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Images courtesy of BS01 The Matoran Civil War started out as precisely that - Matoran trying to be civil to each other. However, one should never underestimate the passive-aggressive capacity of a slighted Po-Matoran sculptor, nor the one-upping tenacity of a Ta-Matoran smelter. Unfortunately, they both underestimated one another in these regards, and the whole city paid the price. Prologue: No Legends to Call Our Own There were legends, and there always had been. Tales of powerful and just Toa heroes who rose up to right the wrongs in the world, at the bidding of the Great Spirit himself. Toa heroes who wielded grand elemental powers, and the tales spoke of mystical Kanohi powers, used to beat back darkness threatening the Matoran. Everyone loved hearing these stories. Retellings of how mighty commander Toa led battalions against the fearsome League armies, centuries ago now, were always a crowd favorite. Stories of a small-town Matoran, chosen and transformed into a gallant Toa and overcoming the odds to save the day and his village he loves - those stories were becoming steadily more popular. The Matoran of Metru Nui loved the tales of the Toa because they were far-off and foreign tales, so far removed from anything remotely resembling the Matorans’ experience. These were stories, and they were safe, because that's all they'd ever be. Stories that were meant for a cozy evening in a pub after a long week, stories to give sop to a working Matoran’s dormant dreams of adventure and daring. Metru Nui, the Great City, was indeed great. No darkness dared threaten Mata Nui’s paragon city. The city itself was legendary, and so it needed no legends of its own. It would be bad for productivity. Even when the battles of the League of Six Kingdoms had raged throughout the world, the canny Matoran of Metru Nui had found a way to hold their own, and the threat of conquerors never even shadowed their sea gate. But when a threat had arisen from within the city itself? “I lost everything on those barges, Rofto,” the Ta-Matoran with the hood of his cloak pulled low over his mask confided to his companion. The two of them sat in a pub right outside Ta-Metru’s eastern firepits. The din of conversations around them, mostly other firepits workers, gave the establishment a homey atmosphere. There was a tournament of ‘cills going on in the corner. “That was ages ago.” Rofto tilted his head, asking for an explanation. During the time when the League of Six Kingdoms was expanding, although some would say conquering, the Ta-Matoran Crafter’s Coalition, alongside the Immolator Conglomerate, had worked tirelessly to broker a deal with one of the Barraki, supplying the far-away army with tools and parts for war vehicles and weapons maintenance and repair. It was a very lucrative deal. The Ta-Matoran had taken it upon themselves to see the production, assembly, processing, and shipment of the goods through from start to finish, shipping them out under the name of Ta-Metru. Outside trades were supposed to be under the name of Metru Nui first and foremost, because it usually took multiple Metru to create finished products. But the innovators from the Crafter’s Coalition had seen a chance to step up, and they had taken it, along with handsome war profits, which had in turn, revitalized the entire fire Metru. Ta-Metru was now, without doubt, the most well-off of the six districts of the Great City. Apparently, some of the sculptors over in the stone district didn’t like that. It must have been centuries ago now, the Ta-Matoran crafters had lost two trading barges, sunk in the harbor, only hours before the barges were to take the top notch Ta-Metru trade goods to the Southern Continent. The Fire Brands, Ta-Metru’s own policing force, had quickly identified a group of Po-Matoran assemblers who had sabotaged the barges. “I know the Fire Brands would have my mask for saying this,” Rofto continued in a whisper, “But nobody really believes that the warehouse fires in Po-Metru were an accident.” Not a month after the sinking of the Ta-Metru barges, Po-Metru had lost an entire block of warehouses to some convenient, rampaging fires. “It’s all water under the causeways,” the other Matoran waved a dismissive hand. “The point is, it’s practically been a millennia, and the cursed sculptors still are managing to block our trade regulation modifications in the Turaga’s Councils.” After the entire barge-sinking, warehouse-bombing fiasco between the sculptors and the smelters, Turaga Arrakio, in a rare direct order, summoned the foremost Matoran of both districts, in an attempt to get to the bottom of this dispute. What had ensued, unfortunately, was a filibuster of sorts, a stalling of the centuries. The Po-Matoran Crafter’s Commission, which was always in direct and confusing competition with the Ta-Matoran’s Crafter’s Coalition, started proposing modified trade regulations, trying to pass laws against Ta-Metru specifically. And, of course, the Ta-Matoran would not stand for it. And so, as legal battles kept the Turaga ensnared, Ta-Metru and Po-Metru were left to feud unchecked. Nobody really knew how long this had all been going on, but tensions in the city were high. The ever-increasing number of rampaging Rahi beasts in the city did not help. The sculptors, and everyone who took their side, which was most of Le-Metru by this point, were throwing accusations at the Onu-Matoran, who had allied with the Ta-Matoran against Le-Metru’s transportation monopoly. “Is it true that there are some Ga-Matoran who want to form a deal with us?” Rofto asked, eyes wide. Their water sisters were notoriously diplomatic and neutral, and had condemned the inter-Metru squabbling from the start. “I’ve heard that too." The hooded Matoran nodded, waving away the Matoran approaching to bus their table. “Students, from the School of Synthetic Sciences, looking for research funding.” Rofto sat back, and gave an impressed, quiet whistle. “Wow. If we can get the Schools helping us with the laws and the protodermis processing, that could really seal the deal.” The other Matoran’s eyes lit with his smile. “Exactly. But, Rofto. It’s getting more and more dangerous out there. Did you hear about Buon?” “Buon? From the furnaces? Yeah, tragic,” Rofto said sadly. He didn’t know the late furnace maintenance worker personally, but the loss of a brother was always a travesty. “Yeah,” and the Matoran leaned in, whispering, “The Fire Brands are saying it was a Rahkshi attack.” “A Rahi attack?” Rofto asked, also leaning in, because surely he'd misheard. “No. I thought the same thing when I first heard.” “If the Onu-Matoran are letting Rahkshi exhibits loose, and the city thinks we’re directing them…” Rofto’s eyes widened in fearful realization. “The other Metru would undoubtedly side with the Po-Matoran,” his companion said with an air of finality. “We’d be sunk.” The longer the stone-and-fire conflict went on, the stricter the measures became that the opposition was trying to force on the Ta-Matoran, and now their allies, the Onu-Matoran. “I heard there have even been deaths in Ga-Metru, and Le-Metru,” Rofto fretted. “It’s getting bad.” “The Matoran are scared,” his companion agreed. “From every district.” “We need unity,” Rofto said, after a moment. “I know I’m sick of all the inter-Metru restrictions cropping up after ever Turaga’s Council meeting. I haven’t been able to make it to a test track race in ages. Only the bigshots race in the Coliseum, and everyone knows those matches are as good as fixed, anyways." “You don’t think Turaga Arrakio could make the changes the people want?” “He’s practically senile,” Rofto sighed in frustration, to his companion’s amusement. “We need something to change the tides.” His companion opened his mouth as if to say something, paused, and closed it again, seemingly having arrived at a better judgment. "What?" Rofto pressed. “The Po-Matoran found a Toa stone,” the cloaked Matoran whispered, barely audible. Rofto gaped at him. “You’re kidding.” “No, someone in my firepits heard about it last week. I mean, if you've ever seen the size of those warehouse, it's really not a surprise they've dug one up.” “They can’t really know for sure,” Rofto shook his head, quickly dismissing the gossip. “What’s for sure, nowadays?” his friend shot back. “What if I told you that I do know for sure?” “I’d bet all my ancillaries and cogs I’ve got on me that you can’t prove it,” Rofto chuckled, hefting his widget pouch. Finally, Rofto’s companion pulled back the hood of his cloak, and leaned in urgently once more. “I know, Rofto, because I stole it from them.” “Nuok!” Rofto gasped, nearly falling out of his seat. The whole night, he thought his tablemate was just another weary firepits worker. “Rofto,” Nuok said, adopting a reassuring tone. “You’ve come to my attention, my group’s attention, as a Matoran who has integrity. I’ve spoken with your foreman from your firepits sector, and spoken with some coworkers. I always see you here on storyteller nights. You're clearly a visionary. We’re very impressed with you, and your strength of character.” “You-your group?” Rofto sputtered. Nuok, the overseer of the entire eastern sector of firepits, furnaces, and foundries in Ta-Metru was also one of the most influential voices on the Crafter’s Coalition, and he was rumored that he was the one who singlehandedly contrived and executed the Barraki deal back in the League days. They said he had a secret group of other high-up Ta-Matoran. Some of them, he’d heard, were even invited to the Turaga’s Councils. “Not to get hung up on the details, but yes. I’m here representing some crafters and the like who have grown tired of waiting on diplomacy that will inevitably fail us. We’ve pooled our resources to help … move things along. We are aware of who you are, and what you could do for this city and for your people.” Nuok stood, offering his fist in salute. Rofto clanked the executive Matoran’s fist in return, in a slight daze. “We’ll be in touch.” Review Topic Although this epic is part of a series, I'm hoping I can write it so it also works as a standalone. The review topic has an appendix of world information relevant but not key to the story, as well as links to other stories in the same vein, and some authors' notes, and fun facts! Related Reading: