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The Strength Unbound: Return to Terra Nui

A Tale of Terra Nui Terra Nui Ballom Sharaku Quntaino

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#1 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 08 2014 - 09:52 PM

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Prologue
 

"Nature will have its way."

~~~

 

It was the day of the Festival of Diamonds: a huge celebration to commemorate Terra Nui's deliverance from the evil Sharaku forty years ago. And the Matoran village was richly decorated for the occasion — festive garlands of leaves draped around every building, bunches of fresh flowers in containers filling the air with perfume. Several curved banquet tables had been set in the town square where, in the sight of centerpiece statue's shadow, Matoran, as well as the six Torika, would eat from plates piled high with nature's bounty. Even the heroes of the island, the eight Toa and their Turaga, would sit among friends, chatting over the meal.

All in all, the holiday, though loved by all, did have a more somber purpose — as a memorial for those who gave their lives to save their home, most notably Hakeahu, who the statue in the village represented. Also, however, the occasion also had come to represent the beauty of nature — and was thus a grand sight to behold indeed.

Hours later, the festival had begun and, though in full swing, had been moved inside to keep everyone dry from the cool spring rain which had begun to fall. Within minutes the rain intensified until water was pouring down from the sky, a rainstorm covering most of the island. Then, thunder began to flash in the distance.

 

------

 

In the wake of the Battle of Terra Nui, a shrine had been dedicated on Mount Tongaru: Otasuva, a six-sided pyramid made out of the multicolored keystones which had led to the finding of the Mask of Nature, perched upon the mountain's icy peak. The shrine sat atop its silver base, untouched since its creation — until now.

From the heart of the rainstorm that had been above Mount Tongaru, a huge lightning bolt suddenly flashed down from the clouds, dropping right onto the shrine of Otasuva. For a second the insides of the keystones glowed with a light of their own, before shattering into molten shards which sliced into the snowy slope of the mountain, along with bits and pieces of the broken base. The energy of the lightning bolt dissipated, and everything became quiet again, except for the hissing of the cooling fragments.

However, if one were there to listen closely enough, another sound could be heard — one not unlike that of footsteps.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 08 2014 - 09:53 PM.

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#2 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 13 2014 - 05:55 PM

Chapter 1

 

Hanak stood inside the spacious hut of Turaga Akito, gazing though the rain-slicked window pane, while several Matoran played Kolhii. The rainstorm which had brewed was now in full swing, with drenching sprays landing on the thatched roof with loud noises. Hearing a sound near him, Hanak turned to see the concerned face of his friend Zanta.

"Are you okay, Hanak? You look depressed, when you shouldn't be. It's a festival!"

"I know. It's just I feel something is going to happen, something important, something —" The red Torika broke off in mid-sentence.

"What is it?"

"I saw something — a big flash, near Mount Tongaru — lightning. And I also heard a noise, like an explosion. Maybe I should investigate."

"No, I don't think that would be wise, you might . . ." Zanta trailed off, realizing he was talking to himself, Hanak nowhere to be seen. Turning, he saw the door to the hut still flapping shut. "I hate it when he does that."

 

------

 

Hanak ran as fast as he could, even using his power to accelerate himself far beyond normal speeds. Speeding out of the Matoran village, he did not slow down until he reached the base of Mount Tongaru. There, the Torika stopped altogether, skidding to a stop as he stared at the sight before him.

Mount Tongaru was a wreck — the bolt which had hit it had demolished Otasuva, raining shreds of it all the way down the mountain's slope. Upon landing, the still-glowing fragments had dug into the fresh snow left by the storm, trailing ash and acrid smoke.

Dazed, Hanak slowly walked up to a large fragment near him, one almost half his small height. Running a finger over its bright green surface, Hanak wondered why the piece was so large. Also, it seemed curved — far more than the blocky keystones he knew from Otasuva. If not for the color, he would not have believed it was a keystone after all, for even the inside curve of the piece was different — deep scars ran over it, like claw marks.

Shaking his head, the Torika stood up slowly. Dozens more pieces were around him, each changed just as radically. Something mysterious had happened, Hanak was sure of that, but he was at a loss to explain what.

Turning to walk back to the village, however, a thought kept returning to him. It seemed, amazing as it was, that the keystones were something other than that — something else altogether: eggs.

And what might hatch out of them Hanak shuddered to think of.

 

 

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#3 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 13 2014 - 11:12 PM

Chapter 2

 

Turaga Akito stood on his porch the following morning, admiring the sunlit grassy knolls leading down to the beach outside of the village. Despite the rainstorm yesterday, it seemed at dawn that the torrential spell had not occurred, for the air was so fresh, bright, and sunlit. Akito had always admired the coming of a new day; it made life seem more pleasant. This morning would be different from the others, Akito thought, because he was about to unveil something he had been planning for quite some time.

Walking into the main room, he was glad to see that the eight Toa had arrived right on time. Pulling down several sea maps from a shelf, he hobbled over to the carved wooden table in the middle of the room.

"You're probably all wondering why I called you here, so I'm going to explain. You see, for a while now life on Terra Nui has been rather uneventful, and my old bones are aching for something new and exciting."

"What do you mean, Turaga?" Chompshi asked. "Do you mean to go out on an adventure?"

"Exactly, my boy!" Akito chuckled as he opened a scroll. "When I was not much older than yourself, I was part of a wandering team of Toa called the Sah. From Metru Nui itself we hailed, and we traveled through many domes and islands. Out of all the squad, the best friend I had was named Atemu, who settled in the dome adjacent to ours, while I went on to Terra Nui."

He pointed at the globe carved onto the scroll, which showed several islands. "This main island is called Kemet Nui, and Atemu dwells there. I haven't seen him face to face in thousands of years, and the last time I heard from him was when he transported the Zlinj itself to our island!

"So what I say is this: using the ship with which I arrived here, we visit old Atemu on Kemet Nui to see what he's been up to. The island was in a time of peace the last time I visited, and besides, if something were to go wrong, you are all Toa. You can defend us from any attacks." He put down the map. "What do you say? Shall we go on a vacation?"

The Toa looked at each other, unsure for a few moments. Then Matoba nodded and smiled at the Turaga. "We'll go pack."

 

------

 

Later on, the eight Toa met Akito outside at the shoreline. Each had brought several leaf rucksacks filled with essential provisions: tools, maps, compasses, portable shelters, flax and rigging, paper, charcoal, and most of the leftover food from the Festival. A large crowd of Matoran had gathered on the beach to wish them farewell.

Wading through the shallows of the Suti Bay, the Toa saw Akito pulling the ship into the water. It was a large wood and protodermis outrigger, complete with an outboard motor on the back, a pair of large sails, and six pairs of oars. An edifice in the back, built in the image of the Turaga's own hut, served as the cabin. A carved blue Proto Drake made up the figurehead, under which had been carved "Hakeahu".

"That's a sweet ship you have there, Turaga!" Heaka exclaimed, as she and the other Toa unloaded their supplies. "I can see that Brega is green with envy just looking at it."

"Yeah, I bet it just speed-quick wind-flies through the sea-water!" Lyse added.

Climbing onto the prow while the Toa pushed the boat further out, Akito addressed the cheering and yelling Matoran on the shore. "Do not worry, my children! You will be safe and happy while the Toa and I are gone! And besides, I have put the trusty Torika in charge, so they can answer all your questions." He and the Toa waved back at them. "Farewell! See you in a few weeks!"

As the Matoran gave one last cheer and headed home, and the outrigger moved out of the bay, Hanak stood watching underneath a nearby palm. Having watched the Matoran being told of their safety, he wondered whether he should have told Akito and the Toa, or even the other Torika, what he had seen on top of Mount Tongaru.

Foolish Torika, he thought. You're just being paranoid. We'll be safe while they're gone. It's not that urgent that I needed to tell them.

But in the days to come, he would dearly wish that he had.

 

 

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#4 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 16 2014 - 08:47 PM

Chapter 3

 

After days of travel over the silver protodermis sea, the Hakeahu finally crested the first wave of the Kemet Nui dome.

The great outrigger vessel had already passed through many dark, twisted tunnels that connected the two domes, all of which were dark, drippy, damp, and with only a few lightstones guiding the way. During this passage, the Toa and Akito could only sit, eat on the provisions, and talk of what the new island would be like. Chomphsi and Matoba had tried to light the way, to little avail. Yet now the tunnels were past, and the ship was on its way through the open sea once more.

At the prow, the passengers all rushed to feel the sea breeze, as crying Gula flew overhead. Heaka scanned the horizon while the Toa watched. "I see it! Land is not very far off!"

Akito paused for a moment, pulling out his old sea map. "Well, we are in the dome; that is true. But Kemet Nui is in the center. That can't be right. If my calculations are correct, that isn't Kemet Nui we are nearing, it's . . ."

Without warning, the ship suddenly lurched forward, cutting off Akito and sending the Toa crashing into a pile against the provisions hut. A fierce storm had begun to form around the craft. The small winds that had billowed around it soon increased, as the waves became larger and choppier. Chompshi, Vrael, Matoba, Nuukor, and Pacha instantly ran to steady the riggings. Attar ran to help Turaga Akito up, while Heaka and Lyse tried to calm the winds with their elemental powers.

"Hang on to something!" Matoba yelled, pulling on one of the sail's ropes while being drenched by waves. "We've got to ride this storm out!"

"That's impossible!" Akito responded from inside the cabin, where he had sought out shelter. "I've never seen weather like this here before, but I'm sure of one thing. If we just stay here and wait, we should be all right!"

 

------

 

The storm did not stop. Rather, it increased in intensity.

Attar had tried to turn the engine off, but Chompshi had told him that their forward movement might be the only thing that could save them. Vrael had tied down most of the loose objects inside, including the oars, and had ordered the sail to be fettered to prevent further damage. Now, all the Toa huddled inside the cabin miserably, holding on to the rucksacks of supplies, while Heaka kept watch outside.

The Hakeahu rocked back and forth in the maelstrom, with the winds increased to typhoon proportions, and the waves continuously pummeling the craft. And through this punishment, it still chugged forward, continuing towards the island.

After an hour, Heaka went back outside, using her mask to liquefy herself and avoid being washed away. When she came back, however, the Toa of Water was surprisingly happy. "I can see the island, and it's much nearer. There appears to be a reef jutting out near us, so hopefully this storm will steer us to a sandbar or something, so that we can land . . ."

Once again, the speech was cut off, as the Hakeahu suddenly hit something off of the starboard bow. A sickening crunch split the roaring wind, as the vessel was thrust against the rocks. Akito, who had been sitting at the back, suddenly realized something terrible. Pulling himself forward with his staff, he yelled at the Toa Terra with all his might. "Grab all the supplies you can! It's the engine! She's gonna blow!"

The Toa barely had time to scramble forward when an explosion rocked the rear end of the craft. In a roar of timber, water, and wind, they were thrown into the whirlwind, tossed back and forth into the roaring water. From behind them, the Hakeahu gave way with a groan and crash, collapsing into several fragments in the water.

As soon as the flood had begun, however, it receded. The Toa Terra were flung onto the very sandbar Heaka had predicted, with the ruined hulk of their vessel stopping shortly after them. By now, however, the eight Toa had been seriously jarred, and Akito was crawling forward desperately. The rocks and waves had proven too much for them.

Waves pushing them into shore, the Toa and Turaga slid into unconsciousness, as a chill rain began to fall.

 

 

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#5 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 16 2014 - 10:14 PM

Chapter 4

 

The next day, the Toa and Akito awoke to find themselves lying on a thin stretch of red, sandy beach, with waves lapping around their waists. To the left, the outcropping of lava rock which wrecked the Hakeahu loomed, providing shade against the rising sun. All around, splinters of wood and pieces of sail lay scattered on the beach. Bags of food which had sprung open upon landing had attracted a screeching group of Gula, whose loud cries pieced the Toa's ears.

Akito was one of the first to rise, pulling himself up on his staff. Then, finding its flame extinguished, he summoned a spark to light it with. Afterward, he used his Kanohi Zalmex to scan the thick layers of trees which stood at the end of the beach. Although his search was fruitless, the smell of the tropical pines reminded him of something. Stepping forward, the Turaga picked up a few needles and smelled them. I know that smell. I must have been here before . . . This must be Punt Nui, then.

 

Hearing sounds behind him, Akito turned to see most the Toa up and alert; Heaka and Vrael were searching in the water for salvageable supplies, while Chompshi was trying to examine the remains of Akito's map. Pacha sat on the sand, massaging her shoulders, while Lyse stood several bio away, looking out to sea. Matoba was even doing exercises on the sand. "How's the search going? Have you managed to save any of our supplies?"

Heaka turned toward the shore in answer. "We've found a few small bags of food, but most is ruined."

"Speaking of which, Turaga, I'm sorry to say that your map is ruined," Chompshi apologized.

"Never mind that. I only needed it to get through the tunnels. I probably can get us to Kemet Nui from here. And how are Attar and Nuukor? They seem to still be out."

In response, Nuukor made a noise and rolled over. "We're fine. And where is 'here', anyway?"

"Well, where we are is Punt Nui, near the edge of the dome. It's largely uninhabited, except for a Matoran village in the north, which is led by another of the Turaga Sah, old Khepera. We aren't exactly here to see him, but he can give us aid." Akito scratched his head. "And can you go talk to Lyse, Vrael? He seems out of sorts."

 

------

 

Lyse stood on the rough sand of the beach, looking out into the mist overhanging the sea coast, trying to fight feelings of depression which were threatening to set in. As a Le-Matoran, he has always disliked the sea, and being helpless even more so. Now he had to deal with both. He sighed, closing his eyes. Hopefully this whole mess could be cleared up soon, and the group would be on Kemet Nui, then back home before he would know it.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he heard Vrael speak. The elder Toa must had walked up while Lyse was thinking. "Are you okay? You don't quite seem yourself."

Lyse was about to answer when he felt something touch him, not on his body, but in his mind: a ripple, as if caused by an angler casting out a net. Passing momentarily, the feeling soon returned, but magnitudes stronger, a deep ocean of darkness which pulled him in. Unable to resist, Lyse felt someone else begin to speak through his body.

 

------

 

When Lyse opened his eyes to answer Vrael, the Toa immediately knew something was wrong. Instead of his usual light green eyes, Lyse's were a pale pink. In addition, his voice had changed, and when he spoke he did so in a deeper voice, without emotion.

 

"My condition is of no consequences. This message is. If you Toa do not leave this island before the day is out, you will all perish. Heed me well. I do not make idle threats. One day is all you have."

Finished speaking, Lyse closed his eyes and shuddered before opening them to reveal his normal green eyes. "What was that, Vrael? Sorry, I didn't hear you there, Toa-friend."

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 21 2014 - 11:57 PM.

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#6 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 16 2014 - 11:28 PM

Chapter 5

 

Zanta walked merrily along through the Johmai Jungle, without a care in the world. He had agreed to meet with the other Torika and the Green One in a clearing farther up ahead, and so far was just enjoying the walk. Being in charge of things was quite nice, he decided. Everything was great. As he moved forward, Zanta used his newfound power to teleport himself just above a rotted log a few bio ahead of him, doing this teleporting in rapid succession. He could do anything with this power as far as movement was concerned — go up, down, anywhere nearby.

Seeing the other Torika up ahead, Zanta teleported right in front of Hanak and saluted, a sight his friends were now used to. "Well, what's this all about, Hanak?" he asked.

The Green One, who by now had become quite good friends with the green Torika, nodded furiously. "I've heard dat you's all gonna go trough da forest, and I just wanted to come along to make sure ya don't get lost. It can be quite dangerous here, yep."

"Yes, and us five are helping the Green One take a load of new wood to market." Hanak replied. "Just stay around here until we come back, and we'll head back to the village." He turned to Vukaz and Thukor. "Your powers would come in handy should a wild Rahi attack."

Both agreed with big smiles. Vukaz had powers of force shields that could make a target, or himself, float and repel attacks. Ever since his cruel master Viermoc had died and he had discovered his power, Vukaz had become more bold and cheerful. Thukor bore powers of healing, which like Vukaz's power could be administered to other beings. This made him an invaluable asset to the Torika's teamwork.

As the five Torika and the Green One scurried off into the forest vegetation, Zanta continued to teleport himself along.

 

------

 

Having reached a small stream meandering through the jungle, Zanta stopped to take a rest. The green Torika had decided to stay in this place for several reasons: it had good, high tree cover, it had a source of water and fruit nearby, and it was only bio away from a Gargali herd grazing. If any rogue Rahi were to draw near, Zanta would be alerted immediately.

Stuffing a Madu pod into his large cheeks, Zanta sat down on a large root. He finished his quick repast and took a drink. As he bent down, however, he experienced an odd sensation. It had occurred in the past when he knew his master Scytale was nearby, blended in and ready to startle his servant. Now, he had the feeling that something was watching him . . .

Teleporting rapidly, Zanta reappeared under the tall shade palm. He looked around, hastily.

"Hanak? Green One? Anyone?" he called tentatively. But aside from the Gargali, there was no being or Rahi in sight.

Still on edge, Zanta looked around a few more times. Picking up a pile of Taro roots, Bula berries, and Madu fruit, he settled down again and resumed his lunch. The Torika had been zipping about this part of the forest all day, talking with occasional Visorak with the Green One, or pestering the occasional Jierba troop. He hadn't eaten anything since the morning, and by now Terra Nui's sun was halfway across the sky. The heat was dreadful too, but at least it wasn't raining.

As he munched, however, something did move in the treetop above Zanta. At first, nothing was visible, and the sounds were barely audible. Then, however, a large section of what appeared to be wavy branches began to sway. The green spines flexed slowly at first, but then stiffened, as the thing moved downwards.

A pair of glowing, multifaceted red eyes observed the unaware Torika below, as a hiss and clicking sounds came from below its eyes.

And what was perhaps the most unsettling image of this shadowy lurker — something Zanta had disregarded completely when hunkering down below this tree — was that this large, old palm bore slashing marks on the trunk about two bio above the Torika's head.

Marks identical to the ones found on the green keystone fragment on Mount Tongaru.

Claw marks.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 21 2014 - 11:58 PM.

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#7 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 18 2014 - 11:15 PM

Chapter 6

 

Far across the island of Punt Nui from where the Toa landed, a bleak, desolate fortress sat on the edge of the Puntapau Plateau. Though the stones were crumbling, and the dark corridors sat in a state of disrepair, it was in this castle on the edge of Punt Nui's arid wasteland that the real power on the island was held. For this was the Citadel of Aso, the foul, female shapeshifter who ruled Punt Nui with an iron claw.

Inside the Citadel, many small shapes patrolled the torch-lighted rooms and outside parapets. These crouched and short Rahi-like beings with black skin and gold armor belonged to a species called the Vorukan. As bestial guards, they watched over the catacombs of Aso's castle, and shuffled around silently. However, they were not the only ones there, for occasional Vorukan tribal members scurried around as well, asking for favors or performing errands. Even greater in power were the six beings called the Vorukaia. There was one for each of the primary elements, and they had been created from the Vorukan by being dipped in Energized Protodermis. Now, these monstrosities possessed normal intelligence, advanced armor, weapons, and powers, and the ability to change into even more Rahi-like forms for better locomotion.

Their leader, Amun, a tall, black being, was the personal assistant and —  as his fellows often jeered at him — the servant of Aso's regent. He had heard from a few spies of the Vorukan that an unknown wooden craft had landed on Punt Nui a day ago, and was currently going to ask his master what had happened. Normally Amun would be perfectly happy to crack the heads of a few Toa — he hadn't done so in over 5,000 years — but today he had a bad sense of premonition.

This regent was a member of the Brotherhood of Makuta, a Shadow Toa who ruled alongside Aso. Stepping into the throne room of the Citadel, Amun walked up to the twin thrones, each made of a gruesome collection of Rahi bones and skulls. Only one was filled at the moment, and his master sat there — a thin being clad in black and purple, with rusty silver-black armor, a tattered black cape, and clawed boots. Alarmingly, he seemed extremely tired, and drained of all energy.

"Master, are you all right?" Amun inquired, "Master B—"

"Don't say my name!" The figure rasped, sitting up in his throne. His pale pink eyes gave Amun a baleful look. Deep shadows, even more so than usual, ringed them. "Leave." He waved his hand dismissively and, with an effort, stood. "NOW!" Even in his current state, the Toa's voice had an air of command.

As Amun bid a hasty retreat, attempting to bow as he did so, the Toa collapsed back into his throne with a sigh. His effort to speak through Lyse had left him tired beyond belief. While his Kanohi Crathsis, the Mask of Emotion, could allow him to manifest his emotions in others, speaking through another being had a very negative effect on his health. Nevertheless, the warning to the Toa was necessary. If he could scare them off with such a simple device, all the better. However, they would likely stay — and be destroyed.

The Toa began to walk around the room as he continued to muse. He had known this would happen, of course. The Makuta of Shakaz — the Dark Lord — had only stayed on Terra Nui for three months, and yet the entire Brotherhood had sent him word of this traitor's defection. Makuta had been furious, Shakaz itself had been in shambles without the Dark Lord's rule . . . and yet the doddering old fool had not even found the Great Kanohi fabled to lie below Terra Nui. The Toa didn't really care about that island, anyway. Too moist for his tastes. The dry, dark, and arid places of Kemet Nui were far more becoming, an environment that reminded him of his old home of Karzahni, back when he had been a slave its miserable ruler.

 

But what did he care about that? Ancient history. What mattered now was that these new Toa had wandered right onto his doorstep. Aso was currently on Kemet Nui meeting with her mate Apep, the Makuta of that island, whose ruthlessness made even him shiver. Still, he admired that cold-blooded tyrant, at any rate. The Shadow Toa knew that she would return in a few days, and that old battleaxe would no doubt be furious. His superior would undoubtedly send him to dispose of the pests, but after all this inactivity, and some rest from his most recent current mask usage, he would relish picking the armor from their metal skeletons.

Finally, sitting back down on his gristly throne, he wondered about what he said to Amun. Why did he not want his name said at that instant? Premonition, possibly. But he said his name aloud now, without fear.

"Ballom."

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 22 2014 - 12:00 AM.

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#8 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 21 2014 - 09:21 PM

Chapter 7

 

Far above Zanta in the palm tree, the shadowy figure watched . . . and waited.

After a few moments of staying hidden, making sure the Torika below it was still engrossed in eating the last few fruits of his lunch, it began to descend until the creature became visible.

This being surveyed its designated watch with a pair of bulbous, multifaceted red eyes, which reflected dozens of images of Zanta. Its body was lime-colored with a dark green armor shell, and the shoulders, back and nape were covered in long, razor-sharp, wavy spines. The head was similarly armored with smaller spines, and had two pairs of rapidly-moving mandibles. Its arms were long and ended in pointed, clawed hands, and its legs were tri-joined, with broad froglike feet. For all the world, it looked like a giant Rahi bug — but it was frighteningly intelligent.

Among its brothers, it was known as Snimurai.

Snimurai had been expressly sent on this mission, to look after the green little one, as they knew the Torika. His leader had warned them that these small creatures could pose a threat early on, and like his other five brothers, Snimurai dared not question his authority. It was the natural order of things.

So for now, he had been watching Zanta for over two and a half hours, patiently watching for any suspicious activity. But Snimurai was by now getting anxious. The bolt of lightning that had liberated his group from the confines of the keystones had affected him differently than the others. It had given him the attention span of a gnat, and though he loyally followed orders, patience was not his virtue. He did, though, possess many good qualities — Rahi-like instincts, heightened vision and hearing, and a powerful natural blaster built into his left hand, though it was not activated at the moment.

Suddenly, however, his supersensitive internal ears picked up a sound to the east. Rapidly clambering up the tree trunk, Snimurai stuck his head out on the other side. He could detect movement in the bushes several bio away, and he knew what was coming. It was the Green One and the Torika, happily talking about the day's exploits.

He knew instantly that if they reached Zanta, his carefully-hidden cover would be blown. Snimurai was an expert at not being seen, but he had a strange intuition that the small green creature who spoke the Rahi languages would be able to discern him. And they were approaching fast.

With a jolt, the tree shook, and Snimurai almost jumped out of the canopy when he saw the little one materialize a bio below him. It had happened in the blink of an eye. Impossible! His leader had not told him that these creatures possessed any powers like their own!

Quickly, before he was seen, Snimurai bolted up over the tree, using his powerful legs to jump through the emergent layer at a speed faster than usual. He had just received a telepathic message from one of his brothers, and it was not good. Since they were only a few days emerged, he and his brothers only emitted shrieking cries that did not make any sense, so they used a mental connection instead. Now, Snimurai was needed back at their temporary camp as soon as possible.

At least he hadn't been seen. Not yet. If he was, it would mean disaster for his master, not to mention his brothers. They would brook no interference.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 22 2014 - 12:02 AM.

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#9 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 21 2014 - 10:54 PM

Chapter 8

 

After several more moments, the Green One poked his head through the bushes, into the clearing where Zanta had been waiting. He looked around quickly, just to make sure that there were no dangerous Rahi around. There were rumors of a giant Rahi called the Ariakudo in the deep jungle around here, and the Green One was pretty sure that it could eat him — or a Torika. Thankfully, only a small herd of Gargali was grazing on the far edge of the clearing.

"Da coast is clear!" he yelled, as the other five Torika collapsed in a heap behind him.

"I need to adjust more to this place," Vukaz moaned, as he pulled himself up. "I nearly broke my leg!"

"If anything, that was when you made the wheelbarrow fall into a hole," Hanak replied, as he sped over to Zanta. "How have things been going with you?"

Zanta hugged Hanak, then turned to the group, who had clustered around him. "Well, I zipped around quite a bit before stopping to eat. But after that, I was just sitting quietly under the large tree, when I kept getting feelings that I was being watched by something . . ."

Although the Torika had been listening patiently, Kavan suddenly sprang up. "I noticed something too! When I was by myself on the outskirts of the Matoran village, I had that feeling too. And though it persisted for a while, I was able to use my powers to see what it was." Kavan boasted a power of portals, which he could summon to launch himself, or others, around through. "It was the creepiest thing — yellowish gray, with a huge pair of crab claws and an armored head. Before I could get a better look at it, it screeched and scuttled off into the forest!"

Hanak cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to say this now, but I'm afraid I know what you are talking about. When I was out during the Festival of Diamonds, I went on top of Mount Tongaru. But you wouldn't believe what I saw! The whole Otasuva had exploded, like from a bolt of lightning, and the keystones had shattered. And I found fragments, all right . . . just huge ones, with claw marks. And one," he added, "was gray and yellow."

The other Torika were stupefied. Even the Green One just stared with jaw agape. Hanak continued. "We must warn the strongest and smartest of the Matoran at once. If there is some new danger, then it will be up to us seven to find the root of the problem and eradicate these invaders. But there is one more thing I need to tell you about. Ever since I found the keystone shards, many Rahi around the island have been acting strange, as especially vicious. We should —"

He was cut off by a raucous cry. The Torika whirled to see a group of small shapes in the trees around them. It was a pack of Kompiki — and Hanak and his group were the ones being hunted.

 

------

 

Quickly, the Torika and Green One separated, in order to confront the agile green raptors leaping at them. There was definitely something wrong with these Kompiki — their normally orange eyes were red, and they were hissing and spitting more than usual. Nevertheless, the ten predators charged headlong at their prey.

The Green One swung his axe and shield to deflect and parry one, pinning it down and knocking it unconscious. Hanak sped around the field with super speed, barreling over the Kompiki, who seemed to be moving at a Nukepi's pace compared to him. Zanta teleported up to narrowly miss a pair of raptors, and then jumped down on them. Kavan flung a Kompiki through a portal, sending it spiraling into another part of the jungle. Meanwhile, Thukor had retreated behind a tree in order to scope out anyone who needed his healing powers. Vukaz had two raptors trapped in force fields, and was desperately trying to keep them aloft and at bay.

But the busiest one in the battle was Rieka. She possessed the power to dig underground effortlessly, and was tunneling around the field, making pitfalls for the Kompiki, and jumping out at them with her fists. The Kompiki, who had run into the clearing expecting easy prey, had not anticipated such a fierce struggle from the Torika. Within minutes, they regained their senses, and as the Torika stopped using their powers, the Kompiki fled back from whence they came.

The Green One shrieked a few insults back at the retreating raptors in their language. Then, he turned back to Hanak. His expression was grave.

"We gotta warn da Matoran. Immediately."

 

 

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#10 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 22 2014 - 12:12 AM

Chapter 9

 

If there was one thing that Turaga Akito hated, it was marshes.

He and the eight Toa had decided that they were on the northeastern island in the three land masses that made up Punt Nui. He knew that the village they were seeking was on the southern end of the current island they found themselves upon. However, in order to reach the plains that surrounded it, the team had to cross through one of the most harrowing places on the island — the Kumunga swamp.

This was a sixty kio stretch of mangrove trees and thick, murky mud filled with tall reeds. Large boulders were everywhere. Haze constantly filled the air, and creepers and low-hanging branches posed a hazard at head level. Worse, the gloomy marsh swarmed with flying Myotiki, and reptilian Gatosuchys paddled about in the shallows, ready to strike out at any prey. Akito led the procession, peering closely at his map scroll, while the Toa followed behind him.

"Turaga, isn't there a better way that we can reach the village?" Matoba was having trouble with a root caught on his foot. He was right after Akito, and both were using their fire staffs to light the way. "I mean, hasn't any Matoran been here before?"

"Many have gone, yes." Akito was busy looking around. "But if you'd rather take the coastline, which has treacherous swells, sharp rocks, and hungry Scorporaka swimming about, then fine, be my guest. I've been here before, Toa. I think I can find our way out of here."

The other Toa seemed to be doing better. Lyse was in the shape of an Icorahk, and was flying above Akito. Heaka and Attar were swinging from vine to vine and branch to branch. Chompshi and Vrael were wading through the muck, yet were conversing in high spirits. Nuukor and Pacha brought up the rear, both upset that they were unable to go underground.

Lyse zoomed in to the Turaga's head level. "I know you have the way-path, elder-one. It shouldn’t take much more wind-flying . . ."

Suddenly, the large bulk of a Gatosuchys head shot up from the slime ahead of them. The creature's spiny hide was a mixture of greens, covered in scale clusters that looked like aquatic plants for better camouflage. It bared a mouth of crisscrossed, sharp teeth, and roared before vanishing again.

"Watch the water!" Akito yelled, breaking into a run. "We just passed the large cypress tree, so we're near the edge of the swamp! Keep running, and follow me! We're almost there!"

In the commotion, Lyse turned back into his Toa self, and began to jump forward with Heaka and Attar. Matoba, Chompshi, and and Vrael were running behind them. Pacha, and Nuukor though, were straggling. From the trees in front of the Toa, a flock of black and white batlike Myotiki emerged, flapping their wings rapidly and peeping noisily. Although the party was momentarily blinded trying to fend off the arboreal pests, they struggled on.

However, Pacha felt a tug on her leg, and just before she could cry out, she was pulled underwater. It was the Gatosuchys again. Whirling, Nuukor turned to see the beast's huge head come up at him. "I'll save you, Pacha!" he yelled. Jumping onto the Gatosuchys's broad back, the Toa of Earth also went down.

The distressed Rahi still had the Toa of Stone desperately struggling in its claws, but now had to deal with Nuukor trying to strangle it. He jabbed it in the back a few times with his electropole, trying to get it to release Pacha. When that didn't work, Nuukor blasted it with his cannon. After several moments, the Gatosuchys relented, dropping Pacha and swimming off as fast as its legs could propel it. Pulling Pacha out of the swamp, Nuukor pounded her on the back as she spat out water.

"Are you okay?" he inquired. Pacha nodded. "Well, then. Let's leave this place."

 

------

 

After another half-hour, Nuukor and Pacha were able to get through the last mangroves of the swamp. They found themselves on a small hill, overlooking a broad stretch of brown plain covered in sparse grass. On the edge of the hill were Akito and the other Toa.

"I told you I'd find it!" Akito cheered, waving his staff and map triumphantly at the heavens. "Thank you, Mata Nui! It shouldn't be much farther now!" He pointed down the hill.

Beyond the hill, the plain stretched on for a dozen more kio, before ending at the sea on three sides. To the northwest, Lake Worai made a silvery-blue crescent in the grass. What Akito was pointing at, however, was a cluster of small thatched huts arranged in a diamond pattern, on a cliff overlooking the water.

"Behold, my children! Pe-Koro!"

 

 

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#11 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 22 2014 - 09:05 PM

Chapter 10

 

Pe-Koro, it turned out, was not very different from the native village, Terra-Koro.

The village was made of many thatched huts, built out of wood and mud. There were about fifty of them, arranged around a central meeting place built in the shape of the traditional Amaja Circle. Instead of a large wooden hut for a Turaga, a stone temple stood at the far edge of the village. Around the Amaja circle were ten small obelisks, and in the center stood a combined statue of ten Toa at ease. One of them was Akito himself.

As the Turaga of Terra Nui and the eight Toa walked through the street, they could see many Matoran coming out of their houses to watch them. Unlike Terra Nui, which had a bustling population of two hundred Matoran, with many more in the mining camps and fishing villages, of course, Punt Nui boasted a Matoran population of about half that. These Matoran looked like Terra Nui Matoran, though they all had gray as an undercolor. Most carried weapons or tools, and all were looking at the Toa with looks of amazement, but also of doubt.

Coming upon the Amaja Circle, Akito banged his staff on the earth to draw all of the Matoran around him. He dropped his map, and pointed the torch up at the statue of Khepera above him. "Matoran of Punt Nui, hear what I have to say! My name is Akito, and I come from the island of Terra Nui to the east. I have brought eight Toa from my island with me as protection. Together we seek your Turaga, Khepera!" Akito paused, as the Matoran began to talk amongst themselves rapidly. "He does reside in your temple, does he not?"

The Matoran looked down uncomfortably, and parted. Coming out of the temple through their ranks came another. He was incredibly ancient, about 9,500 years old, with an old silver Rode and battered gray and silver armor. He carried a small shield in one hand, and leaned on his Chronicler's stick as though he were a Turaga. Coming up to Akito, the Matoran bowed and cleared his throat.

"Khepera does not reside here," he said, in a rough, yet still commanding voice. "He disappeared many years ago. I am called Senko, and served as his aide and Chronicler back when I was still young. Now, I am the elder of this village. If you are who you say, then please forgive us, great Akito." He bowed very low. "But why are you here, and what do you seek?"

Akito opened the map on the ground. "We were on route to Kemet Nui, to visit Turaga Atemu. However, a storm caused us to crash land here instead. Now, our transportation is destroyed, and we are low on supplies." Akito gestured toward the Toa. "We need new food, tools, and supplies, as well as a raft to take us to Kemet Nui. That is why we are here, to seek your aid."

"Such things we have," Senko replied. "And brave Toa heroes are always welcome here too. Very well, wise one. We shall do as you request." The Punt Nui Matoran had gotten over their shock. They cheered and nodded furiously. "But you must do something for us as well. Reda? Taiki?"

On cue, a dark blue Ga-Matoran and a forest green Le-Matoran ran up to Senko. The former, Reda, spoke up first. "Ever since Turaga Khepera disappeared, Punt Nui has been at war. A tribe of troglodyte beings called Vorukan have been attacking any Matoran who dare enter the forest. Worse, they now have six evil, Toa-like beings called Vorukaia, who are evil and intelligent, and who try to eat us alive!"

Taiki continued, hopping up and down. "They are thought-controlled from the Citadel in the middle of the island. But an evil-bad scourge-queen, Aso, lives there, who thought-controls them! And she has a regent of some sort, who is even more evil-bad than she! We'd try to fight back, but the forest on the southern part of the island is inhabited by wild, fierce Rahi-beasts!"

Akito and the Toa were stunned. They hadn't expected to fight for the Matoran. Senko, meanwhile, summarized his village's needs:

"That is why we need you. Toa are the only ones who can defeat the Vorukaia, Aso, and her regent. If you join us to defeat the Vorukan once and for all, then my village shall help you go to Kemet Nui. Agreed?" He held out a gnarly hand.

Akito looked at the Toa. Chompshi and Vrael smiled, and soon the younger six were beaming as well. They had expected an adventure, after all.

"Very well, Elder Senko," Akito held out his hand. "We shall fight with you to give you your freedom. And you shall help us leave once we are done."

They shook on it. The Toa clapped, and the Pe-Matoran cheered.

 

 

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#12 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 22 2014 - 11:04 PM

Chapter 11

 

Daigolva shuffled slowly along the rough, pebbly slope of Mount Juvala. His large bulk, covered in mottled black and red armor, could nonetheless move almost soundlessly if need be. Picking a careful path among the scattered boulders and volcanic soil, he kept two of his large blue eyes fixed on the ground. His third eye watched the sky, looking at the patterns of swirling clouds. In the time he had been walking up the mountain, the sun had barely moved. He had all the time in the world left. Shouldering his heavy broadswords, Daigolva plodded on.

 

------

 

The Torika, as well as The Green One, stood in a group inside Turaga Akito's hut, muttering to each other nervously. Since the attack by the Kompiki, no one had totally calmed down. "When will those Matoran arrive?" Vukaz said irritably. "We've been waiting all afternoon."

Zanta, who was pacing, stopped and turned toward Vukaz. "They do travel all over Terra Nui, you know. That's a reason why we picked them. However, it also means they will take a while to gather."

"Indeed. Demz should be hewre any time now." The Green One nodded placidly from a stuffed armchair in the corner of the hut. "I just hope tis soon."

 

------

 

His long, laborious trek was over. Entering the shade of a small, empty cave near the caldera of Mount Juvala, Daigolva quickened his pace until he reached the far end of the cave. Sitting down upon a smooth dome of lava rock, he pulled his swords off the bandolier on his back, and placed them at his feet. Closing his eyes, he conjured up the image of a volcanic lava tube, deep beneath Mount Juvala. For centuries, it had been dormant, only pushing out a little lava now and then. Slowing his heart rate, Daigolva thought of that lava tube moving magma up to the caldera, pushing with his mind.

While nothing happened at first, a few moments later, the first sign of change occurred. Deep within the volcano, something stirred. Noticing this, Daigolva continued to meditate, concentrating on pushing the magma farther and farther up the tube. Once considerable progress had been made, he turned his attention to making more magma, elsewhere, move.

Mount Juvala began to awaken.

 

------

 

The Matoran had arrived. Consisting of Brega, Machi, Sari, Wula, Jeiku, Vakk, Kofu, and Kuban, they were all Matoran who routinely traveled across the width and breadth of Terra Nui. Walking into the hut, they seemed to be unlikely to perform any service for the Torika. However, they were vital to their plans. But to aid the Torika, they needed to know what was going on.

Hanak quickly outlined all that had occurred, from the lightning strike on Mount Tongaru to the recent attack by the Kompiki. "So basically, Kavan saw a gray and yellow creature the other day, and Zanta believed he saw a green and lime creature lurking above him in the forest. We don't know what these are yet, but based on the evidence found at Otasuva we have given the creatures a name: the Quntaino," Hanak explained, using an archaic Matoran word that meant "keystone-born."

The Matoran all seemed frightened, since they had not heard of a new invasion. "What are we going to do!?" wailed Kofu. "Rahi going crazy, strange beings coming out of rocks . . . is the whole world coming to an end?"

"I can understand what's going on." Machi replied. "Ikki's been acting strangely for three days now. She threw me into the sea from twenty bio the other day! Thank Mata Nui I landed in deeper water! And you know that trained Pikobe Heaka gave back to our family, after she became a Toa? It's been squawking madly and running into trees lately."

"Please, please, calm down!" Kavan clapped his hands to get the Matoran's attention. "We need your help to track these things, and to go around the island looking for clues, and evidence of the Quntaino's most recent whereabouts. If your job is currently preventing you from traveling around, you are exempt from it, or may change its location day to day."

Brega piped up. "So I can fish with my Pikobe in other areas besides the Suti Bay from now on."

"But what about my blacksmith shop?" Sari asked.

"Don't worry about that," Thukor replied cheerfully. "Your shop will be run by your partner Takan. He can do a good job. And as for you, Wula, I'm sure that your brother Zumi will be more than able to take care of the trading post while you are gone. Everything is going to work out!"

"I'm sure it will, Thukor," Jeiku replied, "but how are we to know when we are near these Quntaino? They may look just like any other Rahi."

"Yes, they may." Rieka stepped forward. "But their appearance will almost always be marked by an odd occurrence, like the Kompiki going crazy. Speaking of which, something new will probably happen soon."

Her words proved prophetic. As if on cue, Mount Juvala erupted in the distance.

 

 

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#13 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 23 2014 - 09:24 PM

Chapter 12

 

In order to scout out the general area of the interior jungle, the eight Toa Terra had split up into groups of two. Akito had stayed in Pe-Koro to discuss things with Senko while the main populace began work on the raft. To guide the Toa, several Matoran warriors had gone with each party. Vrael went with Chompshi, Matoba took Heaka, Lyse paired with Nuukor, while Attar teamed up with Pacha.

Now, Chompshi and Vrael had crossed the river that separated the peninsula Pe-Koro was on with the main part of the island. The Matoran who had been assigned to lead them were Reda, Taiki, and a tough-looking Ta-Matoran named Whetar. Vrael had taken a liking to the villagers, who did not seem to mind his disfigured shape.

"So, how many Vorukan can be found here?" Vrael asked, staying behind while Chompshi scouted ahead. "And how do we know if they are following us?"

"Well, there aren't that many of them, only about as many as us. I'd say one hundred and fifty at the most," Whetar replied. "And they don't even have a village; they just mostly travel about in bands if they're not at the Citadel. I've fought many of them, and they aren't that bright. You should be able to defeat them easily. The Vorukaia, on the other hand, are another matter entirely."

"I doubt that all six of them would attack us in broad daylight." Chompshi pulled aside a tree fern as the group caught up to him. "Still, be on your guard."

 

------

 

After a half hour Chompshi and Vrael had not made any real progress, though Taiki the tracker refused to admit that they might be lost. Having reached a small clearing, the Toa stopped to have a drink from a small spring, while the Matoran kept watch. "You know, it's funny," Chompshi said, as he and Vrael filled their gourds. "It's been so quiet this morning, it's almost like we're being —"

He was cut off by a yell from Reda. Whirling around, the Toa saw that the Matoran had been surrounded by a dozen strange creatures, three of which were pointing their claws at Chompshi and Vrael.

These Vorukan were small, troglodyte creatures, about the size of the Matoran. Each one was colored differently, and no two looked identical. All, however, had long, lanky arms, sharp silver claws that varied in appearance, and singularly stupid expressions on their wide, fanged faces. If they hadn't been glaring and growling, the Toa might have even found these offenders amusing.

"Me gonna take Toa." The crimson and black leader of the Vorukan, Rojax, hefted his drill at Chompshi. "Youse got Matoran for selves, urg." As the other Vorukan nodded furiously and said "Urg" in response, he bellowed and charged at the two Toa.

Within a flash, however, Chompshi, Vrael, and the Matoran pulled out their own weapons and retaliated. Reda clubbed a lime Vorukan down with her harp, and whacked another with her paddle. Taiki had fired his hatchet spinners into the same one, while Whetar was engaged in a claw-to-dagger duel with the third. Chompshi, meanwhile, had blasted a blue Vorukan off into the jungle with his lightning cannon, and was trying to deflect the mad stabs of Rojax at the same time.

Vrael had frozen one of his attackers in a crystal block, and had another up against a tree trunk with his chainsaw at its throat. Its eyes wide with shock, this Vorukan was struggling madly to keep the blade off its neck. Getting tired of this, Vrael just banged it on the head, and the gray troglodyte collapsed beneath him unconscious.

After ten minutes, the Toa and Matoran had defeated or incapacitated all of the Vorukan. The one Chompshi had blasted bio away was nowhere to be found, and had probably ran off in terror. As for the other ones, the three Matoran only had to yell at them before they too ran off grunting and cursing. Only Rojax stayed for a bit longer, making obscene gestures and shaking a meaty fist at the group as he ambled away. "Me gonna get you, Toa and Matoran! Me bring boss Vorukaia! You see!"

Reda glanced up at Chompshi and Vrael. "You saved our lives, Toa. Thank you. But as you can see, we are sworn enemies of the Vorukan, and have been ever since this war began. In the olden days of Turaga Khepera, our two races lived apart and never saw each other. Now, however, it makes things exceedingly difficult to make peace with a species that doesn't even have a word for it."

Vrael nodded, as he and Chompshi began to move on. "I only hope that the others haven't run into worse trouble than we have."

 

 

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#14 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 24 2014 - 09:47 PM

Chapter 13

 

On the other side of the rainforested area, near the edge of the Puntapau Plateau, Attar and Pacha were progressing as well. Like the other three groups, they had a few Matoran to help guide them, as well as fight with the Toa if the need arose. And as in Chompshi and Vrael's group, their guides were Matoran of Water and Air. The former was called Hathi, while the latter was known as Komo.

Currently, the group had made a camp on the outer edge of the rocky basin, while Pacha concentrated and used her Mask of Tectonics to scout out the lay of the general area. Attar was busy balancing a knife on one finger, all the while conversing with the Matoran around their small campfire.

"So how exactly did this Aso assume control of Punt Nui?" He asked. "I mean, this war couldn't have started immediately."

Komo looked up from sharpening his staves. "Well, Toa-hero, when Aso first came there were still a few Toa on this island-place. But when old Turaga Khepera ordered them to battle-fight her, they disappeared, never to be eye-seen again. Then Ballom showed up, and the Vorukan became evil-bad. We were so busy in our war-skirmish against them that after Khepera was swept away by the great wave-tides we didn't even know that the Vorukaia had arisen. Many thanks to Mata Nui that we now have you to protect us!"
 

"I see." Attar put his weapon back in its sheath and popped a mushroom from their ration pack into his mouth. He turned to where Pacha had been standing. "Come on, sister, have you figured it out yet? We're ready to move on!" But no sound came, nor did the Toa of Stone poke her head out to give a reply. Puzzled, Attar and the two Matoran shouldered their gear and headed toward where Pacha had been.

 

------

 

After a few minutes, they reached the Toa of Stone, who was facing away from the direction of the camp. Attar patted her on the shoulder. "We're ready to go, Pacha. Is everything all right?"

Pacha turned toward them, with a look in her face as though she had seen a ghost. Her normally tan Ijuta was whiter than usual, and her eyes were wide. Pointing past the Matoran, who seemed just as dumbfounded as Attar, she put a finger to her Kanohi. "Be very, very, very quiet, y'all," she whispered. "I fear we may be in a sticky situation. Literally."

Just a bio away from Attar was a filament of whitish silk, forming a creeper-like thread that reached to the top of the tree. There were eight of these filaments, forming a curtain around the clearing. In the closest thread lay a dead Wergau, a Rahi with a crest of silver spines, which was normally a fierce scavenger. As Attar moved to slice the thread apart, the Matoran began to shiver and whimper, and the Toa of Ice looked up.

Staring down at them from a mesh of webbing at the tops of the trees was a huge Ariakudo. The largest Rahi found on Punt Nui, this was a crimson and mahogany arachnid of monstrous size. It had a huge spherical abdomen, heavy spiked armor on its carapace and head, and six powerful legs, the first pair of which ended in lobster-like claws. It surveyed the Toa with eight large and bulbous eyes, slowly opening its toothed maw.

Suddenly, without warning, the Ariakudo leaped down onto the forest floor. Hissing, it slowly moved toward the group, eyeing the Toa. Stepping back, Attar turned toward the others. "Run!" He shouted, "I'll try to stop it and —" The rest on his sentence was cut off as the Ariakudo swept him off his feet with one of its front limbs. As Attar crashed down on a mat of leaves and branches, the Ariakudo shot silver threads out from its maw, while rolling Attar at the same time.

Once Pacha and the Matoran had vanished into the forest, Attar was a tangled mess. Webbing spiraled around his body, pinning his arms and knives to his sides. In addition, numerous leaves were adhering to his armor and the sticky thread. Feigning unconsciousness, Attar waited for the Ariakudo to pick him up in its front limbs. Then, he let loose a blast of ice at the limbs holding him. Claws cracking from the freezing cold, the startled spider dropped its victim and retreated.

Having bought himself time, Attar clumsily got to his feet, then used his Mask of Agility to jump three bio into the air. Landing on the high limbs of a nearby tree, Attar used elemental power to shatter his bonds. Freed, he jumped out of the tree onto the back of the surprised Ariakudo, which had scrambled back toward him. Pulling out his knives, the Toa stabbed them deep into the Ariakudo's abdomen. However, this failed to kill the Rahi, instead serving only to infuriate it. Screaming, the arachnid swiped its still-frozen claws up to attack its assailant. Nimbly leaping over the swinging pincers, Attar landed back on the thorax of the creature, then jumped once more to land behind the Ariakudo. But when he landed, for some reason, the ground made a squishing noise. Looking down, Attar saw the forest floor covered in hundreds of smaller Ariakudo, ranging from tiny specks to ones as large as his head, coming to defend their injured mother.

Surprise, as well as standing on a bed of moving Rahi, caused Attar to trip, and land on the horde of arachnids. Quickly using the opportunity, they swarmed over him, covering his whole body. Writhing Ariakudo crawled over his weapons, armor, and even his mask. Unable to stop them all the once through any conventional means, Attar ignored his attackers, gathering his elemental power. After a long minute, during which his felt himself carried into a cave by the Rahi, Attar was ready. Hoping the others were already far away, he unleashed his strength.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 25 2014 - 05:05 PM.

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#15 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 28 2014 - 09:41 PM

Chapter 14

 

Listening to Rieka speak, Hanak, who sat closest to the door of Akito's hut, slowly became aware of a slight sound in the distance. At first the sound was a rumbling, which was slowly growing louder and louder. As he concentrated, he realized that the sound was coming from the vicinity of Mount Juvala. Standing up, he turned toward Rieka, who was finishing a sentence. ". . . probably happen soon." However, as soon as Hanak opened his mouth, a huge bang sounded, like a thunderclap, followed by a tremor shaking the hut.

As the startled Matoran dived for cover under the furniture, Hanak leaned over toward Rieka and spoke quietly. "I'm gonna go see what the problem is. You calm the Matoran, then follow me outside." Seeing her nod, Hanak then stepped outside the hut and gaped.

Skyrocketing upward from Mount Juvala in a plume hundreds of feet high was a spray of molten lava, glowing against the night sky and giving off red shadows on the caldera. A ferocious rumble was being issued, the earth quaking with its force. Never before had Hanak seen such an awe-inspiring sight. Mesmerized by the lava, he stared until his eyes burned. Shakaz had no volcanoes, and Mount Juvala had been dormant since he arrived. The beauty of the volcano . . . and the lava . . .

Tearing his gaze away, then blinking away the after-image, he turned to see the other Torika, the Green One, and the Matoran behind him. They too were staring at the spectacle before them. However, not all were amazed, or even calm. In particular, Kofu and Vakk seemed agitated. Concerned, Hanak asked them what was wrong.

"This will cause horrible damage to the tunnels!" Vakk cried, "All the damage — we won't be able to mine near Mount Juvala until it stops, and that could take years!"

"And all the Rahi will be scared away. The Magraka will die without Acko in the area, should the Acko choose to leave." Jeiku added.

"Look." The Geen One, who stood in front of the group, was pointing toward the volcano. "Da lava is going stwiaght down, once it goes up. Dat means dere won't be much damage at all." Not doubting the hermit, who knew almost all there was to know about the island, the Matoran grumbled in agreement. "And da lava is shiiiiny . . ."

"Shininess notwithstanding, this is still very alarming," Thukor piped up, "as this is most likely not a random event. Think about it — the Quntaino appear and stir up the Rahi, then a few days later this happens. It all must be connected somehow."

"But what are we to do about it? We're just Matoran, on an island without any Toa. And if these Quntaino can make volcanoes erupt, what if they go after us?" Wula asked.

Hearing her alarming question, all of the Matoran began talking at once, causing the orderly conversation to dissolve into a mob of words. Realizing the futility of trying to restore order, the Green One sighed and stepped back toward the hut. About to step into the building, he froze.

Inside Turaga Akito's hut was a large being covered in alternating red and white blotches, with slick shark-like skin. Numerous spines emerged from its arms and legs, and sharp fins sprouted from its upper arms, as well as the top of its head. The being's hands ended in razor sharp claws, and what appeared to be feet had long, flipper-like endings. For some reason, the Quntaino — as the Green One knew it could only be — was rummaging through the various cupboards and drawers in the hut, searching for something.

Hearing the Green One enter, the Quntaino whirled and stared at him. Its red eyes were cold and unblinking, jutting from a ridged face. Alarmed, it began hissing in a strange language as it shut the cupboard it had been rummaging through. Recognizing the language of the Ascipitero, the Green One knew what the Quntaino was saying. "You will leave this place, little one who speaks our languages. Do not tell of my presence or face our wrath."

Emboldened by the fact that he blocked the door, the Green One spoke back to the Quntaino in the same tongue. "Rest assured, I will not."

The Quntaino appeared to sneer at him. "Don't count on it." Then, it brushed the Green One aside and stepped through the door. Ignoring the astonished looks of the Matoran, it ran out onto the plains, flapping its arms. The fins on its upper arms rose, and it took flight from the ground. Quickly gaining altitude, it winged off into the night, silhouetted against Mount Juvala.

 

 

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#16 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 28 2014 - 10:57 PM

Chapter 15

 

Lyse peered through the forest from his perch, a sturdy branch of a Vuata Maca tree. He and Nuukor had made the most progress of the Toa groups, due to the fact that Lyse had used his mask to transform into a large Xotohk wasp, and carry the Toa of Earth and their Matoran guides on his back. The two were now on the southwestern edge of Punt Nui, in the area of deepest temperate forest. With the exception of the occasional flock of chattering Tokhai, they had encountered no creatures for several hours.

 

Eventually, the Toa of Air decided that he had scouted for long enough. Putting his long staves on his back, Lyse began to clamber down the Vuata Maca's thick trunk. He was so busy listening to Nuukor and the two Matoran converse beneath them that he did not hear the rustling sounds from a tree away.

Watching Lyse make his progress were a pair of glowing orange eyes. The creature that possessed them was lean and thin, with mottled lime green and black skin. She bore a long, wide-cheeked face with pointed fangs, and had clawed paws for both hands and feet. She looked remarkably like a Vorukan, but Talau, like the rest of her six brethren, was just intelligent enough to know how to hide this long, and this well-camouflaged.

Her slit-like mouth bared in a predatory grin, Talau began to silently clamber down the tree branch at a speed matching Lyse's, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

 

------

 

Below, Nuukor was engaged with the Matoran guides in discussion. He had lent the Ko-Matoran Ogigi, one of the best trackers on all of Punt Nui, his electropole, and now Ogigi was using it to make a rough sketch of the island in the moist earth. Having finished the map, the white Matoran picked up his own rotary picks and turned to his companion, a yellow Onu-Matoran named Delan. "That look good enough?"

"Yep." A Matoran of few words, Delan chewed on a breadfruit wafer while addressing Nuukor. "So as you can see here, our party will go around the forest a bit, before heading back to . . ."

He was interrupted by a shout from Lyse, who immediately fell down from the trunk of the Vuata Maca tree and landed near them. Quickly, however, the Toa of Air stood up and looked around rapidly. "Something hard-hit me quick-fast while I was climbing downtree! They're still around too!"

Nuukor and the Matoran grabbed their weapons and turned toward Lyse was pointing, just as their unknown assailant emerged. "Oh no!" cried Ogigi. "It's one of the Vorukaia, Talau!"

"Save your energy, prey!" The green and black creature hissed at the group. "This fight is between me and the Toa. Now go, before I really lose my temper!" Obviously, Talau's attack had not gone exactly as planned. As the Matoran began to back off, however, she screamed and leaped at Nuukor.

The Toa of Earth was instantly knocked flat on his back, madly trying to use his electropole to parry the ferocious claw strikes of his opponent. Talau was snapping her jaws at him, trying to grab his mask off, while spitting some kind of harsh fluid. It must be a venom, Nuukor decided, and it was blinding him. As if that wasn't enough, Talau seemed to have a frenzied strength, like that of the Rahi she resembled.

Lyse, however, had acted quickly. Clambering up onto the Vuata Maca and grabbing a trailing vine, he swung from the trunk and slammed his feet into Talau, causing the Vorukaia to go through the air howling, and freeing Nuukor. He grabbed the Earth Toa's hand, and helped pick him up. "Thanks," Nuukor nodded at Lyse, and the two resumed the attack.

Talau leaped at the two Toa again, even more angry this time. However, instead of a humanoid being, her jaws bit down on a thick, scaly, green tail. Looking up, she saw a large Gatosuchys where Lyse had been a minute ago. Lyse grabbed her throat with his small forelimbs, and the two went down on the ground, thrashing about like a pair of wrestling Uruvena. Talau had Lyse's tail in her mouth, while Lyse had chomped down onto her torso. The green Vorukaia's hind claws were buried into his scaly flank as well. Nuukor could only watch in morbid amazement, while the Matoran watched too, from behind a nearby fallen log. Eventually, Nuukor primed his electric cannon and fired.

The shock hit Talau squarely, causing her to screech in pain and jump away from Lyse. She crashed into a nearby tree trunk, but not before the Toa of Air had regained his shape and charged at her. Rolling to get up, Talau suddenly found a pair of razor-sharp staves at her throat.

"Vorukaia, that battle-attack was badly planned." Lyse sternly stared at her with a look that made her wince. "You will leave this jungle-forest now, and report to your boss-superiors. Understand?"

Nodding furiously, Talau cautiously moved from his grasp. As Nuukor prepared to fire again, she glared daggers at the Toa one last time, before leaping off into the forest.

Delan turned to Ogigi, Lyse, and Nuukor. "Well, we've seen one. I suggest that we get back to Pe-Ko, as soon as possible."

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Jul 29 2014 - 11:57 PM.

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#17 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 29 2014 - 12:46 AM

Chapter 16

 

Matoba and Heaka had been the last group of Toa to depart from Pe-Koro, and they now were on the easternmost side of the main part of Punt Nui. They too had gone with a pair of Matoran as guides and guards, and while the party had encountered a small band of Vorukan on the way, the dense jungle and quick tactics the Toa had employed meant that the bestial beings weren't too much of a threat. Unfortunately for Matoba and Heaka, their lead tracker Torval was not quite the navigator he claimed to be, and so the group was now lost on the outskirts of the great Puntapau Plateau.

The other guide, a black Onu-Matoran named Murtik, walked up to and smacked his Po-Matoran companion. "Great job, you've gotten us lost! Now we probably don't have enough food to last us on the way back home!"

Torval quickly shoved the Madu fruit he was holding into his mouth, while pretending to sharpen his tool. "Uh, . . . what makes you think I'd do that!?"

Matoba, meanwhile, stood off to the side, surveying the horizon. Heaka had been trying to flirt with him all morning, but now, he seemed unusually occupied. She patted him on the shoulder. "Is there something wrong?"

The Toa of Fire glanced towards the basin of the plateau, where it rose to the height of a tall mesa. "Something is bugging me about this place. Maybe we should go off to see." And with that, he began running in the direction of the mesa, leaving Heaka to turn into a stream of water and follow him exasperatedly.

When Heaka reached Matoba, however, he was at the top of the area he had been pointing at. "Okay, what is it?" Turning towards her comrade, Heaka saw a look of dread on his face. Turning around, she saw exactly what they had been looking for.

It was the Citadel, all right. A tall, ash-gray building built out of granite and solid protodermis, it has several tall spires at the top, and many looming buttresses underneath. It looked like an alien building only a Makuta could call home, and seemed to be in frightful disrepair. Overall it looked like a palace they could easily breach.

Matoba and Heaka smiled, then cheered and gave each other a mighty ash bear-hug. Regaining their composure, the two Toa began running down the mesa to alert the Matoran. However, just as they were about to reach the bottom, a loud crack sounded, about one hundred bio to the west. Turning, Matoba saw a towering pillar of ice crystals being shot skyward. Then, a sudden breeze in Matoba's direction whipped the pieces out of sight. Feeling the icy wind buffet him and Heaka, Matoba cringed. "We'd better find out the cause of that."

 

------

 

Pacha was jogging back toward the Ariakudo web, hoping Attar was still alright, when suddenly she heard a deafening crack, followed by numerous other crunching noises. Seeing the icy blast shooting up, she quickened her pace until she reached the clearing. Immediately, she became aware of how bone dry the air was, like from the Pehku desert back on Terra Nui. Stepping into the clearing, she then saw what Attar's blast had wrought.

The entire clearing was frozen solid — everything from the trees, Ariakudo webbing, and even the grass was covered in a frost inches thick. Huge ice crystals which had fallen off of the trees coated the ground, as well as large rock fragments, frosted over as well. Walking along through the clearing, Pacha soon was able to distinguish Attar — and the remains of the Ariakudo. Lying in the middle of a myriad of ice and rubble was Attar, surrounded by countless Ariakudo, every one frozen completely through. The giant mother Ariakudo stood a few feet away, its mouth still open, frozen in a scream of rage.

Approaching Attar, Pacha was relieved to see that the Toa of Ice was alive and well, although a little shaken. "Attar, what happened?" she asked, bending down.

Attar gave her a lopsided look. "They were all over me, swarming, preparing to eat me alive! I only did what Chompshi had told us to do so long ago — to charge up my powers in the face of certain death. And I did. I must say, I've never done a Nova Blast before." With Pacha's aid, he got up and picked up his daggers. "I tried to channel it up, so that I didn't endanger our friends and blow this island to bits."

"Yeah. The Matoran are waiting for us. Besides, they should thaw out soon, even if them Ariakudo are dead. C'mon, let's leave here before any Vorukaia find us."

As the two Toa walked off through the clearing, a shadowy figure emerged from behind the cave's remains. It too was in the form of a spider, with a mottled black and gray body and silver legs and fangs. Pulling his limbs together and standing upright, Amun looked around him. There was devastation everywhere — a shame, since Amun rather liked this species of Rahi. He could see Toa tracks in the slushy grass, leaving only one possible method of the blast.

With a spindly hand, he picked up a large ice crystal with several tiny Ariakudo entombed inside it. This block was already beginning to melt, as was the ice on the trees and rocks around Amun. Quite a shame, really, he thought. They're such magnificent creatures . . .

 

------

 

Scarcely a kio away from where Matoba and Heaka had first sighted the Citadel, Ballom was fuming in his throne room. Pacing around angrily, he had absolutely no idea why Aso, that decrepit old bag of a Makuta, could not arrive any sooner. He had much to discuss with the Queen of Punt Nui, and the fact that Amun hadn't reported back to him as well was no improvement to his foul mood either.

Fortunately, at that moment the door to the room slammed open with a creaky bang. In marched a dozen of the Vorukan Royal Guards, resplendent — if such ugly creatures could even be called that — in their black armor with gold finery. Holding up their short dirks in a salute, they parted to allow another equally small being to walk through. This was Aso in her typical ruling form, a short ebony and green being wearing a black Avsa, and carrying a long staff of rank. Her cape, worn only in this form, billowed behind her. As she moved towards her throne, the guards saluted and left the room.

"So, Ballom." Aso looked up at her regent, and despite her Turaga size and somewhat weak appearance, gave him a dry look that showed she was used to getting exactly what she wanted. "I trust you haven't taken complete control of my little island, hmmm?"

"Of course not, my lady." Ballom hated calling Aso by the host of titles she preferred. "Everything has gone according to plan. No disturbances other than the occasional Matoran guerilla attack. How were things on Kemet Nui?"

"Oh, business as usual. Apep and I are still plotting on how to take over the known universe, if that's what you mean. Even though I still can't see his face. In fact . . ."

Aso's speech was cut off suddenly as the door slammed again and Amun skittered into the room. Turning from his spider form to his bipedal, normal one, he bowed so low that he collapsed on the floor. "Greetings, Aso, Queen of Punt Nui! Ballom, sire, I have some news for you."

Standing up, the Toa of Darkness cracked his knuckles. "Excellent. I suppose Talau did her duty?"

"Not exactly." Amun had gotten on his feet as well. Putting his silver mandibles close to Ballom's ear, he whispered something rapidly in his clicking voice. Almost immediately, Ballom's expression changed from expectancy to irritability. He turned to the Vorukaia leader.

"Very well. It is time to mobilize our troops. Now is the time to strike."

 

 

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#18 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 29 2014 - 11:02 PM

Chapter 17

 

The Terralani drifted slowly through the still water, floating along near the edge of the tiny archipelago known as the Sharakoro Islets. Created when the rest of the coastal shelf collapsed during the Battle of Terra Nui, the Islets were of varied construction. While some were humps of land only a few feet out of the water, others were colossal spires jutting straight up for dozens of bio before ending as a grassy knoll, the original vegetation from before the Battle of Terra Nui. Other than the occasional screech of a Gula nesting atop an Islet, the whole area was silent as a tomb.

And rightfully so — after the battle, the area had been dedicated as a memorial to those who died in the conflict, both at Terra-Koro and at the shore. In fact, the twisted remains of the Sharaku and their robotic army still lay on the seabed below, growing coral and seaweed, forming a new reef.

Brega sat on the helm, pulling the steering rod back and forth. Unlike the small sailboats that plied around the Suti Bay to catch fish, the Terralani was a longboat that moved via a pair of propellers at the back. It had no sails of its own. Below, at the front of the vessel, the young boatswain Deika was playing on a carved wooden flute that the local musician Arcti had given her. Aside from the usual piles of hooks and tackle, ropes, old nets, and a basket of food, the ship had only one other occupant: the Torika Kavan, who seemed to have become seasick just from looking over the edge at the drop-off beneath them.

"Isn't this fun, Kavan?" Brega asked brightly, not seeing the expression on the Torika's face. When Kavan gave no response, Brega looked back just in time to see Kavan retching over the side.

"Are you okay?" As she turned her head away from the steering rod to help Kavan, she noticed him looking up at one of the tall Islets, his mouth open in surprise. "What's that?"

Whirling around, Brega was just in time to see a blue creature drop onto the bow. A thin, tall being two bio in height, its body was dark blue with alternating sections of lighter color. Its head, as well as its torso, were an almost translucent color of glowing aquamarine, with deep-set sapphire eyes. Reverse-articulated legs propelled it forward, toward Brega, as it snarled through a mouth of jagged teeth. Brandishing two bladed forelimbs, it lunged forward in a strike.

Only a few inches from Brega, a glowing portal appeared, which the Quntaino ran straight into. With a cry of surprise, it fell out another identical portal floating above the ocean five bio away. Kavan, miraculously unimpaired by seasickness, turned toward Brega. "Step on it! That thing won't be held back for long!" As the Terralani began to turn in the opposite direction, the Quntaino suddenly leaped out of the water in a huge jump toward the boat. As it did, Kavan grabbed a nearby crate and threw it with all his might. Entering through a portal, the crate crossed the distance between the ship and the Quntaino in a second, smashing into the creature with a loud crash. Knocked back by the impact, the Quntaino fell back into the water, along with the fragments of the crate and its contents. Realizing what the Torika was up to, it then dived beneath the surface, arcing toward the Terralani.

Kavan turned back toward Brega. "Don't move." Before Brega could ask why, Kavan opened a portal underneath her, dropping her through another portal right above a towering Islet. Deika soon followed suit, just in time to avoid the blades of the Quntaino as they came slicing up through the bottom of the boat. Not bothering to think through his actions, Kavan grabbed the blades with his hands, only to have them bloodied as the blades vanished underneath him. As water began to fill the holes, Kavan quickly used portals to drop himself next to the two Matoran. "We should be safe here," he panted. "Should that thing decide to climb after us, I can get us away before it comes."

However, in that instant, a raucous cry shattered the air, as the white and red Quntaino began circling above them. Before it could strike, Kavan made a gamble and opened a portal above it and another beneath his feet. Dropping onto its sharp-finned back with a grunt of pain, he pulled out the fishing knife he had taken from the boat and stabbed the creature in the back of its neck. Screaming in pain, the Quntaino began spiraling around in a barrel roll, making it perilously difficult for Kavan to hang on. Reaching forward to try to pull out the knife, Kavan was suddenly knocked loose, beginning the long, terrifying fall to the ocean below. Panicking, and unable to concentrate, he opened portals randomly, moving himself three bio to the left and dropping himself onto the sinking Terralani. Seeing stars as the deck shattered underneath him, Kavan groggily stood, barely holding on to consciousness.

The white Quntaino, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Wheeling like a drunken Gula, it angled upward at the last instant, sending itself sailing over the edge and back onto land in a crash. The blue Quntaino had fled to the Terralani as well, grabbing Kavan in a sharp embrace and leaping up toward the Islet the two Matoran were on. Landing on an adjacent outcrop to the Matoran's, it bared its teeth and prepared to take a bite out of the Torika.

However, a harpoon shot from Brega interrupted Kavan's demise, hitting the Quntaino squarely in the shoulder. Spinning around from the impact, the creature lost control of its injured arm, dropping Kavan. Then, it folded its arms and legs in, and shot cleanly down into the water below. Vanishing from sight, the only trail it left behind was the purplish blood along the surface of the ocean.

 

 

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#19 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 30 2014 - 12:44 AM

Chapter 18

 

Having found the location of the Citadel, the eight Toa and the Matoran had returned to Pe-Koro. After several days of hard work, the Matoran builders in the village had formed a wooden skeleton of a large raft made out of Koa and Vuata Maca wood and bamboo near the Amaja Circle. Akito was busy discussing plans with Senko on the veranda of the elderly Ko-Matoran's temple house. A couple of the Matoran crafters stood nearby, periodically giving them news on the project.

Seeing the eight Toa walk up to where he and Akito sat, Senko grabbed his staff and pulled himself upright. "Ah, so I presume you now know where Her Vileness lives, eh?"

"Yes, but we are still trying to find the best way inside." Chompshi was admiring the raft's frame with Vrael. "To be honest, I think Vrael would rather stay here for a while. He seems rather attached to the Pe-Matoran."

"That is perfectly suitable. Some of our saws haven't been used in a while, and are quite rusty. Vrael's assistance would help us immensely." Senko gestured toward the mahogany Ta-Matoran foreman standing near him. "Jahpex, get some more saws, hatchets, and resin. We're going to work all day at this if we have to." Nodding, the sturdy Matoran wandered off.

"In that case, Chompshi, I suggest you take the other six Toa with you to find a way in," Akito said. "I'm sure that you can manage without the Matoran warriors. What's the worst they can do, attack . . ."

The Turaga's speech was suddenly cut off by a sound like an explosion. Whirling, the Toa could not believe their eyes. A wall of fire was advancing on Pe-Koro.

Within minutes, the fire column died down, as five Rahi-like figures suddenly materialized at the gateway to the village. They could only be one thing — Vorukaia, and this was definite, since a snarling Talau was among them. The other four were equally impressive, and like Talau, were black and one other color — red, blue, yellow, and white. The yellow one, Keldor, was shaped like a scorpion; Bursai, the blue one, like a shark save for her finned tail having turned into a pair of clawed legs; and the white Vorukaia, Vynku, like a crested eagle. And at the front of the group, literally covered in flames, was a huge red dragon of a being: Gurza.

"Thought you could get away from us, did you?" he growled, swaggering forward a bit. Being a bully to his comrades, his ego seemed greatly inflated. "Well, we'll just have to beat you to a pulp!" Flapping his wings and growling, Gurza stopped his spontaneous combustion and gestured behind him. "Let's trash 'em!"

Vrael by now had rejoined the Toa, but they could barely raise their weapons before being set upon by the five Vorukaia. Talau jumped up and knocked Nuukor to the ground, eager to enact her revenge. The Toa of Earth tried to dig under her, only to have a stream of venom spat in his face. Whirling around and preparing to strike with his electropole, he had Talau's claws grab his weapon, with her fanged mouth and pointed tongue moving frantically, trying to grab his Kanohi. Lyse, meanwhile, was too busy to aid Nuukor this time. Keldor had engaged him in a furious duel, with the Vorukaia lashing out with his stinging tail as Lyse parried it with his blades. As if that wasn't enough, Keldor would also snap his pincer-like claws and move his pointed legs, trying to trip the Toa of Air. Pacha was caught in the middle of this, having been immobilized by a nest of thorns, combined with spat venom that the two Vorukaia had used to capture her.

At the other side of the village, Bursai and Vynku had decided to take on Matoba, Attar, and Heaka at the same time. Bursai was parrying both Attar's daggers and Heaka's harpoon staff with her pointed fins, spinning around in what appeared to be a water cyclone. Vynku, meanwhile, was flying about at an alarming rate, dodging Matoba's fireballs while lashing out with his own talons. When that didn't work, the Toa of Fire simply jumped at the Vorukaia, slicing at its wings with his fire staff. Vynku was caught, only to have Matoba fall on top of him, and both be hit by Bursai. Surprised, she fell out of her cyclone form, only to rush back in to engage Attar and Heaka again.

In the middle of all this was Gurza, using a razor-edged claw on each hand to fight both Chompshi and Vrael simultaneously. Whenever Vrael tried to crystallize him with the chainsaw arm, Gurza simply set himself on fire. Even Chompshi's cannon shots of electricity weren't doing much, since their enemy was in such a rage that he pugnaciously fought on, oblivious to any pain. Whatever the case, Aso's energized protodermis had done its work: with their fearsome intelligence and incredible animalistic skills, the Vorukaia seemed to be actually winning.

Suddenly, however, the five stopped their attacks on the Toa. Akito had grabbed his crossbow, and with Senko behind him, he was pointing it at Gurza's jagged head. Around the Vorukaia, the Matoran warriors had their own weapons poised, including several rock catapults. "Your next move will be your last, creature," Akito was in no mood for disobedience. "All of you, move away from the Toa and leave here, now!"

The Vorukaia were surprised, for they had not envisioned being surrounded and forced to surrender. As they stood up, Chompshi, Vrael, and the rest of the Toa took advantage of the situation. Summoning their elemental powers, the Toa each shot a blast of energy into the backs of their foes.

Howling, the Vorukaia panicked, running through the gate as fast as they could, as a barrage of rocks began falling close behind them. Vynku just flew off, flapping his wings madly to escape, while Talau was running on all four legs to escape, and Keldor had burrowed underground. As they disappeared into the distance, only Gurza turned to yell insults and ultimatums back at the village. But then he too ran off.

Stunned, the Matoran began to applaud the Toa, as Akito and Senko walked over to the area of battle. "Astounding! Perhaps you truly can beat the Vorukaia after all," said Senko, himself clapping heartily. Even Akito could only smile.

Chompshi and Vrael, however, were serious. They looked at the other six Toa. "I think that I'll remain here for a while, to help build the raft." Vrael replied. "Chompshi, you should take the Toa Terra, go into the jungle, and try to find the entrance into that Citadel. And be careful. With Vorukaia that strong, who knows what havoc any other dangers might wreak?"

 

 

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#20 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 30 2014 - 08:53 PM

Chapter 19

 

Swimming back up to the surface after his dive, Predacron treaded water next to one of the tall, pillar-like Islets. While attempting to staunch the flow of blood from his shoulder using his other arm, he looked skyward, watching the Matoran and Torika flee the scene. Using portals, Kavan was slowly moving himself and the two Matoran closer to shore, Islet by Islet. Finally, they reached the shore, making sure to give the stunned Carcarinax a wide berth. Leaving the remains of the Terralani to drift in the ocean, they started running toward the Pehku Desert as soon as they could.

Once the Matoran were out of sight, Predacron swam powerfully over to the vessel and examined it. Only a few things remained floating, as most of the heavier objects had been broken and had sunk to the bottom. All in all, nothing remained to give a clue as to why the group was at the Islets.

Disappointed, Predacron hauled himself up onto a floating crate and began to concentrate. Within a few minutes, a large Icorak zoomed over next to him. Gesturing toward where Carcarinax lay, Predacron jumped onto the Rahi, conveying it to go there. Vanishing over the cliff edge, the Icorak then appeared to be flying off in a startled manner several seconds later, when Carcarinax roared irritably at it. Standing up, the white Quntaino flapped his arms and managed to become airborne awkwardly. Gliding toward Predacron he hovered a few inches above the water, motioning for his partner to clamber onto his back. With Predacron astride him, Carcarinax then lifted off, flying in the direction that the Matoran had gone.

 

------

 

That far south in the Pehku Desert, there were no Necrovak settlements. Consequently, the area was heavily populated by Degu, who would burrow by the dozen into the warm sand. Landing in a cloud of dust and sand, Carcarinax startled the nearby lizards, which began to jump out of the sand and flee. Moving quickly, Predacron dismounted and was able to grab one of the reptiles before it vanished. Putting a bladed hand on top of its scaled head, he looked into the beady eyes and paused. After a few seconds, he released the Degu and allowed it to dig back into the sand. He then turned back to Carcarinax.

"It didn't see the Matoran pass by," Predacron said, using the Icorak's buzzing tongue. "Nor did it see the little brown one teleport them around. We've lost them."

Carcarinax started to pace, gnashing his teeth. "None of the others have lost any of the little ones, even Icrizahk and Nosfernox." He spat his words with the harsh undertone of a Lamproid. Raising a clawed finger at Predacron, he snarled. "This is your fault!"

"Patience. Daigolva is watching the village where they will most likely return. We should consult him."

Carcarinax still looked dubious. "The master will have to know of this. Besides, we will no solace here. The Bohrok have apparently allied with the Matoran."

"Yes, but I would rather face all of the Necrovak than the master's wrath," Predacron admitted, as he climbed back onto Carcarinax. With a thrust of his wings, both became airborne, flying in the direction of the harsh midday sun, northward.

 

------

 

Kavan ran through the village center, with Brega and Deika in tow. Most of the Matoran in Terra-Koro were inside eating the noon meal, and only a few young ones were outside playing Kolhii, so Kavan's urgency went rather unnoticed. Reaching Turaga Akito's hut, however, the group slammed the door tightly and ran inside.

Only Hanak was in Terra-Koro currently, and he was sitting at the carved wooden table, looking at a large unfurled map which showed the whole island of Terra Nui from the air. Surprised, he used his acceleration power to stand in the group's path. "Kavan! Brega! What's the matter? Did your excursion to Sharakoro to look for clues fail?"

"No, it was a success, all right! Everything was under control until the blue and white Quntaino attacked us! I managed to get Brega and Deika to safety, but not before the blue one sank the Terralani. We barely managed to escape with our lives, and I think that they will be coming here!"

Hanak didn't seem too concerned. "Since they haven't shown any intent of hurting us earlier, I don't think they would come attack us here."

"Intent to harm us?" asked Kavan incredulously. "Then what do you call swooping down and attacking us, or trying to skewer me?"

"Look, I'll summon the other Torika, and we can try our next spot to try to figure out what these Quntaino are doing. And I wouldn't worry about the Terralani either, Brega. I'll send Machi and some Ga-Matoran to salvage the fishing supplies. Besides, you're the best shipwright on Terra Nui. I'm sure you can build a replacement."

As Brega and Deika walked off, Hanak led Kavan over to the table, pointing at the map of Terra Nui. "Now, then, here's where I was planning on having us go next . . ."

 

 

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#21 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 30 2014 - 10:28 PM

Chapter 20

 

The lava plains around Mount Juvala spread out like a vast, charred blanket, covering the visible landscape. With the sun above and almost no cover, the area turned into furnace every day, with the black volcanic soil burning to the touch. Travel through the area became torturous in the midday sun, as the ground shimmered with heat. Normally, no Matoran dared to enter unless under the cooling cover of night.

However, no Matoran possessed Rieka's power. Using her ability of tunneling, Rieka was able to dig six bio underneath the ground, staying away from the hot surface. Along with Wula and Sari, both of whom were complaining incessantly about their method of transportation, she was making quick headway toward Mount Juvala and the lava tubes.

Unfortunately, Sari had become very claustrophobic. "Why do we have to be in such a cramped, dry area? This soil is suffocating me!" she complained.

Continuing to dig, Rieka barely stopped to pause. "Then in that case we'll soon have some peace." Wula, who was following behind Rieka, made no comment. Instead, she looked down toward a glowing, handheld device. "Make a left turn in a few more bio. We're almost there. Hear that, Sari?" Wula said, looking back.

"Yes, I heard," Sari replied sullenly as she walked along. "I can't wait."

 

------

 

Nosfernox blinked his bulbous eyes slowly in the harsh light, his long tail swishing back and forth. Based off the faint earth tremors increasing every second, the Matoran group underground would soon be emerging near his location. When they did, he would have to make sure he was inconspicuous. Folding his shield-covered arms behind his back, he sat down, squatting with his spiked knees up to his shoulders, and his broad feet firmly embedded in the earth. Curling his tail into a circle, he used one shovel-like hand to pull volcanic soil into mounds in front of him, hiding his legs from view. Only Nosfernox's flat, lobed head remained in sight, with his crablike mandibles and amphibious eyes visible. Lowering his eyelids until he could see only through a small slit, the black and silver Quntaino began to slow his breathing.

Looking for all the world like a large volcanic rock, Nosfernox continued his vigil until he could hear Rieka's rapid tunneling distinctly.

 

------

 

Pulling herself out of the aboveground entrance to an old Collosorahk tunnel, the black Torika helped haul the Matoran up onto a broad section of hardened lava. Mount Juvala's caldera could clearly be seen a few bio away, and several Magraka could be seen wheeling about in the sky near its summit. Once Sari had exited the tunnel, Rieka reminded the group of their objective. "Remember, we are here to find the source of the volcanic eruption a few days ago. And be careful, as there may be another eruption at any time."

As Sari and Rieka began to walk away, Wula pulled out the rest of her equipment, setting it onto a nearby mound. Donning one of her trademark armor suits, she grabbed a handheld mining laser. Afterwards, Wula turned and scrambled after Rieka and Sari, who were heading toward another underground tunnel.

As she did, Nosfernox slowly rose from his awkward position, soil falling away from him. Stretching his cramped muscles, he started to lumber toward the caldera himself, taking a separate path from the Matoran. He was still uneasy from what had happened, when Wula had actually put a bunch of her tools on his head, and then proceeded to rest on it. While it showed his disguise was perfect, it disturbed him to have been so close to one of the Matoran.

 

------

 

The tunnel which they had entered had extended into a dimly-lit cave underneath the caldera itself. Lightstones and fire pits in various positions inside the cave showed that it had once been an Acko dwelling. Several primitive lava-rock tools still lay scattered on the floor. Going toward the rear, Rieka noticed a patch of shiny, smooth rock which came from a large opening in the floor, and traversed the width of the cave along one side. Broken pieces of rubble were scattered around the cave, even landing on the coals of the long-dead fire. A large piece partially obscured a large gap in the wall, with light coming in from outside.

"Obviously, the Acko fled when lava came up from the tube into the cave. However, that doesn't make much sense." Rieka frowned. "Acko always live near lava tubes that are extinct, never ones that are active. This doesn't seem like a natural occurrence at all. Why would lava come out of an extinct vent?" She turned to Wula. "Take a sample of the rock back to Terra-Koro. The Green One knows far more about these things than you or I do."

 

------

 

After waiting near the cave for about five minutes, Nosfernox noticed with growing alarm that the Matoran's party was not exiting from where he stood. Instead, they had appeared again some twenty bio away from him, across the bubbling caldera. While not moving away, they were talking in a group while Wula held up the two pieces of lava rock for emphasis. They finished their conversation and started ambling off to the forest.

Realizing he could not walk around the caldera in enough time to reach them, Nosfernox decided upon the only other course of action. Without pausing to ponder his decision further, Nosfernox began walking straight toward the Matoran, into the caldera. Ignoring the scorching pain going through his legs as he waded deeper into the lava, Nosfernox concentrated single-mindedly on his goal.

Lifting his arms, he continued his walk across the caldera, as the lava went up to his armpits. Soon he began to tread lava, using his shields as huge flippers. Moving rapidly, he was able to cross the diameter of the caldera — ten bio — within another minute. Exiting the lava, he felt the luxurious coldness of the air and ground, as his glowing armor began to steam and harden. Sloughing off thick layers of ashen skin, he continued his pursuit of the Matoran. As they vanished into edge the Johmai Jungle, Nosfernox was only bio behind.

 

 

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#22 Offline Ballom

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Posted Jul 31 2014 - 09:10 PM

Chapter 21

 

Back in Pe-Koro, the work on the raft had finally been completed. It stood a bit off from the center of the village, a few bio away from the Toa Sah sculptures, held up on wooden rods. The raft was a well-built, square structure made out of Koa wood planks held in place by protosteel rods, covered in vinerope mesh for support. A large cabin built into the center held supplies and could accommodate the Toa, while four oars were locked into their holders on each side. And at the back, a large pair of propellers was connected to a motor built into the bottom keel, controlled by a lever inside the cabin. Overall, the vessel looked more than fit to sail to Kemet Nui.

Senko stood at the base of the raft, admiring it with Turaga Akito. He turned to the Matoran foremen, Jahpex and Neesau. "I must say, your workers really outdid themselves. I hope this will suit your needs, Akito."

The eight Toa stood nearby, conversing with the group of nine warriors that had accompanied them through the Hyuli Forest. Akito walked over to where Vrael and Chompshi were. "Well, the Hakeahu II is all ready to sail. It is now time for us to fulfill our end of the bargain. I trust you Toa are prepared to cross through the forest and storm the Citadel?"

"Yes," Chompshi replied, "although we are not going to storm it exactly. Rather, we have developed a plan to sneak inside and destroy it. Whetar and the others have a whole two score of Matoran fighters who will stay outside to provide back cover. Whenever a group of Vorukan tries to go inside, they will keep the troglodytes out, to allow us to have as much surprise on the few guards inside as necessary. Then, we will go to the throne room, where we can defeat the Vorukaia and disarm Aso and Ballom long enough for us to escape. Nuukor and Pacha will bring the Citadel down once we've gotten away from it. But we cannot do this alone. You must come with us to defeat Aso."

Akito nodded grimly. "I figured that I would be a part of this. Very well, I will enjoy a battle with Aso, after suspecting her treachery for all these centuries."

Vrael, meanwhile, had gone over to where Senko and the rest of the villagers stood. "Thank you for your hospitality. Without it, my comrades and I would have certainly died on this island, at the mercy of Aso. But by the powers, we will rid Punt Nui of this curse, and we will return afterward to leave. I can only hope to come back some day."

Senko looked up at the kneeling Toa. He gave a crooked smile, filled with millennia of experience. "Mata Nui willing, we will always welcome you with good cheer. Now go, for time is running short. Ballom is summoning his armies even as we speak. Just come back in one piece."

As the Matoran villagers gave a mighty yell of support, Akito, the eight Toa, and the warriors moved out of the safety of Pe-Koro and toward the river that separated them from the main part of the island. The Toa did not know what horrors they would face inside the Citadel, or whether they would even succeed in ridding Punt Nui of evil.

But one thing was certain — they would win, or die trying.

 

------

 

Ballom cast his eye over the windswept length of the Puntapau Plateau. It had been a day since the Vorukaia had launched their ill-fated attack on the village, and now he could feel the Toa and Turaga slowly moving through the forest toward him. A battle was coming, that much was certain. But the Toa of Darkness was well-prepared. Clustered around him on the ledge near the Citadel were Amun and the other five Vorukaia, and well over fifty seasoned Vorukan insurgents, with Rojax at their head. Ballom cleared his throat.

"I want all of the Vorukan around the Citadel, hidden in the strategic locations that Aso outlined earlier. When the Matoran come, I want you to keep them from coming inside at all costs. Feel free to kill them with whatever means necessary, but I warn you — no decapitations."

Rojax slammed his fist on the ground angrily, then growled. "Urg, should be no problem, master Ballom." The other Vorukan grunted in agreement, although several of them had been just as upset as Rojax.

"And what are we supposed to do, cower like Hoto bugs inside until the Toa come for us?" Amun jabbed a spiked hand into the air. "Can we not engage the Toa in close combat?"

"Patience, my loyal servant," Ballom grabbed Amun's claw and moved it down. "You six will be lurking in the shadows, waiting for the Toa to make a mistake . . . and then to pounce. Take the six younger ones. The Toa of Electricity and Crystal are mine."

Vynku swung his serpentine neck as he nodded in agreement. "So you and Lady Aso will wait for those Toa and the Turaga personally."

"Precisely." Ballom turned toward the wind, his long cape billowing out behind him. "You have your orders, now assume your positions. This time, there will be no mercy. We shall leave nobody alive, and then turn on the village. It will be burned to the ground, and Punt Nui will belong to Aso." As the Vorukaia and Vorukan disappeared into the Citadel behind him, the Toa of Shadows put his talon-like fingers together, and gave a crocodilian smile of pure malevolence. "Let the Toa come. I will turn them against each other and destroy them with the shadows beneath them!"

 

 

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#23 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 05 2014 - 09:07 PM

Chapter 22

 

The Johmai Jungle stood silent in the afternoon sunlight, with only a few Rahi active. Most large Rahi were sleeping under the dappled shade provided by the large canopy leaves above them. Even the insects seemed unmoving, coating leaves with their bodies. Only the Green One's treetop house showed any signs of activity, with its brightly lit windows giving off light into the forest. From those same large windows, Nosfernox could easily discern what the Matoran inside were up to, even while he was standing on the ground.

After the two Matoran and the Torika had vanished inside a few minutes ago, they had met up with the cabin's owner, as well as Vukaz and Jeiku, who were already inside. Talking for several more minutes, Wula had then displayed the two pieces of lava, starting another discussion. Now, the group had migrated away from the windows, and Nosfernox was at a loss as to what to do. Pacing back and forth, he decided to contact his brothers, and see who was currently in the area.

 

------

 

Icrizahk walked along through an overgrown path, using his heavy claws to swing branches out of the way. Moving awkwardly as a result of his bulky arms, he walked leaning back and forth with each step. Almost as massive as Nosfernox or Daigolva, he was still able to move relatively quickly. Covered in mottled yellow and grayish tones of armor, he unfortunately made a conspicuous sight in the Johmai Jungle. Brushing off vines stuck to his head and knee spines, Icrizahk scanned the area with round, beady eyes, much like those of a Waiwa shrimp. Seeing Nosfernox a few bio away, he began to sprint and wave at his brother.

 

------

 

Nosfernox glanced to his left. Icrizahk was approaching quickly, and managing to avoid obstacles in the process. However, as he began to wave, his arm caught on an overhanging branch and tripping him. Crashing into the earth with a loud smash, Icrizahk froze for a second, and then bounced back to his feet. Reaching Nosfernox, he greeted him enthusiastically using the Hemisva language. "Greetings!"
 

"Greetings. Take more care next time arriving. You almost caused us to be seen." Nosfernox replied slowly, in a flat voice.

Icrizahk nodded. "I will. What is our course of action?"

"We will cause a diversion. Move behind this tree and we will summon a Rahi . . ."

 

------

 

The Green One was just finishing a lecture on the two pieces of lava rock and contrasting both of them. "So as yous guys can see, dis second rock is differwent, as it shows signs of being forced out of da lava tubes, as if by hand." He set both of the pieces back down on a nearby stool and sat down. "So I guess dis means . . ."

"That the volcano eruption was a warning." Vukaz finished his sentence. "Or a distraction for the Quntaino that was in Akito's hut. Either way, this proves that they did cause the lava plume. What should we do now, Rieka?"

"I'd say we should alert Hanak and the others once we get back to the village." The black Torika had been concentrating on the rocks Wula had brought, but she began to notice a loud tapping sound, alternating once every few seconds, coming from below them. As the Green One and Vukaz heard the sound too and stopped their talking, she looked out of the open-air window. A single large Rahanivika stood ten bio below, ramming its huge head into the tree. Although the giant Koa was centuries old and covered in inches-thick bark, the Rahi's beak was still creating dents where it impacted.

After Vukaz, Jeiku, and the Green One had seen the Rahanivika as well, Rieka began waddling over to the wooden staircase that led down to the forest floor. "It's no big deal. Let's drive it off and head back home."

 

------

 

Reaching the ground, the Green One and Jeiku took the lead as they strode toward the Rahi. A few feet away, they paused and began yelling at it. "Hey, ugly! Look over here!" Jeiku screamed. "Try and get us!" Without hesitation, the Rahanivika lunged at the Matoran, gouging the ground where he had stood moments ago. Pulling its beak out of the ground, the Rahi was vulnerable as the Green one hit it in the eye with the butt of his axe. Squawking, the bird ran away with its injured eye closed.

Choosing that moment to attack, Nosfernox and Icrizahk came around the tree and jumped at the Matoran. Pinning Sari's hands to her sides, Icrizahk then threw her at Jeiku, knocking them both down. In the meantime, Nosfernox had stunned Jeiku using his shields as clubs. Moving toward the Green One, he howled in pain as Wula shot him in his burnt back using the mining laser. Clubbing her with his tail, Nosfernox grabbed the laser and crushed it in his hand, tossing the shrapnel at Wula. Undeterred, Wula stood back up and grabbed onto Nosfernox's leg, digging in with her hands. Whirling around one leg trying to dislodge her, Nosfernox kicked down Jeiku, who had just gotten up. Removing Sari after several more rotations, the Quntaino turned back toward Jeiku.

Icrizahk, meanwhile, had to deal with both Torika. Whenever he would sling a claw at one of them, a mysterious bubble would surround him, causing his pincer to bounce off. Suddenly, he would then be halfway underground, and have to dig himself out. Fighting in such a way for several minutes, he realized he couldn't get past the energy bubbles using speed. Reaching slowly toward Vukaz, he found he could slip through the bubble, grabbing the Torika around the waist. Crying in alarm, Vukaz was lifted into the air above Icrizahk, only to be thrown down at Rieka. Hitting with a satisfying impact, both Torika went down.

At the same time, Nosfernox had turned to Jeiku, but the agile Le-Matoran was faster. Grabbing a creeper dangling from the Koa tree, he had clambered up onto a fork of the ridged trunk, slightly above his Quntaino adversary. Whenever Nosfernox tried to grab onto the Matoran, Jeiku would stab at him with his daggers, to prevent himself from being dislodged, while calling the black Quntaino all sorts of filthy names. Tired of trying to defeat the out-of-reach Matoran, Nosfernox instead turned to the Green One. As the little being swung his axe, Nosfernox swung his shield, knocking the Green One off of his feet and onto his back.

Seizing the opportunity, he slammed his shields into the ground on either side of the Green One, and then roared into his face like a Bladetort. "Where is the Mask of Nature? Tell me its location, and we shall let your friends live!"

Fear showing audibly on his face, the Green One began to stammer. "It's at da Sharakoro Inlets. Undawater. You know, where your fwends were at." Obviously, worry about his friends' health had caused him to tell the truth. Nosfernox figured he would; emotions in these creatures were a large handicap. Satisfied, the black Quntaino stood up and nodded toward Icrizahk, who was standing near the pair of dazed Torika. Once they had discussed the location of the mask, the pair began to lope off into the Johmai Jungle. Within a few minutes, they were gone.

 

 

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#24 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 05 2014 - 10:24 PM

Chapter 23

 

Lyse peered out of the dense tree cover of the Hyuli Forest, as he, the other seven Toa, Turaga Akito, and the Matoran warriors clustered hidden in the underbrush. Ahead of them stretched the broad jutting mesas of the Puntapau Plateau, with the Citadel looming forebodingly on the nearest outcrop. The group was hiding in the nearest stretch of forest Akito could find, in order to cross the least amount of distance to get inside Aso's formidable fortress. Now, everything was all set, since Chompshi could detect no mental signatures of any Vorukan in the immediate area, though he was sure that they were hiding nearby.

Looking down, the Toa of Air gave the signal. Turaga Akito nodded at the Toa, keeping his voice quiet. "All right. When I say for us to move, I want you all to run as fast as possible to the Citadel. Toa, feel free to use any sort of mask or power-aided locomotion, but keep moving. Matoran, stay behind us to provide cover, because those Vorukan are going to chase us as soon as we start running. We don't have much time, but I am sure that we will get inside." He paused, looking out at the plateau. After a minute, however, Akito raised his staff. "Go!"

And with that, the group was off.

Akito ran at the front of the group, moving remarkably fast despite his age and weight. Lyse had turned into a tornado above him, spinning his staffs rapidly and using a spiral of air to surround and propel himself. Heaka had become a fast-moving stream of water, while Nuukor was rapidly tunneling through the earth. Matoba and Pacha were running as fast as they could, while Attar was using his mask to somersault and use acrobatic moves to cover ground. As they traversed the kio-long stretch between the forest and the Citadel, the Matoran were already far behind the Toa. Led by Whetar, Reda, Taiki, Komo, Ogigi, Delan, Hathi, Murtik, and Torval, they were yelling and brandishing their weapons, should a Vorukan appear at any moment.

It only took about five minutes of hard running before the Toa had reached the base of the Citadel. Most of the Matoran had stopped on the rock to take a break, since they were not in excellent physical condition like the Toa, and had become exhausted. Meanwhile, Chompshi, Vrael, and Akito helped the Toa Terra climb up to the top of the mesa. Before them stood the tall, ancient doors of the Citadel, weathered and crumbling from eons of standing.

"That's odd," Whetar spoke gruffly, as he and his seasoned Matoran surveyed the plateau. "We weren't set upon by any Vorukan, nor do they appear to be advancing now. This whole area is deserted."

"Perhaps they are either waiting for us, or they do not know of our presence," Akito replied. "I am hoping for the latter. Remain here until we return. I will have Pacha and Nuukor summon their powers, and when the time is right, they will make this cursed monolith crumble to the ground. From there, the Vorukan can be easily eliminated."

Turning around, Akito looked up at the venerable doors, searching for any sort of locking mechanism that was currently keeping them closed. Using his Kanohi Zalmex, the Turaga was quickly able to find the layout of the interior lock. Pulling out his laser crossbow from behind his robes, he fired a bolt into the etched doorway, then pushed. Nothing budged. Chompshi, however, had a brighter idea. Charging up his cannon, he launched his own blast of lightning into the door frame. The wooden frame shuddered once, then creaked open wide enough to admit the Toa.

Nodding, Akito slowly walked through the doorway, disappearing into the dark depths of the Citadel's interior. Chompshi and Vrael then followed, with the six Toa Terra going in after them. As the last to go inside, Matoba closed the one door behind him. It locked into place, making a deep clang that reverberated around the area.

Suddenly, however, the Matoran guards became aware of another sound: that of clawed feet pounding on sun-baked earth. Whirling around in alarm, they glimpsed the dreaded sight: a mass of Vorukan emerging from hiding in various places around the Citadel's mesa. There were fifty to sixty of them in total, and though they were not advancing very quickly, each of the troglodytes had a look of murder and bloodlust on its ugly face.

Swearing, Whetar and the warriors began to run down the hill toward their enemy. "Somehow I knew they were planning this," he growled to himself. "Well, Whetar, you always wanted to die on the battlefield. Now's your chance."

 

------

 

As their eyes adjusted to the darkness of the interior entryway, the Toa discovered themselves inside a marvel of Makuta engineering. The Citadel was much larger than it first appeared from the inside: a huge, vaulted, cavernous building, almost as grandiose in architecture as the wondrous Coliseum itself. Tall spires and arches supported the various passageways, and many pillars and columns supported an ornately carved dome of a roof, which was detailed with frescoes and murals of the various battles between the Makuta and Toa. Two large stairwells led down to the central hallway, and other staircases led to the interior catacombs beyond. There were even holes for the tall spires that stretched above the Citadel itself, like giant spikes on the outside of the building. Overall it was simultaneously one of the eeriest and most awe-inspiring places the Toa had ever been inside, making the Dark Lord's camp look like a Matoran hut in comparison.

Of course, the Citadel was in horrible disrepair. Centuries of wear and tear had made large jagged holes in the ceiling, and many of the pillars, spires, and columns were weathered and crumbling. Dust and sand formed a fine rain coming down from the upper stories, while many a lightstone in the hallways was long dead. Even the ornate quartz chandelier that hung down from the dome was missing several stalactites and lightstones itself. The building looked ready to collapse at any moment. All the more easy for Nuukor and Pacha to bring it crashing down — if they succeeded, of course.

Akito looked at each of the Toa. "Chompshi, Vrael, you two will come with me to seek out the throne room. I want the rest of you to split up, and each take a hallway. Whenever you find a Vorukan Royal Guard, incapacitate them and move on. Save all your strength for the battle with the Vorukaia. Do this, and we will not fail. Besides, I know this place like the back of my hand. I was here as a Toa, you know."

Nodding, the Toa moved into their separate groups. With Akito looking on, the Toa exchanged a few words, and then all nine slammed fists, whispering the oath they had created themselves.

"For Terra Nui!"

And then the Toa and Turaga ran off into the catacombs, swallowed up by the darkness.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Aug 05 2014 - 11:27 PM.

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#25 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 06 2014 - 09:31 PM

Chapter 24

 

Drip, drip, drip…

A Vorukan Royal Guard sat in a small watch room of the Citadel, looking out of a window at the battle that was taking place outside. Like most of his guard-bred counterparts, he was covered in black armor with a gold chest plate and shoulder pads, carried a pair of short dirks, and had a head covered in a broad, flat helmet with a flap over his toothed mouth. And like his species was prone to be, this Royal Guard was bored out of his skull. Lady Aso had told him to be prepared for a Toa coming, but so far he hadn't seen anything.

As he sat, the guard began to tap his fingers to the rhythmic dripping sounds that were issuing down from the slotted window looking out onto the Citadel grounds. Suddenly, he paused, realizing that water doesn't drip out of windows. Turning his head, the guard was just in time to have his helmet cracked against the hard blade of Heaka's aqua axe, swung with all her might. He crumpled to the floor unconscious.

Rummaging through the sack swung around the guard's back, Heaka pulled out a jagged key and jammed it into the door, causing it to creak open. Then, she turned back into a stream of water and slid through the hallway, leaving the door closed behind her. Heaka knew that each of the other Toa was in a similar passageway, fighting other Royal Guards as they went. However, she also knew that there was a large armory a story below, where her five comrades had agreed to meet her. She quickened her pace.

 

------

 

Having exited the central hallway, Turaga Akito, Chompshi, and Vrael now had to cross through a small passageway to reach the other side of the Citadel. Here the air itself was musty and dead, and dust and sand still formed a fine mist everywhere. Akito led the trio, grimly avoiding looking at the decorations as he paced forward. Chompshi and Vrael, however, were repulsed to see bodies of long-dead Toa lining the hallway, now only metal skeletons covered in rusty, cobwebbed armor. These grotesque trophies still clutched their weapons, and their dented, battered Kanohi hung at odd angles on their skulls. Truly this was a terrible place.

Having reached a large set of doors with elaborate metal knobs on them, Akito pushed them ahead with his open hand. Then, moving stealthily and silently, he bade Chompshi and Vrael follow him. They entered the room, and suddenly froze.

They were standing in the middle of what could only be the throne room, on a protodermis floor stained mahogany with the blood of countless victims. Surrounding them on all sides was a curving wall that had occasional lightstone lamps on it, and had rows upon rows of gleaming weapons and torture tools on it. The domed ceiling was a miniature replica of the rotunda on top of the Citadel, and hanging from it was the gutted exoskeleton of a full-grown Ariakudo, limp and gray with its beady eyes drooping sightless. And right ahead of them stood two large thrones made of Rahi bones. Even worse, one of them was occupied.

"Well, well, look what the Muaka dragged in." A small black and lime-colored being wearing an ebony Avsa and a cape too long for her slid down from her seat. "After all these years, if it isn't my old enemy, Turaga Akito!" Drawing a curving staff of rank from a slot in her throne, Aso gave the Turaga and Toa a venomous smile like poisoned honey. "I finally have a chance to defeat you in battle!"

"Are you sure about this being difficult? Was she supposed to be this small?" Chompshi whispered, leaning down to Akito's level.

"Quiet! She's a shape shifter, remember? Now do exactly as I say." Raising his voice, Akito pulled out his crossbow and raised his fire staff, as Chompshi and Vrael drew their own weapons. "Why don't you pick on someone bigger than your own size? These Toa will trump you with me!" He and the Toa began to move forward.

"Not both of them." Suddenly, a dark shadow separated from the walls and stood up, drawing Vrael away from Chompshi and Akito. It was a tall black and purple Toa, clad in rusty silver armor and wearing a tattered cape of his own. Ballom drew a pair of wicked longswords. "This fight is mine, Aso."

 

Gasping, Chompshi, Vrael, and Akito suddenly knew: this Toa was the being that had controlled the mind of Lyse!

 

"It doesn't matter," Akito retorted. "This Toa of Electricity and I will dispose of you, witch!"

"As you wish." Cracking the knuckles on her large claws, Aso began to circle in front of her two challengers, as Ballom prepared to fight Vrael. "I've been waiting for this for a very, very long time!"

 

------

 

Inside the armory, a mob of twenty Vorukan Royal Guards stood waiting, pacing back and forth. Since the Turaga had arrived, Aso had given them the signal to kill any Toa in the vicinity. And one of their number had informed them that the Toa were on their way. Now, all the guards had to do was wait.

 

Suddenly, one of them noticed a large Kikapo buzzing above them, moving rapidly back and forth. As the Vorukan yelled to his companions, the large insect transformed into the shape of Lyse. "Guess who, evil-bad creatures!" Whirling his spears, the Toa of Air became a cyclone, and descended into the mob of Vorukan.

This was all the distraction that Matoba, Heaka, Pacha, Nuukor, and Attar needed. Raising their own weapons, the Toa ran into the fray. Soon the Vorukan found themselves caught in a maelstrom of pain. Whenever one of them tried to engage a Toa in close combat, they found themselves battered by an elemental blast. And whenever they tried to swarm, they met the hard end of a Toa tool. As trained as they were in this kind of battle, the troglodytes soon found themselves vastly at a disadvantage.

Within minutes, the Toa had figured out a way to win the brawl. "Alright, does everyone remember the plan?" Matoba yelled, as he batted aside a mean bull Royal Guard trying to stab him. "Let's blow this fruit stand!"

Gathering their powers, the Toa released a whirlwind of fire, water, wind, frost, earth, and pointed rocks in all directions. The blast scattered the Vorukan, causing them to slam into the walls of the armory, knocking over weapons on the walls in the process. These collapsed onto the dazed Royal Guards in heaps, creating several piles in which the twenty troglodytes were buried in. Attar and Heaka walked over to each pile in turn, combining their elements to freeze over each one.

Slamming fists and cheering, the Toa ran through the armory door, having cleared away the opposition. Now all that remained was to find the Vorukaia.

The battle for Punt Nui had begun.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Aug 07 2014 - 02:15 PM.

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#26 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 11 2014 - 09:36 PM

Chapter 25

 

Outside of the Citadel, pandemonium had ensued.

The Matoran warriors led by Whetar were locked in a furious battle with Rojax and his legions of Vorukan. At first, it seemed as though the Vorukan had the advantage. When the mad mob of troglodytes had first attacked, they were surprised to find that the Matoran had seen them emerge from their strategically-hidden holes. Still, the Vorukan had attacked with lightning ferocity, which was quite impressive for a species with such short legs and even shorter tempers.

By now, however, the Matoran had begun to have a slight upper hand. Although Matoran did not necessarily abide by the old Toa creed that forbade taking lives, Whetar and his forty-odd fighters were using any means necessary to dispatch the Vorukan, rather than killing them. The lead Ta-Matoran had himself been targeted by Rojax, and now the black and red Vorukan was sparring with him, dagger to club.

"Me no think you Matoran can last forever," Rojax growled between blows. "Sooner or later you get tired, and then we crush your bones!"

Whetar made a face, relishing the temporary disgust it gave the alpha Vorukan. "Neither can you, ugly. Honestly, I can say your face looks remarkably like the rear end of a protodite-infested Brakas with Kolhii-player's Foot. Besides, who says that Matoran can't fight dirty?"

The seasoned warriors were doing just that, using their quick thinking to outsmart their Vorukan adversaries. A furious Komo had buried his weapons in a white Vorukan's side, then had grabbed another one's own weapon and was thoroughly trashing him with it. Torval had beaten a blue Vorukan senseless, and then swung the hapless troglodyte over his broad shoulders to use it like a bludgeon, whacking any of its kin that tried to free it or otherwise go near. Delan and Murtik were back to back, forming a circle of pain to any Vorukan, and using their weapons to cover each other. Elsewhere, Reda had led a bunch of Matoran up onto a tall boulder, and they were now throwing rocks down upon the advancing enemies.

Overall, the Vorukan had very few tricks up their sleeves, Whetar noticed, as he continued to hammer at his nemesis Rojax. But apart from that, the stunned or otherwise weaponless sentients seemed to be getting up faster than his Matoran could mow them down. Granted, the bellowing Vorukan seemed to be taking more and more of a beating, but so were the Matoran. Many had wounds of their own, and though no warrior had died yet, one unfortunate Ko-Matoran had been tackled and set upon by a gang of troglodytes. Whetar could still hear the screams of this unfortunate warrior.

If they kept on fighting, perhaps the Matoran could hold off and tire the Vorukan long enough that the eventual collapse of the Citadel would send them running for cover. Time was of the essence.

But Whetar did not know how much they had left.

 

------

 

Inside the throne room, Chompshi, Vrael, and Akito were locked in a battle of their own. Vrael and Ballom were sparring near the doorway, with the former's chainsaw hand and crystal staff clashing against his opponent's dual shadow swords. Ballom seemed more at ease in this place than even the Dark Lord himself had been inside the Sharaku Stronghold, blending into the darkness with ease and launching surprise attacks at the Toa of Crystal. Once he barely even nicked Vrael's power tubes on his left arm.

What was really getting to Vrael, however, was that his own emotions seemed to have gotten the better of him. All of a sudden, he was extremely angry at Ballom, for any and every reason possible. He was angry at this Toa for having stranded them on Punt Nui, for taking over the mind of Lyse, for having sent Vorukan after him, just for even being a Shadow Toa. Vrael did not know why he felt this way, but his attacks were now being more easily blocked, and Vrael suddenly realized that he was making irrational and thoughtless attacks that even the legendary Tahu's temper would not have led him to do.

He looked at Ballom, who seemed to be gloating at him. With his Kanohi Crathsis making himself calm, and working adversely on Vrael, Ballom was feeling very triumphant. It would not take long before he would have the upper hand. He grinned wickedly at the Toa. "Fool. I can read your emotions without effort, and they are so easy to manipulate!"

On the other side of the room, Aso was wreaking havoc of their own. As a Makuta, she was sending out all sorts of Kraata-powered attacks, from disintegration blasts to supersonic screams. Chompshi found himself launching beams of electricity at her, while Aso counterattacked with bolts of shadow. And at the same time, Akito was using his Turaga staff to duel against her staff of rank.

Thinking for a moment, Akito stepped back for a moment, causing Aso to divert all of her attention to Chompshi. As she did, however, the old Turaga pulled something from the back of his cloak. Cocking his crossbow, Akito fired at Aso's cape just as she prepared to use her fear-inducing power on the Toa of Electricity.

The laser beam caught Aso in the side, knocking her over in a heap. But the Makuta sprang up easily, brandishing her staff while snarling at Akito. "You're going to have to do better than that, old one."

Shrugging, Akito ran forward to intercept her blow. "Oh, you haven't seen anything yet."

 

------

 

The Toa Terra, meanwhile, had reached a dead end. After several more minutes of searching, they had found themselves in a large catacomb with a spiral staircase leading up to one of the tall spires above. The room had only one exit, and they had just stumbled through it.

"I don't get it." Attar said, as they started for the staircase. "We can't possibly be trapped in here."

"Oh, I don't know about that."

Whirling, the six Toa turned toward the door. Keldor, Gurza, and Bursai had suddenly appeared in front of it, effectively blocking the exit. As the six turned around again, Talau and Vynku jumped down from the staircase to block their path as well. Surrounded, the Toa were forced to listen to the voice make a harsh, cackling laugh, as the being who possessed it clambered down from a thread of silk to land right in front of them.

It was a jet black and silver Vorukaia, with its back legs ending in clawed feet, and the rest of its appendages as a spindly leg. A domed, spider-like head observed them from glowing orange eyes, as it stood up and retracted its insectoid legs into multiple spiked arms. Amun hissed triumphantly at the Toa Terra.

"I have been watching your progress all along, Toa. It did not take much effort for my team to corner you here. This is, I believe, the end for you. Besides, if eight Toa cannot defeat the Vorukaia without assistance, what makes you think six can?"

Raising his weapons along with his comrades, Matoba glared at Amun. "We can try. In the end, that's all that really matters."

And then, with the other five Toa close behind him, he charged.

 

 

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#27 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 11 2014 - 11:15 PM

Chapter 26

 

The Toa Terra fought on.

Each had moved into position so to battle a Vorukaia that seemed to be the weakest when exposed to their Toa powers. Matoba was dueling with Amun, Nuukor with Gurza, Attar with Keldor, Heaka with Talau, Lyse with Vynku, and Pacha with Bursai. So far, it seemed that each of their enemies was perfectly matched to defeat them. While the Toa used their mask powers and elemental blasts whenever possible, the Vorukaia reacted with slashing attacks, powerful martial art moves, and if possible, deceptive tricks. Since they were in their Rahi forms, it was also difficult for the Toa to battle them hand in hand, and so far, the Vorukaia seemed to have the advantage.

Matoba had set both of his weapons on fire and had surrounded Amun in a ring of flame, launching powerful heat blasts at his enemy. But Amun was using web threads to stay airborne, parrying out with his claws or snapping at the Toa of Fire with a pair of long fangs. While the black Vorukaia seemed weaker than his opponent, he was using strategy and cunning to remain untouched. However, Matoba managed to burn the webs themselves after some concentration, and so Amun was forced to duel with him on the ground, face to face. Meanwhile, the other Toa were equally occupied. Nuukor and Gurza were sparring, and seemed to be equal in strength. They were actually clanging their weapons together, with an electropole versus hooked blades. In order to throw off his opponent, Gurza had spontaneously combusted and was now a walking column of fire. But Nuukor had decided to use electrical shocks from his weapon, complemented with blunt shots. These attacks would deter the red Vorukaia from setting himself aflame, but he kept coming, bellowing in rage and belligerence.

Attar and Keldor were battling on the stairway itself, with the yellow Vorukaia shooting powerful sand blasts from his tail. Attar had to freeze these dust devils before they blinded him and caused him to fall, and then hurled the resulting icicles back at Keldor. His enemy, however, was moving around with incredible ease, using his pointed feet to clamber up the stone stairs while lashing out with his crablike pincers and mouth mandibles. Below them, Pacha and Bursai were locked in combat. Out of water, the blue Vorukaia was not in her element, but she persisted in turning herself into a water cyclone. Pacha had to use both of her stone hammers just to deflect Bursai's sharp fins, tail, and teeth. None of these Toa could see Heaka and Lyse in their respective areas, and the noise level was deafening.

Suddenly, Attar abandoned his icy blasts, throwing both knives seconds before a sand stream obscured his vision. This knocked Keldor off balance, as one knife buried itself in his mouth while the other knocked his tail back. Hissing and cursing madly, he could not keep a hold on the stairs, and fell several bio before landing on the floor in a heap. Just as Keldor was getting up, he glared murder at Attar. "Not good enough, Toa." Scrambling to get back on his feet, he launched a whole haze of sand from his body while pulling away the knives.

Attar had been waiting for this. Jumping down to reclaim his knives, the Toa of Ice summoned a hail of ice and freezing vapor, which descended onto Keldor like a cloud. As the Vorukaia yelled in surprise, the sand and frost cleared. Stooping to retrieve his knives, Attar admired his work. The yellow Vorukaia was completely frozen in a prison of sand and ice, which pinned his limbs, leaving only the head exposed. "Come on," Attar rebuked as he retrieved his weapons. "Just chill out for once!"

Pacha, on the other side of the stairway, had found an opening on Bursai. For all the ferocity of her attacks, the blue Vorukaia had one blind spot in her cyclone. Creating a crack in the ground to offset Bursai's balance, Pacha then hurled mud from both of her weapons. Disoriented, her enemy burst from the water tornado, only to feel the blunt ends of Pacha's axes. Stunned, Bursai pitched forward.

It only took her a few moments to stand up again, but when she did, the blue Vorukaia found herself surrounded by a wall of stone spires, with a grinning Pacha behind them. Worse, Bursai had been immobilized by having her tail cuffed by a rock hoop. Try as she might, she could not create a cyclone to escape. "Fool! You think that can stop me!?"

Pacha shot a rock right between two of the spires, this time achieving Bursai's unconsciousness. "Yep, I sure can." Turning around, she saw that Attar had also succeeded in disabling his Vorukaia. He slung his knives across his back, then gave her a thumbs up.

Through sheer ingenuity, the tide had turned. But the battle was far from over.

 

------

 

Inside the throne room, Akito and Chompshi were also prevailing over Aso. Though the petite Makuta continued to fight on like a wounded Kane-Ra, it was obvious that she needed to replenish her powers. Having used all of her Kraata powers to block attacks at least once, and summoned a swarm of the shadowy creatures themselves, Aso had fought well. But it had become apparent that she was not as powerful in this form, and so was being beaten back by a Toa of Electricity far younger than herself. Worse, Akito had buried at least three laser arrows into her, which Aso had not been able to pull out. Now, she was trapped in a corner.

"You really can't defeat me, can you?" Still launching shadow blasts at an advancing Akito, Aso refused to give up. "I still can defeat an old, feeble Turaga."

"But not a fully-armed Toa." Chompshi had been staying behind his Turaga for the duration of the fight, and there was a reason for it. Slowly, he had been absorbing static electricity from the whole area, until his handheld canon had become bursting with lightning energy. As Aso parried Akito's staff again, she opened her flank. Chompshi aimed, then fired.

Though not nearly enough to stun, the blast hit Aso head on, causing her to be magnetically pinned to the metal floor and become seriously winded. Akito slowly walked up to her, then pointed his heated staff end at her throat. "It is over, Aso. Granted, I was once a Toa, and Toa do not kill. But after all the death, despair, and destruction you have wrought, it will bring me no shame to end your life when you care so little about mine and those of everyone else in this citadel. Do you surrender?"

Aso spat in Akito's face. "Do you think I am dumb, old one? Even as you speak, I have forces in motion that will give me more power than you can possibly imagine. And I will not do it alone. All your life's work has been for naught."

The Turaga frowned at her. "What are you babbling about?"

Aso sneered from pointed ear to pointed ear. "Just watch." Then, suddenly, the whole room became blanketed in darkness, as thick and murky as the Kumunga Swamp. Even the lights cast by Chompshi's cannon and Akito's staff were extinguished. As she did this, Aso also kicked away the fire staff, and dropped her own rank stave and cape. As the darkness cleared, she transformed into the shape of a Rahi bat, and blasted a hole in the Citadel wall with shadow energy.

And then she was gone, flying through the hole and vanishing rapidly in the distance. Akito could only painfully watch her disappear cackling dementedly, while Chompshi stared at the gaping hole with his mouth hanging. Unbelievable as it was, just as they had her, Aso had escaped.

Groaning in annoyance, Chompshi and Akito turned to help out Vrael. Chompshi's eyes widened in horror.

 

------

 

As Vrael began to become more and more angry, his battling style began to falter. Watching Ballom nimbly avoid all of the Toa's attacks, Vrael's desperation grew. Trying to plan out a new strategy, he suddenly realized how he could defeat Ballom. Willing himself to calm, Vrael began an exercise to quiet his rapid breathing. While his rage at Ballom stayed, his mind began to clear. Becoming more composed by the second, Vrael concentrated single-mindedly on the task at hand, thinking of nothing else.

Noticing Ballom's incredulous look at the sudden failure of his mask power, Vrael rushed at Ballom swinging his chainsaw. Unprepared for the onslaught, Ballom brought up one of his swords as a shield. Immediately, crystal spikes sprayed from Vrael's hand, knocking the sword away. Then, his chainsaw buried itself in Ballom's chest armor with the shriek of rending metal. Ripping his weapon away, Vrael stabbed at Ballom with his crystal staff, tearing off Ballom's metal collar. Moving in to finish the Toa of Darkness, Vrael fought with brutal strength, barely aware of his surroundings.

Suddenly, however, the throne room was plunged into inky darkness. Fighting for his life, Ballom was relieved to have a chance to win the fight himself. Transporting himself through the shadows, he reappeared behind Vrael and yanked off the Toa's Mask of Life Support. When illumination returned, Vrael had sunk to his knees and was breathing in great, gasping breaths. Raising his swords to decapitate Vrael, Ballom suddenly remembered.

 

------

 

Ballom stood in front of the crazed being Karzahni, unafraid. He had been brought before the leader of his home for punishment, due to yet another misdeed. After many long moments, Karzahni spoke. "Your punishment this time will be more severe." Karzahni's mask began to glow, as Ballom's surroundings faded around him.

Ballom found himself standing in a large, open room. Standing higher than he normally did, he possessed the armor and weapons of a Toa. In front of him was a blue armored Toa kneeling, and breathing with great difficulty. Raising his weapons in triumph, Ballom swung them in a single decapitating stroke. Falling forward limply, the Toa collapsed. Euphoric at his victory, Ballom was alarmed to hear a horrible scream — one of grief, pain, and anger. Turning, he froze. Running toward him was a yellow and crimson-armored Toa with a glowing cannon attached to one arm. Firing, the Toa launched a massive sphere of electricity toward Ballom.

The blast sinking into his chest, Ballom screamed in agony. No chest armor had appeared to save him. Looking down at the smoking hole in his torso, Ballom was able to see his heartlight stop glowing. Numbness spread throughout his body, and a horrible cold fell over him — that of death.

The vision ended suddenly. Ballom was once again a Matoran, kneeling in front of Karzahni in a way reminiscent of the blue Toa. Pain still filled him, and tears ran down his face.

"Remember the pain I can inflict." Karzahni said. And then he laughed . . .

 

------

 

Ending his reverie, Ballom paused. To kill the Toa Vrael would be to die. Even as he thought, Ballom heard Chompshi's terrifying scream. Realizing he had no time left, Ballom leaped to his right, trying to escape the shot he knew was coming. Even as he did, he was not swift enough. Chompshi's blast struck him in the left calf, vaporizing Ballom's lower leg. Then, the energy of the explosion knocked Ballom farther across the chamber.

 

Striking a wall, Ballom lay limp as the remainder of the electricity crackled off him. Then, he hoisted himself onto his knees and crawled toward the nearest door, ignoring the excruciating pain. Escape into the shadows meant life. To Karzahni with Punt Nui and Aso.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Aug 12 2014 - 12:09 AM.

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#28 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 12 2014 - 08:51 PM

Chapter 27

 

They wanted the mask. They, the Quntaino, beings created from the keystones of the mask, wanted it for themselves. And despite pointing the way to the mask while in their "eggs," the Quntaino had no idea where it currently was. Hanak almost wanted to laugh out loud at the cruel irony of it, though he feared he would scream in frustration instead. Knowing the Quntaino's current goal was worse than being clueless. Now, he and the Torika were stuck between courses of action. Kavan and Vukaz wanted to try to find the mask on their own, then hope they could defeat the Quntaino when the beings would inevitably attack to take it. On the other hand, Rieka and Zanta favored letting the Quntaino find the Zlinj first, then attempting to steal it. Finally, Thukor supported taking no action at all, seeing how the situation would develop by itself and trusting destiny.

Hanak himself was split between the three choices. The first two options might result in injury to his friends, or even death. Yet to do nothing would be to let the Quntaino win, a path Hanak was loath to take. Still, taking too long to decide would be achieving the same result. No, the decision had to be reached soon. Hanak unconsciously began to pace back and forth in Akito's hut, attempting to reach a decision.

Suddenly, he heard a timid knocking of the door. "Come in," he said loudly. The door was then opened, as the other Torika and the Green One walked in, the latter almost hesitantly. Hanak gave them a questioning glance. "Yes?"

"I thought of someting you might be interwested in, so I brought da other Torikas in to show you." The Green One walked over next to Hanak. "Only Tuwaga Akito, Hakeahu, and I knowed of dis." He paused, seemingly unsure.

"What is it?" asked Thukor curiously.

"Dere's a certain cavern on Mount Tongawu dat contains a pwophecy created by Tuwaga Akito many years past. I don't know exactly what it says, but it may help yous guys out. Maybe it says someting about da Quntaino." This proclamation had a remarkable effect on the Torika. They all began conversing excitedly with one another. Only scraps of dialogue could be heard.

"May affect the whole situation—"

"—completely turn this around—"

"Wonder what it—"

"—why Akito didn't mention—"

"Quiet!" yelled the Green One. "We haff no idea what da pwophecy says. Yous guys need to go see da cave on you own."

"But how are we supposed to do that?" wondered Vukaz. "It can't be in plain sight, or else Rahi would have come and destroyed the prophecy long ago."

"Nah, I don't tink so. You see, you hadn't come here yet, but when I first cwashed on dis island, many years ago, Tuwaga Akito took a special intewest in me. While I was adjusting to de island life, learwning the Rahi tongues, and building a hut in da jungle, Akito told me about dis pwophecy. He saw dat I cared for da Rahi and da island vewy much, and because of it, he would twust me wiff dis ting. And dat because of dis knowledge, I might be able to save Terra Nui should it ever be thweatened by da Rahi and land-spawned cweatures demselves. So dat's why I knows da pwophecy is still out dere. 'Cause only I knows where it is."

The Torika seemed stunned. Akito had given them remarkable authority after being islanders for only forty years. And yet, he had possessed a secret that would affect the fate of the island, and hadn't even told the Toa themselves! Maybe it was their destiny for something to happen on this island, and this prophecy would lead the way to the defeat of the Quntaino. It was the only option, but being the new leaders, the Torika were willing to try it. As the ancient saying went, you did not have to be a Toa to be a hero.

"Well then," Hanak finally said, "it must be hidden away somewhere very remote. And, if I'm not wrong, you must know how to get there." He gave the Green One a look. "Right?"

A smile spread across the Green One's face. "Of course I do. Otherwise, why talk to yous guys?" Reaching into a pocket of his, the Green One pulled out an old map of Mount Tongaru, cracked and faded over the years. Spreading it flat on a table, he began to outline the route to the group. "Now, here's where yous needs to go . . ."

As the Torika hunched over the map, intent on nothing else, a shadow outside the window slowly moved in, watching the group's every move, listening to all of the Green One's directions. Once the Green One finished his guide several minutes later, the shadow vanished, returning to its master. Soon, it gloated, they would posses everything they needed to win.

 

 

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#29 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 13 2014 - 08:50 PM

Chapter 28

 

With Pacha and Attar able to help the other Toa, the tide of battle had turned. Lyse was still sparring with Vynku, while Heaka was battling Talau. This left the Toa of Ice and Stone to aid Matoba and Nuukor respectively, who had begun to tire against the furious onslaught of Gurza and the crafty fighting of Amun. Now, it would be only a matter of time before the Vorukaia were defeated.

Vynku had led Lyse up to the top of the spire, where they were engaging in aerial combat. The Toa of Air had turned into a buzzing Xotohk wasp, using sharp wings and spear-like stinger to lash out at the white Vorukaia, while at the same time shooting cyclones and other air blasts. Vynku, however, was trying to pierce Lyse with his own bladed wings, and was creating blasts of vacuum in the hope of incapacitating the Toa. It became clear that he could easily overwhelm Lyse as an insect.

However, Lyse decided to take a gamble. Just as Vynku launched his whole body at him, claws and talons outstretched, he quickly transformed into a Degu lizard and began to freefall, using sticky digits to hang onto the wall of the spire. Vynku, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Unable to pull himself away from his miscalculated lunge, he hit the staircase full-force, and then fell the long way to the ground. Screeching vile remarks at the Toa of Air, Vynku tried to pull himself upright, only to find himself coated in a sticky white substance that had glued his wings, legs, and head feathers to the floor.

"Think you're awfully smart, don't you?" He turned his head to the placid Nukepi snail sitting nearby, oozing to itself. "Just you wait, Air Toa. Once my kin and I free ourselves, you won't know what hit you!"

Meanwhile, Heaka had turned the victor against Talau in a similar fashion. After multitudes of rash charges and spitting venom, the catlike Vorukaia had become exhausted due to the fact that her enemy would liquefy herself, and then slide to avoid an attack. It had a while, but Heaka had figured out that Talau's tail would often arc around, and so was able to cement the moving appendage between two water-logged bricks. Then, as Talau tried to escape, Heaka turned the dirt floor below her into mud, effectively trapping her hissing female adversary.

Now only Amun and Gurza remained, brought back-to-back against the six advancing Toa. Gurza had fought like a mad Rahi beast for most of the battle, but it seemed he had tired of spontaneously combusting, and was instead using his wings and claws to inflict damage. Amun, on the other hand, had few wounds and seemed to be overall convinced of victory. "Well, Toa, it looks like you have taken out everyone except us, despite the greatest of odds. Perhaps maybe we should call it a draw?"

Matoba grinned back at him. "Not entirely, foul creature. We still have one more trick up our sleeve."

Nodding at the other Toa, he shot a blast of fire directly at Gurza. With the red Vorukaia absorbing the heat, he could not concentrate on much else. Taking advantage of this, Lyse and Heaka launched a jet of water and a wind blast at the same time, catching Amun up in a cyclone. Attar then froze the column of water, even as Amun began to break free of it. Just as Matoba's fire stream began to subside, however, Pacha and Nuukor unleashed their trump card. Nuukor shot a fully-charged electrical missile at the base of the curving staircase, just as Pacha released a massive crack on the floor. The great stone structure teetered for a second, and then collapsed in a rain of mortar, rocks, and bricks.

This avalanche completely caught Gurza by surprise, as he ignored the heat of Matoba's fire blast. However, this rockfall soon turned to burning lava from the heat of the stream of flames. Amun likewise was buried under the pile of rubble, as the other four Vorukaia were covered by the raining stones. The ceiling of the spire stood, but the ground began to shake in small tremors. Just as they had planned, Pacha and Nuukor had begun a chain reaction which would lead to the Citadel's collapse.

 

------

 

Inside the throne room, Chompshi, Vrael, and Turaga Akito had little time to contemplate how both Ballom and Aso had escaped. As the room had cleared of the shadows Aso had created, a series of jolts began to shake the foundation of the room. Chompshi used his mask power to scan the minds of Pacha and Nuukor, and then opened the door quickly as the Toa Terra ran inside.

"Well? Are the Vorukaia defeated?" Akito asked expectedly.

"Yes, we were able to bury them under the left spire's staircase. But without that support, the spire will soon collapse, and then the whole Citadel will implode under its own weight. We've got to get outside, and fast. We have to alert the Matoran!"

Thinking for a moment, Chompshi charged up his electrical cannon, and then fired, creating a jagged hole in the throne room wall. As the lightning blast dissipated after completing its course, the Toa could just barely see light in the distance. "Come on, let's get out of here."

 

------

 

For the Matoran outside, things were not going so well.

Despite coming up with numerous strategies of knocking out the attacking Vorukan, it seemed that the dim-witted troglodytes were actually winning. Using their brute strength and Rahi-like instincts, they had already killed several Matoran and were rapidly tiring the remaining two scores. Whetar himself had tried to improve his warriors' spirits by yelling out various war cries and encouraging words, but it appeared to no avail.

Rojax was still hammering away at him, apparently feeling just as strong and angry as he had when he had started the duel. "It all over, Matoran. We Vorukan the victors now!" And with that, the alpha Vorukan swung his drill hard against Whetar's Kanohi, causing the Ta-Matoran to stumble and fall on his back. As he dug his daggers into the ground and tried to rise, Whetar found Rojax's foot against his windpipe, as the Vorukan leader stood on top of him. Sneering maniacally, his nemesis raised both drills, ready to deliver the killing blow.

Suddenly, however, Rojax's eyes dulled, and he and the other Vorukan abandoned their attacks. Weapons ready, they looked around and sniffed the air in fear. It was then that the Matoran noticed a rumbling issuing from the ground, as small tremors shook the bloodstained battlefield. And, best of all, these tremors appeared to be issuing from the Citadel. Already the ancient edifice was shaking slightly, with pieces of stone, brick, and protodermis beginning to rain down from its spires.

Howling in panic, the Vorukan abandoned the Matoran completely and ran madly into the Hyuli forest, loping off as fast as they could with their tools above their heads. As Whetar and his warriors stood up and looked back at the Citadel, they could already see the eight Toa and one Turaga scrambling madly to get away themselves. Akito, leading the furiously running group, was apparently yelling something at Whetar.

"Run for your lives! Let's get away from this place of death, and head back to Pe-Koro! The Citadel is going to collapse!"

 

------

 

Inside the left spire, virtually nothing could be seen above or below the pile of rubble. Then, as the dust settled, a spindly arachnid leg burst through the wreckage, pulling out a mangled body covered in black and silver armor. Amun was alive!

Coughing dust, he surveyed his surroundings through his battered Kanohi, as the other five Vorukaia began to emerge from their prisons. From what Amun could see, the room's exit was completely blocked, and there was no way to get over the rubble blocking it. No, it appeared that it would be curtains for the Vorukaia. And it would be such a waste too! All that strength, intelligence, and the ability to transform into Rahi forms, all given to us by Lady Aso by a dip in energized protodermis! I can't let this horrible place become our tomb! I won't!

Turning around, Amun could see that his five comrades had succeeded in pulling only their heads or upper torsos out of their confined traps. "Come on, pull yourselves out, you imbeciles! We have to escape this place now, or we will be buried alive!"

"Why should we listen to you now?" Gurza growled at him. "There's no chance of escape. I say, we meet our demises with dignity, with courage! I ain't moving!"

Vynku spat in Amun's direction. "Me neither!"

"Get lost!"

"Just try to move me!"

"See you in Karzahni, coward!"

"Some leader you were!"

Amun looked around him, at the bricks and stone raining down. He could already feel the tremors increase in their intensity, and by now he had begun to panic and hyperventilate. "You are all insane, I tell you! This is our only chance to escape! Well, I'm not going to stick around!"

And with that, he assumed his spider form and begun to clamber up the wall of the spire with blinding speed, narrowly missing being hit by falling debris. Moving in a zigzag pattern, it took Amun only a few minutes to reach the top. Using his spider limbs to secure himself, he raised a spiky foot and prepared to punch a hole in the wall. From there, he could escape into the forest. Yes, there he would raise an army of Vorukan, and then hunt down every single Matoran on this Mata Nui-forsaken rock, and get his revenge on those infuriating Toa. All this, after just one strike through the stone.

"At last," Amun cried, "I am fr"

He never finished his sentence. At that very moment, the left spire of the Citadel gave way, totally collapsing inward and imploding into itself. As the stones and bricks from the top of the structure fell onto Amun like a hail of earth, he was torn from the wall and carried screaming into the bowels of the ancient building. After abandoning his former teammates, the leader of the Vorukaia rejoined them in death.

And as the spire collapsed, the whole rest of the building gave way, as the strategically-placed fire bombs Matoba had created detonated in turn. Metal, protodermis, and bedrock all gave way in a cacophonous explosion, as the very face of the Puntapau Plateau seemed to explode in flame. And then, in a dense cloud of dust and smoke, it settled as a mountain of rock and ash. There it would remain for centuries to come, until wind, rain, and erosion would carry the silt and wreckage out to sea.

Aso may have been long gone from Punt Nui, but she would never harm its inhabitants again. And now, the last trace of this foul female Makuta had been destroyed as well, never to return.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Aug 13 2014 - 08:50 PM.

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#30 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 14 2014 - 12:15 AM

Chapter 29

 

Senko stood facing the horizon, looking toward the edge of the water and the Hyuli jungle beyond. It was already near noon, and the Toa and Turaga Akito had been gone all morning. This of course, seemed to take forever to the elderly Chronicler. He walked over to where the fore-Matoran, Neesau and Jahpex, were using telescopes on the deck of the Hakeahu II to observe the jungle more closely. "See any sign of them yet?" Senko yelled up at them.

Neesau adjusted the sight of his telescope, and then the brown Po-Matoran grinned. "Yep, I can see them, coming up fast through the edge of the trees." He motioned to Jahpex, and the two fore-Matoran clambered down one of the Hakeahu II's ladders and jumped onto the ground by Senko. "Hey, everyone! The Toa and Turaga are approaching!" As Neesau finished speaking, the Pe-Matoran could already see the party of Matoran warriors, Turaga Akito, and the Toa crossing the river separating them from Pe-Koro.

After several more minutes, Akito reached shore and walked over to Senko. He then paused as the Toa Terra, Chompshi, and Vrael came over as well, amid a crowd of cheering Matoran. "Well, Senko, we fought long and hard, but in the end we were victorious. The Citadel is destroyed, the Vorukan have fled into the Hyuli forest, and the Vorukaia, Ballom, and Aso are nowhere to be found. You have been freed!"

"Aye, that's true, but it came at a great cost." Whetar came up to Akito and Senko, looking down in sadness. He turned to where Reda, Taiki, and Komo were bearing pallets carrying three dead Matoran. "We could not save them. I am sorry, my people."

The Turaga put his hand on the Ta-Matoran's shoulder. "With great victory comes great sacrifice. Rest assured, the Matoran here will not have died in vain. And after this day, Rojax and the Vorukan will not bother you again." Akito turned to Senko as he returned to the Toa. "I suggest you give this Matoran a rank of honor for his bravery. Without him, we could not have stormed the Citadel like we did."

Whetar's jaw dropped. However, this turned to a look of stern resignation as he motioned for his warriors to bury the bodies. Senko could only look back at the former Toa Sah with a slight smile. "That I'll do, Akito. That I'll do."

 

------

 

At the urging of the Matoran, the Terra Nui party had decided to spend one last night in Pe-Koro before continuing on their journey. The following morning turned out to be bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. All of the Matoran had even woken up at dawn to see the Toa and Turaga head off toward Kemet Nui.

Senko, Jahpex, and Neesau had already pulled the Hakeahu II into the shallows, and the elder of the village was now exchanging goodbyes with the Turaga. "Farewell, Akito," Senko told him, as he helped load the replenished supplies into the raft's cabin. "May the wind be at your back and the grace of the Great Spirit be with you always. And please, give my regards to Turaga Atemu when you arrive."

Akito bowed back at him, as the old Matoran hobbled back toward the beach. "Of course. I will not forget how you aided us. Until we meet again, Senko."

Meanwhile, the Toa Terra had given each of the Matoran a hug in turn, and were carrying their rucksacks and were ready to go. Chompshi and Vrael were the last to say goodbye. The Toa of Electricity had bid farewell to Whetar, rubbing the top of the Ta-Matoran's mask. "Thanks again for all your strategic help. If you are as good a Captain of the Guard as you have been a warrior, then who knows? You might make a mighty Toa someday."

Vrael had gathered all of the other warriors around him, and the sensitive Toa of Crystal was practically in tears. "I won't forget how kind you have been to me, ever," he replied, as the Matoran each bid him well. "Mata Nui willing, I will return here someday." With that, Vrael walked over to Chompshi, and then the two friends headed over to where the other six Toa were.

As they boarded their raft, the Toa Terra stashed their packages in the central cabin. Akito had started the pair of motors, and was already assisting Chompshi and Vrael in moving the outrigger paddles. The Hakeahu II was already starting to go out to sea, but when the Toa Terra joined them, the sturdy craft began to drift out farther in the waters. Even as they rowed, however, the Toa were sure to wave back at the crowd of Matoran on the shore. Akito had already pulled out his map and had begun to give directions. "Next stop, Kemet Nui!"

Although all the Pe-Matoran were sad to see their liberators leave, Senko felt the worst from the parting. It was more a bit of nostalgia, anyway. He glanced up at the orange and pink sky, effused with creamy blue swirls and filled with soaring, crying Gula. It seemed, perhaps, that this whole scene was missing something.

Supporting himself on his Chronicler's staff, Senko realized how much he missed the real elder of this land. The former Turaga, after all, had been a Toa Sah just as Akito had been. He would have loved to see his brother again.

Ah, Khepera, he sighed. If only you were here . . .

 

 

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#31 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 18 2014 - 09:34 PM

Chapter 30

 

Their snowshoe-like feet sloughing up the powdery snow around them, the Torika approached the section of Mount Tongaru where the prophecy was said to be held. After a long, winding hike throughout the area, over large crevasses and sheer outcroppings, they were almost there.

 

"I sure hope that we can grab the prophecy and go," shivered Zanta. "The cold here is miserable."

 

"I doubt the prophecy can be dragged away," replied Hanak, "Otherwise some Xotohk would have taken it long ago."

"Hey," remarked Rieka, "is that the cave there?"

 

The Torika fell silent. A few bio ahead was a rectangular opening in the mountain's face, almost completely obscured by the snow. Quickening their pace, the group was met by a blast of warm air at the cavern's mouth. Entering, they were surprised at how simple yet astonishing it was. The entire cave was large and circular in shape, with perfectly smooth walls. Encrusting the walls at equal intervals were rows and rows of yellow gems, which gave off both heat and a soft glow. In the center of the room was a pedestal, with a shiny tablet atop it.

Spreading out to observe more, the Torika made happy "ooh"s. One of the traits of their species was the ability to sense strong energy sources and respond to them. In fact, many of the Brotherhood of Makuta operatives on Shakaz used energized protodermis, huge lightstones, and even molten protodermis to transform other Torika into Sharaku. With this sense, the Torika could feel the immense energy emanating from the cave.

Hanak, nearest to the pedestal, put his hands on the edges of the tablet. Immediately, his fingertips filled with a tingling sensation. Removing them, he set them on the pedestal's gems. Soothed by the warmth they gave off, he turned his attention back to the Matoran script on the tablet.
 

There was a time before the swell,
Before part of the island fell
When there sat a power enthroned
Like deity in its abode.
Until an outside threat pervasive
Came with great force invasive.
With seven demons then he bore
An armed conquest into war.
Until six champions then rose
To right the wrongs and heal the woes.
And then a being brave and strong
Used it to correct the wrong
And then its power came to rest
In bottom of an ancient chest.
Finally its influence waned
Along with all the power gained.
The heroes of this land will then
Have found the power within.

Hearken now! Redemption brings
Healing down on shining wings.
Fighting death with claw and tooth
From darkness then shall come the truth,
Emerging from thunderous sound
Of the island's strength unbound.
The guardians shall leave at last
To find the forger of the mask.
And only six who shall remain
The little servants of those slain
Will lead the way and find the power
To save the land in darkest hour.
Yet in these desperate times will see
That not the greatest enemy
Will seal the treasure in a portal
Rendering keeper immortal.
Thus will begin a brighter morn,
Once again the balance reborn.

 

Finishing reading, Hanak's mind reeled. The prophecy said "Yet in these desperate times will see that not the greatest enemy . . ." If that were true, then the Quntaino were not beings to be repelled and destroyed. If it were true, then the Quntaino were . . . meant to win? Suddenly, Hanak felt incredibly dizzy. Seeing the world spin around him, he grabbed onto the pedestal with both hands, touching several of the gems on it. However, the gems were scorching, many times hotter than they were moments ago. Pulling his hands back with a scream, Hanak fell backward onto the stone floor. The burning sensation receding, he looked at his fingers.

Incredibly, the gems he had touched had come off of the pedestal and attached to his fingers. Even as Hanak stared, the gems took on an almost liquid state, flowing over his hands. Confused, he set a hand on the wall, standing up. However, making contact with the wall caused a dozen gems to yank away from it and attach to him, flowing up his entire arm. Panicking, Hanak began accelerating himself around, trying to dislodge the gems. As he did, he noticed the other Torika were in similar predicaments. Then, his power suddenly shut itself off, throwing him into a wall at high speed. Before Hanak fell, scores more gems adhered to him, forming a glowing cocoon around him.

Within moments, the other five Torika were immobilized as well, crashing to the floor. Then, as one, the gems glowed with a blazing light, and released a wave of energy. Filling the entire room, the wave destroyed all of the gems remaining on the walls, as well as the snow in the cave's entrance. As the snow vanished, it removed all trace of the Torikas' footprints, as well as several prints which looked vaguely reminiscent of an Ash Bear's.

Then, in an inferno of radiance, another form of deliverance arrived on Terra Nui.

 

 

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Edited by Ballom, Aug 19 2014 - 12:18 AM.

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#32 Offline Ballom

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Posted Aug 18 2014 - 10:49 PM

Epilogue

 

Atop the highest pinnacle of the Sharakoro Islets, a lone figure stood facing out to sea. A hulking being more than a two bio in height, he was covered in muscle. From his thick, strong legs to his spiked shoulders, to his large Ash Bear-like head, he was an imposing figure. Almost mammalian in appearance, he nonetheless projected an intimidating air, born chiefly from his unique eyes. Instead of the soft, round eyes of most Rahi he possessed red crystalline ones, which glowed with a burning inner light. He was Argentaros, leader of the Quntaino, born of the keystones atop Mount Tongaru with a single goal.

As a slight breeze rippled his coat of magnificent silver fur, Argentaros clenched clawed hands into fists angrily and growled through razor teeth. Digging his sharp toenails into the rock face, he searched the area with his gaze. Despite the secrets his crystal eyes saw, one eluded Argentaros. After being guided to the Sharakoro Islets by an internal compass, in addition to the evidence of Nosfernox and Icrizahk, his quarry was not there. The culmination of a month's toil had been for nothing, for the mask was not there.

Somewhere, somehow the Mask of Nature had vanished to another location. In all likelihood, it was lost at sea forever. Even generations of Matoran might not ever see it in their lifetimes. Reeling back as if struck a physical blow, Argentaros roared across the archipelago in rage and defiance.

How could it be gone? How? He felt the Zlinj there, right beside him! His plan had been flawless and executed perfectly. No obstacle had risen to oppose him, no roadblock in the way. Yet failure was all he found. However the plan had not utterly failed. He had his followers positioned all around the island, monitoring the Matoran and Torika. At any moment they could control all of Terra Nui. Argentaros's rage dissipated, replaced by steely determination, his crystal eyes glowing brighter.

No, Argentaros would not let that setback ruin his plan. Destiny was on his side, even if it took years for him and the others to achieve their goal. Victory would not elude him, not when the alternative was so great.

He would let nothing stand in his way. He would have his triumph.

 

To Be Continued . . .


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