Vakama awakened before dawn, as usual, and made the short walk from his hut to the Temple of Fire that had been erected in the central concourse of New Atero. The day's work had not yet begun, and the streets were empty of both Matoran and Agori. For Vakama, it was a time of peace and quiet, a time to meditate before the noise and bustle of council duties filled his attention. He always tried to be the first occupant of the temple, so that he could build up the Sacred Flame himself. Perhaps it was out of a sense of nostalgia. Memories of his days as the elder of the comparatively tiny village of Ta-Koro arose in his mind. They had been dark times, but, somehow, much simpler.
He entered the sanctum of the temple and set to work adding fuel to the fire, which had burned to low embers during the night but had not gone out. A good omen, to be sure. He gathered an armful of kindling and arranged it amongst the still-glowing coals, then thrust his firestaff into the center. Light flared up, filling the smooth space of the temple with scattering shadows, and smoke wafted upward to escape through the hole in the roof. He found that he enjoyed the smell of the smoke offered by the native woods of Spherus Magna even more than the protodermic ash of his native home. At last, he settled himself on the edge of the firepit and stared into the flames.
Why are you here, Vakama?
He already knew the answer to his own question. He had tried to tell himself that he only sought peace and understanding through his meditations, but there was an ulterior motive: The wavering of the Sacred Flame had always been an aid in stimulating his visions of the future. It had been so long since his seer's mind had spoken that he wondered if the gift had abandoned him entirely. Or, perhaps, the will that governed his visions had decided that the creatures of the Great Beings no longer needed such guidance. This did not stop him from trying, of course, but lately it had been weighing on him. Perhaps he should stop...
His musings were interrupted as a figure stepped out of the darkness of the temple entrance and into the light. The newcomer moved silently across the floor and sat down opposite him. Another being in search of enlightenment, perhaps? Vakama usually let visitors be. They were welcome, of course, but many times they had their own reasons for coming, and he would not intrude upon them.
Even so, the new presence in the chamber seemed to disturb his focus. He found himself trying to discern the being's features through the net of flames. It was small, with eyes that shone white. A heartlight glowed in its chest, so he knew that it was a Matoran...
No, the visitor's identity didn't matter. He returned to his task, trying to allow the splitting and branching tongues of flame to overwhelm his senses and bring on the vision-state...
A small noise began to intrude on his hearing. Tap, tap, tap. He shook his head, trying to ignore it. It persisted. Tap, tap, tap. At once, he realized that his vision was blurring. Perhaps he was having some success after all! Flashes of red and orange now filled his sight, growing brighter, and then--
--then his eyes snapped back into focus, and he realized that there was no fire anymore. Two white eyes blazed into his own across the empty pit. The tapping filled his ears. Tap, tap, tap. The figure was tapping its fingers on the stone. But it wasn't a tapping anymore. It was a crashing thunder, over and over. He tried to break free, but found he could not move.
The Matoran remained in dark silhouette as it raised one hand and, almost lazily, snapped its fingers together.
The temple was gone. He was somewhere else. Flash. The setting changed again. Then again. A series of different surroundings flickered around, almost too quick to see. Through it all he remained motionless, rooted to the spot, and so did the dark figure before him. There was a field with two tall figures...A cityscape backlit by painful brightness...a vast sea of water spreading from a blasted shore...a valley with a small fire burning in it.
Many others followed, but he could not keep track. They seemed to enter his eyes and sink down into his mind, lost to his consciousness.
At last, with a shock, the images ceased. He was in an unfamiliar place. A low ceiling hung above. A table stood to the left. The figure had shifted positions as well. It perched, almost jauntily, on a stool to his right. He could make out some of its features now. It was a Matoran, that was certain. Its armor looked brown, but the color was almost worn away. The mask was a Komau.
"Do you know me?" it asked.
Vakama felt his clenched jaw release. He gasped. Was this still a part of the vision? Visions did not normally ask him questions.
"I...I..." he stammered.
"Come now, old one. You've been through worse," the figure gave an odd sound, not quite like laughter, but close.
"I don't know you," Vakama said at last.
"Good! That's good. All the better."
"What...what message do you bring me?"
It made the noise again. "Oh, the greatest of messages, Vakama. The time has come!"
"The perfect time. I'm a patient creature, you know. More patient than you. Had to wait a few more millenia for all the kinks to be worked out, but it came together in the end."
"I don't understand."
"You don't get to understand, Vakama. Understanding isn't your job. Now hush."
Vakama's mouth closed involuntarily again. The Matoran gestured to the surrounding hut.
"Look familiar? Don't worry, I'll answer for you. You say: 'Yes it looks familiar!' And I say 'As it should, wise Turaga. It's a replica of the first forge you ever had!' Then you say...Oh never mind."
The figure tilted its head to one side. Vakama's jaw released.
"Before you start things off. I've always wanted to ask you a question."
Vakama stared sullenly. A sense of dread was growing in him. The figure continued:
"I wanted to ask this: Did you ever wonder why you, of all Matoran, were destined for Toahood?"
Vakama had been subjected to this line of questioning before, but he had had centuries to deal with self-doubt. He paused, considering whether or not he would refuse to answer. At last, he decided he had nothing to lose:
"I wondered long ago, yes, but in time things became clear."
"Clear? How interesting. Tell me."
"We were destined to preserve the Matoran from Makuta and await--"
"--No, no, no!" the figure interrupted. "I didn't ask about 'we' or 'you all'. I asked about you, Vakama! Why were you, a Ta-Matoran mask-maker, called to abandon your work--work that began in this very chamber--and take up some other duty entirely?"
"You ask questions with no answers," Vakama replied. "Who am I to question the will of the Great Spirit?"
"The Great Spirit..." the figure seemed to scoff. "I'm afraid Mata Nui had very little say about your destiny, Vakama. Yours came from, shall we say, older stock?"
Vakama frowned. "I have no patience for riddles these days,” he said. “Speak plainly if you want me to listen."
"You'll listen whether you want to or not, my friend. And riddles have served me so well in the past...But even so, vision-states do have time constraints."
The figure's voice became deadly serious:
"You became a Toa for one reason, Vakama: your own survival."
A moment elapsed. Vakama tried to digest the words.
"My survival?" he said at last. "I don't--"
"--Yes, survival! You are a useful cog in the great machine, honorable Turaga. Very useful. Highly specialized. The powers that be could not risk your demise, and Toa are so much more...resilient."
The figure slid down from its perch and walked toward Vakama.
"But I'm afraid you've fallen behind on your directives," it said, gesturing once more to the table. "All this heroism and leadership...what a delay it's been!"
Vakama began to see clearly now. The being that stood before him was a Matoran...but not really a Matoran. It wore the image of a Matoran, but there was something more. It approached, and Vakama found once more that he could not move. The paralysis of the vision-state held him firm in its grip. He tried to focus against the rising tide of anxiety. This was not like other visions. It was too direct. Too personal.
The figure moved close, leaned in, eye-to-eye with him.
"Unit 9999, designation VA-KA-MA," said the Matoran-who-was-not-a-Matoran, its eyes widening beyond the confines of its mask, whiter and emptier each moment.
"The time has come," it commanded, "for you to resume your labors."
Edited by Tolkien, Jan 03 2017 - 06:37 PM.