Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Millennium

The Awakening

Recommended Posts

I: The Banishment

 

The millenary inscriptions poured down from history itself flowed endlessly under their eyes. From just to the night earlier to the furthest and darkest moments of the time before time, not a single year nor month or day of matoran record was ignored, and doomed to oblivion. Every inch of the vast smoke-filled room was covered in the circular hieroglyphs of the matoran alphabet, detailing all that has been: the collective memory of the matoran community, which scholars from all across the island came to study and recall, with an almost religious reverence to history, so strong and faithful to give them the necessary courage to face the many dangers of a long journey.

Probing deeper and deeper into the valleys of history, proceeding towards the stairs, the stone pillars, the relics and the altar to the gods at the very bottom of the room, the common round characters to which every matoran is used were progressively replaced by hexagonal ones and then by totally absurd and incomprehensible signs: the writing of the matoran that had been and that were no more, describing the life of an once rich and advanced civilization, long before the matoran escape and settlement on the tropical Mata Nui. Translating these ancient texts passed down through time was a sacred task that brought matoran from all the koros together.

Most of the time, however, the translated inscriptions did not make much sense to modern matoran.

Takua bit his tongue to stop himself from screaming. The poor quality Huna he wore to enter the temple fell of his backpack with a loud clang.

“By the Great Beings! – cried Kodan – Oh, no. No, no, no. We’d better leave now.”

“Shh, shh. No one heard us, keep calm.”

Takua tried to reassure his po-matoran cousin, albeit uncertain of his own words. Even if they were found, what could happen? The guards would have just scolded them from entering the temple without permission. At night. They were not doing anything forbidden, after all.

Kodan’s mask of sonar was pleated in an expression of increasing tension and fear. The po-matoran’s clear blue eyes were tremblingly staring at Takua, looking for trust, for bolstering.

From the top of his positive approach to life, of his optimistic view of society and reality, and his jokeful way to solve problems that always managed to save his skin, Takua looked down on his cousin’s fears with mockery, and a smile.

“Listen, there is nothing to fear, Kodan. – he encouraged him, serene – Just concentrate on those writings. If you really manage to translate them as you told me, Vakama will praise you. Keep calm and nothing will go wrong.”

“I want to believe you, Takua.”

“Good boy.” The ta-matoran patted him on the back, several times.

Sheesh. He sure wasn’t so dang paranoid when he first proposed this.

Takua’s cousin Kodan was way different from him. A bit more fearing of authority and faith, a bit less enterprising and unwary. All things that in the eyes of the community were to commend, he was a model matoran in those terms. But not in Takua’s.

To him, someone like Kodan, most of the entire matoran population to be honest, was dreary and unpretentious. People did not know how to have fun, or what fun was, at times. All they did and all they thought about was their daily chores, their dear three virtues, the sense of duty, a life entitled entirely and utterly to work in honor of the Great Spirit.

Surely those were times in which most, if not all, forms of entertainment were frowned upon, to say the least.

Dangerous infected rahi on the loose, pressing more and more onto the villages borders, preying at each and every matoran’s very life. Matoran were constantly busy, and frightened, and suspicious, and stressed. They carried on praying helplessly to their sleepy god for ultimate salvation, or just for an instant of leisure and relief from a day of fatigue, when they had all the power to create, carve in the hours of daylight, amid unavoidable toils, their own moment of peace and recreation. Instead, they kept building stress inside of them. The po-matoran, at least, had koli.

Takua sighed, pitying and cursing himself for his past decision to leave Po-Koro for Ta-Koro. He could not recall what passed through his mind, back then, the reason for such an unreasonable choice.

As the two matoran’s shadowy silhouettes danced on the engraved walls, under the frenetic light of the temple’s candles and the firmer one of the duo’s own lighstones, Takua gazed onto his cousin, questioning what he has been asking to himself over and over again for quite a long time: How could someone leave Po-Koro?

Nevertheless, Kodan had an ambition, a dream, and regardless that Takua deemed it to be rather weird, he appreciated and praised his cousin for this self-committed goal: to shed light onto the dark past of the matoran, deciphering the inscriptions of the ancient long-dead chroniclers, and become a chronicler himself. Such passion for uncovering the unknown past had Kodan pay visit to Takua very often.

Takua did not share this zeal of his. He was attracted, however, by the enchanting tales and myths which old matoran’s history was wrapped of and, moreover, the enigmas concerning the ancient relics housed within the Wall of History. And not to solve them, obviously. Enigmas and riddles would lose all their inebriating influence if they were solved.

Such relics were instruments and tools of unknown, long-forgotten origin, configuration and purpose, devised eons ago, memoirs of the glorious civilization that the matoran were, before the shadow of the Great Beast haunted and followed them across their many travels. Or so the Turaga would have the matoran believe.

While Kodan’s interest was in facts, in realism and conciseness, leading to the chronicles, Takua’s literary call was that for ghost and adventure stories, built upon the rumors and the speculations this or that relic generated. He was quite good at it, too, making himself a name mostly because of his mythic and fictitious – he insisted on this aspect, as he heard that some of them spread across Ta-Wahi were actually believed to be true – tales, other than, of course, the numerous big and small incidents his playful and naïve attitude saw him involved in.

The ta-matoran’s attention was then grabbed by something he immediately desired to grab.

At the bottom wall of the temple, there were two massive staircases, mutually symmetrical. From the floor, they brought up, nearly at the maximum height of the Wall of History, until they both stopped abruptly, leading to nowhere, separated, by an empty space wide about the size of a matoran and high roughly about four.

Amidst this chasm of holy stone, hanging over the void below, clinging onto the wall by nothing else but two tiny poles, there laid some sort of cane, or staff. Or maybe, an arcane weapon.

From afar, Takua could not recognize its colors, although he could judge with a certain degree of confidence that they were rather fair.

It did not look like anything more than some very old, unalluring piece of wood coated with a shiny paint or metallic layer, culminating in a razor-edged, elongated and baroque topper vaguely reminiscent of the Turaga of Ice’s staff. Did this stop Takua from wanting to get his hands on it? Of course not.

Walking through the pillars and altars presenting to the viewer many forbidden pieces of lost technology, perhaps still functioning, he blamed himself for having never noticed the eerie staff before: it was in plain sight. And if he did notice it, how did he not remember, how could he not be intrigued nor allured?

It was so plain and bare, yet it was there, alone, in a reserved and special spot, inaccessible.

Anyone with a sense for mysteries and secrets would heed the staff’s ominous call and reach for it instantly.

Takua was no matoran to ignore this call. His chestlight flashed more and more rapidly at every rung.

“Takua! – panicked Kodan, seeing himself alone for a moment, terribly worried – Get down from there! What are you doing?”

“Shut your mouth, you noisy pokawi! I just want to get a closer look…”

Given that such a deed was easy. The space between the two staircases was larger than what Takua had hoped it to be, and the lighting there was very poor. If that cane was of some extraordinary significance – and it was, no way it could not be – one would expect it to be well lit.

You just don’t put something so special where anyone cane see it, but you don’t provide good lightning for it. Hehe. – Takua was thinking, feeling somewhat proud and very intelligent – One might as well hide it, in that case.

Aimlessly and to no use he furiously shook his lightstone in hope it could shed at least a sparkle onto the arcane staff. He could only notice that there was an inscription, in current matoran, he was sure of it, below it, and that it was of some shade of light blue.

He ferociously desired to have a Matatu with him, and moaned. Instead, all he had was a powerless Huna, so shoddy its power lasted mere minutes, making the escape from the temple a quite complex task – Coming to think of it, were did I leave it? – and an useless Pakari. Maybe not so useless.

Calling forth all his courage and recklessness, and the power of the mask of strength, Takua jumped. His four fingers tried in vain to reach the staff, before safely landing onto the top of the opposite staircase.

“Are you crazy? Do you want to break your neck?” cried Kodan angrily, leaving his beloved portion of the wall to stay near his foolish companion. He was more genuinely worried than heated, despite the tone of his words.

“Dear Artakha! Will you please be silent?”

Takua jumped again. And again, his fingers clasped but thin air.

“Takua, stop this. I don’t like where this is going. – his brown hands reached for his yellow mask of sonar, glowing at his will – I…I sense some steps. Someone is near. Please, Takua, we need to go now.”

“Hang on just a little more…”

The ta-matoran jumped one last time.

His blonde feet did not meet solid ground. Both his hands grasped around the handle of the ancient item, and just like the staff itself, with the staff, Takua was hanging several feet off the ground.

Now what was I trying to do? He said to himself, not knowing whether to laugh or cry in desperation.

“Takua, I don’t know what in Artakha’s name you are trying to do. Whatever it is, stop it. Get down! Give it up!” This time Kodan made no effort to keep his voice low – he plainly screamed.

“I...I won’t. I can’t!” It was quite a fall from there, the height was proving to be more frightening than what he thought it could be. His hold was already starting to loosen.

If I really have to go down, breaking my legs – he thought – I want to bring this thing with me.

Surging once more from the Pakari, Takua pushed and pulled, trying to slack the staff from its place.

An horrid, creeping, creaking sound preceded his fall, and Kodan’s yell of agony.

 

The Sacred Fire. A timeless flame which has never stopped burning through the ages, constantly nourished and cared; wherever the ta-matoran – and the whole matoran community with them – were or would go, the light and heat of the Sacred Fire, or a torch lit from its eternal hearth, would accompany their thriving and strife, and spread to the world as the matoran themselves.

It was one of the duties of the Turaga of Fire to keep the Sacred Fire alive. It was the stare of the Turaga of Fire that oppressed and crushed the two fools with shame, on their knees before the Turaga’s judgment.

The Sacred Fire burning at the centre of Vakama’s home, behind the elderly matoran figure, as well as the loads of candles lit among statuettes representing the Great Spirit, blazing in many colors, created a strange lighting that confused the eyesight. The Turaga’s orange Huna was darker than usual in such conditions. Not that Takua or Kodan could see it, their eyes fixed on the dusty ground by the weight of shame and guilt.

The Turaga shook his head silently, staring at the two broken fragments of the Chronicler’s staff – so he called the instrument burning Takua’s curiosity. The tip of Vakama’s Firestaff harmonically and softly, yet ominously, hit the ground, elaborating a dark soundtrack for Takua and Kodan’s impending fate. No other sound but the crackling of the Sacred Fire. The duo’s breath itself seemed to have stopped, and none of them had the courage to even whisper.

The three matoran, plus the guards at the Turaga’s door, were as frozen and surrounded by utter silence, if not for the Firestaff beats. Then Vakama started to walk back and forth, and the tingling of the fire emblem hanging around his neck added to the music.

And he spoke.

“Do you realize how old the Chronicler’s staff is?”

No answer came.

“It is perhaps the oldest artifact we possess. When our ancestors decided to put down in words we could read the history of our people, the very first chronicler forged this very tool – he pointed at the broken parts with his staff – to carve the very first letters onto the very first Wall of History, which we have been copying and translating restlessly in our travels.”

Takua closed his eyes, as if doing so could take him away from that situation.

“But it seems like words don’t get through to you, do they, Takua? It seems that having saved me from the skull spiders three years ago somehow gave you the rights to do as you please. I have told you once, and I will tell you again. Do I need to remember that ‘sport’ you invented and promoted, lavasurfing, as you called it, such a dangerous and unorthodox activity? Even among our youngest children, our hope and future, putting their lives in peril! And what about that time you took part in an expedition to the Tren Krom pass, without being member of the excavation team, nearly causing the cave to collapse?”

The tremendous recalling seemed to have no end. Takua remained religiously quiet and accepted passively all that the Turaga was scolding him for, for it was just the truth after all. He just wanted to know what his punishment was. Recollecting his past mistakes – even if he did not consider lavasurfing a mistake, not at all – was of no help.

“Now, this. What passed through your mind, Takua? And through yours, Kodan. Your father Ekimu won’t be pleased at all. Entering the Wall of History without authorization. At night. Evading the guards, like smugglers, like thieves. For what? Couldn’t you have waited till dawn, like regular scholars?”

With the flame-shaped top of his Turaga staff, Vakama turned to Takua and forced to raise his head and look his Turaga in the eyes.

“Do not get me wrong, Takua. I appreciate your spirit, and your heart. For having saved me, of course. I might be dead by now if it wasn’t for you. But you have been a nuisance, recently, to me and to the other villagers. Tearing apart this sacred relic, for how irrelevant it may seem to you, is a very grave deed for me, and for our culture.”

Takua realized the time has come. Vakama’s sermon had ended and now, he waited silently his sentence, ready to accept it whatever it may take, and knowing that there was no way to avoid it.

“I, Turaga Vakama son of Tahnok, successor of Turaga Dume, chief of Ta-Wahi and guide of the ta-matoran, hereby banish you, Takua son of Vohon, from the village of Ta-Koro, to the Ta-Wahi beach.”

“What?! Banish!” yelled Takua, standing on his feet. He was ready for everything, sure, but not this.

“No way! You can’t banish me, Turaga! You…you can’t! I don’t deserve this punishment for…for breaking an old stick! I won’t…”

“On your knees, villager! – shouted one of the guards, striking Takua on the legs with the bottom of his spear, and then on his back, forcing him to kiss the dust of the floor – And watch your mouth. It’s your Turaga you’re talking to.”

“Easy, guard.” Vakama calmed his man.

“Turaga Vakama… – Takua whispered, daring to glance but at the Turaga’s feet, and at the train of his royal cape, decorated with the fire symbol, repeated countlessly inside small circles – Banished…for how long?”

“Don’t see in banishment such a grave punishment, you will see that this is quite mild. You are just no longer allowed to enter Ta-Koro, until you prove to me and to your fellow villagers your good heart and that fun is not all you care about. Or you can seek fortune elsewhere.”

“But, Turaga, please…not the Ta-Wahi beach! I…I hate the smell, and it’s tremendously cold there at night!”

Kodan and Vakama could not believe their ears. Takua still had the heart to joke.

“Why…why not the Tren Krom pass? At least it’s always cold. I’m begging you, Turaga.”

“I’m sorry, Takua. As your Turaga, even in banishment I must be assured of your well-being, and the beach is the safest place to stay at the moment. Once you are there, you are free to choose your destiny.”

“What-what about my cousin? – screamed then Takua in one last rush, trying immediately to prove his ‘good heart’, and in a honest way – He didn’t do anything bad, it was me who broke the staff and I made him stay ev-”

“Don’t listen to him, Turaga Vakama. – Kodan interrupted, showing even more courage and honesty than his fire cousin – It was my decision to sneak into the first place. I deserve the same punishment.”

“Enough. – said Vakama firmly, raising his free hand – Do not cover each other. You are both guilty. And Kodan, don’t be stupid. You are no ta-matoran neither a ta-wahian, I have limited powers over you. However, Takua: since he was host at your home, he shall be your host in banishment as well. Free to return under the watch of Turaga Onewa whenever he prefers, of course, and face whatever judgment he will deem right. Now, leave.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

II: Gone fishing

 

“Only because I have blue masks!” Takua cried out at no one, kicking wildly a small rock, and sending it to sink in the cold dark water on his right that tirelessly and slowly kissed the grey beach with salty foam, before retreating, just to kiss and soak the sand again and again.

It was an absurd argumentation to justify the ill-fated path he found himself walking on, and Takua knew it. As far as he could remember, very few times had he been mocked for that little trick nature played on him, and never maliciously.

Takua did not recall which kanohi he was born it. He could recall, however, that upon reaching adulthood, when his natural mask of power was no longer fixed to his face and could switch it with others of his choice, it turned blue. And so did all the other kanohi he wore in his short life.

From the translucent light gray that manufactured kanohi naturally occurred in, they all nonsensically turned to a fair tint of blue upon being worn by him, rather than bright red, the color of Takua’s face – as well as the rest of his body, with the exception of feet and shins, which were yellow.

“I could understand it if, I mean, it would still be insane, but at least it’d have more sense if I had a ga-matoran parent, or relative. But I have none!” Takua kept whining, as he footed and grunted back and forth along the coast.

If this weird aspect of his appearance was so much problematic, he could always order painted masks, or paint them himself. But the truth is, Takua never saw this oddity of his as a cursed mark, to bear with shame, to hide. He was actually quite proud of it, of this distinctive trait he shared with no one else.

At the moment, however, Takua was so angered and dissatisfied with the twists his life had taken that, he thought to himself, maybe his blue-turning kanohi attitude was a godly sign that his destiny as an exile was written from the start, that he was doomed to be an outcast without a goal in his existence, condemned to long days of desolation and anguish all along.

He turned angrily to the sky above, ablaze with the very first lights of dawn, the first of two suns emerging over the distant waves and setting fire to the immense expanse of water of the Endless Sea.

“Dear Great Spirit Artakha, I don’t know if you are there, but I have a question: why me? What went through your mind when you designed me, to make me the way I am? Huh? If you really are there, give me a sign, something, anything, and tell me that not all is lost.”

The sky did not reply. The eerie dot of the mysterious Red Star, still largely visible in the dark wall of morning, was as eerie and plainly unrevealing as ever. This angered Takua even more. He shook his fists around his head and kicked the sand, sending dust all around. It did not took him long to calm down, realizing how insane and useless his actions and words were.

“We’ll see, Artakha. Now you are sleeping, as you have been for ages, but you are still watching over us, aren’t you? When you wake up, and you will wake up, we need to talk. Yeah, whatever.”

Takua had never been too much faithful in the traditional myths bequeathed by the Turaga across the aeons. He never really questioned the existence nor the necessity of one or more divine presences ruling the cosmos and such. The Po-Koro native ta-matoran did at least follow the Three Virtues and train in the Principles of his tribe – that is, the fire tribe: being a ta-matoran, although born among the stone tribe, he never really felt the stone Principles fitting to him. Those, to him, were useful and had sense. He did not explicitly believe they were handed to the matoran by the benevolence of the Great Spirit, though he did not deny it when someone else told him it was that way, either.

As pragmatic and essentially agnostic as he was, Takua never felt the urge to express his fears and rage to a superior being, if not on exceptionally rare and grave occasions.

That was one such occasion. Banished from Ta-Koro, the village of his father Vohon, which he left upon meeting and falling in love with his po-matoran mother, with no clear idea in mind on how to be reaccepted back.

Of the Three Virtues, Takua stopped at the first, Unity. He could not understand Duty as of yet, he, at twenty-four years of age, still hadn’t found his place in the world. There were no jobs that he felt really fitting and fulfilling his creative, restless mind and action-bent spirit.

After all, what talents did he have? None. None that could be worked upon to become a real profitable, community-useful activity. He was good with those fancy stories, but that was just a hobby that he did not want to be paid for – not to mention that no one with a sane mind would accept to pay. Apart from that, what did he had? He was rather athletic and daring, as his invention of lavasurfing proved, but he did not feel appropriate to enter the Ta-Koro Guard.

If he had stayed in Po-Koro, he could have entered Ekimu’s school, Takua’s uncle and Kodan’s father, and of course the greatest mask-maker around, to be initiated in the art of mask-making. But he felt that forging kanohi required too much patience for him. Takua was no matoran of patience.

He felt particularly impatient even in that same moment, glancing at the Twin Torches rising over the Endless Sea and waiting for someone to pass by.

The Ta-Wahi Beach was a vast albeit quite tight line of sand that encompassed all the region over which the Turaga of Fire had power. Just few bios of beach separated the sea from the rocky, black volcanic formations which most of Ta-Wahi was made of.

One such formation laid left of Takua and towards north, rising roughly ten, fifteen bios from sea level, impervious and sturdy, devoid of any vegetation but scarce stains of lichen here and there. On top of it, grass and short trees were more frequent, and they ruled the region all through the uplands that sided the Mangai Volcano, residence of Ta-Koro, and Mount Ihu, home of the ko-matoran. From the beach, access to these uplands was permitted by a staircase, laying ahead of Takua, carved in the volcanic formation itself. These stairs were built upon a particular vein of aeon-old solidified magma that run through the beach until touching the sea. Through the centuries, the waves relentlessly devoured part of the volcanic rock, creating a natural stone arch, with one ‘pillar’ on solid ground, and the other one sinking into the sea floor. Upon such pillar, standing over the sea, there is mounted the Great Telescope. Legend has it that it was there before the matoran came to the island, a sign of a long-forgotten matoran presence on Mata Nui, as matoran are the characters that cover the base of the telescope.

At the other side of this telescope of which, at the moment, Takua could not care less, and over a small shrine dedicated to Artakha where the village elders go teach the children the basics of matoran religion through small decorated stones, laid the way through the uplands that lead to the Tren Krom Pass and the homonymous village founded there, amidst the sulphur exhalations of the Mangai Volcano and the icy winds of Ihu, housing a mixed community of ta-matoran and ko-matoran living together, although under the rule of the Turaga of Fire.

Takua and Kodan’s tent had been mounted between such staircase and the stone pathway leading to Ta-Koro at the feet of Mangai Volcano, right to the side of the Charred Forest, the tree-richest region of Ta-Wahi, where ta-matoran obtain their wood and go hunt most of their rahi.

Takua’s eyes were now fixed there. The dawn was the perfect moment to catch any villagers going to Ta-Mahri, the ta-matoran harbor village near the borders of Ga-Wahi to the north, or just some early fisherman – there were a few boats docked at the beach.

Takua needed something to do, find something to eat, and not just for himself. Kodan was still with him, sleeping on his tent. He felt responsible for what had happened, for the fate that his cousin was sharing with him. While Kodan could still enter Ta-Koro and buy there some food, Takua, obviously, could not, and it was shameful and unrespectable to sponge Kodan when it was Takua’s fault for what was going on. He wanted to show him and himself that he was capable of sustaining himself, one way or another. He also had the intention to share whatever he could obtain from any help-asking matoran with Kodan, but Takua was not so hopeful that he was actually going to obtain something in the first place.

Takua pondered what possibilities he had. He did not have much with him, in that tent. Most of the things in there were Kodan’s. Takua’s only possessions were some masks of power, several lightstones, a pair of kanoka, pieces of soap, and not much else. Basically the few and most essential things that the Ta-Koro Guard let him take away in a hurry when they kicked him out of Ta-Koro. There was still something he left behind in his hut, and he hoped that some friends of his would get there and come pay a visit to him to bring him those things. Or just to have a talk and ease Takua’s banishment.

Turaga Vakama said that he, Takua, may seek fortune elsewhere, thus he considered the possibility of moving to Ta-Mahri or Tren Krom. To walk the stairs to the uplands, find a good piece of land and make a living out of it. Get to the Charred Forest, cut some wood and make a boat, and spend his entire life fishing, or perhaps leaving Mata Nui on it. No, that was a stupid idea.

The best plan to him right now was to return to Po-Koro with Kodan, whenever he wanted to return. It was a bad idea to leave it in the first place. He wondered, however, how would his parents greet him. Takua could not remember how many years have passed since he took that ferry from Po-Mahri. It was a long time since he sent any letters, too. Not that he received many, but Kodan’s frequent visits rendered the need for them useless. Still, the prospect of returning to live with his parents was vaguely unpleasant. What would they think of him, of his banishment? What would Turaga Onewa and the other villagers think of his condition, and what would his occupation there be? Too many uncertainties. The thing he needed most for the time being was a ride, for sure. To Ta-Mahri, offshore or anywhere else.

Takua’s first prey was an old matoran riding a carriage. He came out from the rocks like a lightning striking through dark clouds; Takua was amazed at how suddenly it just appeared in front of his eyes, but this did not stop him from being incredibly happy about the arrival.

Pulling the cart were two ussal crabs. The one on the right was pearl white and burnt orange, the other was monochrome, a dark shade of gray with a slight purple tint to it.

Takua immediately put himself in the middle of the ‘road’ – although the matoran riding the cart could still steer and evade Takua – not afraid of the twelve large, pointy limbs of the bulky crustaceans, that left numerous deep, circular marks on the sand behind them, as if made by a kid with a wooden stick, and neither of their four sharp and rounded claws. He knew well that ussal crabs were not aggressive creatures, even if, to some extent, they could be trained in combat and to develop more offensive attitudes, like those used in the Ussalry of Onu-Koro.

“Hey there, good morning sir! – Takua greeted the stranger as he approached – Nice dawn for a trip, huh? Where you off to? Ta-Mahri?”

“Get off the way, I’m in a hurry.” Responded the rider, quite impolitely.

“I’ve been to Ta-Mahri before, you know? I can help you out once you’re there! Or maybe I can help you with your luggage. This looks very loaded, isn’t it? Oh, I can tend to your ussals, if you’d like. I’m really good with them.”

Takua reached with a hand to caress the gray ussal crab as it passed him by. The two crabs’ slender eye tentacles tilted briefly in his direction as they surpassed him, as if sending some kind of message to the poor matoran, of the sorts ‘we’re sorry for you, pal’.

“Sorry, pal. Got nothing for you.” Said the matoran riding. Just as expected.

“It’s okay, it’s okay. – Takua whispered with a false smile, and waved to the carriage as it moved towards the passageway beneath the Great Telescope – Have a nice stay, wherever you’re going…piraka.”

Takua watched in apprehension as the carriage suddenly stopped and turned around to face him. He really had the urge to run away, in that moment.

“What did you call me?” the angered rider asked.

“What? Nothing, sir! May the Great Spirit look after you!” Takua offered to him the most sincere of his fake smiles and waved once again. Then he immediately and in the most blatant way possible turned around to show the stranger his back, hoping that he would just leave.

He’s so touchy. Takua thought to himself, and whispered, hearing the sound of the ussal crabs limbs progressively becoming weaker and more distant. He did not believe that someone could feel so much offended for being called ‘piraka’. He was in a hurry, yet…

The world, or, better yet, the island, as he did not know of any matoran besides those residing on Mata Nui – to this extent the island was the world, after all – was full of diverse and crazy people, Takua considered. He was perhaps the craziest of them. And the most unfortunate. His first attempt to find an occupation for the day was a failure, and that really disappointed and thwarted him. Of course he did not expect to have the best of luck. Still, he now had less verve to carry out his intentions. Maybe it was better to just get back in the tent, take his kanohi off and go back to a relaxing sleep. Perhaps in his dreams laid the key to solve his problems.

Coming to think of it, Takua was actually shocked that he even managed to sleep. He was shocked of Kodan, too. The po-matoran was still sleeping. Takua envied him.

Then the first fishermen began to pop out from the outskirts of the Charred Forest and to populate the beach, reaching for their docked boats, loaded with fishing equipment of all sorts.

‘Populate’ is perhaps an incorrect term. The beach did not all of a sudden become crowded with busy ta-matoran. They all came in a rate of, say, one or two every ten minutes. After all fishing was not something the fiery matoran of Mangai Volcano were extremely fond of, nor was an occupation that provided much satisfaction, not in the waters of the Ta-Wahi beach at least. Nevertheless, Takua approached every single one of them, offering his help. But they all denied. Kindly, mutely ignoring him or in the same rude way of that quick-tempered cart rider of before, who was the only one who came to the beach to travel and not for fishing.

The reaction of one ta-matoran struck Takua so deeply that he really considered giving up and suffocate his failures and disillusions in tears inside his tent.

“Is there anything I can do for you? Just ask, I will do everything.” Takua had said.

“Don’t annoy me, exile.”

That one deserved to be called piraka restlessly, until his very last breath. Where has the sense of Unity disappeared?  Takua was an exile, okay, he accepted his punishment. But there was no reason to be reminded of it like that, as if he was an outcast beyond salvation that deserved the attention of no one, that deserved to be avoided and left on his own. The virtue of Unity did not teach that.

Takua angrily watched as the ta-matoran took the sea, and hoped that the Great Beast would follow him across the waves and sink his boat.

This is not very virtuous either.

He was starting to seriously lose interest when an old, stooped ta-matoran approached the largest of the boats, and one of the last left. He was so loaded, so very loaded with equipment – a large rolled net and two oars under his left arm, several tied harpoons under his right and a fully-loaded backpack with a pair of fishing poles sticking out – that Takua was amazed he could even stand on his own foot and walk, as he looked really old. His chestlight was flashing slowly, his armor was cracked in multiple points. One of his blue eyes had completely lost his light. He wore a silver kanohi Kiril, the mask of healing, but it was most certainly painted rather than an consequence of old age.

Takua, more out of a sense of empathy than hoping to obtain anything from the ta-matoran, immediately rushed in his help.

“Hey, there. Those look really heavy, let me help you.” He said.

Takua did not make the mistake to try and take the equipment off his hands, as he would most likely have been mistaken for a thief taking advantage of an old matoran’s weakness. Before Takua could even raise a finger, the fisherman stared deeply at the young one with the blue kanohi.

“What’s ya name, fella?” he asked in a loud voice, standing upright, as if not feeling at all the weight of his gear.

“Uh. I’m Takua. Takua son of Vohon.” He answered uncertainly.

“Yeah, I see, I see. And ya good at swinging?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, swinging! Ya know…” the fisherman shook his arms weakly, without letting go of his hold. Takua was afraid he was going to fall at any moment.

“Swinging? Oh, swinging, you mean…O-of course I am. I once threw my kanoka over fifty bios! It didn’t came back, though…”

“That’ll do good, that’ll do good. Ya mask, too. That’s it, ya taken. Take this.”
Takua could not believe the fisherman was handing him his pack of harpoons. Neither could he believe just how heavy it was, so much he needed to immediately call upon his Pakari.

“Name’s Norik, and we going to catch some turtles. C’mon, get on, and help me row.”

 

The Endless Sea was plain water all around. No small isles, or rocks, or anything that he eye could see but an infinite and calm stretch of water.

Takua, sitting with a fishing pole in his hands, every now and then looked back to be assured that Mata Nui was still visible and not too far.

The Twin Torches were scorching up in the sky, very past lunchtime, in their hottest moment. The water itself was incredibly warm, if not hot.

Not that extreme temperatures are a problem for a ta-matoran. Being lost amidst a limitless ocean, and so far from his smoky home, that was a problem. Water and matoran of fire don’t get along really well, especially one that was grown among po-matoran, whose approach towards anything liquid can be related to that towards a savage rahi.

At least, he was not alone. Norik the fisherman was with him, dipping his fishing hook on the opposite side of the boat, with only one hand, a trident ready for use in the other one.

After Takua left a note to Kodan, they sailed straight east, with the wind and sea currents pulling them slightly towards north. So far they did not get any of the turtles Norik told about, although they did get some other fish, mostly small poor quality ruki – some even caught by Takua. He was really satisfied and amazed at how easy it had been. Norik, however, referred to it as just luck.

The wind was blowing kindly from the south, pushing the boat through the white sail more and more slowly, as the net tied to the end of the boat was becoming increasingly loaded with fish.

The salty smell was not so bad after all.

At lunch, Norik showed Takua how to cut open some of the largest ruki they had found, and what parts of it were best to eat, after being dipped in a cup of salt. Takua was not too fond of eating raw uncooked fish, salt or not. But he had to eat something, so he made no complaints.

The two did not talk too much to each other. Takua noticed a prayer beads necklace, with each bead engraved with a symbol of a virtue, a principle or a skill, around the old fisher neck. Most of the time he opened his mouth was to chant the mantras for each of the beads, but he mostly focused on the Three Virtues.

“Together we are stronger. Unity is stability. Our lives must be focused. Duty is balance. Death is not the end. Destiny is the key to Bionicle.”

Albeit not being one for prayers, as he waited for fish to pull the string, Takua sometimes added his own voice to the chant. Remembering only the Three Virtues mantras and the ta-matoran ones, he sang only those.

“Courage is the soul of movement. Fear stops all. Courage conquers Fear, and grants Strength.”

“Oh, my. Fishin hard for ta-matoran, ain’t it?” Norik then asked.

“Sure it is. – Takua agreed, deciding it may not be the best thing to disagree; however, he inquired – I mean, it is, but why? Ta-Wahi has a nice piece of coast.”

“Boy, this coast ain’t got much. – Norik explained – Magma good for fields and for growin greens, not so good for waters. All the good fish go north or south. Ts’why Ga-Koro and Ta-Mahri so rich.”

“I know. – said Takua – Everyone imports fish from Ga-Koro. Even the le-matoran, to the south.”

“Boy, boy, I fish all my life. – Norik continued – Made a good fortune over time, but much it cost! Everyday on sea, everyday further. Fish not very good, I know, but I make low prices. Ta-Koro fellas happy ‘bout this. High quality fish from Ga-Koro’s very expensive, ya know.”

“I understand. I mean, that was a good idea after all! – Takua congratulated him sincerely – Providing fish for all of Ta-Koro at an accessible price. That was very clever indeed.”

“Thank ya, eheh. Back then I young and strong like you, seeking my Duty. Ta-matoran dislike water, but hey, it full of food, ya just need to take it. Now I’m old and others fish like me, but I regret nothing.”

“What about turtles? They’re not the usual stuff one fishes.” Takua pondered. He ate different kinds of fish in his life, and a wide range of rahi native to the Ta-Wahi region, but never turtles.

“What can I tell ya, boy. Turtles hard to find, but very, very good. If cooked right, of course. Ta-matoran got a taste for strong meat, rather than fish. Turtles more like regular meat than fish. Oh boy!”
Norik suddenly got up, let go of his harpoon and held strongly the fishing pole with both hands. He was trembling from the tip of his kanohi to his crimson feet.

“Gimme a hand here!”

Takua rushed, almost letting his own pole fall in the water, but he did not know what to do.

“Your mask, gimme! Switch! I caught something big!”

“O-of course.” The newbie fisher carefully and rapidly – for how strange and hard it might be to be both careful and rapid at a time – took Norik’s Kiril off, and put his own Pakari on his face. It immediately and intensely glowed, as the fisherman called upon his power.

“Listen up, boy! – he shouted, grinding his teeth – Take that trident, there. Point it there, right, near the string. Now I try to lift. When I lift and say go, you swing! Got it?”

“G-Got it.” Takua said hesitantly, trembling as he prepared to strike the trident. Not knowing what kind of animal Norik had just caught was unpleasant to him, as was the prospect of killing a turtle, or any kind of animal that was not a regular fish. Fish were dull and moved by no apparent emotions in the eyes of a matoran, plus they did not bleed that much. Any other kind of rahi was different. Takua was no hunter of sorts, he never killed and was not used to the sight of blood.

Nevertheless, he struck when Norik told him to do so. It was indeed a turtle, for the joy of the old fisherman. Not a regular turtle: a dermis turtle, a particular species with tan and reddish decorated shells, and pale grey scales, which lived both on land and in water, and were greatly appreciated for their ‘singing’. Takua did not feel really well, watching the red liquid stains dissipate into the water, and preferred to look away when Norik began treating the turtle, cutting it apart and placing parts in jars filled with salt.

“Hey, boy. Drag the net. – he then ordered – We done for today.”

Takua obeyed silently. The net was really heavy to pick up, it must have collected plenty of small fish. Before the ta-matoran could finish the job, the net was torn apart with an horrible ripping sound. Then, a slithering abyssal hiss.

Standing over the water, there was the long, scaly neck of a tarakava. Bluish teal reflections flashed in the eyes of a scared Takua, as the sea serpent white jaws opened in hunger and its piercing golden eyes stared at the matoran in enjoyment, foretasting an easy, crunchy meal.

Tarakava were generally aggressive inhabitants of the sea, with a stretched and flexible, albeit quite muscular and tough, neck originating from a more rounded and short body, star-shaped for the presence of four long and wide fins for locomotion and a minute tail. Vicious predators of the sea, but not necessarily a danger for matoran, unless threatened.

This one, however, was no normal tarakava. It fell under the category of infected rahi, creatures fallen under the influence of the Great Beast Makuta. For right where the neck stopped and the head began, at the base of the mouth, viciously attached through hungry, poisonous teeth, there was the hideous, lime presence of a visorak. Or skull spider, as they were commonly named.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

III.1: Close encounters - part one

 

Time was running slow as if frozen. Takua did not move at all, he was just standing there, in front of the corrupt tarakava, blocked. Not in fear. At least, not completely because of it. He needed to be extremely cautious, in order to evade the beast incoming attack in time. Of course, any move by the marine reptile could send the whole boat to pieces, foiling a whole day of work and fishing and, if that happened and even if they managed to fight off the creature, Takua and Norik would be left stranded in the open ocean kios away from solid ground.

The young ta-matoran focused on the principle of Courage, as Norik could do nothing but stay on his corner of the boat, paralyzed. The tarakava’s hungry eyes pierced Takua with the unfathomable hunger driven by the venom of the visorak attached under his neck, evaluating the right moment to strike. When that moment came, a flash, a lightning quick clenching of muscles, Takua had seen it coming – or perhaps he was only lucky.

The salty jaws scraped noisily the wood of the boat floor, as Takua jumped to the side. However, jumping alone could not drive the beast away. So, in an incredible surge of bravery, Takua…jumped, again. But not to the side: rather, on top of the sea monster! He hopped on its neck and grabbed it with all his strength, holding on it with all of his four limbs, trying to weigh down its head and at the same time keeping its mouth shut, in order to…

“Norik, quick! The visorak! Get it off!”

The old fisherman’s hearing was not weakened by age, neither were his guts, only temporarily stunned. In a matter of seconds, the Kiril wielder grabbed an harpoon and struck viciously but carefully the hideous spider under the tarakava’s head, as the rahi was lifting his neck to shake Takua off.

Norik’s accuracy, it turned out, was something else that old age did not wear out in him. The visorak fell off in a jarring cry from its biting spot, and Norik rushed to finish it off with his weapon. Takua rushed, too, in getting down from the tarakava, as the beast screamed in pain as well as the skull spider, and vigorously lifted its head and shook its whole body to let go of its cry, a cry both of freedom and anguish.

In fact, upon getting back on his feet, Takua noticed a cut on the tarakava’s neck, already spilling blood. Obviously left by Norik’s strike. It did not look very deep, though.

Freed from the infection of Makuta, the tarakava left the boat without further damaging it and with no more interest in the two matoran aboard, and swiftly returned underwater.

“Hold on! – Takua screamed, disappointed; he turned to Norik, unsure and in a strange frenzy – You’re letting it go? That was one heck of a catch!”

Norik nodded his head silently, returning Takua’s gaze for a few seconds, then turning back on analyzing the remains of the dead visorak on his trident.

Then he spoke: “That beast got nuff suffering. Don’t ya think?”

Takua was silenced, his heart and his whole body still high on adrenaline, and left to meditate on what has just happened, on the actions that could be taken and those that were actually taken. Norik was right, and demonstrated an incredible amount of humanity. That tarakava could have proven an easy prey, much easier than that docile dermis turtle he captured before. He chose however to let it go, feeling the pain it must have gone through.

Takua began to question his own morals, rushing to the bottom of the boat to retrieve what was left of the fish loot in the broken net: previously, he felt uncomfortable for the killing of the turtle, yet he was ready to take the life of the tarakava, well aware of its suffering at the hands of the Great Beast.

They were all on the same boat – I don’t think this is the time for puns – against Makuta, rahi and matoran alike. All intelligent and unintelligent inhabitants of Mata Nui were preys and eventual victims of the Great Beast, with the difference that it seemed like the mysterious dark deity wanted to exterminate the matoran while it had no particular feelings for the rahi, solely exploiting them to its gain.

When he was done, Takua noticed Norik was still gazing at the visorak corpse…with a kind of twisted interested in his eyes – or better yet, in his eye.

Strange creatures they were. Mindless, minuscule minions of Makuta – how it controlled them, no one knew; then again no one knew what Makuta really wanted, how Makuta looked like, or if it really existed – which spread its influence across the island by biting motile beings near the head, injecting some sort of insane venom that enables them to manipulate the host’s behavior, and never letting it go, like some kind of over-developed tick. They looked like one, too, with their more common name derived from the perverse shape of their exoskeleton. Due to their size, several small rahi were safe from them. The matoran, albeit quite small if compared to many of the beasts that inhabited Mata Nui, were not.

That is, there was no recorded evidence of a skull spider possessing a matoran, although Takua once ran into a pack of them trying to get the better of his Turaga. That same Turaga that banished him, just the day before. Takua tried to not overthink it; instead, he inquired Norik.

“You okay, Norik? You seem…weary.” He said to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. Norik kept on looking at the insect corpse.

“Is it your first encounter with the skull spiders?” Takua insisted.

“What? – Norik exclaimed, finally out of that strange stasis he was trapped in – No, no, it ain’t like that. I was just…ya know, if it wasn’t for ya, what ya did with the tarakava…I’d be gone for real now.”

“Oh, don’t mind it. – Takua gloated, faking humbleness – Anyone would have done that. Or at least, tried.”

“You crazy! I see no one jump on a tarakava like that. You got guts, boy.”

“Well, thanks. – Takua was now sincerely blushing – I guess.”

“No, no, thanks to ya. I want ya with me tomorrow as well, ya in?”

A large happy smile ran across Takua’s face. Things were starting to sort out in a good way, and he did not even had to wait that much. Plus, if Norik told Turaga Vakama how he saved his life, there were hopes to be reaccepted back in…

“Of course I’m in! – Takua and Norik beat their fists – What now? What about that…thing? Have you ever considered eating one?”

“What! – Norik fell back a little – Eating a skull spider?”

“Sure. Has anyone ever tried, actually?”

“Ya talking crazy now, boy. No good can come from visorak. Makuta’s stuff. Not good for matoran, not even matoran belly. It’s poison.”

“But..”

Norik was unwilling to listen further, as he grabbed the insect corpse and threw it into the sea.

“Poison.” He repeated, scowling at the skull spider as it floated away, carried by the waves. Norik spat, before turning back to Takua.

“We done for today. Let’s head home.”

“Are you serious? – the exile asked in disbelief – It’s, like, too early to head back! We’ve got nothing!”

“Keep calm, boy. If I say done it’s done. And don’t ya say ‘nothing’: we had quite an adventure, didn’t we? And ya know what they say: if there is tarakava, there are takea. I don’t want one of those sharks jumping at my face, do ya?”

“I got it.” Takua whispered, taking his place at the oar.

“Eheh, home here we come! – Norik said enthusiastically, as the boat steered – Hey, just one thing: what’s ya name again?”

 

“Deadly green shadows covered the insidious ground in every direction, breathed from the very soil like some sort of poisonous mist, hiding obscure secrets and all of those unnamable creatures that shunned the light of day. Journeying through such maze of darkness, and madness, and rocks and spiky branches and trees casting ominous reflections under the dim, faint glow of the stars, there was he, the Scientist. The Scientist knew: the powerful beast lived in here. The creeping creature that haunted his town, and tormented his dreams. Its hidden lair located somewhere among the rocky outskirts. And who knows how many of its specimen laid in cocoons in the faraway caves, waiting to hatch, and spread the seed of fear and devastation among the matoran? The scientist…”

“Hold on. – the crimson Miru-wearing ta-matoran interrupted loudly – Why did he get there at night? I mean, come on, it’s a nightmarish monster of doom and he just gets there, right in its home, at night? That’s not very clever, if you ask me.”

“Well, no one asked you, honestly, Hakann.” The Jutlin-wearing female responded, annoyed. The camp fire projected dancing reflections in her blue fascinated gaze, closely sit around the burning wood, her bright red arms wrapped around her body as a defense for the chilling breeze of the nocturnal beach. She was, actually, shivering a little, and certainly not for the tale’s ambience; but she was also trying very hard to not make it noticeable. She stayed very close to the fire and to Takua, unwilling to miss even a single word.

“It’s just a story, Hakann. – Raanu said, adjusting his orange mask of mind control, not less annoyed than Balta – You know, night is always more atmospheric for weird creepy things to happen. – he moved his fingers rapidly as he said this – Isn’t it, Takua?”

Balta has always been into Takua’s storytelling since his first day in Ta-Koro. They grew strong feelings for each other, but having a creative mind apparently was not enough for her. As she trembled once again, Takua felt the urge to cover her with a blanket, but was unsure of Balta’s reaction and appreciation. Kodan did the job for him, anyway.

“I said, isn’t it?” Raanu repeated.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Sure. – he muttered quickly – Night is the best time for, well, pretty much everything.”

“Keep going, Takua.” Balta asked, placing her elbows on her crossed legs and her head on her palms, staring him intensely.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry. Keep going.” Said Hakann as well.

“Right. Where was I…The Scientist, yes. The Scientist had been obsessed with that demonic creature since the day he saw the first one trespassing the city’s borders, marking its steps with its hideous toxic drool, howling piercingly at its preys before trapping them in unbreakable, slimy green webs. But before claiming its trophies, the rahi from far away had one special way to ambush them. A natural weapon of incredible design, and stupefying prowess. Anyone struck by the spinning disk, erupted from its abdomen, would be left paralyzed, helpless, at the mercy of the unmerciful crawling predator. The Scientist was fascinated by this. He wanted that weapon: to pierce its secrets and understand its mechanism, and be able to reproduce it to conquer and to seize.

As he slashed branches with his katana, he noticed how they suddenly became sticky and elastic, and produced a distinctive sound when cut through. The Scientist realized he was getting close to the creatures’ lair: the strange branches were gigantic spider webs, the kind weaved by the monster he sought. A scream as broken glass burned the night. Hungry red eyes from atop a cliff descended towards the invader of the nest, with the terrible sound of claws snapping at every step. The Scientist was not unprepared. As his heart raced as fast as the beast itself towards him, he set his weapons, and his Matatu, ready to strike. The spinner flew through the dark, as expected. The Scientist caught it just a few feet from his face and, crazed with enthusiasm, powered by the mask of telekinesis, had it fly against the beast which launched it first. Once again the Scientist expectations were right, and the monster screeched, paralyzed by its own weapon. Soon, after this night, the matoran of this long lost city, far beyond Mata Nui, overcame the fear of the monsters and, following the Scientist’s example, drove them back, tamed them, learnt to coexist. But moreover, they studied them, and from their natural weapon they developed what is now known as a rhotuka launcher, and one such instrument can be found carelessly and prosaically sitting in a shadowed spot at the Wall of History.”

Takua closed his eyes and smiled, having reached the end of his tale. A few applauses came from the small audience gathered around the fire, Kodan’s being the more passionate. Balta, on the other hand, was not clapping: she just gazed at Takua passionately like she did for all the evening. The exiled ta-matoran felt a little uneasy because of this.

“Well, that was…anticlimactic?” commented Hakann, staring awkwardly at the storyteller.

“What’s that?” asked Raanu, getting on his feet all of a sudden, amazed by something.

“What’s…what?” Hakann did not understand. Balta and Kodan started laughing.

“That word you just said. I bet you don’t even you how to write it.” Replied Raanu, maliciously.

“But…oh, go to karzahni.” Hakann grunted, and looked away.

“Hey, take it easy, ah, ah! – cheered Takua – You know what? You’re right. The end was a little rushed, I admit. But all that I could add was just some fantasy fight with the monster, going all pew pew and bang bang. That sort of thing.”

“You know, Takua, you really have plenty of imagination. – said then Balta – To think all of this, the strange creature, the studying, and all starting from just a piece of old metal no one really knows how it works.”

“Thanks, Balta. I guess. – he replied – It’s not all about imagination. I have plenty of time on my hands, to think, to create…”

“Oh, you do? – asked Raanu, smirking – I never knew that.”

“That’s not funny, Raanu…” said Balta.

“I don’t mind it, heh.” Takua assured, actually appreciating the joke.

“I’ve heard – Kodan commenced – that in Onu-Koro they have plenty of these rhotuka launchers, and they use them to, well, to help in mining. They do…something to the rock.”

“I’ve heard that, too. – said Hakann – Ah, hard-working onu-matoran. Unlike us, they actually make good use of these old relics of ours. We just keep them locked to collect dust.”

“Yeah.” Agreed Takua. He noticed Kodan felt uneasy at what has just been said. A historian like him…Takua was willing to bet his cousin was burning with offense, but was polite enough, and cared enough for Takua’s friends, to not let a single fraction of that anger spill out of himself.

He is so a ko-matoran, at times.

“We’re running out of time, I fear.” Proclaimed Hakann, solemnly staring at the sea devouring the last light of the suns.

“Yeah, we’d better leave before they close the gates at Ta-Koro.” Said Balta.

“It’s no problem, guys. – stated Takua, getting up and taking the blanket handed over by Balta – I appreciated that you have come. Really.”

“Don’t mention it, pal! It was a pleasure!” shouted Raanu as he strongly beat Takua’s fist, a big grin on his Komau. Despite being sometimes annoying with all his jokes and puns, he was a good-natured guy, one that valued friendship and was always there to help if needed.

“Me, too, Takua. – and the hot-tempered blacksmith Hakann shared fists as well – It was shocking to hear of your banishment, but I see you took it pretty well.”

“I’ll survive. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow but I’ll try.”

“I wish you the best of luck.”

As Hakann and Raanu bid farewell to Kodan and exchanged a few private words with him, Balta approached Takua. They beat their fists, and then she hugged him warmly.

“How long is this banishment going to last?” she asked softly, still embraced.

“I do not know, Balta.”

“I hope not too long. I think I’m going to miss you.” She confessed, leaving his arms.

“You can come visit me anytime. – he replied, hiding his shock for those words she just whispered the best way he could – And besides…I deserve it. I do not know what Vakama said to you, but, trust me, in the end I just deserve this.”

“Don’t say that! I want to see you in Ta-Koro soon, okay?”

“I’ll do what I can.” He granted.

Then, waving hands as the shadows covered them, the three friends of Takua’s left the beach. Still looking in their direction, he could hear their happy voices talking to each other, Raanu’s spicy jokes, and see Hakann take off with the power of his Miru, fleeing one of Raanu’s pranks.

It was great to have them around. Sharing the fish he caught with them, carelessly chatting as the salty grilled flesh spread tempting scent all around, was the best way to conclude his first not-so-full-of-anguish day of banishment. He was tempted to say that it was even better than a regular Ta-Koro day. It was probably just an illusion, however: being cast out of home made him realize how much he cared for even the smallest of things.

“They’re nice people.” Said Kodan.

“I know, right?”

“That smith, Hakann, – Kodan continued – he asked me when I was going to leave.”

“Oh. – this information struck Takua, as he put out the fire –  And what was your answer?”

“I didn’t answer. The thing is, I don’t know.”

“Well, if you ask me, I do know one thing: you really should leave. As I told Hakann, I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, and you have your family to return to. I have, too, but…my home is here, not Po-Koro.”

“I can’t leave you! – shouted Kodan, angry and worried at the same time – Not now. I can’t leave you alone.”

Warmed by this affection of his, Takua slept an excellent sleep, once inside the tent, aware and comforted of Kodan’s presence beside him.

It was a calm, relaxing night up until the end, the time to wake up. Takua screamed as he opened his eyes and welcomed the new day with fear. An incredibly loud sound, terribly resembling that of an explosion, filled Takua’s ears as he crossed the line between dream and reality, and he expected to see the whole tent set on fire or another destruction-filled scenario along those lines.

He realized, however, that everything was in its supposed place – including Kodan, still asleep, who seemed to have not heard Takua’s waking shriek. It was just a dream, Takua repeated to himself, stretching his arms and legs and reaching for his Pakari on his right. A dream he oddly had no memory of, beside that strange boom. He did not remember to have had any dream at all. Strange tricks played by his mind.

The warm golden rays of light penetrating from the tent’s entrance were caressing him, and inviting him to fully embrace the new day.

Following the events of the day before, he greeted such new day with enthusiasm, and optimism.

It was there, the Ta-Wahi beach, the same, usual shiny Ta-Wahi beach that has always been there, with its soft crystalline sand and cool crystal-clear water.

The early beams of the Twin Torches, as usual, caressed the gentle waves creating a dancing pattern of iridescent reflections. The harsh volcanic formations behind Takua stared at him with their usual absent, apathetic gaze, as they protected him and any occupant of the beach from the icy winds coming down from Ihu, as it has always been.

The Great Telescope was fixed on the celestial wall, as it has always been. As it has always been, the Red Star watched from above, evoking a sense of awe and mystery. Boats were docked along the coast, including the one Takua now recognized as Norik’s, as they have always been docked since the ta-matoran settled beneath the shadow of Mangai Volcano.

Everything was where it always had been: the Charred Forest, the rocks, the metallic and alien-looking hollow cylindrical object that washed ashore, laying among the boats, steaming, the seagulls playing in the shallow water and flying in circles above the Great Telescope.

Yes, perhaps it was a slightly monotonous, unchanging sight, on the long run, considered Takua, hands on his sides, but it was a view he would not give up for any other. He was actually growing quite fond of it: the smell was not that bad, and the air was fresh and pure, unlike the one breathed in Ta-Koro, full of smoke and ash.

Since he knew himself so well, he was well aware that one day, and maybe a day not too far away from then, he would change his mind and do anything to return to the heat and blaze of Ta-Koro, especially considering what Balta told him the night before, and her overall attitude towards him.

For the time being, however, Takua did not dislike the fishing life. As long as he had Norik and friends to come visit him, he was okay.

Takua approached Norik’s boat.

Were it for being awoke by just mere minutes, or for his mind already projected in the open sea, only when he was near the strange artifact, only after stopping to gaze at it for a few moments, thinking ingenuously what strange boat it was, only then Takua realized something was not quite right. That day, the Ta-Wahi beach was not the same, usual beach it always had been.

Takua backed in fear and awe. What in all of Okoto was that thing? It looked like nothing the matoran could craft or even think of.

Shining platinum, the large canister had a smooth, round surface devoid of any detail, so pure and so silver it looked almost like solidified protodermis – something that did not exist. It was large and hollow enough that at least two matoran could fit inside. Then again, it did not look like a matoran’s everyday means of transportation. No wheels, nowhere a rope of sorts could fit for a rahi to pull, no spots for oars to be put in. Did it fly, perhaps? Steam was coming from all around it and from the inside as well. Not far, what looked like the…top? opening? of the thing, a semispherical piece of the same bright metal laid in the sand.

Takua’s curiosity got the best of him, and overcame his fear of the unknown upon noticing footsteps on the sand…coming straight out of the canister…and heading for Ta-Koro!

Takua trembled, reacting to a wild cocktail of emotions he could not distinguish from one another: he was afraid, yet he was curious and excited, all at the same time. Strange irresistible energies ran through his body, leading him to follow the trail of footsteps.

One word came to his mind, but he did not dare to speak it. One, awe-inspiring, legendary word, the only word that could possibly describe what has just happened, what to expect. Was Takua willing to believe it? He was not sure. He has never been sure, at times questioning the existence of Makuta itself. It was just beyond belief. If it was true, everything on Mata Nui was about to change…
It was a rushed reaction; and rushed reactions never do good. It could be anything, with no need to bring forth the mythical and the religious. What if it was a beast? Ta-Koro needed to be alerted. Perhaps it was just some crazy onu-matoran with some crazy experiment, it would not be the first time something like that happened…judging from the size and shape of the footsteps, however, Takua had to discard this hypothesis. Whatever left those footsteps, it had feet larger than the average matoran, and was not bi-toed. Still not wanting to trot out the prophecies of his people, blindly wanting to believe it was nothing supernatural, Takua carried on the onu-matoran scientists theory: maybe it was just someone with larger feet, there was nothing strange in that. And regarding the lack of toes, well…he – or she – was wearing boots?

By the Great Spirit…what now? Oh, geez…I don’t know what am I doing…maybe it’s a dream. If I go back to sleep…

Slowly, Takua was drawing near to the Ta-Koro pathway before the burnt wood of the Charred Forest. The trail was leading him through a number of dark stones that, from that spot, hid the pathway and the forest from view.

And the creature itself.

It was there, amidst those stones of frozen magma. Takua saw it, and it saw him.

Standing tall, at least two times the average matoran height, the alien was robed in fire, a bright red and muscular-looking armor-like exterior covered its body entirely. That shell…it was nothing that rahi shared. Its evidently hairless and tough-looking skin was, apparently, exactly like that of the matoran, and that no other living thing in matoran memory had beside themselves.

Unlike a matoran, however, besides being taller, its arms were not longer than its legs, and they barely reached knee-point.

Takua was paralyzed, struck not by fear, but…some sense of authority and of power that the creature evoked in him. What was it? No skakdi stood that erect, it was far slimmer – not to mention, more red – than any stone ape in existence, and as far as Takua knew, no skakdi was capable of using tools. The creature, on the other hand, was clearly brandishing a weapon of sorts in its right hand. Some kind of sword, perhaps.

When the tall being looked back, and gazed at Takua, all of his awe vanished, replaced by unfathomable terror. That gaze! Those deep blue eyes, shining like no eyes of a rahi! Blue and gleaming just like those of a ta-matoran…

And its face…a face that was not a face, covered in the well known shape of a mask of power, the kanohi Hau.

Takua ran away in horror in the most indecent and vile of ways.

Short on breath, his chestlight beating crazily, Takua stopped only when he reached his tent, where he could feel somewhat secure. He fell to the ground, dipping his hands and knees in the sand.

“This is not real! – he shouted to himself – It’s not real. This can’t be real!”

Then, lengthily, knowing what his eyes were about to see, his heart beating faster every second, he turned his head towards the sea, hoping to see it vanished.

But it was there: the metal canister and the steps on the sand. It, indeed, was real.

Edited by Millennium

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

III.2: Close encounters - part two

 

“Kodan! Kodan, you have to wake up, now!”

Takua shouted with all the strength of his lungs, entering the tent like a storm and filling it with the deafening echo of his scream.

The sleeping, poor po-matoran, maskless, rose from his bedplace suddenly like an arrow sprang from a bow, shock all across his sleepy face.

“Who? What?! Where’s the Makuta?” agonizing, Kodan reached for his Arthron laying beside him, grabbed it and inadvertently threw it on Takua’s face.

“No, no, there’s no Makuta…I hope, but you have to come with me! Hurry!”

The exile rushed to put Kodan’s mask on him, and shook him grabbing his shoulders, as if Kodan was not awakened enough.

“Takua, stop! – ordered Kodan, evading his cousin’s seize – I’m awake! What in the karzahni is going on?!”

“It-it’s a matter of grave urgency! Just come out and see for yourself!”

An annoyed and even more frustrated Kodan obeyed, led outside by hand.

When he saw what Takua saw, an ordinary Ta-Wahi beach by early morning, he wanted to shout at Takua, offer him a no-return trip to the realm of Karzahni and go back to sleep immediately.

But then, he focused, and realized the extraordinary. The platinum metallic canister, shining, smoking. And the steps around it – some where Takua’s, but the larger, alien ones were still clearly visible and outstanding, and struck fear in Kodan’s heart, whose chestlight almost stopped for a few seconds, only to shine faster than usual.

For fear was not the only thing that shrouded Kodan’s soul upon that sight: there was also something else. Adrenaline, fierce curiosity, a sparkle of a distant memory, uncertain, faded, but strong.

“Takua…what does this mean? Am I dreaming?” he spoke with almost no voice, enchanted, ecstatic more than paralyzed.

“No, you’re n…”

“Takua, his seems familiar. – Kodan interrupted – I’ve seen it! On the Great Telescope. And the Wall of History, too, it spoke of this! I just don’t remember what exactly…”

“That’ll have to wait” – Takua insisted, trying to share some of his anxiety and concern, make Kodan realize the critical situation – You won’t believe it…something crawled out of there, I saw it! It was huge, all red, and armed! I saw it headed for Ta-Koro! Then I…I was afraid, and ran…but we have to do something!”

“We…we surely do.” Kodan agreed. But not before gulping.

Alarmed and uncertain, they got back inside the tent, and equipped themselves with all the kanoka in their possession and a fishing staff Norik handed over to Takua the day before. Kodan also brought an extra Jutlin, the mask of shock.

What were they going to do? Fight? Perhaps there was no need to fight, as that strange monster could have easily already entered Ta-Koro, and it could be currently wiping out the village, slaughtering and setting fire to the whole fortress.

Terrified by this, and caring for his fire kind, the principle of Courage so valued by ta-matoran gave Takua the Strength to overcome his doubts and be ready to face any danger, to give his life in stopping anything that could put his village and his cherished ones at risk. There was no way a ta-matoran, exiled or not, would turn his back on a battle for the safety of his people.

He was unsure about Kodan, though. Despite the Jutlin, his manners were not that of a frightened matoran, his thoughts seemed to not be filled by fear or by the urgency of a fight. Takua could not decipher Kodan’s exact feelings, and that somehow bothered Takua.

Nevertheless, in the more hopeful prospect that the red creature still made no offensive approach, there was the opportunity for Takua to redeem himself by alerting Ta-Koro of the mysterious arrival.

Once again, Takua followed the trail of steps along the sand, this time running and with Kodan by his side. They soon had the comforting evidence that the creature did not reach Ta-Koro…yet. But then where did it go? How did it disappear, how could it possibly go around unnoticed?

“Hey! Where ya fellas going in such a hurry?!” The familiar grey shape of Norik’s Kiril greeted the two, having just turned around the rocks at the end of the Ta-Koro path to reach for his docked boat.

He was, as usual, strongly loaded and fully prepared for day of fishing in the open sea. His appearance, as said before, was reassuring, for it meant no attacks on the village, yet Norik’s apparent tranquility irritated an already vexed Takua. Did he not understand what was going on?! Did he not see anything?

Takua soon found answers for these questions, as he cried: “Norik! Thank goodness you’re here, you’re safe! What are you doing here? You should get back in the village immediately!”

“You going nuts! It’s a beautiful day for fishing! And you comin’ with me, remember?” Norik replied, unaltered by Takua’s apprehension.

“No! You don’t understand…oh, Great Spirit! Haven’t you seen these?!” Takua pointed to the steps on the sand.

“What’s the big deal bout that?”

Takua had already enough of it. He seized Norik’s shoulders, similarly to how he grabbed Kodan’s just mere moments before, forcing him to let go of his equipment, and directing the fisherman’s only good eye toward the metal structure ahead of him.

“You see that, Norik? Tell me that you see it! Do you know what that is? Me neither! It’s some kind of…of vessel, coming from the sea or who knows where, and a monster came out of it and walked till here! Didn’t you see it?”

“What.” Was the only thing that Norik could say. The light in his eye clearly revealed how he believed the exile and his tan companion to be insane and in need of rest.

“Takua, the steps lead to the Charred Forest!” Kodan informed his cousin, having proceeded ahead.

“Got it. Just give me a second. – he nodded at the po-matoran, before returning to Norik – Listen, Norik. Head back to the village and tell Turaga Vakama what I said to you, okay? Just do it. I can’t go fishing today.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Kodan, worriedly, gazing upon the burnt trees of the dark, ominous wood.

“I say…I say we get inside, and find him…her…it. We have to.” Suggested Takua. But he was not sure of his words. Was he really ready to die? What were the exact odds of him coming out of that situation alive?

Everything was just so rushed and nonsensical, Takua’s mind was a complete mess and he could not discern what was rational and what was not. It was all happening all of a sudden, with no apparent logic or order. He, a freshly banished ta-matoran, witnessing the arrival of a mysterious being and deciding to follow it, inside the Charred Forest, for the sake of his reputation, more than anything. He wanted to show his village his bravery and competence, redeem himself, be accepted once more. Was it really worth facing such a puzzling, unpredictable danger? The prospect of having his name hailed as that of a hero, a dead hero, was not that inviting, after all.

Why would the beast, first and foremost, enter the Charred Forest? The pathway to Ta-Koro was in plain view, the gate of the fortress itself, in the close distance, as well. If it was on the hunt for matoran, like all infected rahi do, why do that? But perhaps it was not a rahi like all others – Takua saw no visorak on it – perhaps it was something more advanced, more intelligent, luring them into a trap…

Kodan was apparently of no such idea, and, mutely, he prompted Takua – it was his suggestion, after all – to enter the Charred Forest, leaving an estranged Norik behind.

Not daring to say a word, they tried to keep following the trail, but the rather different terrain reigning in that half-burnt realm made it really difficult for them. Soon, there were no more steps at all to track. Gloomy sounds of cracking branches came from all around the two wanderers, instilling fear and suspect in their hearts, as if they were not terrified on their own, but no view or clue of what provoked such spooky tremors. Even if most of the vegetation there had long been dead, devoured by ancient flames, and the scarce green leaves could not darken the suns, it was a rather obscure place. Black was the soil, black as the heart of Makuta itself was the wood of the fallen flora, and such blackness was too profound and dominant to stay in place, preserved inside that darkened matter, and, like a cosmic, superior force it erupted out of the ground and trees, and reached and covered every corner of the forest, swallowing it in a state of perpetual, dangerous night, where the calls of the beasts living there sounded eerie and threatening to the ears of those who dared to enter, and even the singing of the birds felt twisted and malevolent.

Moreover, it was an easy place where one could get lost, if left with no indications. There where no paths in the Charred Forest.

“Kodan…” muttered Takua, gulping at an incredible rate. His hands were trembling, shaking the kanoka he was holding with an horrible tingling.

“Takua…” the po-matoran replied, with the exact same tone in his low voice.

“I think we made a big mistake.”

“I was thinking of that, too.” Kodan agreed.

“I…I don’t know what…oh, Kodan, I’m such a failure! I shouldn’t have brought you here.” Takua cried.

“Hey, don’t be a crybaby. – he assured him, passing a hand over his shoulder – I’m sure we can find our way back.”

“I wanted to get that thing, Kodan. I have been stupid. I thought that if I did I could enter Ta-Koro once more. But there’s no way I’m gonna fight that thing.”

“It’ll be okay. Someone else will, if it really proves to be a danger.”

“Do you believe me? – he inquired – You don’t think me mad, do you?”

“Well. – Kodan scratched the back of his head, gazing at his surroundings in uneasiness – The canister on the beach was real, for sure. Though I’m not so sure what was inside is some kind of monster, like you do.”

“So…what do you think it is? If you have seen it on the Wall, maybe you know what to expect.” Takua whispered a word, tremblingly. That same word he was afraid of pronouncing since the moment he saw the tall, red figure. And that same word Takua was still afraid to even think, let alone speak aloud. He wanted to hear it from Kodan, if he dared to speak it. Only then Takua would have surrendered to what that word meant, and would have agreed that the newcomer was of no danger at all.

Kodan, however, did not respond. He avoided Takua’s eyes and kept on looking in every direction, probably not even knowing what he was actually looking for.

“No, you’re not mad, Takua. – he said after a while, completely ignoring his cousin’s questions – But I guess we both will be, and soon, if we don’t get out of here.”

The trees, both the burnt ones and those still with the ghost of a life inside them, looked all the same and there was no way to discern one from the other. The strategy of marking the bark as they passed by seemed an excellent idea, at first, so as to not get lost and have a vague orientation. If only Takua and Kodan were not already lost, it could have easily led them out of the voracious, scarred forest. Instead, again and again the two stumbled upon an already marked tree, as if running endlessly in circle, to the point they were starting to believe to have marked every single tree of the ash-filled jungle, and still they were trapped inside.

Like a living entity, a perverse and corrupted undead being not resigned to its age-old scorched doom, the Charred Forest welcomed the incautious newcomers as victims to feast upon, little by little, inexorably driving them mad with the labyrinthic and menacing repetitiveness of its trunks and roots and branches, leaving them no chance to escape, not even with the wits of gods, or their strength. What was there left to destroy, to burn? What could have died had already died long ago, but it had not stopped preying on living things.

Takua was beginning to feel amazed by the sheer power of confusion and disarray displayed by that ridicule piece of wood, and by how such a dreadful spawn of the realm of Karzahni was so near to one of the strongest and more populous city in all of Mata Nui, rivaled only by Onu-Koro. Did all matoran who travel inside face the same feelings of perdition and oppression as him? It could not be: everyday ta-matoran got there for hunting. And what about the strange monster? Was it lost, too? Perhaps all of that was its dark influence on the jungle.

Perhaps it was none of this, and it was all because Takua spent too much time in the Ta-Koro fortress, on lava flows, training his lavasurfing skills, and not enough in there hunting rahi like a grown matoran, and knew nothing of the Charred Forest, despite living so close to it and passing it by so many times during his years at the fire city. It was also amazing how things could get from tragic to absurdly peaceful to troublesome again in a matter of days: it was so impressive, in fact it almost made Takua chuckle.

Here the madness comes. He said to himself, unable to stop laughing, even if at a low level.

“Now what the…” Kodan whispered in horror, halting his march, as his fingers reached for the kanoka.

Before Takua could ask, he saw for himself what proved to be so horrific. More than horrific, strange. Unsettling.

There was a ta-matoran, just a few feet ahead of them. Completely bright red, wearing a Pakari just like Takua. If the sudden appearance on its own was not suspicious enough, the way he moved around, from a tree to another, horizontally, and very, very slowly, was completely foreboding. Plus, he did not seem to have noticed the two who have just came.

Takua approached him in hopefulness, recognizing the Ta-Koro Guard insignia and bi-forked golden spear.

“Ehm, sir. – he spoke – We are, uhm, lost, we were following a strange monster that came out from a metal canister on the beach and…are you even listening, sir?”

“Yes.” He answered. He kept on moving in that odd manner as he listened and talked.

“Uhm, and what will you do about what I just said?”

“Something is already being done.” He replied.

“Yeah? Like what?

“I am waiting. And in waiting, I am practicing.”

“Kodan, I am not hallucinating, am I?” Takua asked Kodan, worried.

“I…don’t think. I’m seeing him too.” The po-matoran answered, insecurity in his voice.

“I am practicing. – the guard repeated – Vakama says that even though I am slow, I can be faster than all the others, and travel very far. He says I must practice. Jaller says I am being silly. I practice often.”

“I…think Jaller is right, actually.” Takua concluded, folding his arms.

“Takua! It’s a guard you’re talking to.” Kodan scolded him.

“If I practice, I can be where I am not. – the mysterious ta-matoran ensued – Where I am it is hot, but it is cold where I am not. I think I can feel it.”

“Who are you? Are you the Makuta?”

“Takua! – Kodan exclaimed again – What kind of a question is that?”

“I am Kapura son of Kalama. – he said – I am not the Makuta. But that is a good question to ask, actually.”

Kodan was left speechless. He opened his mouth wide and stared at Kapura for a few seconds, and rubbed his eyes, believing the madness had come unto him as well.

“Jaller says I have to be careful when I practice in the forest. – Kapura explained – He says the Makuta is everywhere. He means rahi. Things you can see. But I know the Makuta is here, now, in these burnt trees, and in the dead soil. All of these things were destroyed by the Makuta, but the Makuta never left them. That is how it becomes strong. That is what it does: it destroys things.”

“That is…actually a really interesting concept.” Takua agreed. But he himself did not know if he really meant those words or it was the growing madness talking for him.

“Thanks.” Kapura said, apathetically.

“Do you know who this Jaller is?” Kodan asked his cousin.

“He is the Captain of…”

“The Ta-Koro Guard.” Concluded a firm, strong yet young voice behind them. All of a sudden the Charred Forest had became an increasingly crowded place, much to the falling sanity of Takua.

Golden Hau, hands and feet; muscular and slim red body; the emblem of the Ta-Koro Guard printed on his many armor plates. He was of course Jaller, the Captain of the Guard, looking down on the two unexpected occupants of the Forest with little surprise and more sufficiency. On his sides, more guards, wielding their two-pronged spears, and ready for action. But what action? Why were they there? At least that Kapura was not an hallucination.

“Kapura, I see you have guests.” Jaller said, showing the two little concern for their presence there.

“Captain, we must tell you something!” Takua’s intentions of alerting in hopes of a readmission were still fierce.

“Don’t shout, you idiot! – Jaller hissed, rushing to cover the exile’s mouth with his hand – He is near here, and might notice us. – he enlightened the agitated Takua, staring with sharp eyes at him in a way he was persuaded to the silence – We are very close, so keep your mouth shut, stranger.”

“Who…” They already know, then? – Takua thought to himself, witnessing his dreams of readmission break down – How much time have we been here? When did the Guard notice the…thing? And…no one calls me stranger in Ta-Wahi! What’s with this guy?

“Kapura, have you set the trap?” Jaller questioned his slow subordinate.

“Yes, captain. It will be lured into it really soon. We need to get ready.” He responded, having finally put an end to his strange dance.

“Understood. – Jaller then turned once again towards the two cousins – You two. Questions later. Since you are here and armed, as I see, you will come with us and face this strange beast. If he escapes our trap, we will fight. If you don’t want to, stand back, and don’t get in our way. And moreover, be silent, whatever you do. So what is your decision?”

Takua and Kodan looked at each other, and exchanged their feelings and thoughts with the mere power of gazes and facial expressions. Capturing, or at least try, the alien beast was their starting intention after all, they now had better hopes of success and survival. They nodded, and then Kodan said: “We will follow your lead.”

Jaller nodded as well in response, and took position ahead of his party of armed matoran, Kapura behind him, and all the others tagging along in a straight line across the grey woods. Jaller made a swift gesture with his free hand, ordering his men to move forward and follow him. There were at least a dozen guards.

The two cousins waited for the end of the row to join in, but when the time came they noticed a really familiar figure concluding the hunting party, someone who was particularly curious, if not suspicious, to be found there, accompanying each step with the silent and solemn tilting of the sacred staff on the murky, dusty ground.

“Turaga Vakama!” uttered Takua in amazement, not before reminding himself to bow his head a little, in respect. Kodan was no less surprised and bowed as well.

“Takua. – the orange Huna-wielder greeted him calmly – I see you have not been standing idly by. I appreciate that. And Kodan, I see you still stand with your cousin. It is very remarkable, and honorable.”

“I’d never turn my back on him in such a moment of need, Turaga.” Kodan put it very clearly, appearing a bit offended.

“Turaga, what are you doing here? – the curious blue-masked one asked – I mean…”

“I understand your curiosity, Takua. I want to see this strange beast for myself. See for myself what is so extraordinary about it.”

“We are here, Turaga. – came the voice of Jaller, jagged and thready – Stand back. Everyone, take your position. Behind those trees, there, and there. Lhikan, you stay with Vakama. Kapura, with me, at the rope. You two… – the Captain turned to Takua and Kodan, and rubbed his chin in reflection, clearly having no idea, perhaps no need, of where to displace those two extra men – Uhm, just stay covered, and wait for my signal.”

The cousins obeyed mutely, having no other choice. They, and everyone else hid behind tall and wide trees, and peeked from time to time to check the monster arrival.

Jaller and Kapura waited for it beneath a large, fallen trunk, kneeled, the red Pakari user holding tightly a rope between his hands.

Everything became locked, frozen. Kapura made no movement at all, as if turned to stone. Each of the guards were extremely cautious in their peeking, as if the air had suddenly became solid, like glass, and any smart move could shatter that rigid and fragile atmosphere of tension, destroying their hopes of an easy imprisoning of the monster. The only one matoran with the heart and enough agility to move fast without being noticed or heard was Jaller, glancing above the trunk swiftly and with unaffectedness, handling his inner fears with an expertise unexpected and noteworthy, for  someone so young.

An unnatural silence fell upon the Charred Forest. Even the rahi that just a moment before could be heard in any directions abruptly ceased to make sounds, as if struck by the power of a Shelek, the mask of silence. Birds stopped chanting, and the repeated, tense gulps of Takua – and of everyone else in the area – sounded incredibly loud and dangerous to make, and frightening to heed.

Then, without forewarning, the storm came. And it was as if the whole jungle had suddenly returned to life, sparkling with motion. A violent, burning life-force.

The mysterious ape-like warrior emerged from the sinister branches, marching resolutely, glorious and overwhelming in its shining fiery armor, sword in hand, unaware of what was about to happen in mere moments. Its deep ocean-tint eyes, sunk in the unmistakable shape of a red mask of shielding, shone like no matoran eyes Takua had memory of, and perused at their surroundings…in confusion, it seemed, but also with the fierce will to overcome any obstacle they might come across.

Jaller became crazed with incoming victory and jumped, and yelled to Kapura: “Now!”

The creature had barely noticed him when, in a matter of seconds, Kapura pulled the rope, and as swift as lightning, long, razor-edged thick branches erupted from the ground around the tall being, enclosing him in a prison of wood.

“Let’s get it!” the Captain commanded enthusiastically, leaping from the trunk. Everyone, Takua and Kodan included, sprang out of their hiding spots, running – Kapura excluded – with spears readied in front of the creature.

The latter looked distraught for a moment, limping in that limited space it was confined in, trying to no use to break or pull out from the ground the hardened canes.

Then, it raised its sword. If that alone was not enough to scare the matoran, considering its large size and sharp edges, the fire shocked them, to death, almost. The sword, clearly metallic, was set on fire, and smashed to embers in a couple of rapid, blazing blows the trap Kapura had so tirelessly conceived, so perfect and sturdy it could have hold any known rahi.

Strange powers were no new thing to the matoran, acquainted with the extraordinary capabilities of kanohi, and, despite being terrified by that display, did not stop trying to surround and seize the creature, believing their strength in numbers and in Unity to be capable of overcome any supernatural power.

The creature raised its sword once again, only to lower it a little. It was breathing heavily, probably scared as the matoran were. Something in its worried eyes hinted to a careful Takua it did not want to hurt them. It opened its mouth…trying to speak?

No. It can’t speak. It’s a rahi! – the exile told to himself – But it has a mask…no rahi wears masks…

“Enough!” uttered Vakama, shifting himself through the armed party by solely lifting his sacred Firestaff, and towards the tall being.

“Turaga, no! It’s dangerous!” Jaller cried out, in vain.

For at the inquisitive, now calmer eyes of the creature, looking down on the party with curiosity more than fear, and no intention at all to do harm, at its eyes, at his eyes and at his feet, Turaga Vakama kneeled. He rested the Firestaff on the ground, like a useless chunk of painted wood, and kneeled, touching the ground with his forehead, much to the surprise of the other matoran, and of the creature as well.

Their shock, however, was short-lived, as realization crossed their minds. Soon, panic and aggression having departed from their hearts, they all found themselves enthralled by joy, dancing around in enthusiasm and raising their weapons high to honor and bless the newcomer, and chanting his name: Tahu, the Toa of fire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 4.1: The quest part 1

 

The Twin Torches were gleaming of the scorching light of the late morning, so hot it would have been of no surprise to see the sand of the beach turned to glass and the sea extinguished in a massive breath of steam. Atop the rock formation leading to the uplands, the group, consisting of sturdy ta-matoran and one po-matoran well used to the hardships of the Motara desert of Po-Wahi,  barely felt such an extreme temperature.

Behind them, the rusty, ancient metallic coverings of the Great Telescope, violently caressed by the sunrays, sent back blinding flashes in the eyes of matoran and Toa.

Toa Tahu was perfectly at ease in that fiery climate. Red and fierce as the fire itself, standing tall and confident, his words have been powerful ones, but confused. He was confused. He showed no fear for his surroundings, only a vague sense of curiosity; his gait was a confident and relaxed one. His senses were attentive, ready to withstand anything suspicious or dangerous that may have come unexpected from the rocky, but there was no fear in his eyes, in the way he moved.

Tahu walked on the beach, on the stone stairs, as if he had walked through them a thousand times. He walked among the matoran as if he had lived among them his entire life. Those around him, despite Tahu’s apparent amnesia, felt reassurance, safety, and strength from his presence. His muscular build, his fine kanohi Hau, perfect in every detail, his astonishing metal sword, fashioned by hands that rivaled those of the best artists of Po-Koro, his icy gaze, pointed towards his goal but aware of everything and everyone around them, sending a sense of caring to the matoran: they were all elements that the ta-matoran noticed with marvel and bliss and felt relieved for. Tahu’s appearance was the best the ta-matoran could hope for, and showed great premise. They looked at him as if thinking the Makuta to have already fallen at his hands. What could stand such a brave warrior? But was he actually brave?

Takua, too, was inconceivably at ease as he followed the tall figure. A Toa! A hero from the heavens, descended to save the matoran as it has been prophesied for centuries! Takua could not believe it, and thought he was living a dream. He constantly looked over his shoulder to be reassured of Kodan’s presence, and to see if he, too, was amazed just as Takua was: he was crazed with enthusiasm.

Takua was not. It was not exactly enthusiasm the strange stream that ran through his heart. It was something…different. He never believed the Toa to be real. But Tahu was real. And so were the earth of the rock formations, the blazing suns, the boiling sea, the chanting of the seagulls and murmurs of the guards, as Turaga Vakama lead Tahu and each of them to the small shrine, located just behind the Great Telescope.

Takua would have surely spent plenty of time there as a kid, if he had always lived in Ta-Koro. Instead he had been at that shrine only a couple of times. Turaga Dume first and Vakama later, they used to gather the younger there and tell them the legend of Artakha and Makuta, using stone totems to represent the deities and the characters of the myths. Takua was present at times, for fun.

It was strange for him to be there again, and in the presence of a Toa! To tell him that same legend he was part of! That same legend Takua thought Tahu was imprisoned in forever, as a mere fictitious hero to give hope to fragile hearts.

“Here we are, Toa Tahu. – announced Vakama – Here your mission will become clear to you, once more.”

Tahu looked at the sand circle, filled with sculpted rocks, and seemed disappointed.

“What does this have to do with my mission, Turaga? – Tahu asked in a firm voice, confused but not at all embarrassed by this confusion of his; he seemed…in a sort of hurry, actually – I…I need to find my brothers. The other Toa. They are here. United we have to…to defend the matoran. That is my mission.”

“That is true. – Vakama said, nodding – That is true, but it’s not the whole truth. Your descent from the heavens has been a great ordeal, Tahu, and so it must have been for your brothers and sisters. Your mind once clear has been filled with darkness, and questions, and here you will find your answers. It is all as the prophecies said, as the Red Star showed us. Now gather, we shall listen again to our legend.”

Vakama took his place at the sand circle. Like the matoran were taught their whole life since childhood, the Takua, Kodan and the guards – there were Kapura, a Kakama-wielding guard, but not Jaller: as his representative there was Lhikan, second in command in the Ta-Koro guard. He too wore a Hau, a yellow Hau, and had yellow feet like Jaller, but the rest of his body was crimson – all took their places around the shrine, and sat crossing their legs. Tahu, respectful, imitated their example, and waited.

“In the time before time, there were the Great Beings. – Vakama began, and put a group of slim, tall tan statuettes just over the border of the sand circle – The gods. The architects of the cosmos. They whose hands are eternally creating. Their realm is the Bionicle, a world of perpetual wonder, immortal, constantly changing. Everything that exists, the sky, the sea, every mountain and lake and animal and tree, was fashioned by them. Two Great Beings, two brothers… – Vakama reached for two statuettes amidst those of the Great Beings, slightly shorter and wider, and with six lines carved upon them, in their upper half: one was white, the other utter black – descended from the heavens, upon this world we call Okoto. They were Artakha, the Great Spirit, and Makuta, the Great Beast. They brought us into existence, to experience the wonder of their creations. – little by little, small, round, anonymous grey pebbles were thrown in the sand circle, and Vakama gathered them around the two brothers – Artakha shaped our bodies, our minds, our culture, and gave us the kanohi masks of power. Makuta enriched our world with rahi to be our companions and plants to be our food and shelter. Together, they gave us the laws, the Three Virtues: Unity, Duty, and Destiny. Those that follow them are granted access to the realm of the Bionicle, and join the Great Beings in their timeless task of creation. We lived in harmony, and peace, and revered our gods. But Makuta saw we cherished for Artakha more. It saw that we prayed Artakha more, and believed we were discontented with its creations. It became envious, and jealous of its brother. One day, such jealousy became insanity: Makuta’s care for us vanished, and so did the love for its brother. Makuta cast a spell on Artakha, and a deep slumber befell upon it! – Vakama raised high Makuta’s black totem in the air, and slammed it on the sand: the matoran pebbles, collected in six pyramid-like structures, trembled; he then took Artakha’s stone, and pulled it over, and the sand swallowed it – Makuta turned the rahi against us with its dark magic. The Great Beast vowed to destroy us, to never let us in the Bionicle: it divided us. We split in every direction, lost ourselves in the vast continents of Okoto. But everywhere we went, its shadow followed us. No matter how far we escaped, how long our times of peace were, the Great Beast would always return, and haunt us. But we never lost hope. No, we knew; even in its sleep, the Great Spirit was still looking over us. He reached for us in our dreams, and showed us the prophecies, and changed the patterns drawn in the sky by the Red Star: so that he could lead us, and tell us what to expect next. It said to us: when the time is right, six heroes would descend from the heavens! – the Turaga pulled over six more statuettes, oval, pearl white and smooth: they surrounded Makuta’s – Together, they will defeat the Great Beast, end its insanity – Makuta’s stone fell on the sand, to be swallowed just like Artakha’s – and awake the Great Spirit from its dark dreams. – the Toa stones surrounded Artakha’s, and raised it from the sand – Such time has come. You are here, Tahu. The Toa are here: the time of the awakening is upon us.”

Tahu replied with a silent, reflective gaze. He stared into the wise shape of the orange mask of invisibility with an aura of skeptical curiosity and examination for a few seconds, before responding: “Turaga, this is the legend. It’s a myth. I…don’t want to sound disrespectful, wise Turaga, but I want, I’d like to know the real truth. How are we supposed to fight Makuta? How do we awake Artakha?”

In that precise moment, Takua smiled the most joyful and content of smiles. Tahu’s dubious and fact-bent question sparkled a sense of kinship in Takua: if he was unsure before about the red warrior, now Takua was convinced he was starting to like him.

Ha! What will Vakama say now? He giggled.

The caped elder did not seem downhearted or disappointed by the Toa’s inquiry, much to the displease of Takua.

“Yours are wise and just questions. – Vakama replied, calmly and unaffected – Our past is forgotten, Tahu. We have been living here on Mata Nui for almost two centuries. Long ago we traversed the extremes of the Motara Wastelands, up north, hoping the harsh environment would weaken and stop the Makuta. We thought we had found a wonderful new place to live, a true island paradise. It did not took long to realize we had already been here: the Great Telescope, and the lost city of Kini-Nui, in the deep south. The Great Beast, as always, followed us across sea and desert, and took residence in the underground realm beneath the lost city, where Artakha’s mortal body lay dormant, and kept anyone from entering the city. It is there that it all began, and where it shall end. Artakha lead us here, back on our steps, for the time of your arrival was growing near. It is at the Kini-Nui that you must go, Tahu. – Vakama raised his Firestaff and pointed it solemnly at Tahu – Not alone, of course. You and the other Toa: Lewa, Kopaka, Gali, Onua and Pohatu.”

“I…I remember those names!” shouted Tahu in a surge of ecstasy, rising up all of a sudden as if he had been stung by a nui-jaga. Takua was almost shocked.

“Of course. – nodded the Turaga – They are your brothers and sisters. I am sure you have faced many great adventures before. In order to defeat Makuta – he then ensued – you have to go on a quest, to find four legendary golden masks. You see, your descent has been anticipated to us, as the prophecies said.”

“What?” uttered both Takua and Kodan, estranged.

Four legendary masks? What kind of random rambling was that, now? There has never been a myth about golden kanohi, as far as Takua knew. And despite being agnostic and, in practical terms, an unbeliever, he had quite a thorough knowledge of the traditional myths. Never before had he heard about what the Turaga was telling. Kapura and Lhikan looked surprised just the same. Then again, maybe the myth of those masks was common and well-taught, but no one gave it much interest, no more than the one showed in the coming of the Toa. For Takua, at least. Or perhaps the Turaga were hiding more powerful secrets than they seemed to.

“Before you, something else rained from the sky. – Vakama explained – They are the four legendary kanohi. The astrologers at Ga-Koro, the capital city of the matoran of Water, have long learnt how to interpret the movements in the sky and of the stars. They have tracked the kanohi as the fell down, and calculated the approximate locations of their landing. And we Turaga, and the Turaga before us, have been prepared for this: when the Toa would come, we would have arranged a meeting at Ga-Koro. There, you will be given additional instructions on your mission, and any other help we matoran can give you. Now, I’m afraid there are no further details I can give you. I’ve told you all that I know. I hope I have quenched your thirst for knowledge.”

“I appreciate that, Turaga. And I thank you.” said Tahu, and tilted his head in respect. It was an amazing sight, to see such a powerful, out-of-this-world figure show respect to an anonymous matoran, even if that matoran was a village elder. The Toa were sure bizarre, fascinating beings, Takua thought. He wandered if the other five – what interesting names they had! – were just like him. He would have, if his mind was not still shaken by the revelation of the existence of those legendary kanohi. What kind of powers they possessed? What if the Makuta seized them? Why they were four and the Toa were six, who would use them? So many questions for the little, excited brain of an outcast blue-masked ta-matoran. His life took the most incredible and unexpected of turns, and now, in a matter of days, all his beliefs and all he held as the truth was changed, and was still changing. He so wanted to know what Kodan, his closest companion in all of Mata Nui, was thinking about all of that unbelievable stuff. The amazed po-matoran looked ecstatic, incapable of shaking his eyes off Tahu, and…seemed unstable, on the brink of insanity, almost. His lips were muttering syllables that did not reach any ears.

“I have just one more question. – stated Tahu, scratching the top of his Hau – How does the Makuta…the Great Beast, if it never leaves this Kini-Nui, ‘disturb’ your lives? Who or what must I defend you from?”

“We know how to defend ourselves, Toa. You do not have to worry about that.” Commenced Lhikan proudly, arms crossed. Turaga Vakama was not very happy of his words.

“While that is true – Vakama responded, not before striking the guard with a fierce gaze – we cannot hold the Makuta forever. As the creator of all the wildlife and plantlife on Okoto, the Great Beast knows how to influence them, and turn them against us. Currently its favorite pawns are the visorak, or skull spiders. They are parasites: they attach at the neck of large rahi, and their venom drives them insane, and make them aggressive towards matoran. Once they are removed, though, the rahi are freed from Makuta’s influence. At least, its influence through the visorak. – Vakama whispered sadly, gazing down – The Great Beast possesses many powers, and I fear we have not yet seen all that it is truly capable of. For instance, in the past, many dared to venture at the lost city, and those who came back before it was too late, swore they had seen strange monsters among its walls, ranging from huge spiders, warriors taller than you, and giant apes.”

This fact, at least, was not unfamiliar for Takua. He had heard many tales about these monstrous encounters. They were really inspirational. But now Takua was not sure if he had anymore the heart to fashion fancy stories about creatures he was no longer so eager to believe as unreal.

“I understand. – concluded an apparently satisfied Tahu, only to suddenly appear more agitated than ever before, as if he had struggled to keep his excitement low during the discussion and could no longer hold that fire inside – What now? When is this meeting? What am I supposed to do?”

His hands craved for the metal sword, or so it seemed in Takua’s eyes.

“The meeting is arranged for tomorrow. – replied Vakama – For now, you have to rest. To eat. To train. And to join us and have fun as we rejoice. We will hold a celebration in your honor, at the village. Many long to see you, and I foresee we will have plenty of visitors from Ta-Mahri and Tren Krom to greet your arrival.”

“I’m in. I mean, I’m here for you.” Agreed Tahu, a little unsure. At the mute signal of the village elder, everyone rose up from around the sand circle, and set forth to leave the cliff.

“Takua.”

The Pakari-user was struck by panic at the sound of his name spoken by that voice. Has he done something wrong, again?

“For today, your banishment is suspended. You’ll participate in our celebration. But tomorrow morning, you must leave Ta-Koro once more.”

“Oh. Really?! – Takua could not believe his ears (there were plenty of things, actually, he could not believe at the moment, as if the whole world turned upside down) and bowed incredibly low – Thank you! Thank you, Turaga!”

“What’s a banishment?” Tahu asked.

“I’ll tell you later. – said Vakama – Now let us leave these rocks, and this beach.”

The group got up from the shrine, Vakama leading at one end, Tahu right behind and then Kapura, Lhikan, the other guard and the two confused and amazed cousins, at the other end. Before approaching the first step and beginning the descent of the rock stairs, the order in the procession suddenly changed, as Kodan left his blue-masked companion, now even more confused, to dash crazily at the other end of the line, right in front of Tahu, where he stopped.

The Toa ceased to walk, and looked down on the matoran with curiosity, but also with a brief annoyance.

“Kodan, what is i…” Vakama tried to speak, he too not quite pleased of strange move.

“Toa Tahu. – Kodan interrupted him, addressing directly to the Toa of fire, after a respectful bow – I am Kodan, son of Ekimu. I…I am an historian, sort of. I have translated many of the Wall of History’s writings, where it spoke of you and your arrival. I want, I ask to come with you and your fellow Toa.”

The unexpected revelation startled the whole party. Except Kapura. Kapura seemed to not care about anything at all.

“Little one, it’s a strange request you’re asking.” Tahu replied simply.

But Takua…Takua was shocked. What was it all about, all of a sudden? There was something wrong in those words, something…simply, plainly, monstrously unjust. Irrational, not thought through. He had the urge to rush at Kodan and make him return to his senses. The po-matoran was certainly crazy, no doubt. Too many emotions in such a small time-lapse. But Takua did not find the courage to do or say anything. Kodan, on the other hand, responded to the overall surprise by making his intentions clearer. Speaking, of course, only to Tahu. There was only Tahu in his eyes, at the moment, who probably did not even know what a Wall of History was, but listened in attentive silence nonetheless.

“Now that you are here…these are the greatest times in the history of Mata Nui, in the history of our civilization! – he uttered out loud – Our past is shrouded in mystery and darkness, but our future now shines bright. Whatever happens now, it will be remembered forever. But not if there is no one to record your deeds, Toa. I want to be that one, and I don’t care how pretentious I sound. I’ve waited for this my entire life, this is what I’m made for! Turaga, you sure understand how important it is.”

“I do, Kodan, I certainly do. – agreed a now less surprised Vakama, caressing the long lower end of  his Huna in careful consideration – Over the years, over your countless visits at our temple, you have proven to be one of our most dedicated scholars. I am sure you have the heart for this task, Kodan, but do you have the strength? The Toa will face many danger.”

“The Turaga’s words are true, little one. – Tahu complied – Are you…really sure you want to fight along us? I myself do not know what awaits ahead, but it won’t be a bed of roses.”

Kodan shuddered a little, and his mouth opened barely, sending out uncertain babbles. But in a matter of seconds Kodan regained control of himself and his fears, and said loud: “I am ready for anything. I can feel it. Please! Let me at least come to the meeting at Ga-Koro, then, you will decide. Let me join you at Ga-Koro!”

“Kodan, you’re insane!” Takua could not hold it any longer. Irritated and even ashamed in Kodan’s stead for all the careless nonsense coming out of his lips, the young Pakari bearer shifted himself through the three guards to grab his cousin’s shoulders and give him one great shake, one that hopefully could help him regain his lost sanity.
“Toa Tahu, please ignore him. He’s out of his mind. – he said angrily – Kodan, you don’t even know how to catch a gafna. You are barely capable of mask-making, and only thanks to your father!”

“Takua, get off me! – the po-matoran cried, shrinking from him – I…I am sorry, Takua, you don’t understand. This is my destiny. You don’t know what I’m feeling inside. That feeling, when you have found what you have always been looking for, and you feel capable to overcome anything for it. I won’t escape from this, Takua. M-Maybe I’m wrong, and you know this feeling, too. Do you? Do you share it? Come with me, if you do.”

Staring horribly at Kodan’s dark yellow Arthron, Takua did not. All he felt was a powerful, devouring sense of betrayal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...