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#1 Offline Exitium

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Posted Aug 18 2013 - 03:26 PM

Review Topic

 

Chapter 1

The Forge

 

Clang!  Clang!  A hammer struck the molten metal, shaping and forming it with each stroke.  The crafter overcame the metal’s resistance, transforming it from a slab of protodermis into its functional, yet elegant form.  After weeks of meticulous craftsmanship, the mask would soon be complete.

 

Matoran crowded the forge, hard at work at their essential tasks.  Each had an assigned role that kept the process of creation flowing.  Some gathered protodermis; others melted it down, created molds, poured liquid metal, or designed masks.  A rare few had the privilege of forging the final product, bring the task of creation to its completion.  They were the mask makers, experts of their craft, their entire lives devoted to reaching the pinnacle of their skill.  Each worker was a cog in the grand clock that had ticked for tens of millennia. 

 

There were two such foundries in this city, housed inside the parallel walls of the city’s fortress.  Between the foundries and the walls of the fortress that connected them was an inner courtyard where the Matoran of the city lived.  On the northern wall, a foreboding tower that had stood for over 80,000 years monitored the charred wilderness with an unflinching gaze.  An iron gate sealed off the city from the outside, which in its long history had never been breached.  The sight alone would have been enough to dispel most invaders, or even visitors, yet it was an oasis of life in an arid realm of ash and dust. 

 

Ta-Kia was one of several kia, a word that other beings interpreted as kingdom or city-state in their own languages.  Its leaders claimed jurisdiction over the entire volcanic region, but the Ta-Matoran only lived in or near this city, located on a rock in the middle of a lava flow ebbing down from the nearby Mount Karda.  Menacing guard towers constructed in the form of faces stood at the entrance to the two bridges that connected Ta-Kia to the surrounding world, each covered in a thin layer of ash.  Smoke from the foundries mixed with the volcanic ash, perpetually surrounding the city with a gray haze.  Together with black bricks and the charred earth, the city’s features gave it a dark and somber character.  The only signs of life were the small flames that pervaded the city, luminous against the dreary backdrop.  The foundries created a perpetual din that was not the sound of life but of metal and machines.

 

A small spring of molten protodermis pooled in the center of the courtyard, forced up from the river by seismic pressure.  The lava’s relationship with the city was complex.  The Matoran were always aware that the volcano could destroy them at any moment, yet it was also a well of creation, for without its heat, the city’s industry could not exist.  So the Ta-Matoran accepted the volcano and the lava that surrounded their little settlement but were ever wary of their power.

 

It was here, amidst the chaos of the foundries, that one day a single Matoran paused, as if in the eye of a great storm.  His red armor was streaked with soot, and his yellow mask stained by smoke.  He watched the hammer fall as if seeing it for the first time, captivated by the rush of activity swirling around him. 

 

Clang!  Clang!  This Matoran was Veelix.  He stood at his post watching the hammer remove the impurities from the nearly-completed mask.  Though he had worked in the foundries for millennia, Veelix had never felt more removed from the process of forging.  He watched with detached fascination at the construction of the mask.  What was its fate?  So much effort went into mining, purifying, melting down, and shaping the protodermis into masks that would serve no purpose other than to hang on a wall in the fortress.  Perhaps some masks were eventually worn by Matoran, but there were simply more masks made over the millennia than could possibly be used.

 

Veelix had once been a mask maker, in some distant time.  As the years passed, he was more preoccupied with questions that had never concerned the other Matoran, becoming less interested in what he was creating than why.  He was jaded, and his work became careless.  He preferred making tools, for they had a purpose.  Someone could use a hammer or an ax or perhaps a wrench, though Veelix would never know who.  Neither would he know who mined the metal or purified it.  He was simply another component in a machine that he did not understand. 

 

Mesmerized by the hammer, Veelix thought back to the founding of the city.  Surely hammer struck stone in the building of the city.  The hammer fell to build the city, the hammer fell to build the foundries, and now it would forever fall to build masks until the universe ceased to exist.  It was self-perpetuating and unquestioned, one of life’s enduring fixtures.

 

Veelix became aware of the molten metal in the vat near him and carefully poured some of the scarlet liquid into a mold.  He no longer noticed the shape of the mold, as it mattered little to him.  The Matoran stood as far from the vat as he could, for the heat sweltered Veelix more than the other Matoran.  He had never felt at home in Ta-Kia, which he found too hot, too dark, and too rigid.

 

While the other Matoran took their city and their jobs for granted, Veelix could not.  Where others saw certainty, Veelix questioned and probed deeper until he was left with a disturbing sense of doubt.  Had the city always been locked into this unending cycle?  Would toiling in the foundries forever be his fate?

 

As long as there was someone to use it and something to strike, the hammer would continue to fall.  This was a certainty in the uncertain world.  Consistency was comforting, yet fragile.  Veelix imagined the monotony shattering like glass in a different future, one in which the perpetual clouds parted and his purpose was no longer obscure. 

 

Veelix placed his tools down on the work table.  The rest of the Matoran continued their busy jobs, unaware of his simple act of rebellion.  He watched one last time as the hammer did its work before he turned his back and walked out of the foundries into the dark city.  The noise and smoke of the foundries escaped their confines and invaded Ta-Kia, and though it was merely midday, the sky was black.  As he left, Veelix could hear the hammer continuing to fall. 

 

Clang!  Clang!


Edited by Exitium, Oct 31 2013 - 07:08 PM.

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#2 Offline Exitium

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Posted Aug 20 2013 - 07:30 PM

Chapter 2

First Principles

 

No one had noticed Veelix’s departure the previous day.  Or perhaps someone had, but no Matoran found it of any importance.  True, no Ta-Matoran had ever walked out on his duty before, but the Ta-Matoran were used to Veelix’s odd behavior.  Though none of them would ever admit it, many believed that he did not quite belong in Ta-Kia.

 

Once a week at noon, all the Ta-Matoran from the city and surrounding farmlands came to the temple in the heart of Ta-Kia.  The structure’s exterior bore the appearance of an unmasked Matoran face, surrounded by four cylindrical towers.  Inside were pillars carved with sacred writing around a pit of sand on an elevated platform.  It was the holiest place in Ta-Kia, where the Ta-Matoran celebrated the arrival of new Matoran and remembered the lives of the deceased. 

 

Like all Ta-Matoran, Veelix came to the temple weekly to hear the Turaga speak.  The history of Ta-Kia fascinated Veelix, and he was never afraid to approach the Turaga with the questions he had after visiting the temple.  The other Matoran thought Veelix talked too much and generally avoided him.  In turn, Veelix had not tried to make many friends and often sat alone in the temple.  On this day, Veelix spotted one of his few friends and sat down next to him. 

 

“Good morning, Keller,” Veelix greeted his friend.  There was something about this Matoran to which Veelix was drawn.  Keller was the oldest Matoran in Ta-Kia, and it showed.  Rust collected on his blackened armor, and in places his paint had chipped off, exposing the dull gray of protodermis.  While far from crippled, Keller rarely left his home except to visit the temple, for which he was never late. 

 

Keller was also one of the most interesting inhabitants of the city.  Over the years, he had developed multiple branches of mathematics critical to the making of masks and other tools.  The island’s greatest engineers owed much of their success to his work, and there was hardly any mathematical discovery that he had not influenced.  Knowledge seemed to pool around him, attracting many thirsty Matoran like Veelix over the millennia.

 

“Good morning to you too,” the elderly Matoran replied cheerfully.  “I trust your career is going well?”

 

“I’m still employed,” Veelix said.  “I wake up, work all day, go home to sleep, and do everything again the next day.  To be honest, I don’t see the point anymore.”

 

Keller nodded.  “Many of my students react the same way when they encounter difficulties in their studies.  ‘When will we ever use this?’ they ask.  ‘What’s the point?’  A few millennia later they come to me at the temple, each a prominent mask maker, thanking me for my help, just as you did.  Everything will come together for you in time.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” asked Veelix.  “I’ve been living this way for millennia, and nothing seems to have changed.”

 

“Do you find that discomforting?” Keller asked.  “Many have died so that you can have that kind of security.”

 

“No,” Veelix replied.  “But, for me security has meant monotony.  I know I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in the foundries, but I’m unsure what I would do instead.”

 

“When you’re young, everything appears uncertain,” replied Keller.  “That is why I became a mathematician.  Some see math as a world of unknowns filled with quantities that elude us.  But they are wrong—math illuminates uncertainties.  Once you have gathered as much data as you can, the numbers fall into place.”  He paused with a faint smile on his mask.  “It’s quite beautiful actually.  When solving an equation, the answer is already there.  All you have to do is look at the problem a different way.”

 

“That sounds comforting,” admitted Veelix.

 

“Of course it is.  All beings find comfort in such belief.”

 

Veelix was still unsure.  “Looking at my life differently has only caused me to realize that I’m not happy, but I’m not sure what my life is missing.”

 

“These things take time,” Keller replied.  “Fortunately, you’ve come to the place where we find answers to these questions.”

 

At that moment, silence fell over the room as Ta-Kia’s leader, Turaga Prinkor, stepped up to the pit of sand.  He stood still for a moment, letting the silence fill the room, before he spoke.

 

“In one week’s time, we will celebrate the transformation of our city’s founder, Jecitus, from a Matoran into a Toa,” Prinkor said, his voice echoing through the temple.  “However, before the holiday season is upon us, I would like to take this time to get back to basics and consider why it is we are here.”

 

Prinkor placed several small stones in the pit, representing Matoran.  He then opened the sacred text of the Ta-Matoran and began to read.  “In the beginning, there was darkness.  The Matoran labored perpetually and without purpose.  Then the Great Beings sent Mata Nui, who brought light and gave the Matoran Three Virtues: Unity, Duty, and Destiny.” 

 

A Matoran handed the Turaga a small box from which he retrieved the Mata Nui stone, a polished elliptical stone with distinctive markings.  Prinkor raised the stone above his head before placing it gently in the center of the sand pit.

 

“The Matoran praised Mata Nui, and in gratitude, vowed to worship and serve him.  In return for his protection, Mata Nui made but one request: ‘In bringing you out of darkness, I have given your lives direction and purpose.  Through these virtues I will sustain you, and through your labor, you shall sustain me.’”

 

The Turaga moved the smaller stones into concentric circles around the Mata Nui stone as he continued to speak.  “The Matoran, realizing that they were Mata Nui’s chosen people, dispersed across the universe, spreading his teachings.  Many came to Kia Nui, the island we know as home.  Here, in the shadow of Mount Karda, they built this city as a fortress against evil.  Peace came when the neighboring Matoran accepted the Three Virtues, and all was good.”

 

           

At the end of the sermon Veelix walked with Keller to the latter’s home.  “Were the Turaga’s words able to dispel your doubts?” asked the mathematician.

 

 Veelix shook his head.  “At first it was comforting, but I still find it difficult to accept that my work benefits Mata Nui when I have only my faith that the Turaga’s words are true.  Regardless of what the Turaga says, I can’t find any reason to believe my work serves any purpose other than keeping me occupied.”

 

Keller seemed surprised.  “Surely you don’t believe the Turaga is lying to you?”

 

“No, I would never accuse the Turaga of that,” Veelix said quickly, for knew to treat Turaga with the respect they were due.  “But, sometimes I wonder how the Turaga learned this history.”

 

“He read it in the writings of our founders,” Keller replied.

 

“Yes, but he never actually met them,” Veelix pointed out.  “He only read what they wrote.”

 

“Don’t you trust the founders?” Keller asked.

 

“Of course, but did they hear Mata Nui’s word?”  Veelix asked.

 

“Toa Jecitus did, although little of what he wrote survives,” Keller admitted, alluding to Ta-Kia’s founder and legendary Toa.

 

“The ancient texts have been translated from ancient Matoran, and before they were written down, they were transmitted orally,” continued Veelix.  “How do we know what Mata Nui really said or if he even had a message for us at all?  Why doesn’t he speak to us now?”

 

Keller sighed, looking back at Veelix.  “Veelix, there are some things you simply have to take on faith.  Mata Nui’s precise words do not matter, nor does it matter if he never speaks to us again.  What does matter is the belief that our work has meaning, that our serves a power greater than ourselves.”

 

“That’s unexpected coming from a mathematician,” Veelix replied.  “I remember you teaching us to prove everything before we accepted it.”

 

“I also taught you that mathematicians derive all proofs from given statements,” Keller explained.  “We begin with basic assumptions, axioms which we simply accept as true.  All systems of inquiry, including math, science, and philosophy, require us to begin with a set of first principles.  You cannot create something from nothing, and these principles form the foundation of all knowledge.”  The elderly Matoran stopped and slowly drew two lines in the dirt.  “For example, any student awake in my class knows that parallel lines never intersect.  We can’t see the entire line, nor can we prove that the lines will ever touch.”

 

“But that’s a simple fact of math,” countered Veelix.  “Anyone can see that they do not touch.”

 

“Are you so sure?” asked Keller, continuing to walk.  “If you draw parallel lines on a sphere, the rules change and the lines meet.  So we have to trust that on a flat surface, parallel lines will never converge, even though we can never prove this fundamental truth.  Once we accept this simple fact, the entire field of geometry unfolds.  Similarly, the first principle of our lives is that Mata Nui has endowed us with virtues that give our labor and our lives meaning.  Once you recognize this fact, everything else becomes clear.”

 

The two Matoran arrived at Keller’s home.  Like all huts in Ta-Kia, it was a modest dwelling with a single room made from volcanic rock.

 

“I don’t know if I’m ready to accept what you’ve told me,” admitted Veelix. 

 

“You don’t have to be,” Keller said.  “Faith means nothing if someone forces you to accept it.  However, if you would like further clarification, perhaps you should speak with the Turaga when you are finished with work.  If you do, keep in mind that only you can choose to believe.  No one else can do that for you.”

 

Veelix gave the elderly Matoran his thanks and the two parted ways.

 

 

Rarely did Ta-Matoran choose to enter the central tower of Ta-Kia’s fortress.  Those who received summons were either praised or punished, usually the latter.  Few entered willingly, frightened by stories of Matoran who had entered only to be strongly rebuked for inadequate work.  It was this same fortress into which Veelix now walked freely.

 

The interior of the fortress was no more inviting.  There were no windows in the thick walls, save for horizontal slits from which Matoran could fire disks in the event of a siege.  Torches lit the dark corridor, as there was little natural light inside the ancient structure.  Aside from thousands of masks with blank expressions lining the walls, the hallways were dusty and featureless.

 

Veelix climbed the stairs to the top of the tower where the Turaga’s chambers were located.  He hesitantly knocked on the door, and Prinkor invited him in.  Taking a deep breath, Veelix opened the door and stepped inside.

 

Prinkor sat at an impressive mahogany desk at the center of the room near a grand fireplace.  The chamber was immaculate and bare, lit by two flickering torches that cast long shadows across the floor.  Veelix approached the wooden chair in front of the desk.

 

“Please, sit,” Prinkor said without looking up from his carving.  After a moment, the Turaga looked up and examined Veelix’s mask.  “Ah, Veelix.  The last time you visited, we had an unpleasant conversation about your work ethic.  I trust you enjoy your new position more than the old.”  Veelix nodded.  “Is there something I can do for you?”

 

Veelix was unsure where to start, beginning slowly, “I feel unsatisfied with my life.  I spend all my time in the foundries performing menial labor, which doesn’t seem to benefit anyone.  I feel so empty and directionless.”

 

Prinkor put down the tablet and sat back in his chair.  “I recall seeing you at the temple today.  Did you not listen to my address?”  Veelix nodded again.  “Then you must understand that your work is to benefit Mata Nui in exchange for a meaningful life.”

 

“But that’s not enough,” said Veelix.

 

“Not enough?” Prinkor asked with surprise.  “Never has a Matoran told me that the word of Mata Nui was not enough for him!  You have meaning.  You have purpose.  What more do you want?”

 

Veelix tried to explain carefully.  “When I build a tool, I have no knowledge of where the materials came from or where the finished product will go.  I simply work.  What am I except a body that builds for no reason?  There’s no joy in that life.”

 

“Mata Nui does not offer happiness,” Prinkor said sternly.  “He offers a path to fulfillment, to a greater calling in our lives.  Is that not what you want?”

 

Veelix proceeded carefully, for he did not want to offend the Turaga.  “I haven’t found that satisfaction though, and I’m not sure why.”

 

“For most Matoran, the value of their work to Mata Nui is enough for them,” Prinkor said sternly.  “They also choose to make friends and enjoy their leisure time.  You do not.  You cannot expect me to make you happy when you make no effort on your own behalf.”

 

“I thought you might have advice.”

 

“I do,” the Turaga said, leaning forward in his chair.  “Take pride in your work.  Spend more time with the other Matoran.  Make an effort to make yourself happy.”

 

“I can’t possibly take pride in my work,” Veelix mumbled.  “It’s meaningless.”

 

Prinkor sighed.  “If you would prefer, I can reassign you again.  What occupation would best suit you?  Lava farming?  Mathematics?  Cleaning the foundries?  I will see what I can do about a different career for you.”

 

Veelix pondered his options before he spoke.  “I don’t want any of those jobs.  In fact, I want to leave Ta-Kia.  No matter how hard I try, this place doesn’t feel like my home.”

 

“Since you arrived, I have sensed that you did not belong here,” Prinkor admitted.  “Perhaps it would be best if you were to leave.  However, I cannot reassign you to a position outside of my domain.  Only the Unified Government can do that.  If you are serious about leaving, you must travel to Eri.”

 

“I’ve always wanted to go to the capital,” Veelix said with a smile.

 

Prinkor looked closely at Matoran.  “I want you to think about what you are doing.  You will be stepping into the unknown, far from the gates of our ancient city.  You may find yourself in strange lands, facing hardships you did not anticipate.”

 

“I understand,” said Veelix confidently.  Though the Turaga’s words were intended as a warning, they filled Veelix with excitement. 

 

Prinkor shook his head and retrieved a small tablet from desk.  “No, you do not.” He added his seal to the bottom and handed it to Veelix.  The elated Matoran gripped the reassignment letter with disbelief.  He was finally free. 

 

The Turaga returned to the carving he had been reading.  Hurriedly saying his thanks, Veelix rushed home to pack his things.

 

Veelix packed lightly.  There was little he needed other than food, for he had few personal possessions.  He considered brining his copy of the sacred Ta-Matoran texts, but he had not opened it years. 

 

That book hasn’t offered me any comfort in the past, he reasoned.  There’s no reason to believe it will now

 

As he left his hut for the final time, Veelix noticed the polished obsidian about the size of his fist sitting on the table.  He examined the smooth black surface, recalling the ceremony in the temple when it was given to him upon his arrival in Ta-Kia.  All Ta-Matoran kept such a stone in their huts to remind them of their unbreakable ties to Ta-Kia.  Most Ta-Matoran considered it their most valuable possession, a reminder of their shared identity.

 

Veelix put the obsidian down and walked out of his dwelling.


Edited by Exitium, Oct 31 2013 - 07:09 PM.

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Memory (Memoirs of the Dead Entry)

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#3 Offline Exitium

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Posted Aug 23 2013 - 05:00 PM

Chapter 3

Beyond the Threshold

 

Beyond the gray haze that perpetually hung over Ta-Kia, life continued for most Matoran as it always had.  Veelix was the rare exception, the one who had transcended the status quo and now found himself at the dawn of a new stage in his life.  For the first time in millennia, he felt truly free.

 

Passing through the tower guarding the bridge, Veelix left the city in which he had lived for many thousands of years.  The landscape around the lava flow was black, charred, and inhospitable to life.  Just beyond was an arid region home to the Ta-Kia farmlands.  The soil here was rich in minerals, but the Ta-Matoran were forced to carefully ration their water, or they and their crops would die. 

 

As Veelix crossed the bridge, he realized that he was unsure how to get to Eri.  Ta-Kia was near the southern coast of Kia Nui, just east of a desert that covered most of the southern region of the island.  North of the desert were the Southern Mountains, beyond which was a vast plain.  Eri was located on the banks of the Great River in the middle of this valley near the center of Kia Nui. 

 

There were roads Veelix could follow, but most of the land south of the Southern Mountains was unpaved.  There was only one path through the mountains, but to reach it, Veelix would have to traverse the desert.  Matoran crossed it frequently, but Veelix had not, and he almost turned back out of fear of traveling alone. 

 

Steeling his resolve, Veelix considered his options.  His geography was rusty, but he had a basic understanding of the locations of major landmarks.  One option he considered was to avoid the desert entirely and travel south until the lava met the sea.  There was a small port there run by Su-Matoran, but ships only arrived once a month.  The fastest way was through the desert, but Veelix was sure he would get lost if he attempted the route alone.

 

As he pondered which course of action to take, Veelix passed through the farmlands, and he was now able to see rows upon rows of crops.  The acres of plants seemed vast to him, even though the Ta-Matoran struggled to grow enough food to support all of Ta-Kia.  Most cities had even larger farms that would have made this one seem like a modest garden, but Veelix had never seen so many plants in his life.

 

The work here was different than that it was in the city.  Veelix was used to smoke, metal, and turning gears in the city; here light penetrated the gray clouds of ash and smoke.  The Matoran’s work here seemed more rewarding, for it had a clear purpose.  It appealed to Veelix, yet as he passed a farm, he was able to brush a thin film of dust off a few crops by the side of the road.  He had not escaped Ta-Kia yet.

 

He stopped at fruit stand and examined its wares.  It was the same food he was accustomed to, but the fruit here was fresh.  Counting his money, Veelix wondered how much he should buy to last his journey across the desert.

 

The Matoran running the fruit stand addressed him.  “You from Ta-Kia?” he asked, referring to the city proper.  Though the name applied to the entire area under Prinkor’s jurisdiction, Matoran rarely distinguished between the city and the nearby land.

           

Veelix nodded.  “I’m traveling to Eri, where I’ll be reassigned.”

 

The vendor seemed somewhat surprised.  “Reassigned, huh?  Not many travel all the way to the capital any more.  Have you ever been across the desert?”  Veelix shook his head.  “Neither have I.  It’s an unforgiving place: barren, dry, and forsaken by Mata Nui.  If you’ve never been across before, you’d best have a guide.”

 

“Do you know anyone who would be willing to help me?” asked Veelix.

 

The vendor scratched the top of his mask.  “Well, most of us are pretty busy.  It’s almost harvest time, and we can’t afford to leave.  We’re undermanned as it is right now.”

 

Veelix selected several pieces of fruit, paid the Matoran, and placed them in his bag.  “I suppose I’ll just have to make the journey myself,” he replied.

 

“Well, there is one other option, if you’re desperate” the vendor offered.  He pointed to a craggy mountain nearby.  “That there is Po-Kia.  You get to that mountain and climb to that cliff where the city will be.  I heard that those Po-Matoran cross the desert all the time, so they know how to survive that death trap.  If you can find one that’ll look past the fact that you’re a Ta-Matoran, he’ll get you across safe.”

 

Veelix was accustomed to the animus between Ta-Matoran and Po-Matoran but thought little of it.  He thanked the farmer for his help.

 

“You take care of yourself.  Best of luck.”

 

 

The soil slowly gave way to the desert.  The ash clouds parted and the sun, a light Veelix had not seen since he arrived in Kia Nui, shone with fiery intensity, awakening in Veelix a memory of a blinding light from the time before he arrived in Ta-Kia.  He experienced a familiar hint of frustration at his inability to remember more than fragments of his former life before the Ta-Matoran had found him lying on Kia Nui’s southern shore.  No one, not even Veelix, knew where he had come from, though it was certainly not Kia Nui, for no one had any record of his being there previously.

 

The prospect of visiting another kia was exciting, though Veelix was unsure what to expect.  Already the landscape had changed dramatically, transitioning effortlessly from black rock to vast stretches of nothingness with the shadows of mountains barely visible in the background.  He skirted the edge of the desert, knowing that if he entered without a guide, he might never emerge.

 

Late in the afternoon, Veelix started to see signs of life.  He had almost reached the base of the Po-Kia, around which carvings stood like saplings under a massive tree.  A few small farms were clustered around the mountain, though the Po-Matoran imported most of their food from other kia.  A great stairwell carved into the side of the mountain reached up to a plateau near the summit.  It looked too small to house an entire city, but as he climbed, Veelix could see dwellings carved into the mountainside near the top of the stone staircase. 

 

In some respects, Po-Kia mimicked Ta-Kia.  Atop the plateau was a stone fortress with an outer wall enclosing a walled courtyard near the rock wall against which the city rested.  A tower rose from the center of the fortress, connected to the summit of the mountain by a stone bridge.

 

Most striking was the city’s landscape.  Po-Kia seemed lifeless, barren, and inhospitable to life.  Just as in Ta-Kia, the city’s inhabitants had come to an environment that shunned them, and they had defied it.  The original builders had chosen the location on a cliff because it was flat and elevated.  The higher elevation protected the Matoran from the heat of the desert and provided an excellent vantage point to spot invaders, though none had been foolish enough to lay siege to the city in recent history.

 

As with all things, the city was not without its faults.  There was scarcely enough room on the plateau to build even a small city, and the Po-Matoran did not dream of a small city.  They envisioned immense towers and statues to be built for millennia to come, so the Po-Matoran built their homes into the mountainside, climbing higher and higher to the peak of the mountain. 

 

The dreams of Po-Kia’s founders had indeed been achieved.  All around the city, Po-Matoran were busy building new statues and towers within the small confines of their fortress city.  Others remained inside the tall buildings, carving tools and everyday objects for use across the island.  Using what limited resources they had available, the Po-Matoran had found a way to reach the sky while remaining surrounded by solid rock. 

 

What often intrigued visitors was the city’s constant state of construction.  Everywhere buildings sprung from the earth, all at different stages of development.  Captivated by the city, Veelix was entirely unaware of the Po-Matoran watching him and whispering to each other as he walked past.

 

Yet of all these wonders, Veelix was drawn to a statue outside the central tower.  The figure appeared to be a Toa, standing twenty feet high and preparing to kick a stone balanced on one foot.  One hand held an intricately detailed tool resembling a glaive, and the mask was furrowed in concentration.  What intrigued Veelix most was the posture of the Toa.  Veelix had seen many smaller statues in the Ta-Kia temple, all standing in static poses, reminding the viewer that the statue was merely a replica of a living being.  Somehow, the artist had breathed life into this stone, capturing the essence a being in motion, dynamic and unquestionably whole.  Veelix almost expected to statue to start moving as if it had merely been frozen in time.

 

“You must be from out of town.”  Veelix jumped at the voice, looking around for its source.  A Po-Matoran with brown and tan armor stood next to him, gazing up at the statue.

 

“How did you—who are you?” asked Veelix, embarrassed at the ease with which the stranger had snuck up on him.

 

“How do I know?  No one from this city ever stares that intently at this statue.  It’s been here for ages.  That and your armor is bright red.  You stick out.”

 

“That’s right, I’m from Ta-Kia,” Veelix replied hesitantly.

 

“Figures,” said the mysterious Matoran.  “We don’t get many visitors this time of year, especially from the paradise that is Ta-Kia.  All those who do come here marvel at this rock.  Understandable, I suppose, considering it is our finest work.”

 

“Who is it supposed to be?” asked Veelix as he searched for name at the base.

 

The other Matoran looked at the statue with a look of contemplation.  “You know, I really have no idea.  I’m sure he did something important though.”

 

That last statement stuck Veelix as odd.  He hardly considered a sportsman to be a hero.  “Why do you say that?”

 

“Well, he had a statue built of him,” said the Po-Matoran.  “Last time I checked, there aren’t any statues of you or me.  Besides he was a Toa, a specific one.  This style of armor is rare, but not unheard of, and the tool in his hand is incredibly detailed.  I have no idea what he did that was so special, other than perhaps grace the city with his presence.”

 

“Who are you?” asked Veelix, trying not to sound rude.

 

“Oh, I never introduced myself,” the other Matoran said cheerfully.  “My name’s Ludin.”

 

“I’m Veelix.”

 

“So Veelix, what brought you to Po-Kia?” Ludin asked.  “The next Rodak game isn’t for a month.”  He lazily gestured toward the empty fields used for playing Rodak, Kia Nui’s most popular sport.

 

“I’m just passing through,” replied Veelix.  “Right now I’m looking for someone to show me the way across the desert.”

 

“You’ll have to ask the Turaga about that,” said Ludin.  “I was just going to see him, so if you’d like to accompany me, I’ll show you where he lives.”

 

Ludin led Veelix into the central tower, which they slowly ascended.  Veelix peered out the windows to see the wall of homes, each built on top of another, the dwellings higher up only accessible by stairs carved into the mountain.  At the top of the tower, they stepped onto the bridge that connected it to the summit.  Veelix grew dizzy as he looked down at the city far below him, and he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as Ludin casually made his way towards what Veelix assumed was the Turaga’s dwelling at the summit of the mountain.  As he crossed the bridge, Veelix could not help but marvel at the view.  Mount Karda was visible in the distance, its ash covering any trace of Ta-Kia.

 

The interior of the Turaga’s home was dusty and cramped and it appeared as if the Turaga was the only inhabitant.  Ludin walked quickly across the empty atrium to the back of the room to another door.  He knocked, waited a moment, and then entered, as Veelix cautiously followed.  The Turaga was inside, reading a tablet at his stone desk.  He looked up and motioned for the two Matoran to sit down.  He continued to read for a moment before looking up at Ludin. 

 

“Yes?” he asked in a gravelly voice.

 

“The project is finished,” Ludin reported, pointing out the window to a rather tall building.  “The safety inspection was completed, as was the opening ceremony, so there’s really not much use for me anymore.”  He handed the Turaga a small tablet.

 

“Very well, you’re free to leave.”  The Turaga seemed uninterested as he stamped the tablet with his seal and returned it to Ludin.  “Anything else?”

 

Ludin looked at Veelix, prompting the red Matoran to speak.  “My name’s Veelix,” he began.  “I’m on my way to Eri, and I was wondering if anyone was available to escort me through the desert.”  He produced the tablet given to him by Prinkor.  The Turaga glanced at the tablet and summarily returned it.

 

“I imagine there are some Matoran available, though I’ll have to look them up in the registry,” he replied.

 

“I’m traveling to Eri,” Ludin offered.  “I’ve also been through the desert numerous times.  I don’t see why I couldn’t be his companion.”

 

The Turaga looked back at his reading.  “If you wish.”  Both Matoran interpreted his return to work as a tacit dismissal and left the room.  Outside Ludin showed Veelix to his home, located two levels below the Turaga’s.

 

“We should stay here until tomorrow and leave early in the morning,” he explained.  “For tonight, you can stay in my home.”

 

Veelix walked inside and placed his bag by the door.  Unlike the huts in Ta-Kia, Ludin’s home was rectangular and had two rooms instead of one.  “Why didn’t you get a release tablet from the Turaga?” he asked.  “Aren’t you leaving the city?”

 

“Oh, I don’t officially live here anymore,” Ludin explained.  “I used to, which is why I kept the house, but my legal residence is now in Eri.  I don’t actually spend much time there because I travel so much for my job.”

 

“So you’re a safety inspector?”

 

Ludin laughed.  “No, I’m an architect.  I designed that building and supervised the construction.  My contract was written in Eri, so I don’t need a release tablet to leave Po-Kia.”

 

“What’s Eri like?” asked Veelix, intrigued. 

 

“It’s something you have to see for yourself,” replied Ludin.  “The center of the city has buildings that would dwarf many of the ones here.  I even designed a few of them myself.”

 

“It must be incredible,” said Veelix, feeling excitement grow within him.

 

“It certainly is something,” said Ludin.  “I suppose it gives you something to look forward to.”

 

That evening Veelix watched the sun set for the first time.  Never in his time in Ta-Kia had he seen the remarkable colors that accompanied sky’s slow dimming.  As the last light faded from the sky, Veelix hoped that it would not be the last wondrous sight he would witness before reaching the capital.


Edited by Exitium, Oct 31 2013 - 07:10 PM.

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Memory (Memoirs of the Dead Entry)

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#4 Offline Exitium

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Posted Oct 31 2013 - 07:40 PM

Chapter 4

The Desert

 

The desert was a place of extremes.  Life there was harsh and grueling, for the sun beat down relentlessly during the day.  At night that same light vanished, leaving the land frigid and dark.  Poisonous Rahi roamed day and night, many able to kill with a single stroke.  It was this land, something out of a Matoran’s nightmare, which Veelix knowingly entered.

 

Veelix and Ludin rose early, before the sun had risen.  The city was already awake and bustling with activity.  The first shift of laborers was hard at work, diligently constructing the city of tomorrow.  Po-Kia’s Rodak team was practicing on one of the city’s playing fields, illuminated by tall lights equipped with numerous lightstones. 

 

Most Matoran loved Rodak, especially the Po-Matoran.  They took great pride in the game they had invented and were so emotionally invested in their team that riots had broken out after more than one stinging defeat.  For many Matoran, the game was an escape from the toils of everyday labor, yet Veelix was entirely uninterested.

 

As the two Matoran walked past the field, Veelix watched the Po-Matoran team exert enormous effort as they trained.  “They must always be exhausted if they have to practice in addition to their day jobs,” he remarked.

 

“This is their job,” Ludin said.  “They practice most of the day, even during the off-season.  That’s why they’re so good.”

 

Veelix was shocked.  “But the Rodak players in Ta-Kia were farmers or mask makers,” he said.  “Rodak was more of a hobby, an excuse to leave the city for tournaments.  Doesn’t Mata Nui require all Matoran to labor in his name?”

 

“Well, I guess Rodak counts as work,” said Ludin.  “Mata Nui hasn’t smote them or anything, so I don’t think he minds.”

 

Veelix considered Ludin’s comment as the two made their way to the gates of the city.  As they passed Po-Kia’s temple, he said, “I thought the purpose of our work was to be productive.  Aside from entertainment, what do they provide?”

 

Ludin shrugged.  “I don’t think Mata Nui cares what our work is, just so long as we’re working.”

 

Veelix was still confused.  “How do they buy food if all they do is play Rodak?”

 

“They get paid quite well,” replied Ludin.  “In fact, they make more money than I do.  Many of the most lavish homes belong to the team members.”  He pointed to several large dwellings near the peak of the of the wall of homes carved into the mountainside.  

 

“The Po-Matoran have strange ideas about work,” muttered Veelix, recalling many Ta-Matoran’s snide comments about the Po-Matoran’s laziness.

 

“We Po-Matoran take our sport very seriously,” said Ludin.  “You’ve clearly never been to Po-Kia for the Rodak finals.  You take your life into your own hands just going to the game.”

 

“I never traveled with Ta-Kia’s team,” admitted Veelix.  “I know some Matoran do, especially for the finals, but I rarely even watched the home games.”

 

“Ta-Kia’s team is pretty bad,” Ludin observed.  “I see why that might discourage you.”  He paused for a moment before continuing, “Not everyone in Po-Kia plays games for a living, though.  We’ve worked hard to make this city great.  I used to hope for the day that the construction would cease so I could see the city completed in all its majesty.  But that day will never come, and the work will never end.”

 

He smiled briefly, his eyes focusing on something in the distance.  Veelix could only imagine what Ludin saw, but he sensed that Ludin was willing to dedicate his life to making that dream a reality.

 

“No, our work will never end,” Ludin repeated.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

 

The heat of the desert was not what bothered Veelix the most.  True, he did not care for the extreme temperatures, but he had lived in Ta-Kia for as long as he could remember and had become accustomed to the warmth.  What bothered Veelix about the desert was its dryness.  He had never needed water before with the worry that he might run out.  Now he had to place his trust in his guide, for if they lost their way in the sea of sand, both of them would feed the desert’s scavengers. 

 

Ludin produced a small metal compass from his bag.  The needle spun for a moment before orienting itself north.

 

“The compass points north most of the time, though nobody really knows why” he explained as he returned the small instrument to his bag.  “About the time we reach the oasis, it will point toward Fa-Kia instead.”  Because the mountain city was located in the only safe pass between the mountains, the compass was a useful tool for safely navigating the desert.

 

Veelix nodded.  Most of the time, he let Ludin talk, which the Po-Matoran did endlessly.  Veelix did not mind; in fact he found what Ludin had to say quite interesting.  The stories of travel and towering buildings whetted his appetite for what was to come once he was reassigned.

 

“My job is to design the buildings,” explained Ludin.  “The Turaga in Eri give me the specifications and the constraints, and then I start drawing.  Once the designs are approved in Eri, I supervise the construction to make sure the construction goes according to the plan.  A lot of my work is in Po-Kia because it has such a large market for new buildings, which allows me to visit home frequently.”

 

“I thought you lived in Eri,” said Veelix.

 

“Officially I do, but lived in Po-Kia before I moved to the capital” replied Ludin.  “I have an apartment in the city, but most of my work takes place in other kia.  For any job that requires traveling, you have to register your official residence in Eri, but I really only stay there when the Turaga don’t have work for me to do.”

 

Veelix could only imagine what such a life was like.  The freedom to dream up any building, see it rise from the ground, and know it was put to real use—that was good work.  The ability to travel, to get beyond the confines of a single dusty city, only made the prospect more appealing.

 

“How did you get involved in architecture?” he asked.

 

Ludin thought for a moment.  “I suppose it started when I was courier between Po-Kia and Eri,” he said.  “The architecture in the capital is fascinating, so I learned all I could.  Eventually I applied for permission to attend architecture school in Ga-Kia, and here I am now.”

 

“You went to school in Ga-Kia?” asked Veelix.  He had heard about the university on the island city from Keller, but he had assumed that most of the students were Ga-Matoran.

 

“I did,” Ludin answered.  “A lot of Matoran from other kia go there too.”

 

“What else is taught there?” asked Veelix.

 

“A lot of subjects,” Ludin replied.  “The sciences are the most popular due to Ga-Kia’s excellent research facilities.  There are also schools of history and literature, but those disciplines are more popular in other kia.  You know it’s odd, but now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing a lot of Ta-Matoran.”

 

“We don’t leave Ta-Kia much.  I’ve heard that Ta-Matoran are often treated as outsiders north of the Southern Mountains.”

 

“What exactly do you do in Ta-Kia?” Ludin asked.

 

“We make masks and a few other tools,” Veelix answered.  “I was a mask maker at one time, but now, well until yesterday, I made tools.”

 

Ludin was puzzled.  “Why did you stop making masks?” he asked.

 

“I found the work dull,” Veelix replied.  “What’s the point of making a mask that no one will ever use?”

 

“They don’t get used?” Ludin asked, with a look of genuine confusion.

 

Veelix shook his head.  “A few get shipped to other kia, but there isn’t much demand for new masks, so we just put them on the wall to display.”

 

“It sounds like you were more of an artist than a craftsman,” Ludin commented.  “That’s worth something, don’t you think?”

 

“Some call the process an art, but that’s giving the mask maker too much credit,” Veelix explained.  “Art is original and creative.  Masks are derivative and unimaginative.  I was handed a disk, someone told me its power level, and then I carved the shape assigned to that mask.  I was just turning a crank.”

 

“Why don’t you use different designs?”

 

“It’s simpler if everything is standardized,” Veelix explained.  “Toa need to know immediately what power a mask has.  Matoran masks don’t have any power, so it doesn’t really matter what shape we use, although we’re supposed to use the right one, on the off chance that the wearer does become a Toa.  That hasn’t happened in years, of course.”

 

 “I understand why you left,” Ludin said.  “No self-expression, no purpose, no growth.  Architecture is like functional art.  It’s always changing, stretching closer to its ultimate potential with each new project.”

 

“It’s a lot more useful than making piles of masks,” Veelix agreed. 

 

Night descended on the desert as the two Matoran made their camp under an arch that could have served as a sign of victory for some higher being.  They alternated watches, ensuring that they were not attacked by the Rahi that called the desert home.  The Matoran were trespassers in this land in which the elements themselves signaled they were unwelcome, but most Rahi kept their distance from the flickering flame.

 

During his watch, Veelix stared into fire, watching it flicker.  The small flame was the last reminder of his home in Ta-Kia.  Veelix had vowed to leave his old life behind, yet he was so captivated by dance of the flame in front of him that he almost forgot to wake Ludin for his watch.  As he lay down, Veelix understood the mysterious beauty of the fire that held power over Ta-Matoran but found himself willing to leave it behind just the same.

 

 

Ludin snapped Veelix out of his dreams before it was light.  The two had a long journey to make, and if they did not reach the oasis by nightfall, they would run out of water.  The two plodded through the darkness in silence, with little of interest on the horizon save for a mountain piercing the sky in the distant east.  A mass of black clouds hovered above the peak, no doubt hurling down giant sparks of electricity from time to time.

 

“I think you’ll like Fa-Kia,” Ludin said, breaking the silence.  “It’s an interesting place where north meets south and cultures merge.  We’ll probably meet Matoran from several other kia.”

 

“Is there such a big difference between the north and the south?” Veelix asked.

 

“More than you’d think,” answered Ludin.  “Not only does each kia have its own personality, but each region does too.  In the central valley of the island, there are a lot fewer geographic barriers, so Matoran from each city come into more contact.  They’re less traditional than, say Ta-Matoran or Vo-Matoran and more progressive as well.  It might be a bit of a shock for someone who has spent his entire life south of the Southern Mountains.”

 

“I haven’t always lived in Ta-Kia,” Veelix replied added after a moment.  “I never quite felt at home there either.”

 

“Where did you live before?” Ludin asked.

 

“I don’t remember,” Veelix admitted.  “My earliest memory is a group of Matoran finding me lying on a beach near Ta-Kia.  I can remember a close friend—well not so much the friend as the feeling of friendship— as well as a bright light and a few other scattered emotions.”  He shook his head.  “You must think I sound crazy.”

 

“Amnesia is a lot more common than you would think, especially on this island,” Ludin replied.  “There was a plague that went around tens of thousands of years ago that left most Matoran without memories of their earliest days.  In fact, some still have difficulty forming new memories.”

 

“I had no idea,” Veelix replied. 

 

“It must have been before you arrived then,” Ludin said.  “There’s a cure now, so I managed to avoid the worst of it.  I can’t remember much of what happened before the Barraki War, but there are records of me living in Po-Kia at the time.  I arrived here before then, but where I lived before that is a mystery even to me.”

 

Ludin’s compass slowly began to quiver as they grew steadily nearer to their destination.  By the time they reached the oasis, it pointed northwest rather than due north.  There was a small encampment beneath what few trees grew in the oasis.  Most travelers proclaimed the site proof of Mata Nui’s good will toward Matoran, for what else would cause water to pool up in the middle of the desert and support life in this void?  It was a tiny paradise, unremarkable anywhere else, but in the heart of this wasteland, it was salvation.  Veelix and Ludin stayed for the night, but they could not linger.

 

 

Veelix awoke once again in darkness and packed his few belongings.  It was not long before the sun was out, illuminating the curtain of mountains that separated the southern desert from the expansive valley beyond.  Ludin’s compass now fixed itself on Fa-Kia, which loomed in the distance in the only gap between the mountains. 

 

In the afternoon, solid rock that steadily crept upward replaced the sandy landscape.  The mountains stood like stone sentries against the rain, preventing it from crossing into the southern region of the island, but forcing the clouds to spill their nourishment on their northern slopes.  The northern side of the mountains was lush and green, while the southern side was barren and barely hospitable to life.  This phenomenon was mirrored on the other side of the island, with tall mountains providing the rivers that watered a massive jungle.

 

At the border of these lands of life and death was Fa-Kia, a necessary stop for all who wished to travel between them.  The magnetic material in the nearby mountains was powerful enough to influence the local magnetic field and redirect all compasses, though it was distributed such that metallic objects seemed unaffected near the city itself.   Fa-Kia was as a haven for travelers searching for life in a place of death, offering a gateway to the green valley beyond the mountains.  In contrast, to those traveling south, it was the last sign civilization before the vast stretches of desert.  Like the central valley beyond, it was a modern society bounded by mountains on either side.

 

Luckily for Veelix and Ludin, the city was a salvation rather than a warning.  Veelix gazed up with wonder at the tall buildings and the even taller mountains that dwarfed them.  Compared to the ancient structures of Ta-Kia, this city was a futuristic and alien world.  Rather than the stone and volcanic rock used as the materials in Po-Kia and Ta-Kia, everything in this city was made of metal.  The architectural style was different as well, challenging the limits of physics itself as the structures climbed progressively higher as they moved toward the center of the city. 

 

These modern buildings ringed the central hill, home to an ancient structure that was no doubt the grand hall of the resident Turaga.  Surrounded by fortifications was a long, narrow castle with a dark blue triangular roof.  A tower reached up from each side, one taller than the other, gleaming over the entire city.  The castle would have looked unnatural high atop a mountain had it not seemed even more out of place as an anachronism among its more modern neighbors.

 

The castle was not the only edifice that caught Veelix’s attention.  Near the center of the city was a grand temple with a magnificent façade and towering steeples, employing marvels of engineering that created the illusion that it was taller than it appeared.  Near the northern sector was a glass skyscraper that Veelix thought was an apartment building but was actually a hotel for visitors.  Much to Veelix’s dismay, Ludin informed him that they were staying elsewhere.

 

Ludin led Veelix through the city to a large rectangular structure that was several stories tall.  Right of the main entrance where the corner of the building ought to have been was rotunda with glass walls.  Peering through the glass, Veelix could see a large brass pendulum suspended from the ceiling.  As the two walked through the front entrance, Veelix read the words etched into the wall above the door: “School of Science and Engineering, Fa-Kia Branch.”  Ludin explained that the school was based in Ga-Kia but the research branch was here.

 

The front doors slid open, revealing a magnificent atrium with curved glass roof, allowing natural light to flow into the room.  Auditoriums, classrooms, and laboratories were accessible through the seemingly endless rows of doors around the perimeter of the room.  The two Matoran ascended the central staircase to the mezzanine level providing a view of the atrium below, and Ludin led Veelix through a nearby door into the upper level of the rotunda.

 

Inside was a loft, currently used by a dozen Matoran fixated on their studies at tables amid a small collection of bookshelves.  The semicircular library, which stretched from the rear wall to a balcony just before the pendulum, allowed one to see out the curved glass walls, much like a one-way mirror.  Standing at the ledge the captain of a ship, Veelix glanced down at the pendulum below him before turning his gaze out on the city and the desert barely visible behind the forest of metal.

 

“Ludin!” a voice exclaimed.  “What brings you back to our fine institution?”

 

Veelix turned to see Ludin and a Fa-Matoran embracing.

 

“I just finished some work in Po-Kia, and I’m on my way back to Eri, so I thought I’d stop by,” he replied.  “I’m traveling with this Ta-Matoran here.”  He pointed to Veelix.  “Hey, Veelix, I want you to meet someone.”

 

As Veelix approached, he noticed the complex drawings and calculations on the table where the Fa-Matoran had been working.

 

“Veelix, this is Discipulus,” Ludin said, introducing the two.  “I went to school with him in Ga-Kia before I became an architect.  Unlike me, he decided to transfer here to study for a few thousand more years and learn engineering as well.”

 

“I haven’t just been studying,” Discipulus said.  “In fact, some of us recently designed the new hotel in the city’s northern sector.  What have you built recently?”

 

“Well, I consulted for the Central Commerce Building in Eri, and I was the chief architect for the Rodak League’s headquarters,” Ludin said with pride.  “How have things been here?”

 

“Mostly the same,” Discipulus reported.  “Almost 70,000 years ago, the Unified Government froze our budget, so we can’t apply for new grants.  Luckily, the engineering department has done well though thanks to an influx of talent from one of the other branches.”

 

“Is that so?  I’m sure Veelix would like to see the lab,” Ludin suggested.  Veelix nodded.

 

“Sure,” replied Discipulus.  “We’ve got lots of sketches and designs in there, as well as some new vehicles we’re designing for use in Le-Kia.”

 

Ludin and Discipulus continued to catch up as the three Matoran returned to the atrium and wandered down to the last room on the right side of the building.  Inside the lab, engineers in bright green armor discussed plans for a new high-speed vehicle that could cross the desert in less than a day.  They appeared to be in disagreement about a major component of their design and were engaged in a heated debate.  One of the Matoran brandished the blueprints frantically as he spoke.

 

While the thinking occurred in this room, the execution was carried out in a second chamber separated from the first by a glass wall.  Numerous tools for cutting and shaping different types of protodermis lined the room, though few of them appeared to in use at the moment.  At first Veelix felt at home in the din of construction, although unlike the foundries of Ta-Kia, something worthwhile was made here.

 

“We used to focus on architecture alone,” Discipulus shouted over the noise of the machines, “but then we decided that we needed a lab for basic research.  When the Le-Kia branch of the school was closed, we took over as the major engineering lab in Kia Nui.”

 

“Why did they close the Le-Kia branch?” Veelix asked.

 

“Well, during the economic disaster before our funding was frozen, the Unified Government couldn’t afford to maintain three engineering schools” the Fa-Matoran replied.  “There was already pressure on them to lower taxes, and there just wasn’t enough revenue to go around, so they closed the branch in Le-Kia because it had the fewest students.”

 

“It looks like most of them came here,” Ludin replied.  “I’ve never seen so many Le-Matoran in one place.”

 

“We had a lot of new students and researchers arrive, mostly from Le-Kia” Discipulus confirmed.  “However, we didn’t receive any additional funding to pay for them.  Every thousand years or so we have to fundraise because we simply don’t get enough money from the Turaga like we used to.”

 

It seemed like such a shame to Veelix that this school, which did more to advance Matoran society than all of Ta-Kia, was held back because of a lack of money.  Veelix had no recollection of the economic downturn that Discipulus spoke of, which had occurred before he had arrived in Kia Nui. 

 

Veelix listened as the other two Matoran discussed the architectural details of one of Ludin’s recent projects in terms too technical for him to understand.  Both Ludin and Discipulus had more accomplishments than Veelix could imagine, and both had attended a prestigious school where they had learned something interesting and practical.  Veelix had few encounters with Matoran of learning in Ta-Kia, for those who had become scholars generally left to teach at schools such as this one.  Only Keller believed enough in the Ta-Matoran to remain in his home, swimming against the current that swept all knowledge worth knowing away from the city.  Despite this disadvantage, Veelix felt small knowing his only accomplishment in life was a heap of masks, a frivolous exploit compared to that of other Matoran. 

 

After the tour, Ludin suggested that they find something to eat.  As the Matoran ate in a cafeteria, Ludin and Discipulus talked about their lives since they had last seen each other.  Much of their discussion revolved around architecture, which interested Veelix somewhat, but he found himself staring out the window, gazing at the city’s skyline.

 

As the other two Matoran talked, Veelix retrieved a wax tablet and a pen and began to sketch.  He wasn’t sure what he was doing, but he watched a design for a new building took form on the tablet.  It wasn’t particular interesting, so he wiped it away and tried again.  Once he was satisfied, he showed it to the two architects. 

 

“Well, it’s not great,” said Discipulus.  Ludin nudged him.  “I mean, it’s not bad for a beginner and the structure is sound, but your design lacks any real creativity.”

 

“You can’t expect to be amazing on your first try,” Ludin explained.  “It took us centuries before we had designed something worthy of construction.”

 

Veelix put the tablet down on the table and withheld a sigh.  He did not expect his design to be particularly good, but Discipulus’s comment did little to make Ludin feel better about himself.

 

Sensing his disappointment, Ludin added, “You show some promise though.  If you’re really interested, you could attend school here or in Ga-Kia to develop your skills.”

 

“That’s alright,” Veelix replied.  “I don’t think I’m interested in architecture anyway.”

 

 

Later that afternoon, Veelix and Ludin said goodbye to Discipulus and wandered toward their hotel.  As they walked down the city’s main street, the two Matoran wandered into the marketplace, a collection of towers with stores on the lower floors.  Ludin steered Veelix into a smaller shop that sold travel supplies, including lightstones and maps.  Ludin bought one of each, wrapping the lightstone in cloth to obscure its persistent glow.

 

Lightstones never ceased to amaze Veelix.  They could only be mined in the Northern Mountains and could never be turned off, yet they provided a seemingly infinite source of light powered by an unknown energy source.  Their fragile existence created an omnipresent demand for the glowing crystals and ensured that mining would remain the key industry of the cities in the Northern Mountains for some time. 

 

Upon leaving the shop, Ludin and Veelix examined the map.  Living in Ta-Kia, Veelix was relatively isolated from the world and had not seen a map in years.  The island stretched about twice as long on its north-south axis as it was wide, punctuated by mountains at the northern extremity and near the southern coast.  South of the Northern Mountains was a massive forest created by the rain shadow, stretching partway onto the eastern peninsula home to De-Kia.  Two massive lakes were situated inside the central valley, one feeding a river that cut a swath from the west to an estuary on the eastern coast.  Eri was located along the banks of this river, directly in the middle of the island.  Several roads branched out from Fa-Kia; one of them passed through Ba-Kia on its way to Eri.

 

“It should take about two days to travel from here to the capital,” Ludin explained as they continued toward their lodgings.  “The distance is about the same as from here to Po-Kia, but we’ll be traveling on roads this time.  If all goes according to plan, we should reach Ba-Kia by tomorrow night.” 

 

By the time the two Matoran reached the hotel, the stars were already gleaming.  In the distance, Veelix could see several stars bunched together in the sky, suspended over a single location.  Though Veelix had never seen this phenomenon, he knew that these were the spirit stars, each one representing a Toa that lived in Kia Nui.  Their presence in one location could only mean that they were currently over Eri, where the Toa lived.  Although it was the Toa who were marked with stars, the real power now lay with the former Toa, the Turaga of the Unified Government, whom Veelix would soon meet.


Edited by Exitium, Jan 18 2014 - 08:58 PM.

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Memory (Memoirs of the Dead Entry)

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#5 Offline Exitium

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Posted Nov 01 2013 - 11:13 AM

Chapter 5

Death and Glory

 

Dawn broke over Fa-Kia as the morning rays of light cast a glow over the metallic city.  On this new day, Matoran across the island would awaken to do precisely what they had done the day before, the same tasks they had performed for millennia.  Builders, architects, craftsmen, and mask makers would rise to do what they had done their entire lives.

 

Veelix pondered the uniqueness of his situation as he and Ludin journeyed toward Ba-Kia, the latter going on about an encounter he had with a Rahi on his last trip to Eri.  Ludin talked for some time before noticing that Veelix did not appear to be paying attention.

 

“You’re unusually quiet today,” Ludin remarked.

 

“I’ve just been thinking,” muttered Veelix.

 

“Mata Nui forbid you start thinking,” Ludin said with a wry smile.  “Don’t strain yourself.”  Veelix knew that Ludin was merely teasing him, but his choice of words prompted Veelix to ask a question that would have gotten him thrown out of Ta-Kia’s temple.

 

“Do you really believe in all that?” he asked.  “About Mata Nui and the founding of our kia?”

 

“Of course,” Ludin replied, his tone tinged with mild surprise.  “I’m from Po-Kia, so I went to the temple every week with everyone else.  I don’t any more, unless I’m working in Po-Kia, but I have no reason to doubt what the Turaga say about Mata Nui.”

 

“But what makes you so certain your beliefs are true?” pressed Veelix.  “The only evidence of Mata Nui we have are his words from our respective scriptures, and there are significant differences between the two.”

 

“As long as I can remember I’ve been told that Mata Nui watches over and guides us,” Ludin said.  “We all have doubts, but I had never really pondered them until my colleagues in Ga-Kia urged me to reevaluate my beliefs.  Before then I had blindly followed the Turaga’s teachings, but the other students helped me recognize the beauty and presence of Mata Nui in all things for myself.  It’s also comforting to know that Mata Nui gives me a reason to live and that I can continue to serve him throughout my life.”

 

“So it’s just a feeling?” Veelix asked.  “There’s nothing you’ve read or heard from the Turaga that convinced you that Mata Nui actually said what we think he did?”

 

“There’s a reason it’s called faith,” Ludin replied.  “If you believe, that’s good enough.”

 

“So merely believing absolves you from having to go to the temple?” Veelix asked.

 

“My time in Eri and Ga-Kia brought me into contact with Matoran with different ideas,” Ludin said.  “North of the Southern Mountains, few Matoran make weekly visits to the temple.  The Ga-Matoran thought weekly visits to the temple were provincial, and the Matoran I met convinced me that I didn’t need a Turaga’s weekly guidance to understand the ways of Mata Nui.”

 

“But doesn’t Mata Nui command weekly attendance at the temple?” Veelix asked.  Despite his doubts about the validity of the Turaga’s teachings, Veelix was surprised someone would so blatantly disregard Mata Nui’s strict instructions.

 

“That depends on who you ask,” Ludin replied.  “The Ko-Matoran would agree with you, but the Ga-Matoran are a little more skeptical.  Perhaps you should visit the temple as often as possible, but from my understanding, Mata Nui doesn’t take attendance.  I don’t think I’d want to worship him if he did.  In fact, it was probably the founders of Ta-Kia and Eri who were responsible for popularizing that notion.”

 

“Why don’t the Ga-Matoran believe in going to the temple?” Veelix asked. 

 

“Well, they do,” Ludin replied.  “Officially, the Turaga preach that all Matoran should honor Mata Nui at the temple every week, but many Ga-Matoran think that simply warming a chair in the temple is not what’s important about being a believer.  They think there is more to honoring Mata Nui than simply going through the motions.”

 

Veelix could hardly believe the ease with which Ludin simply dismissed Ta-Kia’s basic cultural tenets.  In Ta-Kia, the Turaga had taught him that if he did not attend temple weekly, he was a heretic.  The fear of social rejection was the strongest force that drew Veelix back to the temple, yet Ludin promised a different way of living.  Ludin and the Matoran from the north embraced these heretical beliefs, something Veelix was hesitant to do despite his doubts.

 

“I was taught that you must go to the temple regularly in order to be a believer,” he said.

 

“Well, you attend temple regularly, and you don’t seem to be a believer,” Ludin replied.  He chuckled to himself for a moment and continued, “I can’t believe I’ve met a Ta-Matoran who doesn’t believe in Mata Nui.”

 

“I never said I denied his existence,” Veelix said.  “I simply don’t know what to believe.”

 

“We’re not born with knowledge,” Ludin said.  “You have to discover what to believe for yourself.”

 

 

The scenery in the valley was different than any Veelix had ever seen.  While the region south of the Southern Mountains was arid and inhospitable, the valley beyond teemed with life.  Endless stretches of fields lined with crops that fed the entire island reached as far as Veelix could see; only the snowcapped peaks of the Northern Mountains promised that the fields were not infinite.

 

In the middle of the afternoon, the Matoran reached a fork in the road, one that did not appear on the map.  Noticing a small sign, Veelix read the inscription:  “North: Ba-Kia, North-East: The Ashen Fields.”  Looking at the map, Veelix indeed noticed a location just off the road with that same name.  It was one that all Ta-Matoran knew, so Veelix asked Ludin if they could stop for a detour.

 

“We have time, if you want to check it out,” Ludin said.  The two Matoran took the northeast road, wandering off the main path to an empty plain. 

 

The Ashen Fields had long since been scorched by the awesome elemental powers of the Toa that had fought here during the Barraki War.  New vegetation had not grown, as the battle had left the soil inhospitable to life, preserving the plains much as they had been immediately after the battle.  Several large stones dotted the landscape, each with an inscription.  Veelix proceeded to the nearest one and began to read:

 

The Battle of the Ashen Fields was fought in the year 20,000 AF (after the founding of Kia Nui) against the League of Six Kingdoms.  After driving the Toa out of Eri, the League ambushed the Toa Army and captured Toa Jecitus, threatening to execute him if the Toa did not surrender.  In response, Jectitus’s lieutenant, Toa Goucaer, led the Toa to their first major victory of the war.  Despite heavy casualties on both sides, the Toa used their momentum from this victory to recapture the capital and negotiate for an armistice that effectively brought an end to the war.

 

Veelix was vaguely aware of the war that had been fought in Kia Nui against the League of Six Kingdoms, but he was not familiar with the individual battles.  However this particular battle was particularly noteworthy in the history of Ta-Kia.  Veelix scanned the various stone markers until he found the one he was looking for.

 

The stone in front of Veelix bore only a single name followed by a short inscription: “Toa Jecitus, unknown-20,000 AF.  He died for the people of Kia Nui who are forever indebted to him for all he did in life and death.”

 

Veelix knew the name of Jecitus, the Toa who had founded Ta-Kia.  Matoran had written numerous tales about his heroism and his glorious death fighting against the Barraki and their armies.  Veelix recalled several legends about the Toa who was a paragon of his kind, but what before had just been stories now possessed more weight.  All the legends of his greatness and honor that inspired the Matoran of Ta-Kia suddenly had a profound gravity to them, and even though Veelix had never felt such a strong affinity for Ta-Kia’s legendary founder, he was simultaneously overcome by sadness that he could come no closer.

 

Veelix placed his hand on the soft earth, hoping to feel a connection to the ancient battle.  Although the charred soil seemed no different than that of Ta-Kia, Veelix knew that this had been the sight of one of the most monumental events in Kia Nui’s history.  Not only was this battleground a location of historical interest, but Veelix was also standing at the exact spot where the only being that he had ever admired had died.  He looked across the fields, imagining the battle unfolding before him, but it faded as he remembered that he had never seen a battle before and his imagination certainly either over-embellished or was unable to do reality justice.

 

While the history was interesting, it was the magnitude of the destruction that struck Veelix.  Some of the boulders were inscribed with the names of the slain combatants, a seemingly unending testament to the carnage.  Despite the devastation, the battle reminded Veelix of his favorite sermons from Prinkor, all of them about the death of Ta-Kia’s greatest hero.  Mythical guardians and abstract virtues had little relevance in Veelix’s life, but he could appreciate the importance of Jecitus’s profound sacrifice.  Veelix could not imagine caring about something or someone so much that he would be willing to freely give his life for it as Jecitus had.

 

Closing his eyes, Veelix recalled Prinkor’s words as he explained how Jecitus exemplified Mata Nui’s three virtues.  The Matoran could not match his sacrifice, but Jecitus continued to inspire them to live for others, to place the greater good ahead of their own concerns.  Veelix had never met a Toa in person, and his entire conception of heroism stemmed from what he read and heard about this great Toa.

 

Ludin reminded him that they needed to be on their way.  Hesitant to leave as he experienced such powerful emotions, Veelix turned and followed Ludin back to the main road.  Veelix was surprised to discover some aspect of Ta-Kia he now missed, and the brief feeling of belonging he felt now left nagging questions in his mind.  Jectius was known for his piousness, and the Ta-Matoran considered his writings sacred.  How could Veelix honor Jecitus’s memory if he dismissed the very principles for which he had lived and died?

 

It was not yet evening, but the wind had started to pick up, and Ludin had warned Veelix about the tornados that occasionally ravaged this region.  As they drew closer to the Ba-Kia, it started to rain, a sensation with which the Matoran from the dry region of Ta-Kia was unfamiliar.  What fell from the sky was more than a drizzle; a storm was gathering in the distance.  Ludin did not appear too worried, but he wanted to reach the comfort of dry lodgings and picked up his pace.  Veelix, who had never seen so much as a drop of rain, was terrified.

 

Ludin identified the odd landmark they were now approaching as Ba-Kia.  By some inexplicable cosmic accident, gravity did not function properly in this one particular area.  Here gravity did not obey its normal rules, and giant chunks of earth floated in the sky, conveniently exposing a vein of protodermis.  On and around these stones was Ba-Kia, inhabited by the few Matoran willing to brave this perilous place.  While most buildings had been constructed on the boulders, one noteworthy exception was anchored to the ground, a tall, thin tower around which the rest of the city revolved.  At its top was a circular observation platform with glass walls that would have glittered had there been sunlight on that day.  Instead its spire served as a lightning rod at this moment, as well as a beacon to travelers escaping from the storm.

 

Ludin navigated through the crowded streets trying to find a place where he and Veelix could find refuge from the storm.  Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the entire city had similar ideas, and those too far from their homes looked for whatever shelter they could.  The storm was clearly more severe than Ludin had anticipated, and his expression betrayed a sense of panic that it had not before.  Eventually, they reached the central tower, where guards herded them up to the observation deck.  Pressed against the glass, Veelix watched with wide eyes as the vortex continued its unrelenting approach toward the city.

 

Over the noise of the crowd, Veelix was dimly aware of a sonorous voice, amplified through artificial means.  “We can confirm that a tornado is rapidly approaching the city and will strike within minutes,” the voice reported.  “Residents are advised to move into underground shelters, as the storm has the potential for major devastation.”

 

Panic gripped the assembled multitude as those closest to the door tried to move further into the building while those at the periphery seemed determined to escape.  Surrounded by the bodies of frenzied Matoran, Veelix could do little else but wait as his fate steadily approached, dispassionately casting aside obstacles with ease.

 

“We have just been informed that Toa have arrived outside Ba-Kia,” the voice announced.  Turning toward the window, Veelix saw several armored figures rushing toward the distant vortex.  Even at this distance, their proportions and height distinguished them from the Matoran they served.  A thrill ran through Veelix; they were indeed Toa.  The Toa of Water worked together absorb as much of the moisture as they could, while the Toa of Air tried numerous tactics to stop the tornado.  Veelix’s mask bumped against the glass as he inadvertently leaned closer.

 

The tornado only increased in speed, forcing the Toa to retreat and reformulate their plan.  There was a brief moment when Veelix was sure that all hope was lost, but these were Toa, and surely they had saved Matoran from worse disasters than this one. 

 

Suddenly the wind stopped.  At first Veelix was confused until Ludin suggested that the Toa had used their power to calm the winds.  The tornado lost speed and dissipated as the Toa of Water put an end to the torrential downpour that had engulfed the city.

 

As the observation room erupted into cheers, Veelix let out the breath he had not realized he was holding.  Relief washed over him as he tried to calm his racing mind from the twin excitement of near death and proximity to a small number of the island’s heroes. 

 

Ludin grabbed Veelix’s arm and tried to direct him toward the exit, but given the number of Matoran present, they made little progress.  After a few moments of weaving through the multitude, Ludin stopped as four Toa entered the room, towering over the sea of figures half their size.  His heart racing with excitement, Veelix tried to press his way to the front of the throng where the Toa were greeting Matoran as they made their way to the balcony.  Veelix could not get close enough to speak to them, but he listened as one of the Toa addressed the city, his voice amplified by the same device that had warned them about the approaching storm.

 

“Thank you, thank you,” the Toa said.  “We are honored that you support the Toa in all our efforts to protect you.  For what would we be without Matoran to serve?”  The crowd cheered again as the Toa watched, their masks adorned with broad smiles. 

 

After a brief address, the Toa walked among the crowd, shaking every hand they could, much to the delight of the assembled Matoran.  One of the Toa moved in Veelix’s direction, beaming as he advanced through the throng, simultaneously shaking hands with one Matoran, speaking to another, and winking at a third.  He extended his hand to Veelix, which the Matoran took almost hesitantly, as if doing so would somehow mar the greatness of the Toa in front of him.  He figured that he should say something to the Toa, but before he could think of something that did not sound overly trite or obsequious, the Toa moved on, as if in a competition with the others to greet the most Matoran.

 

As the excitement wore off, Veelix and Ludin ultimately escaped the throng.  The two wandered through the city looking for lodging under the dim city lights while the tower remained illuminated for a celebration in the Toa’s honor.

 

“We’re lucky to be alive,” Ludin said.  “Had those Toa not been nearby…”  He left the sentence there, for its completion was unnecessary.  Neither Matoran said anything for a moment.

 

“I’ve never met a Toa before,” Veelix said in an attempt to break the silence.  “Are Toa normally stationed near kia in case of disaster?

 

Ludin thought for a moment before replying, “The Toa generally live in Eri, though they are dispatched whenever there’s an emergency.”

 

“It’s a good thing we’re not far from the capital,” Veelix said.  “Otherwise the Toa might not have gotten here in time.”

 

“Yes, indeed.”

 

The sight of a Toa was something Veelix had dreamed of as long as he could remember.  Now that he had finally met one, the brief rush of excitement proved ephemeral, for his imagination had left him with a higher standard of heroism that no living Toa could match.  Seeing these Toa with his own eyes, watching them save his life but not perform miracles, left Veelix with a bitter feeling that bordered on disappointment.  The tales that reached the history books were of legendary caliber, and the mundaneness of his encounter with the beaming Toa seemed irritatingly inconsequential.  No doubt many of the Matoran here would remember this day with fondness, their eyes lighting up as they had when that Toa had not simply saved their lives but acknowledged them as well.  To the Toa, that Matoran would simply be another mask, one of hundreds met on that day alone.

 

 

The next arrived too soon for the exhausted Veelix.  At the end of the day, he would be in Eri, perhaps even assigned to his new position.  His hands shook slightly as he packed his bag, though he was unsure whether it was from nervousness or excitement.  The uncertainty of what was to come was a welcome respite from his previously dreary life, but now he found himself more than a little apprehensive. 

 

Naturally, the Turaga would ask him what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.  Now Veelix had to make a decision, one he had avoided since deciding to leave Ta-Kia.  Truthfully, he had no idea what occupation was right for him, so he thought about what he enjoyed doing.  He had given the matter little thought, and his travels thus far were the only idea that came to mind.

 

Veelix knew there was no way he could simply wander the island like a leaf riding the drifting currents.  The Turaga in Eri would remind him of his duty to Mata Nui to be engaged in productive labor.  So instead he pondered the jobs that would allow him to travel.  Architect?  He had no talent for the job.  Currier?  He did not have the necessary physical strength.  Perhaps he could be an author, writing about his experiences traveling the island.  Most Matoran did not own any books, so Veelix dismissed that possibility.

 

He brought up the subject with Ludin as they left Ba-Kia that morning.  The Po-Matoran shrugged his shoulders. 

 

“What are you good at?” he asked.

 

“Nothing,” Veelix mumbled. 

 

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Ludin reassured his friend.  “You seem to be drawn to learning, so maybe you’d like the schools of Ga-Kia.”

 

“There’s no way they’d take me,” Veelix said. 

 

“I think you’d be surprised,” Ludin replied.  “There are so few Ta-Matoran that you will impress them no matter how good you are.  If don’t want to go to Ga-Kia, you could always try the monasteries of Ko-Kia or the museums of Onu-Kia.”

 

“And be locked up inside a tower or museum all day?” Veelix replied.  “I want to travel around Kia Nui, like we’ve been doing.”

 

Ludin sighed.  “No one travels for fun, Veelix.  You have to have a destination.”

 

Before long, tall white spires appeared in the distance.  The sound of rushing water grew closer, and the massive lake known as Lacus Major came into view.  Though he had never been there before, Veelix knew that he had almost arrived at the greatest city in Kia Nui.

 

 

Not three days had passed since two Turaga had been engaged in a serious conversation in the tallest of Eri’s spires.  Separated by the desk between them and a much wider gulf in opinion over the matter of their discussion, the Turaga with blue armor stared incredulously at her counterpart in white.

 

“Therefore, I believe it is clear that the time has come to reinstate this position,” the white Turaga concluded. 

 

“Respectfully, I have to disagree,” replied the other.  “The Unified Government eliminated this position at your urging because we knew that it violated the very principles upon which this government was founded.  Furthermore, there is a significant possibility that this decision could loosen our hold on power.”  She paused to see if her words were having impact on her listener.  As always, his expression betrayed little, although the weariness that had taken hold of his visage in recent years had been temporarily replaced with determination.  “We agreed long ago that this was too much of a risk to take.”

 

“Times have changed,” the first Turaga said.  “I have come to realize that in the coming years, we will need these services again.  I am certain of it.”

 

The blue Turaga repressed a sigh.  She was accustomed to the other’s convictions, perhaps from inspiration from Mata Nui or some other source.  She had long since learned that it was prudent not to argue.

 

“Do you expect history to take a dramatic turn in the near future?”

 

“Undoubtedly,” the white Turaga replied.  “Until then, this Matoran can familiarize himself with our history to ensure that we have not neglected anything of importance.”

 

The blue Turaga shifted uncomfortably in her chair.  “That is precisely what worries me.”

 

The white Turaga looked directly into her eyes.  “Are you afraid of a Matoran?”  There was a brief silence.  “I did not think so.”

 

“You are one who taught me the relationship between knowledge and power,” the blue Turaga replied.

 

“Precautions will be taken, and the Matoran I have in mind should be of little concern to you,” the first Turaga said, waving his hand dismissively.

 

“You have found a candidate already?”

 

“Merely a possibility,” the Turaga replied, handing his comrade an electronic tablet that he had perused earlier, a rare item in Kia Nui reserved only for Turaga.  “If all goes as planned, he should come before you in a matter of days.  If he does not meet with your approval, you can send him on his way.”

 

The other Turaga scanned the information briefly.  “I grant that there is a possibility that a monumental event is approaching on the horizon,” she said.  “Why not wait until that time has come?”

 

“If this Matoran is not satisfactory, it could be centuries before another suitable candidate emerges,” the white Turaga said.  “I want you to be watching for that Matoran.”

 

He stood up and wandered over to the window, surveying the city and the valley beyond.  The other Turaga glimpsed a peculiar expression etched into his mask, one almost of loss tinged with regret.  Turning in her chair, she too gazed out the window, though she saw nothing but the familiar majesty of the surrounding city, illuminated by the orange and pink glow of the fading evening light.

 

“I understand your concerns, for they have merit, but nothing is without risk,” the white Turaga said, hesitantly turning away from the window.  “Recently I have realized the fragility of many things that I once believed to be stable.  What if the society we have built disappears and there is nothing to tell posterity who we are, what we stand for, or what it means to be from Kia Nui?  Even now there are few who can articulate that dream.  There is one aspect of our collective character that separates us from Rahi, an overpowering urge to find meaning in what we’ve been given.”

 

While she did not fully understand what had triggered this transformation in the usually stoic Turaga speaking to her, the blue Turaga saw for the first time the weight of some hidden knowledge bearing down on her counterpart.  She knew as well as any Turaga the burdens of bearing secrets, but she could never fathom the depth of the responsibility that the other faced.  In all these years, she had never doubted him, and she saw no advantage in doing so now; yet even as she agreed to his plan, she knew there was something he was not telling her.

 

“In recent years we’ve strayed toward mere life,” the white Turaga continued, glancing down at a ruby ring on his right hand.  “It is time we begin to ponder our legacy.”


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#6 Offline Exitium

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Posted Nov 01 2013 - 06:02 PM

Chapter 6

One Short Day

 

According to legend, when the universe was young, Mata Nui summoned his chosen Turaga to Kia Nui to build a kingdom for Matoran to live freely in peace.  The Turaga and the Matoran who followed them sailed up the island’s great river until they nearly reached its source.  Here, at the center of the island, they built a magnificent citadel, the most ancient, spectacular, and majestic landmark in Kia Nui, at the center of what would become Eri, the island’s capital city.

 

From the city’s gates, Veelix glimpsed his destination, the spire of this citadel.  The palaces and towers around the citadel were so impressive that they rivaled the citadel and threatened to overwhelm Veelix’s senses.  An arch thirty feet high, inscribed with the names and reliefs of Toa that had lived in Kia Nui marked each entrance to the walled city.  These arches were relatively new, erected after the city had grown far beyond its original boundaries. 

 

The citadel was built on an island situated between the northern and southern sectors of the city on the corresponding shores of the river.  Each side of the city mirrored the other across the river, each with a circular plaza from which the major streets of the city extended.   Towers that housed Matoran and served as hubs of business lined the roads.  In previous times, the Matoran in these buildings made decisions that had repercussions across the island, though their influence had become localized in recent times. 

 

Near the center of the city were the grandest buildings, many dating back to the Barraki War and others to founding of Kia Nui itself.  The center of the city was home to magnificent palaces with high walls and rectangular bell towers where the island’s Toa and Turaga lived.  Across from the citadel on the northern shore was a fortified palace that now belonged to the leader of the Toa Army, the name still used for the vestige of the once great company of Toa that defended Kia Nui.  While there had been hundreds of Toa on this island in ancient times, only a few dozen now remained.  To the south was the island’s largest temple, over which Arconis, the leader of the Turaga, presided. 

 

The two Matoran walked through the city, passing more Matoran in the streets than Veelix had seen in his entire life.  Near the banks of the river, they passed through a marble plaza brimming with Matoran, at the center of which was a sparkling fountain.  In the center of the pool was a ring of Toa facing outward, silver liquid protodermis flowing from their tools.  Both the sculpture and much of the citadel were made from crystalline protodermis, which could only be crafted by six Toa. From this vantage point, the port that lined the city on both sides of the river was in view, bustling with activity.

 

Veelix and Ludin followed the road toward the river and crossed one of Eri’s bridges.  The island in the river with its citadel reminded Veelix of Ta-Kia.  He felt a twinge of homesickness, which surprised him, for he had no happy memories of that place.  Perhaps he realized that now there was no going back, and Ta-Kia had provided certainty in the face of the unknown.  It would be here, in this city ancient yet modern city, where Veelix would confront the unknown and discover his future.

 

As he crossed the bridge, Veelix could see the citadel in its entirety.  Gleaming crystal fortifications ringed the small island, guarding a central keep with a tower that rose above the rest of the city.  Four towers rose from the corners of the outer walls, each capped with a refulgent white flame.  Atop the central tower was a statue of an armored figure, its face bare of any mask and its arms outstretched to its sides, watching over Kia Nui.

 

Seven Matoran guarded the citadel’s marble doors, each holding a spear and wearing ceremonial garb much like the Turaga, a mark of their distinction.  Each represented one of the seven Turaga who first came to Kia Nui, of whom only Arconis was still alive.  It was a great honor to be selected for the Tower Guard, yet Veelix imagined it was incredibly dull work. 

 

One of the guards stopped them.  “Please state your name and business,” he requested. 

 

Ludin answered first, “My name is Ludin of Eri.  I’ve come to receive my next assignment from the Labor Committee.”

 

After a short pause, Veelix said, “I’m Veelix of Ta-Kia.  I’m here to be reassigned.”  He produced the tablet Prinkor had given him.  “I’m not sure who I should see,” he added hesitantly.

 

The guard looked at the tablet.  “You’ll want the Labor Committee,” he replied.  “Just follow your friend here.”

 

The guard signaled and the ancient doors creaked open, revealing a long entrance hall with a scarlet carpet.  Mirrors, paintings, and statues of Toa that who at one time protected Kia Nui lined the walls, illuminated by the soft glow of chandeliers lit with lightstones.  Veelix read the names of the Toa as he passed, stopping at one statue and gazing at its mask.

 

Ludin stopped and walked over to Veelix.  “What is it?” he asked.

 

“This is Toa Jecitus,” Veelix replied, his eyes remaining fixed on the statue’s mask.  “He was the founder of Ta-Kia.  As long as I can remember, I have heard legends about him from the Turaga.”

 

“Every Matoran knows the hero of the Barraki War,” Ludin replied.  “What about him?”

 

“I’ve always looked up to him,” Veelix continued.  “You could say he was something of a hero to me, but I never had any idea what he looked like.  It’s strange being able to put a mask to the name, even though I never imagined he looked quite like this.”

 

“Don’t you think knowing what he looked like makes him seem more real?” Ludin asked.

 

“It takes away some of his majesty,” Veelix said.  “But you’re right, it’s better this way.  I should appreciate Jecitus for who he was, not who I want him to be.”

 

They left the statue and walked through another set of doors into the atrium.  Columns and busts of figures with Noble Masks lined the grand room, filled with Matoran conversing and waiting to visit the committee they had come to see.  Beyond the doors at the far end of the hall was a courtyard at the center of the palace. 

 

Ludin explained the various committees of Turaga as he led Veelix down the hall.  Veelix struggled to pay attention as he gazed at the numerous works of art in the tall room.  Even the most important rooms in Ta-Kia, such as the fortress and the temple, were austere, displaying little artwork, bright colors, or other worldly distractions.  The elaborate features of the atrium inundated Veelix’s senses, leaving him unable to possibly absorb every detail.

 

Ludin led Veelix into a comparatively plain room with wood panels and arched windows, furnished merely with a painting on the far wall.  Rows of chairs faced a wooden table, behind which five Turaga were seated.  The one in the center appeared to be the committee chair, for a wooden gavel rested on the desk next to her neatly folded hands.  The Turaga to her left was currently speaking, looking at the room over stone tablet, while a Turaga on the other end of the table was struggling to remain awake.  A Matoran by the door ushered Veelix and Ludin to the chairs facing the table where several Matoran were already seated, and took their names, which were delivered to a Matoran scribbling furiously at a desk to the left of the Turaga.

 

The committee had already begun its business, currently dealing with several Po-Matoran who were being commissioned to build a statue in Ba-Kia.  Ludin whispered everything Veelix needed to know, though Veelix doubted he would remember anything he had heard.

 

The tap of a gavel startled Veelix out of his thoughts.  The group of Po-Matoran sat down and the clerk called Ludin’s name.  He approached the podium before the Turaga, who asked him to verify his name and residence and to give truthful testimony.  Ludin quickly recited the oath to be truthful as if he had it memorized.

 

“For what reason do you come before the Labor Committee?” asked the Turaga sitting in at the center of the table.  She wore blue armor, but as Veelix was unable to recall ever meeting a female Matoran or Turaga, he was unsure which element she represented.

 

“I’ve completed my assignment to design and lead construction of Po-Kia’s newest apartments, as instructed by this committee,” Ludin replied.  “I now come before the committee to request my next assignment.”

 

A Turaga with black armor who sat next to the female Turaga began to speak.  “The Onu-Kia Museum is looking to create a new exhibit about the island’s Toa,” he said in a deep voice.  “You will meet with the curator in Onu-Kia to design a new building to house the exhibit and then bring the drafts back to this committee for approval.  Unless there is a compelling reason which would prevent you from fulfilling this occupation, I move to have the Matoran reassigned to Onu-Kia.”

 

“Is there an objection?” the blue Turaga asked, as if reading from a script.  There was a brief pause.  “Without objection, so ordered.”  She struck the gavel and Ludin sat down.  “The chair calls Veelix of Ta-Kia.” 

 

Hearing his name called, Veelix walked up to the podium with his release tablet.  As he did, he realized he had already forgotten everything Ludin had told him to say.  As with Ludin, the Turaga asked him to verify his name and residence and to recite an oath swearing that his testimony was true.  While Veelix was unsure what he could possibly lie about, the stiff penalties for deceiving Turaga of the Unified Government made him unnecessarily nervous.

 

“For what reason do you come before the Labor Committee?” the Turaga asked. 

 

Veelix cleared his throat.  “I requested a reassignment from Prinkor, the Turaga of Ta-Kia,” he explained.  “I’d like a new position in a different city.”

 

He handed the release tablet to the blue Turaga, who looked at it for a long moment.  The silence was agonizing.  “Why do you require reassignment?” she asked. 

 

“There were no positions that suited me in Ta-Kia,” Veelix explained, feeling less sure of himself than before.  “My Turaga suggested that I seek reassignment in Eri.”

 

The Turaga nodded and asked, “What do you have in mind?”

 

Veelix thought for a moment.  “I like learning,” he offered.

 

“Perhaps you might enjoy an assignment in the monasteries of Ko-Kia,” suggested a white Turaga to Veelix’s left. 

 

“I don’t see how I could stay in one place for so long,” Veelix muttered.  “I want a job that would allow me to travel.”

 

“There are no positions with the parameters who have requested,” the Turaga of Earth informed him.

 

“Actually, there is one,” said the blue Turaga.  “Veelix, do you have any interest in history?”

 

As Veelix replied in the affirmative, the light of recognition entered the other Turaga’s eyes, and several of them sat up straighter in their chairs.

 

“It is absurd for you to even make such a suggestion,” the white Turaga said. “No one has held that position for almost 70,000 years.”

 

“For good reason,” warned the Turaga next to him.  “We all know why traveling this road would be folly.”

 

Veelix had no idea what the Turaga were talking about or how a position involving history could trigger such a strong reaction.  He glanced back at Ludin who seemed just as perplexed.

 

“Perhaps it is time that we reinstate that position,” the female Turaga suggested.  “What kind of occupation would be ideal for you, Veelix?”

 

“I’d like to be able to travel, perhaps meet new Matoran,” Veelix said.

 

“You already said that,” the blue Turaga interrupted.  “I am asking you what it is, fundamentally, that you want to do.”

 

Veelix thought for a moment.  “I want my life to have meaning,” he finally said.  “I’ve spent the last thousands of years doing insignificant work that has left me feeling empty and useless.  My body is tired, but my mind yearns for something to live for.”

 

The Turaga looked directly at Veelix.  “I can offer you a position that will allow you to travel, provide you with unparalleled access to information, and offer you a clear purpose.  Do you wish to submit yourself for consideration?”

 

“I have no idea what you’re asking me to do,” Veelix admitted.  “Can you tell me more about this position?”

 

“I’m afraid not,” the Turaga replied.  “However, I believe that you are a suitable candidate.  We need your answer now before we can proceed.”

 

Veelix felt ten eyes peering at him as he wondered what he was getting himself into.  He was taking a significant risk that this new position would be worse than his previous ones, but he had little choice.  Only the continuation of his monotonous life worried him more than the unknown.  He replied in the affirmative.

 

“In that case, I move to defer this decision to the Grand Council.”

 

“I object,” the Turaga at the far right of the table said forcefully.  “We should hold a vote on a manner of such importance.”

 

“Very well,” replied the blue Turaga.  “We shall vote individually, starting with my friend from Ko-Kia and moving down the table.”

 

The Turaga who had objected voted no, as did the white Turaga.  Naturally the committee chair voted in favor, as did the Turaga of Earth to her left, leaving the last Turaga to break the tie.  He had said nothing yet, but he had been studying Veelix ever since the chair had made her suggestion.  He continued to watch Veelix for another moment until he finally cast his vote.

 

The final Turaga cleared his throat.  “Yes.”  Veelix couldn’t help but smile, though he had no idea what he had agree to.

 

The blue Turaga spoke again, “With a vote of three in favor and two opposed, the decision of Veelix of Ta-Kia’s appointment is deferred to the Grand Council.  The clerk shall submit a formal request to the Chancellor to call the Grand Council into special session.”  She tapped the gavel on the table and turned to Veelix.  “You are dismissed, until which time the Grand Council requests your presence.”

 

 

Veelix and Ludin sat in the courtyard just beyond the atrium while he waited for the Grand Council to summon him.  The majesty of the garden, with its streams, statues, and variety of exotic plants was impressive, but Veelix found himself unable to look at anything other than the central keep, a grand tower which he would soon be entering. 

 

“Do you have any idea what’s happening?” Veelix asked Ludin.

 

“Nope,” he replied, he feet up on a chair.  “I’m just as confused as you are.  Still you’re either lucky to go before the Grand Council or very unlucky.  I guess we’ll find out.”

 

Veelix nodded, though Ludin was doing nothing to make him less nervous.  “When do you leave for Onu-Kia?”

 

“I’m required by law to set out within a day of being assigned,” Ludin replied.  “I want to stick around to find out what your new position is, but after that I’ll probably be on the next boat to Onu-Kia”

 

“Are you allowed to sit in on my hearing?” Veelix asked.

 

“Of course,” Ludin replied.  “Formal sessions are open to the public, but I’ve never been here when the Council meets.  It leaves most of the routine business to its committees.” 

 

“When do you think they’ll start?” Veelix asked. 

 

“I’d guess that they’ve already started,” Ludin replied.  “The Turaga will probably discuss this amongst themselves before they officially begin.  From what I’m told, most of their decisions are made behind closed doors.  You might as well relax, because we might be here for a while.”

 

Veelix could not relax, and feeling restless, he stood up and wandered around the courtyard, glancing at the statues in the garden but not looking at any of them with much care.  However, there was one statue that did catch his eye, which he stopped to get a better look at. 

 

Three figures stood on a platform, their relative heights suggesting that one was a Toa, one a Matoran, and one a Turaga.  The Toa’s armor was stylized, though he clearly bore a Mask of Charisma.  His posture was commanding and his hand stretched out toward some unknown object in the distance upon which his eyes seemed fixed as if he were unaware of the two figures near him.

 

The unadorned Matoran stood at the Toa’s feet, dwarfed by his presence.  A look of admiration was etched into his Mask of Diminishment that gazed up at the Toa, his mouth open slightly in awe.  The Turaga behind the Toa stood to his left, his hands resting on his staff.  Unlike the Toa’s highly stylized form, this figure, carved in intricate detail, was incredibly detailed and lifelike.  The figure’s posture was better than most Turaga’s, and his eyes were focused on the Matoran from behind a Noble Mask of Strength. 

 

Veelix read the inscription at the base of statue, “Security, Service, and Order.  Dedicated to the people of Kia Nui to be held in public trust in recognition of the establishment of the Unified Government, 20,500 AF.”  The sculptor’s name was not given nor indication that the figures represented anyone specific, though the striking detail of the Turaga led Veelix to wonder if the sculptor had one of them in mind.

 

A guard approached Veelix.  “The Grand Council has requested your presence,” he informed him.  “Please follow me.”

 

The guard escorted them into the keep and through a hall that ended in a great staircase.  They marched up several stories, passing a door with a sign that read “No Admittance,” before stopping at the landing two floors above it.

 

The guard turned to Ludin. “You must watch from the gallery,” he said.  “You may proceed up to the next level to see the proceedings.”

 

Ludin wished his friend luck and climbed up the stairs.  Veelix felt a sense of panic as he watched him disappear.  He would be truly alone now.  The guard opened the two wooden doors, and Veelix entered the Grand Council chamber. 

 

The chamber was more magnificent than any of the prior rooms Veelix had visited.  The walls were lined with marble columns, famous paintings, and stained glass windows that illuminated the chamber without the need for artificial light.  Several rows of chairs were arranged in a semicircle with red upholstery to match the crimson carpet.  The guard led Veelix down the central isle toward the well of the chamber.  Behind a podium was a wooden desk and an ornate golden chair, above which was a red and gold curtain that formed a canopy and a sculpture of a Kahu clutching an orb in its talons. 

As Veelix sat down in a small chair to the right of the podium, a Matoran emerged from the back door carrying a gold ceremonial mace, which he placed upright in a pedestal near the desk.  The Turaga followed him into the room and took their seats, each silently probing Veelix with their eyes as they passed. 

 

When all had arrived, the Matoran announced, “All rise for Arconis, Sovereign of Kia Nui, Turaga Regnant of Eri, and Chancellor of the Grand Council.”

 

The ancient Turaga slowly entered through the back door.  The light glittered off his white and silver armor, casting an aura that the other Turaga did not possess.  He bore a Noble Mask of Shielding, the symbol of Mata Nui, and a white staff with a spherical lightstone set at its head with three spokes radiating from the center like the rays of the sun.  He seated himself in the golden chair and gripped the gavel, his hand shaking slightly.

 

“The Grand Council will be in order,” he announced, gently tapping the gavel on the desk.  The Turaga took their seats.  “The Grand Council has been called into special session to deliberate the case of Veelix of Ta-Kia.  The chair recognizes the Turaga from Eri.”

 

The chair of the Labor Committee stood up and took the podium facing the audience.  “Thank you, Chancellor,” she said.  “Pursuant to Rule 28, Section 1 of the Standing Rules of the Grand Council, the Labor Committee has the authority to make all appointments to occupations both in the city of Eri and among the several kia.  There is but one exception, a position that pursuant to the Historical Records Act of 20,500 AF can only be granted by the Grand Council on the recommendation of the Labor Committee.  As the chair of that committee, I would like to formally present the Labor Committee’s recommendation that the Grand Council appoint Veelix of Ta-Kia to the position of Chronicler of Kia Nui.” 

 

A murmur went through the gallery, yet the assembled Turaga remained silent.  Although the Turaga at the podium was still speaking, the eyes of the other Turaga were fixed not on her but on Veelix.  Unsure what to think, Veelix tried to keep his expression neutral as he pondered the ramifications of what he had heard.

 

“My fellow Turaga, earlier this morning, we came upon a strange occurrence in a routine hearing of the Labor Committee,” the Turaga continued.  “The Matoran in question requested a reassignment, not an altogether rare event, but he was unsure of an occupation that could provide a suitable replacement.  His criteria were challenging to meet, but they convinced me that he possessed a sharp mind, a desire for knowledge, and the curiosity necessary to be a successful Chronicler.”

 

She continued for a several minutes, though Veelix was later able to remember little of what she had said, his attention focused on the dramatic change this event could have on his life.  After the Turaga finished, Arconis opened the floor for questions.

 

“When this government was formed, it decided that a Chronicler is unnecessary,” asked the first Turaga.  “What has changed your thinking on this matter?”

 

“Onu-Matoran have requested the reinstatement of this position before, and we currently lag behind other islands that already have Chroniclers.  The Historical Records Act leaves open the possibility of appointed a new Chronicler, an act which I believe the Turaga voted in favor of.”

 

“What benefit do you believe a Chronicler will provide?” asked another.

 

“As I stated before, Kia Nui’s rich history must be preserved and protected.  A Chronicler will be able to record history as it happens across the island in a way that the archivists in Onu-Kia cannot.”

 

Several more Turaga posed questions until one asked, “Why now?  The island has been prosperous for tens of millennia without a Chronicler.  Why should the Grand Council reverse its course at this time?”

 

The blue Turaga hesitated for a moment before replying, “We have survived these many thousands of years without plague, without war, without famine.  Little hardship has come upon us in that time, and the concerns of the previous ages have become immaterial.  Yet while we have survived, we cannot forget that which makes us Matoran, that which makes us not merely alive but sentient.  As for why at this moment in time, the best candidate has just now appeared.  Perhaps you should judge him for yourself before you make your decision.  I yield the floor to Veelix of Ta-Kia.”

 

The Turaga took her seat and Arconis called Veelix to the podium.  His heart began to pound as the inquisitive Turaga assaulted him with questions.

 

“The Grand Council has reviewed your records,” the first stated, though Veelix was unaware that such records existed and wondered what they contained.  “Why should the Grand Council appoint you to be Chronicler?”

 

Veelix was unsure how to respond to that question.  He thought for a moment before replying, “I only just found out what position I’m being considered for, and it is not one that I asked for.  Over the past few days, I’ve traveled across half the island and seen more of Kia Nui on that journey than in my entire life and learned so much on the way.  Being Chronicler would allow me to explore this great island with a purpose, one that would allow me to give something back to my fellow Matoran.”

 

“That explains why you want to be Chronicler, but not why you should be,” another Turaga commented.  “Why should we select you and not another more qualified Matoran?”

 

“I’ll be motivated,” said Veelix.  “More than any Matoran I know, I want to do this.  That drive will lead me to put in more effort than I have in any previous job I’ve had.”

 

The questions proceed in a similar fashion for another hour until Arconis announced that time for questions had elapsed and directed Veelix to face his desk so he could speak to him directly.  The Turaga had not spoken yet in the proceedings, having merely directed the flow of questions dispassionately.

 

“There comes a time in all our lives when we look upon our past with critical judgment,” he said, addressing Veelix specifically.  “We have now engaged in a public reflection on your life, and I wish to know what it has illuminated for you.”

 

Veelix was unsure what Arconis was asking.  “Are you asking me what I’ve learned about myself?”

 

“I want you to consider your life for a moment,” Arconis replied.  “What has been the purpose of your life?”

 

“Frankly, I haven’t been sure,” Veelix admitted.  “I thought making masks would best serve the Matoran of Kia Nui, but it is a pointless job, as was crafting tools.  I’ve questioned the meaning of my life from the purpose of my job to my purpose in the universe.  As I think more and more about the position of Chronicler, I understand that this is what I was meant to do.”

 

“Reflection is a key skill,” Arconis replied.  “The search for meaning is innate in our being, and it will be fundamental to your task ahead.  Collecting the facts is easy, but reflecting on them, interpreting them, understanding their meaning—that is the challenge.  Bear in mind that if you receive this position, you could be reassigned at any time.”

 

Veelix nodded.

 

“Very well,” said Arconis.  “The Chancellor asks for unanimous consent to appoint Veelix of Ta-Kia to the position of Chronicler, effective immediately.”  There was a pause as some Turaga shifted uncomfortably.  The questioning had made clear that several Turaga opposed Veelix’s appointment, perhaps even a majority, yet instead of calling a vote, Arconis asked for them to agree unanimously, a motion that required only a single Turaga to object to trigger a vote that could spell the end of Veelix’s newfound dream.  Despite the simplicity of the objection required, not a single Turaga wanted to be the one who stood up to oppose Arconis without the shield of safety in numbers.

 

“Without objection, so ordered,” Arconis announced after a moment’s silence.  “Chronicler, you are dismissed.”  The gavel struck the desk and the Grand Council’s will was made law.


Edited by Exitium, Jan 18 2014 - 11:02 PM.

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Memory (Memoirs of the Dead Entry)

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#7 Offline Exitium

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Posted Nov 23 2013 - 08:45 PM

Chapter 7

The Admonition

 

Veelix was still somewhat in shock.  A matter of hours ago, he had been a directionless, insignificant laborer, and now he was the most important historian on the island.  Instead of aimlessly forging masks and tools for the remainder of his life, it was now his task to record the history of Kia Nui for the ages, an achievement that would endure long after his own death.

                                                                                             

He wandered out of the Grand Council chamber into the lobby in a daze.  The Turaga emerged and flocked around him to provide advice or warnings.  Several congratulated him, others explained the importance of his assignment, and one assured Veelix that he was completely unqualified and should never have been appointed.  After a few moments, Arconis emerged from chamber, plucked Veelix from the crowd, and escorted him to his chambers at the top of the tower.

 

Arconis led Veelix into his ornate office, which housed rare artwork and various artifacts, including a dusty sword with a jeweled hilt, a silver crown set with the largest diamond Veelix had ever seen, and an imposing wooden desk, behind which Arconis now seated himself.  As the light danced off the Turaga’s armor, Veelix caught sight of an ornate ring on his right hand with a triangular ruby on a gold band.

 

Taking his seat across from Arconis, Veelix took a moment to absorb the significance of the moment.  Arconis was a legendary figure, even outside of Kia Nui, who had been the island’s leader since the lights of the universe were first illuminated.  He and six other Turaga had guided the first Matoran to Eri almost 90,000 years ago; the others had since died, leaving Arconis as the sole bearer of that ancient legacy.  Like the others, he had been a Turaga from the moment of his creation, and though he had never been a Toa, his adept rule and capable leadership of the island’s people left few questioning his wisdom and power.  Few Matoran, or any beings for that matter, had the privilege of a private audience with this living legend.

 

“This is a historic occasion,” Arconis said.  “I believe you will find that your new position suits you.”

 

“Yes sir,” Veelix replied.

 

“The office of Chronicler comes with immense responsibility,” the Turaga continued.  “You will not be permitted to merely wander Kia Nui as you please.  First, you will travel to Onu-Kia to acquaint yourself with our history.  Only once you have become expert in your new field will you be permitted to record new events.”

 

From a drawer in his desk, Arconis produced two small items, a thin silver cylinder resembling a pen and a polished gold badge about the size of Veelix’ palm with the word Chronicler written around its circumference.  In its center was a silver etching of the symbol of the three virtues gleaming in the light.  Arconis handed both objects to Veelix.

 

“This is a recording device,” he explained, point to the first object.  “The other is your badge, which will act as your release tablet.  With it there is no place in Kia Nui that will be closed off to you.  Carry it with you at all times.”

 

Veelix brushed the dust off his new badge, wondering how many others had borne it before he had.  “Why haven’t there been any Chroniclers in so many years?” he asked.

 

Arconis sighed.  “There are members of the Grand Council who believe that a Chronicler is unnecessary because there are enough historians in Onu-Kia.  Furthermore, many are concerned that a Chronicler might inadvertently expose sensitive information, causing irreparable harm to the Matoran of Kia Nui.”  Arconis locked his eyes on Veelix, their gazes meeting.  “Knowledge is power.  You would be wise to remember that.”

 

“What sort of information is kept secret?” Veelix asked.  He knew that Turaga had a penchant for being less than forthcoming with the truth at times, yet he had difficulty imagining what information the benevolent leaders of Kia Nui had deemed too secret for even the Chronicler to know.

 

“Damaging information,” Arconis replied sternly.  “Information that, if released, would threaten the unity and stability of our island.  Information that you would do well to avoid if you should wish to maintain your position, for all benefit if it remains secret.  As you set about recording our history, remember that some of its more colorful episodes are best forgotten.”

 

Veelix’s thoughts whirled with confusion as he tried to reconcile his belief in the importance learning from the past with the possibility of some memories being too painful to remember.  He wanted to press the Turaga further, but Arconis promptly dismissed him.  Veelix left the Turaga’s chambers and found Ludin waiting for him outside the Grand Council chamber.

 

“Chronicler!” he exclaimed in disbelief.  “I can’t believe they made you Chronicler.”

 

“That makes two of us,” Veelix replied.  “I have more good news, too.  I’m traveling to Onu-Kia as well, so it looks like you’re stuck with me for a little while longer.”

 

“When I first found you, you were just an aimless Ta-Matoran,” Ludin said.  “Who would have guessed things would turn out like this?” 

 

They descended two levels and reached the doors marked “No Admittance.”  Veelix pondered Arconis’s words, still fresh in his mind, about prying into secret information.  While he doubted that anything truly secret could be behind these doors, his confusion and curiosity at the Turaga’s warning prompted him to take a more inquisitive approach to what he had dismissed before.

 

“Why are you stopping?” Ludin asked.

 

“I want to see what’s inside,” Veelix replied.  He tried the door, which, to his surprise, was unlocked. 

 

“It’s nothing important,” Ludin said insistently.  “That’s where the Old Government convened.  I’ve been in there.  It’s not particularly exciting.”

 

“If it was open to the public, why is it closed now?”

 

Ludin shrugged uneasily.  “It probably hasn’t been used in millennia, so let’s leave it alone.”

 

“Just a peak,” Veelix promised, and he stepped inside.  Hesitantly, Ludin followed him.

 

The room was far more austere than Veelix had expected, lacking the artwork and vibrant colors that adorned the Grand Council chamber.  Despite its solemn appearance, the ornate wooden wall panels and elegant details lent the room a certain reserved majesty that signaled its importance.  Several rows of benches with green cushions faced each other across a central isle, and at the far end of the room, facing neither side, was a three-tiered rostrum.  Behind it stood a magnificent wooden green chair, above which was the crest of Kia Nui and a clock whose hands had long since ceased their daily revolutions.  As Veelix brushed a thin layer of dust off one the benches, he marveled at the size of the furniture in the room, which was clearly intended for Matoran.

 

“What is this place?” Veelix asked.

 

“This was the meeting place for the Matoran Assembly,” Ludin replied, still uneasy.

 

“Matoran were in the Old Government?” asked Veelix.

 

“Yes, Matoran elected by the Matoran of the various kia,” said Ludin.  “The Assembly shared power with the Grand Council before the Unified Government was created.  Now, can we get out of here before we’re caught trespassing?”

 

“I’m not keeping you,” Veelix replied.  “What happened to the Old Government?”

 

“Kia Nui experienced some difficult times about five hundred years after the Barraki War,” Ludin explained.  “Each member of the Assembly returned home when the government wasn’t in session, which took too much time.  Everyone accused them of pettiness and inability to govern, which I suppose were fair accusations.  Eventually the Assembly became so unpopular that it voted to disband itself and draw up a new government, creating the Unified Government we have today.”

 

“That doesn’t explain why the Turaga don’t want us in here,” Veelix said.  He wanted to stay, but he could not ignore Ludin’s complaints.  As, there was little else to find here, he took one last look and exited through the door.  Once they were outside, Ludin visibly relaxed. 

 

“I don’t think anyone saw us,” he said. 

 

“Don’t worry,” Veelix reassured him.  “They didn’t lock the door, so I wonder why they closed it off.”

 

“They probably don’t want random Matoran wandering around without supervision,” Ludin said, mostly to reassure himself.

 

“Oh, relax,” Veelix said.  “We didn’t find any secrets, did we?  There must be records of this place too, and if you knew about it, it clearly can’t be much of a secret.”

 

“No, not a secret,” Ludin replied.  “Just a relic of an earlier era.”

 

Veelix dropped the subject of the Old Government, which was clearly bothering Ludin.  Perhaps there was nothing sinister about that room, but Arconis’s warning left him more suspicious than he had been before.  If these secrets were so important to the Turaga, they would not leave them behind an unlocked door.  Yet Veelix had never heard of the Matoran Assembly before, having encountered no mention of it in Ta-Kia. 

 

As the two Matoran left the citadel and proceeded to the harbor in the fading evening light, Veelix struggled to imagine Matoran ruling other Matoran, a system that seemed to contradict the roles that Matoran and Turaga were meant to play in society.  Had the Turaga not taught him that the Great Beings created the Matoran to labor to support Mata Nui and the Turaga to guide them?  Perhaps the failure of Matoran rule had been inevitable.

 

Upon reaching the harbor, Veelix and Ludin boarded a small passenger ship leaving for Onu-Kia.  Its bell ringing, the ship set off, sailing under a bridge before leaving the city behind.  Its gleaming spires shrank as the light dimmed and darkness settled on Kia Nui.  Soon, Ludin joined him, leaning on the railing and watching the city disappear. 

 

“We were lucky to catch this boat in time,” Ludin remarked.

 

“I would have preferred to spend more time in the city,” Veelix said, his eyes fixed on the slowly receding lights in the distance. 

 

“You will have plenty of opportunities to return,” Ludin reminded him.  “I’m sure your new job will take you here more than once.”

 

Veelix sighed.  “I’m still trying to comprehend what’s happened,” he admitted.  “I knew that I wanted to travel, but now I have no idea where to go first.”

 

“Being Chronicler won’t be all fun and games,” Ludin reminded him.  “There will be work to do, and I’m sure the Onu-Matoran will have plenty of it for you.  Once you can get away, you should consider traveling to Ga-Kia and spending some time in the schools.  You also might want to visit Vo-Kia or De-Kia.  I don’t think an outsider has laid eyes upon either kia in centuries.”

 

Their conversation continued as the night wore on and the ship reached the larger of Kia Nui’s twin lakes, each fed by snowfall from the Northern Mountains.  Eventually, Ludin grew fatigued and retired to his room for the night.  Veelix remained awake for a short time, watching the wake of the boat on the dark water before returning to his room as well.

 

Inside his room, Veelix sat at his desk and retrieved the recorder Arconis had given him.  Out of curiosity, he clicked the button on the end of the device, which promptly started to glow with a faint red light. 

 

“What was that?” Veelix said aloud, prompting the light to pulse with each word.  He clicked the pen again, and the device resumed its normal gray color.  Veelix noticed a small wheel near the button that encircled the small cylinder, which he turned clockwise until it clicked. 

 

Clicking the button again, Veelix noticed a green pulse and the sound of a strange voice echo through his cabin.  “What was that?” it asked in Veelix’s voice.  The message looped until Veelix shut it off.  He then turned the wheel twice counterclockwise until it clicked again.  He pushed the button a third time, but to his disappointment, nothing seemed to happen. 

 

Veelix put the recorder down and almost jumped out of his chair when it suddenly stood erect on the table and began to scratch Veelix’s message into the desk on its own accord.  It continued until he snatched the device, which strained weakly against his grip until he clicked the button again and it went limp.

 

He stared at the small letters carved in tiny squares into the table in front of him.  He had never seen technology like this before, even in the school in Fa-Kia.  As there had not been a Chronicler for millennia, it was certainly not the newest technology unless the recorder had been specifically designed for him.  Could the Turaga have anticipated his appointment, or was this recorder one of the secrets they had been keeping?  Veelix was unsure which possibility was more plausible, although both had implications that kept him awake thinking long into the night. 

 

 

The clang of the ship’s bell early the next morning awakened Veelix from sleep.  He gathered his belongings, taking care to remember his recorder and badge, and proceeded to the ship’s bow, where he found Ludin.  The wind was still and the lake was calm, allowing the ship to glide smoothly over the water without disturbing its reflective silver surface.  Veelix spotted a small pier on the northern shore of the lake, toward which the ship traveled.

 

Nearby was a small village, an outpost for travelers journeying to the northern cities.  It was a quiet, scarcely populated town, although the crumbling homes and abandoned shops suggested that the port had seen busier times.  Now only weary Matoran remained, watching with withered expressions from their fishing boats, waiting for fish to tug at their lines but unable to do anything but linger passively on the lake.  Veelix and Ludin stayed just long enough to replenish their supplies before departing.

 

The Matoran traveled north toward the snowcapped peaks of the Northern Mountains.  To the east sprawled a vast jungle, home to Le-Kia and Bo-Kia.  The land here was fertile, but the unending winter left the land near the mountains uninhabitable to all but the most tenacious Rahi. 

 

Ludin brought Veelix’s attention the mountains in the distance.  “That enormous one nearest us is Onu-Kia,” he explained, pointing to a broad mountain.  “To the east is Fe-Kia, which isn’t particularly interesting, just a bunch of mines, although I’ve never been there myself.  Over to the northwest you can see Ko-Kia, which is the tallest point in Kia Nui.”

 

“They built three cities on mountain peaks?” Veelix asked.

 

 “Onu-Kia is underground, but Fe-Kia is about a mile high in elevation,” Ludin replied.  “Ko-Kia is at the summit of that mountain over there.”

 

“Why would they build their city on the top of a mountain?” Veelix asked.

 

“Ko-Matoran are arrogant elitists,” Ludin said without hiding his contempt.  “They believe they are superior in every way and relish making you struggle to reach them.  That way no one bothers them, though even if they had built their home on a tropical island, no would visit them because they’re so insufferable.”

 

“It still seems somewhat inconvenient to be so separated from the rest of the island.”

 

“We lived in a desert,” Ludin reminded him.  “In fact, your kind insisted on settling down within striking distance of an active volcano.”

 

“We needed the volcano to power the forges,” Veelix replied.

 

“I still think it’s ridiculous,” Luding said.  “Perhaps Matoran simply want to be in a comfortable enviroment.  Ko-Matoran prefer the cold, you and the other Ta-Matoran prefer it hot.”

 

“I never liked Ta-Kia,” Veelix admitted.  “It was too hot.”

 

“I’ve never been there,” Ludin said.  “They haven’t built anything new in tens of thousands of years, so there’s not much work for me to do.  Not that the Ta-Matoran would ever trust a Po-Matoran to design their defenses in any case.”

 

“The architecture is ancient and distinct,” Veelix said, brushing off Ludin’s remark.  He described the layout of the city as Ludin listened.  The temperature dropped as the Northern Mountains, which clearly dwarfed their southern cousins, grew closer.  

 

The daylight was fading quickly when Veelix and Ludin arrived at a tunnel at the base of one of the largest mountains.  Ludin led the way, brandishing his lightstone from Fa-Kia.  The Matoran’s steps echoed in tunnel, which appeared to have been constructed artificially.

 

“Why do the Onu-Matoran live down here?” Veelix asked, running his hands along the unnaturally smooth walls.

 

“Their eyes are sensitive to light,” Ludin replied.  “Their main business is mining, so they built the city as close to the lightstone vein as they could.”

 

The two Matoran continued through the tunnel, descending until they reached a vast cavern.  Immense stalactites hung over the Matoran below, an ever present reminder of the perils of living underground.  Lightstones affixed to walls like torches illuminated the cavern and the Matoran homes it housed, some built of stone and others carved directly into the walls.  Due to the confined nature of the cavern, there was little space between dwellings, sometimes just enough room for two Matoran to walk abreast down the roads between homes.  Veelix and Ludin followed the narrow roads until they reached the Turaga’s hut.

 

The two Matoran met with the Turaga, who sent Veelix to the museum complex while Ludin remained behind to discuss the specifics for the building he was to design.  Veelix followed a tunnel into a chamber smaller than the central cavern but just as cramped.  A stone path led to a quadrangle between the four museums with a fountain quietly gurgling in its center.  Plants with exotic flowers that Veelix had never seen embellished the paths between the museums.

 

The four museum buildings, which reached to the top of the cavern, were made of white marble protodermis and supported by numerous columns, emulating an ancient architectural style that belied their true age.  The Museum of Records was the largest, designed in the old style of many buildings in Eri, followed by the equaling imposing Museum of History.  On the other side of the square were the Museums of Natural History and Art, each equally as impressive in form.  Unsure of where to begin, Veelix followed the path past the square to its terminus and entered a smaller building with the words “Museum Complex of Kia Nui” written above the door.

 

He arrived in a room with several small artifacts in display cases, each advertising a specific museum.  Veelix approached the desk in the center of the room and attempted to catch the attention of the Matoran sitting behind it.  The attendant glanced up from the tablet he was reading and sheepishly removed his legs from the desk. 

 

“A visitor,” he said.  “We haven’t seen many of those recently, especially from Ta-Kia.  Have you come to see the wonders of the Museum of Natural History, or are you perhaps more interesting in learning something about our island’s fascinating history?  This century only we have a particularly engaging exhibit on the mines of Onu-Kia, which I highly recommend.”

 

“No, I’m here to work,” Veelix said as he produced his badge.  “The Grand Council sent me here to learn about Kia Nui’s history.”

 

“We have a new Chronicler?” the Onu-Matoran asked, examining Veelix’s badge skeptically.  “Well then, you’ve come to the right place.”  He lazily gestured toward a nearby door.  “The museum director is in his office.”

 

Veelix walked into the director’s office, strewn with boxes and ancient tablets.  Among the clutter sat the director himself, a short Onu-Matoran with a telescopic lens affixed to his mask. 

 

“Welcome, Chronicler,” he said.  “I haven’t seen one of your kind in ages.”

 

“You mean Ta-Matoran?” Veelix asked.

 

“No, I mean Chroniclers,” the director replied.  “I thought the Grand Council had given up on the noble pursuit of history, but it seems they may yet have some reverence for our great study.  Tell me, how much do you know about our island’s history?”

 

“Not much,” Veelix replied, somewhat embarrassed by his lack of knowledge.  “I know about the founding of Eri and the life of Toa Jecitus, but not much else.  It must because I’m from Ta-Kia.”

 

The director shook his head.  “It’s not just Ta-Kia,” he replied, a hint of sadness in his voice.  “Across the island, Matoran gaze only inward and never reflect upon our past if they even consider it at all.  I believe this is because we don’t like to think about what is hard.  We don’t want to admit that we lost battles, that our homes were burned, that we committed acts of which we are not proud.  It brings back too many unpleasant memories.”

 

He paused, fingering a key on his belt before continuing.  “It’s harder of course, when the past is so difficult to confront.  There are many who think we should simply hide the secrets of the past, for in ignorance they believe we will find bliss.  That is certainly the easy path, but it is one that we historians can accept?”  Noticing Veelix’ expression, he quickly added, “Look at me, rambling on when we should be celebrating the arrival of our new Chronicler.  The Turaga instructed me to acquaint you with the history of this island, which spans ninety millennia.  I imagine it will keep you occupied for some time.”

 

The director led Veelix past the exhibits into the rear of the Museum of Records, through dark hallways into a small room in the museum’s basement.  The shelves were crammed with books, most of them dusty and old.  A table sat near the center of the room adorned with only a small candle. 

 

“This room contains the history of our island,” the director explained.  “Here you will find the historical accounts of the distinct time periods of Kia Nui’s history, written by the previous Chroniclers and other noted historians.  In the other rooms you will find our collection of historical documents organized chronologically.”  He retrieved a thick tome from atop a shelf and presented it to Veelix.  The cover was worn, its title no longer visible.  “This text contains a brief introduction to the history of Kia Nui, which you should peruse before beginning your studies in depth.  You have access to all the unlocked doors in these facilities should you desire to focus your research.”

 

“When will I be ready to record current history?” Veelix asked. 

 

“When the Turaga tell me that you are ready,” the director replied.  He turned to leave, but Veelix had another question.

 

“What’s behind the locked doors?” he asked.

 

The director sighed.  “I don’t know.  Even I am not allowed back there.”  He reached the door and continued hesitantly, “Remember, the purpose of history is not simply knowing facts.  You must interpret them carefully to discover not only what really happened but also why.”

 

As the director left the room, Veelix sat down in a small wooden chair at the desk and opened the book in front of him.  It was a medium he was unfamiliar with, as he was more accustomed to reading stone tablets, which used a different style of script entirely; the letters scrawled on the parchment were enclosed by circles rather than the customary squares.  While squares were a more effective style when carving in stone, authors writing in ink preferred the circular script acquired from the Matoran of Metru Nui, although that particular detail about its origin was frequently ignored.  Flipping to first page, Veelix began to read. 

 

According to legend, Kia Nui was founded by seven Turaga from the nearby island of Molcene.  The Turaga sailed up the Great River to the site of what is now the city of Eri,  where they established a free land for Matoran and Toa alike to live in prosperity for ages to come.  It is from this date that all events in the study of Kia Nui’s history are currently recorded.

 

“At some time before 1000 AF, a group of Matoran, mostly Ta-Matoran, Po-Matoran, and later Vo-Matoran, arrived separately in the desert to the south.  Known as the Wanderers, many of these Matoran established the first kia south of the Southern Mountains.  The rest migrated north to Eri where they met up with the band of Matoran led to the island by Arconis, the leader of the Matoran and the seven Turaga from Molcene.  The first Toa appeared around this time and named the island Kia Nui, an archaic term that is equivalent to Great Kingdom in modern Matoran, though scholars have debated its exact nuances and meaning for years.”

 

Veelix continued to read for several hours.  He had read through about 9000 years of Matoran history when he noticed that the sentence on one page did not match the one on the following page.  The sentence as written was nonsensical; furthermore, the two pages were clearly recording two distinct moments in history.  Ensuring that he had not missed anything, Veelix flipped back a page.  Then he noticed that he had indeed missed more than one page, for the first page was numbered 94 while the subsequent page was labeled 98.  Upon closer inspection, Veelix could see where the pages had been carefully torn out of the book.

 

He quickly flipped through the rest of the book and noticed several such discrepancies.  Pages 679 to 688 were missing.  So were 1072 to 1088, along with numerous other passages.  One page described the official founding of the Old Government in 12,000 AF while the next page elaborated on the admittance of Ko-Kia into Kia Nui five hundred years later. 

 

Veelix put the book down, contemplating how the pages could have gone missing.  The book was ancient; perhaps the pages had fallen out.  Veelix racked his brain, trying to remember what had happened during the time periods missing from the record.  Returning to the first missing passage, he pondered the date 9000 AF, trying to remember why the date seemed familiar to him.  He recalled a conversation with Prinkor about an ancient conflict that left the Po-Matoran and Ta-Matoran distrusting each other to the present day.  Veelix was certain that 9000 AF was the year that this war had begun.  As expected, there was no mention of the war in the history laid before Veelix.  Putting the book down, the Chronicler looked through the bookshelves, unable to find a single book that mentioned the war. 

 

Veelix was perplexed.  The war was a pivotal moment in the relationship between Ta-Kia and Po-Kia.  Why would that information be missing?  What could be so secret about the war that even the Chronicler could not know?

 

Noticing a trend in the subject matter of the books before him, Veelix quickly flipped to the last page of the original book that the director had given him.  He read the final page quickly:

 

In 20,500 AF, pressure mounted on the Old Government to reform what many considered a slow, ineffectual, and deeply unpopular system of governance.  The protests began with long-held complaints that representative democracy was inefficient and intensified during the government’s slow reaction to the growing conflict in Metru Nui.  Matoran staged unprecedented rallies across the island protesting the government’s handling of the crisis as tensions between the kia rose.  Unable to form a governing coalition and facing the brink of a civil war, the Old Government succumbed to mounting pressure and disband itself.  The Grand Council wrote a new constitution that excluded the Matoran representatives that the population had blamed for the conflict, establishing the Unified Government.  Supported by popular sentiment, the Grand Council swiftly cut off relationships with Metru Nui, averting further conflict.

 

The book ended there.  Blank pages remained in the book, each already numbered.  Although there was no further writing, no pages were missing.  The history of Kia Nui had simply stopped.


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Memory (Memoirs of the Dead Entry)

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#8 Offline Exitium

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Posted Nov 30 2013 - 11:42 PM

Chapter 8

Eye to Eye

 

Early each morning, the bell in the tower of Onu-Kia’s temple tolled, echoing through the subterranean city to awaken its residents.  The rays of the sun performed a similar task for those living on the surface, but in these caves the Matoran would have had no concept of time if the deep ringing of the bell had not resounded through the cavern to arouse them from their dreams.  The Matoran wearily rose from their slumber, gathered their tools, and treaded deep into the mountain to labor in the darkness in the service of Mata Nui.

 

For weeks Veelix had intended to return to the surface merely to see the sun again, even if for only a brief moment, but his work bound him to his desk deep in the same library each day, poring over ancient manuscripts with a flickering candle as his only companion.  The museum director had been hesitant to explain the dearth of information regarding the recent past as well as the intermittent periods of unrecorded history.  The knowledge was there, he assured Veelix; he simply had to look harder.

 

As Veelix toiled in the museum, Ludin completed the blueprints for the new building and was preparing to return to Eri to have them approved.  Veelix did not look forward to the coming week without him, for he had no other friends here.  He had tried to make conversation with the museum staff, but they were mysteriously replaced after a few weeks.  The museums held enough material to satisfy a visitor for centuries, yet Veelix quickly became jaded.  He had not agreed to this appointment to sit in a cell and watch cobwebs grow.

 

Small snowflakes wafted down onto the mountain that morning, covering the land outside in a frigid blanket of frozen protodermis.  Veelix was entirely unaware of the changing weather as he closed a copy of Toa Goucaer’s Commentary on the Barraki Wars inside his icy study.  Stretching his hands over the candle, Veelix felt a modicum of warmth flow into his languid body.  Pushing the Barraki Wars aside, Veelix reached for the next book in his pile with little enthusiasm.

 

Someone knocked on the door, which creaked open to reveal the museum director, clutching a stone tablet in his hands.  A thin beam of light trickled into the room behind him, soon blocked out as the door shut.

 

“I hope I’m not interrupting your studies,” the director said.

 

“I could use a little interruption,” Veelix admitted, opening the book in front of him.  “Although I have not found anything in the record after the establishment of the Unified Government, I am continuing to search.  In vain, naturally.”

 

The director bolted the door and sat down in a chair at the desk.  “You won’t find what you are looking for here,” the director sighed.  Veelix thought he saw the director’s hand move toward the keys on his belt, but it changed direction and came to rest on his knee.  “There is no new history because there has been nothing to write.”

 

Veelix found that statement odd.  “How is that possible?  I want to know what the world was like in the years following the establishment of the Unified Government.”

 

“Look around you,” the director said.  “The world you see today is the same as it was almost 70,000 years ago.  Little has changed, and there has been nothing to record.”

 

“That can’t be true,” Veelix said with disbelief.  “The Matoran would have noticed.”

 

“Would they have?” the director asked.  “Most Matoran’s lives are incredibly consistent, as I’m sure you are aware.  They spend their entire lives performing the same tasks day after day, with no way to effect any change on the world.  Furthermore, the restrictions on travel halt the flow of information and ideas, preventing Matoran from realizing the state of the world around them.  It is a self-perpetuating system that preserves the status quo as effectively as the stasis chambers preserve the Rahi in our museum.”

 

“What about the Matoran who work here?”

 

The director laughed hollowly.  “You are speaking to the only permanent member of the museum staff.  Every other Matoran periodically rotates between the museums and the mines.  Few form any attachment to the museums or spend time exploring their secrets.”

 

“Yet you remain,” Veelix observed.

 

“And I am trapped here because of it,” the director explained.  “In a distant time, I was a student of history like you are.  There were others like me, those dedicated to the pursuit of history, with whom I shared many conversations about the past.  We performed research, wrote lengthy volumes, and discovered the truth about our past.”

 

“What happened to the others?” Veelix asked.

 

“When the Turaga classified certain information in the archives, the others resisted to varying degrees.  Some thought we should continue to research the forgotten eras, while the more radical among us insisted on revealing that which we were ordered to hide.  They were permanently reassigned to the mines, but I was made museum director in recognition of my loyalty to the Unified Government.  I fought to keep the museums open, and as my reward, I am shackled to them, surrounded by the past but unable to escape it.”

 

“I’ve learned all I can in here,” Veelix said, determined to avoid the director’s fate.  “I am going to find a way out to learn what I can’t in here.”

 

The director’s expression grew stern.  “The Turaga have not allowed me to leave, despite my repeated requests.  Even if they do permit you to go, there is nothing you can learn from that world.  What you see is the way things have always been, and there is nowhere else with the same knowledge we have here.”

 

“What about the schools in Ga-Kia?” Veelix asked.  “If there is any hope that I can learn something new there, then I must try.”

 

“You remind me of my old friends, Veelix,” the director remarked with a sigh.  “Of all of them, I am the only one who accepted our fate.  In doing so I thought I was staying true to our principles, but I see now that I have been not only defeated but broken as well.”  He placed the tablet on the table.  “This is for you,” he continued.  “If I were you, Veelix, I would make use of the information you have.  Hoarding it here will do no one any good.”

 

Silently the director removed the bolt from the door and exited the room.  Veelix picked up the tablet the director had left, a letter addressed to him.  Surprised that anyone would write to him, Veelix quickly read the message.

 

Dear Veelix,

 

I pray that this note finds you well and that you have found a new occupation to give you the meaning you sought in your life.  Knowledge has always intrigued you, and I hope that you will find a way to continue your search for the truth.  As one of my better students, I will miss the insightful questions you asked, and I hope that your travels will bring you back to Ta-Kia in the future.  I hope that some of your doubts have been answered and that this knowledge brings you peace.

 

-Keller

 

Regret gnawed at Veelix as he reread the message, for he had left without saying goodbye to the ancient Matoran who had been his only friend in Ta-Kia.  Veelix suddenly felt a strong desire to return to the city by the lava, though he quickly realized that it would accomplish little.  Ta-Kia was not his home, and he was unsure what he would tell the mathematician.  Keller had expected him to find a resolution to his concerns, but Veelix’s search had turned up only more questions.  Despite all their differences, the old Matoran had always encouraged Veelix to seek the answers to his questions, but now he did not know where to look.

 

Veelix turned to the next book in his pile, staring at the letters on the page as the tiny circles began to run together in his mind.  Although it was not yet time for him to return to his dwelling, Veelix shut the book with a heavy thud, forcing a small cloud of dust to emanate quietly from the pages before wafting down and settling on the table.

 

I refuse to become a dusty old book, Veelix vowed to himself.  He tucked Keller’s letter into his bag and left his cell.

 

 

“Absolutely not!” the Turaga said sternly, eying Veelix with a mix of hostility and suspicion.  “The Chronicler’s place is here in Onu-Kia, studying the intricate history of our people.”

 

Veelix had come to the Turaga to ask for permission to depart, and while he had anticipated some resistance, he had not expected such hostility. 

 

“I’ve discovered all I can here,” Veelix said, trying to keep his voice calm.  “I could learn so much more by observing what is happening outside this kia.”

 

“Those who came before you spent years immersed in the deep pools of knowledge here,” the Turaga replied.  “Only in ignorance or insolence could you assume that your work here is finished.  What leads you to believe that you should wander around the island instead of remaining hard at work here?”

 

“It’s my job,” Veelix replied flatly.  “I’m supposed to record history, not simply learn it.”

 

“The Turaga will dictate the nature of your position,” the Turaga snapped.  “Even if you were correct, you have not learned nearly enough.  There is centuries’ worth of material in those museums.  You could not possibly have learned it all.”

 

The thought of returning to the tedium of his studies threatened to give Veelix a headache.  “How am I supposed to do my job if I can’t ever leave the museum?”

 

“The Great Beings have given us long lives,” the Turaga said.  “You must be patient and wait until the time is right.”

 

Veelix was angry now.  “I’m tired of being patient,” he growled.  “I’ve sat around my entire life being told that that I should keep my head down and not ask questions, that what I’m doing is important, that I should simply do my duty Mata Nui, and that this duty will bring me fulfilment,  but now that I have the chance to do something genuinely constructive, you stand in my way.”

 

“What makes you believe you should be exempt from the laws and customs that govern the other Matoran?” the Turaga demanded disdainfully.  “Because you have a new title that makes you feel special?  The Grand Council did not appoint you Chronicler for your benefit.  Your duty is to serve the Matoran and the Unified Government.  You will do as you are told.”

 

“My travels will benefit both of us,” Veelix replied.  “Sitting alone in that cave doesn’t accomplish anything.”

 

“This matter is closed,” the Turaga said conclusively.  “Return to your work.”

 

Veelix had had enough.  “No,” he said defiantly.  “I’m leaving.”

 

The Turaga’s irritation turned to anger.  “You require permission to leave the city.  I will not grant it to you until you have learned our history and respect for your elders.”

 

Veelix retrieved his badge and held it before the Turaga. 

 

“This is my permission,” Veelix said.  “My contract stipulates that I am free to travel as I wish.  Only the Grand Council can change my contract, which means you have no authority over me.”

“This realm is my jurisdiction, and I believe we both know whom the Grand Council would side with if I were to apprehend you for misconduct and disobedience,” the Turaga responded.

 

Veelix knew he needed more leverage.  “Would you really send the Toa after me if I were to leave?” he asked.  “How would the Matoran react to the use of force against an unarmed Matoran?”

 

“With blind eyes and deaf ears,” whispered the Turaga icily.  These words chilled Veelix, but he knew that the Turaga was bluffing.  Seeing the slightest look of hesitation in the Turaga’s eyes, Veelix made his move.

 

“Tomorrow morning, I will set out for Ga-Kia,” he said.  “I will resume my studies at the Ga-Kia School of History before returning here.”  He met the Turaga’s gaze, his determination belying his anxiety.  “Try to stop me if you want, but you can’t deter me from this decision.”

 

The Turaga turned his back and walked into another room, closing the door behind him.  Veelix waited for a moment, unsure of what to do, before returning to his dwelling to pack.  He had made his decision to leave regardless of the Turaga’s demands.  He could only threaten Veelix with imprisonment, a fate no different than what Veelix had faced since arriving at Onu-Kia, or for that matter, any other day of his life.

 

 

Veelix arrived outside the small hovel that the Turaga had provided him, little more than a single room carved into the cavern wall.  He pushed open the door and found a figure eating from a small take-out box at the small table in the room.

 

“You’re back early,” Ludin said without getting up.  “I had to check out of my hotel earlier, and I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

 

Veelix sat down across from his friend. “Are you leaving tomorrow?” he asked.

 

Ludin nodded.  “We’ve done everything we can before starting construction, which requires approval from Eri.”  He pushed one of the take-out boxes in front of Veelix.  “I brought you a little something as thanks for letting me stay.”

 

Veelix retrieved his utensils and started to eat.  He suddenly felt incredibly hungry, as if he had not eaten in days.

 

“What about you?” Ludin asked.  “Still working away in that cave?”

 

The Chronicler shook his head.  “I’m leaving for Ga-Kia tomorrow,” he said.  “I’m not sure when I’ll return.”

 

“It looks like I planned my departure well,” Ludin said, picking at his food.  “Why Ga-Kia?”

 

“I thought that I could learn something at the schools,” Veelix said.

 

“Do you plan to study anything specific?”

 

Recalling Ludin’s aversion to delving into the secrets, Veelix decided not to answer with the truth.  “No, I just want a change of scenery,” he replied.

 

Ludin appeared to accept his response.  “You always appeared to be someone who could never sit still for too long.  What route are you going to take?”

 

Veelix’s confidence gained by standing up to the Turaga vanished as he realized how unprepared he was.  Seeing his sheepish expression, Ludin laid his map on the table.

 

“You never were good with geography,” the Po-Matoran said with a friendly grin.  He pointed to the Decrem River on the map.  “If you follow this river through the forest,” Ludin traced the river from its source in the mountains to the ocean, “you should arrive near the estuary where the Great River meets the sea.  Cross the river here and take a boat across the bay.”  He pointed to an island in the middle of Pawaki Bay, a body of water formed by the Takea Peninsula that jutted out east from the northern portion of the island.  “Where would you be without me?” Ludin asked.

 

“Probably feeding the vultures in the desert,” Veelix replied.

 

“You would have made it through the desert eventually,” Ludin assured him.  “Don’t sell yourself short.  The Turaga must have seen something in you to make you Chronicler.”

 

“I’ll never know what it was,” Veelix mumbled.  “I’ve been a fairly lousy Chronicler.”

 

“You haven’t had a chance to prove yourself yet,” Ludin said.  “Wait until the time comes to record history in the making.  Then you’ll do a great job.”

 

“What makes you so sure?”

 

Ludin shrugged.  “I’m not.  But I’d rather be optimistic about this.  We’ll have to wait to see what the future holds.”

 

The two laughed and stayed awake into the night, telling stories and reminiscing in anticipation of their departure the next morning.  As his thoughts wandered to Keller’s letter, Veelix realized that he was about to leave another of his few friends behind.  Disparaged that his friendships seemed so transient, he resolved to meet up with both Ludin and Keller along his journey.  He may not have found the answers to his questions, but he knew that Keller would show him how to discover them.


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#9 Offline Exitium

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Posted Dec 10 2013 - 05:10 PM

Chapter 9

Invisible Footsteps

 

Snow covered the landscape in a blanket of white powder that evening, revealing a land unlike Veelix had ever seen.  By morning, the ground was pure white, undisturbed by all but the sun’s rays, which accentuated the beauty of the landscape without disturbing its form.  The frozen Decrem River snaked through the white field toward the forest, where it disappeared into the trees.  Shielding his eyes from the blinding light, Veelix felt as if simply observing the scene was enough to defile it as the snow crunched under his feet.

 

When Veelix stopped to rest later in the day, he gazed back at the Northern Mountains, happy to put them behind him.  He was admiring the scene when he noticed something odd.  His trail of footsteps was clear in the snow, tracing a path up the river toward Onu-Kia, but he also noticed another set of footprints slightly larger than his steadily approaching.

 

Veelix jumped off the rock in a panic.  In response the steps advanced more quickly.  He was now sure that he heard the soft crunch of snow under boots and the chink of armor over his pounding heart.  A cold wind kicked up as Veelix stood frozen with fear.

 

Suddenly an ebony figure appeared, with a black war hammer in his right hand and a Mask of Concealment glowing on his face.  The Toa gripped his weapon firmly in his hand as he came to a stop in front of the Chronicler.  Veelix was not sure whether to be relieved or uneasy.

 

“Show me your identification,” the Toa demanded.  Veelix hands shook as he fumbled about in bag for his badge.  In his nervousness, he had difficulty finding the object he was looking for.  Looking up he saw the Toa’s eyes narrow and his grip tighten over his hammer.  Finally Veelix produced the tablet. At first Veelix was relieved that the source of the footprints was a Toa, but this Toa’s sudden appearance and harsh demeanor left him apprehensive.

 

“Who are you?”  Veelix regretted asking the question as soon as it left his mouth.

 

Without lowering his weapon the Toa replied, “I am here to escort you to Ga-Kia.  You will follow the river to the bay and then proceed to Pawaki Beach.  You will not deviate from this path.”  While the voice was commanding, it also betrayed a hint of boredom.  The Toa continued without interest, “I will follow you and remain invisible for security reasons.”  Veelix nodded, unsure whose security was at risk. 

 

The Toa vanished abruptly.  Veelix slowly turned around and continued to walk, imagining the eyes of his companion probing him.  Only the sound of the Toa’s armored boots scraping against the snow verified that he had not lost interest in his mission and disappeared entirely.  What a pleasant traveling companion, Veelix thought to himself.  How different than my last.  He sighed, realizing that this trek across the island would be much lonelier than his last.

 

This encounter was merely the second time Veelix had seen a Toa, and once again, he failed to live up to Veelix’s expectations.  He anticipated awe, fear was the only emotion that had come to him, and a gentle uneasiness filled him as long as he could hear the Toa’s steps.  Were all as unheroic, or had hearing the legends of their greatness warped Veelix’s perception of the Toa’s true nature.  Perhaps there were Toa that lived up to their ideals, and he simply hand not met one, yet Veelix struggled to reconcile his experience with what he thought he knew about his heroes.

 

The snow soon met the forest as the river vanished among the foliage.  Veelix could make out a small path that followed the river beneath the snow-covered trees.  Although he was fatigued, Veelix did not dare to ask his escort for permission to rest.  Dragging his feet, Veelix continued through the forest. 

 

Before long, a paved road, cracked in places and clearly in need of repair, intersected Veelix’s path.  Looking down the road, Veelix saw that it crossed the river over a small bridge and continued for several hundred yards before turning sharply out of his view.

 

A rising hum suddenly filled the air, one that did not appear to be natural.  As something sped around the bend, Veelix threw himself off the path as the gray blur moving toward him screeched to a halt. 

 

The noise subsided as Veelix slowly stood up, wincing as he brushed the dirt off his armor.  He had hit the ground harder than expected, but he was relieved that the vehicle he now saw before him had not flattened him onto the road. 

 

It was an aerodynamic craft large enough for several passengers, its metal frame rusting severely in several places.  It did not appear to have any wheels, for it floated about two feet off the ground.  A Le-Matoran with a teal mask leapt from the controls and landed near the shaken Chronicler. 

 

“Sorry about that,” the pilot said, looking over Veelix with some confusion.  “I don’t usually see any travelers on this path, especially those from other kia.  What are you doing so far from home?”

 

Veelix tried to calm himself and replied, “I’m traveling from Onu-Kia to Ga-Kia.  I was told the fastest route was through the forest.”

 

“That’s correct,” the Matoran replied.  He glanced hesitantly at Veelix.  “Can I give you a lift?” he asked.  “It’s the least I can do, seeing as I almost ran you over.”

 

“I couldn’t,” Veelix said cautiously as the pilot clambered back into the vehicle. 

 

“I’m headed south anyway,” the pilot replied extending his hand down toward Veelix.  “It won’t be out of my way.”

 

Still somewhat hesitant around the craft, Veelix looked around for the Toa.  He had told Veelix to follow the path, but Veelix saw no sign of him, although with his Mask of Concealment, Veelix could not be sure of his location.  Swallowing his fear, Veelix took the Matoran’s green hand and crawled into the passenger’s seat.

 

“I’m Domen, by the way,” the pilot said as he flipped a switch and the craft hummed to life.

 

Veelix tried introduced himself, but the roar of the engine drowned out his voice as the vehicle swerved and shot down the path like an arrow fired from a supernatural bow.

 

“I didn’t quite catch that,” Domen shouted over the noise.  Veelix unclamped his jaw and shouted his name a second time.  After a few moments Domen yelled at Veelix, “Right now we’re heading west to Le-Kia.  From there we’ll go south to the edge of the forest, where you should arrive earlier than if had you walked.”

 

Veelix could only nod as the gyroscopes in his head struggled to acclimate to the vehicle’s speed.  His vision blurred, and Veelix squeezed his eyes shut, which calmed his mind somewhat.  After what seemed like hours, the craft smoothly sailed to a stop.

 

“You can open your eyes now,” Domen chuckled as he stepped out of the vehicle.  When his head stopped spinning, Veelix emerged as well.  Looking around, he found himself in a small garage with several other vehicles that looked nothing like anything Veelix had ever seen.  He followed Domen out of the garage into a miniature metropolis, which he assumed was Le-Kia.

 

At the center of Le-Kia was a circular road with streets that branched off in different directions.  Shops and garages sat in clusters around the streets, with homes built in the trees above.  Veelix scanned the roads looking for buildings that were open, but most were closed or filled with vehicles in various states of disrepair.  He stepped out of the garage and scanned the dilapidated buildings and rusted street signs, noticing the paint peeling on the outside of Domen’s garage.  What few Matoran Veelix saw sat huddled beneath blankets on the side of the road. 

 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked Domen.  Reading Veelix’s expression, he said, “Well, we've seen better days.”  He stepped back into the small garage, continuing, “Back when I first started racing, the streets were new and full of vehicles like this one, and the mechanics never slept.  That was before the factories and airfields were abandoned and the school was closed.”  Recalling his visit to Fa-Kia, Veelix assumed he was referring to the Le-Kia branch of the School of Science and Engineering.

 

“When I visited the school in Fa-Kia, I saw several Le-Matoran designing new vehicles,” Veelix asked.  “Do you know anything about them?”

 

Domen laughed hollowly.  “Their dreams remind me of an earlier time, when Le-Kia was a place of innovation and imagination,” he replied.  “But they are just dreams now; those students haven’t produced anything in millennia.”  Pushing a large component that looked like a stray engine out of the way, Domen proceeded to the back of the vehicle and opened a compartment, releasing a jet of hissing steam.  “Though I will admit, I do envy them,” he muttered.  “Able to design new creations all day and watch them come to life.  If I were there, I would have created a machine much better than this.”  He slapped the metal, which rang with dull thud.  The engine coughed and a puff of black smoke sputtered out.

 

“Why don’t you go there?” Veelix asked, coming closer but avoiding the smoke.

 

“I petitioned the Turaga numerous times, but he says my work here is too important,” Domen replied as he pulled a tool off a shelf. 

 

“You’re a mechanic then?” Veelix asked.

 

“By hobby, not by trade,” Domen replied, his head buried in his work.  “I perform at the restaurant in the tree above us every night to make a living, and before that I was a banker.  During the day I fix up abandoned vehicles and take them for a spin.”  He emerged and selected another tool.  “This is the only one that works well.  I bought it back when every Le-Matoran had vehicles like this.”

 

“What happened?” Veelix asked.  “Why are all the garages closed?”

 

“Back when the economy was booming, Matoran could afford to buy complex vehicles like this,” Domen replied.  “We even sold them to buyers in Metru Nui.  Of course when the Matoran Civil War broke out, we stopped trading with them and the economy crashed, so Matoran had to tighten their belts and give up what they couldn’t afford.  With the restrictions on trade among kia, demand for these vehicles evaporated and the industry collapsed, and to make matters worse, the Unified Government decided to no longer fund research into new development.  The economy of Le-Kia collapsed like that.”  He snapped his blackened fingers for effect.

 

“But you managed to keep your garage,” Veelix observed. 

 

“I bought this shortly after the panic,” Domen explained.  “The economic crash eliminated the technology industry and the Unified Government nationalized the financial sector, leaving a lot of Le-Matoran without jobs.  Fortunately, I was quickly able to find a new one, but not everyone was so lucky.  Frantic owners whose wealth had evaporated were trying to get rid of their garages as quickly as possible, so I bought one of the small ones.  The owners practically gave it to me.”

 

“Have you ever thought of leaving?" Veelix asked, stepping back from the vehicle as it coughed up more smoke.

 

Domen’s laughter was interrupted by coughing as he started to inhale smoke.  After a moment he replied, “I didn't have a choice, really, and I’m lucky to have a job because there isn’t much demand for musicians or mechanics.  Besides, the Turaga won’t grant me permission to travel, so I’m stuck here.”  He tightened a valve, closing off the source of black smoke.  Reaching for another tool, he stuck his head back into the compartment. 

 

“If all the jobs left," Veelix asked, cautiously drawing closer to the gray beast, “what do the remaining Matoran do?”

 

“Most of the former pilots and mechanics are now in food production,” Domen answered.

 

“This doesn't seem like a good place to grow crops," Veelix observed.

 

“It's not," Domen agreed, “but we supply much of the food that supports the northern region of the island.  We tore up all the old airfields to make room for our farms.  The soil isn't great I'm told, but since Le-Matoran have to live somewhere, it might as well be near the trees."

 

He crawled into the cockpit and flipped a switch.  The vehicle roared to life, humming loudly as it began to hover.  Domen checked a few gauges on the dashboard and, seeming satisfied, turned off the machine, which powered down like a sleeping Rahi.

 

"I wish I could take you to Ga-Kia today, but the law prohibits me from piloting this vehicle after hours,” Domen said apologetically.  "If you're in a hurry I can find someone with an Ussal cart."

 

"That won't be necessary," said Veelix, already tired from the day's trek.  "I would appreciate if you could point me in the direction of somewhere I could stay for the night."

 

"You can stay with me," Domen said.  "I have a room to spare, and I wouldn't recommend any of the hotels you'll find here.  Most of them haven't had a resident in years and haven't been cleaned in longer."

 

"I wouldn't want to intrude on your hospitality," Veelix said.

 

"Nonsense," Domen replied.  "If you are looking for some way to repay me, you can help me with some modifications I'm making to this device over here."  The Le-Matoran pointed to smaller craft, one that would seat only one Matoran. 

 

It was a much older vehicle, resting on two wheels and leaning against the side of the garage.  Veelix also noticed what appeared to be a small engine near the back and a series of instruments at the controls. 

 

“I need you to replace a component in the engine with this new one,” Domen said, producing a small mechanical object about the size of Velix’s fist.  “They don’t make these anymore, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t drop it.”

 

Cradling the device, Veelix carefully walked over to the vehicle and opened what appeared to be the engine.  Inside he saw a similar looking component and several flat panels along with a snake’s nest of wires.  Domen handed him a wrench and started to remove the panels inside the the engine. 

 

“Loosen the nuts and remove the bolts,” he instructed.  “Make sure the wires are disconnected from the main electrical unit before you pull it out, though.”

           

“The what?”

 

“The main electrical unit,” Domen replied pointing to a small black box to which all the wires in the engine were connected.  “It redirects power from the photoelectric panels to the piston.”

 

Veelix did as he was told, carefully extracting the dusty component and inserting the new one into the same slot.  Domen reattached the wires and connected the engine to an axle that powered the wheels.

 

 “Now we just need the power supply,” Domen said.  Opening a cabinet, he retrieved a lightstone, dusting it off as he walked back to the vehicle.

 

“Is the power source in the dark?” Veelix asked.

 

“This is the power source,” Domen replied, gently placing the lightstone into the center of the engine.  Seeing Veelix’s confused look he replied, “Lightstone-powered vehicles were state of the art technology when they were first released.  The light emitted from the power supply strikes the photoelectric panels, which creates a current that powers the engine.  Since lightstones don’t run out of energy, they’re an infinite supply of power.”  Domen explained quickly as if it were obvious.  He closed the engine and leapt into the controls.

 

He smiled as he powered on the vehicle.  “Let’s see what this thing can do.”

 

The machine roared to life, activating the speed disks on the wheels.  The vehicle shot out of the garage like a bullet, leaving only the sound of the engine behind.  A few moments later the craft returned to the building, accompanied by an acrid smell and puffs of smoke. 

 

“It seems like it’s having trouble handling the power of the new component,” Domen said to himself.  “I don’t have time to finish it today unfortunately.  Why don’t I get you something to eat?”

 

Domen washed his hands and returned with a wooden flute.

 

“I thought I’d take you up to the restaurant in the tree above us,” he said.  “I’m the entertainment this evening,” he said brandishing the flute. 

 

 

The restaurant was not the finest eating establishment, but it had a certain energy that the few restaurants in Ta-Kia lacked.  There were other performers there, including one with a harp and several with stringed instruments, but the clamor of the customers drowned out the sound of the instruments.  Much of the activity involved Matoran playing cards, the players exchanging coins between hands with blank expressions.  Instead of lightstones, the room was lit by torches, which cast a flickering red glare on the dark and smoky room.

 

Veelix poked his food, but the exotic fruit on his plate did not excite his appetite.  The drink in front of him was apparently the juice of a similar fruit, but it smelled as if it had been left in the barrel for too long.  He sighed as he remembered the difficultly he had adjusting to Onu-Matoran food.  Part of him started to miss Ta-Kia with its rigid regularity and food he had grown accustomed to.  Regardless, Veelix hoped that he would be able to feel at home at Ga-Kia.

 

The music was different than anything he had before.  There were no full-time musicians in Ta-Kia, and the few Matoran took up an instrument as a hobby and performed only occasionally at the temple.  Domen’s skill with the flute impressed Veelix as he wondered how one Matoran could have time to keep up with his job, practice his music, and maintain his vehicles.  He appeared to perfectly content with his hobbies and profession, the same contentment that continued to elude Veelix.

 

Veelix jumped, his heartlight flickering wildly as a metallic hand came to rest on his shoulder.  He turned around, but saw only the restaurant behind him.  The hand grabbed his arm and dragged him struggling out of the room.  None of the patrons seemed to notice, other than a few who laughed and pointed in his direction.

 

The invisible figure brought Veelix outside, holding him off the ground by his arm.  Veelix felt its warm breath brush across his mask, fogging his vision as the being returned to the visible spectrum.  His ebony armor was barely visible in the darkness, magnifying the effect of his crimson eyes flickering behind the Mask of Concealment inches from Veelix’s own mask.  Veelix saw nothing but these fading embers before him, instilling in him a fear that chilled him more than the night air.  There was no warmth in those eyes.

 

“I was quite clear,” the Toa said, emphasizing each word.  “You strayed from the path.  You caused me a lot of trouble.”  Veelix began to squeak out an apology, but the Toa’s eyes narrowed and he fell silent.  “Tomorrow you will leave at the first light.  You will take no detours.  If you follow these instructions the way you should have before, you will not see me again.  If you do see me again, you will regret it.”

 

The Toa let Veelix fall to the floor, his eyes vanishing into the darkness.  The frightened Matoran crawled back into the restaurant, where he returned to his meal with even less of an appetite than before.

 

 

The Toa smirked as he crawled through a window into the kitchen.  Frightening the Matoran had amused him, but provided little satisfaction.  At least it had given him an excuse to use his powers.  He had not even activated his mask in years and had squandered his elemental powers for even longer.  The Toa enjoyed the familiar rush of energy he felt from his mask, but the thrill he was accustomed to continued to allude him.

 

Making his way across the kitchen, he seized a box of the fruit that Veelix had sampled, along with other dishes he normally could not find in Eri.  The Toa was aware that stealing from Matoran was petty, but if he was gong to spend the next day in sheer boredom watching a Matoran wander around the island, he might as well enjoy a decent meal tonight.  Besides, he had spent tens of millennia on the island with no reward.  He was simply collecting what was his.

 

He had almost felt a genuine emotion that evening when he lost the Chronicler.  Fear?  No that was too strong a word.  Panic, maybe, concern for what the Turaga, already wary of him, would do if the Matoran had gotten away.  The Turaga had insisted that he not let this Matoran out of his sight, that he could be dangerous.  The Toa could hardly see how.  The Turaga refused to explain how this particular Matoran was of any danger, and provided him no additional information despite his requests and position of authority, not to mention his status as a Toa. 

 

How typical of those old creatures, making demands as if they still had the mantle and authority of a Toa that they gave up long ago, the Toa thought.  If becoming a Turaga is my reward, I prefer to avoid my destiny at all costs. 

 

He deactivated his mask, not needing its power, as his armor melted into the blackness of the night.


Edited by Exitium, Dec 16 2013 - 07:38 PM.

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#10 Offline Exitium

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Posted Jan 05 2014 - 02:56 PM

Chapter 10

Foundations

 

As dawn broke over Kia Nui, Veelix awoke, ready to complete his journey to Ga-Kia.  Domen had offered to set out early in the morning, and Veelix accepted, eager to put Le-Kia behind him.  As the Le-Matoran was bound by the law not to step beyond the bounds of the forest, he and Veelix parted ways at the forest’s edge.  Even as Domen waved goodbye, Veelix wondered why the universe distributed talent as it did.  Domen reminded him of Ludin, for both were successful, talented, content Matoran, unburdened by the personal struggles that Veelix found so daunting.  Veelix admired both Matoran, but he could not repress the seeds of jealousy they planted in his mind, nor could he understand how all Matoran were supposedly equal in Mata Nui’s eyes when they clearly were not in reality.

 

He recalled a speech in Ta-Kia in which Prinkor had assured the Ta-Matoran that the destiny of no one Matoran was more important than another’s, for all had vital roles to play in service of Mata Nui.  While the Matoran appeared to accept this belief, they knew there were some who harbored the latent power of a Toa, the ultimate destiny.  All Matoran dreamed of the day when they would receive a Toa stone and escape the mundane labor of everyday life, discovering a destiny of which they could be proud.  Even if they believed the Turaga’s words, their secret dreams proved that in their hearts they knew they were little more than a thinly veiled deception. 

 

As the Matoran matured, these dreams gathered dust until they pushed them from their minds to be remembered as merely the fantasies of youth.  To avoid disappointment, they listened to whatever the Turaga told them, wanting to hear not that Mata Nui preferred others over them, but that their work was as meaningful as that of any Toa.  Perhaps that reasoning satisfied those whose lives held some meaning or those who had already given up hope. 

 

Maybe I shouldn’t think so hard, Veelix thought.  After all, his problems emerged when he questioned himself, questioned his beliefs, and questioned his destiny.  Another voice in his head reminded him that he was better off now than if he had stayed in Ta-Kia.  Veelix had always desired knowledge, more than what Keller could give him, and soon he would have access to more than ever before.  Even so, he was disappointed that despite leaving Ta-Kia and becoming the Chronicler, the outside world had not miraculously brought fulfilment to his life.  Instead of leading to easy happiness, throwing off the veil of ignorance revealed more pain than he had expected.  There were questions he needed answers to, but his search for their answers would never have started had he not questioned his very way of life.

 

These questions had resulted only in more mysteries.  History had never interested him before, but now that he knew something was missing from its record, he had to discover what it was.  He had set out from Ta-Kia believing that just beyond its gates was happiness, yet he had discovered that the rest of Kia Nui was in the same state of stagnation and decay; Matoran went about their meaningless lives in the dark mines of Onu-Kia and on the dilapidated streets of Le-Kia in the same fashion as they did under the gray skies of Ta-Kia.  Was he looking into the past merely to discover why he had been denied the happiness he expected to find, dwelling only in the pages of history?

 

The chance events that led him to these particular questions brought a faint smile to his mask.  The Turaga could have easily given him another menial task to perform, but instead they had given him one that exposed the island’s mysteries.  It struck him as odd that the Turaga had chosen him, when other Matoran such as Ludin or Domen were clearly more intelligent and qualified.  There was little noteworthy about Veelix, other than his desire to question everything about the world around him, a trait that Prinkor and most Ta-Matoran viewed as an annoyance at best and a weakness at worst.  As if to remind himself that this journey was not a dream, he retrieved his badge from his bag and examined the symbols on its surface. 

 

Unity, duty, destiny.  Three words that guided the Matoran, the most important teachings of Mata Nui.  Unity to give them strength in the face of adversity, duty to give them a means to repay Mata Nui for his guidance and protection, and destiny to give their lives meaning in a world of uncertainties.  Contemplating the three virtues that brought peace to other Matoran, Veelix wished Mata Nui had given him something more substantial on which to base his faith.

 

If I have a destiny, it is a complete mystery to me, Veelix thought.  Could his destiny be to discover the missing pages in Kia Nui’s history books?  Doing so would be an achievement for which a few scholars might remember him, but even that fate, which was certainly preferable to the dull existence of a crafter or mask maker, seemed ultimately inconsequential compared to the destinies of those who became Toa.  No matter what the Turaga told him, he could not believe the destinies of all Matoran were equally important.

 

His thoughts turned to a Matoran he had once known in Ta-Kia who had been killed in an accident many millennia ago.  He was an ordinary Matoran, with no accomplishments to speak of, but well-liked among the Ta-Matoran.  After his death, his empty mask stared back at Veelix before it returned to the flames in which it was forged, a memory which still made Veelix shiver.  The remaining Matoran placed a candle outside the home of the deceased.  In the night, the cool wind extinguished the flames, taking with them the memory of the Matoran whose life was cut short.  Was his destiny to die so young, or was his destiny simply unfulfilled?

 

Perhaps there was a solution that was as simple as it was bold: What if the Turaga were wrong about Mata Nui’s teachings and their destinies were not equal?  As heretical as this notion seemed, it solved many of the problems Veelix faced.  Perhaps that Matoran had died not because it was a part of Mata Nui’s incomprehensible plan but because there was no plan; a tragic death, but ultimately a meaningless one.  Perhaps the Matoran struggled to explain its meaning because there was nothing to explain.

 

A nagging voice in Veelix’s mind held him back from this conclusion, whispering that if he disregarded the Three Virtues, he would have no reason to maintain his faith in Mata Nui.  That idea seemed dangerous to him, for without Mata Nui, what purpose was there for his labor?  He knew that if he cast out the idea of Mata Nui, who supposedly guided, protected, and nurtured him and all the Matoran, he would be truly alone if everyone else turned against him.

 

Veelix’s wanderings brought him to the banks of the Great River, signaling that he had almost reached his destination.  As he crossed over the bridge linking the two halves of the island, Veelix could see the island of Ga-Kia floating in the bay.  Between him and the bay was a sandy beach, normally populated by little more than a few palm tree and huts, but today Matoran of all elements celebrated in the streets, dancing to the music of a parade.  Veelix had almost forgotten that it was Foundation Day.

 

Kia Nui had been founded 90,000 years ago this day.  Normally it was a day of joy and exuberance, unless one lived in Ta-Kia, in which it was a day of prayer and solitude.  Foundation Day was not only a day to remember the founding of Kia Nui but also a time to celebrate the Three Virtues given by Mata Nui.  Veelix felt neither happy nor reverent as he proceeded to Pawaki Beach, the harbor that would convey him to Ga-Kia.  Naturally it was closed due to the holiday as Matoran everywhere reveled in their day off from work. 

 

Veelix realized that on this day of celebration of the Three Virtues, Matoran everywhere put aside their duty for one day.  Duty was similar to destiny, yet while destiny was a promise, duty was an obligation.  The Turaga did not say as much, for they claimed that duty was just as important a gift as the other virtues, allowing the Matoran’s labor to transcend mere physical tasks to become a sacred obligation.  Work was a requirement; duty was a privilege, one the Matoran would never have been thankful for if not for Mata Nui’s wisdom.  Just as destiny was not enough for Veelix to believe that he had something worth living for, duty was inadequate in making his work appear more important than the daily toil that it was.

 

Those two virtues have certainly served me well, Veelix thought bitterly.  His thoughts strayed to the final virtue, unity.  The Turaga usually emphasized the other two virtues, which Veelix understood.  He could understand the premise that they were gifts from Mata Nui to make their lives meaningful, even if he struggled to reconcile the contradictions they brought to mind.  But in contrast, unity did not serve to improve their lives, and the Turaga usually mentioned it in the context of conflicts that required a collective effort.  Unity gave them strength, but as a virtue it was temporal in nature compared to the promise of spiritual fulfilment the others provided. 

 

Furthermore, unity was not what Veelix had observed in his travels across the island.  The Matoran of each kia looked out for each other, but they remained isolated from the others and unconcerned about their problems.  Veelix had been ignorant of Onu-Kia’s loss of historical knowledge and Le-Kia’s crumbling city because they were closed off from the rest of the island, keeping their concerns to themselves.  The Matoran in each kia concerned themselves with only their own affairs without so much as acknowledging the plight of their fellow Matoran.  When they did not turn blind eyes, these Matoran looked upon their neighbors with scorn that sprung millennia of distrust.  Veelix was flooded with a lifetime of memories of Ta-Matoran mocking the Po-Matoran as untrustworthy, lazy, and uncivilized.

 

Veelix arrived at the shore, not far from the shade of the palm trees near the river.  The beach was cool, far unlike the harsh waves of sand beyond the mountains in the desert of Po-Kia.  As he sat on the beach gazing at the distant city of Ga-Kia floating in the bay, its towers reaching up into the clear skies like beacons, he found himself as close as he had ever come to the greatest collection of knowledge in Kia Nui.  The sand of the south was arid, dearth of life, but the sand here was a promise of greater things to come.

 

As he sat in the sand and continued to mull over the circumstances that brought him to this beach, he wondered what would replace Mata Nui and his virtues if he abandoned them so easily.  His search for purpose had not only revealed the empty pockets of Kia Nui’s history but also his lack of faith in the explanations the Turaga had given him.  His search for answers about Kia Nui was merely a search for answers about himself, but if doing so was a worthy end, he would commit himself to it.  Although the other Matoran went about their lives without the burdens Veelix bore, he knew there was a contradiction between what he saw on Kia Nui and what the Turaga told him.  Discovering what it was might resolve the conflict in his mind, and even if it did not, for now it provided him with a worth substitute to the destiny Mata Nui promised.

 

Veelix’s eyes closed as he took in the sound of the waves and the breeze, thankful that despite the difficulty of the questions he faced, he was no longer allowing his life to waste away in the forges of Ta-Kia.  There was still life to be lived as his future waited for him in the secrets of the past lying just across the bay.  


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#11 Offline Exitium

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Posted Mar 13 2014 - 04:17 PM

Chapter 11

All That Glitters

 

The cool breeze rushed past Veelix as he stood at the bow of the ship that now sailed toward Ga-Kia, an island university home to more knowledge than perhaps any other place in the universe, rivaled only by Ga-Metru.  A number of Turaga served as instructors for the relatively small Matoran population that lived on the northeastern shore of the island.

 

As Ga-Kia drew near, Veelix realized that it was not one island but several.  A canal bisected the main island, forming a lake at the center of the city.  Bridges connected several smaller islands to the largest one, but there was one island that stood alone some distance from the others.  A thick fog hung over this smaller isle ringed with ships docked at a sprawling port that dwarfed the one in Eri.  What few buildings he could make out were small and bleak in contrast to the shining towers of the main island’s halls of learning. 

 

Upon disembarking, Veelix located the central building floating in the island’s lake.  Housing the Turaga and their offices and living quarters, the stone structure was reminiscent of an older era, similar in design to the old palaces near the heart of Eri.  Its central tower sported a colossal clock with golden hands ticking away softly on a black stone face, awaiting the moments when the bells would chime, before falling silent again.

 

Inside its ornate halls, Veelix briefly exchanged words with the head Turaga.  She expressed the Grand Council’s displeasure with his behavior but admitted him to the university with little more than a reprimand.  She summarily dismissed him, and a taciturn Ga-Matoran lead Veelix out of the building and across the island to its northeastern shore where a small temple and twin dormitories stood solemnly at right angles to each other around a square plaza.  Inside the halls were dark, their brick walls unadorned unlike the lavish interior of the building he had just left. 

 

Veelix’s room was large enough only for a bed and a desk, with a small window and a lightstone as its only furnishings.  He examined the pile of books sitting on his desk, as well as a stone tablet detailing the classes in which the Turaga had enrolled him.  Most were studies of various time periods, generally around the time of the Barraki War.  A note from the Turaga informed him that he was permitted to audit any class offered during his free evening block.  Placing the tablet back on the desk, he lay down on his creaky bed and closed his eyes, recalling the gentle rocking of the boat that had borne him to this island as he drifted off to sleep.

 

 

Veelix stood on the summit of a mountain, looking down on the valley below.  Keller stood near him, scratching symbols into the dirt below his feet.  He looked up at Veelix and asked, “Have you found it?”

 

“Found what?” Veelix wanted to ask, but the scene playing out beyond the precipice captivated his attention.  Ash rained down on the gray valley below, obscuring the landscape under its shadow.  A trail of candles, the only variation in the scenery, led to Ta-Kia’s fortress, ringed in black walls, and crowned with a keep lit from within by an indomitable flame.  Its spires were twisted and deformed, soldiers with long spears patrolled the turrets, and black spokes protruded from its high walls.  Flames flickered around the city, but they provided no warmth, no familiar glow.

 

A breeze swept up the ash and blew the candles out.

 

 

Veelix was dimly aware of a voice calling his name.  Opening his eyes, he saw his instructor, a stout Turaga of Earth, glancing at the drowsy Matoran disapprovingly.  Veelix sat up and mumbled an apology.

 

“Those of us with the courtesy to remain awake during class were discussing the importance of the Battle of Eri in the War with the League of Six Kingdoms.  Perhaps you could enlighten us.”

 

Veelix blinked and muttered, “During that battle the city was captured and the Toa Army fled—”

 

“We were discussing the Second Battle of Eri,” the Turaga interrupted.

 

“In that battle the Toa won back the city despite the Barraki’s superior numbers,” Veelix continued.  “The Toa’s victory forced the League to negotiate an armistice that ultimately led to the end of the war.”

 

“Who was the Toa’s commander?”

 

“Toa Goucaer.”

 

“And how was he able to recapture the capital successfully?”

 

Veelix gazed out the window, wondering how long it had been since he had arrived at Ga-Kia.  He had been looking for something, the unwritten history of the world that seemed to escape his grasp.  Despite the knowledge emanating from the towers with their gleaming spires, Veelix had learned no more than he had in Onu-Kia.  Sitting in this history class, he could name every leader of Kia-Nui, produce from memory the dates of important events, recite any piece of information he had learned, yet with every new fact he grasped, the bigger picture continued to slip through his fingers.

 

The Turaga repeated the question.  Without averting his gaze from the silver sea outside his window, Veelix replied that he was unsure, having already forgotten the question.

 

The Turaga sighed, assigning him to review the battle and dismissing the class.  As the other Matoran filed out of the classroom, Veelix proceeded to the library, as was his routine during the evening block.  He preferred to sit in a secluded corner, surrounded by books and stone tablets containing the writing of the greatest scholars and philosophers of Matoran history.  At first the tens of thousands of years of knowledge overwhelmed him, but now he saw there was no new scholarship, as if there was no new knowledge to create and every worthwhile thought had already been recorded.  The dusty classics were hailed as remnants of a golden age while scholars memorized the names of great thinkers and analyzed their work endlessly rather than producing anything new of their own.

 

Veelix searched the shelves for a book he had skimmed the day before, an ancient text with a passing reference to “inhabitants of the north,” a term he had not found in any other records.  Asking the Turaga for assistance proved fruitless, for each either claimed no knowledge of the document or insisted that the inhabitants must have been Matoran already living there.  Veelix dated the document to well before the founding of any of the northern kia, and further attempts to find information regarding that time turned up empty.  Curiously, Veelix was unable to locate the book again, and assuming another Matoran had checked it out, he browsed the shelves until he located a book on the history of the Toa Army. 

 

He scanned the chapters on Jecitus and Goucaer until he reached the section on the latter’s successor, an unpopular Toa of Ice who struggled to command the Toa Army as its influence and prestige waned.  The Toa was eventually driven from power and began a self-imposed exile in Ko-Kia as a Turaga.  Veelix wondered if the old Turaga was still alive, and if so how he passed the time knowing that his glory days were behind him, and that he had been ousted from the position he no doubt considered his calling.  As directionless as Veelix felt, he could only imagine the emptiness that this Turaga must be facing.

 

At least he had a calling, Veelix thought.  He looked up from the book, asking himself what he was doing in this distant land so far from home.  But Ta-Kia was no more his home than Ga-Kia, and mask making was no more his calling than passing his days in empty libraries.

 

Realizing that he would find little more of value in these books, Veelix left and made his way into the cool evening air, unsure of where to go.  Remembering a distant offer to observe any class he wished, Veelix turned and entered the main auditorium, hoping there would be a class taught in a subject he had never studied in detail.

 

Matoran filled the auditorium, mostly taking seats near the back of the hall.  Veelix proceeded to the front row and sat two seats down from the only other Matoran in that row.  Like the majority of students in Ga-Kia, she was a Ga-Matoran, yet there was something that set her apart from her peers.  Her cerulean armor was scarred and stained, but her posture projected a rare confidence in stark contrast to the other students, who sat slouched in their seats, sitting up only to turn and glance at the clock in the back of the room.  Her body seemed weary, yet her bright eyes gleamed.  She turned and smiled at Veelix politely, and he quickly smiled back before turning his attention to the Turaga at the podium.

 

“Today we turn our attention to the political theory that formed the foundation upon which the Old Government was founded,” the Turaga began.  “Recall from our last lecture our analysis of the early Matoran thinkers and their views on the proper relationship between the Turaga and the Matoran.  In addition, keep in mind the prevailing political climate and tensions between the kia, especially the sectional friction between the north and the south.  It was in this climate that the authors of the Old Government established the island’s first written constitution.”

 

It was immediately apparent that Veelix was in a class that required knowledge beyond what he had already learned.  Although familiar with the underlying political conflicts before the establishment of the Old Government, he had no training in the writing produced in this era.  He considered leaving the class, disheartened by his lack of knowledge, when the Turaga began to explain the reasoning behind the Old Government’s structure, one that he had never fully understood.

 

“There was a fundamental difference between the existing governments of the kia in the north and in the south,” the Turaga continued.  “Matoran in Ta-Kia, Po-Kia, and Vo-Kia had traditionally ruled themselves and were not keen on giving up their authority to a council of Turaga living on the other side of the mountains.  Likewise, the Turaga in Eri considered themselves the legitimate rulers of the entire island and could not fathom sharing authority with Matoran.  Eventually a compromise was reached in which the Turaga shared power with a Matoran Assembly and with the local governments of each kia.

 

“While some scholars have claimed that dividing authority was a major concession from the Turaga, a closer analysis reveals that the Grand Council, as it came to be called, was clearly the superior partner, granting significant discretion to the Matoran Assembly but exercising final authority in all matters.  Likewise, the Grand Council was careful to install Turaga sympathetic to its goals in high levels of local governments to ensure that each kia remained under Eri’s control.”

 

While Veelix had read the constitution of the Old Government on multiple occasions, he had never realized how little of it he had understood.  By his reading, the constitution signaled the unity of the island, an agreement to share power not only between the Turaga and the Matoran but also between Eri and the kia, yet as the Turaga continued to speak, Veelix realized how naïve this perspective had been.  The notion that the Grand Council had been attempting to consolidate its power seemed counterintuitive, yet Veelix could not deny the persuasiveness of the argument that the Turaga presented.

 

Instead of leaving, Veelix decided to remain in his seat, listening with interest as the Turaga explained how the Grand Council exerted its influence over the Matoran in subtle yet undeniable ways, a historical interpretation that Veelix had not considered before in his studies in either Ga-Kia or Onu-Kia.  As he was only observing this class, Veelix felt no pressure to memorize the Turaga’s every word, but he found himself listening more intently than he did in his other classes.  The other Matoran, many of whom were sleeping in the rows behind him, did not appear to share his enthusiasm, with the exception of the Matoran in his row, who wrote furiously, as if trying to record the Turaga verbatim. 

 

Veelix had no intention of understanding everything the Turaga said, but he found himself absorbed in the lecture nonetheless.  The history may have had no relevance to his own life, yet there was something intrinsically fascinating about the subject and the manner in which the Turaga presented it.  When the lecture ended, he left the hall with an unusual feeling, not ennui but rather a spark of excitement.  There was something new here to discover, and he was determined to look into it. 

 

He returned to the library and scoured the shelves for documents from the time of Old Government’s founding.  As he read them, he felt disappointment creep back into his mind as he realized that all the documents he could find were either written by the Turaga or a number of Matoran theorists who argued in their favor.  Some of the very Matoran authors that the Turaga had mentioned in class appeared to be missing from the shelves.  Frustrated and feeling the enthusiasm he had felt earlier slipping away, he returned the books to their shelves and left the library.

 

Veelix was tired of finding so many holes in the fabric of history.  Despite his hopes when he had arrived on Ga-Kia’s shores, there was little to learn here that he had not already learned in Onu-Kia.  The same information was here and thus the same inadequacies.  He eventually stopped informing others about his discovery of documents in the library from eras lacking in historical documents, for when he did, the books and documents were often checked out indefinitely or quietly disappeared.  

 

Despite these setbacks, Veelix continued to attend his evening class, for he felt it was the only one in which he learned anything new.  Only his own lack of knowledge held him back, an insufficiency he sought to rectify with each class he attended.  His studies in the past had neglected the details of historical politics, but now it was clear to him that the tensions between the branches of the Old Government were a clear pattern throughout its history.  As Veelix sought to understand the political mechanisms of the Old Government, he began comparing them to the Unified Government and found himself questioning why it the latter had replaced the former.  Much to his frustration, the records seemed to cease right before its establishment, with only terse announcements of the new government available for his perusal.

 

Of all the students in the class, only the other Matoran in the front row appeared as interested in the subject as Veelix.  Although Veelix had been meaning to talk to her, he never saw her around the island during the day.  He intended to speak to her, but it was she who started a conversation one day before class.

 

“Are you enjoying this class?” she asked. 

 

“It’s a little over my head,” Veelix admitted somewhat sheepishly.

 

“Well you did start halfway through the course,” the Ga-Matoran pointed out.  “Which school did you transfer from?”  There was something distinctive about her voice that Veelix could not place, for her pronunciation of certain sounds was unlike that of the other Ga-Matoran.  The distinction was so subtle, far less so than the differences between Ta-Matoran and Ga-Matoran, that Veelix did not even notice it initially.

 

“I didn’t transfer,” Veelix explained.  “I was studying history in Onu-Kia and the Turaga suggested that I come here.  One day I was bored and decided to sit in on this class for fun.”

 

“I’ve never met anyone who would call political theory ‘fun,’” the Ga-Matoran said.  “But then again, I’ve met very few who seem to find learning in general to be fun.”

 

“I’ve always liked learning, but most of my other classes are history courses,” Veelix said.  “This class is a nice change of pace.”

 

“How does a Ta-Matoran end up studying history in Ga-Kia, not to mention Onu-Kia?” she asked. 

 

Veelix was about to explain, but the Turaga had arrived and began to speak, rendering Veelix silent as the lesson commenced. 

 

When the lecture concluded, Veelix intended to continue their discussion, but the Ga-Matoran left quickly, explaining that she had to catch a boat.  This statement stuck Veelix as odd, for he assumed that all the students lived on the island, but he was unable to learn anything else about his new friend except that her name was Titeria. 

 

As time passed, Veelix and Titeria discussed various topics before each class.  Although these conversations were always brief, Veelix had finally found someone on his journey who shared his appreciation of knowledge.  Titeria’s main areas of study were engineering and physics, but her knowledge of a wide variety of topics, including history and the study of Mata Nui, ensured that their conversations were never dull.  One day when explaining why he had come to Ga-Kia, Veelix mentioned that he was the Chronicler, prompting Titeria to laugh.

 

“What’s so funny?” he asked, more defensively than he had intended.

 

Titeria smiled for a moment, but then looked at him quizzically.  “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” she asked.

 

“Of course not,” Veelix said, unsure if he should be offended.  “Why would I joke about that?”

 

Titeria shrugged.  “I don’t know, but I haven’t heard any news about a new Chronicler.”

 

“So?”

 

“Well, there’s usually a lot of celebration when a new Chronicler is named,” she explained.  “At least there was last time, don’t you remember?  I haven’t heard anything since the last Chronicler was appointed back during the time of the Old Government.”  She stared at him for a moment with a bemused expression.  “Are you really serious?”

 

“I truly am the Chronicler,” Veelix said.  He retrieved his badge and handed it to the wide-eyed Titeria, who stared at it as if unsure what to do.

 

“There’s no doubt about it,” she said quietly, slowly turning the badge over in her hands, as if afraid she might drop it.  After a moment she carefully returned the badge to Veelix. 

 

“What kind of celebrations were there?” Veelix asked curiously, wondering what he had missed.

 

Titeria thought for a moment.  “Well it’s been a long time since the last Chronicler was appointed, before you of course.  I remember Turaga Arconis ceremonially handed the Chronicler the badge in front of all the Toa and Turaga, and then the Chronicler went on a journey around the island before getting to work.  Oh, and there was also a part where Arconis handed the Chronicler a recorder, which I think is the same one used by all previous Chroniclers.”

 

“Is this what you’re talking about?” Veelix asked as he produced the recorder.

 

Titeria took the recorder but did not appear impressed.  “I honestly don’t remember what it looked like,” she admitted.  He watched as Titeria examined the recorder for a moment and then proceeded to remove one end, much to Veelix’s horror.  “Relax,” she said, peering inside.  “It looks like it’s supposed to do that.”  She removed a small green crystal from inside the device.

 

“What is that?” asked Veelix, staring at the crystal with fascination. 

 

“I think it’s a memory crystal,” said Titeria as she examined it closely.  “You can use them to record electronic data.  You can’t find them naturally on Kia Nui, and there’s no way to manufacture them, which makes them rare.  I haven’t seen one in ages.”

 

“You’ve seen them before?” Veelix asked. 

 

Titeria nodded.  “The lab here has a machine for reading the data on these crystals,” she explained.  “Or so I’m told anyway.  The university hasn’t used it since long before I arrived, but I’ve seen pictures of these crystals in textbooks.” 

 

“How long has that been?” Veelix asked.

 

“Since I arrived?  A few hundred years or so,” Titeria said as she replaced the crystal and twisted the cap back on the recorder.  “I’m only here in the evening, so I haven’t taken that many classes.”

 

“What do you do during the day?” Veelix asked, unaware that there were Ga-Matoran who held occupations other than students.  This opinion was foolish in hindsight, but until now he had no reason to believe otherwise.

 

“I’ll have to show you some time,” she said as the instructor cleared her throat to silence the class. 

 

After their class, Veelix parted with Titeria as she left for the docks to catch a boat to places unknown to him.  He could not imagine where she was going—yet another mystery that presented itself to him.  Despite his hopes upon reaching the island’s shores, his studies had left him just as perplexed as he was before.  If he were to discover the secrets of Kia Nui’s past, it would not be here.

 

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#12 Offline Exitium

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Posted Mar 15 2014 - 04:53 PM

Chapter 12

The Other Half

 

For weeks, Veelix and Titeria chatted with each other, discussing everything from their classes to Veelix’s travels across the island.  If not for their conversations, Veelix probably would have left Ga-Kia already, yet the thought of traveling alone again made him hesitant to leave.  On the last day of their class, Veelix followed Titeria to the harbor, unsure when he would see her again.  The memory of leaving the few friends he had still lingered in his mind as he searched for the right words to say goodbye.  Titeria had other plans and insisted that he accompany her.  Initially Veelix protested, but Titeria dragged him onto the boat anyway.

 

“If you’re really concerned about studying, I’ll make sure you get back before it gets too late,” she promised.  She assured him that there would be another boat back to the university that night.  “Besides,” she said, “I think you’ll learn far more tonight than you would in any class here.”  She refused to give him further details.

 

The boat drifted into the silver bay, but instead of returning to the mainland, it turned and headed further out to sea.  At first Veelix was unsure where they were going until he was able to make out the other island of Ga-Kia.  Though he had seen it when he first arrived, he had never given it a second thought.  Obscured by the darkness and its perpetual fog, the island was visible only due to a lone lighthouse on the shore. 

 

Turning her gaze from the bay, Titeria asked, “Why are you here, Veelix?”

 

The question caught Veelix off guard.  “The Grand Council sent me,” Veelix replied.  “Well, I suppose they sent me to Onu-Kia, but I thought I might be able to learn more here.”

 

“You already told me that,” Titeria said.  She drummed her fingers on the railing for a moment and sighed softly.  “I suppose I wanted to know what drew you to Ga-Kia.  You see that island in the distance?  I lived there for most of my life, looking up at the shining towers of the university, knowing that there was so much opportunity within those halls.  The lights inside my home were barely flickering, yet the tower of Ga-Kia’s great hall was always illuminated.  Sometimes I would stay up late at night, listening to the bells toll at the late hours of the night, barely audible across the body of water that separates us.  So I came here looking for an opportunity to make something of my life, and I wanted to know if it was the same for you.”

 

Veelix was quiet for a moment, before he replied.  “I left Ta-Kia because I didn’t fit in there, so I left to find some way I could contribute to the world, to do more to make it a better place than creating masks to hang on the wall.  I thought being the Chronicler would give that opportunity, but it merely confined me to the depths of Onu-Kia.”

 

“So you were wanted to escape Onu-Kia?” Titeria asked.

 

“Not exactly,” Veelix asked.  “The more I learned there, the more I realized that I wasn’t the problem.  Something was missing from the records, all of the history after the establishment of the Unified Government in fact.  So I came here looking for something that might fill in the gaps, but eventually I started questioning what I was looking for in the first place.”

 

He paused and stared at the waves disappearing under the boat.  Titeria said nothing, waiting for him to continue.

 

“I assumed there was something to find,” Veelix said.  “There must be something that explains what happened to that history, something to explain all these holes in the record I keep finding, right?  What if I can’t find anything because there’s nothing to find?  After all, I’m the only one who seems to care.”

 

“No one else has the resources you do,” Titeria pointed out.  “They don’t know about the missing records, so naturally no one else has discovered this problem.”

 

“It’s not just the missing records,” Veelix pointed out.  “The Turaga seemed perplexed that I couldn’t find a job that suited me.  The other Matoran in Ta-Kia considered me an outsider, and wherever I go I’m the only Matoran who questions Mata Nui and my destiny.  I am the only one noticing the problem, or I am the one with the problem?”

 

“Being different isn’t a problem, Veelix,” Titeria assured him.  She pointed to the island that slowly drew closer.  “I was the only Matoran living there to think that I could one day go to the university, and none of the other Matoran believed me.  They ridiculed me and told me I was a traitor for wanting to go there.  They were wrong, though I suppose they were just jealous.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Veelix said.  “Why would you be a traitor for going to the university?”

 

“That should be clear to you soon,” she replied.  The boat quietly came to a halt at one of the docks that ringed the island.

 

 “What is this place?”Veelix asked as he and Titeria disembarked. 

 

“This is Ga-Kia,” Titeria explained.  “Part of it anyway.  This place is known as the little island, which is under the authority of the main island. Most outsiders refer to the university as Ga-Kia, but we call it the big island.”

 

“I’ve never heard of this place before,” Veelix admitted, looking around at the humble buildings lining the dark streets.

 

“It’s a well-kept secret,” Titeria explained.  “the university is grand and important, but it doesn’t produce anything tangible, so it’s not profitable.  That’s where we come in.  This is an island of fisherwomen and sailors, the busiest port in Kia Nui.”

 

The two Matoran wandered down  the main street, each with a lightstone, for the ones in the streetlamps had long since needed replacing.  A Matoran with a cough sat on a street corner, huddled over a small fire and clutching a ragged blanket.

 

“All the money we had was put into the university,” Titeria continued.  “Unfortunately not everyone could go there and its construction left the city deeply in debt, so tuition was a little higher than expected.  Although the Old Government initially offered scholarships, some of us have to work for a living.”

 

“Why is it such a secret?” Veelix asked.  “I can’t even find it on the map.”

 

“It’s not intentional, they’ve just forgotten about us because it’s convenient,” Titeria said.  “From time to time some of the new students offer to help, but even those who do rarely return more than once or twice before they find themselves too busy with their own concerns.  Most of them prefer not to think about us, and we prefer not to think about them.  But there is a desire that burns in the heart of all Ga-Matoran here, a desire to leave this place for good and do something more with their lives.  In order to do that, I needed the help of the ones I long blamed for my fate.  I decided to enroll in the university.”

 

They were now walking along the shore again, drawing steadily closer to a shack near the docks. 

 

“So I saved up what little money I earned,” Titeria continued.  “Eventually I was able to attend the university, but I had to continue working in order to support myself.  Now I am dockworker by day and a student by night.  And when I have a little extra time on my hands, I come here.”

 

The two arrived outside the building to find a Ga-Matoran passing by.  She stopped, squinting in the glare of the lightstone, as the two Matoran approached.  She appeared to be quite a bit older than either of them, for her armor was even more worn than Titeria’s.

 

“I see you’ve brought home a friend, Titeria,” the other Matoran said in a raspy voice.

 

“He’s from the university,” Titeria said.

 

The Ga-Matoran frowned.  “Why would you come all the way from Ta-Kia to that island of self-centered Piraka?” she sneered.  “I was disappointed when you decided to go there, yourself,” she said addressing Titeria now.  “I never thought you would sink to their level.”

 

“Neither did I,” Titeria replied, producing a round orange fruit from her bag.  “I got this for you when I was there.  It comes from the mainland.”

 

The other Matoran refused.  “No, you keep it,” she said.  “You need it more than I do with all the extra hours you work.”  Although she pushed Titeria’s hands away, her eyes told a different story, staring hungrily at the orange fruit with a longing that Veelix had never seen for something as ordinary as food.

 

“I got it especially for you,” Titeria insisted as she placed the fruit in the other Matoran’s gnarled hands.  “We have to look out for each other after all.”

 

Before the other Matoran could object, Titeria opened the door and stepped inside the building as Veelix followed closely behind.

 

“I can’t believe what she said about Ga-Kia, or the big island,” he whispered, afraid the other Matoran could still hear him.

 

Titeria nodded sadly.  “That’s the view most Matoran here hold.  Of course, they would all attend the university in the flash of a heartlight if they could, even though they’d never admit it.”  She sighed.  “We’re not bad people.  We try to lead honest lives and do what we can for each other.  I remember when the Matoran you just met used to travel frequently to Metru Nui, back when we traded with them.  She brought back trinkets for me every time.  I still have all of them back at home.”

 

Veelix looked around the room as Titeria spoke.  They stood in a small boathouse that housed about a dozen small watercraft, mostly canoes and other boats that could only fit one or two passengers.  Titeria walked over to a mechanical craft that had seen better days sitting in the corner. 

 

“This is my dream, Veelix,” she said placing one hand on the boat.  “Once I have the training I need and this boat is fixed, I can leave this place and never come back.”

 

“Where would you go?” asked Veelix, guessing that it would be some time before the vessel was seaworthy. 

 

“I was thinking about moving to Eri,” she replied.  “There’s a busy port there, and lots of ships come by.  My goal is to become a mechanic or engineer, and with my experience fixing this boat, I think I could get a fairly stable job, certainly better than anything I could find here.”

 

The scene reminded Veelix of his brief time in Domen’s shop in Le-Kia, except while Domen’s shop was well equipped, Titeria seemed to be scraping by with barely any tools at all.

 

“How close are you to being finished?” he asked hesitantly.

 

“It’s almost done,” she replied.  “Right now there’s no power source, so I’ve been trying to fix up a coal engine, but it’s not providing the power that I need, and a steam engine is too large for something this size.”

 

“I remember I saw a compact power source once,” Veelix said, trying to remember how Domen had powered his vehicles.  “It was about this big and powered by a lightstone.”

 

“I read something about an engine powered by light not too long ago,” Titeria said, her eyes lighting up.  “Veelix, where did you learn about this?”

 

“I worked on one briefly when I was in Le-Kia,” he said.

 

Titeria’s eyes widened.  “You have experience with them?”

 

“Not exactly, but they’re not very complicated,” Veelix replied.  “You just need to find something that converts light into a form of energy.”

 

“Light is energy,” Titeria corrected as she rummaged through a scrap heap nearby.  “The trick is converting it into a useful form.”  She produced several faded panels that looked similar to what Veelix had seen in Domen’s garage.  “How do these look?” she asked.

 

“I think that’s it,” Veelix said excitedly. 

 

Titeria nodded.  “If we could make this work,” she said, “the boat could be ready to go much sooner than I thought.  I only need a few more parts.”  She looked around for a moment but seemed to be missing something.  “There are a few things I need, but I know where I can get them,” she announced.  “Veelix, tomorrow can you get a few of the books about photoelectric panels from the library and bring them here?  I could find the parts we need, and we could finish the boat tomorrow!”  Her excitement was practicably tangible, and Veelix knew it was rubbing off on him.

 

He agreed to help and promised to meet her again the next day.  Titeria pointed out that it was late and that he shouldn’t miss the ferry, so Veelix returned to the docks hoping he had not missed his boat.

 

As he rode the ferry back to the small island the next evening, he found himself wondering why he felt so invigorated.  Something about the spark of excitement in Titeria was contagious; something about her passion was so rare in Kia Nui.  Her ardent pursuit of her dreams reminded Veelix of why he had left Ta-Kia. 

 

Veelix and Titeria spent the entire night assembling the new engine.  Though Veelix helped Titeria when he could, he found himself mostly keeping her company as she put the final touches on the engine.

 

In the early hours of the morning, Titeria and Veelix put the boat out to sea for the first time.  Titeria lapped Ga-Kia and then piloted the boat out into the sea until the land was distant and the two of them were alone, far from everything they disdained.  They floated in the sea quietly for some time, watching the sun slowly illuminate the morning sky, before Veelix broke the silence.

 

“What happens now?” he asked Titeria.

 

“We go back,” she said without turning her gaze from the horizon.  “I have to finish my education before I can leave, and until then there is still work to be done.  What about you?”

 

Veelix remained quiet for a moment as he pondered her question.  “I’m supposed to study volumes of knowledge that is woefully incomplete, but I’ve looked everywhere and found nothing to answer my questions.  There’s no reason for me to stay here.”

 

“There are so many places you could go,” Titeria replied.  “You might find what you’re looking for in Eri or Ko-Kia.”

 

“Everywhere is the same,” Veelix said.  “No matter where I go in Kia Nui, I can’t find what eludes me.  I don’t think there is anywhere in Kia Nui where I belong.”

 

“The Unified Government won’t allow you leave,” Titeria reminded him.  “There are no ships that leave this dome.”

 

“Why not?” Veelix asked, questioning what other Matoran had taken for granted.  “Why shouldn’t I have the freedom to leave?  I won’t find the knowledge I’m looking for here.”

 

“Where would you go?” Titeria asked.  “Assuming you can find a boat that would take you.”

 

Veelix thought for a moment before he replied.  “Metru Nui.  We used to trade with them before the Unified Government came into power.  There must be Matoran there who visited here too.  Someone there might be able to answer the questions I can’t find answers to here.”

 

“That’s a bit of a long shot,” Titeria said doubtfully.  “How can you be sure you will find what you’re looking for when you don’t even know what that is?”

 

“I can’t be sure,” he admitted.  “But this is my work, my passion, just as this boat was yours, and I will find a way.”

 

The two sat in silence a while longer watching the sky grow brighter.  Eventually Titeria pointed due east to the horizon.

 

“There is a gap in the barrier there,” she said.  “I’m told there is a tunnel that will lead you directly to Metru Nui.  I’ll take us back to Ga-Kia, and then you can take my boat there.”

 

“I can’t,” Veelix objected.  “You’ve worked so hard to finish it.  I can’t take it.”

 

“As much as I wish I could go, I have years to go before I can leave,” Titeria said as she turned the boat back towards civilization.  “Besides, I wouldn’t have finished the boat today if you hadn’t helped.  But in return, I want you to bring it back with tales of Metru Nui.  And then I want to go far away, never to see this dismal place again.”

 

Titeria activated the engine, its hum shattering the silence, and the two Matoran began their journey back to the land they both knew they were certain to one day leave.

 

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#13 Offline Exitium

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Posted May 16 2014 - 12:25 AM

Chapter 13

The City of Legends

 

As the sun set, a boat arrived at the southern shore of Kia Nui just south of Ta-Kia where the river of lava met the sea.  A lone Matoran stepped off the boat and made his way toward the iron fortress he had once called home. 

 

Veelix had not shelved his ambitions to leave Kia Nui, nor had the pangs of homesickness drawn him back to the city of fire.  Though he had no memory of his original home, the black fortress and ashen rain would never fill that void, and the Matoran of the city would never fully adopt him as one of their own.  His travels across the island only served to distance himself from the city of his past, for as he returned, rather than feeling a comforting sense of familiarity, he was greeted merely by foreboding.  He might never have returned if, in the hours before his departure, he had not learned that Keller was dead.

 

And so Veelix found himself back on the beach of Ta-Kia to say a final goodbye to his mentor.  Matoran rarely died of natural causes, especially of old age, for the life span of a Matoran was presumed to be at least the current age of the universe.  As such, Keller’s death was a surprise to many, more so to those who had never lived in an environment as harsh as Ta-Kia.  Veelix could imagine several Matoran at a party in a tower in Eri making conversation over the news.

 

Can you believe a Matoran simply dropped dead?  It’s terrifying to image waking up one day without one’s organs functioning.  It must be something in the air they breathe down there, those poor Ta-Matoran…

 

Veelix passed the guardhouse at the end of the bridge and entered the fortress of Ta-Kia through the same gate through which he had left.  The city was just as he remembered it, save for the absence of the one Matoran whom Veelix had called a friend.  Knowing he could not linger, he walked past the temple to Keller’s home.

 

On the rare occasion that a Ta-Matoran did pass from the universe, there was a solemn ceremony in the temple before the deceased’s mask was placed in the river of lava.

 

Death the volcano may bring, but without it there would be no life—from lava the mask was forged, and to lava it now returns, for all that is material shall be returned to the universe and that is spiritual shall be returned to Mata Nui.

 

Friends and students left their remembrances outside Keller’s home where they would remain until the flowers faded, the candles blew out, and the memory of his passing had begun to fade from the city’s collective consciousness.

 

This Matoran’s worldly life may have ended, but Mata Nui has assumed his body and spirit so that he may become one with him, for only by embracing Mata Nui can we achieve everlasting life, a gift for which our daily toil in his name can never repay.

 

One night a member of the city guard would come to collect anything of value for the city’s vault; the rest was burned.  Veelix was comforted to see that this fate had not yet befallen Keller’s property.

 

Do not grieve that Mata Nui has not resurrected this Matoran’s body, for it is proof that his spirit has become one with Mata Nui.  Do not grieve, for if we place our trust in Mata Nui and the virtues he has given us, one day we will all be reunited in Mata Nui’s embrace and our earthly struggles and faith shall be rewarded.

 

Veelix had attended one such ceremony before, the only other time in recent memory that a Ta-Matoran had died.  The Turaga’s words still rang in his ears.

 

Veelix had already returned to his home to retrieve a prayer candle.   A layer of dust had covered the few possession he owned, which but for the small circle in the dust where his candle had sat, remained undisturbed when Veelix departed.  He placed the candle with the other remembrances outside Keller’s hut, wondering if he should say a prayer, but the words did not come, so he remained silent.

 

Keller was the one Matoran who had believed in Veelix, believed that he was something more than a lazy eccentric.  He missed the old Matoran and his calm faith in the workings of the universe.  Had he not written that he was hoping Veelix would return to Ta-Kia?  Veelix had indeed returned, but now it was too late. 

 

Veelix struggled to come to terms with the reality that the one Matoran from whom he could always seek advice was now gone.  That friendship, that hope, that understanding that Keller had always shown would never be there to support him again.  If the Turaga was right about Mata Nui, then perhaps he would see Keller again, but Veelix needed Keller’s advice in this life, not whatever came after.  Regardless, the thought that he might see the old Ta-Matoran again was comforting, and more than at any time he could remember, he wanted to expel all doubt of Mata Nui’s existence.  But even if Mata Nui was benevolent enough to give Keller life after death, why did he leave Veelix to confront his challenges alone?

 

I can still honor his memory, Veelix vowed as he looked at a carving of the old Matoran that someone had left in front of his door.  He would want me to find peace in my own way, and now I will—I must.  With renewed resolve, Veelix paid his last respects to his mentor and turned back toward the city gates.  Although he could not simply accept that the goodwill of Mata Nui shaped his destiny, he knew where he could find the answers he needed.  He would find his own way, one that would take him far from Kia Nui, the island he could never truly call home.

 

 

From the moment Veelix arrived in Metru Nui, he was in awe.  The island was far larger than any city in Kia Nui and its towers dwarfed their counterparts in Eri in both size and technological advancement.  His eyes were drawn upward as an airship roared overhead, gliding over the towers and Chutes as if unrestrained by gravity itself.  The Matoran moved about their busy lives, completely unaware of how spectacular their city was.

 

As Veelix’s boat entered a harbor in Ga-Kia, he caught sight of a large temple on a small spit of land floating in the silver sea.  It was fairly tall, though dwarfed by Eri’s temple, and unlike the ornate temple in Eri, its structure was simple, an unadorned dome surrounded by four tall spires and several smaller ones.  Its design was so unfamiliar and its premises so empty, that at first Veelix was unsure of its purpose.  

 

As he disembarked and set foot upon foreign land for the first time in his memory, Veelix immediately noticed the Coliseum, which he imagined was visible from every part of the city.  Its smooth walls reached gracefully into the sky above all other buildings, and its elegant yet resolute form served as a constant reminder of the city’s strength and stability.  Although it was the oldest building in the city, it seemed neither antiquated nor out of place, as many of Eri’s crumbling ruins did.  Enthralled by these sights, Veelix decided to spend his first few days in Metru Nui exploring its wonders.

 

Journeys that took hours in Kia Nui lasted minutes on Metru Nui’s Chute System.  Mask making had been perfected to an art that surpassed the work of even Ta-Kia’s best craftsmen.  Ga-Metru’s schools produced more knowledge in the time Veelix had visited them than Ga-Kia had in the last thousand years.  The Archives of Onu-Metru and Sculpture Fields of Po-Metru would have put their counterparts in Kia Nui to shame.  Le-Metru’s technology captivated Veelix the more than anything else: Vehicles sped faster, flew higher, and traveled farther than anything Domen or the Le-Matoran of Kia Nui could even dream of.

 

Free access to Metru Nui’s records allowed Veelix to learn that Metru Nui and Kia Nui had been in close contact for over 15,000 years and had progressed culturally and technologically at relatively the same rate.  The two islands were distinct, for their innovations were similar yet not identical, and the two were friendly rivals for economic influence throughout the universe.  Their paths diverged shortly after Kia Nui broke off ties with its northern neighbor, when Metru Nui entered a golden age of prosperity in which culture and technology thrived.

 

After his amazement at the sights of Metru Nui sunk in, Veelix began to wonder how Metru Nui had advanced so far yet Kia Nui had not.  The two islands had been competitors until the two suddenly severed their ties, at which time Metru Nui overtook Kia Nui.  As far as Veelix could tell, the pace of advancement had not sped up at all on Metru Nui; Kia Nui had simply remained in essentially the same state as it had on the day their contact ended. 

 

This turn of events puzzled Veelix.  Clearly Metru Nui hadn’t suffered greatly when relations were broken off, and Kia Nui had sustained itself on its own without any adverse effects on its citizens.  So why was the link between them so important to Kia Nui?

 

Veelix searched through Metru Nui’s records looking for any mention of Kia Nui that he could find.  Most were documents relating to trade, ledgers used by merchants and customs officials.  Using them and his knowledge of Kia Nui’s history, Veelix confirmed that the two islands had broken their ties around 20,500 AF, almost 70,000 years ago.  In Kia Nui that time was known for the establishment of the Unified Government, but in Metru Nui, it marked the beginning of the Matoran Civil War.

 

Veelix was only partially satisfied with this information.  On the surface the scenario was plausible.  Not wanting to take sides in the conflict, Kia Nui broke off trade with Metru Nui while the war continued.  Civil unrest unseated the Old Government around the same time, and the issue of trade with Metru Nui was forgotten among the collapse of Kia Nui’s political and economic system.

 

Yet the members of the Unified Government were all Turaga who had served in the Old Government.  Certainly they were aware of the benefits of trading with Metru Nui.  Certainly they had the wisdom to realize that the island was suffering without it.  And since neither the lack of trade with Metru Nui nor the establishment of the Unified Government directly caused Kia Nui’s stagnation, something else must have been at work.

 

The other difference between Metru Nui and Kia Nui was its inhabitants.  Metru Nui had only one Turaga and not a single Toa.  In their place were the Vahki, merciless machines that maintained order by force, generally against Rahi, but they were unafraid to attack Matoran.  Their constant presence unnerved Veelix, and he found himself constantly looking over his shoulder to see if they were following him.  He was unsure whether he was more worried when he saw them or when he did not. 

 

The denizens of Metru Nui could not understand Veelix’s aversion to the lifeless automata, which he ascribed to their lack of familiarity with Toa, the guardians Mata Nui had intended for them.  More concerning to Veelix was that on an island with so few Rahi that no outsider had dared to even threaten in millennia, the presence of law enforcement was ubiquitous.  Bound by an algorithm’s unwavering dedication to the strict letter of the law, their tireless pursuit of every crime—from theft and counterfeiting to arriving late at work—lacked the heroism and mercy that Toa evinced.  Veelix watched as some Matoran passed by the Vahki as if they weren’t there, while others hastened their step around them even if they did not realize it.

 

Although Veelix did not enjoy having his every movement watched, he might have remained in Metru Nui for the rest of his life had there not been something nagging at him with every page he turned in his quest for knowledge.  Metru Nui had surpassed Kia Nui long ago, and none of its scholars had any interest in why his island had disappeared into isolation.  His journey had illuminated one piece of the puzzle, but there were no more he could find here.  Veelix was comfortable in Metru Nui, almost content, but he could not shake the feeling that he was simply letting the days drift by, just as he had in Ta-Kia.  He had found what he needed in Metru Nui.  Now it was time to return to Kia Nui. 

 

 

Eri was not as Veelix had remembered it.  The high towers cast long shadows over the city, engulphing the streets in an everpresent umbra.  From one side they gleamed with reflected light, but on the other they were dark and bare.  His eyes no longer fixed on their spires, Veelix now noticed the dank and dirty streets that lived in their perpetual shadow.  Smaller, decrepit buildings sat squeezed together, many too low to be in view of empty high rises.  Matoran shuffled by without speaking to each other, their hands sheilding their eyes when they stepped into a break in the shadows.  Some were emaculate, just passing through on their way to somewhere more important; others sat on the street corners, their eyes drifting as others strode by without a second glance.

 

Eri was still a city of promise, but this was not the promise of a better life: It was the promise of answers.  Veelix knew he needed access to the Turaga, but he was unsure how he would be able to get to them.  He could not simply walk into the citadel, and requesting a meeting was unlikely to work either.

 

As he walked, Matoran started giving him a wider berth, some of them whispering to each other as he passed them.  Realizing that he was attracting unwanted attention, he decided to get off the road until he could think of a plan.  Before he could do so, he noticed one Matoran was actually coming towards him, albeit uncertainly.  Soon Veelix recognized him as Ludin.

 

“Veelix?” he whispered.  “Is that you?”

 

“Of course it’s me,” Veelix said, slightly perplexed.  “Look, I need a place to hide for now.  Can I stay at your place?  No time to explain.”

 

Ludin hesitated at first, but then nodded and guided Veelix to his apartment.

 

“Is it true what they’ve been saying about you?” Ludin whispered as they moved briskly through the city streets.

 

“What have they been saying?” Veelix asked, curious that anyone would be saying anything about him.

 

“That you’d stolen state secrets, that you’d disappeared, that you were—,” he hesitated for a moment before continuing, “—a traitor.”

 

“Well I did disappear,” Veelix said.  “But I’m back now, and I need your help.”

 

Once inside, he offered Veelix a drink and then disappeared into another room.  Veelix realized that if Ludin was here he probably needed to return to the citadel to receive his next assignment.  That would be Veelix’s ticket inside.

 

A window slammed shut, and Ludin returned with a glass of water, which he handed to Veelix, his hands trembling. 

 

“What happened to you?” Ludin asked.

 

“I left the island,” Veelix explained.  “I took a boat to Metru Nui, where I stayed for a while, but now I’m back, and I need you to do something for me.”  He quickly explained his plan to Ludin, who eyed him skeptically.

 

“What do you hope to gain from interrogating the Turaga?” he asked.  “I know you were having trouble finding something to do with your life, but do you think stirring up trouble like this is the best way to go about it?”

 

“This is about something greater than me,” Veelix explained.  “Once this island was the greatest in the universe, rivaled only by Metru Nui.  I’m talking about restoring prosperity for all Matoran, not just for me.”

 

“Our lives have been just fine,” Ludin said.  “Perhaps we haven’t had the same technological breakthroughs as Metru Nui, but our lives are stable and safe.  We have no wars, no famine, no need.  Everyone except you has all they could want.”

 

“Open your eyes!” Veelix said forcefully, standing now.  “Half the Matoran live in palaces and the other half live in poverty.  Just look at Ga-Kia, where you can see the contrast in a single kia!  How can that be fair?  How can that be what Mata Nui wants?”

 

“No, you open your eyes,” Ludin said angrily, also rising from his seat.  “In 90,000 years you are the only Matoran to make any such claim that something is wrong.”

 

“There was another,” Veelix shot back, recalling a text he had perused in Ga-Kia’s library.  “A Turaga from Ko-Kia who opposed the Unified Government and was exiled because of it.”

 

“He was exiled because his power grab failed!” Ludin shouted.  “You’re always poking around where you shouldn’t be, questioning everything that everyone takes for granted, about Mata Nui, about the Old Government, about our history, and maybe everyone else is right: The truth is exactly what we thought it was all along.  Why can’t you be content with your life like everyone else?  I know you feel that you don’t have a place in the world, but you can’t go around inventing problems for yourself to solve!”

 

His words stung Veelix, leaving him without a response.  Before either Matoran could say another word, the door flew open with a gust of wind, a tall emerald and silver Toa standing in the doorway, brandishing an ornate spear.  Wordlessly he walked over to Veelix and bound his hands.

 

“Let me go,” Veelix demanded.  “How did you find me?”  The Toa did not reply, but Veelix found the answer in Ludin’s expression.

 

“I’m sorry,” Ludin said.  “My first duty is to the state.”

 

“How could you do this to me,” Veelix asked, incredulous.  “I thought we were friends.”

 

“We were,” Ludin replied.  “But you lost that trust when you betrayed Kia Nui.”

 

“I didn’t betray Kia Nui; I’m trying to save it!”

 

“Betraying or saving?” Ludin muttered.  “We have governments for a reason Veelix, and that was never your distinction to make.  You’re asking me to trust you over the Turaga.”

 

“I never thought our friendship was worth so little to you,” Veelix said.

 

“And I never thought your country was worth so little to you,” Ludin replied. 

 

Veelix was unable to respond as the Toa turned him around and shoved him out the door.

 

 

Of all the places Veelix expected to be taken, the last was Arconis’ chamber.  The irony of the situation struck him, though whether he would be leaving on his own terms was unclear.

 

The Turaga was seated at his desk fiddling the ring on his right hand and shaking his head as Veelix sat down.  “What am I to do with you, Veelix?” he asked.  “First you defy my friend, the Turaga of Onu-Kia, then twice you flee from the Toa assigned to protect you, and finally you disappear entirely from the island.  Would you like to explain yourself?”

 

Although he had imagined himself bravely confronting Arconis, he now sat in silence unsure of what to say.  The Turaga was perhaps the most powerful being on the island, but he looked weary and frail as the dim lights behind his mask eyed Veelix.  He could not quite place the Turaga’s expression, which seemed to be a cross between disappointment and fatigue.

 

“What did you learn that convinced you to leave?” Arconis asked.  “How much do you know about our island’s history?”

 

“I know that the records in Onu-Kia are incomplete,” Veelix said hesitantly.  “I think you knew that would be the case, yet you sent me there anyway.”

 

“Are you suggesting that this inadequacy was intentional?” the Turaga asked, his tone and expression neutral, betraying nothing.

 

“I am suggesting that you knew there was history missing,” Veelix said carefully.  “I think you knew I would discover this.”

 

“Then why would I make you the Chronicler?” Arconis asked.  “What would that accomplish?”

 

Veelix had no idea how to respond and found himself wondering the same thing.  If Arconis knew that the archives were incomplete, why did he make Veelix the Chronicler?  He knew full well that the records incomplete, but if that were intentional, he could not have wanted Veelix to fill in the gaps.

 

“What happened after you left Onu-Kia?” Arconis asked.  “I am told you arrived safely in Ga-Kia.  What did you hope to accomplish there?”

 

“I thought I might find something that was missing from Onu-Kia.  Perhaps there were records or documents in that library that I could have access to that were unavailable to me before.  But of course, there was nothing.”

 

“What did you expect to find?” Arconis asked.

 

“There are numerous time periods in which I could find no recorded history,” Veelix said.  “The Scorched Desert War was missing from most documents.  There were passing references to the ‘inhabitants of the north,’ but nothing identifying them specifically.  Fe-Kia did not exist until 20,000 AF, but the settlement was controlled by Onu-Kia for years before that, yet there are no records of the split.”

 

Arconis sighed.  “The Scorched Desert War was kept quiet because it was a sad time in our history that all but a few who harbored old hatreds wished to discuss.  The ‘inhabitants of the north’ you speak of were simply Matoran already living there.  The division of Fe-Kia and Onu-Kia was merely a political separation that in all but name already existed, making it unworthy of the history books.  Are you satisfied?”

 

Veelix was surprised how quickly Arconis was able to rebut his claims, as if he had been anticipating them.  “That still doesn’t account for the fact that there is no recorded history after the establishment of the Unified Government.”

 

“There has not been a Chronicler since then,” Arconis replied.

 

“But there was a Chronicler before then,” Veelix replied.  “What happened to him?  Why did you wait so long before appointing another one?  And of course there are the historians in Onu-Kia who could have recorded it.”  Veelix was starting to break through Arconis’ calm denial.  He was right, for the pieces did not fit together unless the Turaga was hiding something.

 

“We had no need of a Chronicler,” Arconis replied, still weary but unshaken.  “There have been no wars, no major discoveries, no further exploration of the island.  Kia Nui is stable and its people are cared for; that is all anyone needs to know.”

 

“What about the people of Ga-Kia?” Veelix asked.  “Who cares for them?”

 

“They have the same opportunities as everyone else,” Arconis said.  “Those who work the hardest are allowed into the university, and the rest provide vital roles for the community.”

 

“We both know that is not true,” Veelix said.  “Half the population has everything it desires, while the other half starves and works in filth.”

 

“That is not my fault,” Arconis said.  “Ga-Kia is responsible for its own citizens, and not everyone can have the same standard of living.”

 

“Aren’t they your citizens as well?”

 

“The government is here to promote stability not equality in all matters, especially economic ones,” Arconis replied.

 

“But the Matoran of Metru Nui all live comfortably,” Veelix said.  “There is no poverty there.”

 

“Metru Nui,” Arconis sighed.  “Is that where you disappeared to?”

 

“They were our equal until the Unified Government came to power,” Veelix continued.  “Why have they continued to progress while we have not?”

 

“Both our islands have been prosperous,” Arconis said.  “They have suffered strife beyond ours in the name of progress while our land is stable and orderly.”

 

“I find the current history rather suspicious,” Veelix countered.  “Perhaps you can explain it to me.  First the Matoran Civil War occurs.  Then the Unified Government comes to power and cuts off trade with Metru Nui.  Five hundred years later the war is over and Metru Nui has entered a golden age while we had not shown any advancement whatsoever.  Metru Nui has Vahki, airships, and Chutes while our civilization looks exactly like it did when the Unified Government took power.  Why is that so?”

 

“I ask you to consider what the purpose of the Unified Government is,” Arconis replied.  “This government exists to ensure the basic safety and well being of its citizens.  Its purpose is to ensure equal protection under the laws for all its citizens so that they can be the engines of progress. A government that attempts to create that same prosperity invites its own destruction, as did the Old Government, which bankrupted itself trying to keep up with our northern neighbor.  In contrast, Metru Nui may look grand to you, but there is no poverty because there is no personal freedom.  They have no right to wealth or private property.  Instead of incentives to do well they face punishment for failure, for the Vahki watch their every move.  If an effective Turaga leads, they prosper; otherwise, they do not.  That requires a lot of trust in the government, one that our citizens have rarely displayed.”

 

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Veelix said with more confidence now.  “If the Unified Government did nothing, why does its establishment coincide with end of recorded history?”

 

“Are you suggesting that this government has somehow intentionally censored history?” Arconis asked.  “Yes, we broke our ties with Metru Nui, but it was the right thing to do.  How could we trade with people who were killing each other over a pointless squabble?  It was becoming clear that their ideology was not one we wished to see take hold here.”

 

“Forget about Metru Nui and the history books for a moment,” Veelix said, seeing that this line of reasoning was going nowhere.  “Why have the Matoran seen nothing but stagnation on your watch?”

 

“I have maintained peace and order for nearly 70,000 years,” Arconis snapped, anger now cracking his calm visage.  “I have protected them from foreign enemies.  I have stamped out political corruption.  My government has averted the fiscal catastrophe brought on by the previous one.  The Old Government was not responsible for this island’s greatness, and the Unified Government is not responsible for this lack of progress that you continue to accuse me of causing.”

 

The Matoran and Turaga stared at each other for a moment in a silence.  Veelix was surprised how forcefully Arconis had made his point, yet although the Turaga seemed convinced by his own logic, Veelix knew that there was something missing.  Arconis may not have admitted it, but Veelix knew the Unified Government was responsible for the island’s current situation.  He simply needed to find proof.

 

Finally Arconis spoke.  “We are done here.  It is time for you to return home.”

 

 

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#14 Offline Exitium

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Posted Jun 14 2014 - 06:46 PM

Chapter 14

The Outcast

 

Veelix was promptly escorted out of the citadel and left to his own devices.  Arconis had instructed him to return to Ta-Kia, but Veelix had no intention of giving up so easily.  His conversation with Ludin had sparked a memory of a Turaga in Ko-Kia who had fallen out of favor with the Unified Government tens of thousands of years ago in what Ludin had called a “power grab.”  It was not a promising lead, but Veelix had little to go on.  He needed someone else who had knowledge of Arconis’s government and was willing to speak out against it, and if there was anyone on the island who might be able to help him, it would be this Turaga.

 

Worried that Titeria’s ship was being watched, Veelix decided to make the journey to Ko-Kia on foot instead.  After a lonely march for several days, he arrived at the base of Ko-Kia, staring up the massive mountain, bracing himself for the climb.  Its peaks were covered in frozen protodermis year-round, and the path was long and steep.  Ko-Matoran rarely traveled this path, for they preferred to remain in their towers at the mountain’s peak, isolated from the rest of the world.

 

Veelix reached the summit in the middle of the night, illuminated by the stars that he was now closer to than ever been before.  Ko-Kia itself was an impressive sight.  The buildings were ancient, perhaps not as old as those in Ta-Kia and Po-Kia, and grand despite their rigid and somber character.  The marble of tall, austere towers gleamed, and the walls cast long foreboding shadows in the light twinkling from the towers in the towers.

 

Veelix rapped the gate with his fist.  For a moment there was no response until a Ko-Matoran peered out from a window above him with an expression of both curiosity and mild but unveiled disgust, as if he were inspecting an insect under a microscope.  Veelix announced his intention to enter the city, and after a brief moment, the Matoran wordlessly disappeared and the gate opened just wide enough for Veelix to slip into the city.

 

Though the streets were dark, many of the towers imbedded in the icy wall that ringed the city were illuminated from within by the lightstones of philosophers and thinkers for whom the late hour was no impediment.  Snow covered the rooftops, yet the streets were carefully swept clear of all debris, a task clearly clearly performed with precision and borderline obsessive attention to detail.  Few Matoran were on the streets, and those that encountered Veelix paid him no mind or cast irritated glances at him as they passed.  At first Veelix was offended, believing he had confirmed the rumors of the legendary rudeness of the Ko-Matoran, yet judging by the same glances that they cast toward all they met, he suspected that this might just have been a traditional Ko-Matoran greeting. 

 

The temple stood out from the rest of the city, its front adorned with two massive rectangular towers and a tall marble door which stood open, allowing the cold night air to enter its halls.  Pausing briefly on the threshold, Veelix entered the temple, spotting a lone Matoran standing by the doors with a lightstone.  He ignored Veelix until the latter introduced himself. 

 

“We have always welcomed travelers, when they choose to visit,” the Matoran said, though welcoming was not the most apt description of this Matoran’s tone.  “All those who wish to find peace and salvation are welcome here.”

 

“Actually, I’m looking for the Turaga,” Veelix replied.

 

The other Matoran did not seem interested.  “It is late,” he said.  “Perhaps the Turaga can have an audience with you in the morning.”

 

“I am not referring to the city’s ruling Turaga,” Veelix clarified.  “I wish to see another.”

 

“The outcast?” the Ko-Matoran asked, surprise slipping into his tone.  Recovering from this accidental hint of emotion, he continued, “He has taken no visitors in tens of millennia.  I’m afraid your request is impossible.”

 

“Please,” Veelix pleaded.  “I have traveled a long way, and I need to meet with him to find the answers I am seeking.”

 

“Our city’s Turaga will more than suffice to address your concerns,” the Matoran said.  “He will be available in the morning.”

 

“It must be the outcast,” Veelix insisted flashing his badge.  “I have need of his historical perspective.”  Realizing that Veelix was not about to leave emptyhanded, the other Matoran relented.

 

“Very well, I shall take you to his chambers,” he said with some suspicion in his voice, “but I cannot guarantee that he will speak with you.”

 

Wordlessly the Matoran led Veelix up the west tower, past rooms filled with Matoran observing the stars or sitting in silent meditation, and up to the highest chamber.  The Matoran knocked on the door and waited.  For a moment there was no response until a raspy voice pierced the silence.

 

“I take no visitors,” the voice grumbled.  “Leave me.”

 

“I am the Chronicler,” Veelix said, not wanting his journey to have been in vain.  “Please, I wish to speak with you.”  There was no response.  “It’s about the Unified Government,” Veelix continued.  “I need to know why you left them.”

 

There was another long silence.  Veelix was about to speak again, when the Turaga finally said, “Leave me in peace.  I will not repeat myself again.”

 

“As I told you earlier, the Turaga is unavailable,” the Ko-Matoran said. 

 

“When do you think he’ll be available?” Veelix asked.

 

“Never,” the Matoran replied flatly.

 

“I suppose I’ll be on my way then,” Veelix said.

 

The Ko-Matoran hesitated for a moment before saying, “It would be unwise for you to travel while it is dark.  Ko-Matoran do not travel at night, for the mountain is haunted by the spirit of a Toa who long ago fell to his death on the slopes.”

 

Veelix continued down the stairs.  “I’ll take my chances with the ghost.”

 

“There is also a storm coming, and it would be unfortunate if some misfortune were to befall you.”

 

“Yes, that would be unfortunate,” Veelix replied, irritated that he had come all this way for nothing.

 

“Perhaps you could join us for the evening prayer while we prepare you a room,” the Ko-Matoran said.  He led Veelix to a room at the heart of the building that resembled Ta-Kia’s temple with its raised pit of sand and pillars covered in ancient writing.  There he found several Ko-Matoran and the city’s Turaga engaged in silent prayer.  A small number turned their heads to see who the visitor was, but otherwise none acknowledged his presence.

 

Veelix stopped in front of a Mata Nui stone that stood in the corner of the room.  It was oval in shape, about half his height, and carved with the customary shape somewhat reminiscent of the Mask of Shielding.  Veelix bowed his head as he considered the stone.

 

He recalled a sermon from Ta-Kia in which the Turaga explained that the Mask of Shielding was Mata Nui’s symbol because both served to protect.  Veelix always thought that protection was one aspect of Mata Nui that troubled him the most.  Mata Nui guided the Matoran, provided them with virtues, and taught right from wrong, but Veelix could not determine what it was that Mata Nui protected them from.

 

Keller had told Veelix that the answer was evil, yet he found this explanation unsatisfactory, for by his estimation there was plenty of evil that Mata Nui had not protected him from.  The Turaga preached that Mata Nui was all-powerful and perfectly good.  As Veelix examined the statue in front of him, he encountered a paradox.  An omnibenevolent being would wish to protect his people from evil if he had the power; an omnipotent being would have the power to do whatever he wished.  And yet Arconis distrusted him, Ludin had turned on him, and Keller was dead; there was still evil in the universe.

 

So is Mata Nui not all-powerful or is he not all good? Veelix asked himself.  He was not sure which scenario worried him more.  Perhaps Mata Nui is not all-powerfulPerhaps he cannot protect us from all evil.  Or perhaps he can, but chooses not to.  But why?

 

Veelix raised his gaze and looked around the room at the Matoran silently gathered in prayer.  If he asked how many of them believed Mata Nui was all-powerful and perfectly good, he had no doubt they would all agree.  What did they know that he did not?  Or did he know something they did not?

 

What is more likely, that you are deluded or that everyone else is deluded? Veelix asked himself.  It was a question that had been increasingly on his mind since he had become the Chronicler.

 

Suddenly uncomfortable, Veelix left the room as quietly as possible, walking quickly down the hallway and ducking into a nearby room.  It appeared to be an individual prayer room adorned merely with an ancient statue of what Veelix assumed was Mata Nui.  This statue dominated the room, easily as tall as a Toa, if not taller, its arms fully extended out to its sides and raised slightly above its shoulders.  Statues of Mata Nui as a physical being were rare, often considered heretical by Matoran who believed that Mata Nui was a spirit who transcended physical form.  Even Veelix found himself slightly shocked by its appearance.

 

“What are you doing?” demanded a voice behind him.  Veelix turned to find his Ko-Matoran guide standing in the doorway.  “You are not to wander about.  Return to the prayer room until your room is ready for you.”

 

“I find that room stifling,” Veelix replied.  “I’d much rather be alone.”

 

“You have my sympathies,” the Ko-Matoran replied curtly.  “However, I must ask you to return to the prayer room.”

 

Veelix sighed as looked again at the statue before asking, “Is Mata Nui all-powerful?”

 

“Naturally,” the Matoran replied, betraying a hint of surprise.

 

“And he is entirely good as well.”

 

The Ko-Matoran frowned.  “You are not the first to notice the problem of evil.  Many more versed than you in the ancient writings have studied it, and all have concluded that Mata Nui and what appears to be evil are not mutually exclusive.  The problem is merely an illusion.”

 

Veelix expected the Matoran to continue, but when he did not, Veelix asked, “How can an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being allow evil in the world?”

 

“Evil is not Mata Nui’s doing,” the Ko-Matoran replied.  “The Great Beings gave us free will and Mata Nui to guide us and show us what goodness is.  Those who embrace Mata Nui do good; those who do not create evil.”

 

Veelix pondered for a moment before clarifying, “So Mata Nui would rather allow suffering at the hands of our fellow beings than prevent it?”  The Ko-Matoran merely scowled at him.  “It would seem to me you are suggesting that Mata Nui is not entirely good.”

 

“What do you know of good and evil?”  The Ko-Matoran shook his head.  “Evil is temporal,” he explained.  “Suffering vanishes when a Matoran becomes one with Mata Nui.  Mata Nui believes that the only way to true benevolence is to ensure that Matoran choose his path freely.”

 

“What about evils not caused by our fellow Matoran or even other beings in this universe?” Veelix asked.  “What of natural disasters and other calamities?  How do you explain those?”

 

“It is arrogant to presume that we can understand all of Mata Nui’s works.”

 

“That’s a weak defense,” Veelix replied.

 

“I wasn’t finished,” the Ko-Matoran continued.  “Perhaps Mata Nui decides it is time to punish us.  Perhaps he decides some should end their worldly lives and ascend to become one with him.  Or perhaps he sends us these calamities to test us, so that we may better understand and appreciate the life he wants us to live, for what is good if there is no evil?  Do you think it is Mata Nui’s obligation to explain his rationale to you?” 

 

The last question was particularly pointed.  Veelix took a deep breath and tried a different approach.  “Wouldn’t it be simpler to suggest that perhaps these occurrences are random?  Then there would be no need for a moral justification for seemingly immoral acts.”

 

“Are you suggesting that there is no Mata Nui?” the Ko-Matoran asked.

 

“I didn’t say that,” Veelix said angrily.

 

“But you’ve been suggesting it the entire time,” the Ko-Matoran whispered, his voice cold.  “Perhaps you do not wish to be beholden to a power greater than yourself.  Perhaps you are a rebel who takes pleasure in defying the establishment.  Is that not a simpler explanation for your belief in such nonsense?  Your motivations do not matter to me, but I will not allow you to continue spewing heresy in this sacred space.”

 

“And why not?” Veelix asked.  “Are you afraid someone might challenge your beliefs and prove that your sacred truths have more contradictions than you would like to admit?  What makes you so sure—”

 

The Ko-Matoran’s eyes suddenly widened and he cut off Veelix with whisper: “Turaga!”

 

Veelix turned to see a decrepit figure, bowed low with age, standing behind him.  The Turaga’s thin and worn arms clutched a simple wooden cane, and his limbs were covered in dust.  A pair of pale blue eyes peered out from behind a noble Mask of Mind Control, drifting from Veelix to the Ko-Matoran next to him.  There was no doubt he was the outcast Veelix had come for.  After a long silence, the Turaga spoke, talking slowly and carefully as if each word caused him great pain.

 

“If you are debating the existence of Mata Nui, then you have missed the point entirely.”

 

Both Matoran were stunned.  The Turaga turned to leave, but halted when the Ko-Matoran began to say, “You came all the way from your tower for the first time in millennia just to say that?”

 

“You have both come much farther to say far less,” the Turaga replied.  “The problem of evil, the existence of Mata Nui—perhaps these are important questions, but your answers leave much to be desired.  What would it mean to say that Mata Nui is but a fiction?  Would that suggest the Three Virtues have no meaning, or can they still be embraced all the same by one who does not believe?  What does it truly mean to be good or evil?  Are they as clearly distinguished as you both appear to believe?”  Turning slowly to Veelix, he continued, “I cannot help you with what you seek, for you will not find it here.  Your quest may lead you to the truth, but perhaps it is not the truth you are looking for.”  He then turned and left the room, returning to his tower.

 

The two Matoran stood in silence for a moment before the Ko-Matoran whispered, “I think you should leave.”

 

“I think you may be right,” Veelix whispered and exited the temple as quickly as possible without running.

 

Veelix emerged from the temple into the frigid night.  He knew he should remain in Ko-Kia until morning, but he also knew that the Turaga was right, and that there was nothing here that would help him.  That thought kept him warm as he foolishly headed out into the darkness, forgetting the Matoran’s warning that a storm was coming.

 

A Ko-Matoran tried to stop him at the gates, shouting a warning of the ghost that haunted the mountain.  Not believing such superstitions, Veelix continued onward out of the city gates, making his way well beyond the city walls when the wind picked up and he could barely see his hands in front of his mask. 

 

Without warning, Veelix felt the ground beneath him disappear.  Though he had not realized it, he had wandered too far from the path and reached the edge of the cliff.  With a scream he fell from the cliff, tumbling into the darkness below.  

 

 

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#15 Offline Exitium

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Posted Jul 02 2014 - 11:16 PM

Chapter 15

The Stranger

 

The snow subsided as Veelix lay in a snowdrift, unable to move.  Most of his body was buried in the snow, and he could see nothing around him but an endless white landscape.  He was unable to feel anything below his waist and cried out in pain when he tried to move his arm.

 

The pace of his breathing quickened as panic set in.  He thought he saw light gleam off the armor of a lone figure in the distance blending in with the snow, but he figured it must have been his immagination.  In desperation he cried out, and at first it appeared to ignore him before slowly coming towards him.  Remembering the stories of the mountain’s ghost, he quickly found himself wondering if his situation had gone from bad to worse.  Moments ago he would have derided the notion as superstition, yet here he was, helpless, as an unknown being came towards him on a haunted mountain in the dead of night.

 

At first Veelix thought it was a Toa.  It was clad in black and silver armor and wore a fearsome mask that Veelix did not recognize.  As the figure’s approach brought it nearer, Veelix saw that it was wearing a tattered black cloak and carrying a wicked-looking spear in its right hand.  He was no longer sure that it was a Toa, for it stood at least a head taller than most Toa, and its armor concealed a far more powerful frame than any Toa Veelix had ever seen.

 

It stopped in front of Veelix and peered down at him with flashing orange eyes.  As their eyes locked, Veelix felt an unfamiliar presence press against his mind, but it was gone just as quickly as it had arrived.  The strange mind had touched his for only an instant, but Veelix was instantly aware of its age, melancholy, and darkness, yet it hid a flicker of light on the verge of fading entirely.  While the two minds were in contact, Veelix thought he felt the weight of the universe crushing him, and he was relieved when his thoughts were his again own.

 

There the figure stood for several moments before leaning down and placing its hand over Veelix’s chest.  The figure’s mask glowed with a soft white light, and Veelix felt strength returning to his limbs.  He crawled to his feet to find his savior turning and walking away.

 

“Wait!” he called out.  The being stopped but did not turn.  “Who are you?”

 

“I have been called many things,” the being said, his baritone voice echoing in the darkness.  “I have borne many titles and am the subjects of many myths.  However you may call me ‘the stranger.’”

 

“Why did you save me?” Veelix asked as the stranger turned toward the Matoran but came no closer.

 

“I sensed your presence as you fell from the mountain,” the stranger answered.  “It costs me little to save a life, and…” his voice trailed off for a moment, before he continued softly, “there is something about your mind that intrigued me.”

 

Veelix shivered as he heard this.  “What would that be?”

 

“You are on a journey,” said the stranger.  “It has taken you across this island in search of its secrets.  Once I walked these lands as you now do, but circumstances have forced me into hiding.  By aiding you, perhaps I can help achieve what I cannot do alone.”

 

“So you know,” Veelix muttered.

 

“I have witnessed the fall of this island from greatness,” the stranger replied.  “I began visiting this island when it was young, and I have been tasked as its guardian since the year the Matoran call 20,900 AF.”

 

“Then you can help me,” Veelix said with excitement.  “You can tell me why things have stagnated since the Unified Government came to power.”

 

“It began with establishment of this new government,” the stranger replied.  “On the surface, the old system was collapsing.  The Old Government was in debt, the old political factions were at each other’s throats, and tensions between the kia were high.  Those in power knew their rule was fragile, and the Matoran Civil War was its undoing.”

 

“I don’t understand how the Matoran Civil War had anything to do with what happened here,” Veelix interrupted. 

 

“The Ta-Matoran and Po-Matoran started Metru Nui’s war,” the stranger began.  “They also fought each other thousands of years before on Kia Nui.  That event is known to history as the Scorched Desert War.”

 

“So there was concern that somehow the Civil War would spread to Kia Nui?” Veelix asked.

 

The stranger nodded.  “Abandoning Metru Nui was supposed to keep the Matoran from war.  It also cut the island off from its main trading partner, and Kia Nui was never as prosperous as it once was.”

 

“So why did the Grand Council never reestablish ties with Metru Nui?  The war has been over for thousands of years.”

 

“In theory, once Metru Nui was stable, trade with them could resume,” the stranger said.  “As you have observed, that never happened.  This island has had no contact with any of its former allies: no Toa teams, not the Brotherhood of Makuta, and not Metru Nui.”

 

“What does Kia Nui stand to gain from this isolation?” Veelix asked.  “And what does that have to do with its stagnation?”

 

“Perhaps the war and civil discord were only superficial reasons for the new political reality,” the stranger suggested.  “The real impetus for the new order is far more sinister.  Under the Old Government, power was decentralized by design; however, the Unified Government controls all lawmaking, all law enforcement, and the governments of the various kia.”

 

“Are you saying that the Grand Council created the Unified Government to consolidate its power?” Veelix asked, shocked by what this stranger was suggesting.

 

The stranger nodded gravely.  “Whether intended or not, that reality was indeed the outcome.  Furthermore, the power of that chamber is wielded by a single being, the leader of Kia Nui himself.  He has always ruled the Grand Council with an iron fist, and even his rivals fear opposing his wishes.”

 

Although the stranger’s claims seemed logical, Veelix struggled to imagine how this consolidation of power was linked to Kia Nui’s decline.  “If Arconis went to such lengths to acquire this power, why doesn’t he use it?” Veelix asked.

 

“That I cannot say,” the stranger said.  “But though they may deny it, the Turaga are behind this plot.  Perhaps they believe they are doing what is right, yet they will invite their own destruction.”  The stranger turned again and began to walk away.  The storm began to pick up.

 

“Wait!” Veelix called again, wondering if the stranger could hear him over the howling of the wind.  “There must be more you can tell me!  How can you be so sure the Turaga are to blame?”

 

Return to the archives in Onu-Kia.  The stranger’s voice reverberated in Veelix’s mind.  There you will find the answers you seek.  With that, the weight of the stranger’s mind vanished, and he disappeared into the darkness.  Veelix called out to him again, but there was no response.

 

 

Veelix had intended to return to Onu-Kia under cover of darkness, but there was no need.  It was always dark in Onu-Kia, yet the din of mining never ceased to echo in its halls.  There were no guards in the museums, for it had been millennia since anyone would have dared rob them, and so few Matoran even bothered to visit anymore.  Why pay Matoran to stand outside ancient relics when they could be put to better use in the mines?

 

Despite the lack of security, there was one door which Veelix was forbidden to enter.  Behind it was undoubtedly a vast library of documents hiding whatever it was that Veelix was not supposed to know.  When Veelix had asked the director if he had ever considered going inside, the Onu-Matoran replied that he was too old to chase secrets.

 

Predictably, the door was locked, although there did not appear to be any other defensive mechanisms in place.  Veelix pushed against the door hoping it would move, but it did not give way.  He threw his weight against the door, only to be met with similar results.  Having come too far to quit now, he continued his attempts to knock down the door until he collapsed.  The door did not budge.

 

Veelix gingerly stood up and prepared to try again when he heard someone call his name.  He turned around to find the director of the museum looking somewhat shocked to see him.  Veelix said nothing as he tried to think of an excuse, wondering if the old Matoran would turn him in.

 

“What are you doing?” the Onu-Matoran asked under his breath.  “You leave without warning, vanish entirely from the island, and then return trying to break into the secret records.  What has come over you?”

 

Veelix was rehearsing a lie in his head, but instead he tried to appeal to the Turaga’s sympathies as a historian.  “We both know that the records are incomplete.  As a student of history, how can you walk these halls for millennia and not wonder what is behind these doors?  Imagine the knowledge we could gain.”

 

The director shook his head.  “That is knowledge we are not meant to know.  My predecessors and colleagues wanted to know what was back there.  They went looking for secrets, and now that era too is in the past.”

 

“Turaga Arconis told me that knowledge is power,” Veelix said.  “There is knowledge there that could help us understand why Kia Nui is no longer as prominent as it once was.  We can discover why the only nation to defeat the Barraki has fallen to stagnation and poverty.”

 

“I don’t want to know the truth,” the director replied.  “What is back there is not for us to know, and for good reason.  When you cannot change the past, sometimes we are better off ignorant of the truth.”

 

“The past may not change, but the future can,” Veelix replied.  “You may have forgotten, but it is the power of the truth to change the future that led you to become a historian long ago.”  Veelix was bluffing now, but he had no other choice.  “That same need to find the answers to the past’s secrets is what drives me now.  Please, open the door.  It’s time we know the truth, for the sake of everyone on this island we call home.” 

 

At first the director did nothing.  Then he quietly removed a key from his belt and handed it to Veelix.  He put it in the door and turned it until he heard it click.  The door rumbled open, and Kia Nui’s secrets were free at last.

 

Veelix expected the director to follow him in, but the Matoran simply stood motionless at the threshold.  The Chronicler urged him to follow, but he shook his head.

 

“You are right, Veelix,” he replied.  “I have forgotten why I came to this place.  I am a Matoran of history, and I have found myself trapped in the past, unable to change.  But you are a Matoran of the future.  This is your journey now.”  He removed the key from the lock and departed back into the recesses of the museum, leaving the door ajar.

 

Veelix retrieved a lightstone to illuminate the dark room, revealing shelves full of books that were presumably once available in the archives.  Doubting that he would find any chronicles of the Unified Government’s history, he instead examined the titles of the books for clues.  There were several about the Old Government, more than one about the Scorched Desert War, and many about foreign lands, especially Metru Nui.  He stopped when he came across a book with the words “Kia Nui Index of Deaths” written in plain letters on the cover.  Intrigued, he lowered the book down from its shelf and looked for somewhere to read it.  As these books were clearly never meant to be read again, there were no tables, so Veelix sat down on the floor with his back against the shelf and began to read.  Part of him wondered why these books had survived at all, though he did not dwell long on these fortunate circumstances.

 

The book contained a complete record of every Toa, Matoran, and Turaga that had died in Kia Nui during its long history.  Each entry contained the date the Matoran arrived on the island, the date of death, as well as the cause of death.  Veelix was unsure who had been maintaining this record, but he doubted it was one of the Onu-Matoran who worked in the museum, for it continued to be updated even after these tomes had been deemed too dangerous for even the historians to read.  Although most of the deaths listed occured about during Kia Nui’s wars, there was a collection of deaths after the establishment of the Unified Government as well, mostly from natural disasters and other accidents.  Veelix flipped to the back of the book and was surprised to find Keller’s name written in the last entry.

 

Having not discovered anything particularly noteworthy, Veelix pushed the book aside and found another that chronicled Toa activity.  Flipping through the pages, he scanned the reports without much enthusiasm until he reached the year of the establishment of the Unified Government.  The follow reports mostly dealt with Toa reacting to natural disasters, such as protecting Matoran from hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, and the like. 

 

One report caught Veelix’ eye, one with the words “TOP SECRET” scrawled along the top.  The report concerned a mine collapse in Fe-Kia that claimed the lives of seven Matoran.  Intrigue turned to shock as Veelix read words that he could not believe were true:

 

Approximately four days before the operation, a lone Matoran miner discovered the existence of a vast lightstone deposit several hundred bio north of the current largest supply.  Preliminary reports suggested that this mine would provide enough lightstones to satisfy current consumption rates for the next fifty millennia.  Excavating said lightstones is estimated to take approximately 340 years.  A team of four Toa of Earth was dispatched to collapse the mine, inadvertently killing seven Matoran in the process.  The Matoran who discovered the mine was incapacitated and captured for questioning.  The Toa suffered no causalities and departed before any other Matoran arrived on the scene.  There are not believed to be any witnesses.

 

Veelix put the record down in shock.  Somehow the Toa, those sworn to protect the Matoran, whom he had admired, had carelessly killed seven Matoran and intentionally kidnapped another. 

 

And for what? he thought.  A lightstone mine?  Why would anyone want to destroy the biggest lightstone deposit on the island when the combined efforts of the Onu-Matoran and Fe-Matoran could barely produce enough to meet demand?

 

Veelix turned to the Index of Deaths and looked up the seven Matoran killed in the collapse.  Each had “mining accident” listed as the cause of death.  Suspicion gnawed at the back of Veelix’s mind, and he flipped back through the registry to examine the deaths of other Matoran killed in natural disasters and accidents.  Almost all of them corresponded to a Toa mission to deal with the same disaster, and in each case, the Toa arrived on the scene remarkably quickly, usually in time to save all but one Matoran.  In fact, the only element that the reports shared was that most of them resulted in a single death.

 

However, the reports changed after the mining collapse.  Most entries were listed as “Missing—presumed dead” followed by the date on which the Matoran disappeared.  The list of Toa missions still recorded Toa responding to natural disasters, but there was neither a single death nor any relation to the missing Matoran.

 

Perplexed, Veelix searched for clues about the missing Matoran.  Without much history to go on, he thought he had reached a dead end when he stumbled upon transcripts of the Unified Government’s Labor Committee.  Using that information, he determined that the commonality among the missing Matoran was that they had all been transferred to a different kia just before their respective disappearances.  There was now a thread that tied the Turaga to this conspiracy.

 

Looking into the biography of one of the Le-Matoran who had disappeared, he discovered that he had been mentioned in the reports.  Veelix found the report and learned that this same Matoran had learned of a way to create a stable tube of liquid protodermis that resembled Metru Nui’s chute system.  Two Toa, one of water and another of magnetism, had been dispatched to sabotage the invention on the orders of the Grand Council the day after the Le-Matoran was summoned to Eri to be reassigned to Ga-Kia.  He had then vanished, never to be seen again.

 

Veelix had long been suspicious of Kia Nui’s lack of progress in sciences and the arts, but he never suspected that there was an organized conspiracy behind it, especially one that involved the Toa in addition to the Turaga.  Despite mounting evidence demonstrating that the Toa were involved in disspearance of Matoran and holding back their advances, he found no hint of motive.  Nothing tied together their missions or the Matoran that disappeared on them, although it was clear that the Turaga were involved in some, but not all, cases.  But that discovery shed no light on who was coordinating these actions and what they stood to gain.

 

Despite these missing links, Veelix felt something he could not remember feeling in a long time.  He had finally stumbled upon the answers he was looking for, and he had finally proven that in the wake of the Unified Government someone was trying to sabotage Kia Nui’s place as one of the greatest islands in the universe.  Yet instead of triumph, Veelix felt only rage fill the gap that his hunger to solve this mystery once filled.

 

He could hardly contain his anger at the thought that the Toa that he had looked up to for so long would stoop as low as murdering Matoran and then covering up the murders as natural disasters and accidents.  The records might have never admitted to any intentional death, but it was clear that the Toa had been manipulating the Matoran for thousands of years, holding them back from progress for reasons Veelix could not fathom.  Although he did not know why the Toa had behaved so reprehensively, he no longer cared.  Now was the time for action.

 

Despite the strength of his conviction, he could still hear a small voice whispering harshly in his ear, asking the familiar question, “What is more likely, that everyone around you is deluded or that you alone are?”  Indeed, part of him even now, armed with all of this evidence, wondered how he, a mere Matoran could accuse the Toa of a plot that seemed inconceivable, yet his determination now rose up and swept aside those doubts.

 

As quickly as he could, Veelix related all that he had learned into his recorder, including entire sections verbatim from the books he had uncovered.  He tore out the map of the Fe-Matoran mines to take with him, and quietly left the forbidden room.  Veelix could have spent years reading all of Kia Nui’s secrets, but now he was propelled towards a new goal.

 

As he left the museum complex, he considered what to do with the information he had learned.  Should he tell the Turaga?  They almost certainly already knew, or worse condoned the Toa’s actions.  Obviously the Toa already knew, for their corruption ran deep, which left just the Matoran.  He decided to set out for Fe-Kia, for it was there where anger witg the mining collapse was most likely to resonate.

 

Assuming Veelix could convince enough Matoran to believe his story, what then?  How could mere Matoran stand up to Toa?  They had numbers, perhaps, but no other advantage.  But it was not the practical problem of taking on an organization as powerful as the Toa that held him back.  These were their guardians after all, the champions of righteousness who served Mata Nui and had protected the Matoran since the beginning of time.  Only the thought of their crimes, unknown to all Matoran but him, and the need for justice for those slain Matoran reminded him that the Toa were not worthy of this reverence.  As he left Onu-Kia, he turned east and headed for Fe-Kia, formulating a plan as he entered another set of dimly lit tunnels. 

 

Veelix decided that his only course of action was to expose the Toa’s plot.  With the abandoned lightstone mine and the trove of documents to back him up, perhaps someone would believe him.  All he had to do was find it.

 

As he entered the tunnels of Fe-Kia, he could hear the clang of machinery in the background, reminding him of the countless hours he spent at the forges of Ta-Kia.  He smiled to himself as he realized that for the first time he could remember, he felt confident that what he was doing was right.

 

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#16 Offline Exitium

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Posted Aug 06 2014 - 07:52 PM

Chapter 16

Insurrection

 

Fe-Kia was not an inviting place.  The din of mining punctuated only by the occasional blare of the ordnance testing siren did not encourage Matoran to linger in its halls.  The Fe-Matoran were always busying trying to provide enough lightstones, protodermis, and other raw materials for the island, but whenever a traveler happened to pass through, they never failed to recount the legend that brought a smile to the mask of every Fe-Matoran.

 

Every Fe-Matoran knew of the Cavern of the Sun, a vast cave said to be filled with so many lightstones that the walls glowed like the first light of dawn.  Legends said that when the Matoran discovered this cavern, it would be Mata Nui’s sign to his people that he would return and their labors would cease.  The legend was so pervasive that Veelix had come across it numerous times during his research in Onu-Kia, and while different versions existed, all carried the same message of hope for a brighter future.

 

Veelix had no idea if the Toa who collapsed the lightstone mine were familiar with the legend of the Cavern of the Sun, but if so, it only made their collapse of the vast lightstone deposit even more peculiar.  The Fe-Matoran had labored in these caverns for millennia, and the discovery would not only validate the legend but also provide lightstones that the entire island needed.

 

Following the map he had removed from the book in Onu-Kia, Veelix came to the tunnel that led supposedly to the cavern.  Most of the city was located in the mountains above the mines, but the entrance to the cavern was inside the network of mineshafts that burrowed well below the surface of the city.  As expected, the tunnel was collapsed, with boulders larger than Matoran blocking his way.  Veelix then realized that he had no idea how he was actually going to reach the cavern.

 

“Hey!”  Veelix jumped at the voice and turned around to see a Fe-Matoran foreman standing behind him.  “This is a restricted area!  What are you doing here?” the Matoran demanded.

 

“I’m trying to get to the other side,” Veelix said calmly.  The other Matoran eyed him suspiciously.

 

“This is a dead end,” he said.  “This tunnel’s been collapsed for thousands of years.”

 

“There must be another way around,” Veelix implored.  “Is there another passage that leads to the other side?”

 

“Has all the heat from the forge gone to your head, fire-spitter?” the Matoran barked.  “I told you, this area is off limits.  There was a cave-in that killed a few Matoran some years back, but there’s nothing back there anyhow.”

 

Seeing that this conversation was going nowhere, Veelix decided to make his point.  “The Cavern of the Sun is back there,” he said flatly.

 

“Right, and Mata Nui and the Barraki just opened up a café down the road,” the foreman replied.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  The cavern is just a myth.”

 

“It’s not a myth,” Veelix replied, producing the map he had taken from Onu-Kia.  “I know where it is too.”

 

That got the foreman’s attention.  The Fe-Matoran looked at the map for a moment, but returned it to Veelix, shaking his head.  “There’s no way I can believe you,” he said.  “I’ve been working in these mines for thousands of years, and I can tell you that there is no Cavern of the Sun.  It’s a story used to keep the miners’ spirits up, nothing more.  I can’t help you.”

 

“Why not?” Veelix asked.  “I bet you’ve never been anywhere near this tunnel.  You were so frightened by the first accident that you decided not to risk another.”  Veelix was bluffing, but the Fe-Matoran’s expression suggested that he was right on the mark.  “What does it cost you to help me?  If it truly is a dead end, then you’ve lost a day of work and life goes on, but you’ll never know the truth if you give up now.”

 

The Fe-Matoran was quiet for a moment.  “Where did you get this information?’ he asked. 

 

Veelix briefly explained the origin of the map, leaving out the Toa’s betyral, which he feared might further strain his own credibility.  He produced his badge to back up the story, watched the eyes of the other Matoran as he spoke.  Veelix wondered if he had once believed in the Cavern of the Sun but had long since abandoned such notions as relics of his younger days. 

 

“I believe we can go around this tunnel,” the foreman said slowly.  “If we dig carefully, and go through here, we should reach the location marked on the map in a few hours.  I’ll gather my workers.  You’d better be right about this.”

 

About half the Fe-Matoran’s mining crew wrote off the attempt as a fool’s errand, while the other half, mostly younger miners, passionately embraced it.  The foreman wanted to inform the Turaga, but Veelix talked him out of it.  They could not tell the Turaga until they had found the cavern or he might have put a stop to their endeavor before it began.

 

Veelix assured the other Matoran that they would indeed tell the Turaga if they were successful, but he suspected that the conversation was not going to go as the Fe-Matoran anticipated.  Veelix wondered how he was going to explain to them that the Toa had hidden the cavern from them for so long.

 

Progress was slow and Veelix was becoming anxious.  There was nothing he could do to hasten their progress, but with each moment that passed, he became more concerned that the cavern was not there.  Could he have misread the map?  He checked it every few minutes.  What if the reports had been fabricated and this was all a lie?  The possibility seemed unlikely, but the miners were growing frustrated, and he was unsure how much longer they would listen to him before giving up, leaving Veelix empty handed yet again.

 

He was mulling over his options when a bright flash illuminated the tunnel and a beam of light shone from the cavern wall where the Matoran were drilling.  They quickly expanded the hole, until it was large enough for them to see inside. 

 

The sight was magnificent.  Thousands upon thousands of lightstones lined the walls and the ceiling, more than any of the miners had ever seen.  Some of the Matoran shouted with joy, others took in the view, and a few simply affirmed that they had always believed in the legend.

 

“We’ve done it!” shouted the foreman, slapping Veelix on the back.  “What’s wrong?  Aren’t you excited?”

 

Veelix pulled him aside and explained what he had learned in Onu-Kia about the true cause of the mine’s collapse.  He watched as the expressions on the Fe-Matoran’s mask changed from puzzlement, to shock, and finally to anger. 

 

“They knew?” he asked.  “All this time we have been slaving in these tunnels to find a pile of lightstones just to get us through the year, and they knew that this cavern was right here?  How could—why would anyone do that?”

 

“I don’t know,” Veelix said.  “All I can say is that this information has to be made public.  If we can expose this conspiracy, hopefully this kind of injustice will never happen again.”

 

“Is there any way to prove that these documents are legitimate?” the miner asked.  “How do we know that you aren’t making this up?”

 

“I knew where the cavern was,” Veelix replied.  “And I can retrieve the rest of the documents.  I also have a plan that might just prove their legitimacy.”

 

“That’s good enough for me.  What should we do next?”

 

Veelix thought for a moment before responding.  “We need to get more Fe-Matoran on our side,” he said.  “Once we have enough support, we can confront the Turaga about the Toa’s actions.  Eventually we’ll have to start spreading the word to other villages, and then we can get some answers.”

 

The Fe-Matoran nodded.  “One thing at a time.  I’ll make sure the message gets out to the rest of this kia that we will not continue mining until we know why the Toa did this to us.  You go back to Onu-Kia and find proof that the Toa were responsible.”

 

 

Veelix returned to Onu-Kia to retrieve the book detailing the Toa’s attack and then took the road to Fe-Kia proper, which was nestled in the mountains high above sea level.  The dwellings here had been hastily constructed millennia ago when the city had first boomed, with the assumption that eventually the miners would all be wealthy enough to afford much grander lodging.  Instead the population had dwindled significantly after the island cut off trade with Metru Nui, turning miners into migrants as they sought work elsewhere, while those who remained found their temporary shacks were now their permanent residences. 

 

Much of the mining now took place in a large open pit in the center of the town.  The Matoran mined protodermis mainly from this pit, which had devoured much of what had been Fe-Kia as it expanded.  The landscape was unlike any Veelix was accustomed to, for he could see mountains in all directions, upon one of which was a sparkling white statue of Mata Nui, reminiscent of the one he had encountered in Ko-Kia.

 

Though the city was hardly idyllic before Veelix had arrived, Fe-Kia now resembled a warzone.  The Fe-Matoran’s joy at discovering the Cavern of the Sun had quickly turned to anger when the foreman explained that it the Toa had kept it from them for millennia.  Veelix smiled as he watched the assembled Matoran shout and demand answers.  A lone dissenter was merely a fanatic, but a crowd of dissenters was a revolution.

 

For a moment he found himself questioning whether all of his efforts were worth the trouble.  Was it really right of him to question the Toa who had protected them for millennia?  Was this all just some way of satisfying his own insatiable desire to know the truth?  He tried to force those thoughts out his head.  The Toa had not only stifled progress, they had even killed to keep their plans a secret.  The Matoran would benefit from whatever revelations his efforts would bring.

 

The foreman made his way through the crowd to Veelix.  “The Turaga wants to speak with me,” he said.  “I told him that I wouldn’t seem him without you.”

 

Veelix thanked him for waiting.  “It is not just the Fe-Matoran who will be watching what we’re doing here.”

 

 

The Turaga of Fe-Kia was not pleased.  “So you are the revolutionary who has brought our industry to a halt and driven this city to the brink of violence,” he said when Veelix arrived.  “Tell me, what did you hope to accomplish with this little uprising?”

 

“The Matoran want answers,” Veelix said simply.  “They deserve to know why the Toa intentionally hid the Cavern of the Sun from them and why they continue to hide the deaths that are on their hands.”

 

“Those are serious yet baseless claims,” the Turaga snapped.  “Where is your evidence?”

 

Veelix produced the book in which he had first learned of the attack and handed it to the Turaga.  Glancing at the cover, the Turaga replied, “All you have is an ancient book of which no record exists.  You expect this book alone to convince me that no less than four of our decorated and honorable Toa intentionally caused that cave-in?”

 

“You can drop the act,” Veelix replied.  “You knew all about the attack.”

 

The Turaga frowned.  “Now you have the gall to accuse me as well?”

 

“The report in that book details the mission precisely, but I never shared it with anyone in any detail.  Yet without even looking at the report, you knew exactly how many Toa were involved.”

 

“It is still your word against mine,” the Turaga replied, undeterred.  “I can guarantee you that all the Toa and Turaga will disavow knowledge of this event, and without this book there is no proof that we were involved.”  Veelix watched in horror as the Turaga tossed the book into the fire, the flames licking the pages and removing all traces of Veelix’s proof.

 

“There are plenty of other documents in Onu-Kia that are just as damaging,” Veelix said, trying to control his anger.  “Now that this information is out, there will be no stopping the rest.”

 

“We’re done here,” the Turaga replied.  “I suggest you return peacefully to your homes or face the consequences.”  He turned his back to the Matoran, who promptly left his dwelling to consider their options.

 

“Now we have no proof that the Toa caused the cave in,” the Fe-Matoran said bitterly. 

 

“Not exactly,” Veelix replied, holding up the recorder.  “I recorded that entire conversation, and the Turaga all but admitted the truth of our claims.”

 

“It won’t be enough, but too many Fe-Matoran here have now seen the cavern for the Turaga to deny its existence,” the foreman said.  “This protest will keep the Turaga busy while we look for something else they were hiding.  What else is there that you can tie them to?”

 

Veelix tried to think of something concrete, but to no avail.  “There are only conspiracies and mysterious disappearances,” he replied.  “I have no proof of anything else that they’ve done.”  He sighed.  “I was so close, but now I have to start over.”

 

The foreman grabbed Veelix by the shoulders and looked him in the eye.  “Do you believe that the Toa and Turaga have something they are hiding from the Matoran that we deserve to know?  Do you believe it beyond all doubts?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Then if you truly believe that there is something out there that will prove your case, only you can find it,” the miner replied.  “I’ll stay here and keep the pressure on the Turaga.  That should give you enough time to find what you need.”

 

Veelix nodded and shook the other Matoran’s hand.  “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said.  The two Matoran headed back into the city square, where most of the kia’s inhabitants were assembled, divided into two sides, each shouting at the other.  Veelix was making his way through the crowd in an attempt to leave the city when the earth suddenly shook from a massive explosion. 

 

Matoran screamed and ran in every direction.  Veelix was knocked to the ground.  The smoke cleared, and three tall figures entering the square, weapons drawn.  In the center stood the Toa who had followed Veelix to Ga-Kia, flanked on his left by the Toa who had arrested him in Eri and on his right by a Toa in orange and white armor whom Veelix did not recognize.

 

The three Toa quickly began subduing the Matoran involved in the strike, causing more panic and confusion as Matoran ran for the safety of their homes. Veelix heard the Toa in ebony armor shouting over the screams, his voice amplified by an unkown device.

 

“Insurgent Matroan, you are ordered to surrender the Chronicler and the other leaders of this revolt,” he announced.  “Any Matoran providing these individuals with aid or shelter will be prosecuted as an enemy of the Unified Government.”

 

Realizing that only the panic was obscuring his crimson armor, Veelix dragged himself away from the chaos, pushing his way through a crowd of Matoran.

 

The leader of the Toa spotted him.

 

“Don’t move!” he shouted, but Veelix ignored his command.  The Toa knocked several Matoran out of his way with his war hammer, gaining ground as all that separated him and his target was a throng of terrified Matoran.  When he was within range, he called upon his elemental power to create a ball of chunk the size of his head and hurled it at the Chronicler.  It barely missed, knocking a nearby Matoran to the ground.  Without breaking stride, the Toa hurled another boulder, this time striking Veelix in the leg.  Veelix fell to the ground with a cry of pain.

 

“This time, you’re not going anywhere,” the Toa snarled.  Before he could strike, the foreman stepped out in front of him and stood with his arms spread out.

 

“I think you owe us some answers,” he said defiantly.

 

The Toa did not budge.  “If anything is owed, it is to us,” he growled.  “We have not put up with millennia of thanklessly serving the Matoran to allow such insolence now.  Stand aside.”

 

“No,” said the miner.  “Your duty is to protect the Matoran.  You would never harm any of us.”

 

“Watch me,” the Toa replied before backhanding the helpless Matoran, sending him sailing through the air like a ragdoll.  Veelix was horrified by the effortless power this Toa had so casually displayed against the Matoran, but he could not waste this opportunity.  Hoping that the miner was not critically injured, he raced for the exit into the caves, wishing he did not have to run away but knowing he had no other choice. 

 

The Toa gave chase, but this time, Veelix was ready for him.  Looking over his shoulder as he ran, he hurled a lightstone he had taken from the cavern.  It arced through the air and smashed into the Toa’s Mask of Concealment, shattering into hundreds of pieces.  The Toa was more startled than wounded, but the intense light had blinded him just long enough for Veelix to get away.

 

The Toa was not giving up without a fight, however.  Tapping into more than seventy thousand years of experience, he gripped the earth and felt the power of the mountain coursing through him.  And then, as if the entire mountain were an extension of his body, he trigged a rockslide that barreled down towards Veelix.  Hearing the rumble above him, Veelix sprinted for the exit, barely dodging the falling stones from above before diving into a mineshaft.  He followed the tunnel as best he could without a lightstone, eventually making his way into the tunnels of Onu-Kia and then into the daylight.  Though he had escaped Fe-Kia, he continued to run until the city was far behind him.

 

 

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