A darkness set upon the land
A prophecy of light
Six heroes, come to break the dawn
Begin the greatest fight
Here he saw a few Agori engaged in hush conversation, here was a Le-Matoran jogging briskly from the general store. A Glatorian sitting and eating exchanged nods with a Toa walking by. A light murmur of chatter came up from the town to the observer's balcony, and the whole scene was bathed in the morning light of Solis Magna.
This, a pure peace, was Turaga Onua's life. And it had been that way for about three thousand years.
The settlement over which he now presided was best described as an outpost, roughly half a mio to the west of the Bara Magna region. Travelers to the lands in the far west passed through here often. The town had a permanent population of about fifty beings, but usually about twenty more were there at any given time. And the Turaga always had a kind word or a little advice for every one.
His mind drifted into reflection, as it so often did.
When Kopaka had left to make a new life among the stars, his last words to Onua had been that he grew tired of battle after battle. In truth, Onua had as well. But he had hesitated to share this, and then Nuparu had closed the doors, and Turaga Nuju had begun the launch sequence.
Kopaka had wanted to keep his Toa abilities. Onua knew that Toa power was something better shared. Nevertheless, sacrificing it had not been easy. Even as he had watched six warriors rise where only he had stood moments before, he had only been able to feel the noticeable weakness setting in.
Then they had all left to fight in the war, and most had not survived.
Of course the peace established on Spherus Magna a few years after he had awakened on the island of Mata Nui could never have lasted forever. Of course there would be wars. But wars as devastating as this? To claim so many of those he loved?
It was his firm policy to let others make mistakes so that they might learn, but so many mistakes had already been made. Why, his very family had been lost to this war. The cheerful Pohatu had been hardened by the fighting, and only rarely seemed like his old self. Lewa was dead, shot out of the sky by friendly fire at the Battle of New Tajun.
With the great power of the Golden Armor came great responsibility. Tahu still lived; he could still fight like the legion of Rahkshi he had devastated when he had first donned the Armor; but the selflessness that had guided him to his destiny had been exhausted. Now, he knew little but anger.
A deep despair, one that did not befit one as high as he, washed over Onua. Fight it as he tried, he was left like that for nearly half an hour.
When it finally stopped, he thought to himself: Come to think of it, perhaps I made the right choice.
A thousand menaces of change
Bring viscious infestation
Are locked away, and new life comes
Onua hauled himself from his chair and walked down the stairs. He felt unusually weak today; he held his hand to his face, but his mask was most certainly on.
The Noble Pakari Nuva did not have the most beautiful forms of all Kanohi, but it sufficed. The Turaga kept it as a memory of his glory days.
Almost as soon as he stepped outside, Onua heard a greeting call from a familiar voice.
"Turaga! Good morning."
"Good morning, Toa Garan," Onua said. "Anything around the village that needs my attention today?"
"Trefanus and Kupma got into a pretty heated argument last night—it seems it didn't wake you up, but it woke up half the village. I broke it up and told them to cool it until morning when you'd look into it."
Onua wanted to say "Those two again", but thought better of it.
Of the Matoran who had received Onua's Toa power, only two had survived the many years of war. Piruk was on some expedition in Bota Magna. Garan chose to stay as the protector of Onua's village.
A dream of swarm revival foiled
By their very goal.
And one more joins the heroes
A new life to behold.
A Fire Tribe Agori whose name escaped Onua ran up to him and Garan, panting. "It's Gali. She's...you need to come quick..."
The Toa and the Turaga needed no more prompting. In less than a minute they were in the hut where Gali lived out her days. It was a small building, little more than a table and a bed, but it was all that poor Gali needed.
During the war, she had fought off twenty foes at once underwater, even with her mask torn off in the struggle. But she had been badly wounded, and only barely escaped. She had been sent to live with Onua, and had lingered for thousands of years in a state of constant pain, too weak to fight or even to give up her Toa power.
A month ago she had fallen into a coma, and though Onua had called healer after healer to the village to save his sister, she had not been revived.
Only now did Onua realize that her will was gone, eroded by the millenia of hurt.
The Agori, Gali's caretaker, stood at her bedside and observed her ragged breaths with the others. "Her sleep has become irregular and devoid of rest. She calls out various names, yours most often."
Gali's body tensed; her back arched. She let out a short and piteous sob, and dropped back to the bed. The sight broke Onua's heart. He looked at his feet. "I cannot bear to see her suffer like this."
Garan put a hand on his elder's shoulder. "Turaga, if you cannot bear it...you should let me do what I suggested the first day she fell asleep."
A deep opposition filled Onua. "No, Garan. It cannot. NO!" He took a moment to regain his composure. "Toa do not kill! Especially not other Toa! She...she might yet recover!" He knew it was foolish as soon as it left his mouth.
The caretaker said, "After thousands of years and about as many healers? I think it unlikely."
It was a false hope, Onua knew that. "I..." He could not find any more words.
The Toa of Earth spoke gently, enough that the Turaga was thankful for choosing him as a Toa once more. "Think about it Turaga. I know that you will choose wisely."
Onua moved to leave; Garan stayed behind. "This outpost has limited resources, and keeping her alive may hurt the rest of us," said the caretaker offhandedly.
Onua was stunned by the heartless remark, but he said only, "My sister is more to me than a drain on resources."
Defeated, captured, locked away,
Searching for the power
Another group must rise anew.
Unclaimed, descend the tower.
The Turaga had not taken more than twenty steps when he was confronted by an Ice Tribe Agori and a Po-Matoran. They ran up to him, shouting "Turaga Onua, Turaga Onua!" at varying tempos.
"Trefanus. Kupma." He acknowledged each with a nod and a smile. "It is good to see you—"
Both burst into an angry tirade, the sides of which Onua could not discern. The villagers glared at each other, then resumed talking at exactly the same time.
Onua held up a hand for silence. "My friends, if you would accompany me to the Grand Court, I can hear out your problems and provide a solution." He walked at a deliberately slow pace towards the place he named.
The Grand Court was not at all grand in the grand scheme of things, but in this village it was a major attraction. There were a number of unsecured, easily movable chairs; two chairs fastened to the ground, for the plaintiff and defendant; and, at the front, Turaga Onua's chair, crafted painstakingly using the elemental powers he had left. All trials were open to the public, and the Court was usually occupied at all hours the day by people simply sitting there to chat.
Someone noticed and shouted "Everyone please rise for the arrival of the Judge Turaga!"
About ten spectators populated the Court today. Onua spoke to the belligerents, "Now, one at a time, please tell me your grievances."
Both started talking again, but this time they formed a reasonably discernable story.
"There's a tree, you see—"
"There's a fruit tree. And it's on my property—"
"It's rooted on his property, so he owns it, I guess—"
"But it's located right at the border, so—"
"There's a significant overhang—"
"Most of the fruit is falling—"
"I get most of the fruit."
"And he says it's in HIS yard, so he can do WHATEVER—"
"So I can do whatever I want with it, right? But no, he says—"
"All the fruit belongs to me, of course. It's my tree."
"It's my land."
Both gasped for breath, and finally they said together, "SO WHO'S RIGHT?"
Onua thought for a few seconds. "I must balance Kupma's right to the tree and all its fruits with Trefanus's right to security of his property. Trefanus, you make no claim to the fruit still on the tree?"
"Kupma, there is still a substantial crop remaining on the tree?"
"Very well." He thought for a minute more. "Here is my judgement. Come harvest, Kupma may take for himself all that remains on the tree. All the fruit that falls on Trefanus' property is his, but he may not sell it or otherwise profit from Kupma's work."
"That's—" Both villagers were starting to object, but the will to died quickly. "That's actually very fair."
"Dismissed," said Onua calmly as he stepped from his chair. He walked to the belligerents and added, "My friends, I am always happy to arbitrate, but you should learn to settle disputes among yourselves. This is the third time this month."
Onua left Trefanus and Kupma sitting there, and walked back to his chambers for the midday meal.
Embittered warlords plot revenge
A cry for help transforms
One disappears for good of all
Task left undone reforms.
When he left his dwelling, it seemed that the whole village greeted him outside, with cheers. Puzzled, Onua watched the crowd part to reveal Garan standing in a clearing at their centre. His arms were folded, and his face was set in a smug grin.
"Good afternoon, Turaga."
Then he understood. "Garan, you sly Muaka! You didn't remind me of our match today!"
"I'd hoped you'd remember. But your brain is getting fuller and fuller of dust these days. Or should I say, Earth?"
"Indeed it is."
"Are you still willing to go ahead?"
"I would not miss this chance for the world."
The event had actually been anticipated for quite some time now. Turaga versus Toa, the match of the century (at least, it was in this town). The sparring of the Glatorian age lived on, only with slightly modified rules to prevent unnecessary deaths.
"Everybody LISTEN UP!" An outspoken Glatorian, who strongly emphasized certain words, acted as the commentator. "The combantants are limited to the CIRCLE of VILLAGERS!"
Onua took off his Turaga's cloak and flexed his body. To his surprise, it felt young and vibrant.
"The WINNER is the first PERSON to KNOCK OUT their OPPONENT, or FORCE a CONCESSION! FIGHTERS may use any tool at their disposal, but the moment ONE uses it, the OTHER can, TOO! This includes WEAPONS, or MASK POWERS, or ELEMENTAL POWERS!"
The Turaga stood as tall as he could, but he was still only half Garan's height.
"FIIIIIIIGHT!" The commentator stopped here, gasping for breath from his exuberant display.
The combantants circled the ring, opposite each other, fists raised defensively. Garan threw a punch at Onua's head; he ducked and an Agori leaped back to avoid being hit. He threw a few more punches, all of which were dodged, and Garan looked perplexed that he could not score a hit.
Quick as a wink, Onua grabbed the Toa's right leg and yanked it from under him. Garan fell to the ground, and appeared to have had the wind knocked out of him. The village cheered.
Garan got to his feet. "Turaga! Is that your Mask of Strength I feel in use?"
"Indeed it is," chuckled Onua. "I'm surprised you keep that Ruru."
"It comes in handy sometimes," answered Garan. He shouted behind him, "Weapons!" Someone threw his Pulse Bolt Generators into the ring. At the same time, someone threw Onua his adaptive weapon, which was at present a simple black sword. Onua was encouraged when it reformed into the multi-resistant shield he had possessed in Karda Nui.
Garan fired a few test shots. The shield dissipated them nicely. He drew farther away from Onua, so the bolts would be larger, and fired a ring of them such that Onua could not hope to dodge or block them all.
Onua jumped into the air overtop of the pulses and threw his shield at Garan's head. The power of his noble Kanohi Pakari knocked Garan to the ground once more. The great mask would probably have taken off the head.
The Toa of Earth got to his feet once more. "You're tougher than you look," Garan said, sounding a touch fatigued.
"Even after all these years?" Onua allowed himself to feel a bit of cavalier attitude. "I haven't—"
Suddenly Garan was upon him, striking blow after blow with the Generators. Onua defended well, but a mighty blow came, and the shield fell away. Onua simply tore the generators from Garan's hands and threw them out of the ring.
Then he pushed the Toa back to the other side, so once again they were on the sides on which they had stood at the beginning.
"Ready to give up yet, Turaga?" asked Garan.
"On the contrary," said Onua. "I'd won from the beginning of the fight."
The ground cracked underneath Garan's feet. The villagers, not knowing what was about to happen, stepped back in precaution.
The Toa of Earth tried to run to the safe side of the ring, but he made it only two steps before the entire side of the ring crumbled. He fell into a very deep hole.
From the beginning of the fight, Onua had been subtly using his elemental powers to weaken that ground. Only now had he pulled the trigger.
"Will he live?" someone in the crowd asked.
"Of course. That fall's not deep enough to kill him."
Then everything went wrong.
Garan burst out of the ground, arms extended at his sides, standing on a swirling column of earth. Onua pulled at it with all the elemental might he could muster, but he did not have very much as a Turaga.
Garan pointed his arms forward, and the column sped towards his unfortunate foe. It lowered quickly as he approached, so that he struck an uppercut that threw Onua two bios into the air.
Onua landed, and got to his feet very unsteadily. But Garan raised his arms once more, and a dust storm enveloped the ring. There were coughs from the spectators. Onua shielded his eyes and shouted, "Where are you?"
He was answered with a punch to the back of his head. He swiped at where he thought it had come from and received a blow in his side. Then a rain of blows came from all directions, such that he could not defend even with the mask. In a last, desperate attempt, he made a random leap into the air to escape, aided by the mask.
Something caught him by the throat, and slammed him into the ground.
The storm cleared, and there stood Garan, with a grand smirk on his face.
"I told you the Ruru comes in handy." He released his foe's throat.
Onua did not get up. He lay there panting, eyes darting from side to side.
All the villagers, looking at him with concern, like he needed to be cared for...
"Are you alright?"
Onua jumped to his feet, feeling weak even with the Mask of Strength aiding him. He picked up his cloak from the ground, put it back on, and ran. Was this even running? It felt more like waddling...oh, dear...how old he was...
The sky above, the sea below,
A search all of this through
The task complete they celebrate
When horrors unfold anew
For most of the afternoon, the Turaga sat in silence in his chambers.
After about three hours, the door creaked open behind him. "Turaga Onua?" said Garan.
Onua looked up from the ground, but said nothing.
"Turaga, I lost control. I forgot to see you as a friend and not an enemy in the fight. I—"
"Garan," interrupted Onua. "I want you to end Gali's torment."
"I'm sorry for—"
"Do it now!" Onua said, raising his voice a little. Then he sighed a deflated sigh. "No, that's not right. Send a bunch of messengers. Or find a Kakama, or something. Just send the word as far as you can across Spherus Magna. Let anyone who wishes to see her come here by nightfall. You were right, Garan. I will not have her suffer any longer."
Garan thought for a minute. "If they object, as you once did?"
"Tell them that I was appointed as Gali's guardian, so it is my decision in her incompetence."
"Understood." Garan left.
Onua now bowed his head and did something almost no one ever did. He prayed to Mata Nui. He did not know if they heard, or if it was all in his head, but in his desperation it did not matter.
"Long ago, Great Spirit, you descended from the heavens to watch over us. You were always there. You protected us, you gave your life for us, but then you left us alone in fear of your own power.
"I was once one of your protectors, intended to save your life and awaken you. Now I am an old fool, a fraction of my former self even with this mask to give me strength. Yet I am warden of one who could be far more powerful than I, my dearest sister Gali.
"Many years ago, fate saw it fit to cut her enjoyable existence short. What remained of her was pain, a pain that seeped into my heart as much as it seeped into hers. Her suffering is mine, Great Spirit. I want both to end.
"I ask that my life be taken in place of hers, and that she recover. For I am slowly losing my will to fight, yet she has been fighting death for millenia.
"And if nothing else, I ask for the strength to make it through this day."
Onua opened his eyes. Garan had left his door partially open, and light shone through it.
The prize and goal have made themselves
A life to take a stand.
In conflict great a world reborn
Peace speaks from fire's hand.
Onua stood at the entrance to the town, watching the sun slip below the horizon. Garan had not returned. In fairness, he had had very little time...but the deadline had been clear.
He was about to cease his watch and attend to Gali a little longer when he saw something on the horizon. A glint of black that was not usually there. Was it Garan? He yelled for a telescope, and someone brought him a noble Mask of Vision.
No, it wasn't Garan—it was an Onu-Matoran Onua had never seen before. Then three Glatorian came striding into view—two of them were Gresh and Kiina! Then Garan appeared, and then...could it be...
Pohatu Nuva, and Tahu Mata. The last of his team had come.
A crowd of about thirty new beings descended upon the small town to say goodbye to one of the most famous Toa of all time. Almost the entire population of the town had roused themselves as well. Other turnouts included Toa Hahli, Turaga Matau and Nokama, at least ten Ga-Matoran, and most incredibly of all, Artakha. Onua had to bow on seeing him arrive, but his creator refused to accept this and told him to rise.
"I brought Gali into existence, and I would like to see her out of it. With your permission, Turaga, I will accompany Garan for the deed."
"Granted. Have you contacted Kopaka?"
"I have. He was silent for a long time when I told him, and then expressed his disapproval."
"I understand that it will be hard for some to let go." Garan tapped Onua on the shoulder. "Excuse me.
"Did anyone object to my decision?" asked the Turaga.
"Surprisingly, no. Her condition is well-known, as you might imagine, so it seems that they all think you're making a good decision." Onua nodded. "You should know that there were many others who wanted to make the trip, but had other obligations."
There were many other greeting and reunions, but they are not part of this story.
Onua stood at the front of the Grand Court and addressed the assembly. "Attention, everyone. If you would all line up, single file, at Gali's hut, you will each be allowed thirty seconds to pay your respects to her."
The process took about half an hour. Onua stood on one side of the bed; Garan stood at the door. Each new mourner stood opposite Onua on the bed.
"You saved my life in the war," said the Onu-Matoran. "I know you saved so many lives and were never repaid."
Pohatu took the Toa of Water's hand in his. "Once, I almost killed Takanuva and you prevented me. You were always so trusting...we were all so trusting in those days." He seemed lost in memory, and for just a moment, his face brightened into the Pohatu of old. Then his time expired, and it was gone.
"You were more than just a fighter. You were a friend," sobbed Hahli, laying a wreath of flowers around the Toa's head.
"Here's to the protection, the great protection, you gave us all," said Matau. He had chosen to go together with Nokama, who sang a haunting song in another language that still moved Onua.
When Tahu's turn came, he entered the hut, looked down at Gali, and laid his hand on her. He stayed like that, expressionless, until his time was up.
Artakha did not participate.
When the time finally came, Onua left the hut. He could not bear to be inside; he was too weak for that. Instead he waited outside with the rest of the crowd. The sun was fully set by now, so many carried lightstones, which cast many shadows all across the town.
"Quick and painless, that's all I asked him," Onua muttered to himself. "Quick and painless."
The crowd suddenly seemed pressing, and too much for him. He elbowed his way between Tahu and Kiina, and sat on the steps of his chambers, unwilling to see even the hut.
A prolonged silence followed. Onua wanted the tension to break, and then...
The entire crowd vanished. Disappeared into thin air.
Onua wanted to get up, to confirm that he was seeing what he thought he was seeing, but his muscles failed him.
Then, striding out of the hut, came Gali.
"Sister!" he exclaimed. "Are you—"
She saw no sign of hearing him and continued walking halfway across the town's main street before she shouted, "ONUA!"
"I..see you, Gali?" he said, taken aback.
She seemed not to hear him. "Onua! Hear me! Though you cannot know it, I am fully aware. I heard all that was said to me, and whatever Garan chooses will cause only more pain. I cannot die!"
"No." Onua was too shocked to move.
"You must stop them! You must stop them before it is too—AAAAAHHHH!" As she screamed, her body became tainted, as if with earth, until she dissolved to the ground, a mud puddle.
This was enough for the Turaga. He leapt from his seat and raced forward, shouting "STOP!"
"Turaga!" Someone grabbed his arm, pulling him to a halt.
The spell was broken. It was Gali's caretaker who held him now.
"I...what...where did everyone go?"
"Some started the journey back to Bara Magna, some took up residence in the town's inn, some are camping outside the town, and the residents went back home."
Onua was not physically exhausted, but he had a strange feeling that he should be. "What...what happened after I sat on the steps?"
"Garan came out and said it was done"—here Onua exhaled a sigh of both relief and guilt—"and the crowd had a moment of silence, then everybody went their separate ways. But when they tried to talk to you, you seemed to be in a trance. We didn't have a Suletu handy, so we just let you be. It's been almost four hours."
Onua broke free of the Agori's grip and raced to where Gali may or may not have stood moments ago. The ground was slightly damp.
"Turaga, it's as hard for me as it was for you. I took care of her for thousands of years. I...I actually wonder if I'll be able to find employment elsewhere."
"Yes, that's right. You're still in my employ, aren't you? Very well. As my second last order to you, I want you to sleep in my chambers tonight. No sense in staying with Gali now, is there? I have a spare bed somewhere, if you'll help me haul it out."
The former caretaker looked a little quizzical, but said, "As you wish, Turaga."
"I'll be needing you in the morning."
Onua sat in a chair in front of a roaring fire, covered by a blanket. What an eventful day it had been. And there were a million more like it to come.
Yes, I am weak, he thought to himself. I am a silly old Turaga indeed. But if it is weakness that destiny demands of me, than I accept that. My prayers were answered. And I had the strength to make it through today.
Today. The word echoed in his mind as he dozed off. Today.
Many images flashed rapidly through the Turaga's mind as he faded: his hands on Lewa's shoulders, six evil beings and a clod of earth, an explosion in a swamp. When they finally stopped, he was in a world that lacked form and boundaries, but retained colour. And the first thing he saw was two welcoming masses, one green, one blue.
I spent, like, four days working on this.
It's a commentary on the process of Toa-Turaga, and how it affects Toa. Like, becoming a Turaga doesn't suddenly make you wise.
At least it's part that. The point is that Onua is grieving himself as well as Gali. He goes through the five stages in the day: depression (the beginning), bargaining (Trefanus and Kupma, and his prayer), denial (the sparring match), anger (his vision of Gali, sort of), and acceptance (the end), which explains the title.
Yes, that's Lewa and Gali at the end.
I am aware that Matoran Universe beings who die on Spherus Magna may still be teleported to the Red Star. Onua just chose not to; his spirit lacked the will to carry on.
I am aware that I might not have been faithful to Garan's canonical character, but I needed a Matoran of Earth for the story and I've always thought Garan would make a good Toa.
Edited by WhereFMF, Jun 14 2014 - 01:59 PM.