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Unification

G1 continuation unification epic spherus magna

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#1 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 22 2017 - 06:08 AM

“I think… I think perhaps this is not the time for me to walk among you. You all have a new life to build. My destiny is fulfilled, but for many of you, it has yet to be written. You need to find your path without my shadow hanging over you. [...] Never goodbye. Even I cannot predict the future, or if the time will come when I shall be at your side once more."

 

A promise never kept, a wish never fulfilled. With these parting words, Mata Nui went into self imposed exile following the reformation of Spherus Magna. Toa, Matoran, Glatorian and Agori had a bright future to look forward to, one of peace and prosperity. The two peoples were to unite and forge a living paradise with the virtues Mata Nui had taught them. And for a time following Makuta's fall, it was so. However not even such a grand event is immune to the ravages of time. Eventually, history became legend, legend became myth...

And myth became blasphemy. 7000 years after the reformation, Spherus Magna has become a world much unlike what its denizens had once envisioned. Seven millennia is a vast amount of time, over the course of which the unimaginable has ample opportunity to become reality. Mata Nui's final wish for the Great Beings to be sought out eventually led to them seizing power once more, however the once revered creators of the Great Spirit turned out much different than what their seekers expected. 

 

The world has since been carved up into four ever warring nations, each with a Great Being at its head who demanded their subjects to revere them as gods. The Matoran have been subjugated by the organic Glatorian and Agori, and have become slaves, their numbers replenished by technology the Great Beings developed. The Turaga were forced to compel their people to obey lest they be massacred. The Great Spirit's body was salvaged and reverse engineered, but only the higher caste was to benefit. The Toa were hunted down, and the Ignika was lost. Any semblance of unity was gone, seemingly forever.

 

Until...

 

***

 

Aderyn was making his way through the desert that still reigned around Spherus Magna's equator. Legend has it that in the past, the vast region covered the whole planet, or that it covered a section of the planet prior to it being reformed. It depends on who one asks. Facts change depending on which of the four great kingdoms one was in, as each told a different story of the past, each claiming the other retellings to be not only false, but blasphemous. The only thing everyone agreed on these days were names, and the desert had one: Bara Magna.

 

Aderyn was a Glatorian merchant, one of the few beings who could freely pass between borders without fear of being imprisoned. The various castes that divided the society of each nation all had their particular rules, and while being a merchant didn't bring with it the most comforts and pleasures, it was certainly one of the most convenient. He enjoyed freedom of movement, freedom of commerce and universal immunity. Import and Export kept the economies of the kingdoms alive, so merchants were always needed. Anyone who would harm him faced the most severe of consequences, which were frightening enough to almost entirely eliminate banditry. 

 

Any onlooker would have considered Aderyn to be travelling light for a merchant, for lack of a cart or caravan, but he didn't deal in resale, but rather distribution. All he needed for his trade was wit and a ledger. He was adept at his work, he had a solid network of contacts, regular buyers and stock full of product that was always in demand. His life was, in relation to most others, easy.

 

He hated it. Aderyn eternally suffered from ambition restricted by caste. A few centuries ago, there were some, albeit incredibly difficult and complex, methods to alter one's caste upwards on the ladder, but recently these were all abolished. These days, one can only possibly drop in the hierarchy of the classes, and it was increasingly easy to do so. That said, should even the worst befall Aderyn, he knew he'd never hit the bottom caste - he simply couldn't. The bottom caste of slaves was exclusive to the biomechanical beings, the Matoran, and what few Toa remained. The lowest any organic could drop is Servitor, whose lives are still glamorous in comparison to the biomechanicals.

 

The sun hung right above him. He planned on reaching Tarsus, a trading post on the border of Angonce's realm. His trip took him right through The Killing Plains, an area which some legends - ones which when uttered draw the wrong kind of attention - claim was the location of an apocalyptic battle between two gods, while other legends claim this is where the Matoran arrived on the world. Aderyn had passed through the area on occasion, but to him it seemed like any other sea of sand. If there was anything here at one point, the centuries buried it all beneath the dunes. He was lost in thought, trying to guess which two nations will be the next to go to war. The kingdoms of Angonce and that of Velika, which he called home, were in a state of truce at the moment. Angonce was warring with the kingdom of Bothma, while Velika and the fourth ruler, Tatui, locked their common borders and were in a state of cold war. The balance of power shifts by the week, and for all he knew, Velika and Angonce could be at each other's throats next month. 

 

Not focusing on the sand before him, naturally Aderyn couldn't have noticed the little piece of metal sticking out of the ground. It caught his foot, and he tripped, with a faceful of sand tearing him back into the real world. After uttering a few curses under his breath, he clambered to his feet, brushed off the sand from his armor and robes, and turned to inspect the cause of his inconvenience. It was a dull, jagged scrap of metal, utterly unremarkable and seemingly rusty. Such scrap was said to litter this area of the desert centuries ago, but none of it should still be on the surface. It was most likely dropped by another passer-by recently. 

 

"Very recently, if it hasn't yet been covered..." - Aderyn thought.

 

Usually one to leave such junk behind, Aderyn felt a surprising urge to pick it up, as if compelled. Not by curiosity, but rather... Shooing away these thoughts, he bent down and grabbed the object. As he tried to pull it out, the difficulty of doing so suggested much of it was still under the sand. He finally heaved it out of the dune's surface with such force that sent his hand into the air. Sand poured through holes on the object, which he now saw wasn't rusted, but colored orange, even though it was dull, scraped and worn. He examined the object. It seemed to be some kind of armor, possibly. Two wedge like shapes extended from a central section. The wedged had holes in them and semi-circles cut out of the edges, while the center was topped with a T-shaped element and ribbing on the front. The wedges were slightly angled backwards. The strangest feeling of familiarity gripped him as he looked at the object, which made him uncomfortable. He hid it in the folds of his robe, and continued his journey.

 

***

 

"Ah, Aderyn, my friend! On your way to the coastal cities, am I right?" - Borian's voice boomed through his emporium. The old Glatorian of fire was a good friend of Aderyn's, and a long-time contact. Tarsus was far enough from the inner kingdom to allow for a healthy black market, and Borian usually helped Aderyn whenever he needed to deal with this underground element.

 

"Headed to the capital, actually"

 

"Ah, yes, the grand metropolis. Must be some big deal you're working on, then."

 

"Indeed, though I'm worried how negotiations will go now that the rumors of the treaty's end are afoot."

 

"Pah, Velika would sooner attack the south than break off the truce."

 

"My thoughts exactly, but the merchants of a weakened nation might not be convinced."

 

"We'll see what credibility those rumors have. However, I suspect it is not to discuss hearsay that brought you to my fine establishment."

 

"You suspect well. I have come across a trinket in my travels on which I want your expert opinion."

 

"Ah-h-h, what kind of trinket may that be?" - Borian dug out a little head-mounted magnifying glass.

 

"The kind which I might wish to sell, without the good and noble guard hearing about it."

 

"Give it here then, lad."

 

Aderyn produced the object from the folds of his robe, but before Borian could inspect it - even, before Aderyn could place it on the desk - his companion adopted a facial expression resembling one he'd wear upon witnessing a phantasm.

 

"What's this then? So valuable, or so... illegal, that is has you at a loss of words?"

 

"Aderyn, did they search you at the gates?"

 

"Aye."

 

"You showed this to the guards?"

 

"Naturally, hiding it would have been suspect. They thought nothing of it."

 

"You showed this to the guard?!"

 

"Speak then, what has you frightened so?"

 

Borian, instead of doing so, rushed around the counter, put out a "CLOSED" sign and shut all the windows. Aderyn now realised that it wasn't mere fear he saw on the old Glatorian, but rather fear mingled with elation. What could this bauble be?

 

"You're lucky the guard posted to a backwater like Tarsis are as ignorant as you are, my friend. What you hold in your hands no mere trinket, and indeed is nothing but a Kanohi Mask."

 

Upon hearing the nature of his acquisition, Aderyn promptly dropped it on the floor. 

 

"Being's blood!" - He exclaimed. Little knowledge about the masks worn by the subjugated Matoran and Toa was common, but one thing everyone knew - carrying, owning, selling or even touching one could be equated to an express ticket to the prison-pits of Mahraia in the far north, where the most hated criminals of all four nations were sent. 

 

"Now-now!" - Borian chided, and went to pick up the mask and place it on his desk. 

 

"What on earth are you doing? Melt it!" - Aderyn referenced the first and foremost method suggested to civilians by the members of the guard should they ever encounter such a mask.

 

"Don't be silly. This trinket as you call it is more valuable than my whole shop combined."

 

"Is it worth the risk?"

 

"You said the guards did not recognize it. No wonder either, 'tis an atypical shape. Never seen one like it on any Matoran neither. Would be worth fortunes to a collector.

 

"Who would want to collect Kanohi?" - Aderyn thought to himself. 

 

"You know someone of the sort?" - He asked aloud.

 

"Hm? Yes, of course. I know and avid... collector. Yes." 

 

"Borian?"

 

"Yes, yes. I should meet him promptly." - he turned to leave out a back door right as he wrapped the mask in a cloth.

 

"...Borian?"

 

"What's that?"

 

"Do you not think I should be told to whom you intend to sell it? And for how much?"

 

"Now, Aderyn, when has Borian ever cheated you?"

 

True enough, Borian was the most... no, only, merchant who peddled black market good who was honourable to a fault as well. However, he felt like he was being left out of a particularly interesting element of the underground. This is the most valuable thing I ever found, and very well might be the most valuable thing I ever sell, even counting the legitimate deals. If there ever was a transaction worth risking the black market for such a reputable merchant as he was, this was it.

 

"Take me with you. I want to see this... collector."

 

"Uh, we're, uh, not meeting him first. I cannot identify this mask, so I need to take it to a, uh , expert."

 

"An expert in Kanohi?! What has Borian gotten himself into?"

 

"All the more intriguing!" - Aderyn said. Borian grew grim, and stepped closer.

 

"Do you realize what it is you ask?"

 

"Not rightly."

 

"Hm, thought so. To be involved with these elements will mean being marked forever. You can let me take this, now, and return in some days with a hefty purse. Or, you can come with me, and consign yourself to a life of hushed voices, sideways glances and fear at the mere sight of guards. Is that what a merchant, one with an easy life, would want?"

 

Aderyn considered. He was a creature of comforts, true, however he was also a capable fighter whose talents were going to waste. He grappled with his ambitions constantly. Could this be the key to becoming something more? For all I know it could turn me into a fugitive, not exactly a bright future. But then. Maybe this holds the potential for me to experience things of a nature no merchant ever could. He became resolute. Fearful, but certain.

 

"Take me."

 

***

 

Borian had led him to a back room, which acted as a warehouse. He pushed aside a crate, a trapdoor under it. After leading them through winding tunnels, they emerged from a crevasse in the wall of the rocky plateau upon which Tarsus stood. Before them the desert stretched. 

 

"Where's this expert of yours, Borian?"

 

"Out there, somewhere."

 

"What, in the desert? How will we find him?"

 

"He'll find us." - With that, the old Glatorian started walking straight into the desert.

 

The pair walked for a little over 3 hours. Tarsus was ever shrinking behind them, the sun slowly descending. The bottom of it had already dipped below the horizon, the rest of its gargantuan disk throwing warm shadows across the dunes. 

 

"How much longer?"

 

"You must understand, we need be a safe distance from the walls."

 

"They wouldn't even see us with a scope out here."

 

"Aye, he could be here any minute now."

 

"How will he know where we are?"

 

"He'll know."

 

Just as Borian said that, Aderyn felt a slight whoosh, a gust of hot air and a presence behind him. He spun around, and true enough, a figure about his height, clad in bright red and orange armor was standing there, looking at him. 

 

"Ah!" - Aderyn exclaimed in surprise.  Borian spun around as well.

 

"Kapura, my friend!"

 

"Who is this?" - The red being asked while looking at Aderyn. He spoke slowly, in a monotone voice. His face showed no expression, though that could have been due to the strange helmet he wore. "Not a helmet..." - Aderyn thought.

 

"He's worth your trust, I've known him for centuries. You've naught to fear from him."

 

"How much does he know?"

 

"Not rightly enough, actually." - Aderyn interjected before Borian could answer. Then: "What the shadows is going on here? Borian, is this what I think it is?"

 

"Aderyn, look, you'll understand all when we get to the enclave."

 

"Enclave? Enclave! Fantastic, let me guess, more biomechanicals there?"

 

"Aderyn..."

 

"This is a Toa. A Toa! You're going to get us killed."

 

"Aderyn I warned you in advance. He's nothing against us, and we won't be harmed. I've associated with Kapura and his companions for longer than I've known you."

 

"I... ah, bother, merely being here has me complicit already. Might as well see this through." - Aderyn surrendered, though his own curiosity had as much to do with that as Borian's reassurances.

 

"Still sure he won't be trouble?" - The Toa called Kapura asked.

 

"He has a name, and yes, I mean no threat to you." - Aderyn once again interjected.

 

"Very well. Why have you come?" - He now turned to Borian.

 

"Aderyn, he found a Kanohi. I can't identify it." - He said. Then: "Aderyn, show him."

 

Aderyn produced the mask from his robe. Kapura's mask twitched under the eye, his only reaction so far.

 

"The Turaga must see this. At once."

 

The world around Aderyn blurred suddenly. The great disk of the sun had disappeared. When he began seeing clearly again, he saw that the three of them somehow wound up in a well-lit cave.

 

"How..." - That word was all Aderyn could muster before collapsing, dizzy.

 

"Hah! I had a rough first time too, mate." - Borian exclaimed.

 

"What the bloody pits was that?" - Aderyn demanded.

 

"I practiced." - Kapura said, with as little expression as he did before. Then: "Come."

 

Aderyn clambered to his feet, and followed Borian and Kapura through the caves. They passed into a large cavern, with alcoves carved into the wall. Only now did the weight of the situation register with Aderyn. Around him were Matoran of all elements, fixing equipment, mending armor, all shooting him sideways looks. Among them, he saw a few other Toa, but no more than 8. Some were resting in alcoves, two were sparring. "What kind of enclave is this?"

 

Nearing the far end of the cavern, Aderyn saw a fireplace. Yet, instead of flames giving off light, which would also have filled the cavern with smoke, a pile of yellow crystals, arranged with much care, provided the illumination. A being, smaller than he but larger than a Matoran, sat before it. He heard them approach, and turned around. The being wore a blue mask, partially transparent, with a clear visor covering its eyes, and a triangular cutout around its mouth. Deep, wise yellow eyes peered at Aderyn. 

 

"Turaga Gali." - Kapura and Borian said in unison, Kapura bowing. 

 

"Who is this?" - She asked after returning the greeting with a nod. 

 

"This is Aderyn, he found something of great import at the grave." - Kapura said. "The grave?" - Aderyn made a mental note.

 

"What did you find, newcomer?" - Gali turned her attention to him.

 

"He'd better show you." - Borian interjected.

 

Aderyn looked at his friend first, uncertain. Borian nodded knowingly. Aderny turned back to the Turaga, ever so slightly trembling. The same discomforting ease of escaping familiarity gripped him.

 

"Come now, let me see what it was that convinced ever-vigilant Kapura to let a newcomer see me." - She said with a reassuring smile that rang with wisdom.

 

Aderyn produced the mask, which made the old Turaga produce an expression not unlike that of Borian when he saw it. Matoran who have gathered around them to see what brought the newcomer in their midst were shocked into silence save for a few whispering to others to bring the Toa. Aderyn just stood there, mask in hand, not understanding the commotion. 

 

"Is it..."

 

"Could it be..."

 

"The prophecies..." - And other such utterings could be heard. 

 

Gali reach out her hand, and as she took the mask, for a split second both of their hands were touching it. In that moment, an image flashed in Aderyn's mind. Not a vision, nor imagination. It was a single image of a sandy beach lined with trees, but not one which Aderyn had ever visited, and the sky was utterly different from the one which blanketed Spherus Magna. 

 

"Would someone please tell me what is happening?" - He pleaded.

 

"It is not by mere chance that you found your way here, Aderyn. What you found out there in the desert, this is no ordinary mask, which would have already been a rarity. No, wanderer, you have found what may very well be the key to undoing the calamities which brought us here."

 

"I do not understand."

 

"This is the Kanohi Vahi, the legendary mask of Time."


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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#2 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 23 2017 - 02:59 AM

“…The what now?” – Aderyn broke the protracted silence.

 

“The mask of Time. It is an ancient mask, created long before the reformation of Spherus Magna.” – Gali spoke without looking up from the mask in her hands.

 

“The reformation? You believe in it?” – He asked. The reformation theory was one of the many versions of the world’s shrouded past. One of the many versions which could land you in the pits.

 

“Believe in it? We saw it, all of us. We were there.” – She tore her gaze from the mask.

 

“That cannot be… if it was true, it would have been…”

 

“7000 years ago. I looked a lot different then… come now, there is much you must learn, provided you want to hear it.”

 

“I… I’m not sure this is right for me.” – Aderyn grew hesitant. These people, they claim to have lived events the mere mention of which was a crime. The fact that they lived apart, that they lived free, made them outlaws.

 

“You’ve already associated with us, mate.” – Borian said. He was right, of course. Even if he pulled out now, Aderyn would likely live in fear for being discovered. While he didn’t share the view of the higher castes that the biomechanicals were lesser beings, living property instead of equals, he didn’t dare stand up for them in the past. Fear made cowards of those with compassion. He had always felt shame, not daring to actually help them. It was a weakness he despised. “Do I really want to shed it for a life of hiding, though?” – he thought. It was how the Great Beings kept any dissent and notions of equality from arising. Help the biomechanicals and go to the pits; or don’t, and live a comfortable life. Only now, that he was faced with these people, and this choice – which, in reality, always was open to him – did he realize how much this infuriated him.

 

“… Fine, I’ll listen.”

 

Gali beckoned him to sit by the “fire”pit. Borian and Kapura remained, while the crowd around them slowly dissipated, rumors already flying wildly.

 

“You might be surprised to hear that I was a Toa, once.” – Gali said with a half-smile.

 

“You? A Toa? How does that work?”

 

“Ah, so much has been forgotten and erased… It is Matoran who become Toa, and Toa who become Turaga. Kapura here was a Matoran too, for a very long time. That said, I myself never was a Matoran, but… it is complicated.”

 

“You called the Killing Plains the ‘grave’. What did you mean by that?” – Aderyn asked.

 

“I meant it literally. It is the final resting place of he who was once our grandest enemy.”

 

“Another Great Being?”

 

“Nothing was great about him. But no, he was not of Glatorian blood. To think that had he lived, today he might even be an ally…”

 

“None of this makes sense.”

 

“Then allow me to explain. Listen, friend, to the legend of the Bionicle…”

 

***

 

“… and then the moon, Aqua Magna slammed into the head of the great machine, killing Makuta. A thousand years of conflict, resolved. His gargantuan body crashed into the surface of the world, killing many Skrall and Rahkshi. Mata Nui’s body was also damaged beyond saving, however his soul survived within the Ignika. He deemed it wise to leave us to our own devices, and departed with a final wish: to seek out the Great Being who created him.”

 

“If only he knew…” – Aderyn had sat for hours, listening to Gali’s fantastical tales of Toa, of fearsome beasts such as Rahi and Visorak, of great deeds such as the sacrifice of Matoro, of countless mystical lands locked within the body of a towering machine, and of the never ending schemes of the tyrannical Makuta. Aderyn was always a skeptic, and as the tales grew more and more fantastical, he was constantly questioning – but somehow, he could not help but believe Gali’s words. They were too full of emotion. True pain when she spoke of the dead, true joy when she described victories.

 

“And what of the others? Tahu, Pohatu, the Toa Mahri, what happened to them all? Were they who I saw in the cavern?”

 

“Unfortunately not. The Toa you see here are all, like Kapura, former members of the Chronicler’s Company, save for three of them who joined us later on. Many have died, many others serve the oppressors against their will. Of my brothers? Turaga Tahu presides over another enclave like this one to the south. Onua was captured, and is likely in the pits, though I wouldn’t consider him beyond hope. Lewa, as reckless as he is, leads the only element of our movement that engages in open resistance, in the jungles of Bota Magna. Kopaka and Pohatu disappeared in the days immediately following the reformation, hunting a mysterious killer. We haven’t heard of them for 7000 years…” – Her voice buckled at the end.

 

“I’m… sorry.”

 

“After the reformation, things looked good for a long while. We didn’t worry about Kopaka and Pohatu until months passed without notice, and that time was marked by unity, fellowship and creation. We built vast cities in the matter of days, Agori and Matoran working side by side. We explored the newly reformed world that was to be our home, and we kept our promise, to look for the Great Beings. Some strange things were afoot. You asked of the Toa Mahri – eventually they were found. They encountered a being unlike any other and were ensnared by it. They persevered, but that is a tale for another time. Some of our world’s most powerful beings turned up dead with a former Toa implicated, which is what Pohatu and Kopaka were investigating. Lewa was our only major concern, but then he turned up with a most unusual guest in tow. At the time, the guest was considered a blessing. Today?...”

 

“Who was it?”

 

“You know him as Bothma.”

 

“One of the rulers! The audacity, to personally meet a Toa, to see the world as it truly was, and to hunt you today…”

 

“There is more. Velika, your ruler? He came with us on the Great Spirit Robot when it departed Spherus Magna prior to the shattering. He adopted the visage of a Po-Matoran, no less.” – Gali said.

 

The revelation was only as mild as it was because Aderyn had been tempered by hours of world shattering revelations. His entire view of his existence was upended several times in the span of a few hours, and he still couldn’t grasp it entirely.

 

“So much history… lost.”

 

“Not lost. Taken.” – Borian interjected.

 

“Our people have suffered under the Great Beings for over 6000 years. They are tyrants worse than Makuta could have ever been. Too few of us have the will to fight, and even fewer Glatorian and Agori are willing to help.”

 

“But what of those who fought by your side, by the side of Mata Nui? What of Ackar, Kiina, Gresh?”

 

“Gresh helps Lewa even now. Kiina, when the world took a turn for the worst, immediately set out to look for Mata Nui…”

 

“Didn’t his soul retreat into the Ignika?” – Aderyn interrupted.

 

“We had thought so. But would he not emerge, seeing that he was needed? No, Kiina, inspired by the tale of Takua’s quest to ‘search’ for the 7th Toa, decided she must go on a quest to summon Mata Nui from the dormant mask. We haven’t heard of her since.”

 

“And Ackar?”

 

“Ackar? Well, that may be a topic we shall revisit later.”

 

Aderyn did not understand her hesitance, but decided not to push.

 

“So, this mask, you say it has power over Time. Do you intend to… turn back time to? To the reformation?” – He asked instead.

 

“Oh, if only it were so easy… No, the mask does not possess that power. To turn back time, I think not even with both halves of the Vahi would that be achievable. This is an important mask, and important… weapon. But currently not of much use to us. Having it merely gives us safety in knowing our enemies do not have it. Not to mention, even if we could I would oppose reversing the flow of time. Think of all the lives we’d wipe out of existence which came into being in the 7000 years since our arrival. It would be murder on a scale unimaginable. The purpose of the Vahi is yet to be revealed.” – Gali explained.

 

“You see, Aderyn, we’re not even in the position to fight a losing war, here. Liberty is a concept so far removed from the Matoran that most who live in servitude do not even aspire to it. The Great Beings employed the art of wiping away our past to fool their slaves into thinking there isn’t anything better that they could be fighting for at all.” – Borian took over.

 

“There is much hopelessness among their ranks. Few among us are Matoran who came into being after the reformation. Technology from the Great Spirit Robot, and the knowledge of the Great Beings, have allowed for new Matoran to be… created. They never even knew a life of freedom. We here remember better times, and it is that which drives us.”

 

“Our efforts have no chance of succeeding until the slaves realise that they should arise. Lewa has had some successes in the north, but few and far between. The Matoran there have been convinced that he and his are an enemy to be feared and reported.”

 

“How do you intend to spread awareness?”

 

“It is difficult. In the past, we sent our own into the slave camps, who would then integrate and spread dissent, as well as knowledge about the truth in the past. However, increasingly, it was other slaves who turned in our agents.”

 

“You’ve been doing this for 6000 years at least, surely you tried something else?”

 

“Of course we have! We’ve tried recruiting the help of likeminded Glatorian and Agori like myself, but too often have they sold us out for a chance to rise in the classes!” – Borian blurted out.

 

“While our efforts failed for millennia, the Great Beings consolidated their power. Their rule is absolute.” – Gali said.

 

“What can then be done? How do you hope to fight Gods?” – Aderyn, even though not aligned with their cause, felt the hopelessness of the situation grip him.

 

“We’ve considered long and hard. We weighed every possibility, and only one plan seems to be viable.” – Borian began to explain.

 

“The Great Beings are nothing more than Glatorian. Glatorian with extensive technical and scientific knowledge, but Glatorian still. Through propaganda, they convinced their subjects that they are gods…”

 

“What?” – Aderyn asked, almost outraged.

 

“They twisted your view of the past, and you think embellishing themselves to secure loyalty is beyond them?” – Borian challenged him.

 

“You’re asking me to believe that the four rulers are just Glatorian, like me?”

 

“You quite readily believed that we came from the inside of a giant robot that reforged your planet.” – Gali said with a sly smile.

 

“I… but…”

 

“The point, Aderyn, is that they are not infallible. Their rule must be toppled, but if the Matoran won’t fight, then the Glatorian and Agori must. Whether through conquest, or assassination, we must end the reign of one of the Great Beings. A single free nation is all it would take to awaken the others. A single nation where Matoran and Agori live side by side in peace would be enough to give us hope.”

 

“You say that as if it were a small thing.”

 

“Small compared to liberty across all the world, don’t you think? It would be the first step. With a nation comes an army. We could liberate the others. With a nation comes commerce. Force the others to abolish slavery through economic pressure.”

 

“And how would you even accomplish such a thing?”

 

“There are many way to secure a nation, though, all complex and time consuming. Convince an army to turn on their ruler; depose the ruler and replace him with one sympathetic to your cause; have the free people rise up against the ruler…”

 

“You said it yourself, they convinced us… the people that they are gods, none will rise against them!”

 

“Do you still believe they are gods?”

 

“I… am not convinced they aren’t.”

 

“But you faith has been shaken.”

 

“Well… yes?”

 

“That is all we need. Doubt will spell the downfall of the false rulers. But even we see it will not be enough. What the Agori and Glatorian of either nation need to abandon their ruler, is another to rally around.” – Gali continued explaining their plan.

 

“The few Glatorian who aid us have been seeking one among the higher castes who harbors sympathy to the Matoran, but keeps it a secret for fear of losing their stature. Unfortunately, the process is slow for the few who help us. We seek one with high enough stature to potentially form a claim to the throne which is at least semi-legitimate. This means the closer to the Ruler we get the better, however at the same time, it also grows more and more dangerous.” – Borian continued.

 

“Ideally, a Councillor or Senator, but almost all of them are completely loyal to the Great Beings.” – Gali said again.

 

“Which is where you come in.” – Borian finished with a smile.

 

“Me? Wait, what? How did we jump from a hopeless mission to me? I don’t want anything to do with this!”

 

“Are you sure? You came with me here, then you agreed to listen to the Turaga’s tale. I saw your doubt and uncertainty, but each time you took the leap. We need you.”

 

“Need me?... Borian, you planned this!” – Aderyn accused. “He brought me here only to recruit me!”

 

“Aderyn, you can freely move between borders, you have contacts, you can speak to the member of any caste without raising suspicion…”

 

“Curse you! I trusted you!”

 

“Aderyn, calm now, you wanted to come with.” – Borian’s voice grew harsher. “###### him, he is right.”

 

“Time and again you’ve told me how dissatisfied you were with being a mere merchant. This is what you wanted.”

 

A storm of emotions welled in Aderyn. Borian betrayed his trust, played on his traits to effectively lure him here. By doing so, he was already accomplice, and thus joining them is really his only option. But then. He was truly sympathetic to their cause, and Borian was right – this was something more worthy than being a merchant. But was it worth dying for?

 

“I don’t know…”

 

“Prophecies governed much of what happened in our old world Aderyn. They might not have as strong an influence on this world, but you finding this mask? You could call it… a sign?” – Gali said.

 

“This is all a lot to take in here.” – Aderyn rasped.

 

“Are you content peddling wares to those more wealthy than you? Are content not having an impact on the flow of time? Or would you wish to leave your mark on this world, adding your own chapter to the history of our people? For make no mistake – we are one people. Agori, Matoran, Glatorian, Toa… we were always meant to be united.”

 

“Unity… Duty… Destiny…” – The words came into Aderyn’s mind from nowhere. Borian shot Gali an odd look. Then: “Uh, I just heard those words somewhere…” – Aderyn said.

 

“We’ve been friends for a long time, Aderyn. I know you, and that is why I brought you here, because I trust you and know you too despise the world of divides which our rulers imposed on us. I know you want to do something against it, and this is your chance.” – Borian didn’t let up.

 

“I see your doubt. Let me tell you something an… old friend once told me.” – Gali said. Then: “You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“The Great Beings took your past from you, and no prophecy or given destiny binds your future. You are the sole architect of your fate. Will that fate bind you to us?”

 

Your past is forgotten. Aderyn was a member of the Rock Tribe, which for many millenia now included beings other than Skrall and Agori. Regular Glatorian integrated with the tribe long ago, and adopted their colors. Aderyn himself wore mostly black armor with some sliver and red in it. His father was said to be a merchant, like he, however he was raised by a friend of the family, and never knew his parents. Allegedly they died when he was very young. After today, he doubted that story for the first time.

 

Your future is an empty book. If Aderyn had to name his greatest fear, it would have been certainty. Certainty that he’d spend his life as a moderately successful merchant with absolutely zero impact on the world. He spoke of this to Borian often, which is why the Glatorian could so easily act on this fear to persuade him.

 

You must find your own destiny. Destiny, such a fickle thing. Did he really trip over this mask by chance? How did a relic of the old world wind up so close to the surface after all this time? It should have been buried beneath millennia of sand. And yet, there it was, right in his path, in a vast desert. Exactly at the right time…

 

“…What would you have me do?”

 

***

Aderyn and Borian were getting ready to return to Tarsus. He was in the beginning stages of regret, silently cursing himself. “What have you gotten yourself into, fool? You’ll land in the pits before you can whisper ‘freedom for Matoran’.” – He thought. Gali and Borian told him of a Glatorian who worked under the local Prefect that may be an asset to their cause. He owned three Matoran slaves, one of which was an agent for the resistance. Information gained from this agent painted the Glatorian as a decent individual, treating his slaves with something few Matoran ever experience: respect. The agent himself had tried to convert the Glatorian, naturally with much caution, however he reached an impasse. The Glatorian, called Hemmi, was in a bitter rivalry with another, as both were gunning for the position of Prefect as the current one was soon to be recalled to the capital. As such, Hemmi couldn’t risk any controversy. Aderyn was to meet Hemmi under the pretense of negotiating a lucrative business deal, which would also boost his chances, while trying to gauge how likely he is to become an ally. “You blasted idiot, you, this will be the end of everything.”.

 

“Any second thoughts?” – Borian aske, half joking.

 

“Are you kidding? I’m tempted to run off into the desert and wait for thirst to take me.”

 

“Come now, you did the right thing. I thank you.”

 

“Borian, did you only associate with me because of my worth to the cause?” – Aderyn long contemplated how to ask this, and finding no better way, simply went up and blurted it out. Borian paused for a moment.

 

“No, when we became friends I didn’t even think you’d ever join us. It took centuries of friendship and long talks to see the flickers of rebellion in your heart. The fact that you have those contacts, is just a bonus.”

 

“When I wanted to come, you first tried to talk me out of it. Why?”

 

“Because you are my friend, Aderyn. I wanted to be as upfront as I could be, telling you what you’re getting yourself into. I owed you that. Also, I knew you’d say yes anyway…”

 

“…And then you could say that I wanted to come. Clever.”

 

“Don’t be hurt, I meant no betrayal.”

 

“I understand.”

 

“Oh, and if we’re here, I think it’s time I came clean with you…”

 

“Clean?”

 

“My name is not Borian.”

 

“I suspected as much, something necessary for one with connections to the black market. What then, is your name?” – Aderyn asked. Before saying anything, ‘Borian’ extended a closed fist.

 

“My name is Ackar, champion Glatorian of Vulcanus, Honorary Toa, friend to Mata Nu…” – Before Ackar could finish, Aderyn collapsed to the ground, unconscious.


Edited by Pohaturon, Aug 23 2017 - 03:01 AM.

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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#3 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 24 2017 - 08:01 AM

After returning to Tarsus, Aderyn and Ackar parted ways, in order to minimize suspicion. Aderyn went to rent a room at a local inn, where he was a regular, and prepare for tomorrow’s “mission”. On the way back, he gained answers to many of his questions, and he had time to process things. Now that he was back on familiar ground, it was easier to grasp some of the things he had learned, though it was still overwhelming. He learned, for example, that not only was the capital city of Angonce’s kingdom named after the metropolis of Metru Nui, but was a perfect copy of it too, with the Great Being’s throne room situated at the top of a replica of the coliseum tower. He also learned that the population of Tarsus wasn’t 1147 as he knew, but around 4300, because slaves were never counted. When he retreated to his usual room and collapsed on the bed, he felt nothing but emptiness. His entire world-view was shattered, and before his mind had a chance to catch up with everything, he was already a member of the Matoran resistance. The rulers he believed to be gods, mere Glatorian. Blasphemy which turned out to be real history. A subjugated people who were once great creators and warriors. It was too much. And yet, he had to be sharp, he had an important meeting the next day, and a duty which he, in spite of his misgivings, has accepted. Duty.

 

He drifted off to sleep, troubled.

 

***

 

Aderyn was walking to Hemmi’s home through the market. The square was bustling with Agori peddling wares, Glatorian perusing stands, and Matoran rushing about with heavy carts and sacks, trying to go unnoticed in the bustle of the crowd. One such hauler bumped into Aderyn.

 

“Oh! My foolishness, I’m terribly sorry, master…” – Said the Le-Matoran.

 

“Pay it no worry.” – Aderyn said with a reserved smile. He was about to go on when another Glatorian stepped close.

 

“Hey, are you just going to let this filth off?” – He demanded.

 

“It was but an honest mistake, do you not see the crowds?” – Aderyn replied. The Matoran’s eyes filled with fear.

 

“Honest mistake? These masked rats don’t know its meaning. More likely he snatched something off you. Was that what you were doing, rat? Want me to call the guard?” – The grumpy Glatorian issued the threat to the Matoran.

 

Aderyn put his hands into his pockets. While everything he carried with him was still there, but something more – he felt parchment.

 

“I’ve lost nothing. Calm.”

 

“Pah! I bet.” – Before Aderyn could do anything, the Glatorian spat at the Matoran.

 

He saw such displays many times in the past, though usually afar. They always bothered him, embarrassed him, but his usual reaction involved looking the other way and hurrying his steps. Not this time, this time his anger flared. Before he realized what he was doing, his fingers were wrapped around the throat of the Glatorian, their helmets almost touching.

 

“If you ever…” – He stopped. He was calling too much attention to himself. A few market-goers stopped nearby and were staring, and they seemingly attracted the attention of the guard. The Matoran disappeared in the crowd.

 

“What, all this for one of them?” – The Glatorian asked with anger mixed with surprise. The guard approached.

 

“What’s this then?” – One asked.

 

“He pummeled me to defend a lowly Matoran!” – The spitting Glatorian accused.

 

“Nonsense. He issued me insult and I’m merely defending my honor.” – Aderyn bluffed.

 

The guard slowly peered around. “I see no Matoran here. Go home, Zar, before you pick a fight with the wrong person. “ – He said.

 

With a huff, Zar started off, but shouted back from a distance: “You’ll get yours in due time, mask-lover!”

 

“Pay him no mind, Zar is always like this.” – One of the guard told Aderyn as he dusted off his robe.

 

“Thanks.” – He replied with a nod, and continued his journey. He felt a nagging feeling that he was being watched, and as he looked around, true enough, a dozen eyes followed him – Matoran eyes. He left the market square as quickly as he could, and decided to take less frequented streets to his destination. He knew Hemmi’s house well, for it was quite the imposing property, he merely never met the owner before. When he arrived, he appreciated the several story building. It had a decorative façade, and two pillars on each side of the main gate. He walked up three sets of steps and knocked on the door. Promptly, it opened, with a Matoran who presumably served as a butler on the other side.

 

“How may one be of service, master?” – He asked.

 

“I’m here to see master Hemmi. Please tell him the merchant Aderyn is here.”

 

“Does the master have an appointment?”

 

“Uh, no. But I’m sure if you tell him who I am, he’ll meet me.”

 

The Matoran seemingly got worried. Aderyn sensed that he was torn between risking defying his owner, and risking defying another Glatorian who very well might be an important figure. “Living like that must be ######”.

 

“…unless he’s left express orders not to be disturbed. I wouldn’t want to… disturb him.”

 

“Oh, no, please come in.” – The Matoran now seemed confused. Then: “Please, do wait here in the lobby.” – Then he hurried off.

 

Aderyn was left alone in a fairly large hall, with a pair of chairs, a small table, a pair of plants and a mirror on one wall. He walked in front of it to inspect his attire, to see if the scuffle in the market had left a mark on it. In spite of being a merchant, like all Glatorian, Aderyn wore armor head to toe. His armor was mostly black, signifying his Rock Tribe roots, and had some silver and red accents. He wore a simple black sash flowing behind his legs and a black robe with a red trim around his shoulders. His helmet was something of a curiosity, as it covered his entire head. Not entirely strange for Glatorian, but somewhat rare. While a Glatorian almost never removed their helmet anyway, Aderyn outright never took it off. The same accident which killed his parents left him disfigured. The helmet didn’t merely hide his injury, but right after he sustained the wound, the helmet was the only thing that held his skull together. He brushed off a bit of sand from his cloak. He remembered to check the note the Matoran smuggled into his pocket. It read one word: “Daughter”.

 

“Master Hemmi will see you now.” – The Matoran butler entered the room silently.

 

“Ah, wonderful. Please lead on.” – Aderyn said and quickly hid the note. The butler turned and walked through a door, Aderyn in tow. They came into a larger room, with a bigger table and many chairs. At its head sat a Glatorian of Jungle, papers strewn before him.

 

“Ah, Aderyn, a pleasure to meet you.” – He said, looking up from his papers. He rose and extended a closed fist. Aderyn bumped it.

 

“Scribe Hemmi.” – He greeted.

 

“Come, sit. Jali, go, bring master Aderyn something to drink.” – Hemmi spoke to the Matoran, who bowed and left.

 

“As you might see, I am quite busy, however I’ve heard enough of you to be interested in what you may wish of me.” – The scribe’s tone was warmer and more polite than what Aderyn had become accustomed to.

 

“I’ve heard that the prefect has been recalled to Metru Nui.”

 

“It’s fairly common knowledge. He won’t, however, be coming back. He will assume responsibilities in the capital.”

 

“Leaving Tarsus without a prefect. Unless…”

 

“Unless I or Struff take the position, yes. Is this what you came to discuss with me?”

 

“I represent the interests of a group from Kinth, just across the border, who would be willing to support the bid of one of the scribes in Tarsus with a beneficial trade deal, provided the candidate has the… business sense to make the right choice.”

 

“Ah, you do not mince words. What would this right choice be?”

 

“An open trade guarantee, of course.”

 

“A contract to keep the borders open even in the case of a war? You know how the Warrior caste will respond. They’ll double, no, triple the garrison.” – In spite of the seeming objection, Aderyn noticed that he piqued the scribe’s interest.

 

“And why would that be of worry? You’ll increase both trade and security.”

 

“The peace may be fragile, but the people do not see past the fact that we’re momentarily not at war, and the people dislike the Guard. If I were to bring in more soldiers, the public would not favor me.”

 

“Not even in the face of economic upswing?”

 

“Tarsus isn’t a poor village. Import and export goes through us either way. The Agori here value convenience over better rates.”

 

“And the Matoran?”

 

“I’m sorry?” – Hemmi seemed puzzled. “Don’t rush it.” – Aderyn chided himself.

 

“Whatever their stature may be, they do some limited trading as well. Even next to the restrictions, their sheer number must make up a sizeable percentage of revenue.”

 

“I don’t see how an open trade guarantee would affect them, and they have no bearing on who is selected as prefect…”

 

“But the wealthier elements of our society who engage in… illicit trade do.” – Aderyn swiftly changed the subject. He did not wish to push the Matoran topic until he knew more.

 

“Ah, yes, the black market. I know not what to do with it. On the one hand I desire nothing more than to wipe it away, but any kind of crackdown would anger the wrong people.”

 

“I myself do not engage in such dealings, however,  do you not think they can be tolerated so long as no one is hurt? A few trades with no taxes from them is worth knowing that you hold the title of prefect, instead of one who would be less apt a leader.”

 

Before Hemmi could respond, Jali returned with a tray.

 

“Ah, what took you?”

 

“The young master wished for my presence, and I endeavored to explain to her that I must attend to my duties…”

 

“That child. Did she wish for you to play again?”

 

“Yes, master.”

 

“Of course… well, then, do not keep her waiting.” – Hemmi said with a laugh. “Daughter… of course! Hemmi’s daughter is partial to Matoran.”

 

“Your daughter?”

 

“What? Ah, yes, she has… befriended Jali and the other Matoran. Silly thing to do.” – He said with a sigh.

 

“You keep your Matoran well. They’re clothed, do not seem overworked…”

 

“Have you not been to many estates of this standing? Owners of my stature often clothe our Matoran.” – Hemmi said with a defensive tone.

 

“Owners of your stature wouldn’t allow their child to ‘befriend’ them either.” – Aderyn took a risk.

 

“If you’re implying anything, say it.”

 

“Nothing at all. I was merely asking… on behalf of the organization I represent.”

 

Hemmi squinted at him for a moment, looked around, got up and walked close to Aderyn, then grabbed his arm tight. “I know what you are, why you are here. Jali and the others are safe and happy here but I cannot risk anything more, not now with the prefect’s position at stake!”

 

“If we’re speaking openly, allow me to do so too: what my… organization… does not know is that I can arrange for a beneficial deal with Kinth. It wasn’t a mere ruse. I’ll support your bid to be Prefect…”

 

“…In exchange for my loyalty? Even as Prefect I won’t be able to openly help.”

 

“We don’t need you to, not yet. But you must understand, to have Prefect as an ally… if nothing more, the leader of a whole village will certainly own more than three slaves, and the rest might enjoy your… hospitality too.” – As Aderyn finished, Hemmi let go and stepped back.

 

“Ah-h-h, but what I said remains true. I’m not sure an open trade guarantee will sit well with the locals.”

 

“Tell me, which locals have more say in who becomes Prefect – the common folk like Zar, who would object to more guards, or… the kinds like Borian, who would take advantage of the increased flow of good, both legitimate and otherwise?”

 

“Ultimately the ruler’s office selects the Prefect.” – He shrugged. Then: “But a guideline referendum holds much sway, and only members of the Merchant caste and higher have a say in that.” – He was chewing over the offer. Aderyn waited patiently.

 

“Very well. I shall await an outline from Kinth, and announce the open trade guarantee promptly.” – Hemmi finally said.

 

“And the other thing?”

 

“I… can only promise that I will try. And that their lives will not change for the worse under my guidance.”

 

“It is all we can ask. I thank you.”

 

“And I you. If there was nothing else…”

 

“I shall bother you no longer.” – As he said that, Aderyn turned to leave. He made only a step when Hemmi’s voice was heard again.

 

“You must understand my hesitance, Aderyn. I have too much to lose…”

 

“I thought the same, until a day ago.” – Aderyn half-turned.

 

“What changed your mind?”

 

“…Destiny.”

 

***

 

Under the cover of night, Aderyn entered Ackar’s shop through the back door. The old Glatorian was sorting through the various tidbits on his shelves, though not with any goal in mind, he was likely just passing the time until the merchant’s arrival. Ackar’s shop had a sense of organized chaos about it. Items were strewn about, but the owner could find anything instantly. The stock had a dignified sense of antiquity instead of simply being old. One wall was filled entirely with trophies, while the center of the shop was dominated by a table full of buildable figurines that Ackar said were quite popular among the youth, with a box full of maps under it.

 

“I’m here.” – Aderyn said unceremoniously.

 

“Ah, finally! So what have you learned? Could Hemmi be of any use to us?” – Ackar asked eagerly.

 

“First, let me guess. Jali.”

 

“Jali? Oh, yes. If you’re asking which is our agent, it was him.”

 

“That stunt in the market square with your courier almost landed him in the clutches of the guards. Or a mob. Couldn’t you just have told me that his daughter would be important?”

 

“Daughter? What are you on about?”

 

“Le-Matoran. Bumped into me on the market and put a note into my pocket that helped a lot with Hemmi.”

 

“I’ve no inkling of what you’re talking about. Maybe Jali arranged it?”

 

“You think he would have the means to?”

 

“Possibly. But what of Hemmi? Do not keep me waiting!”

 

“Yeah, Hemmi. He’ll help.”

 

“He’ll… help? You mean you think he’d be open to supporting us?”

 

“No, Ackar. He’ll help. As in he knows about the resistance and will support us, though not openly, upon becoming Prefect.”

 

“What? How?”

 

“You told me to meet him on some pretense. I decided to meet him with a real business deal. I can guarantee his position as Prefect, and in exchange, he agreed to help us.”

 

“You told him about the resistance? Are you insane? This could spell our doom!”

 

“Calm, Ackar, calm. He knew about it himself, I only offered once he made it clear. I took no unnecessary risk. I know what is at stake.”

 

“…Very well. And what kind of deal did you offer him?”

 

“Half of the merchants in Kinth are in my debt, and the other half just really like me. I can secure favorable trade agreements between them and Tarsus, under the banner of Hemmi’s bid to the office of Prefect. ‘Borian’ will then convince the other local merchants that this is good enough a deal to unanimously support Hemmi in the referendum…” – Aderyn trailed off, smiling.

 

“I don’t know whether I should embrace you or beat you across the head! Very well, I shall do what you ask of me. To have a Prefect as an ally! It is more than we could have hoped for. Is it true, then, that he is sympathetic to our cause?”

 

“Naturally, and it gets better. I mentioned his daughter – she has befriended his Matoran. They even ‘play’ together. Even if Hemmi retains some conservative traits, the behavior of his child was our key.”

 

“Fantastic. Aderyn, will you be off to Kinth then? Does this not interfere with your duties in the capital?”

 

“Merchants in the capital circle deals like Bone Hunters a caravan. Others will take my place. Yes, I think the sooner I call in my favors the better.”

 

“Then I shall inform the Turaga of these developments come morn. Come meet me when you return.”

 

“I will do so. Farewell.”

 

“Farewell, brother. Mata Nui guide you.”

 

Aderyn stepped out into the cold of the desert night. He finally felt it, the sense of purpose he sought all his life. He was doing something of merit, of value to the world. He could make use of the skills he disliked in a way he found worthy. His first endeavor as a traitor to the realm went surprisingly smoothly, and while he suspected that it will not always be so easy, he took it as a good omen. He looked up into the night sky, as the Red Star blazed on the canvas of a million twinkling lights. For the first time in his life, he did not know what the future held, and it liberated him.

 

“Well, Destiny, I guess it’s time we meet.” – He whispered while staring at the deep red dot that hung over him, and then started out.


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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#4 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 26 2017 - 04:29 AM

Aderyn spent two weeks in Kinth, meeting with all of his contacts and friends in the village’s merchant caste. Organizing something of this scale was a much more enjoyable challenge than the regular trade bureaucracy he usually dealt with, and knowing why he was doing it added up to the whole affair being a positive experience. He made mental notes of everyone who might even end up being a supporter of their cause in due time. Soon the newly formed conglomerate sent an official missive to Hemmi with an enclosed offer and contract. Tarsus and Kinth had much shared history between them. Both were border towns, and often found themselves on the same side of the ever-shifting mental line. While battles were often fought between soldiers whenever the two nations were at war, the populations of the two towns never harbored animosity towards one another. Families are spread across the two, many people have friends in the other town and so on. This open trade guarantee is in reality little more than a formality too, since the people would get their goods across either way. It did, however, make things easier, thus appealing to the merchants. Aderyn was pleased with how things went, and was returning to Tarsus to report to Ackar and Turaga Gali. He felt an eagerness about his next assignment, the likes of which his trade never elicited from him in the past.

 

***

 

Angonce looked out across his city from the terrace of his throne room. The capital, fashioned after the faux-city built over the Great Spirit’s central processing unit, sprawled beneath him with the multi-colored Metru clearly separated. Some minor changes were required, as the city wasn’t an island, but nestled in a valley among some desert mountains. These included a wall around the city, however this did not follow its shape, but was circular, leaving large spans of open desert between the actual border and the wall itself. At least, it was open desert, but today this void was filled by a vast slum which dwarfed the city itself. This is where the slave population lived when they weren’t working in the city itself.

 

All those years ago, the concept of segregation originated from Angonce himself. After the reformation, the Toa and Glatorian sought him and other Great Beings out. But he was keen on fixing the mistakes of the past. He had learned from Velika that he was the cause of the nanomachines gaining sentience, and greatly disapproved. “I should have dealt with him earlier…”. Angonce cursed himself. All those years ago, he started cleaning house, killing off the opposition. Tatui and Bothma were of low priority, since he knew he could easily deal with them when the time came. In Velika, however, he saw a potential ally, twisted mind notwithstanding. It was his only mistake, but one he’d soon correct. Angonce was a patient schemer, a trait he had imparted on those of the Great Spirit’s nanomachines which he had created personally – the Makuta. However, where they failed, he would succeed, and become the sole ruler of his world. Soon, the veils will fall, the puppets will have their strings cut, and the world will bow to…

 

“My lord!”

 

“Curses.” – Angonce thought. Then: “What is it?”

 

“All the prefects you had recalled have finally arrived. They are ready to meet you.” – The Agori servant informed him.

 

“Which of them arrived last?”

 

“Golan, of Tarsus.”

 

“Hm. Behead her. I’ll see the rest.”

 

“Of course, my lord.”

 

“Wait, no… Send her first.”

 

“My lord?”

 

“You heard me!”

 

“Of course, right away.”

 

Angonce didn’t enjoy gratuitous displays of violence, but he had to admit that they were a fantastic way to set the mood when discussing with lesser beings. The Prefect will be made an example of, and her presence during her meeting with the others will ensure that no one steps out of line. The border regions had to be prepared, but not by these leaders. He had other ideas for them. The servant had returned, Golan in tow.

 

“Golan, former Prefect of Tarsus.” – He announced. The Glatorian of Ice walked in. Her excitement clearly showed that she had misinterpreted Angonce’s reason for a private audience.

 

“Ah, Prefect, how nice of you to finally arrive.” – The ruler said without turning. His tone immediately changed the Glatorian’s facial expression.

 

“I’m terribly sorry my lord, the voyage was long and…”

 

“Yes, arduous, you were beset by Bone Hunters and so on. Have you chosen a successor?”

 

“I… no, the referendum will pass through your office in a matter of days.”

 

“Not if it dallies as long as you did.”

 

“I will seek to make amends…”

 

“That you will. By helping me secure the unwavering loyalty of your peers.”

 

“Of course, my lord, what did you have in…” – Before she could finish, her head seemingly spontaneously twisted around completely, shattering her neck vertebrae. The body collapsed onto the floor in an unnatural pose.

 

“Incentive.” – Angonce said, now to himself.

 

***

 

Aderyn entered Ackar’s store after returning from Kinth. Another Glatorian was there, perusing his wares. Aderyn acted like he too was looking at the goods. One shelf was almost entirely occupied by various carved stones. Many were of the same simple design in different sizes – a standard roundish stone with three slits on either cheek beneath two simple eyes, and a horizontal slit in the middle. Others included a circular stand with six pillars, a stone like the others in the middle joined by another, more jagged, black statuette. Tiny pebbles were strewn about the two. Next to the shelf was a rather massive carved rock, sitting on the floor. It was broken in many places, extremely weathered, with writing on it in Matoran script. Aderyn had been practicing reading the odd, circular letters ever since he met with Gali weeks ago. “My friend went to… Po-Koro… and all I… got was… this lousy… rock?” – He silently tried to read it.

 

“Aderyn?” – Ackar called to him.

 

“Hm. What? Oh!”

 

“The other customer left over a minute ago.”

 

“Oh, uh, I didn’t notice.”

 

“I have a bell on the door.”

 

“Yes, well. I was just…”

 

“You read Matoran?”

 

“As of a few days ago, yes.”

 

“No-one writes in Matoran anymore.”

 

“They might again, some day.” – Aderyn knew not to say it out loud, but it was as if Ackar knew what he was thinking.

 

“What news from Kinth?”

 

“They sent a Gukko before I even departed, surely it had arrived already.”

 

“So, the announcement the Scribe will make tomorrow is about an open trade guarantee…” – Ackar said with a wry smile.

 

“Oh, so you’ve… heard the rumors?”

 

“But of course. Come, let us discuss them.” – Ackar beckoned Aderyn to the back room after closing up. They retreated into the store-room.

 

“I’ve made sure that all the merchants who matter vote for Hemmi. I doubt his opponent has matching support, so it’s fairly certain he’ll get the position.” – Ackar said.

 

“When is the vote?”

 

“Two days from now.”

 

“Good. It should take a week for the Royal Office to reply with the chosen prefect. What will we doing in the meantime?”

 

“Laying low, trying not to draw attention to ourselves.”

 

“Surely there is something we can do?”

 

“I appreciate your zeal, Aderyn, but we cannot risk anyone getting wind of foul play. The best thing we can do now is stay quiet and ensure Hemmi gets the posting without any turbulence. It would be best if you tended to your trade in the coming days.”

 

“And once he’s in office, what then?”

 

“What then? We wait for an opportunity, any opportunity, to exploit. If a chance arises…”

 

“I mean what will you have me do right after?”

 

“Uh, Aderyn, look. We’ve been doing this for almost 7000 years, not because we’re taking our sweet time, but because we very rarely can do anything at all. The hold of the Great Beings is still far too great.”

 

“But you said Lewa is in open resistance!”

 

“Yes, and his recklessness claims many lives each day. Gali will not have it.”

 

“You’ve opened my eyes to the true nature of this world, to its fantastical past and its dread present, and now you ask me to do nothing?”

 

“Nothing that will endanger us, yes.” – A hint of sternness appeared in Ackar’s voice. Then: “You mustn’t be careless and overeager. When you’re on the losing side, you need to be patient lest you be defeated in the absolute.”

 

“…Very well.” – Aderyn conceded, but internally, he was disappointed. “No wonder they’ve been fighting for so long and achieved so little.” – he thought.

 

“I hope to see you at the ceremony of the new Prefect’s appointment.” – Ackar said, smile returning, whilst returning to the storefront and beckoning Aderyn to follow.

 

“Naturally.” – He said, and made for the door. He stopped by the shelf with the small stone carvings, and picked one up. Then: “Borian… what’s this represent?”

 

“Oh, take it. You’ll find out in time.” – Ackar replied, now grinning. Aderyn raised an eyebrow, but obeyed, and left the store.

 

***

 

The next day, the village Scribe did indeed announce that, should he become the local Prefect, he would secure an open trade guarantee with Kinth. His opponent wasn’t present at the event, and had nothing of similar weight to bolster his support. The day after, the vote was held. Aderyn wasn’t a resident of Tarsus so he himself did not participate, but he attended and met with Ackar briefly. The next few days were shaping up to be uneventful. Aderyn dreaded returning to his regular activities of a merchant, feeling utterly without motivation. What was peddling wares and stock compared to fighting for the liberty of an entire race? But he saw the wisdom in Ackar’s words, and after all, doing something he was good at was still better than doing nothing at all. He figured if he further endeavored to strengthen economic ties between Tarsus and Kinth, he’d help their cause if even a little. The downtime of the next few days gave him ample opportunity to go over all the things he had learned, and come to terms with the ‘new’ world as he saw it. He wanted to meet with Ackar often, and even return to the enclave for he had so many questions, but the old Glatorian deemed it too risky.

Then, two days after the Gukko with the referendum was sent to Metru-Nui, finally something of note happened. Aderyn had just returned to the inn where he was renting a room, and settled for a meal. There was a loud trio of guards seemingly celebrating around a table. The Innkeep, whom knew Aderyn for a long time, came up to him.

 

“What’ll it be, master Aderyn?”

 

“I’m feeling down for a Mukau stew, and whatever drink you’d suggest. To my tab, as always.”

 

“Coming up, but it won’t be on your tab.”

 

“Uh, look, I know I’ve been here longer than usual, but you know I always pay…”

 

“Ah! Worry not master Aderyn, you misunderstand me. The loud guardsmen over there offered to pay everyone’s orders for the night.”

 

“Everyone’s? How’d they do that off a guard’s salary, and then, why would they?”

 

“I know not the details, but they say they will be getting some big kind of reward.”

 

“Why’s that, then?”

 

“They hadn’t clearly explained master, but as I take it, the three there have captured an actual Toa!”

 

“A… Toa?” – Aderyn asked back. “I need to learn more of this!” – He thought.

 

“So I believe.” – The innkeep said, then went off to bring Aderyn’s food. He was busy observing the guards, who were seemingly telling the tale of how they managed such a feat to a small crowd around them. Their tale had a lot of impressive fighting and acts of bravery, though Aderyn instantly saw that they were more than embellishing. He nodded thanks when the innkeep returned with his stew, and started to eat slowly without taking his eyes off the the trio. When the crowd around them had mostly been replaced by new patrons and the guards were set to retell their tale from its beginning, Aderyn went closer.

 

“We were standing watch, a regular night shift when this suspicious figure was coming up to the walls, right. Zell here was up in the tower while the two of us were down by the gate. This Toa – we didn’t rightly know at the time – was well robed and we didn’t see it’s face. It came right up like it had a right to, and asked to be let into the village. We don’t get many nightly visitors, see, so naturally we asked it a few questions. ‘What business have you?’; ‘Where do you hail from?’, and the likes. I didn’t much like its answers, but then I heard Griin say ‘Alright, move along’.” – The first one said.

 

“So he turned to me and asked, ‘What now?’. I didn’t understand, because I could have sworn that I heard him say that the stranger may pass. So we was arguing on who said what when we then heard Zell cry from the tower, ‘Kane-Ra Stampede!’.” – The second, presumably Griin, continued.

 

“Thing is, Zell was asleep!” – The first said, followed by bellowing laughter.

 

“Resting!” – The third, Zell, chipped in.

 

“Anyhow, true enough, we heard the stampede in the distance, but couldn’t see anything. We took Zell’s word for it nonetheless, but then Griin here noticed that the ground wasn’t shaking.” – The first said. Then: “So we shout up to Zell where it’s coming from.”

 

“Then Zell shouted back asking what we were on about!”

 

“We didn’t rightfully understand what was going on, but then we noticed the stranger was gone and the gate ajar. We made haste and rightfully caught him too.”

 

“So we was asking, what he thought to proceed without our allowing it. It was a bit of a scuffle and his hood then fell back.”

 

“And then Griin was all like, ‘Hey, that helmet, it looks like the one some Matoran wear’, and true enough, it looked the part. Then I said, it’s isn’t no helmet, but a Mask! We caught ourselves a Toa!”

 

“But it was no easy pickings, this one. He pushed me back with such strength that a Skrall would be envious of, and then I heard the screams of a thousand voices right in my mind! I could barely move. It used some of those dark Toa powers on us or somesuch.”

 

“So while Arash was squirming on the ground…” – Griin took over.

 

“I wasn’t squirming!”

 

“Hush now! So I went at the Toa from the back, but he spun right around, held a hand out and released some kind of energy. When it hit me, I hear all manner of booming and beeping on frequencies that rightly hurt the ears, but it had such power it pushed me right back, like a wall of sound!”

 

“We wasn’t sure how we’d manage this devil, but then Zell appeared and shouted a really loud ‘Hey!’ of his own. This didn’t much stike the fancy of the Toa who spun around all angry-like and put the thousand screams into Zell’s head too. So that’s when I got up and tossed a rock at the bugger which struck true, right in the head it did.”

 

“He lost his grip on Zell, and before he could work his curses on us again, we was all over him hitting away at him while shouting loudly.”

 

“So see this, it was as if our hits didn’t even register on the bloke, but the ways we was shouting rightly made it ill. We stopped then, and still it was curled on the ground, tapping the sides of its head while mumbling. So we took shouting at it some more, and then hauling it to the cells was no issue!”

 

“Imagine that! A mighty Toa brought low by some harsh words!” – The three exploded in bellowing laughter, and the crowd followed suite. Only Aderyn remained silent. “It must have been a Toa of sonics.” – He thought to himself. He returned to his table and continued to eat, but his mind was racing. “They must still be holding him in the village. It would take days for a Toa transport to arrive from a larger city, and if they only captured him yesterday, I still have time… but what am I thinking? Ackar told me to stay on the down low. However… if we waste time, the Toa will be taken from here. Tarsus is small, it would be easier springing him here than in a city, and the enclave is close…”

 

He was certain he had to help the Toa. Ackar said that they would wait for opportunities and seize them, and when would such an opportunity ever arise again? But is it worth risking losing an ally as powerful as the prefect? Aderyn was sure of it. Tarsus only had three guard-houses with cells, so it wouldn’t be hard finding out which one held the Toa.  Then Aderyn would need to find a way to spring him without being caught… but naturally the guards wouldn’t expect the Toa to get help from the outside? That might be the advantage he needs. But. “Negotiating deals was one thing, technically I haven’t directly helped the resistance. But springing a Toa from jail? That’s the deep end. Am I sure I want to do this?” – He considered, but he knew the answer even before the words formed in his mind. He was going to go through with this. 


Edited by Pohaturon, Aug 26 2017 - 04:37 AM.

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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#5 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 28 2017 - 09:10 AM

The next morning, he went back to Ackar’s shop. For odd moments he considered not telling the old Glatorian about the captive Toa and his plan for fear of Ackar further suggesting inaction in order to ensure Hemmi’s election goes as planned, but he shooed away the thoughts. This was certainly not something he’d be able to pull off without any help, and Ackar would surely put the freedom of a Toa over caution. As Aderyn arrived, he immediately flipped the sign on the door as he closed it, prompting a raised eyebrow from Ackar.

 

“Let me guess, laying low is out the window?” – He asked. Aderyn didn’t say anything, just nodded to the back room. Ackar was about to ask something again, but by that time Aderyn had crossed the shop and was shoving Ackar into the storeroom, who was surprised into silence.

 

“Calm now, what’s this about?” – He asked with a confused laugh.

 

“The guards, they found a Toa, okay, and I think he’s a Toa of sonics, but he’s being kept here in the village and I’m sure they’ll haul him off somewhere soon, and I have an idea on how to get him out and…”

 

“Whoa, hey, temper the speed of your words lest they run me over. A Toa? Here?”

 

“Aye, a Toa!”

 

“And they captured him? How do you know this?”

 

“I’m half surprised you don’t! The three guards were more than eager to tell every living soul about it last night at the Seven Muaka Inn.”

 

“Oh. I’m not, uh, welcome there. But are you sure? A Toa?”

 

“Yes! He wore a mask and had powers and everything.”

 

“Many wear masks and have powers, Aderyn.”

 

“Yes, but… look, does it matter? He’s a biomechanical, in prison, in Tarsus. Well, at least I think he’s a he. We’ve got to do something!”

 

“Right, refer to the poor soul as ‘it’, did they?” – Ackar said, and spat. Then: “In that case they’re definitely from the Great Spirit, whether he or she. What have you in mind?”

 

“Oh, good, I was afraid you’d urge caution…”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, this is the life of my kin we’re talking about.” – Ackar said. Then: “I am an honorary Toa, after all.”

 

“Okay, so, naturally the guards wouldn’t suspect him getting help from a Glatorian, right?”

 

“Right…”

 

“So I wouldn’t be suspicious loitering around the guard post where he is held.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So I help him escape.”

 

“Okay, go on.”

 

“I… well, that’s it.”

 

“That’s your plan?” – Ackar asked, condescension not even remotely masked.

 

“…Yes?”

 

“Aderyn, that’s not a plan. How do you help him escape? How do you get him to safety without alerting everyone? Where would you take him?”

 

“Well, to the enclave, I suppose.”

 

“Yes, and how do you get him there?”

 

“Through your shop, naturally.”

 

“Yeah, naturally endanger the security of this safe spot. But true, there is no better way. However you still need to get here without having the village guard descend upon your rebellious rears like a pack of hungry Nivawk.”

 

“I, well, yes… so I need your help.”

 

“That you do” – Ackar said, with a smile. Then: “You’re going to need something to help him blend in, and we’ve just the thing… but for that we’ll need to hop back to the enclave. I’ll give you what you need, and we’ll come up with a plan.”

 

“Very well, lead on.” – Aderyn said. With that, Ackar once more pushed away the crate hiding the trapdoor, and they took off.

 

***

 

Much like last time, Kapura met them out in the desert and “brought” them to the enclave. Upon returning, Aderyn noted how little had changed over the course of several weeks. The Matoran in the enclave were still going about their business or resting, with not much to do. The few Toa who were with them dallied about, usually talking to one another. Ackar took him to one of the larger huts with a funnel running into the ceiling of the cave. Inside was a Ta-Matoran, and a large forge. The smoke from the forge passed through the funnel Aderyn saw earlier.

 

“I saw no smoke on the surface, where do you lead it away?”

 

“You forget, Aderyn, that you never saw the surface of the desert right above the enclave. But you are right that we can’t let the smoke give away our location. Over the vast amount of years we’ve been here, we had enough time to perform extensive construction underground, though only the kind which doesn’t require many materials. We’ve built a large ventilation system which uses the heat of the forge to keep us warm. This far underground, the temperature would be much less comfortable without the system, and it was for a long time before we built this. The smoke itself is dissipated through tiny pores leading to the surface over such a large area that it isn’t visible.” – Ackar explained.

 

“Very impressive.”

 

“Thank you. Ho, Varian!” – He called to the Matoran. The small being, clad in red and gray armor, turned around from his worktable, where a half-finished mask lay.

 

“Ah, Ackar! And our new recruit? How can I be of service?” – Aderyn was surprised at the Matoran’s cheery tone, though he figured they don’t spend all their time being dreary, even in these circumstances.

 

“We’re going to need a decoy helmet.”

 

“A decoy helmet? Was someone found?”

 

“Aderyn discovered that a Toa of Sonics is being held in Tarsus.”

 

“These are grand tidings! I mean, not that he’s being held, that’s terrible. Buy you need the decoy, so you’re going to save him, yes?”- Varian was visibly elated.

 

“That’s the plan.”

 

“I’m sure the Turaga will be delighted, yes. Oh, the helmet! Sonics, yes, gray, silver…” – Varian started muttering to himself as he pulled out a large crate from under his bench and rummaged through its contents. Then: “Ah, here, yes.” The Matoran produced a silver Glatorian helmet from the crate.

 

“Wait, we came all this way for a Glatorian helmet? We could have gotten one in Tarsus just as easy.” – Aderyn said.

 

“Ah, but you forget. Masks are conspicuous and easily noticed, and a Toa loses their power without one, they become weak. This isn’t any ordinary Glatorian helmet, but a Kanohi Mask forged into the shape of a helmet.”

 

“But don’t masks gain their powers from their shapes?”

 

“Not exactly. It’s complicated, and I’m no expert, but Varian here would surely talk your ears off about it. All I know is that these decoys have no powers, which is the tradeoff. If a Toa wears it, they are less likely to be detected, but if they are, they have no Kanohi power to rely on, only their elemental abilities.”

 

“And where do you get your Kanoka disks?”

 

“Oh, someone has done their homework.” – Ackar said with a smile. Then: “Varian here rarely works on masks anymore, but rather forges disks, both for combat and to be made into masks whenever necessary, but we try to use them sparingly. These caves were chosen because of the minerals in the rock, which we mine.”

 

“Hasn’t the supply depleted over 7000 years?”

 

“Oh, this is hardly the first enclave. We’ve moved several times, built ventilation systems, huts, forges… a necessity of our lives.”

 

“But you’ve been in Tarsus for as long as I remember, has the enclave always been close to it?”

 

“Hah! What makes you think we’re close to Tarsus?”

 

“Well, I… uh…”

 

“Let’s just say Kapura spent all of these years practicing, like Vakama told him to. He’s gotten really, really good.” – Ackar said, nodded thanks to Varian and beckoned Aderyn to follow him out of the forge.

 

“What happened to him- them? Vakama and the Turaga, I mean?”

 

“That we don’t know. Like so many others, they’re out there, somewhere… or they’re not. Until we have proof otherwise, we assume the first.”

 

“And have you gotten… proof… of anyone?”

 

“I… initially I didn’t know many Toa or Matoran, but in the early years after the reformation, many became my friends. Many aren’t among us anymore… Onepu, Toa Kongu, Turaga Nuju, Vhisola, Amaya, Turaga Dume, Toa Iruini, Toa Krakua… the list goes on.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“How about we focus on saving another instead, okay?” – Ackar said, and headed to the main cavern.

 

***

 

Turaga Gali hadn’t expected the day to be as eventful as it was. She had thought the only thing to look forward to was the appointment of their sympathetic Prefect, but even that she saw for what it was, and knew nothing would immediately change when it comes to pass. The prospect of saving a Toa, however? Now that was something.

 

“And you have a plan, Ackar?” – She asked.

 

“Aderyn, actually, had the beginnings of one, and it wasn’t bad. Glatorian are never suspicious, so he could help this Toa escape. We have the decoy mask, so we just need to figure out how to get the Toa out of the guard post. Then, they can disappear into the crowds, go to my store.”

 

“So you intend to do this during daytime?”

 

“I believe crowds offer greater cover than darkness does.” – Ackar answered.

 

“Do you intend to distract the guards, then?” – Gali addressed the question to Aderyn.

 

“I thought of that approach, yes. I wouldn’t ask Ackar, lest we be linked. I’d pay some youth to take the guard’s attention while I slip in and we come out. The posts in Tarsus are lightly guarded, and even if they increase security for the prisoner, it will mean four guards, maximum.”

 

“Unless they hold him in the garrison.”

 

“I thought about that, but it is unlikely. For years now the Tarsus garrison hasn’t had a prison, and even the soldiers who need disciplining are sent to guard posts.”

 

“So what happens if the Toa is not the sole prisoner?”

 

“I’ll pretend I came to free whoever else is locked up, let them go first, then free the Toa. I doubt anyone would stick around to spy on me.”

 

“And how to open the cell?”

 

“Just leave that to me, locks shan’t keep me in or out of anywhere.” – Aderyn said with a sly smile.

 

“Then it seems to me like you have a plan.”

 

“That we do. I’ll be ready to hide him until we bring him here.” – Ackar said.

 

“Ackar, do say, how did the sporadic opening times of your store not raise suspicions?” – Aderyn asked.

 

“They did, but since I’ve been operating like this for over a thousand years, the locals got used to it.”

 

Aderyn simply nodded. Armed now with a plan and a decoy helmet, he was confident of their success. Now, all that remained was to pull off the caper.

 

***

 

Aderyn went to the southernmost guard post only to see a single guard dozing near the door, which was ajar. He was certain they wouldn’t hold a Toa under such conditions, so moved on to the post on market square. This location seemed to be the one he was looking for, because true enough, the guard was doubled to four from the usual two. “Of course they will pick the noisiest location. Curse them.” – He thought. He quickly looked around seeking a throng of loitering Agori just looking for trouble, but in a place out of the guard’s line of sight as to avoid suspicion. As busy a place as the market was, he didn’t need to look for long. He approached a trio, and fished out a widget from his robes.

 

“Hey, you!” – He called out.

 

“Oh! Wasn’t us!” – One of the said to him quickly.

 

“No, but it’s going to. What says you if I give you this widget you fly and pester away the guards from their posts, give them a good chase around the village, eh? Keep them occupied for a good couple of minutes.”

 

“Hah! We just ate – it will take more than a widget to send us running.”

 

“Three, then.” – Aderyn dug into his pocket.

 

“You got yourself some runners, sir.” – The Agori said, snatched the widgets, and the three were off in the blink of an eye. Aderyn observed as they ran up to the bored looking guards, shouted something at them, pestered their pouches and took off, angry guards in tow. Swiftly, Aderyn flowed through the crowd and soon stepped into the building of the guard station. A few messy cots were on one side, with a desk on the other which had seen better days. A corridor opened from the far wall. Aderyn headed there, and came into a larger room. There were some armor and weapon racks lining the walls, and he noticed a silver something hanging on a hook nearby. “A mask!” – He thought, and grabbed it. There were also two cells in the room, one vacant, and in the other, a being was huddled in the corner farthest from the window. He wore black, gray and black armor, and hid his face behind his hands. Aderyn had the bars open within moments. “I’m running out of time.” – He thought, as he produced the decoy helmet from his robe.

 

“Here, put this on.”

 

“Who…” – a weak voice came from behind the hands.

 

“A friend, now put this on, we must hurry.” – Aderyn moved the hands out of the way to find an odd, robotic face. “So this is what they are like without a mask.” – He quickly placed the helmet on the Toa’s head. The dull, faded colors of his armor regained vibrancy almost immediately, and he too became more lively.

 

“What? Who are you?” – He asked.

 

“I’m a friend, but we need to hurry, the guard…”

 

“Please, don’t shout… but, you’re Glatorian?”

 

“Yeah, which is why you have a chance, now get up and put these robes on.” – Aderyn spoke with a softer voice, and gave the Toa the clothes he brought along with himself. He helped the Toa wrap himself up more or less, and led him outside by the arm, for the latter was still disoriented and recovering. Just as Aderyn dragged them into the fray of the crowd, he looked back and saw the guards returning. “Curses, I had hoped to be far by the time they return.” – He thought.

 

“Uh, this is not good.” – The Toa said unexpectedly.

 

“What, what’s wrong?”

 

“Loud…” – He was holding his head with his free arm.

 

“It’s the only way, come, we’ll be through soon, just don’t draw attention to us!” – Aderyn said, dragging the Toa close behind him. Then, he heard shouting from behind them. “They know the prisoner is gone.” – He thought, and pulled the Toa with him even quicker. They were nearing the edge of the square, and Aderyn slipped into a side-street. After going some distance, the bustle of the crowd grew quieter, if only slightly, as the guards had caused quite a commotion. The Toa seemed livelier and less distraught now, and Aderyn let him go. They zigzagged through alleys and small streets, Aderyn leading them on an indirect route to the shop. He stopped for a moment in one of the alleys, wanting to ask the Toa whether he knew Ackar. Before he could, the world spun around him and he was knocked to the wall, with an arm pinning him there.

 

“Who are you?” – The Toa asked angrily.

 

“Whoa, what’s wrong with you?”

 

“I asked you a question.”

 

“I saved you, you fool. You’ll draw attention to us!”

 

“You’re a Glatorian.”

 

“Yes, and so are you.” – Aderyn hissed. The Toa’s face twitched slightly. Then: “I’m Aderyn, by the way. I’m taking you to Ackar, do you know him?”

 

“A-Ackar?”

 

“So you do?”

 

“Only by name. I know he was… is a friend of Mata Nui. So, you’re with him?”

 

“Yes, which is something you would have learned upon us reaching his shop, something we now have a significantly lesser chance of achieving. Congratulations.” – As Aderyn said that, the Toa let him go with a huff.

 

“Deren.” – He said.

 

“That your name?” – Aderyn asked, and the Toa nodded. Then: “Fantastic. Can we go now?” – Deren lifted his arm, beckoning Aderyn to lead on. By now, there were more guards roaming the streets, so Aderyn deemed it better to walk slower and avoid attention instead of hurrying. Whenever they saw a guard, he had them turn off into another street or alley. After about half an hour of twisting and turning, they came within view of Ackar’s shop. Here, on the corner, Deren grabbed Aderyn’s arm.

 

“You said Ackar’s shop.”

 

“Yes, but you don’t think a known honorary Toa would plaster his name on a building?” – Aderyn answered. “This guy isn’t too thankful for being rescued…” – He thought while Deren suspiciously peered at the shop, then let go of Aderyn’s arm. They began to cross the wide street to the shop.

 

“Hey you!” – They heard a shout, and froze. From behind them came up two guards. Then: “Have you seen a runaway T… “ – The voice cut off as Aderyn and Deren turned around.

 

“Hah! Keris? You’re a guard now?” – Aderyn recognized an old friend of his. They haven’t spoken in a long while, but he capitalized on the situation. Deren was noticeably tense.

 

“Aderyn? I didn’t know you’re back in town! Yeah, stepping into father’s footsteps I am.”

 

“So what’s this runaway business?”

 

“Oh, I trust you heard we caught a Toa a two days back, but it’s gone now.”

 

“You mean, he escaped?”

 

“Yes, but don’t worry, we’re combing the village and the gates have been closed. It’s alone, so it won’t endanger you. You haven’t happened to see anything?”

 

“I don’t think we have, have we?” – Aderyn turned to Deren, because his companion’s tense silence started to become uncomfortable, and in this situation that could mean suspicious.

 

“…No, we have not.” – He said.

 

“Right, we’ll find it soon enough. See you later, Aderyn. Master.” – He nodded to them both, addressing Deren the typical way one addresses another who is a stranger and whose caste is not known. Then, Keris was off.

 

“Bloody good fortune, that…” – Aderyn muttered as they went into Borian’s Emporium. Like last time, Aderyn stealthily flipped the sign. Ackar was fiddling at the counter, agitated.

 

“There you are! The guard are all over the place. What was that outside?”

 

“That, my friend, was me very likely depleting my lifelong allowance of luck. Deren, Ackar. Ackar, Deren.” – Aderyn introduced the two.

 

“You’re the Ackar? Who fought by Mata Nui’s side?” – Deren asked, starry eyed.

 

“Quiet, you! Come, let us be off.” – Ackar beckoned them into the back room where the crate was already pushed aside. Aderyn jumped down into the passage.

 

“I just want to say it is a great honour to be rescued by someone with your…” – Deren started saying, but Ackar shoved him into the passage.

 

“Great, a fan…” – He muttered, then followed.


Edited by Pohaturon, Aug 28 2017 - 09:10 AM.

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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#6 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Aug 30 2017 - 02:27 PM

“Can I have my mask back, now?” – Deren asked once they had reached the enclave.

 

As before, Kapura met them out in the desert. To Aderyn’s surprise, not even the presence of a newly rescued Toa elicited much reaction from him. Upon arriving to the cavern, however, he did notice Kapura being visibly exhausted. “Maybe bringing more of us puts more strain on him?” – Aderyn still didn’t understand his power. Kapura’s mask gave him strength, and other Toa of Fire don’t share this special skill.

 

“Here.” – Aderyn fished out the Kanohi Volitak from his robes and gave it to Deren, who quickly replaced the decoy helmet with it. The Toa had removed his robes as well.

 

“Come, you must meet the Turaga.” – Ackar said, already on the move.

 

“Who is your Turaga?”

 

“Turaga Gali, I’m sure you’ve hear…”

 

“Gali!?” – Deren exclaimed loudly. Ackar stopped, spun around at placed a palm firmly on Deren’s chest.

 

“Yes, and we’ll have no more of this overbearing… reverence. Be respectful, and that also means knowing when to be reserved.”

 

“Y-yes, of course. My apologies.”

 

They continued on into the cavern, with Matoran around them all turning their heads. Aderyn felt pangs of deja-vu, though he noticed how the Matoran looked at Deren with more warmth. “He is one of them, after all.” – He thought. They soon arrived into the main chamber, where the Toa were currently in council with Turaga Gali.

 

“…Eastern camp’s defenses. He said there has been an influx of troops, while almost half of the Matoran were shipped further inland.” – The Toa whom Aderyn had learned was Macku said to the Turaga.

 

“That lines up with the reports we’ve gained from Fort Haran. Angonce is up to something.” – Toa Kopeke added. As they neared, Ackar held out a hand, not wanting to interrupt the meeting.

 

“Do you think he prepares for war?” – Gali asked the gathered Toa.

 

“He’s always preparing for war.” – Taipu shrugged. Then: “This isn’t how he usually operates. Until now, he always kept up open war with one nation, a tense cold-war with a second and friendly trading relations with the third, rotating through them, keeping either from growing too strong. Usually he makes peace with the nations he’s warring with, escalates the cold-war into an open one and increases tension with the one he’s trading with. Now he’s increasing troop presence on multiple borders. It’s clear the cold-war with Bothma will reach a breaking point, but he’s showing no sign of easing off on Tatui.”

 

“How does this factor into Velika’s and Tatui’s conflict, though? They’ve been at each other’s throats without declaring war for the longest period in history. Something is bound to happen if Angonce makes a move.” – Macku interjected.

 

“Velika and Tatui do not concern us at the moment.” – Kopeke added. Then: “Angonce has always been the biggest threat.”

 

“Ignoring smaller threats while focusing on the biggest not once almost handed Makuta victory in the past, Toa Kopeke.” – Gali said. Then: “But we have visitors in our midst.” – All masks turned to Ackar, Aderyn and Deren. They walked closer to the lightstone-pit.

 

“This is Toa Deren.” – Ackar introduced the newcomer, who put a closed fist on his breast while nodding to the Turaga first, then to the other Toa.

 

“We welcome you, brother.” – Taipu said with a smile.

 

“I see our friend Aderyn was successful in his endeavor.” – Gali said, also glad.

 

“That he did! You see, Kopeke, you ought to be more trusting.” – Taipu said again. This was the first time Aderyn had interacted with the other Toa, and instantly felt out of place and awkward due to the comment.

 

“Come now, Toa Deren. Where from do you come?” – Gali asked the newcomer.

 

“Originally, I hailed from the Southern Continent. A small village, I doubt any of you know of it. I helped with the construction on New Atero for a while, then moved to the border regions of Bota Magna until…” – He trailed off. Everyone knew he referred to the time when the segregation began.

 

“The border regions? What then brings you so far from home? Things are no better out here than they are there.”

 

“I came seeking you, actually. I was fighting with Turaga Lewa for a while, and he sent me with a message to Turaga Gali.”

 

“Why’d you not say so sooner?” – Ackar asked.

 

“I wasn’t to tell anyone until I was in Gali’s presence. Lewa instructed me so.”

 

“Speak, then, what is this message?”

 

“He spoke in riddles to ensure the wrong people do not hear it even if I am captured and tortured, but he assured me you would understand: The seventh star from Fau to Motara falls.”

 

“The seventh star? He couldn’t possibly mean…” – Taipu said. He and the other former members of the Chronicler’s company all became tense and yet excited.

 

“He does. And he tells us where he’s headed, too.” – Gali interrupted.

 

“Fau, Motara? Those were locations on Mata Nui. Ah, the guile, no Glatorian would be familiar with those locations.” – Kopeke observed.

 

“Likened to Spherus Magna, it would mean he travels from the jungles of the North through the desert of Bara Magna.” – Gali said.

 

“But wait, the Fau Swamp in Le-Wahi was on the southern reaches of the island, with Po-Wahi and the Motara Desert in the far north.” – Taipu said again.

 

“True, but based on where he headed last, it’s likely to assume Lewa wished to liken his riddle to environments, not locations.”

 

“Who is this ‘he’?” – Aderyn blurted out. He immediately regretted the decision when everyone’s eyes darted to him.

 

“One we thought gone, but never gave up hope of seeing again.” – Gali said. Then: “The seventh star, the seventh Toa. Takanuva.”

 

“You never did say what happened to him after… all of this began.”

 

“He helped us for a long while. One time he went into the desert on a mission, and never came back. Some thought he was captured, some feared worse…”

 

“But now we know he’s alive, and he’s in the Bara Magna desert! We must find him!” – Macku exclaimed.

 

“Peace, Macku, the desert is vast and we have no more to guide us at present.” – The Turaga chided her.

 

“What of your mental link! It was never severed!”

 

“True, however I haven’t… sensed Takanuva since he disappeared. I know not why.”

 

“Surely we must do something!” – Taipu added his voice to Macku’s.

 

“I wish to be reunited with my brother as much as the rest of you, but we need more to go on. We cannot comb the desert, and we cannot ask around…”

 

“I can!” – Aderyn interrupted, but again, Gali’s look told him he shouldn’t have.

 

“… without raising suspicion. If we’re not the ones to find him but the Glatorian, then we’ll lose him once again, and permanently this time.”

 

“I cannot believe you’re saying this! Caution is one thing, but inaction?!” – Macku was getting increasingly distraught.

 

“Hush, hasty action has never resulted in any good for us, or our…”

 

“This is why Hewkii is in the pits!” – The Toa of Water shouted, and stormed off. Taipu glanced after her, concerned, while Kopeke shook his head.

 

“She’s got a point, you know.” – Ackar, the only one among them who was arguably and equal to the Turaga, said.

 

“I know.” – Gali said, with a sigh. Then: “But even so, we mustn’t rush. Suddenly events have sped up in a way they haven’t for millennia. I fear the future, even among tidings which bring hope. Something is afoot.”

 

“Takanuva is a major asset, not to mention, he’s technically one of you, the Toa Nuva.”

 

“We’re not Toa anymore.”

 

“But he is, and the only Toa of Light. Beyond being a powerful force, you know just as well as I what he represents. We need him.” – Ackar’s words caused Gali to fall silent and hang her head.

 

“Of course we do. I do. But we’ve already taken so many risks.”

 

“So let me look for him!” – Aderyn, in spite of the reaction to his previous two interjections, couldn’t keep quiet.

 

“Aderyn, please…” – Ackar started.

 

“I’ve proven myself, I know stealth, I know subtlety. I’ll not bring the guard upon you, nor upon Takanuva. I know these sands, the villages in them, the ravines, routes, oases and more.”

 

“He did boost Deren from the prison without blowing their cover.” – Taipu said. Aderyn already sensed that the Toa of Earth had a near indepletable well of friendliness.

 

“True, and he held his own when face to face with a guardsman.” – Ackar tentatively added.

“If you believe you can do this, then so be it. But do not bring ruin upon us in your endeavors.” – Gali’s voice was stern.

 

“…There’s something else.” – Deren spoke up unexpectedly. Then: “And I do not mean to be presumptuous, but this might be the more important of the two.”

 

“More important? This I have to hear.” – Ackar said.

 

“Me.”

 

“Are you daft, lad?” – Kopeke asked in a rare display of subdued outrage.

 

“I mean, what happened to me. See, when Lewa sent me to you… I was a Matoran.”

 

“You what now?” – Taipu asked.

 

“New Toa being created? How? I thought we were the last.” – Kopeke asked.

 

“I… I don’t know rightly. I had to take many detours through the desert, I didn’t quite know where to look for you even, and I had to avoid being caught. Once I took shelter in some caves. When evening came, I noted light coming from within, and went to investigate. The cave winded on and on until I found myself in some strange cavern. I think it was some kind of old Great Being laboratory or something. There were strange, glowing letters on the wall, as well as some Matoran scripture. There were… tools, maybe. And strange masks, too! I, well.. fiddled with things, then a pillar suddenly rose from the floor. It glowed weakly, but then became brighter and brighter. It almost blinded me when… I guess it knocked me out. I woke up somewhere else, out in the desert, among the dunes, and I was… well, as I am now.”

 

“Great Being laboratory?” – Ackar asked.

 

“They did create the Toa.” – Kopeke stated.

 

“Masks, tools… did you see stones, too?” – Gali asked Deren.

 

“Stones? Well, yes. Small glowing stones.”

 

“Toa stones, no doubt. Hm. All known ways through which Matoran had become Toa in the past.” – She continued.

 

“Maybe this is where they… invented how to turn Matoran into Toa?” – Taipu asked. The whole situation was awkward, as those present were now fighting a losing war against their very creators.

 

“That seems to be the case.”

 

“But Matoran only become Toa if it is their Destiny.”

 

“Destiny is no longer as… concrete a concept as it was while we lived within the Great Spirit, Toa Taipu. All of our destinies have changed, now.”

 

“Deren, could you take us to this… laboratory? Take other Matoran?” – Kopeke asked.

 

“I… I’m not sure. I don’t know where the place I awoke was in relation to the caves.”

 

“Whoa, hold on. Kopeke, take other Matoran? Are you thinking...”

 

“If it turned Deren into a Toa, it may turn others. Toa are more powerful than Matoran. It would bolster our numbers.”

 

“But what if it was Deren’s destiny, and it won’t do the same to others?”

 

“If it predates the Great Spirit and was, as Gali suggested, a testing facility, it also predates the Great Beings giving our people our destinies. It may have the ability to turn all Matoran into Toa.”

 

“What does it matter if he knows not the way?” – Kapura, who remained silent until now, asked.

 

“Wait, I might… I might retrace the steps of my journey to the cavern, I believe I’d know the way from the northern village of Barras.”

 

“…Turaga?” – Ackar glanced at Gali, who had all this time regarded Deren.

 

“Destiny has driven us for as long as I’ve lived. If this… device… truly makes Toa of Matoran regardless of their destinies, it is circumventing the very thing that allowed us to achieve victory against the Makuta.” – She said, both sad and angry. Then: “However… we now know that our destinies from within the Great Spirit were the constructs of the Great Beings, and now… now our destinies belong to us. It is the duty of every Matoran to fight for the freedom of our kin, and if that means becoming Toa, then let that be their destiny.” – All gathered nodded.

 

“Then it is decided. Deren will seek out the laboratory. He will, however, need companions.” – The Turaga stated.

 

“I’ll go with him.” – Aderyn said. Then: “I’m the logical choice. I know the villages of the desert, I’m a Glatorian and can move freely, and we also know Takanuva is somewhere in the desert – maybe we’ll find him too as we seek the cavern.”

 

“Shouldn’t another Toa accompany Deren?” – Kopeke asked.

 

“Aderyn did save him.” – Taipu came to his defence.

 

“If I have any say in this, I’d wish for Aderyn to accompany me.” – Deren added.

 

“I too think this to be a wise course, however you two may not be sufficient.” – Gali said. Then: “You shall also be accompanied by Kopeke.”

 

“What?” – The Toa of Ice asked in disbelief.

 

“You heard me. It will give you ample opportunity to shed any distrust of our new friend.”

 

“Hm.” – Kopeke said, then glanced over at Aderyn. The Glatorian shrugged and gave the Toa a forced smile.

 

“Shouldn’t they take a Matoran, to… test the device?” – Ackar asked.

 

“Decoy helmets can help Deren and Kopeke blend in, but the Matoran are far too different from the Agori in stature and anatomy as we all know.”

 

“And what if the Matoran acts as our…” – Aderyn’s voice trailed off the moment he realized how disrespectful his suggestion would be. Then: “I’m sorry, never mind.”

 

“I don’t think I like this idea at all.” – Taipu said.

 

“Nor I.” – Gali said. Then: “… but I cannot deny the wisdom in it. We need to know whether we can rely on this laboratory. Who should go with them?”

 

“Maglya was with you on Mata Nui, yes? I would suggest him. He’s an ample fighter, and performed undercover missions in the past.” – Ackar fielded his suggestion.

 

“Magly is a good choice.” – Kopeke added.

 

“Then you know what you must do. Kapura will take you to the desert near Barras, and then you will begin your journey. Rest before you do, as I suspect this will be no easy voyage.” – Gali said, then sat down and peered deeply into the lightstones before her. Then: “Mata Nui guide you.”

 

The Toa nodded to one another, and to Ackar and Aderyn, before dispersing. Taipu went after Macku, Kopeke went off on his own business and Ackar sat next to Gali and began discussing something. Kapura remained where he stood, and seemingly drifted off into his thoughts.

 

“Aderyn.” – Deren called to the Glatorian. Then: “I owe you both my thanks, and an apology. I wasn’t particularly… grateful for your rescue while you helped me through the village.”

 

“Think nothing of it. I’m a Glatorian, in your place I wouldn’t have trusted me either.” – He said with a friendly shrug.

 

“Indeed. Which is why I wanted to ask – why help us?”

 

“Not all Glatorian look down upon you and yours. Many are sympathetic to the Matoran, and many more would be if fear wouldn’t get the better of them. You don’t see many examples because so few dare to face the consequences, but law dictates that any Glatorian or Agori who considers Matoran their equals, will become their equals as slaves.”

 

“Fear shackles us both then. You fear for helping us, and we fear your treatment of us.”

 

“True, but it is rather deplorable from our side. We allow others to suffer so that we can live a more comfortable life. Sometimes I feel those who disapprove of the segregation but remain silent are just as bad as those who enforce it.”

 

“At least they are potential allies, as you have become. You saved my life, and thus I owe it to you, brother. I am happy to travel by your side.” – Deren said, and extended a closed fist. Aderyn bumped his to it, and nodded with a smile.


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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere


#7 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Sep 24 2017 - 05:38 AM

 Kapura set down the group among the dunes far north of Tarsus. Having moved three Toa, a Glatorian and a Matoran exhausted him greatly, and they set camp while he recovered enough to return to the enclave. Aderyn was thinking about the task ahead. He, Deren, Kopeke and Maglya would be on their own while they search for the cavern with no way of asking for help. They agreed that every 7 days, Kapura would return to the place where he brought them, and that this is where they must return upon completing their assignment. He was glad to accompany Deren, but Kopeke and Maglya troubled him. Kopeke clearly did not trust him, which was something that might endanger their cause in multiple ways. As for Maglya, he merely felt sorry for the Matoran.

 

“Deren, how long did you stay in Barras when traveling through here?” – Aderyn asked his companion.

 

“Technically I didn’t stay in Barras at all. I avoided most settlements unless I ran out of supplies. While the crowd was a given to hide among, a lone Matoran with no master is easy prey. I can, however, take us on the right path so long as we see the village for me to orient myself.”

 

“With these decoy helmets, we can move freely through the village. I’d suggest using it as a base where we can return to for rest and supplies.”

 

“These helmets prevent us from being caught, but they don’t make us feel comfortable among you.” – Kopeke interjected. “Among *you*, he said.” – Aderyn thought.

 

“I do hope we won’t need to resupply at all. We’ve a week’s provisions with us, and as I said, I do know the way.” – Deren quickly added.

 

“Dunes shift, my friend. Some say even the rocks themselves migrate through the desert leaving naught where it was a day before. Don’t underestimate the sand, I fear we’ll be searching for quite some time.”

 

“I certainly hope not.” – This was the first time Maglya spoke to them. He was clearly uncomfortable in his cover role.

 

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep away from populated areas as much as possible, provided our search does not force us into one.”

 

“And even then, two of us can go while a third stays here with you.” – Deren told Maglya with a reassuring smile.

 

“Hey, I’m… sorry for the idea.” – Aderyn said.

 

“No, no, it makes sense, and we’d better know if this laboratory can really… make… Toa. I’m doing this for us all.”

 

“I’ll protect you. I promise.”

 

“You carry blades, merchant, do you know how to use them?” – Kopeke interjected, aiming the question at Aderyn. He did indeed carry with him two identical mid-length single bladed swords for self defense.

 

“Aye, but I do hope I won’t have to demonstrate my skill for you.”

 

“I too hope to avoid conflict. I’m still unaccustomed to being a Toa. We should ideally be able to handle plenty of powerless Glatorian… no offense!” – Deren mused, adding the apology at the end while looking at Aderyn. The Glatorian just held up a hand and smiled. Soon after, Kapura woke and bid them farewell, before disappearing in a blur.

 

“I still don’t know how he does that…” – Kopeke muttered.

 

Under the cover of night, the group headed in the direction of Barras. Kapura could transport them to a pinpoint location based on a hand-drawn map alone, so finding their heading was not too difficult. Aderyn and Deren chatted along the way. Maglya tried to strike up conversation with Kopeke unsuccessfully, and this joined into their discourse. The sun started to rise after some hours, and upon scaling a dune, a breathtaking sight greeted them. The massive golden disk of the sun had only arose halfways from the horizon, and right in its center, a black mush which threw a long shadow represented their goal.

“Barras. Deren, we place ourselves into your hands hence.” – Aderyn stated.

 

“Sun’s behind the village, meaning the west wall is facing us, which means…” – Deren gazed off into the distance. Then: “…That way. We go that way, then once we made a quarter circle around Barras, turn so the village is to our back.”

 

“And then?”

 

“The road should fall slightly eastward to us. We should move within sight of it to ensure we’re on track at times, but try to keep away for much of the trek lest we raise the suspicion of any traveler. As a lone Matoran, that was easier…”

 

“You forget we need not hide. Let us take the road. It shall be easier going, and you can still lead us, right?”

 

“True enough. We’ll have to wade into the desert at the twenty third marker.”

 

What followed was a long walk through coarse sand. As a Toa of Ice, Kopeke suffered the most, but he also showed it the least, likely out of pride. Aderyn was suited to travel through the dunes, but Deren and Maglya did not take it well. At their current pace, Deren estimated they would reach the location of the laboratory within four days, a shorter estimate than before considering they would travel by road. It took half a day to actually reach the road, and once night fell they decided to rest, but a ways off from the path. While they had disguises and cover identities, they still didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. Taking turns as watchers, they rested until dawn, a welcome respite permitted by their speed. The next day, they continued on as normal.

 

“Few travelers on the road, it seems. Odd for peacetime.” – Aderyn noted.

 

“We don’t know of current local events, there very well might be reason for it. Ah, we should have done at least a little bit of scouting in the village…” – Kopeke suggested.

 

Aderyn didn’t say anything out loud, but knew his companion was right. He was confident in his knowledge of the area, however he hadn’t passed through here recently and the lack of traffic on such a prominent trade route did seem off. Their task wasn’t particularly urgent even if they wished to be done with it as soon as possible. The company carried on until around the 19th marker, Deren suddenly stopped and held up a hand.

 

“What is it?” – Maglya asked.

 

“Shh!” – Deren chided the Matoran. Then: “…I hear voices carried on the wind.”

 

“There’s no wind.” – Kopeke said with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Oh… then…” – Deren closed his eyes and slightly dipped his head. Then: “It’s coming from behind those dunes.” – He pointed at a particularly large mound of sand to their left. Then suddenly, he jumped and slammed into Kopeke, pushing both of them a distance away from where the Toa of Ice stood. Seconds later the stone slabs of the road at that very location exploded, with the unmistakable putrid smell of over-ripe Thornax in the air.  Four Glatorian in tattered clothing burst from the sand in the side of the dune brandishing weapons, and charged at the group.

 

“Now we know why few travel this way!” – Aderyn said, blades already in hand. Kopeke and Deren got up, both readying their weapons. The three stood around Maglya protectively, who also grabbed his staff which he fashioned in a similar design to the one he used back in Ta-Koro, all those eons ago. He wasn’t a guard back then, but the state of the world forced him to learn to fight, and he was an able warrior.

 

“Remember, no elemental abilities.” – Kopeke whispered to Deren.

 

One among the charging started to slow down while the other three each ran at one of the two Toa and Aderyn. Blades clashed when the attackers reached them, who used their momentum to try to overwhelm the defenders. Kopeke wielded a large scythe-like serrated ice pick, while Deren carried a long staff. The bandits had crude weapons, blunt axes and maces. The trio managed to hold their ground, and each was now locked in a duel. Kopeke and Deren both had long weapons ideal for sweeping attacks in wide arcs and had difficulty with the aggressive style of the bandits, but Aderyn was fairing well. He kept the blades close to his body, almost keeping the blunt side in constant contact with his shoulders and chest, using the tips to slice through his opponent’s defenses. He tried to find openings by changing the direction of his attacks mid-arc to catch the bandit off guard, but he too was skilled. They were in a deadlock, but he saw his allies were in trouble. Then they heard a scuffle from behind – the fourth bandit took advantage of the one-on-one duels to circle them and attack Maglya, who was no match for the much larger attacker.

 

Enough of this.” – Aderyn thought. He spun backwards between strikes to gain distance between himself and his enemy, cut diagonally from his left shoulder with his right arm knowing his enemy will move in to block. As he did, he swung his other blade around his shoulder and jabbed forward with the point. The bandit didn’t react in time, and the sword impaled his shoulder, staggering and surprising him. Aderyn took this chance to bring his other blade back in an arc above his head, slashing the neck and chest of his enemy, followed by a strong kick to unlodge his sword from his shoulder. They now had superior numbers. He turned around and ran up to Kopeke, quickly slashed the bend of the bandit’s knee who collapsed, giving Kopeke the edge he needed. Then, Aderyn rushed to Maglya’s aid, thinking that Kopeke would be free to aid Deren. However, seeing their dire situation, the bandit fighting Maglya quickly disarmed the Matoran and grabbed him, axe to his throat. By this time Kopeke and Deren dealt with the third bandit, leaving only this one.

 

“You let me go or the slave wastes. It looks like an expensive one.” – The bandit threatened.

 

Aderyn and the two Toa froze. If they try to intimidate the bandit, he’d just kill Maglya, but if they let him go, he’d just continue his thievery, a concept with deeply conflicted with the honor-bound sense of justice all Toa inherently posess. But a Matoran’s life was at stake.

 

“Go, but the slave stays.” – Kopeke said without consulting the others. The bandit started to back away, still holding Maglya.

 

“Let him go now.” – The Toa of ice repeated.

 

After a few more steps, the Bandit flashed a crooked smile. A shrill shriek tore through the air, just as he was about to draw the axe across Maglya’s throat. They all dropped their weapons and fell to their knees, hands pressed to the sides of their heads. They felt like someone was pulling barbed wire back and forth through their ears. The shriek stopped and before they recovered, an unaffected Deren ran up to the bandit and floored him with a wide strike to the head.

 

“Come on!” – The Toa of Sonics shouted, grabbed Maglya, and made for the dunes to the side of the road. Still dazed, the other two staggered in that direction too.

 

When out of sight of the road, Kopeke, Maglya and Aderyn collapsed, and Deren just sat next to them.

 

“Exactly… which… part… of… no elemental powers… did you not understand?” – Kopeke said, still holding his head.

 

“I had to, he would have killed Maglya!”

 

“Now our cover is as good as blown.” – Aderyn remarked.

 

“They’re bandits, who will they tell? Who would listen?”

 

“To village guards, renegade Toa are worse than bandits. They might even buy their freedom with this information… but it had to be done.”

 

“I’m sorry I’ve caused this.” – Maglya said.

 

“Nonsense, we allowed the others to distract us from you.” – Kopeke said.

 

“Forget it, if we find the laboratory we won’t need the covers anyway. We’re not far from the marker, we can make the rest of the journey offroad and begin searching.” – Deren stated.

 

“Wait. The bandits, you did not kill them.” – Aderyn started.

 

“We couldn’t. We’d be breaking the Toa Code.” – Kopeke said.

 

“Toa Code?”

 

“A set of rules all Toa must abide by. One such rule prohibits us from killing our enemies.”

 

“And what happens if you break this Code?”

 

“We are disgraced, no longer considered true Toa.”

 

“…but you don’t lose your powers? Technically, nothing changes?”

 

“Well, no, but…”

 

“Don’t you think this is a time to abandon such old rules? Your enemies will never show you mercy. Every wounded Glatorian you leave behind can be healed to fight you again, but no dead Toa will ever return. If you take prisoners, they need to be cared for with resources you don’t have much of, they can escape to reveal your hideouts…”

 

“And what do you propose? We become more like our oppressors?”

 

“This is war!”

 

“Hah! War? This is a sorry excuse for an insurgency. We’re far from being at war. What is one more dead bandit to our cause? Nothing. But losing what guides us, what makes us Toa, can be destructive. Right now our movement is fueled solely by hope. What hope have we if we lose even the last remnants of a better era?”

 

“I… understand. But one day you might have to choose between upholding that Code, and victory.”

 

“That day is probably far off. Our journey there is long.”

 

“As is our journey to the lab.” – Deren quickly interrupted.

 

“Off we go, then.”

 

***

 

“Put them in shackles!” – The veteran captain of Barras’ guard barked.

 

“Wait, wait! We have valuable information for the Captain!” – The bandit who held Maglya and the one whose leg was slash knelt before the gates of Barras. The guard captain, an old Glatorian of Ice, turned slowly.

 

“You parasites have been preying on the north road for months, and you think words will help your case? You’ll be dead before the day is out.”

 

“We saw renegade Toa and a Matoran! We can take you there!”

“Renegade Toa? Near Barras? Hah! We would have heard of such.”

 

“It’s true! They wore helmets like Glatorian, but one of them, he used his powers!”

 

“Of course, and what powers did he use, hm?” – The captain asked, mockingly.

 

“He shrieked with a voice that tore into our very minds! And first, he hear us fire a Thornax long before any Glatorian could!” – The captain heard his deputy’s sharp intake of breath. The deputy spun around, back to the prisoners, and leaned close to his superior.

 

“Captain, do you think… do you think this is the fugitive from Tarsus?” – He asked with a low voice.

 

“Cannot be.” She said. Then: “Tarsus is much too far away.”

 

“You know these Toa and their powers. Who is to say another didn’t help him come here? They have those masks…”

 

Tarsus may have been across the border, but the nations of Angonce and Velika were at peace, and news of a fugitive Toa is sent across borders anyway. It is considered to be an international risk, and one of the very, very few acts of diplomatic kindness the four kingdoms universally show one another.

 

“If we’re the ones to find it…” – The captain started. Then: “Very well. You have my attention. You will take us to where you last saw this… Toa.”

 

If I, my dear captain. If I’m the one to find it...” – The deputy thought with a sly smile.


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Stone does not bend. Stone does not break. Stone endures. :kakama: 

 

You can read my BZP epic, Unification, here.

 

I write stories, which you can read at A Beach, Somewhere





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