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Life Is A Blank: A Story Of Metru-Nui

Metru-Nui Toa PG-13

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#1 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Oct 26 2011 - 02:46 PM

Author's note: I do not follow canon very closely, particularly with regards to BIONICLE anatomy. I have them about 60% biological (blood, organs, muscles, even hair) and 40% mechanical. They also have familial relationships, children and females and males in all elemental types. Matoran have an average lifespan of 250-300 years, while Toa live for nearly 5,000. Also, this is a "what if" story, although I'm not going to reveal exactly what was altered... That's something you have to discover for yourself.I rate this PG-13 for violence, death and mild romance.EDIT: Because of the length of this epic, there is a chapter index in the Review topic.

Life is a Blank

How do you fight a battle that has already been lost?

Stave 1

Telet tried for what felt like the millionth time to slide his hands through the small gap between the chains and his skin. His chapped wrists protested against the pressure, but he ignored it, trying to work himself free. Even thin and wasted as he was, there was not enough space to get out. "I hate you." he spat at his captor. "That's your problem, not mine." the tall dark figure replied, touching his arm. For so strong a being, he was surprisingly gentle. "I think you're merely misreading what you've seen, but that's just me." "I didn't misread anything! You're not the Great Spirit, and you're not our savior! You may have everyone else thinking you are, but I know better!" A glimmer of a frown crossed the tall being's face. "Your resistance to my benevolence is growing tiresome, matoran." The touch became ever so slightly more rough. "Who else did you tell about what you found?" "No one." Telet tossed his head bravely. "I didn't have time before your Vahki grabbed me." The being stared directly into the matoran's eyes, trying to read the small one's thoughts. It did no good - whatever training this matoran had put himself through, it had included some sort of mind shielding. Which means he hasn't just been reading, the being realized. Someone has to have trained him. "Impressive. Not many can withstand my gaze. So, I must ask, who was your teacher?" The Onu-matoran never broke eye contact. "No one. I taught myself. It was useful when dealing with Vahki." "Yes, I suppose it was." The tall being removed his hand and took a few steps back, examining his captive again, searching for a weak spot. "And yet, those same Vahki managed to find you, and bring you to me. It seems you must not know everything." "I know enough to stop you." Telet smiled grimly. He could feel the pain wracking his chest now, and he choked on something. Spitting it out, a bit of blood ran down his lip. "What's the matter?" the being asked, hastening to examine his face. Telet fought against the urge to cough up more blood. "I'm not stupid. I knew if you didn't get what you wanted from my mind, you'd torture me. And I'd cave. If what the tablets said was accurate, people stronger than me have caved." Involuntarily, he gagged again. "Your Vahki-scraps weren't quick enough when they searched me." The being's face was full of suspicion now. "What have you done, matoran?" Roughly, he yanked the matoran to his feet, snapping the chains with his telekinesis. Telet merely smiled. The pain was gone now, replaced by a numbness. He knew that meant he only had a few seconds. "You... will never... win. Others... Others will find out... what I found. You can't win... You won't." Even as he grasped the knowledge that the matoran had poisoned himself, the being smiled. "Fool. I already have." He dropped the Onu-matoran to the floor carelessly, then turned to a Vahki who stood awaiting orders. "Summon the Toa. I have a few issues to discuss." Gyet, Telet willed his thoughts to reach his closest friend, he knows. They're coming. They're... looking... The tall one glanced back at the matoran as the Vahki exited the chamber. His heartlight was dark. "A noble, but pointless death." He kicked the corpse across the room. No matoran would keep that knowledge to himself, he mused. He had accomplices. And in that lies their weakness - matoran always crack when you threaten one of their own. He looked proudly at the polished silver walls which reflected his own gleaming form: ebony and gold armor buffed to a mirror-like sheen, huge wings that seemed like they belonged on a colorful rahi, and his ancient kanohi. I truly look like the Great Spirit. I am the Great Spirit, after all.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:30 PM.

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#2 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Oct 27 2011 - 06:10 AM

Stave 2

Hewkii was not normally a fearful person. He had a high tolerance for pain and a work ethic that meant he rarely needed any such "encouragement". He was a leader among the Po-matoran, before he was chosen to become a Toa by the Great Spirit. Since then, he had been a model of perfection, both on duty and off. So that made it all the more curious that he was now hiding behind a Po-metru building, praying desperately that he had lost the Vahki tailing him. He activated his Mask of Speed and became a blur, running to the next building. Glancing back, he used his control over stone to shift the sand and make it look as if his footprints led towards the Coliseum. Zadakh are dumb enough to fall for that. They're only programmed to chase and fight, not track. Even so, he checked to make sure. About fifty bio behind him, the squad of four Zadakh walked quickly on their back legs - Vahki never ran unless they were chasing a lawbreaker - and followed the tracks towards the center of the island city. Satisfied, though still uneasy, Hewkii resumed running towards the edge of the district. Under power of his Kakama, the landscape flashed by in perfect clarity. He spotted his target: two matoran waiting behind a dune. At just the right moment, he slowed and stopped. Mere bio away, Po-metru ended in the cliffs that touched the Silver Sea. A young Onu-matoran jumped at his sudden arrival. "Toa! I, uh, I was supposed to meet with some of the Po-matoran crafters, but I lost my caravan, and--" "He's a friend." a Ko-matoran interrupted, nodding recognition to Hewkii. Hewkii studied the Onu-matoran. "New blood, eh?" The Ko-matoran nodded. The Toa looked around to make sure they were not being watched, not with his eyes, but with his elemental power. He could feel every shift of every grain of sand for kio around. Either they were flying, or there simply was no one there. He decided to bet on the latter. "Clear. Let's move." The Ko-matoran led the way down a natural path in the cliffside followed by the Onu-matoran and Hewkii. At the base of the rock face, there was a small flat area just above sea level. Concentrating on his powers, Hewkii moved aside a slab in the bluff to reveal a sort of boat with a curious-looking top. He dragged it out of its hiding place and into the water, then sealed the cliff as if it had never been disturbed. The Ko-matoran helped his friend into the boat, then waited for Hewkii to climb in. As the Toa of Stone settled himself uneasily on the deck, the Ko-matoran flipped a switch and the strange roof of the boat closed over the deck, creating a water-tight seal. The white matoran hit a few more buttons and knobs, triggering the discs that moved the boat. The craft slid smoothly under the waves. "Um, do you guys ever use names?" the Onu-matoran asked timidly, gazing in obvious fear at the Toa. "No." the Ko-matoran answered briefly. Hewkii nodded. "That way, when they catch you, you can't give anyone away, no matter what they do." The Onu-matoran cocked his head. "Um, you said 'when', not 'if', Toa." "Yeah. And I meant it." Hewkii's face was grim. The matoran looked understandably nervous. "So, what exactly have I gotten myself into?" The Ko-matoran gave the young one a deep, searching glance. "Your destiny."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, Dec 27 2011 - 08:31 PM.

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#3 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Oct 28 2011 - 03:30 PM

[color=#8040BF;]Stave 3Ah, she made it, Hewkii thought to himself, gazing at the Toa of Water across the room. She was actually one of the few people in the room who's name he did know. Macku saw him, smiled and made her way over. "Hey, hotshot; where've you been?" "Oh, checking warehouses, running loyalty tests on young matoran; you know, the usual." He smiled. Somehow, she always made it seem like there was nothing in the world to fear. "I'd have stopped by yesterday, but I got assigned some extra work since Ulaki got promoted." "Any trouble with Vahki?" she asked, slipping her arm through his in a familiar way. "Ever since that meeting the Great One called, I catch them following me more and more often. Always lose 'em again, but still." "I had four tailing me today, but I ditched them." He took a moment to process the full meaning of her words. "Wait, you think the Great One suspects you?" She shrugged as they walked to find some seats. "I don't know. I haven't given him any reason to." "You mean, beyond figuring out that he's not actually the Great Spirit, betraying his teachings and trying to figure out a way to kill him?" Hewkii was only half-teasing. "Yeah, besides that." She grinned, brushing her red-gold hair out of her eyes. "I think it may just be Selpa trying to catch me messing up. I can't figure why that guy hates me so much." "I can." Hewkii tried to shrug off a little jealous twinge. "Because when he offered to move you up the ranks in exchange for marrying him, you turned him down." Macku tossed her lovely head. "If he still hasn't gotten over that, that just proves he's a psycho. Hey, they're getting ready." Hewkii shifted his attention to the front of the room. It had been designed like a stadium, with each row of stone benches being lower than the next. Someone standing at the very bottom of the room could speak quietly and everyone could hear them clearly, while talking at the top made hardly any noise. It was a marvel of Po-matoran design, especially considering that it was built underwater. From the outside, it appeared to be a small cave in the side of a sea mount. Inside, there was a dock for boats, a storage area for supplies, the main hall where they sat now, and the treasured library. Fresh air was let in through special holes drilled through the rock to the top of the sea mount, and given the need, enough supplies could be stored that the entire group could stay for weeks. Hopefully, that will need will never come up, the Toa of Stone mused as he watched three matoran walk down to the bottom of the room and prepare to speak. He recognized one as a carver from south Po-metru, but quickly shifted his thoughts before he could remember his name. "Friends!" One of the three speakers, an old Ta-matoran raised his hand to quiet the assembled conspirators. The thirty-odd matoran and four Toa in the room grew silent. "Two days ago, one of our own was discovered. I felt his last thoughts - he had been taken directly to the Great One." "Did he revealshow us?" a female Le-matoran asked nervously. "He was number eighteen." the Ta-matoran replied sternly. "He took his own life rather than betray us." Macku shook her head sadly. Since names were not known in the group, they all went by numbers. Number eighteen was the matoran who had first brought her here. Hewkii put his hand on her arm, both to comfort and to remind her to show no weakness. As two of the four Toa allowed in this group, they were constantly being analyzed by the matoran leaders to ensure that they were not being crossed. "But before he died, he found something." the Ta-matoran continued. "The Great One attempted to read his mind... And he failed. Our training will enable us to withstand him." The Po-matoran at the front of the room nodded. "Judging by what he told number eighteen, the Great One suspects there are more who know his secret. He'll be looking for us." The third matoran stepped forward. "This is our last meeting for at least a month. The less we all know, the less we can tell. Keep training, and be diligent at your jobs. Those who have to will continue bringing fresh supplies here every so often, just in case." "Dismissed." the Ta-matoran proclaimed. "But if the Toa would stay a few moments..." The matoran quickly got up and headed to their transports. The sooner they got back to their homes, the less suspicion it would arouse. The four Toa - Hewkii, Macku, a Toa of Ice called Matoro and a Toa of Air who's name he didn't know - made their way towards the Ta-matoran known as number nine. "We know that the crackdown will make it especially hard for you Toa." Nine pulled four great kanohi out of his pack. "A friend managed to get these for us. They'll help if you find you need to escape." "Kanohi Volitak." Matoro said, surprise in his cool voice as he took one of the Masks of Stealth. "They're not made here." "No." Nine agreed. "They are not. And these are special, according to my friend. When activated, they take on the shape of your dominant mask. Even if you are spotted, it will appear that nothing is wrong." "Nifty." Macku commented, placing the kanohi over her face and letting it fade in with her Mask of Concealment. Number nine shifted uncomfortably. "As you know, many were against our admitting Toa into our group. I hope you understand the level of risk that my friend underwent to get these for you." "We sureheart understand." the Toa of Air nodded. "We deepfeel the trustfaith in us, and I heartpromise not to let you downfall." "Yeah... What he said." Hewkii rolled his eyes as he put on his new mask. Nine nodded. "Thank you, Toa. After all, if what the tablets say is true, your kind were once protectors, anyway." The four bowed slightly and turned to leave. Matoro tapped his fist against Hewkii's and Macku's, acknowledging the trio's longstanding friendship. "Good to see you both." "'Still alive' was the end of that sentence." Macku laughed. "Good to see you too, pal." Hewkii cut past the pleasantries. "Any news?" Matoro shrugged. As the Toa in charge of the main chute station in Ko-metru, he naturally heard quite a bit of gossip and rumors. Using his inborn logic, he was able to glean fairly accurately what was true and what was mere chatter, making him a major source of news for the conspirators. "Nothing that wasn't said in the meeting." "Mind letting me into the loopswing?" the Toa of Air asked. "I'm number twenty-two. Clubjoined back when I was still a matoran." "Yeah, yeah; nice to meet you and all that." Hewkii brushed him off. "I'm thirty-five, and this is thirty-four." He gestured at Macku. "And if you don't mind, I need to be back in my metru pretty soon, so I gotta run." Matoro followed his brown comrade. "Oh. Yeah, surefine." The green Toa's face looked a little crestfallen. Macku tried to heal the breach as Hewkii and Matoro walked away. "Don't mind him. He has a thing about Le-matoran. You're new to the scene, huh?" "Yep. Got specialchosen last month, bit of longtraining and Toa-power and bam! a new Toa-hero for Le-metru." He smiled, grateful that at least someone cared to ask. "Have you been a Toa-hero for many leafdawns?" "Yeah; all my life." Macku glanced around. Already, there was hardly anyone left inside. "We should get back. It's dangerous for everyone if we stay out too long." "Right, right." the other acquiesced. "Hurryback and hardwork and all that. Heartlife goes on as normalfine."Not really, Macku rolled her eyes. Not if our information is correct. Not if the Great One is who I think he is.[/color]Review

Edited by Hahli Historian, Jan 23 2013 - 10:48 PM.

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#4 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Oct 29 2011 - 08:57 AM

Stave 4

"Hey, move that crate along! We're behind, you lazy slugs!" An electric whip cracked over the backs of the dock workers. The matoran that was hit winced and picked up the pace. "Come on, get moving!" The overseer cracked the whip again. He was a Toa of Earth, impressive and powerful in his black and purple armor, and none of the matoran even dared to cry out in his presence. Carefully setting the box she was carrying into a cart, a young Ga-matoran worker went back to unload more from the newly arrived ship. She tripped on a protruding plank, instantly ensuring Toa Palti's wrath. "Get up, you imbecile! By the Great Spirit, how am I supposed to reach even half my quota if I get handed matoran with no brains?!" The whip fell mercilessly across her shoulders, cutting through her flax tunic and stinging her skin - dock workers were not allowed to wear armor for that very purpose. "I'm sorry!" she cried, springing back up only to be struck again. "I'm sorry, Toa; it won't happen again!" "I'll see it doesn't." he snarled. "The rest of you, watch. This is how those who don't honor the Great Spirit are punished!" He pulled a modified vibro-blade out of it's sheath and slashed it across her mask, breaking it into shards and scarring her face. She grimaced in pain and wooziness from the loss of her kanohi, but made no sound. Again, the blade swung down and across her cheek, but she still held her tongue. "Mark this well, matoran!" Toa Palti commanded. "Back to work, sea scum!" He kicked her towards the boat, before turning his attention to some other unfortunate worker. The beaten matoran ran on board the ship and ducked into the hold. Or rather, she whisked around a corner and appeared to go down the hold. In reality, she had slipped into the captain's cabin, shutting and bolting the door noiselessly. She ran her fingers gently over the fresh cuts on her face. My information had better be good to make up for this. Quickly, she went to the floorboard that ran just under the window seat. As she had hoped, one end of it was worn smooth, as if someone had tugged on it often enough to wear it down. She pulled several different ways before the catch was undone. The window seat top lifted up to reveal a smuggling compartment, filled almost to the brim with sacks of various sizes. She opened one. Just what I thought. He'll be pleased. She slung two sacks around her neck and under her tunic. Two would be enough, and besides, without armor, she couldn't carry much without it showing. She shut the compartment and put the board back, taking care to wipe away any dust marks she might have left. Judging by the sounds, it was safe to exit, but she had learned the hard way never to trust appearances. She closed her eyes and focused with her mind. Sensing the water inside living bodies was harder than usual, without her kanohi, but she managed it. There were only two matoran down in the hold and none on the deck. She made her escape and resumed unloading.

* * *

Several hours later, the Ga-matoran slipped down a back alley, weaving her way through the city streets cautiously. It was after curfew, and plenty of Vahki were always on guard to enforce the law, so it was better to err on the side of caution. Gliding from shadow to shadow, she reached the district near the Coliseum. This was where the Toa lived in lavish mansions or even small skyscrapers, depending on their rank. She went to the back of the tallest one and opened a hatch that blended perfectly with the wall. Inside, a chimney-like access shaft ran straight to the top floor. She crawled in and let the hatch close behind her. After about ten minutes of climbing, she came to the small landing at the top. She knocked on the door in front of her. "Come in." The voice that answered was deep, commanding, and slightly absent. She swung the door open and bowed. Across the room, a Toa of Fire sat at a desk, studying a hologram computer. He looked up as she entered and smiled. "Ah! I expected a report tonight. Anything good?" "I had heard rumors that one of the captains was smuggling in goods for himself from the Outlands." she replied, fishing the two bags out of her cloak and handing them to him. "I got on board Toa Palti's boat and found a compartment full of these. I'm sure you won't find them in the ship's summary." He undid the drawstrings and let the contents spill onto his desk. Two contraband kanohi gleamed in the light of the large fireplace. His eyebrows went up ever so slightly, but she knew what it meant. He was pleased with her success. "He'll have moved them by now, of course, but I figured I could plant these in his home somewhere your searchers would find them and that would be enough." she added, adjusting the temporary mask she wore to cover her injuries. "Well done. Palti is currently in line for a position as head of all imports; this will end his chances in a heartflash." He looked from the illegal cargo to her, studying her face. She met his gaze, unafraid - she had nothing to hide. "You sustained some injuries to get these?" She nodded. "I'll see to it you receive a new kanohi, and extra payment. Anything special in mind?" She hid a smile. "Medicine. My brother has a bad chest cold." The Toa gave her a glimmer of a thoughtful frown. "I'll have it at your chambers within the hour. Plant the masks tonight, and I'll have his house searched tomorrow morning. You may go." He handed her the contraband kanohi and dismissed her with a wave of his hand. She bowed again and headed back towards the access shaft. His voice stopped her. "Matoran!" She turned expectantly, awaiting his orders. "Who commands your loyalty?" he asked, standing up. His bright red and gold armor flashed in the firelight. His eyes looked at her keenly through his Kanohi Hau. "You do, of course, Toa." she replied easily. No hint of a lie appeared on her face. He nodded approval. "Your skills reach new heights. If I didn't know better, I'd believe you." A smile spread across her lips. "You know my loyalty lies with the Great Spirit, sir." Her second answer was the correct one, and he was satisfied with it's sincerity. "Finish the job, then go home to your family, Hahli." "Thank you, sir."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:38 PM.

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#5 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Oct 31 2011 - 10:27 AM

Stave 5

Gyet gingerly lifted the mold filled with molten metal using his forge tongs. He set the mold down on a special cooling rack lined with low-power freeze discs, then hit the switch on the machine. The discs began sweeping back and forth, striking the hot metal with a hiss. As the mold and it's contents hardened, he began working on the next set of tools. Day in and day out, this was how he functioned. A Le-matoran would have called it boring, but he found comfort in the steady rhythm of his routine. Or rather, he would have, if not for those tablets. They were destroyed long since. He and five others had memorized them perfectly before they were melted into slag. It was better that way; they could never be found in someone's home or workplace. But the memory of them still burned in his mind, as clearly as if he was seeing them for the first time. There were two of them; rough, a little scorched and carved in haste, as if the author had feared someone - or something - was looking for him. The letters were scrawled rather than printed, but still legible. And the story they told was enough to rattle even a Toa. If they are true, then none of us are safe, even those who do not understand. Our Great Spirit is our great enemy. They were written by someone named Vakama, who claimed to be a Ta-matoran living a little more than two hundred years ago. His writings named a Toa called Lhikan, a "Turaga Dume", and a four-legged creature who had been terrorizing the city. What a Turaga or a four-legged creature were, Gyet had no idea. But Toa were something he understood... And that was the problem. Lhikan was described as a hero; someone Vakama looked up to and trusted. It seemed as though the whole city loved the Toa, who had risked his life to defend them. The Toa Gyet knew served only themselves and the Great Spirit. Most were personally chosen by the Great One himself and transformed from matoran into Toa; a few were the children of Toa, and so grew up Toa themselves. A few have proven themselves useful to us, and one was able to get us those kanohi, even if it was inadvertently, he thought, removing the now-cooled mold from the rack. But heroes? That, I will have to see to believe. He turned out the cooled chisel heads he had just crafted and ran his hands along them. They were perfectly smooth and sharp. As always, he somehow felt that he had missed his calling in life by being assigned to be a tool-crafter. He belonged among the mask makers, the great craftsmatoran of the city. Sometimes he even had dreams of crafting kanohi. He would create the finest masks in the city, and they would be exported by the Toa to a world that would marvel at their perfection. Wake up, Gyet. This is the real world! Mask makers are few and far between. And anyway, would I really want to create things to honor someone I think may have enslaved us all? He shook his head and got back to work. Daydreams were for Ga-matoran, worrying about the future was Ko-matoran business. He was a Ta-matoran, and he would do his duty in the here and now... Whatever the cost.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 29 2012 - 07:04 PM.

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#6 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Nov 06 2011 - 09:59 PM

Stave 6

Toa Macku of Ga-metru was used to having all sorts of nasty things happen to her. The life of a Toa was filled with deception, intrigue and the angry looks of matoran when they thought the Toa's back was turned. The few who betrayed the Great Spirit's trust were severely punished. Those who made mistakes were berated by the six leaders, sometimes even injured. But even so, she had never experienced anything like this. "I am pleased with the improvement of the canals, Toa." the voice rang with cool approval. "Your record has been unimpeachable." "I am honored that you think so, Great Spirit." she replied, barely able to force the words out. What was this strange presence, racking her mind, reading her thoughts? Was this what they called "mendarii", the Madness? The tall black-and-gold being raised a hand to his chin thoughtfully. "Toa Nihita has recommended you for promotion, and I am, sadly, in need of someone to replace Toa Palti on the Ta-metru docks." He shook his head pityingly at the mention of the Toa who had betrayed him. The Fire Toa who stood at his right side flashed a different emotion at the name: anger. That's to be expected, Macku grimaced mentally. For someone who stepped on anyone and everyone to become Right Hand, Jaller is a fanatic about loyalty. Aloud, she used a surprised tone. "But, Great One, with all due respect, there must be many others who have earned this place in your favor. I have done nothing worthy of a promotion." The Great Spirit laughed. "Such humility! Toa Macku, surely you realize that your district has the best productivity in Ga-metru? Your methods have ensured that the matoran do their jobs well and quickly. Done nothing? On the contrary, you have done much." She could feel herself slipping, losing her grip on reality. Whatever this was, she somehow knew it would be so much easier to give in, to surrender. If she gave herself to this other consciousness, she would feel no more of this pain. But can I come back? she thought woozily. Does it even matter if I can't? Being rid of this pain... is... must be... worth it. The last thing she saw before the blackness obscured her vision was the Great Spirit's face. It was calm, gentle and smiling. And somehow, it was the most frightening thing she had ever seen.

* * *

"Macku?" a familiar voice said urgently. Something touched her face softly - a hand. "Macku, snap out of it!" She struggled to lift her lids. The darkness still swam before her eyes, but Hewkii's face pierced the mist. She moaned quietly, putting her hand to her head. "Where am I?" she muttered. "Thank the Great Spirit." Hewkii sighed in relief. "You're in the Coliseum, in one of Nihita's chambers. She let me bring you here after the Great One left. For a few minutes, I was pretty worried about you." She dropped her jaw in panic. "I fainted in front of the Great Spirit?!" "Not in front of him. You were perfectly fine until he left. As soon as he was gone, you just keeled over. Most ziron Toa do, the first time they see him." He used the matoran word for a natural, or born Toa. "You get used to it, after a while." "So, I'm alright? I got the promotion?" she asked, feeling warmth flow back into her limbs as her mind revived. Hewkii grinned. "You impressed the Great One. Of course you got the promotion, new head of Ta-metru imports." He clasped her hand with his own and helped her sit up. "You feeling better?" She nodded. "I'll be ok. I'm just not sure what happened." A slight mechanical whir of machinery made her jump, but she quickly realized it was only the air conditioning kicking in. He shrugged. "No one is. Every Toa you see in that throne room has the same feeling you did, in some degree. Honestly, sometimes I go in and can't remember what happened." "Why is that?" she wondered, stretching her aching muscles. "I told you - it's his presence. Something about him just... overpowers you." He didn't speak the finish of his thought, but she could guess. And you'd expect that from someone who took over the city - charisma. Macku bit her lip. "It wasn't fun, whatever it was." He nodded slowly. "Never is. You get used to it." "I don't think I want to." she replied, shivering.

* * *

The matoran slowly pulled away from the grate, blessing the pipes around him for covering the noise. Spying on Toa was dangerous; even he knew that. But he had to figure out what in Mata Nui's name was going on here. This place was so twisted, so messed up... so unlike the Metru-Nui she had told him about. Who was she? He couldn't remember that, either. He knew the one who found him reminded him of his teacher, but that was all. Any memories beyond a week ago were vague, except for the burning sense of need for fulfillment. As strange as it sounded, even to him, he was here to take down the Great One. That he knew for certain.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 27 2012 - 02:57 PM.

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#7 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Nov 15 2011 - 10:37 PM

Stave 7

Hahli took a deep breath and dove under the Silver Sea. Bubbles rippled off her new Mask of Illusions as she swam deeper, following the cliffside. Nearly thirty feet down, she darted into a small downward-angled opening in the rocks. Inside the sea cave, the water abruptly ended, thanks to the pressure that kept air trapped inside. She stepped onto the smooth floor, shook herself dry and eagerly climbed the rough handholds she had carved out of the wall. Reaching the cavern above, she threw her pack to the floor amid cries of delight. Three children, all under the age of twenty, ran to meet her. "Hahli! You're back! You're back, you're back!" the youngest chanted. She fondly kissed the little Le-matoran's head. "Finally back, Leyana. I thought about you a lot." She turned to the eldest, a Ga-matoran male, and handed him her traveling bag. "Kendral, I brought you some medicine." Her brother smiled gratefully, stifled a cough, and dug through her bag for the package. "And how are you, Jaatiiko?" Hahli enquired of the Ko-matoran who had quietly slipped his hand in hers. "I'm well." His short answer was accompanied with a smile far too wise and mature for a boy of fifteen. Kendral looked his older sister over carefully as he poured some of the precious medicine into a cup. "You're hurt, Hahli." She shrugged, slightly annoyed. Why does he have to say everything he's thinking, especially in front of the little ones? "It's nothing." she said aloud. "A couple scratches. Where's Linkake?" "He left a few hours ago." Kendral replied. "Said he had to go look for something. I guess he's still trying to figure out who he is." Jaatiiko cocked his head slightly. "I think he already knows who he is; he's just scared to face it." "Maybe so." Hahli replied, thinking of the strange red and blue matoran she had found drowning in the Silver Sea only two weeks ago. He remembered nothing of who he was or where he came from, except that her name reminded him of something. Hal-... Hal-something, he had said. Leyana had christened him Linkake, the matoran word for unknown, or stranger. Oddly, he seemed to like it. Or maybe he just likes us, she reminded herself. A blue mask, yellow feet and red armor would be out of place anywhere but this family. Only she and Kendral were related by blood - Leyana and Jaatiiko were children she had found while doing tasks for her master. Both were members of families that had practically abandoned them. Knowing first-hand how cold and ruthless the city was, Hahli had taken the two in and raised them as her siblings. Kendral looked after them while she was away, and her special brand of employment meant she was able to provide them with far better food and clothes than the vast majority of Metru-Nui. It was to these three that she owed her true loyalty, not to the Great Spirit or any Toa. The sound of someone coming up the handholds made her turn, Leyana still clinging to her leg. Linkake emerged from the cave below into the bright, warm family room. "I told you not to go into the city alone." Hahli chided. The young male shrugged. "I had to figure something out. I think I remember why I'm here." Kendral noted the dust covering his friend's armor. "Where were you?" "In the Coliseum." he answered carelessly. Linkake picked Leyana up and threw her onto the soft, Ta-matoran style couch. She giggled and begged for more. Hahli stepped in between him and the little girl. "Leyana, sweetie, I bought you and Jaatiiko some new toys. Why don't you run into my room and open them, alright?" The petite Le-matoran squealed with delight and raced for Hahli's pack. Jaatiiko helped his little sister drag the bag into another room and shut the door behind them. "Should I go, too?" Kendral asked hoarsely, looking to his older sister. Hahli shook her head. "No, I want you to hear this." She turned to the stranger. "Listen, I don't know where you came from, or what you've done, but you need to get something through that thick head. You don't know the city. It's dangerous! You have no district identification, no work papers, nothing! If any Vahki just did a cursory inspection of you at a chute station, you'd be recognized as an outlander and taken straight to the Coliseum. And I don't mean the nice part where the Toa live." He bit his lip. "If you were in my position, what would you do? You'd take any risk to find out who you are and what you're supposed to do!" "If it was just my life I was risking, maybe." she conceded. "But you're not just risking your life - you're risking all of us! I brought you here to keep you safe, not so you could get captured and reveal where my family hides! Not even my master knows I don't live in the city, and there's a reason for that!" She pointed to the room where the younger children had gone. "They are too young to have their lives taken away because you make a mistake! If you stay with us, then you agree not to leave here unless I'm with you. Deal?" He nodded slowly. "I'm sorry. Really. I just... I know I have to do something, and I can't remember what. It's driving me insane." She softened. "Ok, then I'll help you figure that out. But slowly, and carefully. Metru-Nui has two mottos: 'never run from a Vahki', and 'caution saves lives'." Linkake laughed. "You forgot the third one: 'trust no one'." Hahli smiled. "You're getting the idea."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, Jun 01 2012 - 01:56 PM.

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#8 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Nov 18 2011 - 10:16 PM

Stave 8

He was walking slowly, walking into a Vahki transport. He had seen transports all over the city, but this one was somehow... different. The walls were lined with spherical containers, all with the hatches open. The Vahki directed him towards the nearest one. "What am I supposed to do?" he asked the machine pleadingly. "Fix it? Close it? What?" The questions were pointless, he knew - Vahki couldn't talk. The machine merely gestured towards the sphere again. "Climb... inside?" he said tentatively. "Is that what the Turaga wants?" The Rorzahk nodded. He shrugged. "Weird... but alright. If it will keep us all safe." "It is important that you cooperate with the Vahki enforcers!" someone's voice boomed over a loudspeaker. He took a deep breath and climbed into the sphere. He had to. If he didn't trust his leader, what sort of matoran was he? Satisfied, the mechanical guardians closed the hatch behind him. "Hey!" he shouted, struggling against the door. "Wait!" His pounding slowed. This sphere was somehow peaceful. Peace was something he had not felt for a long time, not since the rumors of the Morbuzakh began. Something in the back of his mind protested against this cloying sweetness, this strange calm. 'Fight it, fight it!' he thought against his own will. He struggled to move, to think. His eyelids felt heavy. 'Fight! Stay awake!' It was no use. Blackness overtook him. His last thoughts drifted into a dreamless sleep. He would never wake again.

* * *

Gyet yelled and sat up, panting. The darkness that had just enveloped his sight had moved to outside his windows. It was late, perhaps past midnight, and he was safely at home. Another nightmare, he thought, shaking himself. One would think I was a child, instead of an old man, screaming about a bad dream. Across the room, his wife Yulain stirred slightly on her cot, then rolled over. At least she was getting an unbroken night's rest. He got up and went to the window. Gazing through the night, he could easily espy the Coliseum's single spire against the star-lit sky. The building stood as a symbol of the power of the Great One, and of his chosen city. Chosen and conquered, Gyet reminded himself. A lifetime of believing the Great Spirit was good was not easily overcome. So, he is not our savior. Then who is he? How can our history only begin with our memories of waking for the first time to find him standing over us, smiling? The tablets were carved before I was made. Perhaps he wiped out the previous Metru-Nui, and made a new one, with new matoran. A Vahki patrol moved down the street, carelessly noisy. The enforcers weren't programmed for secrecy; they didn't need to be stealthy to do their job. He shut the window, just to be on the safe side. In a city where nothing made sense anymore, you couldn't be too careful. "Gyet?" Yulain asked sleepily, roused by the sound of the shutters. "Go back to sleep, dear. Everything's fine." She smiled and closed her eyes. He wished he could believe his own words. I need to find what happened to the old Metru-Nui. I have to know. And I know who can tell me.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:45 PM.

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#9 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Nov 23 2011 - 12:24 AM

Stave 9

Hewkii carefully read over the report on his holographic computer screen, checking his gut instinct against the data. He had been right; the numbers still didn't match up. At that much protodermis a month, the output should be at least twenty more discs. Someone has to be skimming. He sighed in relief and leaned back in his chair. This was the boring part of being the head of the fourth district of Po-metru exports. Number crunching was not even something he was good at. It was the part that came next that was his specialty - reforming those workers who dishonored the Great One. Since his promotion twelve years ago, his district had the lowest rate of embezzlement and highest output of product in all the stone quarter. It had required a delicate balance of justice and mercy, showing the matoran that the best way to not end up cowering before the district manager was complete honesty and loyalty. Those who followed that path had received better living conditions, better work, and sometimes, even the opportunity to become Toa, although that part wasn't his decision. This particular case involved a matoran given the privileged job of creating Po-metru kanoka discs. And the matoran had made a similar "mistake" in keeping his records before. And thank the Great Spirit for that. That means he's not one of the order. He shook his head and chuckled. Even our expressions are based on the Great One being who he says he is. Matoran who joined the secret rebels had to have a clean record, a show of dedication. It was the best way to ensure that none of them were ever suspected. Although, considering what happened to number eighteen, it's clearly not infallible. He stood up and set out for the crafter's workplace, a grim smile playing on his lips. The irony of a Toa who did not believe in the Great Spirit going to discipline a matoran for disrespecting the same ruler was not lost on him.

* * *

"Pakarn!" A sand-and-black armored matoran jumped at his call. "Toa Hewkii! What... What an unexpected pleasure! Is there something I can get for you? Anything?" "You can explain why you use twenty-six teres of protodermis to produce only a hundred and thirty-seven discs." The Toa of Stone leaned cooly against a crafters table. "But then, there's really nothing to explain, is there?" "I... I can explain that, Toa." the crafter gulped. "I made the usual hundred and sixty, but some of the discs came out as reconstitute at random; more than usual. I was... Well, afraid that my reputation as a crafter would diminish for making so many illegal discs, so I hid those." Hewkii shook his head and chuckled. "How very convenient! Any chance I could see those hidden discs? We wouldn't want some poor rahi finding them, would we?" The Po-matoran struggled to maintain some level of composure. "Toa... I should have reported it, but I was... She said..." Comprehending the matoran's struggle, Hewkii finished the sentence. "You didn't keep them; a Toa took them and told you to keep quiet." The matoran nodded eagerly. "I would have said something, Toa Hewkii - by the Great Spirit, I swear it! But I have three children and my wife is carrying our fourth... I couldn't risk it! You understand, don't you?" The Toa of Stone gave the crafter a long, hard look. "In other words, your fear kept you from doing your duty to the Great One. Don't fail again." The matoran bowed nervously. "Yes, Toa." "The one who took the discs and frightened you out your little wits - who was it?" "I-I don't know her name, Toa. She wore a mask of Telekinesis, and she was a Ta-Toa. I'd seen her a few times, bringing in shipments from Ta-metru." Hewkii nodded. "That much'll do, for now. This was a lesson I hope you'll remember, matoran." Brushing off the Po-matoran's exclamations of gratitude, he walked away, musing to himself. More and more Toa seemed to be falling for the lure of greed nowadays. He wondered why the devotion to the Great One had been lost. After all, none of them knew the truth. So why was this the fourth case of Toa embezzlement he had heard of in the past decade? Stone cracks when you hit it, sand moves in the wind. Nothing happens without a cause. But what cause could there be for this relative outbreak of disloyalty, of decay in the ranks?
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:47 PM.

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#10 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Nov 28 2011 - 07:31 PM

Stave 10

Hahli knew the warning signs even without turning around. The Vahki patroling this section of Onu-metru saw a Ga-matoran as out of place. To the mechanical enforcers, "out of place" meant wrong. How they had seen through her disguised armor and kanohi was a matter to settle when she had time to think - for now, getting out of the mine alive was all that mattered. Not even bothering to try to maintain her cover, she broke into a dead run, heading for the nearest elevator. The Rorzakh who had been creeping up behind her uttered a mechanical screech of warning to it's comrade and took off after her. A third darted between her and the elevator, it's staffs held outward to strike. Acting on instinct, she ducked the swipe and slid between the Vahki's legs, stabbing upward with the modified protosteel switchblade that was built into her left arm. The sharp metal pierced the Rorzakh's armor, cutting the wires underneath and buying her enough time to get back to her feet. The two who had spotted her now joined their comrade, forming a triangle to cut off her escape and guard the elevator. The leader emitted several high-pitched sounds - probably summoning the squad on the next level up. Frantically, she glanced around, looking for another escape route. Except for the one shaft the Rorzakh had cut her off from, all the other elevators nearby went down to the next level. The nearest one had already been called to the lowest section, the cables hanging taut from the pulley. I hate tunnels, she thought, running back towards the shaft. Especially when they only go down. Preferring to take her chances with falling rather than be caught and face failure, she grabbed onto the thick elevator cables and slid down. The three Vahki followed suit a few seconds later. Think, Hahli! The Onu-matoran dig secondary shafts for air - where's the shaft? The cable slid through her armored fingers at a dizzying speed. She threw her head back to look up. The Vahki were heavier than she, and so slid faster. One of them was almost close enough to use it's staff. And if that happens, there's no escape no matter where I run. Rorzakh staffs held the power of transmission - any matoran touched by their weapons unwittingly became the Vahki's eyes and ears. She could hardly run from something that could see where she was through her own eyes. Risking hanging on with only one hand, she reached her left hand back to the disc launcher strapped to her back. The disc already loaded in the barrel read 135*. She smiled. Perfect. She triggered the firing mechanism, sending the disc flying upward. The strong Ta-metru kanoka hit the first Vahki and knocked it aside, causing the machine to lose it's grip on the cable and tumble into the blackness below. The disc continued on towards it's real target: the cable itself. The protodermis struck the metal, unleashing the kanoka's weakness power. Between the weight of the elevator itself, the two Rorzakh and herself, the cable was now too weak to hold. With a sharp crack, the twined metal snapped, sending all three figures into a freefall. The two Vahki screeched and tried to dig their staffs into the wall to stop their descent. Hahli looked down, the sickening realization of failure setting in. The ground was closer than she had reckoned on; at this rate, she wasn't going to be able to fire another disc or a grappling hook to stop her fall. In the darkness below, only a few patches of light could be seen, but one revealed an underground river that ran through the mine. Instinct took over. Flipping as far forward as she could in mid-air, she straightened out for the last ten bio, hoping against hope that the water was deep enough to break the impact. She closed her eyes.

* * *

Wow, that hurts. Everything hurts. Hahli sat up slowly. Every single gear in her body ached. Her head throbbed with a dull pain. A piece of armor on her right leg had bent inward from the force of her fall, cutting off her circulation. Wearily, she looked around. She must have been carried by the river for some distance - she saw no signs of mining or any matoran activity at all in this cave. Wait a second, she thought, trying to jolt herself back to full conciousness. It should be pitch black down here. Where's the light coming from? The soft yellow glow emitted from a single lightstone in one of the walls. Judging by how dim the light is, the stone must be at least a hundred years old. But if there's no sign of mining down here, then who would bother to put a lightstone in the wall? The light reflected off something glassy on the floor, but she was too bleary-eyed to make it out at this distance. Forcing herself to her feet, she limped to the strange reflective surface... and gasped. On the floor, perfectly aligned, lay six stasis tubes, each containing the strangest rahi she had ever seen. They had reptilian heads and fang-like teeth that showed even when their mouths were closed. Their bodies were small and twisted, somewhat resembling a cross between a baby kikanalo and a kavinika. On their backs, she could make out three flat metal bars that seemed to have no purpose at all. They were ugly, evil-looking things. She cautiously tapped on the glass of one of the cylinders. The creature inside did not stir. The stasis tubes were undamaged, and if the amount of dust on their surface was any indication, they had been here as long or longer than the lightstone. No inscriptions, no plaques, nothing to tell what they are and why they're here instead of the Coliseum. Anything that was this carefully hidden must have some significance... and she doubted the Toa would go to the trouble of putting an enemy in stasis instead of just eliminating it. Her curiosity got the better of her. She wiped the dust away from one of the tubes and pressed the release. The air rushed into the tube with a hiss, and the rahi began to revive. It opened it's eyes, slowly shook it's head and it's limbs, as if trying to escape the drowsiness that had controlled it for so long. She stepped back, warily extending her blade again. With a sudden cry of surprise or pain, the creature wriggled it's way out of the tube. It lay on the floor, panting and looking at her with strangely wise eyes. "Easy, little guy." she said soothingly, still keeping her bladed arm out. She could see now that even standing up, it would hardly be as tall as her chin. "It's okay; no one's gonna hurt you." The rahi coughed on the dust in the air. "Tell that to my throat." it rasped. Hahli stepped back in shock. The fall must have done something to my head. Rahi can't talk! The green creature got to it's feet, looking old and bent. "I don't suppose you have a water flask?" it asked. "Not that I'm ungrateful for my freedom, but you get pretty thirsty in stasis." "I must be dreaming." she said aloud this time. "You're not... You're not talking." The creature - or whatever it was - sighed. "You think I'm some sort of weird rahi, then? Most matoran do. Sadly." She nodded slowly. Between the pain of her injuries and the stale air of the tunnels, she was no longer convinced of anything being real. "Right. So, if you're not a rahi, then what are you?" "Who am I, you mean." it - he - corrected. "My name is Rahaga Iruini. And if you don't mind, I'm very curious as to where I am right now, and why my brothers and sister are still asleep."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 29 2012 - 07:06 PM.

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#11 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Dec 03 2011 - 03:08 PM

Stave 11

If there was one thing Macku lived for, it was this. She steeled her nerves and tightened her grip on her trident Toa tool. Across the field, her opponent held his crossbow lightly, waiting for the match to begin. "Ready?" he called. "Are you?" she returned, placing one foot on a kanoka disc. The Le-Toa shrugged and jumped onto the two discs on the stadium floor beneath him. Macku responded in kind, using her momentum and the discs levitation power to glide just above the ground. Moving her feet back and forth to build up momentum, she and her opponent circled each other, each gaining speed.* Macku let the other Toa make the first move, trying to analyze his style. The Le-Toa fired a bolt of hard wind from his crossbow, aimed at knocking her off balance. She swerved to the side, avoiding the blast and fired a stream of water from her hand. The Le-Toa flipped from a standstill over the shot and landed cleanly back on his discs. The motion gave him a boost in speed and he slid past her gracefully, swiping at her right leg with his crossbow. She shielded herself by catching his weapon in the prongs of her trident, stopping the blow. At the same moment, she used a bolt of water to propel herself forward, ripping his crossbow away from him. "Wanna play hardrough, do ya?" the Le-Toa taunted, summoning a wind to change his direction. He swooped after her, trying to get his crossbow back. "Then take this!" He directed the air blast at her torso, hitting her as solidly as a well-thrown punch. To his surprise, Macku merely absorbed the impact, allowing the wind to push her faster. "Word of advice," she called, spinning to face him. "You might want to just attack, instead of warning me." A grin played over her lips as she summoned a bubble of water around herself, using her element as a shield against the driving wind. "You can't hidestay in there forever." the Toa of Air laughed, surfing lightly around the field. "You wear a kanohimask of Invisibility, not water-yuck breathing." She shrugged, still holding her breath. She motioned outward with her arms, and the bubble burst, spraying liquid across the stadium like a storm cloud. "I don't need to." The other grinned and surfed back towards her, using his power over the air around her to rip his crossbow away. She saw her chance and dropped her trident to the ground. Stretching out both hands, she took control of the water in the Toa's body and began pulling it out. The Air Toa gasped and struggled, trying to fight this new attack. In a last ditch effort, he called a small whirlwind into being, whipping her into a wall. Stunned from the blow, she fell off her discs, ending the match. Still reeling from the impact, Macku returned the moisture to it's place. "You could've killed me!" the Toa gasped, falling to his knees. Macku shrugged, standing up. "Get used to it. This is how the big kids play akalini." The Air Toa shook his head, getting back to his feet. "You're a whole lot nastymeaner than you look, water maid." "I take that as a compliment." she replied, collecting her trident. After a moment, the Toa of Air added, "Neat trickfeat, though. What exactly did you do to me?" "I pulled the water in your blood away, cutting off your oxygen. Do it for more than a few seconds, and yes, you could die." Her face was a little grave. "It's something only a few Toa of Water can pull off, and it takes a lot of practice." The Toa of Air looked thoughtful. "I supposeguess you learned that from being a ziron Toa?" She nodded and spoke quietly. "And no, normally I don't use it for a game. But I... Well, I wasn't sure what you could take." He nodded. "And for the sake of heart-trust, you wanted to know my borderlimits." They both understood his unspoken reference to the rebels. "Something like that." she shrugged, fitting her trident into the clip mounted on her back. "And you're not bad, for an airhead." "Thanks." he returned good-naturedly. "And I think, since you almost killed me, you at least owe me your name. I'm Kongu." She considered for a moment, then nodded. "Fine. I'm Macku." "And, uh, please," Kongu smiled, "don't ever do that again." She grinned in return and was about to reply when another voice called her name. She turned to see Matoro entering the field, his pace unusually quick. "What news?" she asked, seeing the troubled look on his face. "The word just came that Teran-Nua surrendered two days ago. The Great One had already ordered all the records and artifacts on the island to be destroyed before the last battle." the Toa of Ice frowned. "He's covering his tracks." Macku clenched her fists. "Keeping us from finding out anything that might tell us who he really is." Matoro nodded. "Exactly. I had planned to go myself and take what I could, but by now, there won't be anything left." "Cursed clever smart-thinkers." Kongu muttered. "Is there anyone on Teran that might try to hidesmuggle some back?" Matoro shrugged. "If there is, I don't know them." "Which means we're back where we started." Macku groaned. "Not quite." Matoro replied. "The message said they had taken more than three hundred matoran captives." Kongu cocked his head. "The Great One must have some thoughtplan for how to silencekeep them, too." "I don't see how he could." Macku objected. "That many of them?" Kongu scoffed. "You've been a Toa all your longlife, yet you don't headthink that your overruler has any power? No one think-knows what he's capable of! Or even how he made this islandplace his. I'm betting he has power the matchlikes of which no Toa has." Matoro nodded. "For a Toa of Air, you seem wiser than most." "You learn quickfast as a matoran." he shrugged. "Or you don't live long." Macku bit her lip thoughtfully. "How soon could you get to Teran-Nua, Matoro?" "One, maybe two days. No one would question me for doing so; going to the war is how many earn honor." "Then you'd better get there before the Great One does." she replied. He nodded, and left as swiftly as he had come.
Review*If you're having trouble picturing the Toa version of akalini, each Toa stands on two kanoka discs and surfs around the stadium on them, like floating freeline skates.

Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:52 PM.

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#12 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Dec 08 2011 - 06:01 PM

Stave 12

Gyet hated swimming. Really, all Ta-matoran did. It wasn't that they couldn't do it; it was just that it was so... wet. And dark. And it had that tendency to be cold. Yet, here he was, slipping out of his "borrowed" canoe and into the Silver Sea. Only a few yards away, the Great Barrier loomed high in shining cliffs, hundreds upon hundreds of bio tall. The waves splashed against the rocks, the echoes whispering through the many crevices and coves. Even with the passing of time, the walls surrounding Metru-Nui were inescapable and impregnable. With one exception. Taking in a deep breath, the old matoran dove under the surface. There were no caves or openings in the rocks above the water - Toa of Stone regularly checked and mended any significant fractures in the cliffs. But if one could swim far enough down, fissures and sea caves still existed. None led anywhere; at least, not out of the city. He had had a lifetime to explore and discover. But the one he sought now had an owner... One who could give him some answers. At least, I hope he can. Gyet thought, taking a quick gulp from an air bladder. Nothing is certain when it comes to the Guardian. He pushed himself deeper through the liquid protodermis. His joints creaked and moaned with the effort, but just as his air bladder was beginning to give out, he found the small crack. Squeezing through, he scrambled for the surface, breaking out of the liquid with a gasp. "I'm too old for this." he panted, dragging himself up onto the rock ledge above the water. Here, like in many sea caves, the air inside the cavern kept the sea water from filling the cave, though the atmosphere was stale and somewhat hard to breathe. Gyet took a moment to recover his breath, then walked slowly through the tunnel. Ahead, a central chamber widened out. Four pillars supported the roof of the cavern, one at each corner. But what drew his eye first was the large pool of shimmering liquid that covered most of the floor. The cavern was so still that his breathing seemed as loud as a thunderclap. He stepped slowly to the edge of the pool. "Guardian?" he called, looking down at the smooth surface. "It's Gyet. I need your aid." At his words, the liquid stirred, rippled and seemed to draw itself together at the center. A wave rose, roaring like the ocean tide, but did not move from it's place. A the peak of the wave, the liquid formed itself into the likeness of a head. Slowly, bit by bit, a neck followed. Then an arm, a powerful chest and at last, the wave fell away into the pool and there remained only a tall figure formed entirely of the strange liquid. It's mask was featureless, it's shoulders broad, and it moved with both might and grace. It floated over the surface of the pool, moving towards the Ta-matoran. "You have summoned me. What is it you wish?" The words were soft and gentle, contrasting sharply with the strength and power the figure showed. "I have more questions, Guardian." Gyet lowered himself into a sitting position, resting his legs. He took great care to avoid touching the pool. "What is it that you wish to know? If I can, I will answer." "I have had more dreams, and they are clearer this time. When we last spoke, you said something about how they might be visions." Gyet said eagerly. The liquid head nodded. "That is so. Visions were given to a few, to help them on the road to their destiny, when I knew the world. Your dreams seemed to have similar traits." "In this dream, I saw myself climbing into a sort of round... container. There were Vahki everywhere, and someone told me to obey them. Inside the container was some sort of sleeping drug or gas... I'm not sure about that part. But does any of it mean anything?" The Guardian seemed to sigh, as if considering something. "I told you when you first came here that it has been many lives of Toa since I was imprisoned. The world outside has seen many ages of which I know nothing. That said, I will try to answer. This container you speak of... I believe it is significant in some way." Gyet closed his eyes, thinking. "I may have seen something like it... When the Great One first awakened the city." The Guardian was silent. That is his way, though. He will not speak unless asked a question, the matoran reminded himself. "The containers - or something very like them - were what we all came out of. The Great One was standing over us, and he smiled. He told us he had made us, and that we would be greater than any other matoran in the world. But then why am I climbing into the container in the dream?" "I cannot tell for certain." the Guardian replied. "The dream says you were put in and fell asleep; you say you awakened and climbed out. The two are connected." Gyet leaned forward. "Then the dream is a vision? Perhaps a vision of the Metru-Nui before the Great One?" "I cannot say. It seems to be so, and that is all I know." The liquid body rippled, conveying that the entity was unsure. "It... is possible that in time, you could learn to command these visions or dreams and so see them by day, when meanings and signs are clearer. Much as you learned to shield your mind." The matoran frowned. "But I'm two hundred and sixty-four! I haven't got time to learn!" Again, the Guardian was silent - no question or demand had been spoken. Annoyed, Gyet bit his lip. "Is there anything else you can tell me about my dream?" "Yes. The voice - did you recognize it?" Gyet shook his head. "Then it is important." "Typical." the matoran snorted. "Anything I can't understand or don't know is the key." He stood up, his gears protesting with loud creaks. "Thank you for your help." "That is my purpose, matoran of Fire." The being seemed to bow it's head slightly, then the figure collapsed into a mere column of liquid, which fell into the pool without a splash. The cavern was suddenly still again. Gyet bowed his head to the pool. "Riddles when you want answers. And not even enough riddles to be much help." he muttered to himself as he left the cave. "Still, the voice is something. If I was alive before whatever happened, then perhaps the owner of the voice is, too. And hopefully, they still remember the time before time."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:54 PM.

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#13 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Dec 14 2011 - 07:23 PM

Stave 13

"You're what?" Hahli demanded of the strange bipedal rahi - or being - that was now trying to free another of it's kind from a stasis tube. "Rahaga Iruini. You know, legendary rahi tracker and scarer of matoran? Help me get these guys out, will you? The controls are all different from what I'm used to." He grunted in effort, trying to smash the thick outer glass with his fist. "Alright, even I couldn't dream something this crazy." Hahli muttered. "Since none of your other answers make sense, can you at least tell me why you were in stasis?" She stepped warily over to the second tube and began unlocking it. Iruini nodded, sarcasm dripping from his voice. "Sure! In addition to being a rahi tracker and walking nightmare, I'm also a great nap taker. What do I look like, a Turaga? I don't even know where I am, let alone why I was in there!" "Ugly rahi with attitude. Just what I needed today." Hahli rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay; look, this isn't easy for me either." the Rahaga shrugged. "Did I mention I don't know where I am?" Hahli stepped back as the second creature, this one black, crawled out of the tube. "Metru-Nui. Well, you're under it, at least." Iruini cocked his head thoughtfully. "Still? But this doesn't look like the Archives at all!" "The Archives are in the Coliseum. You're about four hundred bio underground, and that's a Ga-matoran's estimate." she replied, moving to the next tube. Maybe one of the others would be more coherent than Iruini. "What Metru-Nui are we talking about?" the black one asked. "The Archives have always been under Onu-Metru. It's one of the six wonders of the world!" "Evidently not, Bomonga." Iruini quipped. A white Rahaga shook itself, trying to focus. "We have emerged from stupor into a world that no longer knows us, and that we no longer know." "I don't suppose you have any idea how long we've been here?" Iruini asked Hahli as she freed the fourth. The Ga-matoran laughed sharply. "I didn't even know you existed five minutes ago." "Figures." the green Rahaga sighed. The black one, Bomonga, spoke up. "If we can find an Ussal crab or a cave crawler, I might be able to figure that part out. What I'm more interested in is who put us in stasis in the first place?" "Toa?" Hahli suggested. "Or maybe an ambitious matoran?" To her surprise, the group of Rahaga burst out laughing. "Why in Mata Nui's name would a Toa put us in stasis?" a brown one chuckled. "Because you're.... Well, you're Outlanders. I'd think they'd just kill you, but one of the more curious Toa might try to study you." she explained curtly. She did not enjoy being laughed at. "She's serious." the white one said, studying her face. "Very." she replied. "You guys really have no idea what Metru-Nui's like, do you?" The red Rahaga, the last one to revive, shook his head. "Clearly, this is not the City of Legends that we knew. What is the new one like?" "New one?" Hahli repeated. "It's been this way since it was created!" "Why don't we trade stories?" the brown one suggested. "I'm starting to realize that you're just as lost as we are, matoran." "Yeah... sure." She sat down slowly, feeling more dazed by the minute. What are these things? An old Metru-Nui? The Archives under Onu-Metru? And they've never heard of Toa, either?

* * *

"So, the one in charge of the city - you don't even know his name?" Gaaki, the blue Rahaga, asked. Hahli nodded. "No one does. He's supposed to be our creator and ruler; he's never really needed a name." Time was difficult to keep track of in the tunnels, but it must have been at least an hour since the last Rahaga had climbed out of stasis. They had been swapping condensed stories with her all that time, but she still felt more as if she were talking to aliens from another world than beings from the past. The Metru-Nui they claimed to have known belonged on another planet. The red one, Norik shrugged. "He would never go by the name of the true Great Spirit, sister, and he could not use his own." "Wait, you know who the Great One is?" Hahli raised her eyebrows. Iruini glanced at the others before replying. "None of us exactly knows how we were put in stasis, but... we had come to Metru-Nui because we were running from someone. Someone very powerful, and very dangerous. Your 'Great One' sounds like the same person." Hahli nodded. "So, did he create our island or not?" "He certainly didn't create the land or city, if that's what you mean." the one called Pouks answered. "And only the Great Spirit Mata Nui can just create matoran. So, no, and no. But he definitely did something to this place. It's all so different." Bomonga stroked his lizard-like chin thoughtfully. "I think we could figure more out if we went to the surface and saw for ourselves." Hahli leaped to her feet. "My master! The protodermis!" At the surprised looks of the Rahaga, she hastily explained, "I came down here to find a hidden cache of protodermis that's supposed to be exceptionally pure, even in it's natural form. My master wanted it to make Kanoka discs. I've got till sundown to get it, and get out of here." Norik stood up slowly. "Then we will assist in your search. The least we can do for the one who set us free." "No, no." With a job to focus on, Hahli's clarity of thought was returning. "You'd be caught by Vahki and turned over to the Toa the moment you got anywhere near the mines. Stay here, and--" Kualus stretched his limbs and got to his feet. Quickly, he slid into the shadows, blending with the darkness of the cave despite his white armor. His feet made no noise as he walked swiftly towards the river and back. Had it not been for Hahli's ability to sense the water in his flesh, he would have succeeded in slipping behind her undetected. "The Vahki won't even know we're there." Gaaki smiled. "Even Dalger hounds can't catch our trail." "Okay, but be careful. I can't risk myself to help you guys if you're caught." the matoran warned, heading back to the water. "Add one more thing to the list of new Metru-Nui weirdness." Iruini frowned. "Selfish matoran." Hahli ignored the quip and dove in quietly, waiting for the splashes of the Rahaga following. Instead, the six slid into the river as smoothly as Ruki fish and began swimming in the direction she indicated. Behind them, the lightstone in the wall flickered and went out. The blank darkness enveloped the group.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 10:57 PM.

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#14 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Dec 20 2011 - 09:52 PM

Stave 14

Gyet worked more hastily than usual, nearly dumping the new tools on the rack. He wanted to have a few minutes to concentrate. If I can learn to control these dreams, I will. I need to focus. Just a few more loads, and my quota will be done. The door to the forge opened and shut quietly. He turned at the sound, assuming it was a foreman or perhaps the regional Toa, come to check up on him. But the last thing he expected was a Ga-matoran with streaks of black paint on her scarred armor holding a kanoka disc launcher. "Quiet." she whispered. "I've got a level five explosive disc, and I will use it if you don't do exactly what I say." Hahli ignored the perspiration beading on her mask, her whole attention on the Ta-matoran. Gyet nodded, not daring to move. His eyes darted around the room, looking for a way to summon the nearest Vahki. The hot tongs... If he could get to them, they might serve as a weapon. But her voice recalled his attention. "You're Gyet. I know a lot about you. Word is, you study history off the job." She slowly moved away from the door and towards the open window. With one hand still on the firing mechanism, she pulled the shutter closed. "You do what I ask, no one's going to come after you, no Vahki knocking on your door. Got it? I just have a couple questions." "You have a strange way of asking, Ga-matoran." Gyet returned lightly. "There's no need for the disc." "Just answer my questions." she shot back. "What do you know about Rahaga?" Gyet blinked, searching his memory. The answer was easy. "Never heard of them." She was apparently not satisfied. "You have a clean record right now. Well, I can fix it so you end up staying under the Coliseum for a very long time. Or just end it now." The female took a few steps closer. "What do you know about Rahaga?" "I don't know anything! I swear by the Great One!" He took care to keep his voice low, not wanting to anger her further. After a moment, Hahli backed away. "Okay, that was the truth. What about someone called Mata Nui?" For the merest fraction of an instant, Gyet's eyes went wide in shock. How did she know that name?! The tablets mentioned that name! Like a kavinika crouching for a death spring, she smiled. "You do know something about that, don't you? Tell me." "I... I've seen it once, mentioned in an obscure book." he lied. "It was supposed to be some sort of rahi." "Wrong answer." Hahli tightened her grip on the launcher threateningly. Gyet saw falsehoods would not fool this matoran, whomever she was. "What I know, I will die to protect." Hahli's eyebrows went up. "Why? I'm not going to hurt you, if you just answer the question." Despite the danger, Gyet laughed softly. "That's a Mask of Illusions you wear. You're not a matoran; you're a Toa. And I'll tell you nothing." "Would a Toa dress as a dirty Ga-matoran?" A flicker of a smile played on her lips; not a cruel smile, either. "You'd do anything to make me trust you." She scoffed. "I don't want your trust; I want what you know. This Mata Nui - he's the real Great Spirit, isn't he? That's what you found." Gyet was silent, betraying neither fear nor acknowledgement. Hahli suddenly lowered the launcher. "Look... I don't expect you to believe me - I wouldn't believe me - but I know the truth. And I know some people who claim to know the real Great Spirit, but they've been... lost for a while, and they need to know more about the city. I know you can tell them that; you're one of the few matoran left who remembers the beginning." She held out her hand. "You bring them up to speed, and I'll bring you back here safe. I'll even make sure your name stays under the Vahki's radar." The old matoran shook his head. "And why should I believe you? One moment, you're threatening to kill me, and the next you offer to help?" "Maybe because you're a matoran who still believes in doing what's right?" a strange voice suggested. A hunched, red figure with a reptilian head emerged from the shadows as silently as a cat. "I hope there's still a few of those left in the city." "I thought you and the others were waiting outside." Hahli said to the strange creature, not taking her eyes off the Ta-matoran. "We suspected your tactics would not inspire confidentiality." Norik returned with a smile. Gyet gasped, unable to look away from the Rahaga. "You... I've seen you before!" "Where?" Hahli demanded. "In my dreams."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:00 PM.

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#15 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 01 2012 - 07:22 PM

Stave 15

Linkake sighed again. Waiting for Hahli to come back from the city felt like waiting for a Hoto turtle to move. And he had so many questions he still hadn't found answers to; why he had been in the Silver Sea, who had sent him, and what exactly the Great One was. So many questions and so few memories, he thought ruefully. Just dreams, glimpses of faces and people. Nothing real, nothing certain. Not even my own name. Sitting on the floor with him, Leyana was working busily on a sliding puzzle, trying to move the pieces to unlock the little box of sweets Hahli had given her. She muttered to herself as she played. At last, she heaved a sigh and turned to the young male matoran. "Will you helpgive, please? I mean, help me?" Linkake smiled as he took the box. The little girl still occasionally slipped into chutespeak when she was upset, as hard as she tried to speak properly. "Sure, kiddo. Let's see." Jaatiiko looked up from a book he was studying. "Slide the purple down two notches and the green right three notches." Linkake followed the boy's directions and found that the lid sprang open. "That did it. Here you go, Ley." "Yay!" Leyana cried, reaching for one of the candied kojo fruits. "Thanks, 'Tiiko." she said with her mouth full. "How'd you know that would open it, 'Tiiko?" Linkake asked curiously. The boy shrugged. "Math. Those were the only two pieces that were in any position to undo a catch." Kendral grinned, looking up from the stew he was stirring. "He's a whiz with that stuff. Someday, he'll have to be an engineer, or something." "I guess so." Linkake laughed. "And I'll be a spy, like Hahli!" Leyana added. She picked up an imaginary disc launcher and pretended to fire it. "Whoosh! You're gone, bad Toa!" "Ah! You got me; I'm hurt!" Linkake held one hand over his heartlight, wincing dramatically. Kendral only rolled his eyes, but Leyana burst out laughing. Jaatiiko looked on with calm interest as Linkake chased the little girl around the room playfully, both calling each other names that would have shocked the eldest member of the family. "All right; you win." the multi-colored matoran gasped after a few minutes. "You're too fast." "That's... 'cause I'm... a Le-matoran." she taunted between gulps of air. Linkake noticed a light disc launcher mounted on one of the walls. "I bet I can beat you at accuracy, though." "Hahli says I can't use it." Leyana pouted, looking at the launcher. "She says I'm too little." "Well, I'm sure she wouldn't mind just once." he grinned, taking it off its hooks. "Come on, what's the target?" The little girl pointed at a small vein of white rock that ran across the wall. "Hit that!" Linkake raised the launcher and slipped his fingers into the firing mechanism. As he did so, a spark seemed to leap from his hand to the weapon... and with the energy came a burst of memories. A Toa in scarred blue armor flashed into his mind's eye - she was talking to him, teaching him about kanoka.

* * *

"But remember that type one discs are only to be used as a last resort." she said in a voice that cracked with age. "The reconstitution may last for a few minutes or a few days, depending on the disc, and there is absolutely no way to predict what the target will become." "So I could change a kavinika into a rahkshi?" he heard himself ask. "Or something worse." she nodded. "The best types for you to use would be shrink or freeze discs - even most Toa choose those." He cocked his head and looked over the stack of discs in front of him. "But?" "But," a slight smile crossed the ancient Toa's mask, "I happen to believe that you might do better with a less common strategy, given your... unique style." "Teleports?" he suggested eagerly. "I meant custom discs, Takua." she corrected. "Like this." She handed him a disc with a four-digit code: 4456. He frowned in surprise. "I thought kanoka only had three numbers." The Toa of Water nodded. "Only combined discs have more - discs created by merging two or more of the eight standards. What kind is this?" He had memorized the codes inside and out. "A Ko-metru disc, power level six, and combined discs of 'removes poison' and 'enlarge'." "Correct. Which makes this a disc of poison." "But, Toa Helryx!" he protested in surprise. "Poison is a power of the darkness! You can't expect me to use it!" Her aged face became very stern. "Do you remember what happened to Litna last year? Do you remember the devastation that you saw? This is an enemy you must be willing to fight any way you can." "But I swore to obey the code of the Toa--" "As did I. But you are not a Toa, and Mata Nui is not here to help us. Sometimes sacrifices must be made, when we are left no other choice, Takua." She put a heavy hand on his shoulder. "You, of all people should understand that."

* * *

"Linkake?" Leyana called. "Aren't you gonna shoot?" Slowly, he lowered the launcher. "Takua." he muttered. "What'd you say?" she asked, looking up at him with big, unsuspecting eyes. "I think... my name is Takua."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:02 PM.

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#16 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 04 2012 - 02:23 PM

Stave 16

Hewkii was surprised to find that the Fire Toa who had stolen the discs had not covered her tracks very well. Her name was Alkah, and she was an experienced mask maker in Ta-metru's second district. Apparently, she had gotten a little too obsessed with her job. Which doesn't say much for her intelligence. In Metru-Nui, if you're going to steal something, at least make it hard for people to find you, he rolled his eyes as he grabbed onto one of the metal support rings inside the chute to slow his ride. Timing his movement with the flow of the magnetized protodermis walls, he jumped out and steeled his nerves to land on the ground half a dozen bio below. Getting out at a chute-stop might be easier, but it would also require a detailed explanation to the Nuurakh, the Ta-metru Vahki. And they were not known for either patience or understanding. More than likely, they'd make me explain myself to the district manager, by which time, Alkah will have gotten away. He landed smoothly on his feet and glanced around. The forges of the fire metru blew a thick cloud of smoke and smog that never quite dissipated - an uncomfortable climate for a Toa used to the clear desert air. A few Ta-matoran carted kanoka discs or tools to and from different factories, but most were indoors, smelting the metal and tools for which they were so famous. Except for the major chute-stations and important foundries, the Nuurakh would have few patrols until nightfall. Provided you don't get caught, it's the ideal metru to get in and out of without detection, he smiled. Of course, if you do fall into Vahki hands, chances are you'll end up mindlessly doing some embarrassing chore. Hewkii quickly made his way to the forge where Toa Alkah worked, using back streets and smoke for cover. Using his powers to shift the stone street, he carved a passage under the walls and into a storage room. Carefully, he listened, trying to get the feel for who was where in the foundry. His element was almost useless for detection in here, since everything was made of metal; he would have to rely on his new Mask of Stealth to navigate. He had no doubt there were Nuurakh here, guarding the precious stores of new kanohi. After a minute of listening, he activated his mask and slowly stepped through the doorway inti the main room. To his surprise, there was no one around. The forge was completely deserted. The machinery was running, but there were no operators, no mask makers, and no foremen. The floor was strewn with ash and dust, which seemed normal enough, but among the dirt lay pieces of smashed masks and... Was that Vahki armor? "What's with this place?" he muttered. "Have the Ta-matoran finally started taking lunch breaks?" "What are you doing here?" a voice demanded. He whirled to face Alkah, who held her Toa tool - a spiked mace with flames dancing over the surface - pointed at him warily. "You came to my metru; I'm just returning the favor." he replied coldly, sizing her up. She was obviously older than he, but from her stance he guessed she had little to no combat experience. Bullying matoran, not the art of fighting, had been her life's work. Looking closer at her Kanohi Matatu, he noticed there was something just slightly off-kilter, something not quite right about her face. It's her eyes, he told himself. They're green. "Visit your metru?" she laughed harshly. "I'd rather face a stone crawler with a broom." Hewkii took a step back. If she decided to use her element in here, where there was already so much heat, he wanted to have a little space to maneuver. "The discs. Where are they?" he demanded. "Broken. All broken." Alkah glanced down at the floor and seemed to sigh. Her foot moved a piece of broken protodermis. "Like you, like me. All broken, all gone." "Cut the drama." he snapped, slowly reaching for his axe, which was clipped to his back. "There's no way a master crafter like you broke all thirty." She laughed again; a laugh that, like her eyes, was not quite right. "Moron! You see the shards, and you refuse to accept it! But you are broken, too... Cracked and tossed aside, like a flawed mask. Soon, he'll melt you down, too. Make you into something new, something useful." Her expression suddenly changed to one of anger. "Useful... For a time. Then you break again, and he melts it, remakes it. Only a tool... That's what you are!" In one smooth motion, Hewkii grabbed his axe and swung it at her. She blocked with an unearthly ease, catching his blade in the spikes of her tool. "Ha! You think you can fight him?" she cackled. "I knew stone Toa were stubborn, but not stupid." "Snap out of it, Alkah!" he yelled. "This act isn't going to save you!" Her face twisted between rage and pity. "Don't say that name." Hewkii shifted his weight and broke his axe free of the deadlock. Using his Mask of Speed, he dodged her blow and darted behind her, aiming a punch at her back. Again, she seemed to anticipate his move and sidestepped, throwing a fireball as she did. It barely touched his arm, but even so, the heat penetrated his armor painfully. "For embezzlement, you might have gotten a demotion and a slap on the mask." he growled. "For that, you're going to get whole lot more." "I wish." Now she sounded like she might cry. "It's already too late. Too late; for you, for me, for everyone in this blasted city! The darkness has won." Alkah suddenly dropped to her knees, sobbing. Hewkii looked down at her warily. What's with her mood swings? It's almost like she's... No, she can't be! The mendarii would mean she'd have the rash on her mask. It's just an act to get me to let my guard down. Just like a female. "Ahh!" A blood-curdling cry escaped Alkah's lips as she leapt back to her feet. "You will feel my pain - you will suffer like me!" She swung her mace wildly, spraying fire in a wide circle around her. The flames were white-hot, fueled by her anger. Hewkii wasted no energy on words. He pulled a block of stone up through the metal floor as a shield against the heat, then began throwing dagger-like cones of rock as a diversion. "The matoran fled this place." she cried; in anger or sorrow, he couldn't tell. "They sent Vahki to release me from my pain, and they failed. Why should you do any better? Tell me that!" With the words, she spun and smacked her mace squarely into his blockade, cracking and melting the solid rock. She's gotten herself into such a rage, even her armor's glowing from the heat, he thought, leaping to avoid her next swing. He tried to form a stone chain around her hands to limit her motion, but the moment it appeared, the rock melted to slag. Great. Where's Macku when I need a Toa of Water? But even as she threw another blast at him, he noticed her wincing and looking at her hands. Some of the molten rock had slipped through the cracks in her armor and scalded her. For anyone but a Toa of Fire, the pain would have been excruciating. That's it! If she can anticipate my moves, then let her defeat herself! He rolled, came up on his feet and swung his axe at her left leg. She dodged yet again and raised her mace for a deathblow with a savage cry. He barely ducked the attack and forced the floor to buckle under her feet. She instantly sank into the sand pit he had created. As her hot armor touched the tiny pieces of stone, the sand became liquid glass. She fell further into the widening pool of hot sand, screaming wildly as the glass found the gaps in her armor and burned her flesh. Hewkii shook off the burns he had received from her last effort and spoke quietly. "The more you heat yourself up, the worse the pain will get. Give up, Alkah." "Don't call me that!" she yelled. Her armor was almost as hot as the flames she wielded now. "I left her behind long ago! I hate her!" Her voice trailed off into another shriek. "Stop heating yourself, and the pain will stop." he repeated. "You left yourself behind?" "Always serving, always crawling." she moaned. "Well, I broke away! I broke free of him! Free, free! But it was all an illusion; none of it real. You can't outrun him when he's in you." She cried and laughed at once. And in the light of her glowing armor, he could finally see a streak of greasy, grey-green slime on her kanohi... the surest sign that the mendarii, the madness, had her in it's grip. "How long have you been sick?" he asked, refusing to show any of the horror he felt. "Years... Eons... A week. It's all the same." She was still increasing the heat, but now she seemed unable to feel the pain. "All one long dark tunnel. And you'll see! One day, you'll look back and see him over your shoulder, controlling your every move and thought. And if you rebel," she shuddered, "he'll break you, like he broke me." "Who? Who broke you?" He had a feeling he already knew the answer. "Him! Him, you imbecile!" She laughed again; the sound somehow embodied all the pain of the ages. "You'll see!" Her breath was coming in gasps now. "Never liked Po-Toa. Always caring about what you see, not what is." She shuddered again. With a start, Hewkii saw her hands burst into flame. Not as if she had summoned the fire, but as if she was burning from the inside out. And I think... she is. More flames spurted up from the pit of glass and sand, melting even Alkah's armor. For a moment, even above the roar of the fire, he could hear her wild, throbbing screams. And then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, the flames died. There was nothing left but her half-melted kanohi and blackened glass. He stared at the hole in shock and disgust. What did she mean? Was it all madness babble? She seemed sane enough at some points... But then why kill herself? A squad of Nuurakh smashed the door open and surveyed the scene. One of them came up to Hewkii and scanned the district identification code that was welded onto his armor. The Vahki nodded and shrugged him off. The other five machines were surveying the forge, taking digital images of the evidence and chirping to each other in their annoying beep language. Even without speech, he got the message: "We know who you are, and we'll visit if we need you. You're free to go." Slowly, he turned and left the battle-struck foundry. "Next time a Toa steals, I think I'll just report it to the local Vahki." He was not smiling.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:05 PM.

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#17 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 09 2012 - 07:27 PM

Stave 17

Teran-Nua was supposedly a beautiful place. High mountains rich in minerals and jewels towered over the rugged foothills. The forests were filled with strange and exotic rahi. The climate was cool, fresh and clear. At night, the ice-capped mountains glimmered like crystalized protodermis. All that was now gone, as if it had never been. Toa Matoro of Ko-metru walked a land torn by the war, a place stripped of life. Even to his ears, the silence was deafening. The native Onu-matoran sat in their chains, silently awaiting their fate. Toa of Metru-Nui stood guard around the matoran prisoners. Campfires were the only source of light, save for the dim stars. "A glorious victory." a Toa who stood by Matoro's side murmured. "The wealth of this place... Think what our miners could do here." Startled from his musings, Matoro nodded. "The purity of the proto-deposits alone!" his companion, a Po-Toa called Vutakh, continued. "The discs we make in this place will be the finest in the world! The Great Spirit was wise to send us here." Matoro nodded again. Vutakh shook his head and laughed. "Toa of Ice; always so enthusiastic. At least you came out here; we'll need someone to catalogue things, and I for one don't trust matoran to do it. A scholar like you should work out fine." Matoro activated the lens of his Mask of X-Ray Vision, peering into the darkness. If only something were left. Some fragment of the past. Cheerfully oblivious to his comrade's thoughts, the Toa of Stone kept rambling on about all the work that could be done on this new territory. Matoro tuned him out and began scanning the captured matoran, searching for any signs of hope or defiance. The land is lost. But the matoran must remember something of history; they must know something we do not. More than a few wore scowls or rattled their chains in contempt. But Matoro's gaze rested on one who seemed more than usually angry. She was old, so old that her kanohi seemed to sag off her wrinkled face. Her fingers twisted at her bonds, as if seeking to rip them apart by her mere will. That one. Angry enough to tell me what she knows, and old enough to know history. "I said, where do you think the Great One will send us next?" Vutakh repeated, waving his hand in front of Matoro's face. "Hmm? Oh, right. Perhaps Ilkilen or Rame." "I give up." The Toa of Stone threw his hands up in the air. "Having a conversation with you snow Toa is impossible." "Ice." Matoro corrected coldly. "And when there is anything to be said, I will say it." "Like I said, impossible." Vutakh slapped the Toa of Ice on the back. "I'm going to go get some shut eye. See you tomorrow." "Good night." Matoro replied. Aside from Hewkii, he found the people of Stone too pushy and rowdy. None of them took the time to look around and learn. No respect for knowledge, too much pride in what they make with their hands, he mused, strolling over to a cluster of captives. A Toa of Water was standing guard over them impatiently. "Hey, there." she called, beckoning him over. "Can you take a turn watching them? All you have to do is make sure none of them squeals or gets loose. My captain was supposed to send my relief in over an hour ago, but he's probably off collecting all the stuff we're taking back to the city." "Certainly." He pulled out his curved saber and took the Ga-Toa's place by the circle of chained matoran. "When your replacement does come, what shall I tell them?" "Oh, tell her she was late and she's gonna hear from me about it." the other answered with a yawn. "Thanks." She sauntered away. Matoro waited until she was out of earshot to turn his attention back to the matoran he had singled out. To his surprise, the old matoran met his gaze and spoke. "My people are thirsty. We have been given no water all day." Matoro blinked. "Why do you ask me?" "Because I asked the Toa who just left, but she did nothing." the old female replied. "I do not ask for myself, but for the children." In answer, Matoro took his water flask out of his pack and handed it to one of the younger Onu-matoran. "For their sake, you have my thanks." She nodded stiffly to him. "For your own sake, you would sooner die of thirst?" he replied. "I am Wisitara the Elder, and beg from no one." she replied defiantly, half getting to her feet. "No, no, grandma!" a young male urged, placing a hand on Wisitara's shoulder. "Do not draw attention to yourself." "You have children who still need your care, Bentra." she replied hotly. "Mine are long since grown. I have nothing left to save except my honor." Matoro looked at her pityingly. "I understand your anger, old one. But you would be wise to heed your grandson's advice. Matoran native to Metru-Nui can be punished for things smaller than what you have said." Wisitara threw back her head proudly. "I am not afraid to die." "You will not die by my hand. I believe that the Great Spirit wishes us to make you our own people, and for that, a measure of mercy is required." "Ha!" she spat. "You invade our peaceful land, slay our Toa and Turaga, then expect us to believe that the Great Spirit told you to do this? As for your mercy, I would rather take bread from a Skakdi!" Matoro pounced on the word. "Turaga? You had a Turaga?" "Turaga Olmi. The wisest leader and the bravest friend I have ever known. You slew him after we had surrendered." Contempt filled her green-grey eyes. "What was he like?" Matoro asked. For a moment, she opened her mouth to answer. Then some new thought crossed her mind and she snapped her jaws shut. "I will say nothing to you." The Toa of Ice straightened and directed his gaze to the south, the direction of the city of legends. How many days before the Great One arrives? Two? One? I must have the answers by then. The desolation of the land will then only mirror the destruction of their minds. Life will be as blank for them as it is for us. He shook his head sadly. Perhaps he will even let an infected Toa loose to teach them... No, no, not even he would do that. For now, he stood over the captives, waiting. He clearly had greater patience than Wisitara, and the night was still young. She would speak again before it ended.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:07 PM.

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#18 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 13 2012 - 07:46 PM

Stave 18

Gyet, Hahli and the six Rahaga sat in a circle inside a forge that had been mysteriously abandoned a few days ago. The Vahki had left it alone, not seeming to care about the glass-filled hole in the floor, or the smashed masks and armor that lay in the ash on the ground. Rumor was that Toa Alkah had met her bloody end here, and no matoran or even Toa was eager to just get back to work in a place that smelled so like death. Which made it the only safe place in Ta-metru to talk treason. "And so, we fled here, to the last great stronghold of the great Toa." Norik continued. "But when we arrived, we found Toa Lhikan was the only one left. And before we could speak with him, he vanished. A sentient plant-thing was ravaging Le-metru, Po-metru carver's hamlets were being abandoned without cause, and the matoran whispered of some four-legged thing that left a string of corpses behind." "All this, in the same city you expected to find peace in?" Gyet asked, trying to sort all this out. Kualus nodded. "We six met in the Archives, under Onu-metru, to form a plan. Each of us confessed we guessed who was behind the falling of the city: the same one we had been running from." "Who was that?" the old matoran asked. At last, Hahli thought eagerly, a name! "He is the one who walks in shadow." Bomonga said softly. "Makuta, the brother of the true Great Spirit." "Mata Nui?" Gyet queried. Norik nodded. "They were not always enemies. Millenia ago, light and dark were intertwined and neither outweighed the other; neither the more loved. Always, Mata Nui was the creator and he was the destroyer, but once, they worked in harmony. But Makuta became prideful, and tried to hold both powers, creation and destruction. He twisted some things that his brother had made, corrupting them to become his. He wished to be the sole ruler of the matoran. He betrayed Mata Nui, and stripped him of much of his power... Perhaps of his life; we do not know." "But if you knew all this," Gyet objected, "surely others must have too, and tried to help! No matoran would stand by and watch!" He glanced at the Ga-matoran, and added, "Well, almost no matoran." Gaaki sighed. "No one else knew. And we found out too late." "'We'?" Hahli repeated, one eyebrow raised. "As in, you six were the first to notice? If this happened so long ago, wouldn't it pretty clear that one brother was missing?" Iruini laughed. "We don't look so bad when you think how old we are, do we?" Gyet's eyes went wide. "You're... you can't be that old. Not even Toa live that long." Pouks rolled his eyes. "We're obviously not Toa. When we failed to see the threat of Makuta, and came too late to save the Great Spirit, Makuta laughed at us and changed us to these forms. He said we would be cursed to live and see the ruin that our blindness had caused. Simply put, we can't die." "Not unless he kills us." Iruini muttered. Hahli stirred impatiently. "But what did you decide to do at the meeting? In the Archives?" Bomonga laughed bitterly. "We never got that far. As we were talking, some sort of sleeping gas knocked us all out. The next thing I knew, you were opening the hatch above me and I crawled out of that tube." "So he found you?" Gyet asked grimly. "Makuta found you?" Kualus nodded. "And is very likely the one now ruling this city." "And others." Gyet added. "Metru-Nui controls Litna, Antagiu, West Helikh and Everna. And probably Teran-Nua, too." Norik's eyes looked sad and weary. "So much lost, because I failed to see." he murmured. "No, Norik." Pouks countered. "We were all wrong." Hahli suddenly stood up and clicked open her proto-blade. "It doesn't matter who's fault it is! What matters is what we do about it now!" She looked at Gyet. "Please, I know I was harsh earlier. You know why. But this is our home, our city, that he's taken! We've got to do something!" For the first time that day, the Ta-matoran smiled. "Yes. Yes, we do. And I know where to start."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, Jun 24 2012 - 09:20 PM.

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#19 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 19 2012 - 11:44 PM

Stave 19

Toa Matoro watched patiently as the Onu-matoran fidgeted in their shackles. Every now and then, Wisitara would rattle her chain angrily and mutter to herself. He had already given them food, and most of the children had fallen asleep. Matoro looked up at the sky. Judging by the stars, it was about three more hours till dawn. "Tell me something, elder." he said quietly, turning his attention back to the matoran, "Why did your people fall? You had Toa defending you." Wisitara's face flushed in anger. "We fell because you killed our Toa! Because you have some sort of... weapon that made them sick." "Not all of your Toa are dead. Some realized they were fighting for the wrong side." he replied. It was not true, but he was hoping to goad her into a conversation about her people. "You lie!" she snapped, half-getting to her feet. "The Toa would never betray us!" He shrugged. "Toa serve the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit claimed this island as his. It was their duty to submit." Her face twisted in her rage. "Insult the honor of our Toa again, and I'll--" "You'll what?" he cut in coolly. "Murmur some new curse words? Your island - your misguided way of life - is over." "It will never be over! Not as long as we remember!" she replied hotly. "You may kill us all, but someone will always remember the truth. Someone will always know the story of how you Metru-Nuans slaughtered matoran like animals. Truth always finds a way, like a crawler worm burrowing through solid rock." He was silent, and looked away as if disinterested. In truth, his heart was pounding in his ears. Come on, you've got to tell me your history! This may be the last chance - my last chance to know the truth! "When Mata Nui made the matoran, he gave each of the six elements a gift." she continued, now more to herself than to him. "To us, the Onu-matoran, the dwellers in the earth, he gave remembrance." Now she looked up at him, her eyes gleaming in the darkness. "You say you came in the name of the Great Spirit, but we know the truth. Metru-Nui shut it's gates just before the Great Cataclysm. You knew it would happen, somehow, and you denied the rest of us the help we so desperately needed. And when you did reappear, it was to conquer us. You do not serve the Great Spirit; you only serve yourselves. You are a disgrace to the name of Toa!" "The Great Cataclysm?" he repeated casually. "Oh, yes; that would have been, let me think--" "Almost three hundred years ago, you piraka." she cut him off. "As if you didn't know how much you made the world suffer by your refusal to help!" Although Matoro's face betrayed no emotion, his mind was racing with this new information, trying to sort it out and work it into a timeframe. So the tablets are true; there was a Metru-Nui before the Great One. But why did that civilization refuse to help other lands when this "cataclysm" struck? Or at least take advantage of others' weakness? Why shut the gates? Why cut themselves off? "We did what we had to, to help our own people." he said slowly. Wisitara snorted. "I've heard of how your matoran workers on Litna are treated. You beasts would sooner throw yourselves into Karzahni than help them!" Karzahni. Another name he didn't know, but clearly some place that was not pleasant. "Workers require motivation, not false kindness." he replied. She clinked her chains again. "I suppose you think we'll all just start being motivated to work for you, too?" "I think you'd be wise to learn from all that remembering." He stared coldly at her, hoping that she would not resist when in front of a Toa who would actually hurt her. "When the cataclysm struck, we protected what was most important - our own people - and look where we are now." "It is a wonder that Mata Nui does not wipe you all off the face of the world." she spat, turning away. Mata Nui! The name from the tablets! Aloud, he said, "Maybe because we are doing his will." "He would never will what you have done!" she cried out. "I do not know why he doesn't act, but he will. Sooner or later, you will face judgment for your betrayal. And by the Three Virtues, I hope I am still alive to see it!" "Three Virtues?" He could hear footsteps coming near and knew his for time gathering information was coming to an end. "What are they?" he asked in a whisper. Wisitara only spat on the ground at his feet and turned. No, no! I must know more! he thought frantically, as the maker of the footsteps came into view. I can't come so close to the whole story and then lose it! The newcomer, an Onu-Toa on patrol, hailed Matoro as she came closer. "Look, I know I'm late, but me and a few others were told to dig a little way and see what we came up with. It was orders, not my idea. Ok?" "Since I've already done this much, I'll just finish the shift." he replied. "You had your orders, so you won't be faulted for being late." She hesitated. "Well, that's nice of you, but... See, my orders were... Alright, so I was doing a little research on my own. I thought it was Kija's job to watch this bunch tonight; I found out a little late it wasn't." "You were digging on your own?" he asked, quiet surprise in his voice. "I'll share some of the night's profits if you'll keep this quiet." she answered quickly, pulling out a large satchel. "Here... That enough?" He stared as she placed a few large jewels in his hand. The size and purity of the raw stones was dazzling, even at night. "I... I guess so." An idea clicked in his head, and he looked back at the Toa's face. "But on one condition." "Hey, you name it." she laughed nervously. He nudged Wisitara with his foot. "This one insulted me multiple times. I'd like to deal with her myself." "I get her out of the records, you take the body somewhere out of the way, and we're all square?" the Onu-Toa suggested. "Something like that." he nodded. She grinned. "Deal." She bent down and wrenched the the matoran elder's chains off. "She's all yours, friend." Matoro nodded his thanks, picked the struggling Wisitara up and walked away, heading into the hills south of the Toa's camp. He took care to avoid the sentries and the watchfires. Once out of sight of the lights, he stopped and set the matoran down. She immediately tried to run, but her old gears and joints could only move so fast. With a wave of his ice-pick Toa tool, he created a cage of ice around her. "I will not die like some wild rahi!" she yelled. "You will not die at my hand." he replied quietly. "I propose a deal." She tried to climb up the slippery ice walls, but to no avail. "I would sooner drown in my own blood than deal with you!" "I can help you. You have knowledge, I have a way of escaping this place." Matoro answered soothingly. "Knowledge of what? The mines? The land?" she laughed bitterly. "Or do you want to know the names of the countless matoran you killed today?" "Neither. I want what you know about Metru-Nui." "You're from Metru-Nui," she replied, her confusion temporarily outweighing her anger. "What could I know that you don't?" He sighed. "Just about everything."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:12 PM.

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#20 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 28 2012 - 02:06 PM

Stave 20

Toa Hewkii gingerly smeared on a little more of the cooling salve he had been issued for his burns. Even insane and dying, Alkah's powers were no joke. His whole left arm had had the skin blistered off to the elbow and his right was hardly better. "Heatproof armor, next time." he muttered. "No, better yet, just report it to the chirpers." He used the slang word for Vahki. "Let some heat-resistant Toa deal with it." He shook his head, trying to banish the image of her glowing green eyes. "Arg! What is it about her that bothers me so much?!" He sat down at his desk and tried to type something into the computer, but the pain grew so bad he could hardly think straight. "Okay, forget that idea." he muttered angrily. He closed his eyes, thinking over everything the dying Toa of Fire had said. Like a spark igniting a flame, her words echoed in his mind: "Never liked Po-Toa. Always caring about what you see, not what is." "It's not something I see. But something that can affect a Toa's mind like..." His eyes snapped open. Of course! Something we all accept, something we already know controls us. But why her? He paused a minute. Why any Toa? We're useful to him... Oh, no. She said that, too. Great; am I going insane? Can you catch the mendarii by being around it? He pictured Alkah burning herself to death and shuddered. No, I won't die that way. I'll find some way to beat it. Or him. Or whatever it is. A soft knock at his door interrupted his thoughts. "Come in." he called, sitting up straight, refusing to show any signs of weakness. The door of his dome-shaped house opened to reveal a female Po-matoran wearing a Mask of Illusion. She looked nervous and bowed to him hastily. "Toa, please forgive the intrusion." "What is it?" he returned, a little sharply. "I-I'm here for my allotment of protodermis, sir." She glanced around, as if afraid Vahki might be hidden in the shadows. "My pass number is 163." He turned to his holocomputer and typed in a few commands. "Right on time, I see. I'll have the--" He turned at the sound of the door closing and saw the matoran was holding out a kanoka disc with a misshaped center. Instead of the symbol of the Great Spirit being stamped on it, it bore a single number: nine. He looked sharply into the matoran's face. "What is this?" "He said you would know what it meant." she replied. "He needs to meet with you, but he can't be seen here." "Who are you?" he demanded, standing up and hefting his axe. She didn't even blink in fear. "A friend of Gyet's... Or whatever name you call him." He touched the axe to her neck. "You'd be luckier if I just killed you now for insolence instead of having you handed to the Vahki for processing." He studied her brazen face for a moment. "Where do I know you from?" "You don't." she responded quickly. A little too quickly. I do know her... From where? She's not a member of the group, but she's using one of our signals? His eyes narrowed. It's a trap. She decided to change the subject. "Look, Gyet sent me because I know how Toa think. If someone just shows up and hands you a signal, you're going to believe it's a trap. Everything is, in this city. Most Matoran just put their heads down and try to survive. But the ones who become Toa, they meet the traps head-on and beat them. That's how you prove your worth to the Great One." "If you know so much, why aren't you a Toa?" he asked. "I have other uses." she shrugged. "Are you coming, or not?" Hewkii thought for a moment, then stowed his axe on his back. "This is not because I believe you." She rolled her eyes. "No, it's because you're a Toa, and you get bored." She opened the door, whispering, "Follow my lead." As they stepped out into the blazing sunlight, he noticed that she wore her nervous look again. "I promise, Toa, I can explain any questions you have." she said, glancing at him over her shoulder. He nodded, deciding for the moment to play along. "You had better, matoran."

* * *

The strange matoran led him to the top of a nearby canyon. The desert region lay spread out at their feet, and they could see anyone coming kio away. As they approached a rocky ledge, the Ta-matoran number nine stepped out from behind a large boulder. Hewkii gave the elder a questioning look. Gyet nodded in response, as if to say, "it's alright; I'm not a captive". "I'm sorry I didn't come myself to get you, thirty-five." Gyet explained. "But our friend," he nodded at the other matoran, "thought my Po-metru accent a little lacking." "I thought we said no more meetings, nine." he replied warily. Gyet nodded. "Something came up. We need a Toa's help." Hewkii's eyes narrowed. "With what?" "We need to gather all four of you first." the Ta-matoran replied evasively. "Best to explain it only once. Can you get the others together?" "I'll find thirty-four; she always keeps track of who's where." the Toa replied. "But why? Have we found another tablet?" The old matoran shook his head, a smile lighting his face. "No, even better. We found someone who remembers." For the first time in days, the Toa of Stone smiled, too.
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:14 PM.

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#21 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Feb 04 2012 - 03:11 PM

Stave 21

Hahli, now back to her azure Ga-matoran armor, mingled with the crowds of Ga-metru in the late afternoon. As much as she would have liked to stay and listen to the Rahaga, if she didn't check in with her master every second day, he would assume she was dead and simply replace her. The Toa she and Gyet had found, Hewkii was going around the city to find more Toa to help them in their impossible task; Gyet and Rahaga Norik were sneaking through Ta-metru to get Gyet's wife, and she had reluctantly given Rahaga Iruini the location of her family's hiding place so he could bring them food and news. I wish I could have gone, she thought, but he'll explain things to them, and tell them I'm safe. And as soon as I report to the Toa, I'm heading home. As she kept walking towards the section that housed the Toa, the crowds melted away. Matoran glanced fearfully at the windows of the Toa's mansions as they hurried away with their business. Hahli, carrying a large basket of fish, walked timidly through the middle of the street, her head low and her hands trembling, like a maha walking to a slaughter pen. She caught many sympathetic looks from other Matoran before they turned away. She pretended to nod and understand. Matoran! she said inwardly, in her mind's eye making a speech she knew she would never be allowed to give. For years, you have slaved, and cowered and lived in fear. But the Great One's game is over - we know who he is! This is our home, not his, and he took it from us and from our ancestors! He has made you worms in the dirt, and then chose some of your own children to become Toa so that they could beat you again! How long will you stand this? He thinks we are small and weak, but we have strength he doesn't understand. So fight for what matters-- She was snapped out of her daydream by being shoved into the gutter by a passing Toa. "Out of my way, slug." they sneered. Hahli shook herself, picked her herself and her basket up and shook her head. That's what I get for dreaming. Hurriedly, she ran the rest of the way and rang the bell on the most lavish skyscraper of all. After a moment, a Matoran answered. "Yes?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder as if he had done something wrong. She mimicked his frightened tone. "I-I have a confession to make to the Toa. And I brought a gift." She held up the basket. The Matoran nodded. "Yes, yes; of course. Uh, come in." As she followed him inside and shut the door behind her, he whispered in her ear, "I wouldn't do it today, if I were you. He's been so angry..." He pointed to his mask, which she now noticed was a little melted on one side. "And that was just because I brought him his a tray of food!" She shook her head and whispered back. "I'm one of Toa Selpa's housmaids, and I saw him... Well, I just have to tell the Toa!" "Alright, but don't expect to come out." he sighed, leading her to an elevator. "Top floor, his private suite. If you can't find him, thank the Great Spirit and just come back." She nodded, gulped for show, and stepped into the elevator. She hit the button for the highest floor as the doors closed and waved good-bye to the other Matoran. The levitation discs beneath the floor triggered and the room shot up the shaft. She dropped the basket in a corner and dug through it, looking for the object buried beneath the innocent looking fish - a red lightstone. Exceptionally rare as they were, Bomonga remembered a place in the old Archives under Onu-metru that had housed quite a collection of them. It would serve as an excuse for what she had been doing. The doors opened at the top floor and she walked out, heading for the Toa's study. She ran her hands through her hair, trying to make up for the past two days she had spent without sleep or a wash. She knocked on the massive door. There was no answer. "Weird," Hahli muttered, knocking again. He's always here or with the Great-- I mean, Makuta. "Sir?" There was still no reply. Cautiously, she reached up and grabbed the handle. The door swung open. The fire had sunk low, and green flames flickered among the red and yellow. Aside from the furniture, the room was empty. "Toa?" she called, walking in. Under her armor, a chill ran down her spine. Somewhere in the back of her mind, instinct whispered, wrong, this is all wrong, but she shook it off. "Toa Jaller?" A beast-like roar finally answered. She spun to find the gold-and-red Toa lying on the floor, chained. He struggled to free himself, writhing in his bonds and fire spurting from his hands, but for some reason, the chain refused to give. Hahli, half-fascinated, half-repulsed, dropped the lightstone and triggered her proto-blade. At the sound of the metal deploying, the Toa jerked his head up. For a fraction of a second, she was staring straight into his sickly green eyes. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, he stopped fighting. He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands. When he opened them again, they were his normal golden color. "Leave, Hahli." he said quietly, not looking at her. For the first time, she dared to disobey a direct command. She slowly approached, noting that his armor was bent and twisted, and there was blood oozing from one of his hands. "Sir, what's... What's going on?" A pointless question - she already knew the answer. The Mendarii. He has the Madness. "I said, leave, Matoran!" he said, louder. "This is no place for you. It'll come back." "I thought only the Toa who betray the Great One are supposed to get it." she said, shifting her eyes to the chain. Surprisingly, she recognized the welding as the Toa's own particular work. At one end, a kanoka of "increase weight" power had been meshed in. He chained himself, she realized. He moaned. "I don't get it. Everything I do, every breath, is all for the Great Spirit! I've given my life to serve him, and now..." Hahli retracted her blade and spoke softly. "How long have you been sick, sir?" The Toa of Fire sighed. "I don't remember anymore. I used to know; I used to be able to predict when it would come and get away. Now, I'm like a rahi in my own home. And sooner or later, they'll find out - they'll all know, and they'll think I was a traitor. The Great Spirit will think I was... I can't let them find out! I can't!" The green look flashed in his eyes again, but he forced it down. He trembled like a frightened child. The "Great Spirit" is the traitor, she thought angrily. He did this to you, somehow. But I won't let you die like this. For a moment, the words sounded strange in her head. Wait, why shouldn't I? You're a Toa, and you serve my enemy. You've sent me into places you didn't expect me to come out of alive. You've risked my life over and over again, and you don't care. Why should I help you now? She bent down, looking at the wreck of a Toa. A memory sprang into her mind's eye: an image of herself and Keslin struggling to survive in the cruel shipyards of Ga-metru. Of the day the Toa had come and ordered her to drop her tools. She had thought he was going to kill her. Instead, he had herself and her brother moved to his own house, and began hand-training her to be his weapon. He had saved her from that life of misery, and by extension saved Keslin, Jaatiiko and Leyana, too. Am I really that cold? she wondered. Am I going to just walk away? That's what they'd expect of me; Norik and the others. It's what I should do, to survive. But she couldn't. Because she wasn't what Metru-Nui had made her. "I'll find a cure for you." she said quickly. "If there is one, I'll find it." The Toa laughed bitterly. "There isn't. Don't you think I've looked for one? The best thing I can do is kill myself before I'm disgraced." Hahli weighed her words carefully, trying to both appease and calm. "I don't think you want to kill yourself. You want to live, to prove you're innocent. Otherwise, you wouldn't have chained yourself up. You saved my life a long time ago, and now I'll save yours." For a moment, the Toa seemed to tense up, as if he was going to have another fit. "Do not defy me, Matoran." Hahli jumped. The voice was not the Toa's at all. It was a dark hiss, a deep threat that would give a Muaka nightmares. What in the Toa's name was that? she thought, shivering. The Toa shuddered, and looked up at her. His eyes were green again. "This one is mine," the voice said. "No." she whispered, backing towards the door. "No. Whatever you are, I'll stop you."
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:16 PM.

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#22 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Feb 13 2012 - 05:38 PM

Stave 22

All three of the children stared blankly at their multicolored friend. The matoran who had been called Linkakae, struck by the shock of his memories, was leaning against the wall, panting. "You... You remember?" Keslin asked. "You know who you are?" "I don't know." Takua answered. "Just my name... Bits and pieces. Someone sent me to Metru-Nui... To be a spy? To... I can't quite get that part." "Takua," Jaatiiko said slowly, as if measuring the name. "That's not a matoran name, is it?" Takua shrugged. "I don't know." Leyana slipped her small hand through his large one. "Linka-- I mean, Takua?" she whispered, "Are you still our friend?" A smile broke across his mask. "Of course, Ley! I'll always be your friend." "Well, good." she said firmly. "I don't want you to go." Takua's smile wavered. "Ley, kiddo, I've got to go out there sometime. I have to figure out what I'm here for." "Can't you--" Leyana began to protest, but Jaatiiko cut her off. "He has to, Leyana. Like Hahli does. But he'll come back. You understand." His ice blue eyes gazed at his little sister with a mix of concern, authority and sadness. Takua had noticed the odd bond between the chatty girl and the quiet boy before, but there was something different about Jaatiiko this time. The little girl sighed and resigned herself, sitting down at Takua's side. "Okay..." Keslin walked over to Jaatiiko's side, still staring at their friend. "What exactly do you remember?" Takua shook his head. "Just a couple images, and a really old Toa called Helryx. And that I'm apparently pretty good with one of these things." He gestured at the kanoka disc launcher he had dropped when the flood of memory began. A sound of water splashing and someone panting for breath in the cave below their feet made all four matoran sit up straight. "That's not Hahli." Keslin whispered. "She always comes up quietly." Takua grabbed the disc launcher and jammed the kanoka into place. Carefully, he went to the entrance and pointed the launcher downwards. Keslin took a second launcher off the clip on his back and loaded it, ready to fire if Takua should miss. Jaatiiko took Leyana's hand and led her to the far wall, where both ducked behind the low couch. The intruder below coughed and gagged, as if he was choking on the water. "She couldn't send Gaaki; oh, no." he muttered. "Gotta be me, she says. 'Cause I'm less frightening, she says. They'll like you, she says. Oh, and it's underwater, by the way." "Stay where you are!" Takua called. "I have a level seven weakness disc, and I'm a crackshot." Actually, he had no idea what disc was loaded, but it sounded impressive. "And I have a face that would make a Muaka cry." the grumpy male below replied, though he stayed out of Takua's range of sight. "Look, I'm here to give you guys a message from your sister. She said you'd recognize this bracelet thing." There was a clanging sound as he threw a small protodermis armband under the ladder. Keslin crept to the edge of the hole, looked down and squinted at the district identification bar. "It might be hers," he whispered to Takua, "but she told me she'd make a little mark on it if she ever couldn't come and had to send someone. I just can't tell from here." "Cover me; I'll go down and get it." Takua hissed back. He jumped and grabbed one of the handholds on the ladder, allowing himself to slide to the bottom of the cave. The stranger jumped back at his sudden descent, but made no threatening moves. Takua trained his launcher on the ugly little creature as he slowly bent down and grabbed the armband. Keeping one hand on the trigger, he tossed the metal ring up to Keslin. After a moment, the boy nodded. "It's hers, and it's got the mark." Keslin climbed down the ladder and stood at Takua's side. "What in the Great Spirit's name is that thing?" "Finally, some cordial matoran." Iruini commented sarcastically. "Hmm, been a while since I've seen an Av-matoran." "Hahli sent you; why?" Takua demanded, ignoring the Rahaga's muttering. Iruini shook the water off his armor. "I'm here to tell you guys a little story. Can I come in?"
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Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:18 PM.

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#23 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Mar 20 2012 - 11:40 PM

Stave 23

Macku and Kongu listened in stunned silence as the Rahaga told their story. Hewkii, keeping watch outside, could barely hear their voices rise and fall. These tunnels seemed to dull every sound. The Rahaga called Bomonga had said they were once part of the Great Archives. Actually, he had said this was the fifth level of the wingless insect division. As if anyone would want to visit tunnels full of bugs, Hewkii rolled his eyes to himself. If I ever get the chance, I'll thank Makuta for closing down this section... Right before I make him breathe out his ears. Though wary of the danger, he tried to focus on the story being told in the chamber behind him. It still seemed to belong to another world, to have more in common with a matoran bedtime story than reality. If it hadn't been for the tablets, he might have disbelieved even Gyet's claims. Number nine, I mean, he corrected himself. I only know him as number nine. If he should ever be caught, and reveal the name of one of their leaders.... He shuddered at the thought, and tried again to focus on Norik's quiet, ancient voice. "In the time before time, there were two great forces in the world, meant to rule it in harmony and protect the matoran and other races of the world. They were brothers, the spirits of creation and destruction, and neither outweighed the other. The matoran called them Mata Nui and Makuta, as they kept their true names to themselves. And the world was bright and fair - all the evil or ugly things were destroyed, and beautiful things created in their place. For a time, an age... Perhaps eons, it stood this way. Matoran knew no fear, needed no protectors, and treated each other as family. Then came the darkness." Involuntarily, Hewkii grimaced, as if tasting something bitter. Why should a perfect world go wrong? he wondered. Why would they give that up? "When exactly the thought entered his mind, no one can tell." Kualus said softly. "But I believe he had long since betrayed Mata Nui in thought; he was - still is - cunning, and never makes a move without careful thought. But the end of it was that Makuta wished to be sole ruler. The destruction he had so long mastered finally mastered him. He sent his brother into an endless sleep, and unleashed his own creations - creatures of darkness and decay. They could not live long, but he made many of them, and slowly conquered the outlying lands." "Quickstop." Kongu's voice cut in. "Didn't Mata Nui sightsee it fastcoming?" Pouks sighed impatiently. "Le-matoran never could wait till the end to ask stupid questions. Of course he saw it, air head! Where do you think Toa came from?" "What my brother means," Bomonga coughed pointedly, "is that no one can really say how much Mata Nui foresaw. But we do know that he created the first Toa, imbuing them with his own energy. That would seem to say he knew something was wrong." "Go on, Norik." Macku asked. The red Rahaga cleared his throat. "This city was the center of matoran industry, and the hardest for Makuta to defeat. Twelve Toa lived here, some of the greatest and most powerful heroes the world had even seen. For a time, it seemed Metru-Nui might hold out against the storm. But then Makuta turned to his greatest weapon - treachery. One of the Toa betrayed the others for power, and was in turn betrayed by his master. The only one to escape the massacre was a Toa of Fire called Lhikan. According to rumors, he was very nearly successful in creating new Toa to defend the city, but he too fell, in the end. Alone and unaided, he fell." Norik's voice broke and he was silent. Gaaki waited a moment before speaking. "We had arrived too late. When we came, the matoran had nearly all vanished, and Makuta was reshaping the city as he saw fit. Lhikan was dead, or lost. We hid, trying to devise a plan and find the matoran, but he must have found us first." Hewkii sighed, trying to picture what it must have been like, watching the city crumble around them. Macku and Kongu must have had similar thoughts; the chamber was quiet. But at last, the Toa of Air put his hand under his chin thoughtfully. "One thing I don't understandget," he said. "You storytold Mata Nui made Toa-heroes. So how come Makuta makes Toa-heroes here?" Kualus smiled. "Ah! That is what we would like to know. All Toa carry a small remnant of Mata Nui's own power inside them; it's what gives them elemental energies. But he specifically made them to resist Makuta's element, Shadow. Your very bodies should writhe and scream at the mere sight of him... But you Toa serve him willingly. It should be impossible." Macku snorted. "I still felt sick when I saw him." "Good," Bomonga approved. "That means there is truly some of Mata Nui's essence alive in you. But you still serve him, and fight for him. You are born and bred to the work, like a kavinika is bred to serve. Makuta has managed to take his brother's last gift to the world and twist it somehow." "How?" Kongu demanded. "Tell us how, and how to sick-cure!" Hewkii found his mind echoing the same question. "If we knew that, we'd have fixed you already." Pouks said drily. "We need time to work it out. You can use that time to find others who'll help us." Macku laughed sharply. "What island do you think you're on? We can hardly go to our coworkers and say, 'We want to overthrow the Great One; anyone up for it?'. You can't trust anyone here." Gyet finally spoke up. "And yet, if we don't, what then? Do we whisper the tale of our slavery to our children's children and hope they do something about it?" Gaaki patted the matoran's shoulder. "Spoken like a true Toa, young one." "Young?" Gyet gave a chuckle of disbelief. "I haven't been young for a long time." Gaaki returned the laugh. "And yet I am older still." "Enough old people talkspeech." Kongu said impatiently. "What sort of people should we searchfind, Bomonga?" The black Rahaga shrugged. "Toa, mostly, but any matoran that are willing should be given the chance. Choose carefully, but I think you will find that not many enjoy this dark place." Hewkii heard the tell-tale sounds of a Vahki patrol. They had stayed in one place too long. He rapped on the door to warn the others. As silently as shadows and swift as ice bats, the small group vanished further into the tunnels.
ReviewNote: My apologies for the long delay in posting this chapter.

Edited by Hahli Historian, May 29 2012 - 07:08 PM.

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#24 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted May 24 2012 - 11:28 AM

Stave 24

"Welcome home, brother." Matoro turned to see the familiar face of Hewkii grinning at him from the dock. "See anything interesting?" Hewkii asked casually as the white Toa disembarked. Matoro shook his head, reaching for a large metal case. "I got there too late to do anything but catalogue." He paused, then added, "The Great One announced that he plans to stay on Teran-Nua for ten days. Jaller will be head of the city for that time." "You mean you haven't heard?" Hewkii asked, as the two walked away from the Ga-metru docks. "Yesterday, Toa Erga found Jaller in his house, raging like a bitten Tolakiki Rhino. He's got the Madness." Matoro's face remained blank, in common Ko-metru style. "So he betrayed the Great Spirit?" Hewkii nodded. "He must have." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I can't help thinking how long we'll have before... You know." Matoro blinked, stopping at a quiet street corner to face his friend. "Let's ask him." "You just lost me." Hewkii said. "Let's ask Jaller. He ought to know." the Toa of Ice explained. Hewkii crossed his arms. "You realize he's imprisoned in a padded cell, right? Scheduled to be executed in the worst possible way? A foaming, ravaging madman... You just wanna walk up and ask?" "If he tells, no one will believe him." Matoro shrugged. "Besides, I have a friend who might be able to help us identify what causes the Mendarii." He softly tapped the large case he carried. Hewkii's eyes widened ever so slightly. "Is that from Teran-Nua?" Matoro smiled. "You mean is she from Teran-Nua."

* * *

"You can't be serious." Gyet stared in disbelief at the young Ga-matoran. "Tell me you're not serious." "Of course I'm serious!" Hahli replied sharply. "If you help me cure Toa Jaller, I'll get him to support you and the Rahaga." Gyet shook his head. "Do you even hear what you're saying? Toa Jaller is the Great - the Makuta's right hand! He'd betray us in a heartflash!" "Toa Jaller understands honor and repaying debts. Besides, if the Makuta is the reason he's sick, why should he be loyal to him?" Hahli said angrily. "What makes you think you can promise Toa Jaller's loyalty?" Gyet returned. Hahli bit her lip. Really, why do I think he'll help? Because I want to believe he'd repay me? Because I think he's smart enough to see Makuta's lies now? She shook her head. Neither of those were right. "Because I know him." she told Gyet aloud. "He practically raised me." The old matoran sighed. "Not good enough. Even if I were calling the shots, I wouldn't waste lives on your hunch." Hahli studied his face for a long moment. "Fine. I'll do it myself." She turned and headed for the main street. Gyet hesitated, then reluctantly called, "Wait." She turned to face him. "There is someone who might be able to help you. But he's... different. You'd need to show him respect, understand?" Gyet said. She nodded. I'm going to regret this, he thought ruefully. "If you swim out to the Great Barrier on the west side, there's a cliff that looks like a half-moon. Swim down until you find a large sea cave that glows. The... person who lives there might help you." "A friend of yours?" Hahli asked. "Not exactly." She put a hand on her hip. "How come you're telling me?" Gyet considered it for a moment. "I guess I feel sorry for you." "Thanks," Hahli snapped, "but I don't need your pity." She turned and walked angrily into the street. The Ta-matoran shook his head sorrowfully.Review

Edited by Hahli Historian, May 24 2012 - 11:22 PM.

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#25 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted May 29 2012 - 09:22 PM

Stave 25

This is insane, Macku told herself again. Absolutely insane. Who in the name of all that's protodermis would make this guy in charge of researching the Mendarii? She sighed loudly, watching Kualus slowly read over the same passage he had been studying for over an hour. Great Spirit, or Mata Nui, or whoever you are, please speed up time and get this over with. The white Rahaga took no notice of her impatient gestures and sighs; he kept steadily staring at the text. His only movement was to shift his hand every so often. She wished she had not suggested her home as a safe place to study; maybe he would have taken less time if they were more exposed. Macku couldn't take it any more. "Oh, for crying out loud! Haven't you finished it yet?" Kualus looked up calmly. "Of course not." "It's not even a page long," The Toa of Water ground her teeth. "Can't you read any faster?" To her surprise, he chuckled and put the holo-chip down. "Oh, Toa. Don't you know there is a great difference between reading and understanding? I have read the report at least three dozen times now, but there are still things I do not understand." "It's a status report from the battle front on West Helikh, from three months ago." Macku had not enough patience left to even pretend to ignore this waste of time. "There can't possibly be anything left to understand! Look!" She stooped and picked up the chip, turned on the screen and read aloud: "'Most resistance has fallen; over two hundred of the enemy died in combat. Our losses are heavy; requesting immediate back-up of at least fifty Toa.'" She looked back at the Rahaga. "What's so difficult to understand about that?" Kualus stood and stretched his muscles. The three metal strips on his back snapped into a triangle formation and began whirling rapidly. The motion was strong enough to lift him into the air, like a personal helicopter. He hovered by Macku's shoulder, gazing at the text. "It's the next part that is difficult, young one. 'Request for full battalion denied; too few Toa to send. Twelve is all the city can spare.'" Macku stared in disbelief. "Really? That's the part you don't get?" "Exactly." Kualus nodded. "Nor do you understand it." The Toa seriously considered summoning all the cold water she could find and dumping it on Kualus' head. "Uh, it's pretty clear. We didn't have enough to send fifty, so we sent twelve instead." "Just so." the white Rahaga mused, almost more to himself than to her. "Why could only twelve be sent?" Macku hit her own forehead in her frustration. "Because we didn't have that many Toa! It says so, right there!" A thoughtful frown hung around his fanged mouth. "How many Toa live in the city?" "Ugh, maybe a hundred; hundred and fifty? Now can we please do some actual research?" "And three months ago? How many?" he persisted. Macku groaned, "Look, I don't know if you realize this, but my friends and I are kind of on a timer with this Mendarii thing, and we need to--" "You need to shut up and listen for once!" Kualus said sternly. "How many Toa were there in this city three months ago?" "I don't know! Probably somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty!" Macku dug her fingers into her palms. She wouldn't be surprised if she found dents in her armor later. "Yet you couldn't spare fifty of those to help finish off Helikh?" he questioned. "Why not?" "How should I know?" she retorted. "Probably because too many of them were untrained." Kualus nodded slowly as he slowed his propellers and landed gently on the tile floor. "And why were there so many untrained Toa? Your kind should live for thousands of years, and do so, in other places. Why are there always new Toa here?" "Okay, I give up. Why?" Macku made a mental note to set up a therapy session later. Kualus took a deep breath. "Because Metru-Nui Toa are dying every day. It's the only answer. Experienced Toa are scarce in the city because, simply put, there aren't any. The Mendarii isn't just striking those who betray the Makuta; it's killing you all. You last a few decades at best, most of the time less. Then the Madness overtakes you and the Makuta chooses to call it treachery or hide the bodies." He stared grimly at the chip in her hand. "That one little 'request denied' is your death certificate." Macku felt her jaw go slack. Review

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#26 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jun 07 2012 - 04:30 PM

Stave 26

The elevator hummed quietly, the changing lights the only indication of their rush downward. Faraway cries echoed in the deep tunnels, curses that had no meaning save to those who uttered them. Hewkii was, at least in his own opinion, the bravest Toa on Metru-Nui. Even so, he felt his stomach flip as he and Matoro entered the one place in the City of Legends that no one wanted to go - the Mendar-Kahllu, the Mad-House. Fortunately, it was also the only place in the city that needed no guards to keep people out. Specialized Vahki patrolled the dim hallways and passages, their only task to keep the prisoners safely inside. Rumor said the the machines were even capable of draining elemental energies, as that was the only way to keep the infected Toa from breaking out. "What about holo-cameras? Or tripwires?" Hewkii asked of his companion breaking the uneasy quiet. "What about Vahki?" Wisitara, revived and still angry, snapped. Matoro crossed his arms coolly. "I've told you - the Vahki down there and the ones monitoring this place have only been programmed to keep the diseased Toa trapped. They've never considered the chance that someone would want to get down here. We're as safe as if we were taking a chute to work in the morning." "Your expressions mean nothing to me, Metru-Nuan." Wisitara said. Or spat. Really, everything she said to either of them was with the attitude of spitting out poison. Hewkii ignored the old Onu-matoran. "Okay, so what if he's too far gone? Matoro, I've seen the Mendarii, and it's not pretty. They don't even know who they are anymore." The Toa of Ice shrugged. "They just found him this week. He can't deteriorate that fast. Besides, it varies from case to case how long they live. That's my point: we don't know enough about the Madness to say anything definitive about it. So we go to the source." "Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you when he's a jabbering imbecile." Hewkii shrugged. Wisitara muttered something about being stuck in an elevator with two jabbering imbeciles. Both Toa chose not to hear; they needed the old matoran to be willing to tell them something about Toa Jaller's condition. As the gears of the elevator ground to a halt and the door opened with a hiss, Hewkii held his axe in both hands, not trusting Matoro's gamble. He needn't have worried. A squad leader waiting at the bottom of the shaft gave them a visual scan, but neither of the Toa had any of the tell-tale signs of infection. As such, the machine defaulted to it's programming of treating Toa as higher authorities and gave a slight bow. Hewkii breathed a sigh of relief as Matoro led Wisitara and himself down the passage. Cells lined both walls, most not bigger than six bio wide - why waste space on the dying? Those Toa who were completely consumed by the disease did not even acknowledge their visitors, but some were still able to form sentences and pleaded or begged or howled to be let out. Wisitara stared at the fallen Toa, looking both horrified and disgusted. The Toa of Ice and Stone betrayed no emotion at the sight, however they may have felt. After a sickening few minutes of searching the dungeon - which was larger than either Toa expected it to be - they found the cell they sought. Jaller sat calmly on the floor, his eyes closed. He might have been asleep, except for the occasional angry twitch of his hands. Matoro did a quick scan with his Mask of X-Ray Vision and turned to Hewkii. "For a Fire Toa, he's freezing cold. His heat signature is almost the same as yours." Hewkii frowned. "That doesn't make any sense. Alkah burned up from the inside out. He should be boiling." "I am cold because I choose to be. I am so much more than a mere mask maker." answered a deep voice. Jaller opened his eyes to reveal pupils tinged with the sickly grey-green of the Madness. "I am... I was... the Great Spirit's right hand. I have control over powers most Toa never dream of, even like this." "Incredible." Matoro muttered, half-consciously. The Toa of Fire might have smiled for a moment. Or it could have been a trick of the light. "Metru-Nui has a way of forcing you to learn self-control, and no one learned it better than I did." "Clearly." Hewkii said flatly. He gestured to their surroundings. "That's how you ended up here." Jaller's eyes flashed an angry green, but quickly glazed over again. "My imprisonment was... not my fault." Matoro turned to Wisitara. "What do you see?" The old Onu-matoran shook her head. "This is what happens to you Toa?" "When we betray the Great Spirit, yes." the Ice Toa answered quietly. Wisitara looked around her slowly. "All of a sudden, I'm much less surprised that you obey his orders to destroy my home." "What did you mean, it wasn't your fault?" Hewkii demanded of Jaller. "It has to be your fault." The Toa of Fire shifted uneasily. "I did nothing wrong. It just... happened." He gestured at the other cells. "Look around. Most of these Toa were reported as being gone to war. They've been hidden here all the time. Someone has betrayed us." Matoro gave a his friend a glance of concern, then spoke to Jaller. "Who?" "I... I... don't know." Hewkii crossed his arms. "Oh, for crying out loud! Can't you see it? The Great One lied to us. He's not what you think!" Jaller's eyes flashed again and he made no attempt to control it. "Traitor! You should be the one in here, dying!" His words faded into the senseless screams of a lost mind. Wisitara turned to Matoro. "I think I've seen enough. And I can tell you that this disease is not found anywhere in my home." She glanced back at the cells. "Can we go now?" "Gladly." Hewkii muttered, turning back towards the elevator. "Wait!" Matoro half-turned as Jaller regained his sanity for a moment. The Fire Toa closed his eyes, breathing heavily. "I can... I will master it. Just listen to me." Hewkii shuddered and led Wisitara back to the elevator, ignoring the plea. But Matoro's curiosity overcame his horror. He knelt next to Jaller's cage. "What is it?" "There are Toa down here I knew... friends." He smiled bitterly. "As near friends as I had, anyway. None of them were traitors. Why are we down here? Why is this happening?" With the intensity of his question, his eyes flew open and were for a moment completely free of the sick green. Matoro felt pity stir in him for this shell of a once great leader and Toa. "I don't know. But I'm going to find out." Review

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#27 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jun 22 2012 - 11:21 AM

Stave 27

Hahli felt tired and discouraged. She had been searching for this sea cave Gyet spoke of for nearly two hours. Her canoe paddle was beginning to chafe against her armored hands, and she was sore from sitting for too long. "He couldn't give me anything more specific than a half-moon?" she muttered. For the fourth time in as many minutes, she looked anxiously towards the shore of the city. The Vahki patrols would be setting out soon, ensuring that all fishing boats were accounted for by the end of the day. When that happened, she would either have to ditch the canoe or be back in the city. "Half-moon in the cliff." She turned to face the seemingly endless Great Barrier again. The many jagged cliffs and weathered rocks formed no shapes at all, to her mind. "So, if I'm an old Ta-matoran with eyes probably full of liquid protodermis at this point," Hahli dipped her hand overboard and splashed some protodermis on her mask, "I'm used to making up codes and hiding secrets; I'm looking for a way to mark this cave mentally.... So what do I see?" Hahli squinted through the drips on her Mask of Illusion, trying to see what Gyet saw. That had been one of her first lessons under Toa Jaller - thinking like your target, seeing what they saw. And as the liquid dribbled off her mask, the setting sun hit the protodermis in a way that illuminated a rough half-circle on the cliff face about a hundred bio to her left. "And there's the moon." she smiled, wiping off her kanohi. Her triumph was cut short by the sound of a Vahki sea transport zooming out from the nearest dock, it's twin propellers whirling. She squinted against the sunset, making out six - no, seven Bordahk on board. Hahli's first instinct was to dive and hold her breath, but she was too far away to make it to the cave without surfacing. Plus, I don't know where the cave is, exactly. Setting her teeth, Hahli triggered her protosteel switchblade and put a level four freeze disc in her launcher. I guess this Vahki patrol will just have to have some serious malfunctions, she thought, slipping into the water.

* * *

It only took the mechanical enforcers a few minutes to locate the drifting canoe. They chittered an unintelligible warning as they approached. When they found no matoran on board, the Vahki squad leader took a holo-picture of the boat's identification code while two others hoisted it on board the larger craft. The squad leader then directed a second pair of Bordahk to jump overboard and scan the area for the owner of the craft. As the squad leader waited for a report on the missing lawbreaker, the remaining four Vahki did a quick scan of the canoe's contents. A fishing net, a scaling knife and a tattered sea cloak were the usual things a Ga-metru fisher would use. One of the four turned to report their findings to the squad leader, but was stopped by a high-pitched shriek from two of it's partners. The fourth Bordahk lay slumped across the canoe, a gaping hole in the back of its headpiece. Instantly, the three subordinates and the squad leader were on full alert. They quickly moved into a wedge formation and went to inspect their fallen comrade. Another squeal was cut off sharply - the rear Vahki was frozen solid, the ice splitting it's joints and coating it's gears. Without pause, the remaining three stood back-to-back in a triangle formation, chirping angrily at each other. Their opponent seemed to like striking without being seen, so they adapted accordingly. The squad leader did a slow visual scan of the deck, the surrounding water and the cliffs. Nothing seemed amiss, save for the two sparking bodies. The second in command chirped a warning as something flashed before it's visual scanner. A moment later, the Bordahk's head was sliced in half. A splash sounded as the mysterious attacker dove into the water. The leader and it's one remaining subordinate followed, hitting the water seamlessly and following the trail of bubbles. The attacker, whom they could not get a good look at due to the lack of light, swam straight down into the dark liquid of the Silver Sea. At the same moment, both the leader and the subordinate spotted movement coming towards them. They kicked harder, straining to reach their target. Too late, their scanners showed that the things coming towards them were their own comrades. Too late, they tried to dodge the sharp staffs. Too late, they felt the metal pierce their armor and the water rush into their circuitry. And much too late did the second pair of Vahki remember that water conducts electricity.

* * *

There was a flash and a crackle across the surface of the protodermis sea as the four Vahki were fried. Hahli looked over the edge of the Vahki transport, shoving her wet hair out of her face, and smiled. As if nothing had happened, she reved the boat's engine and headed for the shining half-moon in the cliffside.Review

Edited by Hahli Historian, Jun 26 2012 - 01:45 PM.

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#28 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Aug 15 2012 - 12:54 PM

Stave 28

Hahli took a second gulp of oxygen from her air bladder as she dove deeper beneath the waves. The glimmer in the side of the cliff could not be seen from the surface, but the darker the liquid protodermis grew, the easier the cave was to see. The light it emitted was a silvery, flickering beam - an unnatural, star-like radiance. Thrusting herself between the jagged rocks at the cave mouth, the pressure of the water propelled her upward and she broke the surface. The air here was stale and heavy. No lightstones, she noted, running her hand over the smooth stone wall. No signs of any digging or mining. But the walls aren't natural. More like the rock was shaped by a Toa. The source of the light was a large pool of liquid in the center of the perfectly round cavern. Even without the slightest movement on the surface of the protodermis, the light flickered and wavered like a silver fire. Cautiously, she walked to the edge of the pool. "Hello?" she called boldly. Her voice should have echoed against the rocks, but the protodermis seemed to absorb the sound. "Gyet sent me. He said you could help." In response, the pool rippled. A voice rang out in the chamber; a sound completely devoid of emotion, neither dark or light. "I am here, Ga-matoran." "Who are-- what are you?" she asked, staring at the pool, trying to make out the speaker. "I am the creator and destroyer of worlds. I am the thing that built the world in the beginning and I will one day engulf it all into nothingness once more." Hahli snorted mentally. Of course, Gyet would send me to the stargazer on the mountain who talks in riddles and philosophy. Here I was expecting some actual help. "I am the potential of all livings things - to become greater than they are.... or to die." the voice continued, oblivious to her thoughts. "I am the energy of this planet, of every being that walks it's face." "Okay, then." She made a mental note to ask for short explanations from now on. "Gyet said you would be able to help me. I have a--" She paused. She couldn't really say "friend" about Jaller. "A Toa I know; he's sick. People call it the Mendarii. It makes him go crazy and act like an animal. He can't control himself, and he's going to die soon." She waited for a response, but none came. "Hello? Did you hear me?" "Of course." "So why aren't you answering?" "I am not made to act on my own. I will only speak when asked a question." the being replied. The center of the pool was shifting, building itself into what appeared to be a head. Hahli wavered between curiosity and frustration. "Why? Why can't you just talk?" The head was now almost solid looking and the "mouth" appeared to form words. "It is my purpose to exist, for good or for evil. I do not instigate or act on my own; I am here to be used. It is the way of the world that power exists." "Okay, okay. Forget I asked." Hahli rolled her eyes. "Do you have a name?" A faint trace of emotion - puzzlement - crossed the face of the pool. "No." "So what do I call you?" The face seemed to struggle with the question. "Gyet calls me 'Guardian'. You may call me that." "So, can you help me with the Toa, Guardian?" she demanded. "This disease you speak of is not familiar to me," it replied. "But I can tell you what I know of your kind. It may help you identify a cure. Toa and matoran alike have a spark, no more, of the very first energy used by the Great Beings when they made the world - my energy. In matoran, this energy is barely enough to feel the presence of the elements. In Toa, that energy is multiplied a hundred-fold and they can use it manipulate the natural world." One sentence caught her attention. "A spark of your energy?" The head nodded. "It was given to the very first matoran and has been passed down your lines for hundreds of thousands of years." Hahli stared at the pool. Glowing, untainted, neutral. She thought of the time Jaller had taken her down to the Mendar-Kahllu and shown her what a Mendarii-stricken Toa looked like. He had meant it to be a warning. She remembered him telling her that he could do worse things to her if she betrayed him or his master. What was it about that moment that had stuck with her? Something in her head, that little voice that had kept her alive in the city of secrets and death, was screaming at her to understand. She closed her eyes and focused on the memory. Their masks, she thought. Their masks were all covered in slime. Dark, nasty, green stuff. Her eyes flew open. That was the answer. Whatever caused the Mendarii was the opposite of energized protodermis, could be cured by energized protodermis. "I need to--" she started, then stopped. Considering that she really needed him to cooperate, she should probably ask, not demand. "Can I please take some of your protodermis? I think it will cure the Toa." The Guardian nodded again. "I am here to be used, matoran. But know this - the powers I hold are determined only by fate. A drop of my substance may heal, or destroy. Were you to jump in now, you could come out changed, more of who you are, or you could disintegrate into nothing." "Thanks for the warning," she replied, taking her air bladder out of her pack. It seemed sturdy enough to carry some of the liquid. Carefully, she dipped the mouthpiece into the pool and let a little protodermis run into the plastic sack. She pulled it out and tied off the end in a knot before stowing it in her pocket. No way am I going to lose this. As she turned to walk out of the cave, one last question came to mind. She looked back at the Guardian, who was again melting into the pool. "Why are you down here?" A faint laugh answered. "I would tell you, but it would take more years than you have left, matoran."Review

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#29 Offline Steelsheen

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Posted Jan 22 2013 - 11:10 PM

[color=#8040BF;]Stave 29Kendrall felt his pulse pound in his ears. Every muscle and gear in his body was tense and ready to jump at the slightest provocation. He barely even allowed himself to breathe. Wait for it, he told himself stubbornly. Wait. A few bio away, a squad of four Vorzakh were overseeing a group of some thirty Le-matoran as they constructed a Vahki transport. They seemed unaware of his presence, but some instinct, a sixth sense only a native of the island would understand, told him that the enforcers of Metru-Nui were not so easily fooled. As he watched, one of the Le-matoran began quietly humming in time with the rhythmic beat of his tools. One of the Vorzahk cooly stepped over the the offending matoran and lashed out at him. The Vahki's staff connected solidly with the Le-matoran's head and a small flare of energy sparked behind the matoran's Kanohi Komau. A moment later, the Le-matoran had lost all control of his higher brain functions and wandered off, babbling nonsensically. The other Le-matoran increased their speed and worked as noiselessly as possible - a few glanced after their friend sadly. The "shambler" was out of site in a few moments, ignored by everyone he passed. Kendrall felt a small hand clasp his tightly. He turned his head just enough to see Leyana huddling up against him, looking fearfully at the Vahki. She was not so young that she could not remember living in Le-metru, hounded and corralled by the Vorzahk; he could see the old fear in her eyes. Behind her, Jaatiiko stood quietly, waiting for his brother to act. There was muted dread in his face, too. In the second that Kendrall took his eyes off the Vahki, disaster struck. The leader of the squad, designated by the stripe of silver protodermis that ran lengthwise over it's "jaws", gave off a high-pitched shriek and swung it's staff in his direction. The Ga-matoran shoved Leyana back and ducked to avoid the blow. He felt a painful shock as the staff just grazed his mask, but the contact wasn't enough to release a full blast of the staff's mind erasing power. "Run!" he yelled. The three siblings turned and raced down the street, clinging to the shadows. Leyana took the lead, weaving through the alleys and back ways that she had once wandered. Jaatiiko and Kendral, less sure of the way and a little slower, stayed barely a bio out of the Vahki's reach. "Ley, we need a blind corner," Kendral panted, checking the disc in his launcher. The code read 664 - a decent level of power against a Vahki, but shrinking one of the machines wouldn't damage their staffs in any way. "And a sewer grate," he added quickly. The Vahki squad's gears and pistons whirred loudly as they pushed their top speed. One tried to swipe at Jaatiiko with it's staff, miscalculated and tripped. A mere second later it was back on it's feet and running again. The leader took several holographic images of the three matoran as it continued the chase, intending to search it's database for prior offenses. One too many times disobeying the Great One could get a matoran killed instead of made a "shambler". Curiously, none of these matoran had on their standard-issued metru identification arm badges. That made two offenses, the Vahki noted. "Up-coming!" Leyana shrieked as she ducked into a broader street, crossing over a grate-covered vent. Kendrall glanced over his shoulder long enough to fire the disc at the closest Vahki as he ran. He didn't dare take another look until he had put some distance between himself and the machines, but from the small clatter and high screech, he guessed that his plan had worked. Okay, now figure out a way to lose three more. '"Tiiko! Any ideas?" The squad leader added two more crimes to it's current target - possession of illegal weapons and wanton destruction of metru property. Strangely, though, it could not find any match in it's database for these three matoran. Metru-Nui records of them simply did not exist. The Vorzakh's eye's narrowed. These were no mere lawbreakers; they were Outsiders and possibly the highest offending criminals this particular squad had ever seen. The leader chirped it's discovery to it's two subordinates as they continued the chase. This information meant the running would end much sooner - the rules about "no killing if the lawbreaker is still useful" did not apply to illegal matoran from other islands. All three Vahki bent their heads down to touch their chest plates, clamped down on a disc in the storage compartment and brought their heads up to aim again without any pause in their speed. By their calculations, the three illegals had about ten seconds left in this life. The Ga-matoran fired another disc, but it was ill-aimed - an Ussal cart levitated into the air harmlessly. The lead Vahki plotted the course of the fleeing criminals and fired. It's companions followed suit. Without warning, a fourth disc flew in from the side and blocked all three of the Vahki's shots from converging on their target. It was a nearly impossible shot, even using a Po-metru disc with the power to deflect other kanoka. The Vahki's discs flew wildly and hit the nearby walls of buildings. The lead Vahki hissed in disgust and turned in the direction of the new lawbreaker. A matoran wearing armor from Ta-metru and a blue mask had already loaded another disc and was about to fire. "Hey, wirebrains!" he yelled. "I think I'm worse than the kids are." One of it's subordinates chirped that the distraction had caused the other three lawbreakers to escape. The lead Vorzahk calculated the weight of the offenses before replying that obstructing a pursuit and threatening a Vahki carried a worse punishment than running. Accordingly, all three struck offensive poses and lowered their staffs at this new matoran. Takua smiled. All the technology of Metru-Nui and Vahki are still so predictable. He quickly fired into the air, then double-checked the code on his last disc. It read 1574 - a medium powered Disc of Shielding. He slammed it as hard as he could against his own chest armor, and the force was enough to trigger a weak shield around him. Just in time, too, he chuckled in relief as three Vahki staffs slammed against his head. The shield flickered, but did not break yet. He risked glancing up at the sky as the Vahki lifted their arms for a second try. Come on; down! The Ga-metru disc he had fired in the air came hurtling back down, driven by his thoughts. The explosion triggered right at his feet, blowing him backwards a few bio and sapping the last of his shield. For a few minutes, all he could do was blink and try to hear anything but the ringing in his ears. He thought he felt someone tugging at his arm, and a far away voice. His eyes came back into focus slowly and he saw Leyana had grabbed his hand and was trying to pull him out of sight. If he hadn't been in pain, her efforts might have struck him as comical. "Takua?" Leyana called again in a tremulous voice. "Takua?" He shook his head, trying to focus his senses. "Yeah, yeah; I'm fine." "Proto rats, you are," said a firm voice. It took him a moment to identify the speaker as Kendral. "Even with a shield, that blast should've killed you." Takua laughed, trying to ignore the shooting pains in his neck. "Just whiplash and maybe some cuts." He winced a little as the Ga-matoran helped him sit up. "I promised your sister I'd look out for you guys." "Great job of that, by the way." The green Rahaga spoke up from the shadows of a building across the street. "But can I suggest we get out of here? Somewhere safe?" Kendral's face was grim. "There isn't any safe place for us now. Those Vahki will have transmitted holographs of us to their local hub - pretty soon, the whole island will be out looking for us four." "Are there any... Any more sea caves?" Takua asked, panting a little. "Places we could hide?" Jaatiiko, standing behind his brother, kicked at a piece of twisted metal that had been a Vahki a few minutes ago. "It wouldn't matter," he commented. His voice was cold and held a note of suspicion. "The Vahki found where we live; you can bet they'll scour the coastline for weeks now." "Um, not to rush you, but - get out of the street, for Mata Nui's sake!" Iruini hissed. Jaatiiko took Leyana's hand and Kendral half-carried, half-guided Takua out of the sunlit street. They followed the small green Rahaga down two smaller alleys until they came to a large warehouse used to store the wrecks of failed vehicles before they were shipped to Ta-metru and melted down. Iruini easily picked the lock on one of the side doors and all five slipped inside. "So who are you, really?" Jaatiiko lifted his head to meet Iruini's gaze. "How did the Bordahk find the cave? Who are you working for?" A small blade gleamed in his hand threateningly. "You think this was me?" the Rahaga asked in surprise. "This could only be you," Takua said coldly, shaking his head to clear the white dots swimming before his eyes. "The truth, now. Who are you, and who sent you?"[/color]Review

Edited by Hahli Historian, Jan 23 2013 - 10:38 PM.

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