Episode 1 – Broken Koros (Part 2)
BY ORDER OF TURAGA RHIALTUS
All citizens of Ko-Koro are forbidden to leave the village until further notice.
Our last hunting party was found eviscerated by unknown forces in the Drifts. The Sanctum Guards are already working to investigate the incident and neutralize the responsible party.
Travel outside the village is currently DANGEROUS and ILLEGAL.
This ban will lifted once your safety can be ensured.
Satisfied with his note, Unit headed for the docks with his two guards in tow.
The Kumu Islets awaited.
Erihapeti, Iaredios, Whenua
"Turaga Iaredios, I have gained more information about our disappearing miners, as you have requested.” Erihapeti stopped before her Turaga, offering a curt bow before she continued, “They seem to be connected to a new tunnel that nobody can agree whether or not was made by them or something else. This tunnel is strange, as it is perfectly smooth, and the further you down it, the colder it gets. Additionally, our lightstones seem to dim the further we go down as well. At the end of the tunnel, there is a makeshift barricade where our miners have started to disappear; however, it probably won't be enough to stop whatever is down there if it decides to come up."
That was… troubling. Iaredios considered himself a knowledgeable man, but he recognised his limitations, and knew to seek help when he needed it. "Come Erihapeti, let us go fetch Whenua and let him see if the way that particular tunnel was carved reminds him of anything. He has seen much in his life, wont hurt to try."
"That sounds like a good idea, Turaga." The Scout agreed, and together they set off to find the former Turaga. They found Whenua in his hut, mulling over a pile of battered stone tablets. His home was quite a modest one, containing only the bare necessities. Most of the space had been devoted to shelving for the multitude of books, scrolls, and tablets that he collects. "How may I help you, Turaga?" He asked as they drew near.
"Hello Whenua! I hope I am not interrupting, but we need your assistance. Could you accompany Eriha' and I? Our valued scout here has found a strange tunnel and your wisdom may help us if you were to give a personal look yourself."
“Strange tunnel?” Whenua turned towards them, his curiosity piqued, “Strange how?”
"It is completely smooth on all sides, with it getting colder and our lightstones getting dimmer the further we descend.” Erihapeti replied, “Additionally, none of the miners are able to agree upon it's origin, with some claiming that they dug it themselves, but with others saying it showed up on it's own."
A dark looks crossed the old man's face. "When I was younger, I believed all answers could be found in the past. I still believe the past should be our teacher." He turned to rifle through a shelf of scrolls, "But there are some questions that should never be answered, lessons that should never be taught."
He selected a tattered, ancient scroll from one of the highest shelves, and tucked it under his arm. "Show me this tunnel."
The two leaders wasted no time in escorting Whenua down into the mines, to the opening of the new section. Two Ussalry soldiers escorted them, mounted on their Ussals. Iaredios had also decided to affix a candle to the top of his mask. Whenua pored over the strange surfaces, his frown deepening the longer he looked. "We need to go deeper."
And deeper they went, Erihapeti and Koura in the lead. Whenua followed on foot, pausing every now and again to probe at the tunnel walls with his drill. "There are stories, about powers that existed before the two brothers, before this island even had a name. No one ever gave them much credence. But this tunnel... it bears a striking resemblance to something mentioned in those ancient myths."
"Hm, I see... That does sound rather odd, but also slightly ominous. If you have a recorded version of the myth, would you mind if Turaga Iaredios and I looked at it after we're done exploring this tunnel? If there's any truth in it, studying it more could provide useful."
"Yes, I would like analyze such records when given the opportunity. May I look through the scroll in a moment? Not only is raw information important, but so is the way it is given and said."" Talk of such creatures reminded Iaredios of other underworld heckish entities. "...would these legends of devouring underworld locusts have anything to do with other ancient legends, such as Karzanhi the Punisher or Tren Krom the Precursor?"
“Some myths are simply myths.” Whenua replied.
He made no move to hand over the scroll.
Azalea, Tuyet (after entrance)
When she arrived at the docks, Azalea quickly discovered that the mood there was decidedly... subdued. When she asked why, the fisher men and women explained that they'd been catching less and less fish in the bay of late... strange, given that so many Tarakavas had been turning up dead, and even the other predators like Takea sharks and Ruki had been encountered with far less frequently.
She spoke with the captains of some of the larger boats, which regularly travelled out into the open ocean for a few days at a time, and found that they had actually been reporting better catches. All of this more or less confirmed the theory that Turaga Fractyl had brought up earlier – something new had moved into the bay, scaring the smaller fish out into the ocean, and picking off the predators.
In regards to the strange Makuta cult she’d been investigating, however, Azalea had found out little so far. Only a name, and a time. From what the dock workers had told them, someone named Tuyet was holding meeting every midday in an abandoned greenhouse at the furthest, lesser-used section of the docks.
The greenhouse in question turned out to be a drab, dilapidated affair. Wilted plants still sat decaying in their dusty pots and cobwebbed baskets, while broken glass littered the floor. Old tarps and fraying ropes dangled loosely from beams and hooks on the ceiling, turning the greenhouse into a pseudo-maze of tattered drapery. Near the far end of the structure, a few makeshift chairs had been set up, as well as what looked to be an altar of some kind, upon which sat two objects: a shiny Kolhii ball, and a rusty black mask.
She advanced cautiously, sweeping her surroundings for any sign of traps or cultists. At first glance, she appeared to be alone. There was no one in sight. No sound she wouldn't have expected. But then a flicker of motion caught her eye. As the breeze drifted in through the broken windows, it caused some of the tarps to move slightly. But one of them was swinging the wrong way...as if someone had recently moved it.
Azalea drew her sword and asked a single question to the emptiness: "Who's there?" In response, a black-hued dagger came tumbling out from behind the tarp, clattering to the floor in front of Azalea.
“There,” came a voice from the other side of the tarp, “I’m unarmed.” A female Ga-Matoran stepped out into view, arms raised in a gesture of surrender. A sleek, silvery mask of unknown design covered her face, and strips of cloth were tightly wound over her armour and skin, concealing most of her body from view. "I suppose you're here to put an end to my blaspheming ways? I knew someone would come snooping around sooner or later."
"Perhaps, but first, I want information." Azalea responded as she picked up the knife, “There have been a few... incidents as of late. Multiple dead Tarakava washing up on the shores, less and less fish being caught, and Rahi being driven out by something in the waters. Meanwhile, I've heard of a Makuta cult stirring up in these parts so, I've come here to investigate, thinking that these events could be connected to each other. Tell me. What do you know about all of this? Are they all related?"
"Cult," the other woman smirked, "That word has so many negative connotations. But then, so does the word 'Makuta', I suppose." Her smile waned, "In answer to your question, there are many things in this world that are related, however abstract those relations may be. And I know a great many things, but whether I'm willing to tell them to you is another matter entirely."
"And I guess I don't deserve to know these things you know because I rudely barged in here?" Azalea said, inching closer to the altar.
"It's not about deserving," the Ga-Matoran lowered her arms, "But you're right about rudeness. You've just let yourself in, threatened me with a sword, and asked me a whole lot of questions. You haven't even introduced yourself, or asked me my name."
Azalea sheathed her sword and stashed away the dagger. "Fine. Fine. How about this? I'll introduce myself and tell a bit about myself, while you do the same afterwards and then maybe I'll leave this place."
"Sounds fair," the stranger sat down on an upturned pot, "Please, go ahead.”
"I am Azalea, the Scout of Ga Koro. I serve no one but myself and the higher chains of command. I'm here on a mission to investigate this place to find out if there's a connection to some peculiar incidents going around this village." Finished with her introduction, she held out her hand. "Your turn."
"Interesting, that you should bring up the subject of servitude. I do not serve myself. I serve Makuta. I serve the island of Mata Nui. I serve life." She stood up. "As for my name... you can call me Tuyet."
Internally, Azalea seethed. Here she was, face to face with the leader of a cult, devoted to what was supposed to be the most evil entity to ever exist. A part of her wanted to kill Tuyet in that moment, but she wasn’t sure what the woman might’ve been capable of, even unarmed. "Before I leave as promised, what do you know about these incidents that are happening in this village?"
"You think I'm a monster, don't you?" Tuyet smiled sadly, "I'm sure Turaga Nokama told your people so many terrible things about Makuta, before her unfortunate passing. Most of those things were true, no doubt. But you see... for their to be light, there first needs to be darkness. And right now, this island has neither."
She turned towards the broken greenhouse windows, gesturing towards the bay beyond, "The dead tarakavas, the disappearing fish, that's my doing. I won't deny it." From the side, something about her head didn’t look quite right to Azalea. "But it could be far worse. I'm keeping them contained, stopping them from hurting anyone here. From what I've heard, they're already taking Matoran from the other villages."
"A monster? Hmm... not yet." Azalea responded. “The Rahi, right? They're taking people from other villages? Why would they do that?"
"Rahi? No. Nothing so... mundane. The days of mind-controlled beasts and Makuta's war on the Matoran are long gone. All that's left of that era are these... relics," she gestured to the objects on the altar. "No, this is the work a far more terrifying force." As she spoke, Azalea caught a flicker of motion from behind Tuyet’s mask. There was something on her face.
"You kind of lost me there.” Azalea blanched, “It can't be Rahi because those days of war are over. I don't think it can be Mata Nui or Makuta because you say you serve them. What's this terrifying force you speak of?"
"I'm not one to be asking," Tuyet turned back towards her, "I've seen you looking at the mask over there. Ask it. Put it on. I promise, He will tell you everything you want to know."
Elittra, Grav, Nahaki, Vakama
Leaving her knife buried in Kuan's throat, Elittra forced her aching body to stand upright. Adrenaline was racing through her, blood roaring in my ears. A shiver of pleasure ran down her spine, contrasting delightfully with the throbbing pain from her bruised face. Given her injuries, it would easy enough to explain Kuan’s death as a thwarted attempt on her own life.
"You did well." She said to Grav, patting him on the shoulder.
"This place is a mess," came his reply, "I was planning, before all of this-" he gestured to the room as a whole "-to take an expedition of 20 guards into Le-Wahi, see if any of it can be cultivated, or if there's anything valuable sitting among all that ash." He looked across the room at Nahaki, who was still kneeling beside Vakama. He spared the withered Turaga a disgusted frown before fixing his gaze on the Diplomat. "You're welcome to join me."
With that, he ascended the steps, unlocking the door to let himself out.
Taking care to avoid the vomit, Elittra crossed the room to stand next to Nahaki, eyeing Vakama curiously. She seemed to be making some sense of his rambling, so she decided to step back and see what other information the diplomat might be able to squeeze out of him. She placed a gentle hand on Nahaki’s shoulder, but otherwise did not interfere.
“What duty do you mean, Turaga Vakama?” Nahaki was asking, “What duty did they forsake?” Elittra felt a momentary thrill of anger flush through her. She was the Turaga now, not this wailing wretch!
"Our duty... to the past... to truth... they were supposed to be heroes... we turned them into assassins..." Vakama wheezed, breaking off when he saw Elittra.
"I am sorry, Vakama," Nahaki shrugged Elittra's hand off her shoulder, "I'm sorry, Kuan." She took a few steps back, distancing herself from Elittra, "I'm going to Ga-Koro - I will negotiate our water supply, among other things. I'm taking three guards as an escort, if that's okay with you,” she reached into one of her pocket, withdrawing a shiny Kohlii ball, “I think you should bury this with Kuan, as a burial gift."
Ellitra withdrew her knife from Kuan, and dropped the Kohlii ball beside him, before leading Nahaki back upstairs. "You'll return here as soon as your business in Ga-Koro is complete, won't you, my dear? There will be much to work on, and dear Grav may need your assistance. Do not worry about Kuan... I have someone in mind to pick up where he left off. Someone who will hopefully prove more loyal to us than he did."
She smiled, and opened the door.
Quin, Ehksidian, Nahaki
As the travellers drew closer to Ta-Koro, their conversation had steered back to the subject of the fire village’s strangeness. “…rumors aren't the best to go by.” Ehks was saying, “Then again, that letter alone...wonder why they'd word it like that. Or what kind of person would send a letter like that.”
"Well, you know me, I'm not usually one to go by rumors, but....it all seems like it may be adding up." If it weren’t for how desperate Quin was to keep Po-Koro safe, he probably wouldn’t have risked this. But, as things were, he had very little to lose, and plenty to gain.
“Yeah. Strange place.” Ehksidian agreed, “Hopefully it's just...their way of saying hello. Maybe they all talk to each other like that.”
"Something tells me, Ehksidian, that we might just be a special case."
“I don't know if being special makes me more or less worried...”
They could now see Ta-Koro up ahead, wreathed in smoke and shimmering heat. Just up ahead, however, was another traveler, flanked by a trio of guards. “...Is that the Ta-Koro diplomat over there? Should we...talk to them? Maybe they're the one who sent the letter.”
The traveler stopped before them. "Greetings and salutations, Po-Matoran! I am Nahaki, Diplomat of Vulcanus, and you are a much needed sight right now. Ta-Koro lies just over there - though I must ask that you beware of our leader, Elittra. Elittra is utterly insane."
"Is that why you're leaving? Your leader being crazy? Normally I would say you should have more faith...but judging by the letter Turaga Quin got that summoned us here...I can believe that. What happened though?"
Quin had taken a step back to let the two diplomats speak, carefully watching Nahaki’s expression as she spoke. She seemed genuinely unsettled every time she mentioned this ‘Elittra’ person. By the way she was describing her, it certainly sounded like the kind of person who’d write a letter like the one Quin had received.
"No... I am leaving because I on a diplomatic mission - please excuse me, I understand if you react with revulsion - Ga-Koro. As for what happened... Elittra got blackmailed. She found out who did it. He is no longer with us. She made us watch." She cleared her throat. "She also takes... likings to certain people. I believe it is solely because of that aspect of her that I have nothing to fear from her - and I doubt your friend, Quin, will either. It is quite uncomfortable. I am sure he will see - feel - exactly what I mean when he first interacts with her. When I return to Ta-Koro, I will see about negotiating between our villages - how would you like to be loaned some guards while you recover... or something along those lines?”
"We have protection as it currently stands. Extra guards may be nice, yes...though I don't think we'll...er, have to recover. I have a feeling as to what sort of thing you mean when liking someone and that's...an unpleasant thought." Ehksidian visibly shuddered, "Good luck with your visit to Ga-Koro. If you have water, keep an eye on it at all times. They have...well, I'm sure you know what they've done in the past."
Nahaki bowed in farewell, before setting off once more.
Ko-Wahi was a vast, expansive, snowbound waste. The terrain was uneven, unpredictable, and unforgiving, full of hidden ravines and soaring peaks. Toru and eleven companions had no real idea where to start their search – nor did they even know what it was that they were actually searching for. The best to start was the one place they knew the quarry they sought had definitely been – the place where the hunter’s bodies had been found.
But in the time since Toru and the other had moved the bodies, someone else had found the site. A trio of mismatched Matoran in heavy fur coats were picking through the red-tinged snow, searching for anything useful among the discarded shards of broken equipment that had been left behind.
“Freeze!” Toru shouted, and to their credit, the three bandits did exactly that, once they turned around and realised how badly outnumbered they were.
“We didn't do this!" The leader of the band called out, "We're just looking for supplies!"
"Who are you, what did this, and why are you so close to the village?" Toru wasn’t interested in excuses. He wanted answers, and these three might know something of use.
"Pal... have you seen what's out here?" One of them scoffed, "We'd rather take our chances with you lot than with the thing that did this," he gestures to the red snow around them, "They already killed two of our friends. We didn't want to be next."
So they did know something. "None of what you just said answered any of my questions."
"We're here," another of them interjected, "because those monsters overran our camp and ate two of our friends. I've been living on the outside for a long time, seen a lot of weird things, but nothing like this. They were headed towards Mount Ihu, last we saw. They ripped apart anything in their path, but as soon as we got out of their way, they ignored us."
"Hmm. It's quite dangerous out here, no?” Toru taunted, “Perhaps you would like me to escort you to Ko-Koro?"
"So we can be locked up in nice, cozy cells, with regular meals and warm blankets?" The trio didn't take long making up their minds,
"Escort away.” The trio surrendered their weapons without protest. Despite their attempts at bravado, it was clear that whatever they’d encountered out in the snow had scared them to the point that they were willing to give up their freedom if it guaranteed them a safe place inside Ko-Koro’s walls.
What in Mata Nui’s name was out here?
Nothing. There was nothing out here.
Nothing at all, save for the grey ghosts of what had once been trees. But that began to change, the deeper Grav and his troops pressed into what had formerly been Le-Wahi. The ground grew damp and muddy, and small tufts of vegetation were visible amid the marsh. With the ground sucking at his boots, and his troops struggling with the weight of their gear and armour, Burnmad changed direction, directing them northward, to higher ground.
At this elevation, the new plant growth wasn’t smothered like it was lower down, and Grav was able to recognising some of the saplings as fruit and nut bearing plants. Of course, being only a few weeks old, it would be quite some time yet before these plants could be exploited as a reliable food source. More importantly, he could see from up here that the water grew deeper and murkier further out into the forest.
Deciding to explore further, he ordered his troops to assemble some makeshift rafts out of the charcoaled trees, a bizarre task that they were nonetheless able to accomplish quite effectively. With four rafts, the group left their heavy armour behind on the slope, and set off through the swamp towards the former site of Le-Koro.
Daenerys, Rhialtus, Toru (after entrance)
While they waited for Toru to return with news, the Captain and Turaga of Ko-Koro sat down to talk over tea.
"Those hunters, they were killed by something sentient.” Daenerys was saying, “No beast would cut up its prey like that. I do hope I'm wrong but I think a someone not a something killed those Matoran. I fear for your safety, Rhi-Rhi. I will do anything to protect you."
"I know you'd do anything to keep me safe from whatever it was that the hunters encountered, and I have every faith in you to do just that. I even have a bit of faith in Toru; he'll find something out there. And if he doesn't, or ends up dead... we can just get another Scout.” She paused to sip from her tea. “I wanted to talk with you in private because I wanted to know: have you heard anything new about the situation of Ta-Koro's military?
"No, nothing out of the ordinary. If your referring to the Ta-Matoran armour dummies it's because they have the best armour. If we can defeat that then lesser materials are no problem. If you meant political then yes, I feel there is tension in Ta-Koro."
"Hm. If the political situation is tense, maybe we can trigger them into inciting war with us. We need a legitimate excuse to go to war with somebody, Dany. We really do. It wouldn't be wise to just declare a war without a good reason; the people wouldn't rally behind it. Ta-Koro is the ideal target, because they're afraid of our new army. And we have all the winning cards in our hand to play against them: long-range soldiers, ballistics given by Onu-Koro, the potential help of our guests... we just need an opportunity to play them. If you do hear anything else out of the ordinary happen in Ta-Koro, do let me know, won't you?"
A smile that could only be described as devious flickered onto Daenerys’ face. "What if we could somehow capture the thing that killed the hunters and turned it on Ta-Koro?"
"That'd be tricky. You saw what the thing did to our hunting party, and they weren't even looking for it. Imagine what it could do to whoever was actively seeking it out. Still, it's an interesting idea."
"I would suggest are best traps be used not actually hunt down the creature itself. Also to change the subject to something less dark. How is are adoption search going?"
Rhialtus sighed. "Not well, I'm afraid. Nobody I've talked to is willing to offer any children to the Turaga of Ko-Koro and her Captain of the Guard wife. They think it's natty. Absolutely natty. Not just because of our positions, but because apparently it's not proper for two ladies to get married. As if that has anything to do with it."
It was then that Toru returned, with the three bandits in tow.
"Toru? That was fast. Who are these that you've brought with you?" Rhialtus asked. Beside her, Daenerys tensed, instinctively drawing her sword, before passing a dagger to Rhialtus.
"Toru, may you please explain why you bring convicts before our noble Turaga?"
"We found them scavenging what little remained at the crime scene. According to them, these creatures have already killed two of their number and have been seen migrating to Mount Ihu after the incident. And they would much rather be inside our walls then out there with them, even if it means imprisonment."
"And who is the, them?" Daenerys gripped her sword tighter.
Before Toru could reply, a messenger arrived, carrying news from the village gate. The Onu-Koroan diplomat, Onaku, had just arrived, requesting an audience.
"Now what?” Daenerys whined, “Are the dead leaving their tombs or did someone have a bad dream? Rhialtus my love, I think we should let the Diplomat in. Whatever these criminals saw can wait an hour or two. Toru put them in the prison."
“Very well,” Rhialtus agreed. “Let the diplomat in.”
The sight that awaited Kaathe in Tiro Canyon was one of carnage.
Clearly, the Nui-Jaga had been nesting here, and at least a dozen of them had fought to the bitter end to defend their home. Their slowly-thawing forms littered the canyon floor, but it they’d managed to vanquish at least twice as many of their attackers. Rounded, white-shelled creatures lay broken among the frozen Nui-Jaga. They were insect-like in appearance, their limbs curled up against their sides in death. Gooey green blood formed puddles around their bodies, staining the sand. There were a few smaller bodies as well, belonging to more diminutive, humanoid creatures with the same white carapaces as the larger beasts.
But from deeper in the canyon, Kaathe could hear something: the screeching of more Nui-Jaga, and a strange chittering sound he could only assume was being made by the other creatures. The sounds of a battle.
"I do not think it would be wise for us to continue forward. If whatever we are dealing with is capable of taking out a nest of Nui-jaga with minimal losses, we have no hopes of dealing with such a beast." Kaathe looked down at the corpses of the foreign creatures, kneeling next to one "Instead it might serve us better to take one of these more intact creatures back to Po-koro, along with it's smaller variant. The best way to defeat your enemy is to know your enemy." Kaathe rose to his feet, ordering half of the soldiers to gather up the most intact specimens of the two creature variants, so the Dikapi could two them back to Po-Koro. "We should also have a scout or two posted here in Tiro to observe."
He turned to Pahrak, "Make your way back to Po-koro General, and secure the gift once back. I want to get a closer look, and frankly getting close to such a battle without dying is a job best suited for one of my expertise." To the guards hauling off the corpses, Kaathe barked one more order, "Once back, place the bodies where we typically keep the dead before burial. Can't have them rotting before I'm given a chance to look them over."
"If you insist. Don't get killed before I get back."
As Pahrak and the troopers departed, Kaathe began to sneak closer to the sounds of battle.
Onaku, Rhialtus, Daenerys, Toru
As Onaku entered the Sanctum, he spotted three bandits being led out through a side door. Before he speculate on it further, however, he spotted the leaders of Ko-Koro waiting for him. The Captain of the guard had her sword drawn, but put it away as he entered (although he noticed that her hand remained on the hilt. The Turaga, bizarrely, had a dagger in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Only the Scout, standing off to one side, was acting casual.
Onaku supposed they had every reason to be on edge. After all, he was carrying a sword, shield, and at least two knives. Not to mention the crossbow he’d left with his guards outside. As far as he was concerned, Mata Nui was a dangerous island, with many terrors lurking in the darkness waiting to eat an unsuspecting traveller.
He didn’t realise just how right he was about that.
"Salutations. I'm here to discuss trade for the hand of Onu-Koro. I hope this isn't a bad time?"
"No, it's not a bad time. Please, have a seat." Once Onaku was seated, she continued, "Now, what exactly were you hoping we could discuss, trade-wise?"
"We all know that Onu-Koro currently supplies Ko-Koro with well crafted crossbows and ballistae, as well as other mechanisms. How ever, the only thing we've received for this so far is a promise of protection, which while immeasurably appreciated, could end up being difficult to uphold, leaving us with nothing for our work. What we want is to receive something tangible for our goods, which I hope you see as a reasonable request."
"That seems perfectly reasonable. What did you have in mind?"
"Currently, aside from Ga-Koro, Ko-Koro resides on the largest deposit of water on Mata-Nui, albeit in a solidified state as ice. What we would appreciate is a steady trade of ice to Onu-Koro, giving us fresh water as well as an option for cooling, which has applications for a number of things I consider unnecessary to list for the sake of brevity. How ever, we would also appreciate anything else you would be willing to trade with us, and remain open to suggestions."
"You want ice? We have tons of the stuff, and we could stand to part with some. And we'll throw in some Rahi traps to boot, though you probably won't get them as frequently as you get ice. How does that sound?"
"Rahi traps? Indeed that does sound intriguing. What are we talking here, exactly? What kind of Rahi could these traps... well, trap?"
"I'm not going to pretend I know what sorts of Rahi are native to Onu-Koro, so I'll just say, our traps catch big, dangerous ones."
"Hmmm...” Onaku thought it over, “Perhaps a demonstration would be good?"
"A demonstration? For that, we'd need a Rahi."
"Oh dear me, no. Just a demonstration of its function. I doubt there's any need for unnecessary risk. Surely the trap can be demonstrated without needing a live subject for it, much less one as dangerous as a live rahi can be?"
"Ah. Now that we can do." To a guardsman, she said, "Go get one of each of our Rahi traps, please."
"Also bring a large tree branch to use as the "Rahi"." Daenerys added.
The Captain’s words brought a confused frown to Onaku’s face. Where were they going to find a tree branch in Ko-Wahi?
As Smoke Monster and his party emerged onto the surface, they found themselves on a barren expanse of dirt and rock. While not quite as arid as the sand-strewn deserts of Po-Wahi, it's far from a grassy plain or lush jungle. Small tufts of struggling vegetation poked up sporadically from the dry, crumbly soil around, and the skeletal remains of a few long-dead trees dotted the landscape. In the far distance, the group could glimpse a wandering herd of emaciated Kikanalo, while a pair of scrawny wild Dikapi pecking aimlessly at the ground nearer to where the Ussalry expedition had emerged.
Smoke wasted no time in ordering his troops to set up a camp, and once they were done, he ordered them to gather before him, as he had an important announcement to make.
"Alright everyone. We will begin mining for salt now. I want everyone to break up into two teams of five and start mining on two different locations. For now, I don't want either team to be out of earshot of each other. We don't know what all could be up here with us, so if something does attack us, I want everyone to be able to respond as quickly as possible. Our main objective is finding salt, but if any of you find anything, and I mean anything, that could be something of interest, I want to be made aware of it as soon as possible. Is that understood?"
After his return to Po-Koro, Pahrak sent the soldiers to store the bodies, then set off on his own into the city.
Making his way into an official storehouse, Pahrak approached a large vault and undid the combination lock; after grabbing its contents, he stepped back outside and prepared to return to the canyon...but then he got another idea.
He changed direction and walked to a small, plain-looking hut at the edge of the village. Stepping inside, he nodded to the guard, and they stepped out. Bars divided the interior in half, and on the other side, a small group of Po-Matoran were sitting on the ground, not seeming to care much about his arrival.
"Listen up. How would you all like some work? I have something in mind that's well-suited to your abilities, and you just might enjoy it."
One of them looked up. "We're listening."
"It mainly involves some sneaking around, infiltrating other villages' territory...causing some general mayhem. You'll each be pardoned for this little incident, of course, and if you do well I might even give you some dikapi to get far away from here. Any of that sound interesting?"
Elittra, Ehksidian, Quin
The mismatched Po-Koroan envoy arrived at the gates of Ta-Koro to find Turaga Elittra waiting for them, a bird on her shoulder, a newly-repaired mask on her face, half-concealing the black eye underneath.
"...Greetings, Turaga.” In spite of the warnings Nahaki had given, Ehksidian still decided to do her best to remain amiable, “My name is Ehksidian, and I was asked by Turaga Quin to accompany him on this journey as a diplomat. It is a...pleasure to meet you."
"Welcome to Ta-Koro," while Elittra was offering her hand to Quin, her cold eyes dwelled only on Ehksidian, eliciting an involuntary shudder from the diplomat.
"Greetings." Quin extended his hand to shake Elittra’s, but stumbled, clutching his back. "Apologies. I'm not all that old, by my count, but I have seen quite a lot already. My back is beginning to want to retire already."
"Oh, are you okay?" Elittra’s tone sounded almost… delighted.
"So what is it that you...wanted to speak about?” Ehksidian interjected, “We can discuss it here. I am surprised your diplomat...left when an important meeting like this was expected."
"Oh, no, she didn't arrange this meeting. I did."
"I find that completely unsurprising now."
"I'm....fine." Quin forced himself upright, “"The letter...if that was you, I believe we have some talking to do inside."
"Of course." Elittra turned, beginning to walk back into Ta-Koro. “Leave your guards here. Our soldiers will take them to the barracks for food and drink. While you are in Ta-Koro, you are safe - as my letter promised you."
"Fine. I prefer having guards, but...this is your Koro."
As soon as Ehksidian’s guards had departed, four of Elittra’s fell into step behind the two Po-Koroans. And with that, the group set off into the dark heart of Ta-Koro.
The two groups of creatures were far too focused on each other to notice Kaathe as he slunk around a curve in the canyon wall. Before him, five battered, enraged Nui-Jaga were huddled together in front of a cave mouth - most likely the entrance to their nest. And crowded in front of them were about 30 of the large white creatures whose bodies he’d seen earlier.
Strangely, despite their obvious numerical advantage, the white creatures were only attacking the Nui-Jaga one or two at a time, which was probably how the rahi had lasted so long. One by one, the white-shelled creatures stepped up, unleashing blasts of ice from their large claws... only to be crushed by the stingers or pincers of the larger rahi. Each time one of the large creatures fell, a group of smaller creatures rushed forward to drag the wounded creature out of the way, making room for the next large creature to move in to attack.
But slowly, their inexorable advance was meeting with success. As Kaathe watched on, one of the Nui-Jaga collapsed, several of its semi-frozen legs breaking off. One of the smaller white creatures rushed past the fallen scorpion, towards the cave mouth, only to be snapped in half by the slicing swipe of another Nui-Jaga's tail.
Whatever these white beings were, they appear focused solely on entering that cave, with no regard for their own individual lives.
And the sound they made… an incessant, droning chikt-chikt-chikt-chikt-chikt-
End of Part 2
-Torture, Tuyet, Tea!
-Beware the Bohrok!
-As mentioned earlier, anyone who was still in-transit somewhere will arrive at the start of next episode.
-I took it easy on you guys in Episode 1, but from Episode 2 onwards I’ll be starting to use my Special Variables system to torment you all.
Episode 2 Begins Now