attacker beneath the rubble. He waited like this for what seemed like an eternity, catching his breath and readying his counterattack. Growing impatient, he peered ever so slightly around the corner, and was immediately face to face with those beady red eyes, now obscured behind a dark translucent faceplate. Krakua ducked as a short blade crashed into the stone where his neck had been an instant before, but he was not quick enough to dodge the kick that followed. His enemy’s foot crashed into his head and sent him skidding across the stone floor. Stunned, Krakua watched with blurred vision as his attacker strode across the floor towards him, lumbering almost robotically under its heavy armor. Most unsettling though was the absolute lack of sound it made despite the weight of its armor, when it should have clanged about like a Mahi’s bell on a cold day. Krakua struggled to get up as the being bore down on him, but before he could rise it was upon him, wrapping its fingers around his throat. As it lifted him in the air, Krakua readied a blast of sonic energy and unleashed it point-blank at his pursuer. To his shock and dismay the Toa of Sonics heard not so much as a pop as the attacker stood absolutely unaffected. Krakua tried again and again to strike out, to no avail. Behind its faceplate, the attacker’s red eyes gleamed in a twisted smile. In all his missions for the Order, in all his pitched battles and close calls, Krakua had never before felt so afraid. Here he was, a Toa, a being of immense power, and yet it was all useless against this monster that gripped him by the throat. His eyes widened as he suddenly recognized the face of his attacker. It was the Dark Hunter “Silence,” a being able to create a sound-dampening field around himself. Serving mostly as an assassin, he was one of the Hunters the Order most feared as he was nearly untraceable. Rumor had it that even the other Dark Hunters didn’t know where he was when he spent time on Odina. Krakua knew of this creature, and had hoped against all hope that he would never, ever meet him, but yet here they were, the only two beings for kios around on a desolate island in the middle of an ocean. Gathering himself as best he could, Krakua lashed out with a hard kick, striking his assailant in the torso and earning just enough give to twist free of his chokehold. Krakua grabbed his sword and raised it to strike Silence, who quickly blocked with his own blades. Releasing one blade while holding back the sword with the other, Silence sliced noiselessly at Krakua, striking him on the hip and forcing him to disengage. As Krakua staggered back, he noticed a series of huge stone beams running one after the other above the passageway before him. He raised his sonic sword and shattered one into pieces, which fell and glanced off of Silence’s armor. Krakua kept up the barrage as he walked backwards down the hallway, Silence following in his wake. The next beam struck Silence dead on, though he brushed it off and continued forward. The third clearly disoriented him, and the fourth drove him to the ground, covering him in large chunks of rubble. Krakua downed one more to slow any pursuit and ran on down the passageway. I’ve got to find the mask. I’ve got to find the mask, thought Krakua as he stumbled around another corner, trying to put as much distance between himself and his pursuer as he could while he had the chance. Running away, running away, he heard in the back of his mind. Ha! Some Toa you are! “Quiet!” he said aloud, shaking his head as he came to another large doorway. This one was near the center of the temple, and it opened up into a large atrium that looked up between the two towers on the roof of the structure. Massive columns of glowing runes lined the walls of the chamber, illuminating a large raised platform in the center. Floating in the center of this platform was a golden mask, looking almost like an inverted version of the Vahi but yet more ancient and refined. Without hesitation Krakua strode up the stone stairway leading up the platform. As he crested the top and reached for the mask, he barely had time to notice a red laser dot on the platform in front of him before he was blown back by a huge explosion. Slamming into one of the outer walls amidst dust and debris, Krakua collapsed to the ground. He looked up to see the ominous figure of Silence, battered but unhurt, standing in the doorway with smoke rising from the cannon he held in his right hand. With what strength he had left, Krakua picked himself up and slipped behind the wall he had fallen in front of. He looked out into the atrium as Silence reloaded his cannon and saw that the Mask of Time still hovered in place, though its pedestal platform was blackened and had a large chunk blown away. One last chance, he thought, readying his sonic sword. He prepared to unleash a sonic blast at the ground beneath him, rocketing himself into the air on a trajectory to grab the mask where it floated. Then, hopefully, he would make a mad dash for the nearest passageway and make his way back into the jungle. He reached out with his Suletu one last time, hoping to at least get a general sense of where his pursuer was so as to be ready for the next Kanoka disk or cannon blast. As he made note of Silence’s position and prepared to make his jump, he felt something else tugging at the edge of his mind. Surprised, he turned towards the presence. It was right by the mask itself, faint but hovering around or within it. Confused, he probed deeper, sensing that the presence was growing slightly stronger and moving just to the right of the mask. Closing his eyes, Krakua reached out to the presence with his mind. Suddenly, he was overwhelmed by a whirling haze of color and sound, visions of past and future flashing all around him. Thoughts that were not his own invaded his mind. Memories of things he had never experienced washed over him. He struggled to focus amidst the onslaught of swirling visions. Merged into one were past, present and future alike all around him. A cyclone of sights and sounds blasted his frame as he struggled to discern what he was perceiving. He suddenly saw himself, still but a De-Matoran, being rescued from his village by the Ko-Matoran Mazeka. He saw himself training on Daxia with other members of the Order, and his own conversion to his Toa form. He looked beyond and saw an even greater cacophony of swirling visions. He saw his friend Jerbraz, who he recognized by his demeanor rather than his appearance, suddenly be turned invisible in a freak accident. He saw Vakama and the other Toa Metru surrender their Toa power to awaken the sleeping Matoran on the shores of Mata Nui. He turned again to see Toa Helryx arise for the first time, surrounded by dark hooded figures looming over her. He saw a great red mass of teeth and tentacles banished to the outer regions of his universe, telepathic screams coursing through his mind. He witnessed the first spark of life in the Great Spirit robot, and its final battle under Makuta’s control where it was ultimately struck down. And then, brighter and clearer than any other vision, he saw a Toa of Ice descend from dark waters into a vast light and don the great Kanohi Ignika. He felt a surge of energy and light as he witnessed the figure burst into a flash of pure essence and disperse into the great cavern as the sounds of immense machinery grinding and turning again rang out. He looked beyond, and in a moment of clarity he saw the whole history of his own kind, the Toa, laid out before him like an open scroll. He looked upon the great deeds of the heroes of old and of those who would succeed him, and all they had done, would do, and had sacrificed in the name of truth and justice. Though some fell to the temptations of power and vanity, the heroism and nobility of the rest far outweighed their treachery. Krakua looked on in awe, breathing in sharply once or twice. This is what it means to be a Toa, he thought amidst the swirling storm of sight and sound. This is our legacy. This is who I am. Again the full weight of the stream of visions bore upon him. He fought to maintain his sanity against the mental assault of so many lives lived, battles fought, friends lost and enemies made. He closed his eyes in pain, crying out as he felt his mind on the verge of tearing apart. Then suddenly, all was quiet again. The pressure subsided and Krakua opened his eyes. A form took shape in his mind’s eye. It was a Toa of Fire, wearing a Kanohi Huna and looking even more confused than Krakua. With a smile of recognition and of purpose, Krakua spoke. “I am Toa Krakua,” he said, looking the red Toa in the eyes. “I greet you, brother, in the name of all the Toa who have gone before and all of those who have yet to be.” ----- To Jayne Cobb: Hope you enjoyed the story! Sorry it's coming so late, I had a very busy holiday season, and because I loved this idea so much I wanted to be sure I did it right. I know you wanted short and sweet, but I figure since I pretty much hit all of your other requests that I can get a pass on that one! I really had a lot of fun writing this and hope that you and any other readers have a blast with it too! ----- A note for all readers: in case it isn't obvious, this story fits in with the events of BIONICLE Adventures 10: Time Trap. I even steal a few key lines from the relevant chapter and make several direct references that can be spotted by those with keen eyes. If you want a copy of the chapter to compare you can find the section I referenced on pages 183-184 of book five of the ever-so-amazing compendium of Bionicle lore that is TuragaNuva's Biological Chronicle project (link). A special thanks to TuragaNuva for your hard work, and an even bigger one to BIOsector01 for every scrap of canon information I could ever have needed. And of course to Tufi Piyufi for organizing this wonderful fanfic exchange! Thanks everyone, enjoy! -Sam
  18. 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.
  19. My unfortunate victim this year was Kanohi Ko-llector, who wanted a story with action, mystery, Dark Hunters, the Guys, and other underused characters. Unfortunately you've only got this. Hope you enjoy friend, and Happy New Year! ------- “Amphibax!” Before the order was even given, Amphibax had abandoned his spar and taken to the hallways of the Odina Fortress. It was unwise to keep the Shadowed One waiting. He could only hope his master’s thoughts would be kind to him and arrange the labyrinthian hallways to speed his arrival. Whatever the case, he quickly found himself before the throne and dropped to a kneel almost before coming to a stop. “Your orders, sir?” he hissed. The Shadowed One gazed down on him with a discomforting smile. “Amphibax, how kind of you to join us.” For the first time, the Hunter noticed the two other beings present. Both were short like Matoran, but that was where the similarities ended. Their arms stretched far beneath their wide shoulders, almost dragging around their stubby feet tipped with vicious black claws. The one kneeling at his right was red and orange, with a long, sneering face that resembled a Skakdi skull. The one at his right, grey with red arms and a naked face. Amphibax made his observations within seconds, not daring to take his eyes from his master for longer, but he still wasn’t quick enough to avoid a smirk from the right. The Shadowed One loomed over him, pausing for the precise amount of time it would take Amphibax’s sharp mind to piece everything together. “Before you are two new recruits, Urhan and Anla. You are to prove them. Is that a problem?” Amphibax knew better than to grumble. It was a necessary task that all participated in, however there were few that enjoyed training the rookies. “No sir. It would be my… privilege to accompany them.” The Shadowed One leaned back in his chair looking satisfied. He tapped a crystal overhanging his throne, the cue for the spindly Recorder to come stumbling from behind its desk with a tablet which The Shadowed One took. “I have chosen you for a reason, Amphibax. Your… abilities may be useful in ensuring the mission is completed. You know what happens if it is not.” He went on without pause, holding out the tablet to Amphibax. “A weapon shipment just left Xia bound for Destral. It would be a shame if the cargo were to never arrive.” Amphibax nodded. “And, these two?” The Shadowed One waved him off. “You will have time to become acquainted, but that ship will not wait.” The Hunter nodded again, quickly rising and turning back into the fortress. The grinning one followed as his heels, while his companion took a moment to realize they had been left behind. Amphibax didn’t make it easy for them to catch him with their short legs. However, he did stay close enough to catch the jeers the other Hunters sent their way. Apparently these two recruits had a reputation. That seemed pivotal to the mission, whether beneficial or ominous Amphibax couldn’t tell. “Oh no, where is our hero to stop Bad Guy?” called a Skakdi Amphibax knew only as Sting. The toothy one snarled at her, and she gave her own smug grin back until she caught sight of the other one. “Oh, there he is, behind as always. So much for Good Guys always win.” Fortunately neither stopped for long to answer her proddings. Amphibax wouldn’t have appreciated the delay for what had become a form of greeting among many Hunters. As they worked to get the boat ready to sail, the silence broke into friendly banter between the recruits. Amphibax saw little value in it and his thoughts turned to the mission. The Brotherhood wouldn’t allow their shipment to be taken aboard any Xian ship, so one of their own. They often followed a particular schematic. Amphibax already knew where the cargo hold would be located, and several entry points. The most useful would be… “Quiet type then?” Amphibax looked up into Urlan’s Skakdi grin. “Quiet keeps me alive. And you, if we’re lucky.” Urlan leaned up against the side of the boat. “Relax, all we need to do is break in, steal some slag, and get out.” “Weren’t you listening? This is a Brotherhood of Makuta ship. A floating fortress with guards and security measures at every turn. Getting in and getting out will be far from easy. Unless… you happen to be holding out on me.” If possible, Urlan’s grin widened. “Well, I’d never! I only thought you’d never ask! Anla?” His red and grey companion was significantly quieter than he was, simply sitting back against the side with a haughty look, but at the mention of his name he straightened and pulled a two-pronged weapon from his back. “Urlan knows well of my abilities, and as much as I would like to demonstrate, for the sake of our ship I will content myself with a simple description. This is an Echo Fork, of which the merest tap on any surface will produce enormous shock waves.” Amphibax nodded. He had heard of such devices. So much for sneaking aboard. “And you?” Urlan twirled a pair of orange claws in his hands and with a sudden motion raised one toward the sky and charged a purple bolt. Amphibax’s whip snapped around his wrist and pulled it downward, redirecting the bolt into the water where it disappeared with a fizz. Urlan rubbed his wrist and grinned, but he found it much less funny as Amphibax pounced atop him and snarled. “Are you trying to give away our position?!” “Relax, it was just…” he suddenly found Amphibax’s claw clamped around his toothy maw. Urlan grumbled and tried to pull him off, but Amphibax was firm as his eyes searched the horizon. Anla turned, and after a moment Urlan picked himself up quietly. There was a dark shape in the distance belching smoke. The Brotherhood ship. Quickly, Amphibax forced the others low again. “No more mistakes,” he whispered. “One more thing,” Urlan said with a sneer. “What is it?” “Call me Bad Guy.” Amphibax stared at him. “Bad Guy?” Anla looked down at his friend. “A nickname the Hunters call him. He seems to have mistaken it for a codename.” “Bad Guy is a great codename!” Amphibax looked questioningly at Anla. “Bad Guy. And that makes you…” He sighed. “Yes, Good Guy.” ------- After making the necessary preparations, Amphibax led the recruits over the side of the boat. He entered the water with hardly a ripple, while they were decidedly less graceful. Hopefully they were still far enough out to escape notice on their approach. The side of the ship loomed large and dark over them before long. Amphibax scanned its defenses like a crocodile watching its prey while the others drifted just below the surface with their rebreathers. He soon rejoined them and signaled to “Bad Guy.” The toothy being nodded and surfaced before carefully charging his claws and punching a hole about a bio over the waterline, and the three clambered in. Their eyes were the only light in the dim corridor they found themselves in. That is, until a searing glob of plasma flew past “Good Guy’s” face and burned a hole in the wall behind. Amphibax looked up to see three Rahkshi glaring at them from the end of the hall, and one of their staffs was still glowing hot. “Run,” Amphibax said softly before shoving the two behind him and following quickly. He shepherded them around bolts of plasma, disintegration, and sound, slashing his twin blades at anything that got too close. Up ahead, six more narrow orange eyes burned from the darkness. Amphibax quickly took stock of their location before opening a door and shoving the two inside. “Go!” “What is this place?” Bad Guy asked as he tried to pick out the details with what little light his eyes provided. Everyone blinked as Amphibax pulled out a lightstone to reveal, “A supply closet. Now we have a bigger problem. Rahkshi will be swarming that door and we have no other way out. The cargo hold is on the other end of the ship.” “I could blow the door and all the Rahkshi off the side of the ship,” Good Guy announced, raising his Echo Fork before it was caught by his companion. “In this small space, we’d be liquified before those hinges burst,” he grinned grimly. “Perhaps a little more finesse is required, my friend. Say, what might we find on the other side of this wall?” Amphibax had been watching silently. It was their time to come up with the plan. But he did offer, “Crew’s Quarters. We’d likely find much worse than Rahkshi in there.” Bad Guy jumped as the door vibrated, the room growing hotter as a glowing orange began spreading from the handle. “We’re running out of options!” he said nervously. Good Guy quickly snatched his claw and aimed it at the wall before firing. Amphibax pushed the others aside to enter the newly created hole first. Bad Guy then Good Guy followed, and Amphibax quickly led them to the door. Good Guy stopped as he realized just what was in the room. Matoran, at least twenty of them crammed into tight bunks along the walls. Their expressions ranged from shocked to absent; some of them didn’t even seem to notice the Hunters there. “Who are they…” he asked quietly. “Prisoners of war,” Amphibax replied quickly, “And not our problem. Come on, before the Rahkshi catch up.” Good Guy ran after without taking his eyes off the miserable sight. They had nearly reached the door at the end of the hall, passing more rooms filled with countless, soulless Matoran when something new emerged from a door just behind them. He was a Toa in form, but his body was jet black and covered in dark, almost corroded armor. His red eyes quickly fixed on the intruders. “Who are you?” He rasped, drawing a staff and shield. Amphibax pushed the others toward the door and stood before them, staring down the Shadow Toa. “Go,” he hissed at them. When the recruits didn’t move, he turned and roared, “Go!” The two ran through the door, looking back to see Amphibax catch the Toa’s staff in his blades before he disappeared from view. They didn’t stop running until the sounds of combat faded into the distance. “What do we do now?” Good Guy panted. “We finish the mission,” Bad Guy responded firmly. “Amphibax said the cargo hold was on this end of the ship, didn’t he?” “Yeah, but how are we supposed to find it? He had the map!” “We’ll find it.” Bad Guy leads the way down the hall, watching for Rahkshi, but it seemed most of this floor had followed them to the supply closet. Still they rushed through the hall, not wanting to press their luck. It took some time to find the right door, time that they would have thought the Rahkshi would have used to catch up. But there it was, the Matoran symbols spelling out “Cargo Hold” above a large round door. Good Guy took one last survey of the hall while Bad Guy rushed straight to the button. The door split into eight sections and spiralled open like an aperture, revealing the darkest area of the ship yet. Bad Guy walked right in despite the dark, while Good Guy hesitated a moment before following. They felt more than saw their way through the maze of crates while ominous rattling and cracks sounded in the darkness. “How are we supposed to know which one has the weapons?” As it turned out, the crate revealed itself after a time. A solitary lightstone laying on the floor shone its light on a crate where “Xian Forges” was written. Bad Guy quickly cracked it open to reveal… nothing. “I knew it was too good to be true,” Bad Guy snarled as he turned and flopped back against the side. “We can’t go back without it,” Good Guy sighed. “We’ll have to keep looking.” “That won’t be necessary,” said a new voice from behind them. The recruits started and spun around, casting the light on Amphibax, who was holding out six silver cylinders etched with vents and a black grip. “We thought you were dead!” Bad Guy snapped before Amphibax could tell him to be quiet. “How did you get here first?” Amphibax shrugged, “All Toa are the same. That isn’t the first one I’ve killed. But, considering you made your way here anyway, I believe we can tell The Shadowed One you succeeded.” “That means we’re in!” Bad Guy said, a little quieter. “Not yet. We still need to get past an army of Rahkshi and off this ship. So perhaps we should find out what these weapons do…” ------- Each of the Hunters took two of the cylinders and made their way out of the cargo hold on the other side of the ship, returning to the hole they had already created. Along the way, the recruits marveled at the Rahkshi shells strewn around the halls. Amphibax hardly seemed to notice. “Did you kill all of them?” Bad Guy asked. “We can’t have them alerting the rest of the ship,” he replied casually. But it seemed he was too late. Before they had reached the hole, Amphibax stopped them as a hiss spread through the air. At the end of the hall was a platoon of Rahkshi with staffs pointed toward them. At the head was another Toa, this one female with a black Avsa. “Kill the thieves,” she commanded, and the Rahkshi swarmed around them toward the Hunters. Bad Guy leapt in front, holding one cylinder out, a strange lens pointed toward the horde. “I’ve got this,” and with that he pushed the red button along the side, and a red beam of light raced out toward them… before stopping a bio from the cylinder. Bad Guy pulled it back, looking at the glowing blade in confusion. It was then that one of the forward Rahkshi’s eyes began to glow, and two lasers blasted toward them. Bad Guy flinched, somehow putting the blade between him and the lasers. The reflected and sheared off the arm of the Rahkshi just to the right of the attacker. Bad Guy’s Skakdi grin returned, and he charged in, pulling out his second cylinder which created a short beam of orange light. Chain Lightning and Heat Vision were ineffective as he tore into the front few Rahkshi. As it turned out, protosteel wasn’t a match for it either. Good Guy and Amphibax just looked at each other for a moment. Then Amphibax wielded one of the lightblades in his claw while Good Guy pulled out one of his own. Instead of diving for the attackers like Amphibax, he turned to the wall and started carving a new exit. Bad Guy traded blows with Rahkshi left and right, making good use of the double blades. Patches of scorched and crumpled armor covered him from grin to claws, but a manic glee glowed in his eyes as he fought through the pain. Amphibax found himself engaged with the Toa, though she managed to fend off the lightblade with one conjured from shadow. Light broke through the darkness of the halls with every swift parry. He slashed at her legs with his whip, earning a moment to strike that was just as quickly stolen away as a Rahkshi pounced on his back. “Everyone get down!” Good Guy called, and Hunters and Toa alike turned to see him holding Echo Fork high and made to get out of the way. Amphibax snatched up Bad Guy and darted toward him. The Shadow Toa tried to follow, but found herself falling back into a pile of Rahkshi as Amphibax’s whip snagged her ankle. Good Guy waited a few seconds for his allies to get clear before smashing the fork to the ground, sending a deafening wave of sound down the hall. The Toa and remaining Rahkshi were blown back into the shadows, and before they could recover the Hunters were out into the ocean and returning to their own boat. Rahkshi emerged from the Brotherhood ship, but their aerial search was no match for Amphibax’s finesse underwater. No one said a word until the ship had disappeared far into the distance. And uncharacteristically, it was Amphibax that broke the silence. “Good Guy, Bad Guy, welcome to the Dark Hunters.”
  20. Based on the prompts provided by Torran. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! In the time before time… in the decadent city of Metru Nui… two valiant heroes, Toa Lhikan and Toa Nidhiki, fought from the shadows to protect the population of the once-great city from the evil dictator Turaga Dume. It had been many long years since their friends had been assassinated and Turaga Dume revealed his true motivations: to arm Metru Nui with an invincible fleet of airships and conquer the universe. Those who did not comply were spirited away, only to reappear shortly after at the Coliseum as a warning for those who would disobey. Lhikan and Toa Nidhiki were losing hope… until they discovered an ancient legend of six Great Disks imbued with powers beyond belief. When combined, these disks would create a formidable tool: the Kanohi Vahi, Mask of Time. According to ancient scriptures, this mask could slow down or speed up time for everyone but the user, allowing them to perform otherwise impossible feats. The two Toa had just recently unearthed the final disk and were heading to Ta-Metru to seek help from the most skilled mask-maker: Vakama. As they got closer to Ta-Metru, disaster loomed closer… Time and Again 1 My name is Takua. I’m a Ta-Matoran who’s accompanying Toa Lhikan and Toa Nidhiki as their Chronicler. I’m aware of the fate that befell the last Matoran who served as Chronicler for them, but I don’t fear anything. I believe in Toa Lhikan, who has saved me countless times in the past; and in Toa Nidhiki, who Toa Lhikan trusts greatly. We just arrived at the Great Furnace in Ta-Metru to speak to a mask-maker called Vakama, who has a reputation as being the most skilled in the craft. I know him personally and can vouch for his skills; he repaired my friend’s shattered Kanohi Komau in no time. We’re hoping that he can make a legendary Kanohi called the Mask of Time. I’ll write down the details of our journey another time; however, I will mention something troubling that happened mere moments ago. On our way here, we saw a hulking monster behind us in the distance. It was very far away, and I couldn’t determine what kind of Rahi it was. I could only tell that it must’ve been about twice as tall as Toa Lhikan, since it towered above the rock formation we went past earlier. For reference, those rocks were taller than Toa Lhikan, if not by much. Toa Nidhiki said that it was like no Rahi he’d ever seen. I thought so too, but I’d rather say it was a Rahi than think Turaga Dume sent a monster after us. Normally, I’d just write some rough notes of the adventure for an egghead Ko-Matoran to develop into a proper composition worthy of the Wall of History, but as soon as I got here I felt a sense of dread that compelled me to organize my thoughts on this tablet. Toa Lhikan just informed me that Toa Nidhiki found Vakama. I’ll resume this chronicle in another tablet when I find some time. 2 “Here you go… it is finished.” the Ta-Matoran mask maker known as Vakama said as he approached us. “It looked half-done. Are you sure this can defeat the Turaga-dictator?” asked Nidhiki, peppering his speech with the ever-puzzling chutespeak his Metru is known for, albeit using some of the easier-to-understand phrases. I echoed his sentiment; this mask would only cover the lower half of a face. “Yes, I followed the instructions in the scriptures to the letter. It was almost as if I didn’t have to do anything, though… that Kanoka you brought, the Disk of Time… when I set my torch against it, I felt as if my hand was being guided to make the same shapes that the scriptures indicated.” he affirmed. “Very well. I’ll trust you, Vakama.” I replied as I took the mask. I suppose a legendary Kanohi would appear different from your typical mask. There are countless flawlessly-created masks lining up the massive racks in this chamber. Each rack is like a pit, containing around five hundred Great Kanohi. Each wall, at least as high as a medium-sized Knowledge Tower, contains racks all the way up to the top. They’re all the work of Vakama. Our Chronicler, Takua, is eyeing some of them. Maybe he wants to change out of his Kanohi Pakari, a mask that not many Ta-Matoran seem to appreciate anymore. They are just powerless masks when worn by a Matoran, after all, so all they’d have to be concerned about is how they look. I’ve always preferred the aesthetic of the Kanohi Hau and felt somewhat averse to that of the Kanohi Pakari, so I understand his sentiment. Still, there’s no time for that now. We must get going and formulate our plan of attack before it’s too late. “We’ll leave you now before the Vahki notice our presence. Thank you once more, Vakama. Nidhiki, I and all of Metru Nui will forever be in your debt.” “You’re quite welcome, noble Toa. I pray to Mata Nui that you succeed in freeing us from the shackles of Turaga Dume’s reign. I must ask you to please be careful handling the mask. I let it cool down longer than I normally do since I’m unaware of the material the Disk of Time is made from. Seeing as it was created from merging the Great Disks, its composition is a complete mystery to me and I’m unsure how much damage the mask will be able to sustain.” “Understood.” I turn to face Nidhiki.