A land of fire, a land of lava. The mighty Guard fortress, towering above the walled city, a symbol of the Matoran's unrelenting dedication to justice, of their determination, of their will. This was a village that had not broken, no matter how many threats were thrown against it. And there was no shortage of them.
Only a short time ago Turaga Vakama was slain in his own home, just after his return. Many people had been killed, simply for use as a distraction. An explosive in a crowded street, the perfect way to get the guard's attention. But nevertheless, the one responsible was in jail, and was set to stand trial in a week or so. The village's troubles did not end there, however. Mere weeks before a Toa of Shadow had taken the Turaga from that very hut, and escaped without a trace. The same Toa that now stood trial had aided the Ko-Toa Hiemalis' escape from prison, after the destruction of the Ta-Koro Hospital at his hands.
But the village's conflicts went even further back. Months ago, two Toa appeared in the village with bizarre tattoos. One was named Utu, the other called himself Tank. Both men would gain notoriety across the island, as the name "Mark Bearer" spread, and the terror that it brought with it began to filter into the hearts of criminal and hero alike. They were cruel beings, beings that grew stronger with every emotion that they inflicted upon their prey.
Dorian, Bearer of Rage. Utu, Bearer of Fear. Tank, Bearer of Pain. In some circles, in the places that the greatest three never reached, another being invoked similar fear in the villagers. His name was unknown, all those that had ever heard it silenced. Thunder and lightning had followed in his wake, the Mark poison green on his shoulder. He had arrived in Ga-Koro and killed and killed, causing destruction wherever he went until the Arete, heroes that they were, finally stopped he and his compatriots.
But in Ta-Koro, only one person was truly known for their actions against the Bearers. Former Guard Deputy Tuara, once the villages most beloved member of the guard, and even now highly respected amongst the people. She fought against the Mark Bearers valiantly, before she vanished for a span of weeks, eventually returning with her ally Angelus in tow. No one knew exactly what had happened in that time, and if the Guard knew, they weren't telling. Her return was short lived, however, as she once more embarked on a journey.
After a short time, she came back. But the cheer her reappearance had brought with it was quickly quelled by the news that she had resigned from her position, leaving Ta-Koro without a deputy, and no clear successor. Rumors had begun to circulate, rumors of her appearance in the village's bars, rumors of behavior most unlike her. But no one dared substantiate them, and few truly believed them, unwilling to believe that she had fallen so far. That she would visit establishments like the one in which she now stood.
The commotion had ceased, and the former deputy had turned to leave, after handing the bartender a few widgets to pay for the arrested Toa's drinks, when the door opened. In and of itself, this was not an unusual occurrence. Even at this time of day, the bar had plenty of business. No one payed it a second thought, even as a tall, cloaked figure entered.
He moved to the side, loitering near the door for a brief moment, unseen eyes sweeping the room. His dark brown cloak, a similar color to the stained wood that made up the ground, covered every identifiable feature, casting his face into shadow. It was unbearably hot, but it was best that he did not show his face. He was not well loved in any village, even if Ta-Koro was ambivalent towards him. But he had a feeling that the one he had come to see would not be.
The most noticeable feature of the arrival, however, was the odd set of equipment he carried on his back. Slung diagonally over one shoulder was a large sword, one that most would find too heavy to swing. Crossing it in the other direction was a black guitar, carefully maintained, at odds with the cloaked man's rather battered appearance.
After a moment, unseen eyes landed on Tuara, as she prepared to leave, and guilt welled forth once more. The Vo-Toa, for what litte visible armor there was marked him as such, had been in Ta-Koro for two days now, catching up on what had transpired in his absence. He learned of Dorian Shaddix's impending trial, he learned of Joske's transformation into a Toa, but most importantly, he heard of Tuara's resignation. And in a way, the blame for that fell upon him. For the Vo-Toa could fill in most of the blanks, the mysteries that the common villager knew not. He knew why she had disappeared, and why she refused to speak of it.
He should know. He was the one responsible.
The Vo-Toa had been present when her mind was usurped, replaced by a madman. He knew how she had been forced to act as nothing more than a filing system, locating and supplying memories of Arekule's work. He knew the memories that she had been forced to endure over and over, until she finally lost the will to resist any longer. He had seen them.
It had taken weeks in Ga-Koro, weeks of thought and contemplation, for him to come here. Even after Iris' departure, the crimes his body had committed weighed heavily upon him. The memories of the villagers slain haunted him, dogging every step, and at time he felt that his soul was drenched in so much blood that he was drowning in it. There was nothing he could do to make those crimes right, nothing he could do to heal the scars he had left behind. His friends, the few he had gained over the past few months, didn't understand. Couldn't understand. They could see the difference. They had known what was Iris, and what was him. They saw every shift, every change. To them, he and Iris were two separate entities, neither guilty of the crimes the other had committed.
But they hadn't seen it like he had. Even when buried, even when Iris pushed him aside, he was aware of everything. He still felt every movement, every swing, every wound. He was aware of everything Iris did, and he had felt every movement Iris made. At times, the line had blurred so badly he didn't know if he was the one in control, or Iris was.
He knew the crimes. And there was nothing he could do to fix them.
Except this one.