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