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A Mind in Darkness


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#1 Offline Pahrak #0579

Pahrak #0579
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Posted Jul 21 2014 - 12:30 PM

Part I

 

Nokama leaned on her trident and sighed deeply.  She stood before the Suva of her village, examining the twelve compartments where Kanohi were to be stored.  Six were meant to hold Great Kanohi—they had remained empty ever since the village had been built 200 years ago, as the Great Kanohi had been scattered around the island so as to provide a challenge for the Toa who would one day need them.  The remaining compartments were intended to store Noble Kanohi to be used by both the future Toa and the Turaga herself.  These six had been filled immediately, but now, only five masks remained.

 

She shook her head.  It had been near fifty years since her Matatu had mysteriously disappeared, and though many brave Ga-Matoran had ventured out in search of it, not a single one of them had returned.  Nokama could only imagine what had befallen them.

 

A rustle behind her caught her attention.  A Matoran wearing a blue Komau could be seen attempting to hide behind some harakeke, watching the Turaga with disturbing focus.  When she realized Nokama had spotted her, she hesitantly stepped out, hanging her head in embarrassment.

 

“Um…I’m sorry, Turaga,” she said.  “I was just…um…”

 

Nokama turned to face the Matoran.  “You were not going to volunteer again, were you, Vhisola?”

 

“Turaga, I don’t understand why you won’t let me go.  I can find the mask, I’m sure I can—please just give me a chance!  I promise that I—“

 

Nokama held up one hand, silencing Vhisola.  The eager Matoran had been one of the very first to offer to lead the search, but Nokama had refused on the ground that she was not experienced enough.  She had hoped that would be the end of it.  Vhisola, however, was stubborn.  In response to this, she had begun to train her survival and disk-throwing skills, and had repeated her offer every time the call went out.  Nokama had refused each time, but…she was running out of options.  She turned back to the dome-shaped shrine.

 

“…You have grown,” Nokama said.  “Surely, you are much more qualified than you were years ago.”

 

Vhisola’s eyes lit up at this.

 

“But this mission is extremely dangerous—even more dangerous than I first expected.  I do not want to see you harmed, Vhisola.”

 

“I won’t be harmed,” Vhisola replied.  She clenched her fists in determination.  “There’s no way I’d let myself be stopped, not by anything!  Please, Turaga, just let me show you what I can do!”

 

What Vhisola could do was part of the problem.  Nokama had known Vhisola for longer than the Matoran remembered.  She knew that Vhisola possessed a frightful intensity, and suspected that it may on occasion drive her to do things that were…not entirely called for.  Putting her in a high-risk situation would make her a wild card.

 

Then again, she did need a place to focus all that energy.  A quest such as this would surely give her a chance to funnel her efforts in one direction, and could actually help her learn control.  So long as she was kept from doing anything reckless…maybe if she was sent with a companion?

 

“Vhisola…I don’t suppose you know where Macku is, do you?”

 

***

 

Macku poked her head up above the water and looked around.  Once she was sure the coast was clear, she climbed up onto the shore and headed towards where she had hidden her boat.  She ran up to the line of bamboo and moved aside a large clump of seaweed, revealing her craft resting in the soft sand beneath a rocky outcropping.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Macku stumbled back in shock, falling flat on her back.  Vhisola, who was inside the boat, looked down at her with a slightly smug expression.

 

“Augh, why is it always you that catches me, anyway?” Macku grumbled.  “Looking for something to run and tell Nokama about?”

 

“No running will be necessary.”

 

Slowly, Macku turned towards the trees lining the cove.  Nokama emerged from behind them and, with no hurry at all, made her way over to the two Matoran.

 

“Turaga Nokama!” Macku said, leaping to her feet.  “What a surprise!  What brings you out here?”

 

Nokama gave Macku a stern look.  “Sneaking off to explore again?”

 

“N…not at all.  I was just going to go fishing.”

 

Vhisola kicked something around inside the boat.  “Then these koli balls are…bait?”

 

Macku glared at her for a moment before turning back to Nokama.  Before she could come up with an excuse, Nokama said, “Well, at least you are already packed.  I have something to ask you…though you may refuse if you wish.”

 

The Matoran responded with a confused look, but remained quiet.

 

“Vhisola wants to go after the lost Kanohi.”

 

Macku nodded—this certainly wasn’t news.

 

“I want you to go with her.”

 

“…What?”

 

“You are one of the most skilled Matoran on this island, and your exploration has given you a vast knowledge of its landscape.  If Vhisola is going to do this, then she needs someone there to watch her back, and I cannot think of anyone more qualified than you.”

 

Macku looked down.  She knew that Nokama worried about Vhisola, and while she did want to help her fellow Matoran, she had no great desire to get near someone who could make the Turaga nervous…least of all be alone with them on a long and dangerous journey.

 

Vhisola got out of the boat and walked up to Macku.  Looking her straight in the eye, she said, “Macku…I know we have our differences, and to be perfectly honest, I would rather do this alone.  But since Turaga Nokama won’t let me do it alone…please come with me.  I won’t be any trouble—I just want to find the mask.  If you just tag along, I can take care of everything, and then I’ll repay you later.”

 

“…Well, you’re certainly not lacking in confidence,” Macku muttered.  “Sincere as you may be, I’m just not convinced you’ve got what it takes.”

 

“I am,” Nokama interjected.  “She does not, however, have what it takes to do it alone.  Vhisola, you will need to work with Macku—your Unity will be essential if you are to survive out there.  Do you understand?”

 

Vhisola nodded.  “Yes, Turaga.”

 

The Turaga’s words helped alleviate some of Macku’s doubts, but not all of them.  She crossed her arms and thought hard.

 

“…Do we even have a plan?” she asked.

 

Nodding eagerly, Vhisola pulled a tablet from her satchel.  A map of Mata Nui was printed on it, with crude carvings scrawled all over.

 

“I collected everything relating to the mask: where the past expeditions went, which places they cleared before disappearing, and plenty of stories from all around the island that seemed relevant.”

 

“Okay.  How do you plan to proceed from there?”

 

“I say we head in this direction.”  Vhisola traced a path from Ga-Koro towards Ko-Wahi.  “Not many Matoran went this way, and a lot of Ko-Matoran have mentioned strange events in the general vicinity.  But if nothing’s there, I also heard some Le-Matoran talking about—“

 

Macku yawned.  With a grunt, Vhisola said, “Hey, pay attention here!”

 

“Look, it sounds like you don’t really know where to start.  Chase too many leads and you won’t get anywhere.”

 

“If you have any suggestions, feel free to—“

 

“How about Nixie?  I’m no expert, but she can predict all sorts of things from the stars, right?  Maybe you should ask her if the stars say anything about where the mask might be?”

 

Vhisola shook her head.  “That’s ridiculous.”

 

“Actually,” Nokama said, “that’s not a bad idea.  Nixie knows about the mask as well, so she might already be working on a relevant prophecy.  Your information might shed new light on her findings.”

 

Vhisola froze up for a moment before eventually lowering her gaze.  “O-Oh…yes, Turaga.  I apologize.”

 

Macku smirked.  She turned to leave, but Nokama set a hand on her shoulder.  “You’ll come as well, won’t you, Macku?  Whatever Nixie tells us could change your mind.”

 

“Um…right,” Macku grumbled.  “I’d be happy to come along, of course.”

 

***

 

Nixie adjusted the telescope gently, keeping her sight focused on the group of stars she was observing.  This instrument was nowhere near as powerful as the Great Telescope further down the coast, but the Rahi activity in the area had skyrocketed lately, making it unsafe to venture out.  The tiny telescope poking out of her hut was the only way she could keep working right now.

 

The door opened behind her.  Not looking up, Nixie said, “I wonder, did the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign just fall off, or have Matoran chosen to abandon literacy in these trying times?”

 

One of the visitors cleared her throat.  A chill ran up Nixie’s spine.  Spinning around, she said, “T-T-T-T-Turaga Nokama!  I am SO sorry, I didn’t—augh!“

 

In her haste, Nixie tripped over her telescope, bringing it crashing down on top of her.  Macku laughed, “Charming as ever, Nixie.”

 

Nixie gripped the edges of her mask, adjusting it so that it blocked her line of sight.  She didn’t want to make eye contact after a stunt like that.

 

Nokama extended a hand.  “Are you alright, Nixie?  Come, you two, don’t just stand there.”

 

Vhisola immediately set the telescope back up, allowing Nixie to get back on her feet with the Turaga’s help.  Macku shifted a bit to seem like she was invested.

 

Th-thank you, Turaga,” Nixie said, still not quite making eye contact.  She looked around at the cluttered mess in her hut nervously.  “Again, I’m really, truly sorry about my rudeness.”

 

Vhisola was about to say something, but Nokama cut her off with a smile.  “That’s quite alright, Nixie, no harm done.  Have you found something interesting?”

 

“Um, yes!  Well, maybe.  I don’t know for sure yet, but it looks interesting, I just need to get a clearer look at it so that I can carve it down, and then after that I should be able to…”

 

Realizing she was babbling, Nixie trailed off and caught her breath.

 

“Or, rather…this would appear to be an interesting discovery, but I will need to study it more before I can say for sure.  It can wait.”

 

Nokama nodded.  “I see.  Well, I wish you the best of luck in your studies.  If we could interrupt, I have a rather strange request…by chance, have you noticed anything in the stars that may relate to the Kanohi Matatu?”

 

“The Matatu?” Nixie repeated, putting a hand to her mask.  “I’ve certainly been looking—the stars don’t really have much to say, which I can’t say is very surprising…not that that’s discouraged me, of course; what I mean is that it’s very much a work in progress.  I tried reading the sea as well as the stars, but that’s a new theory of mine that hasn’t really been tested, so even though I’m implementing it I don’t know if it’s a very reliable source of—“

 

“Oh for the love of Gali: yes or no?!” Vhisola groaned.

 

Nixie shot Vhisola a glare.  Nokama gave her a very stern look of disapproval, which prompted her to apologize.

 

“…Anyway,” Nixie said, “I don’t have an exact answer.  There are some bits and pieces that might help, but they’re too vague for me to say anything for sure.”

 

“Would you mind if we looked at what you have?” Nokama asked.  “Vhisola has gleaned some possible leads as well.  If we compare her information with yours, we may learn something new.”

 

Nixie nodded and walked over to a pile of tablets set against the wall.  After sifting through them for a minute or two, she pulled three of them out and went back to the telescope.  She set them down and looked up at Vhisola.

 

“Let me see,” she said, extending her hand.

 

Hesitantly, Vhisola handed her tablet to Nixie.  The astrologer scanned it over quickly, mumbling to herself as she did so.  She then set the tablet aside and looked over her own tablets—Vhisola watched her closely, but she couldn’t make any sense of the drawings and numbers scratched over the stones, so she could only wait patiently as Nixie worked.

 

“This…might actually…”

 

Vhisola’s heartlight jumped.  “You’ve found something?”

 

“Possibly,” Nixie said, her tone extremely uneasy.  “This rumor from Onu-Koro, about ‘phantom Matoran’ disappearing into the dark tunnels…it matches up with one of my prophecies.  But this is one of the prophecies I formed by reading the sea, which, as I said, is experimental.  The ocean reflects the stars at night, the major ones, at least, so you can trace the big constellations—but the ocean also ebbs and flows, undulates, creates ripples, provides a lot of effects that distort the image of the stars.  If you interpret the distortions, and the effects they have on the constellations, then sometimes you can…”

 

She looked up to see Vhisola’s eyes boring holes into her.

 

“…er…nevermind the specifics, actually.  I’m saying that it might be a bit of a long shot, but this is the only story here that seems consistent with anything I’ve seen in the stars.  The prophecy says that Onua’s domain will become infested with souls corrupted by the Makuta, and that they will rob Mata Nui’s people of…well, something.  I couldn’t get a good reading of exactly what.  The signs point to object of great power, though.  Very possibly a Kanohi.”

 

Vhisola grinned with excitement at the news.  Macku, on the other hand, was dumbstruck.

 

I…didn’t think she’d actually have anything…

 

“Do you hear that, Turaga?” Vhisola said.  “We know where the mask is!”

 

“We might know where it is,” Nixie corrected.  “It’s not like this is direct from the mouth of Mata Nui, Vhisola.  There’s plenty of room for Matoran error here.”

 

“But it’s consistent!  It’s the best lead we have right now, better than anything we’ve ever had before!  That has to count for something!”

 

Nokama’s grasp on her trident tightened.  Something about this prophecy—“souls corrupted by the Makuta”—gave her a terrible sense of foreboding.  She had always suspected Makuta to be involved somehow, but to know with certainty that he was this close to it made her question whether or not it was right to send these Matoran on their quest.

 

Vhisola approached Macku.  “You’re coming, right?  This was your idea, so you can’t back out of it now!”

 

Flustered, Macku said, “I…I never said that I’d go if this worked…it was just a suggestion, remember?  Besides, you heard Nixie: this is a long shot.  Should we really risk it?”

 

“Of course we should!” Vhisola stated without a moment’s delay.  “Don’t you see?  Makuta took the Matatu so that Turaga Nokama couldn’t use it to defend Ga-Koro.  He’s been lying in wait this whole time, luring Ga-Matoran out one at a time, and when our numbers get low enough…for all we know, he’s thinning us out in preparation for one big attack!  He might even end up stealing more of the Turaga’s masks before this is over!”

 

The air grew thick.  Nokama was impressed with Vhisola’s analysis—it certainly sounded like something the Makuta would do.

 

Perhaps I should be afraid of how well she understands his thoughts…

 

“That’s absurd,” Macku said after a moment.  “Why would the Makuta want to attack Ga-Koro?  We’ve been here for hundreds of years, and he has plenty of the island’s Rahi on his side.  If he wanted us gone, he would’ve done it by now.”

 

“Do not be so sure, Macku,” Nokama said.  “The Makuta is a very cunning being.  Rather than obliterating us in one fell swoop, it would come as no surprise if he would prefer toying with us first, letting us think we stand a chance before finally claiming victory.”

 

Macku shuddered a bit.  Nixie said something, but it was too quiet for anyone to understand.  When all eyes turned to her, she repeated herself, though it was still barely audible.

 

“A-actually…I did discover a prophecy…it said that Ga-Koro would be set upon by powerful monsters…the village’s very existence will be at stake…”

 

Vhisola looked at Macku, her eyes bright with determination.  “Will you refuse now?  The fate of our whole village might rest on this mission.”

 

Macku averted her gaze.  “…Nixie…that prophecy’s from your sea-reading, right?”

 

Nixie shook her head.  “It was only a few degrees off from being in the Red Star’s orbit.  I don’t need to tell you what that means, right?”

 

Vhisola watched Macku closely as she mulled it over.  Nokama looked from one to the other, and then sighed.

 

“I couldn’t stop you if I tried,” the Turaga said under her breath.  “Vhisola, in the light of this new information…I will allow you to take this quest regardless of Macku’s answer.  If she says no, then I will want to replace her with a few other capable Matoran, however.”

 

Smiling to Macku, she said, “Do not feel as if you are under any pressure.  I told you right away that you could refuse, and that option is still available to you now.”

 

Macku’s foot began to tap against the floor of the hut.  Vhisola continued to stare, not with any anger, not even with expectation or hope.  She merely wanted an answer.

 

“…How are we going to get to Onu-Koro?” Macku finally asked.  “The Kofo-Jaga nest still hasn’t been removed from the nearest tunnel.  We’ll need to take the long way around.”

 

Nokama couldn’t help but smile.

 

“Well, if you’re really going to do this, I’d recommend going through Po-Wahi,” Nixie spoke up.  “You can sail there easily, and it’ll get you one step closer.  I have a friend out there—Midak—he’s an Onu-Matoran who has trained some ussals to carry people from Po-Koro to Onu-Koro a lot faster.  You’re on your own from there, though.”

 

Vhisola nodded.  She started for the door, but Nokama said, “Vhisola!  Nixie has offered you a great amount of assistance, and now you leave without a word?”

 

“Oh…I’m sorry, Turaga.”  Turning back to Nixie, Vhisola said, “Thank you for everything, Nixie.  We wouldn’t be able to do this without you.”

 

Nixie shrugged.  “Yeah, but…I’m not so sure I’m really doing you any favors.  If I’m right, it’s going to be really dangerous out there.”

 

Vhisola smiled.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll be back with that mask before you know it!”

 

 

Review


Edited by Noise #0579, Jul 21 2014 - 09:05 PM.

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#2 Offline Pahrak #0579

Pahrak #0579
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Posted Jul 22 2014 - 09:50 AM

Part II

 

Macku held a hand over her eyes to block out the harsh sunlight.  She could see better this way, but the effort was still futile: the vast plains of sand all looked the same to her.

 

“Are you sure we’re heading in the right direction?”

 

“Positive,” answered Vhisola, who walked several paces ahead.  “I’ve been keeping track of the rock formations we’ve passed, and we’re on the right path.”

 

Macku looked around again.  There were a few rocks scattered about, but…

 

“Don’t tell me an experienced explorer like you can’t tell the difference?”

 

With a grunt, Macku said, “I’ve never gone this deep into Po-Wahi, so of course I don’t know how to tell one rock from the next.  This place is a deathtrap I have no desire to return to.”

 

“Just keep moving.  We’re almost to Po-Koro.”

 

Macku’s pace remained slow until she could see carvings lining the path ahead.  She squinted, able to make out the village walls through the sunlight, and then overtook Vhisola and rushed right up to the gate.  Two Po-Matoran saluted at their approach: one with a black Matatu, another with a brown Kakama.

 

“Welcome to Po-Koro!” greeted the former.  “We don’t see Ga-Matoran up here very often.  Is there something we can help you with?”

 

Vhisola had caught up by now.  “We are on a mission of great importance for Turaga Nokama.  Allow us to rest here for the night.”

 

“…Please,” Macku added.

 

One of the guards—the one with the Kakama—was staring at her.  Facing him, she asked, “Something…wrong?”

 

“Oh, uh, no!” the guard said.  “I apologize—that was rude of me.  Why don’t I take you to see Turaga Onewa?  He can arrange a place for you to stay, and he would probably like to hear about your mission as well.”

 

“Alright, let’s be off,” Vhisola said.

 

The Po-Matoran waved to his companion.  “You alright to watch by yourself, Ally?”

 

“Of course.  I can easily handle a few angry Rahi on my own, Hewkii.”

 

Hewkii nodded, then motioned for the Ga-Matoran to follow him.  The inside of Po-Koro was no less sandy than the exterior, but was crowded with many huts, bazaar stands, and Matoran in contrast to the emptiness of its surrounding area.  Immediately to their left was one hut that was larger than the others.  Hewkii walked up to the doorframe and cleared his throat.

 

“Turaga Onewa!  Two Matoran from Ga-Koro are here, claiming to be on a mission for Turaga Nokama.”

 

“For Nokama?” replied a voice from inside the hut.  “That’s strange.  Well, come in, all of you!  I’d like to know more.”

 

Hewkii ushered the other two inside, hanging back near the door while they stepped forward.  The hut was fairly empty, but line upon line of expertly-made carvings were set upon stone shelves, making it almost seem like a meeting place.  On one side, under a window, was a desk and seat, where a tan-armored being was working on a small stone with a hammer and chisel.  A longer, staff-like hammer lay against the edge of the desk.

 

I hope you’ll forgive me—I want to carve in these details before I forget,” the Turaga said, looking over his shoulder for just a moment.  “Set it down too long and I’ll lose the idea I had for this piece.  I tell you, nothing sadder than picking up an incomplete carving and not being able to see its finished state any more…”

 

“We take no offense, Turaga,” Macku said.  “Thank you for meeting with us on such short notice.”

 

“Yes, notice,” Onewa said.  “That’s what’s odd—Nokama usually sends word if anyone comes up here on a mission.  Really, Nokama isn’t one to give out ‘missions’ at all.  I’m guessing you two left on short notice too?”

 

“We did,” Vhisola said.  “You see, Turaga, one of the masks of power was stolen from the Ga-Suva, and though—“

 

“Oh, yes, yes,” Onewa interrupted.  He paused to blow some dust off of his sculpture.  “It’s been gone for some time now, hasn’t it?  Nokama’s mentioned that.  But as I recall, those who have gone in search of it…haven’t come back.”

 

“This time will be different!” Vhisola declared proudly.  “We have a prophecy to guide us now!”

 

“A very vague prophecy derived through untested means,” Macku clarified.  “But…yeah.  A prophecy.”

 

Irritated by Macku’s lack of conviction, Vhisola clenched one fist and said, “I’m sure it’s accurate.  We’re on our way to Onu-Wahi, where something is being guarded by corrupted souls.  What else could it be?”

 

Onewa chiseled in something and chuckled.  “Eh, prophecies.  Never did get the big deal about those.  Still, I guess it’s something the others didn’t have…and if it works, I certainly won’t argue.  We’ve lost far too many good Matoran.”

 

He set down his tools.  Grabbing his hammer staff, Onewa got to his feet, picked up the carving, and turned around.  The sculpture was only a few inches tall, and depicted a large armored being with a curious Kanohi brandishing two drills.

 

“There, all done.  What do you think?”

 

Vhisola and Macku exchanged glances.  Half-heartedly, Macku said, “Um…it’s very nice.”

 

“It’s excellent, Turaga!” Hewkii said.  “Your craftsmanship is surely second to none!”

 

Onewa sighed.  “I guess some cultural differences will always exist.  Well, that’s not important.”

 

He started to wrap the sculpture in cloth as he said, “To be honest, I wish there was something I could stay to stop you two.  But, if you’re out here, then that must mean that you and Nokama have all accepted the risks involved.  And by now I know better than to argue when Nokama’s made up her mind.  So!”

 

The Turaga tightened the cloth and held out the carving.  “All I will ask is that you deliver this to Whenua for me, since Onu-Koro is along your way.”

 

Macku took the gift and put it in her pack.  “Of course, Turaga.  That will be no trouble at all.”

 

Vhisola nodded.  After a moment, she bowed a bit awkwardly.  “Thank you for respecting our resolve, Turaga.”

 

Onewa smiled.  “Hewkii, would you mind escorting our guests while I find some suitable arrangements for them?”

 

Hewkii bowed.  “It shall be done, Turaga.”

 

With that, the three Matoran left the hut, and Hewkii lead the Ga-Matoran through the village.  A few Po-Matoran looked up in curiosity, but none of them seemed bothered.

 

“What does he mean ‘escort’?” Macku asked.

 

“We just like to keep a member of the Guard with our honored guests,” Hewkii said.  “It helps keep the others from pestering you, and this way I can get you anything you need without any delay.”

 

Macku grumbled, “Right, sure.  So we’re just wandering around until the Turaga comes back, are we?  I know you can’t be pleased with this.”

 

This remark was directed at Vhisola.  Shifting a bit, she replied, “I’d rather be furthering our quest, of course, but…Turaga Nokama says we should pace ourselves, especially given how dangerous the island is right now.  I can manage staying here until morning.”

 

“Ugh, it’s always Nokama Nokama Nokama with you.”

 

“She’s our Turaga!  We owe her so much—how can you not look up to her?”

 

Shrugging off Vhisola, Macku tapped Hewkii’s shoulder.  “Where’s the koli field?  You Po-Matoran always talk a good game, and I want to see if you can live up to it.”

 

Hewkii smiled.  “Oh, you won’t be disappointed.  Right this way.”

 

***

 

The stands surrounding the field were empty, but a small number of Matoran could be seen practicing their kicks inside the arena.  Macku ran up to a stray ball and kicked it against the wall—it bounced back, so she blocked it with her head and then pinned it to the ground with her foot.

 

“Now this might just make the trip worth it!  Who’s up for a match?”

 

Two Po-Matoran heard her challenge and came closer.  Vhisola was long gone (Macku saw her in the stands out of the corner of her eye), so Hewkii stepped up and said, “I’m in.”

 

Macku looked him up and down.  “I thought you were a guard?”

 

Hewkii puffed out his chest.  “Yes, but I’m also the greatest koli player in Po-Koro!”

 

“Best on the whole island is more like it,” said one of the other Matoran.

 

“The whole island, huh?” Macku said.  “Hm…alright, you—watch my goal.  Hewkii, you and I will play the field.”

 

While the other two went to the goalposts, Hewkii said, “I see you’re interested in a challenge.”

 

“Oh, it’s not so much that.  It’s more that I want to take that fancy title away from you.”

 

The ball was set in the center of the field, with Macku and Hewkii both a short distance away from it.  Another Matoran had been called over to referee, and, after making sure everyone was in place, gave the call to start.

 

Hewkii leapt at the ball right away, but Macku remained perfectly still.  The Po-Matoran kicked the ball lightly, intending to lead into a maneuver for getting down the field, but suddenly, Macku lunged and snatched the ball right out from under him, and rushed down the field with it.  Adjusting quickly, Hewkii followed her.  Macku cut right to try to throw Hewkii; he followed closely, though he wasn’t able to get the ball back.  When the Ga-Matoran headed for the goal, Hewkii moved around to block her, so she kicked it up into the air and jumped.  Hewkii jumped too, but Macku had expected this—she kicked the ball back down and, as soon as she dropped, sent it flying right beneath Hewkii and directly into the goal.

 

The goalkeeper was stunned.  Hewkii ran over to him, saying, “Hey, show some effort!  You can’t just stand around like that or you might get hurt.”

 

“Sorry, I just…wasn’t expecting that.”

 

“What, that shot?”

 

“I mean, I wasn’t expecting her to be this good…”

 

Hewkii frowned.  “You should’ve been able to tell by now that she’s an expert.  Just don’t let your guard down again, okay?”

 

“Er, right.”

 

Hewkii brought the ball back to the center and took his position.

 

“I’ll give you a chance to replace your goalkeeper if you want,” Macku offered.

 

“No, he’s good now.  Let’s keep going!”

 

As the second round started, Vhisola leaned back in her seat, bored already.  She closed her eyes for a moment to get some rest.  However, she soon felt a shadow cast over her.  Opening her eyes, she looked up to see a Po-Matoran wearing a jet black Rau over his face, smirking down at her with barely concealed arrogance.

 

“Hello,” he greeted.  “Welcome to Po-Koro.  Hey, I bet a Ga-Matoran like you would be interested in buying a pet Ghekula, right?”

 

Vhisola sat up.  “…Why would I want a pet Ghekula?”

 

The Po-Matoran leaned in closer.  “These aren’t any old Ghekula.  These are lucky Ghekula.  Guaranteed to make all your wishes come true, and for a very reasonable price.”

 

Vhisola’s expression changed slightly.  Something for granting her wishes would certainly be nice, but…

 

“What was your name?”

 

He extended his hand.  “Ahkmou.  Nice to meet you.”

 

A puzzling thing happened.  Vhisola was sure they had never met before, but for some reason, just hearing that name made her skin crawl.  Regardless, she shook his hand and replied, “Vhisola.  So…where do you get these lucky Ghekula?”

 

“Oh, it’s a very dangerous place.  I can’t stand the thought of my fellow Matoran endangering themselves, so I’ll get one for you if you’d like.”

 

No, you just want to be the one to profit, Vhisola thought.

 

“How do you know that they’re lucky?  Do you have some sort of proof?”

 

“I’ve seen them in action myself!  I can’t even begin to tell you how many great things I’ve seen them do.”

 

Well, I believe that last part.

 

“No thanks.  I wouldn’t be able to take it with me on my mission anyway.”

 

Ahkmou cocked his head.  “Mission?  What do you mean?”

 

Vhisola smiled and said, “I’m on an important quest for Turaga Nokama.  She has lost something important, and it’s my duty to get it back for her.”

 

“Something important, huh…” Ahkmou muttered.  After saying something under his breath, he added, “Well, I see, then.  Good luck in your quest, Vhisola.”

 

He left rather quickly.  Vhisola was a little confused at his haste, but she paid it no mind.  Her eyes glanced back over to the field, seeing that both teams were now tied at one point each and were about to start another round.

 

Macku got the ball first, again.  This time, however, Hewkii was able to keep up with her, and took the ball over to the corner of the field.  Macku blocked him off; he shuffled around a bit, looking for an opening, until Macku kicked the ball free with one swift motion so that it bounced off the wall and onto the open field.  She took control of it then, managing to almost make it to the goal before Hewkii kicked it away from her, and then pursued him as he tried to double back.

 

Hewkii pulled his leg back to kick, but Macku suddenly did a sliding dash, sending the ball flying out towards the wall again.  It ricocheted with immense force, and Macku jumped and flipped, kicking the ball while she was upside down in mid-air, sending it screaming all the way down the field and right into the goal.

 

“That was…amazing!” Hewkii said.

 

Macku landed and stood back up with a shrug.  “Oh, that?  That was nothing.”

 

They moved back towards the middle of the field, and Hewkii said, “Come to think of it, we didn’t properly introduce ourselves, did we?  I’m Hewkii.”

 

“And I’m Macku, the actual best koli player on the whole island.  But I’ll admit, Hewkii, you’re the best opponent I’ve had in a long time.”

Hewkii laughed.  “I’m glad to hear you say that!  Okay, next round!”

 

As she watched, something suddenly clicked in Vhisola’s mind.  She wondered if she should do something, but then her attention was soon drawn away by the arrival of Turaga Onewa, which also brought the game to a halt.  She regrouped with Macku and the Turaga said he would take them to the hut where they would be staying the night.

 

“Well, thanks for playing,” Hewkii said.  “Hey, um…if you’d like, you could come back to play more later.  It’s a lot of fun playing with you, so I’d be honored.”

 

Grinning, Macku said, “It’s definitely fun, but trekking through the desert is really exhausting when you’re not a Po-Matoran.  I need to get some rest, but…I don’t know, I might come back if I feel up to it later.”

 

“Okay!  I’ll be here practicing for the rest of the day, probably, so whenever.”

 

He waved as Macku left with Vhisola and Onewa.  Vhisola watched him very closely for a moment, and then turned to face where she was going.

 

***

 

Macku yawned and looked up at the ceiling.  The hut was small—there was hardly enough space for the two beds—but it didn’t really matter if they were just staying for one night.  If nothing else, it was cool inside, which was all Macku was really asking for.  It was still the late afternoon, but—

 

“Macku?”

 

She turned to look at Vhisola.  Her companion was facing away, so Macku wasn’t sure she had actually heard her.

 

“Are you going to go back to the koli field?”

 

Macku looked back at the ceiling and answered, “I don’t know.  Why do you ask?  I’m surprised to see you invested in my activities.”

 

The hut fell silent for a few moments.

 

“I think you should go back,” Vhisola said quietly.

 

“Huh?  Why?”

 

“That Po-Matoran…he said he would still be there.”

 

“Yes, but I didn’t say for sure that I would be back.  Staying here won’t be the same as cancelling on him.”

 

“…He’s fond of you.”

 

Macku sat up.  “What?”

 

“He cares about what you think.  He was trying to impress you, and he really wants to see you again.”

 

“Okay…what makes you say that?”

 

“It’s just something I know how to notice.”

 

Macku rolled her eyes.  “Alright.  But still: why do you care?  I don’t get it.”

 

Vhisola said nothing at first.  Then, very slowly, she said, “When you care about someone…when they don’t acknowledge you…it leaves you with a terrible, unyielding feeling of emptiness.  There aren’t words to describe how horrible that feeling is.”

 

Whatever response Macku was expecting, it certainly wasn’t this.

 

“It’s probably not that severe—you two just met, after all.  But sometimes you feel a bond with a person the instant you lay eyes on them.  It might be nothing, but…I mean, we have to leave tomorrow, to get back on the trail of Turaga Nokama’s mask.”

 

Suddenly, Macku understood.

 

Vhisola sighed.  “Nevermind…I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”

 

The silence returned.  It was broken when Macku got on her feet.

 

“I guess I’ve rested enough for now.  Besides, he is pretty fun to play against.  I’ll see you later, alright?”

 

Vhisola grunted in reply.  Macku stared at her for a moment, and then headed outside and back down the street.

 

***

 

“Did we really need to get up so early?” Macku asked, trying not to yawn.

 

“I told you, I don’t want to waste any time,” Vhisola said.  “Besides, if we leave while the sun is low, we’ll be underground before it gets too hot.”

 

“I guess that makes sense…”

 

The two of them trudged on through the desert.  Eventually, Vhisola asked, “So…how was the game with Hewkii?”

 

Macku smiled as she said, “It was…fun.  He almost beat me, actually.  I might actually make the trip back up here to play him again.”

 

“Good,” Vhisola said, nodding jerkily.  “Good.”

 

They didn’t exchange any more words until they came upon a cave entrance built into the rocky wall of a small hill.  An Onu-Matoran sat on a rock next to the entrance, with a pen of ussal crabs just behind him.  He stood up when he spotted the travelers.

 

“Hello there!  My name is Midak.  If you’re on your way to Onu-Koro, I can lead you there on these ussal crabs, free of charge.”

 

“Oh, Midak!” Macku said.  “You’re the one Nixie told us about.”

 

“She told you about me, you say?” Midak replied.  “Well, that was sweet of her!  I hope she told you good things, haha!”

 

“How long will it take us to get to Onu-Koro by ussal?” Vhisola asked.

 

Midak turned to the pen and narrowed his eyes.  “Hm…those three look to be in good shape this morning,” he said, making a vague pointing gesture.  “I’d say it’ll only take an hour at most.”

 

“That’s fantastic!” Vhisola said.  “Let’s go, right away!”

 

As Midak got the crabs saddled, Macku asked, “Are you sure we don’t need to pay you?”

 

“I don’t do this for money, I do it because I love it.  I’d be insulted if you paid me!  Now, be sure to hang on tight—ussals can be a bumpy ride if you’re not used to them, and I don’t want anyone getting injured.”

 

When all three had mounted their Rahi, Midak directed his into the tunnel opening and urged it forward.  Macku and Vhisola followed.  As the sounds of the crabs faded away, another Matoran pulled up to the entrance, this one riding on a dikapi.

 

“Hmhmhm…you’re really going for it, then.”

 

Ahkmou dismounted and stood at the tunnel’s entrance.  “Thanks for the info, Vhisola.  This is sure to win me some points.”

 

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Edited by Noise #0579, Jul 24 2014 - 09:57 AM.

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#3 Offline Pahrak #0579

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Posted Jul 23 2014 - 09:29 AM

Part III

 

The Ga-Matoran walked through Onu-Koro, trying not to trip over anything.  The lightstones hanging about made it easier to see, but the lighting was at a level Onu-Matoran were comfortable with, which still made it difficult for outsiders to navigate.  Luckily, it was not a long walk from where Midak left them to the Turaga’s hut, so they managed.

 

A Matoran standing at the door stood up straight at their arrival.  “Greetings, sisters.  What is it that brings you to our fine village?”

 

“We are on a journey at the request of Turaga Nokama,” Vhisola answered.  “Also, Turaga Onewa has asked us to deliver something to Turaga Whenua.”

 

“Very well.  I shall see if the Turaga will allow visitors.”

 

The Matoran disappeared into the hut for a few seconds before re-emerging.  “This way.”

 

It was surprisingly bare inside the hut.  A few stalactites hung from the ceiling, and a portion of the far wall remained rough and uncarved, with a stone replica of a Kanohi Ruru hung on it as decoration.  Whenua stood beneath it, watching his visitors silently.

 

“Turaga Whenua,” Macku said, bowing.  “We bring you a gift from Turaga Onewa.”

 

She drew the package out of her bag and held it out.  Whenua gently took it and unwrapped the carving, cracking a small smile at it.

 

“You obnoxious hammer-swinger,” he grumbled.  Eyeing the carving’s mask more closely, he added, “You make these tiny mistakes solely to agitate me, don’t you…”

 

Whenua set the gift down and turned back to the Ga-Matoran.  “Thank you for bringing me this.  Onewa sends me these every now and then—it’s nice to know he’s still his old self in these dark times.”

 

“If I may ask, Turaga…what is it?” Macku said.  “It looks like a Toa, but not any of the depictions of Toa I’m familiar with.”

 

“This is a Toa from a different telling of the legend,” Whenua answered.  His tone almost sounded sad.  “Yes, a very old telling…but the mask is misshapen.  For all his skill, one would think he could fix a flaw such as that with ease.”

 

Before Macku could ask anything more, Vhisola said, “We do have another purpose here as well.  Turaga Nokama has sent us on a quest, and it has led us to this Wahi.”

 

Whenua frowned.  “I suppose you are searching for the Matatu, then.  Many of your sisters came through here on the same journey…before they disappeared, that is.”

 

“We believe the mask is in the same place that Onu-Matoran have been disappearing,” Vhisola said.  “Could you please direct us there, Turaga?”

 

Whenua stared at her for a moment before chuckling softly.  “You speak so casually, almost as if you don’t understand the danger you are heading into.”

 

Vhisola’s gaze hardened.  “With all due respect, Turaga, I know full well the danger I’m getting into.  I shall not let something like petty fear sway me.”

 

“Petty?  There is nothing petty about preserving life, Vhisola.  You must want to reclaim the mask so that Nokama can better defend Ga-Koro, correct?  That is a desire for protection.  Exercising caution here will certainly not clash with your goal.”

 

“Forgive her, Turaga,” Macku said.  “Vhisola has been waiting a very long time to make this journey.”

 

Whenua nodded.  He paced across the floor a bit, deep in thought, and then looked at the visitors once more.  “I shall send a few members of the Ussalry with you.  Greater strength lies in numbers, after all.  Allow me time to gather them, as well as the necessary supplies.”

 

They thanked the Turaga and left his hut.  The Matoran out front, who they discovered was named Onepu, was called in and asked to select a few individuals he thought would be suited for the task.  As he left to do this, Macku decided to follow him out of boredom.  Vhisola stayed behind to wait.

 

As they walked, Onepu asked, “So, what is it that convinced you to do this?”

 

“Huh?  What do you mean?”

 

“Vhisola’s reputation precedes her.  Even we in Onu-Koro know about her tendencies to be rather…shall we say…fanatical.”

 

“…Well, I was kinda dragged into it, really.  I certainly didn’t like the idea of going out travelling with Vhisola, of all Matoran.”

 

She paused.

 

“But…I think the reason she acts that way is just because she wants Nokama to recognize her.  I used to think she was just Turaga’s pet, following her every word, trying to get a medal or special treatment or something.  Now, I’m not so sure she wants anything like that.”

 

Onepu scoffed.  “Well what else is there?  I can think of no reward greater than the fame and honor of serving the Turaga.”

 

“…Sure.  What I mean is, I don’t think she really wants a reward.  At least, not something we would consider a reward…if that makes sense.”

 

“It doesn’t.”

 

“Hm, I’m not entirely sure myself.  All I’m saying is that I think the common understanding of Vhisola’s motives might not be accurate.”

 

“Then you don’t regret coming along with her?”

 

Macku grunted.  “I’ll let you know when we get back from whatever deathtrap awaits us.”

 

***

 

Onepu was at the front of the procession, holding a lightstone high enough that it could show the way without hurting the eyes of the ussal he rode on.  The Ga-Matoran were behind him on ussals of their own, with two other members of the Ussalry flanking them, and all four carried their own lightstone so as to help them remain extra vigilant.

 

The tunnel they were heading through was very wide, but it was extremely dark—it was recently discovered and very far underground, so the miners had yet to hang up lightstones properly yet.  Before they could, they had begun to disappear, so Whenua had declared it off-limits for the time being.  The Ussalry members were not pleased to be here.

 

“You’re sure this is where you’ll find Turaga Nokama’s mask?” asked one of them.  “Because otherwise we’re risking our lives for nothing.”

 

“Calm down, Damek,” Onepu ordered.  “You have the great Captain Onepu on your side!  Nothing will go wrong, so long as I’m here.”

 

“How many Onu-Matoran have vanished?” Macku asked.

 

“Not quite a dozen,” Onepu answered.  “Still, any loss is unacceptable.  Hopefully we’ll discover what became of them on this journey.”

 

“This is a waste of time,” Damek protested.  “We’ve been down here for hours now, and we haven’t found anything at all.  I say we head back.”

 

“We’re not going back until we have the mask,” Vhisola said sternly.

 

“The mask might not even be down here!  Why should we trust some crackpot prophecy when—“

 

“Shh!”

 

Onepu suddenly pulled his ussal to a halt.  Something was moving just at the edge of his lightstone’s glow.  Dismounting, he drew a disk and edged forward very slowly.  The movement stopped, and a figure came into view.  It was an Onu-Matoran, but he had his back turned to the group, instead staring at an empty stretch of wall.

 

“…Tehutti?” Onepu said.  “Tehutti, is that you?”

 

He relaxed.  “Thank Onua.  We were worried when you disappeared like that, but it looks like you’re safe.  Tell us what’s going on down here, will you?”

 

Tehutti gave no response.

 

“…Hey, Tehutti.  Say something.  What’s wrong?”

 

Onepu reached out and grabbed Tehutti’s shoulder.  Stiffly, Tehutti turned around, and the others got a look at his Kanohi.

 

Its surface was pitted and covered in rust.

 

Macku’s eyes shot wide.  “Onepu, get back!”

 

She was too late; Tehutti punched Onepu, sending him sprawling on the ground.  Fortunately, this provided an opening.  Macku threw a disk and knocked the Kanohi off of Tehutti’s face.

 

“Uuuggh…” Tehutti muttered, falling to his knees.  “Wh-what…what happened…?”

 

“Infected Kanohi,” Macku said.  “This is bad.  We should go back and get more Matoran to help us.”

 

She started to turn around, but Vhisola stopped her.  “Why would we go back?  You’ve taken care of the problem.”

 

“You really don’t get it, do you?!” Macku said.  “He’s not the only one who disappeared, remember?  What do you think happened to—“

 

She was cut off by a shuffling sound.  Onu-Matoran and Ga-Matoran wearing infected masks moved in from both behind and in front of them, cutting off any means of escape.  Onepu got back on his feet and pulled Tehutti behind him.

 

“Just stay down, Tehutti,” Onepu said.  “Try to conserve your energy.”

 

Readying her own disk, Vhisola said, “The prophecy mentioned ‘souls corrupted by Makuta’, didn’t it?”

 

“This would seem to be them,” Macku said.  “We really have walked into a mess here, haven’t we…”

 

Vhisola laughed.  Whirling on her, Macku said, “This isn’t the time to be laughing!  Do you not understand what’s going on?”

 

“Don’t you?” Vhisola asked.  “This means that the prophecy is right.  And that means Turaga Nokama’s Matatu is down here after all!”

 

Macku stared at her, dumbfounded.  “…Your priorities are seriously messed up…”

 

Vhisola stood up on her crab and took a throwing stance.  “All we need to do is knock their masks off, and then we can go get the Matatu!  Don’t falter now, anyone!”

 

“I guess she’s motivated, if nothing else,” Macku said.  “Just remember, these are our people—we only need to knock their masks off, so don’t hurt them.”

 

Vhisola nodded and then sprang into action.  She knocked the mask off of one Matoran with a well-placed disk, and then ran in to catch it as it returned.  One of the infected Matoran charged at her, but she blocked his attack with the disk and then bashed her elbow into his face, knocking off his mask.

 

An infected Ga-Matoran leapt at Macku.  She ducked, letting the Matoran hit the ground behind her, and then knocked the mask off before she could get up.  Another Matoran tried to attack her while she was doing this, but she had plenty of time to throw her disk, freeing him as well.

 

“Agh!”

 

Damek was on the ground, being dragged off by two infected Matoran.  Onepu was still busy protecting Tehutti, so Macku ran in and swiftly dispatched them to set the guard free.

 

“Er…thanks,” Damek muttered under his breath.

 

Vhisola returned to the group and surveyed the area.  They had knocked out most of their attackers, but a handful of Ga-Matoran had forced the other Ussalry member, Kaj, into a corner.  He was fending off their attacks, but he had no chance to retaliate; Vhisola considered assisting him, but when she saw Onepu going to help, she decided against it and went after an Onu-Matoran trying to get away.

 

Macku was watching as well.  Onepu freed a few of the Ga-Matoran, but one of them got a hit in and knocked his mask off, making him collapse from the sudden loss of energy.  The Matoran prepared to push the advantage, but Macku ran forward, pulled her disk back, and threw.  Once the attacker was down, she checked on Onepu.

 

“No, not that one,” Macku said, watching Onepu about to grab an infected Kanohi.  Handing him his regular mask, she stood back up and, after verifying that all the infected Matoran were freed, sighed in relief.

 

“This explains a lot,” Onepu said once his mask was back on.  “All the miners disappearing…all the Ga-Matoran who went missing on their quest…”

 

“The mask must be ahead,” Vhisola said.  “Let’s push forward.”

 

“Are you joking?” Kaj asked.  “We have to get these Matoran back to Onu-Koro—if we don’t get Kanohi for them soon, they’ll pass out.  We can come back later for the Matatu.”

 

Vhisola shook her head.  “Makuta might move the mask in that time.  We need to get it now.”

 

“No,” Onepu said.  “Kaj, Damek, and I will be escorting our injured friends out of here.”

 

“Well, I’m going forward,” Vhisola said.

 

All eyes turned to Macku.  She thought about it for a minute, and then hesitantly said, “I…can’t let Vhisola go alone.”

 

Vhisola nodded.  She headed off with her ussal, and Macku returned to her own crab.  Onepu said, “Your loyalty is admirable.”

 

“It’s not exactly loyalty,” Macku said.

 

“Regardless…do you think she would show you the same kindness?”

 

Macku didn’t have an answer for that.

 

“Just something to think about,” Onepu said.  “Whatever you might think about Vhisola’s motivations, her behavior is undoubtedly troublesome.  It would be unwise to trust your life to her.”

 

The Ussalry revived the fallen Matoran and directed them back up the tunnel towards the village.  Macku urged her crab deeper into the darkness, hoping to catch up with Vhisola before she got into trouble…although, the silence of being alone for a moment gave her a chance to think.

 

Vhisola probably wouldn’t be willing to risk her life for me.  I don’t really mind that; it doesn’t necessarily mean she’d just let me die.  She wouldn’t do something like that…would she?

 

She thought back to the battle.  About how Vhisola had seen Kaj in danger and just left him be.  That certainly didn’t inspire any confidence…

 

Macku shook her head.  Don’t think too much about it.  We’ve dealt with the infected Matoran, so hopefully the worst should be behind us.

 

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Edited by Noise #0579, Jul 24 2014 - 09:57 AM.

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#4 Offline Pahrak #0579

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Posted Jul 24 2014 - 10:01 AM

Part IV

 

Macku caught up to Vhisola outside of a narrow tunnel entrance that could easily have been mistaken for a crack in the wall.  “It must be in here,” Vhisola said.

 

“You’re jumping to conclusions,” Macku said.

 

Vhisola entered the tunnel first.  Macku followed, holding her lightstone close so that she wouldn’t hit it against the wall and drop it.  The tunnel kept going for a few minutes before eventually emptying out into an unlit chamber.  The two Matoran walked forward slowly, making sure the path ahead of them was clear and staying alert for whatever might happen.

 

“Do you see it?” Vhisola asked.

 

“I don’t see anything,” Macku whispered.  “Keep your voice down—we don’t know if there might be Rahi or more infected Matoran in here.”

 

“I can still hear you just fine,” replied a third voice.

 

Macku and Vhisola froze.  Lightstones in the walls suddenly began to glow, casting faint illumination over the chamber.  It was unexpectedly large—about half the size of Onu-Koro, actually—but it was completely empty save for three Matoran.  The third was a Po-Matoran, standing with his back turned to the Ga-Matoran on the far side of the room, moving as if he held something in his hand.

 

Macku drew her disk and shouted, “Who are you?  If this is some sort of trap, then—“

 

“Oh, settle down,” he interrupted.  “At least give me a chance to congratulate you.  After all, you’re the first ones to successfully find it.”

 

He stepped aside.  A pedestal could now be seen, and atop it sat a Noble Kanohi Matatu.

 

Vhisola yelled.  She dashed towards the mask, but the Po-Matoran turned and held one hand up, calling, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”

 

She stopped.  “…You…I met you in Po-Koro, didn’t I?  You said your name was…Ahkmou?”

 

Ahkmou smiled.  The powerless Rau on his face had been swapped for an infected one, but only for show.  Makuta need not exert the effort to directly control the mind of one already under his sway through other means.

 

“I’m touched you remember me,” he said.  “We Matoran are so terrible at remembering things.  I suppose I left a strong impression, then…”

 

Vhisola’s eyes fell, and she saw the object in Ahkmou’s hands.  It was a hammer.

 

“Yes, well, I suppose I should get down to it,” Ahkmou said, walking around behind the pedestal.  “Makuta sends his regrets for not being able to appear personally.  He’s very busy, but I’m sure we can all understand that, right?  He also sends his compliments, for being able to make it past the other Matoran.  Wise as he is, I can’t help but feel that might be a bit too kind, seeing as you did have help…but I suppose it’s not my place to argue.”

 

Vhisola reached for her disk.  “Ahkmou…if you’re thinking of doing what I think you’re about to do…”

 

“What’s that?  Oh, yes, I was just getting to that.  You see, Makuta still doesn’t want this mask getting back into Nokama’s hands.  I suggested he just move it, but he feels that wouldn’t be the most sporting move—you found its hiding spot, fair and square, so you win the game.  Hooray!”

 

He threw his fists up in a mocking cheer.  He let one hand fall, but the other, the one holding the hammer, he kept at about eye level.  Looking at the tool with a bored expression, he said, “Again, I respectfully disagree.  Just for the record.  But, even if you win the hunt, we can’t let you have the prize…though, as a small token of respect, he did order me to wait and let you watch.”

 

Ahkmou raised the hammer high.  Macku threw her disk, but he batted it aside.

 

“Hah!  Now watch as your precious Kanohi is—“

 

“HAAAAH!”

 

Without Ahkmou realizing it, Vhisola had broken into a sprint and was now almost upon the pedestal.  She gave a cry and lunged, tackling Ahkmou to the ground.  He tried to throw her off, but she persisted, slamming him down again, twisting his wrist until he dropped the hammer.  Ahkmou tried to reclaim it, but Vhisola sent it sliding away with her foot.

 

“Why you…!!”

 

Ahkmou bashed Vhisola in her stomach.  She recoiled a bit so he tried to escape, but in seconds she charged with newfound strength, pinning him against the wall.

 

“How dare you…” she muttered.  “How DARE you!  Turaga Nokama’s Kanohi are sacred, and if you would even consider destroying one…”

 

Ahkmou grunted.  “Aren’t you taking this a little seriously?  It’s only a—“

 

Vhisola punched him in the back of the head.  Ahkmou’s face slammed into the rock, his mask being set askew in the impact.

 

“Only?!” Vhisola said.  Vast amounts of rage could be heard in her voice.  If Ahkmou didn’t know any better, he’d say it sounded like she wanted to kill him.

 

…Actually…what’s stopping her?

 

Macku walked up to the pedestal and took the Kanohi.  “Vhisola, we’ve got what we came for.  Let’s remove the infected mask and take him back with us.”

 

Vhisola turned her head.  Macku stepped back, surprised at the almost feral look in her eyes.

 

“You think we should take him back?  What for?  This monster nearly destroyed that mask!  It’s our duty to punish him for his crimes!”

 

“…Our duty was to reclaim the mask, nothing more,” Macku said, as calmly as possible.  “Besides, he’s only acting this way because of the infected mask.  Makuta’s just using his body like a puppet.  You can’t judge him for it when he isn’t in control.”

 

Vhisola turned back to Ahkmou, growling in fury.  Unconvinced that Vhisola had calmed down, Macku wracked her brain for something else to say.  Before she could think of anything, Vhisola leaned in closer to Ahkmou, and whispered something.

 

“Makuta, then,” Vhisola said.  Her tone was hushed, and she was very deliberate with every word.  “I take it you can hear me.  I’ll be brief, so listen, because I won’t repeat myself…if you defile the Suva, steal from Turaga Nokama again…I personally guarantee that you’ll regret it.”

 

Ahkmou was stunned.  Is she actually trying to threaten Makuta…?  What sort of lunatic is she?

 

“Alright,” Vhisola said, turning back to Macku.  She looked a bit more composed now, much to Macku’s relief.  “We can take him back to Onu-Koro, at least.”

 

She moved to grab Ahkmou’s Kanohi.  Seeing an opportunity, he jabbed with one elbow, hitting Vhisola in the gut and making her stumble.  He tore himself free and ran down the wall of the chamber, making for the spot Makuta had told him about before leaving him here.  Vhisola recovered, throwing her disk and knocking him flat, but he threw himself forward and used the momentum to land in just the right spot.  Ahkmou tapped the wall, and a piece of it receded.

 

The entire chamber shook violently.  Rocks fell from the ceiling, prompting the two Ga-Matoran to regroup and search for shelter.  A portion of the wall fell away, revealing a small tunnel entrance, and Ahkmou hastily retreated through it.

 

“Protect the mask!” Vhisola said.

 

“What about us?!” Macku shouted.  “There’s no cover here—we have to try to get out!  Let’s head back for the entrance!”

 

They doubled back across the chamber as fissures began to appear beneath their feet.  Macku tripped over one of the rocks jutting up, sliding forward and losing her grip on the mask.  Vhisola stopped to scoop up the Kanohi, inspecting it to make sure it was okay, much to Macku’s annoyance.  She was willing to ignore it and keep moving, though…until the section of ground she was on started to fall.

 

“Vhisola!”

 

Vhisola looked to see Macku reaching.  She dove and grabbed her hand just before it went out too far, keeping her other hand firmly around the edge of the Matatu, and looked past Macku into the ever-widening fissure beneath her.

 

“V…Vhisola…pull me—“

 

She was drowned out as the ledge crumbled further.  Vhisola slid towards the edge, digging in with her feet, but it wasn’t enough to stop.

 

“Grab something!”

 

“I can’t!” Vhisola shouted back.  “I might lose the mask if I let go of it!”

 

“For crying out loud, Vhisola, are you seriously willing to die for that thing?!”

 

Vhisola looked her in the eye.  “I thought that was obvious by now!”

 

Macku didn’t have a response for that.  The ledge seemed to be settling, but Vhisola continued to slide.  As she drew nearer to the edge, her hand moved—still holding onto the mask with two fingers, she dug the other three into the dirt, securing a handhold just as her feet flew out into open space.

 

“Grrrgh!”

 

Somehow, Vhisola’s grip was enough to keep her from falling.  Macku clung to her other hand and tried to keep calm.  Vhisola’s grunts of pain continued, evidence that the weight was quickly proving to be too much for her.

 

“Vhisola, this is serious,” Macku said.  “You can’t pull us back up like that.  If we’re going to get out of here, you need to let go of something!”

 

Vhisola looked around.  Her eyes settled on Macku.

 

“…No, that…that’s not what I meant!”

 

Silently, Vhisola looked back up at the mask.  Macku instantly grew panicked.

 

“V-Vhisola, don’t you dare!  Don’t even think about letting go!  Do you hear me?!”

 

Vhisola didn’t respond.

 

“VHISOLA!”

 

“BE QUIET!”

 

Vhisola pushed her head up against the rock.  Her mask twisted, nearing the point where it would be dislodged.

 

“What are you doing?!  Do you plan on killing us both?!”

 

“I said be quiet, alright?!  Now listen to me!”

 

She took a deep breath, and looked back at Macku.

 

“When it falls…kick it back towards me.”

 

“…What?”

 

“Right at me!  Can you do that?”

 

“I don’t even know what you mean!”

 

“Just do it!  If you miss, then we both die!”

 

“Wait, don’t!”

 

Vhisola closed her eyes.  Gathering every ounce of strength she had left, she tensed her muscles and let go of the Matatu.  Within instants, she dug her now-free fingers in to get a better grip, and then hit the wall once more to knock off her own mask just as Nokama’s fell past her.

 

Macku understood now.  She knew it wouldn’t be long before the loss of her Kanohi made Vhisola weak, so she angled herself and did a kick.

 

Her foot struck the Noble Kanohi, launching it straight at Vhisola’s face.  It locked on.  Shouting, Vhisola used the rush of energy to pull up on Macku, lifting her so that she could grab the wall herself and let go of Vhisola’s hand.  Macku scrambled up to safety as fast as she could.  Vhisola was still drained from the effort, so Macku grabbed her and pulled her up.

 

The chamber had finally grown still.  The two Matoran lay sprawled out on solid ground, both gasping for air and waiting for their hearts to stop racing.

 

“…I…” Macku breathed.  “I seriously thought…that you were going to…”

 

Vhisola shook her head.  “I couldn’t...face the Turaga…if I lived…and you died…”

 

They waited out the exhaustion without saying anything else.  When Macku could move again, she sat up and looked back across the fissure.  “Ahkmou’s gone.”

 

Vhisola didn’t seem to care.  She got to her feet and then, to Macku’s surprise, removed the Matatu.

 

“Hey, what are you doing?!”

 

Vhisola fell to one knee.  Macku tried to get her to put the mask back on, but she refused.

 

“No, no, I can’t.  This is Turaga Nokama’s mask—I’m not fit to wear it.  I won’t soil it any more than I have to.”

 

Macku stared at Vhisola for a moment.  Then exasperation overtook her.

 

“Are you kidding me?  Are you freaking kidding me?!  You think you’re soiling that mask just by wearing it for a few minutes?!  That’s completely ridiculous!!  You seriously think Turaga Nokama cares if you wear her Kanohi?!  You think she’s going to get offended or something?!  No way in Karzahni would the Turaga be that petty, and you of all people should know that!!  You won’t make it back to Onu-Koro without a mask, you numbskull—how does that work to Nokama’s benefit?!  She’d be more than happy to let you wear that mask until we can replace it—heck, she’d probably let you parade around Ga-Koro in it for being the one who, after decades of seeing this impossible task go unfulfilled, actually found and recovered the darn thing!!  Gali help me, if I have to jam that thing onto your face every ten seconds, you’re going to at least wear it until we get another Kanohi in Onu-Koro!!”

 

True to her words, Macku slammed the mask back onto Vhisola’s face, putting a little too much force into it and knocking her companion over.  Vhisola was too stunned from the outburst to say or do anything in response.

Macku took a deep breath and sighed.  She stepped forward, bent, and offered a hand to Vhisola.

 

“Come on.  Our mission’s not complete until we get that back to Nokama, right?”

 

Slowly, Vhisola took Macku’s hand.

 

 “…Right.  Let’s go.”

 

***

 

Macku stood outside the gate to Ga-Koro, piling rocks in the pressure plate that controlled the lock.

 

“Ugh, this one’s too heavy…”

 

Vhisola sat a short distance away, scratching her new mask.  It was the same shape as her previous one, but the material didn’t feel quite right—she hoped that feeling would go away when she put on a layer of sea pearl wax, as most Ga-Matoran did to reduce water resistance.

 

She gazed at the Noble Kanohi in her hands and reflected on their return journey.  They had stayed an extra day in Onu-Koro to recuperate, and then the Ussalry had escorted them to the surface so that they could head back through Po-Koro.  Macku had met up with Hewkii and learned that Ahkmou had returned to the village, where his infected mask had been removed and he had returned to normal life…more or less.  Onewa had still been eyeing him suspiciously when they left.

 

“Good thing the way back was uneventful, huh?” Macku said, tossing aside another rock.  “I guess you scared Makuta with what you said back there.  If any Matoran could do it, I’d believe it if it were you.”

 

Vhisola smiled.  “You’re not the most pleasant Matoran either.”

 

“Heheh, maybe not.  I think my company is more appreciated in Po-Koro—I plan to visit there much more often now.”

 

She placed another rock in the plate, and the lock rotated into place.  The gate opened, and Macku shouted victoriously before picking up her pack and waving to Vhisola.  Vhisola stood up and joined her, and they walked into the village together.

 

Nokama waited in front of the Suva.  When she heard them approaching, she turned around, and her eyes went wide at the sight.

 

“Macku…Vhisola…!  Oh, thank Gali you’re alright!”

 

Macku stopped walking and smiled at Vhisola.  Nervously, Vhisola stepped forward and bowed, holding the Matatu out towards the Turaga.  “Turaga Nokama…your Kanohi Matatu.”

 

Nokama gently took the mask from her hands.  Vhisola continued, “We encountered the Matoran who had been sent previously, as well.  They were wearing infected Kanohi, but we were able to free them—they’re still back in Onu-Koro, resting until they’re strong enough to make the journey back, but I assure you they are alright.”

 

“Truly?” Nokama said.  “That’s better than I could have ever dreamed of!”

 

Vhisola hesitated a moment.  “…Um…something else, Turaga…the circumstances surrounding the mask’s retrieval were a bit extreme.  In order for us both to escape, I…I had to…”

 

Nokama nodded patiently.  Vhisola closed her eyes and said, “I…I wore the mask!  Only for a short time—only long enough for us to make it back to Onu-Koro!  I’m so sorry.  I promise that I never would have done something like that if there were any other option!”

 

She opened one eye to look at Nokama.  The Turaga stared at her with a blank expression, one that Vhisola couldn’t read.  Then she smiled.

 

“That’s quite alright, Vhisola,” Nokama said.  “I don’t mind if you wore the mask.”

 

Vhisola gave a sigh of relief.  “Oh…okay.  Again, if there were any other option, I wouldn’t have done it.  It was only so that—“

 

Nokama stepped forward and embraced Vhisola, silencing her.  “It’s alright,” Nokama reassured her.  “Thank you, Vhisola.  You’re truly amazing.”

 

Vhisola had no idea what to say.  “I-I-I…uh…it, uh…we…”

 

Nokama let go and stepped back.  Finding her focus, Vhisola said, “W-Well, uh…Macku helped!”

 

Macku held her hands up, saying, “Yeah, but, I’m not up for a hug.  I can feel your thanks from here just fine.”

 

“Thank you as well, Macku,” Nokama said.  She walked up to the Suva and placed the Matatu in the empty space.  “There.  Good as new, after fifty long years.”

 

Nokama turned back to the Matoran, still smiling.  “This calls for a celebration!  Ga-Koro has two new heroes, and we will all honor their deeds!  Everyone must be gathered together.”

 

Vhisola raised one hand.  “I-I’ll go ring the meeting bell!  I won’t be long!”

 

She raced off before anyone could protest.  “Geez,” Macku said, “she just got back from a life-threatening journey and she’s already off to do another errand…”

 

“Do not be hard on her, Macku,” Nokama said.  “Vhisola may get overzealous, but she has a good heart.”

 

Macku looked after Vhisola thoughtfully.  “…Yeah.  She does.”

 

Nokama nodded and turned back to the Suva.  Cracking a smile, Macku began planning her next venture out of the village.  There was a koli match in Po-Koro in a few days, and she should have plenty of time to get there to participate.  Not many players could keep up with Hewkii—if he and Macku teamed up, they’d win for sure.

 

Of course, that’s assuming Vhisola doesn’t rat me out to the Turaga.

 

THE END

 

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