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The Mask of Irritation

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This story is part of the 2018 BZPower Fanfic Exchange, and was written for Torran! He wanted to see grand adventure, character development, and internal conflict — I hope I did a good enough job for you. Enjoy, buddy!

 

 

 

The Mask of Irritation

 

 

Lewa… he was the worst.

 

Kopaka took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders as he stifled a scowl. He trudged along the underbelly of the jungle, plowing his way through mud and leaves and roots as his companion flitted easily alongside. The Toa of Air was in his element, leaping and swinging across branches, humming a happy tune as he waited every few minutes for Kopaka to catch up. He was — as he always seemed to be — in a wonderful mood, and that annoyed Kopaka to no end.

 

“I’m quick-telling you,” Lewa’s voice echoed as he dangled like a monkey a dozen feet up. “Just try leap-swinging, brother! We’ll make much faster progress.”

 

Kopaka’s sword sliced through a thick vine as he waded through murky, calf-deep water. He glared straight ahead. “That’s not how I work.”

 

“Suit yourself, bog-foot walker.”

 

Kopaka pushed forward, suppressing an urge to fire a bolt of ice at the Air-Toa. It had only been a few weeks since their arrival on Mata Nui, and in that time he’d gotten to know his fellow Toa well enough. Onua and Pohatu were alright; he admired their prowess, and while he normally preferred to work alone, their strength was sometimes useful to have around. Gali was wise and had proven herself a peacekeeper when tempers were hot, which he felt was a necessary addition to their team. Even Tahu, an arrogant, hot-headed, impulsive, fire-spitting — Kopaka took a breath. Even Tahu had a strong sense of duty, among a few other redeeming qualities. But then… but then. There was Lewa.

 

His sword flashed through the misty air, slicing a path through leafy-green foliage as the Air-Toa flew overhead, his green armor glinting as he perched on a branch, humming some tune from Le-Koro.

 

Lewa’s head was in the trees, literally and figuratively. He was overconfident, aloof, wild, without a care in the world. He had no sense of duty or purpose, and had yet to prove himself capable in any sense of the word. Sure, he had managed to find a Kakama, but he’d been ambushed afterward and had lost his mask in the process. Onua had managed to get him out of that situation and all was good in the end… but still. It was sloppy. And they were up against Makuta.

 

Kopaka hacked his way through a broad cluster of undergrowth. They were Toa — they didn’t have the luxury of being sloppy.

 

Up ahead, Lewa had climbed to the forest canopy, looking out above the trees. His voice carried down, muffled slightly by all the leaves. “Daylight wanes, and we have long-miles to go. Perhaps it is best if we rest for the night?”

 

Kopaka looked up, halfway through a bramble patch, only now realizing that the light had faded into the golden-orange of early evening. His response was short.

 

“We can go a bit longer.”

 

“…Bad-Rahi prowl the jungle at night, brother.”

 

“Then we’ll deal with them.” Kopaka retorted. He began hacking his way forward once more.

 

Lewa gazed down at him, stifling a concerned look before continuing to swing through the branches.

 

But Kopaka paid him no attention. He had to get this mask, if only so he could stand being around Lewa. With the Air-Toa having both a Miru and a Kakama, Kopaka figured it was in his sanity’s best interest to at least obtain his own Mask of Levitation. Lewa had heard rumors of one nestled in the depths of Le-Wahi, quickly offering his expertise in reaching it, and while Kopaka dreaded putting himself in this situation… one way or another, he had to get this mask.

 

And so the two continued, Kopaka following Lewa’s lead as he hacked and slashed his way through the jungle, wading through murky waters and streams, weaving through towering trees and grasses, climbing up creepers and vines, all to get a few feet deeper into the rugged rainforest. The hours went on and soon the light faded, turning from yellow to orange to blue and then, eventually black. A mist fell upon the trees and the temperature dropped, going from hot and humid to… well, chilly, but still humid.

 

Not that Kopaka was complaining about the cold, by any means.

 

Crickets, cicadas, and other creatures of the night awoke, their calls soon echoing through the trees, muting the sound of Kopaka’s sword has he pushed his way ever forward. His blade never failed him, but as he kept going, as he kept lashing out, carrying his shield on his back, trudging through waist-deep water and mud, Kopaka soon found himself exhausted. His breathing became labored, his legs strained with every step, and his arms grew heavy from cutting through miles upon miles of jungle. And all the while Lewa hung effortlessly overhead, pausing every few minutes as he patiently waited for the Ice-Toa to catch up.

 

It was. So. Annoying.

 

Silent as ever but stifling a storm inside, Kopaka swung his blade at a tangle of vines, cutting, tearing them apart as he advanced, slowly, steadily. This way and that his blade sang through the air, his face emotionless as his body tired, as his eyes struggled to see in the shadowy night. But still, he wouldn’t stop. He kept up his grind, he kept moving, he kept cutting and hacking and slashing, delving deeper and deeper into the mass of green and brown, refusing to be beaten by the jungle’s snares, until —

 

A hand on his shoulder.

 

Kopaka whirled around, ready to defend himself from an attack, only to see Lewa’s dim outline before him. The Toa’s lime eyes glowed in the darkness, the only light for miles around as the trees towered quietly around them.

 

“Perhaps we should rest, brother.”

 

And Kopaka stared at him, his armor scratched and muddied, his mask stoic but his shoulders slouched, arms hanging low at his sides. He took a few deep breaths, regaining his posture as he took in his surroundings. It was late. Night entombed the untamed jungle, and the Ice-Toa crossed his arms.

 

“If you insist.”

 

 

~~~

 

 

“Where is this mask, exactly?”

 

Lewa paused for a moment, the firelight reflecting off his Miru. “Deep-wood. Perhaps a day or so more. I’ve only seen it from a far-distance, but it is hard to miss. Atop cliff-bound, old-bone ruins. Matau says they’re spirit-haunted, but I don’t think so. Rahi, maybe, but not ghost-demons.”

 

Kopaka squinted, managing to make sense of his treespeak. Even the way Lewa talked managed to get on his nerves, and he wondered if he had come to Mata Nui speaking like that or if he’d learned it from the Le-Matoran. He wasn’t sure which option annoyed him more. His response came as a grunt from where he sat, and Kopaka leaned back against a tree trunk, trying to put it out of his mind. Trying to rest his tired body and nerves.

 

Across their fire, Lewa lounged on a low hanging branch, his axe sunk into a great root below him. And for a moment, their small, secluded camp was quiet, just the way Kopaka liked it. He took a deep breath, crossing his arms as he listened to their crackling fire, to the sounds of the forest, and Kopaka closed his eyes, allowing himself a moment of reprise.

 

But it couldn’t last.

 

“So what masks have you search-found?”

 

Kopaka’s icy blue eyes opened, narrowing as they stared at the fire. His response was short. “A Hau.”

 

“Shielding?” Lewa plucked a leaf from a nearby branch, fiddling with it before blowing it into the air, using his powers to send it skyward. “I could pass on that one. Way I see it, why does a Toa-hero need shielding when he has ever-quick agility? Miru and Kakama are the most important, I say-think.”

 

Kopaka attempted to close his eyes again. “We need all the masks to defeat Makuta, Lewa.”

 

“Yeah, but I can slow-wait on a few of them. Like Kaukau? Mask of Water Breathing? Why water-breathe when you can dry-stay on land?”

 

Kopaka grunted, choosing to end the conversation and focus instead on his breathing. It was easier to meditate in the mountains, where the snows muffled sound, and where Lewa didn’t like to go. He fixated on the cicadas, their constant drum serving as a backdrop to the night, a subtle white noise that he could use as a canvas to drape over his turbulent mind. He relaxed his shoulders, letting go of the day’s worries, returning once more to his calm, collected self —

 

“You ever get shiver-cold up in those mountains?”

 

Kopaka’s eyes snapped open. “No.”

 

“What about wet? All that freeze-water, it must soak into you after many long-walks, yeah?”

 

He gritted his jaw. “If it melts, I freeze it.”

 

Lewa cocked his head, the orange firelight flickering off his armor. “So when you’re thirsty, do you drink water, or does it quick-freeze the moment it touches you?”

 

And Kopaka looked at him, unable to tell if he was joking. He closed his eyes again, not granting Lewa a response.

 

But again, the Air-Toa was undeterred. “I just don’t understand how you do it,” he went on as he looked to the dark canopy. “Snow… it’s water, but cold. Gross-bad. And it sticks to you. Annoying.”

 

“Not as annoying as certain people.”

 

“Ah, people!” Lewa laughed, clearly not taking the hint. “What would we ever-do without them?” he sniggered for a minute before looking out at the forest again. “It is good to be out in the quiet, don’t you think? In the ever-wilds.”

 

Kopaka sighed, his patience waning faster than ever. “Lewa — I’m going to sleep. You take first watch. Wake me if anything approaches, or when it’s my turn to take over.”

 

“…Oh,” Lewa paused. “Alright, deep-sleeper. Your closed eyes are safe with me.”

 

And again, Kopaka was quiet.

 

His mask still, his body relaxed, he once again focused on the trees, on his breathing, on the ever-constant rustle of leaves above. It was, now that he finally had some peace, quite calming. Different from the mountains, yet similar in many ways — instead of the snow’s quiet embrace, the mist hung around him. Instead of the frost-dusted pines, the jungle’s broad leaves —

 

“You want the fire doused? The flames keep away bug-Rahi, but might attract bigger —”

 

Kopaka’s eyes erupted, and his stare alone was enough to freeze the Toa of Air in place. Fiercer than Ko-Wahi’s winds and colder than its glaciers, his mask was somehow stoic yet menacing at the same time. Lewa hovered halfway over the fire, a water-filled gourd in one hand, suddenly not sure how to move.

 

“…I just thought it might be a little bright if you want to deep-sleep.”

 

“Do what you will.”

 

And Kopaka closed his eyes. Again.

 

It took a while for sleep to come, as he kept expecting Lewa to make some other sudden, annoying noise, but this time the Toa of Air seemed to get the message. The night remained quiet, it remained calm, it remained everything Kopaka needed it to be in order to get just a little bit of rest. The crickets chirped, the fire cracked, the leaves rustled, and all around, Kopaka let the forest embrace him. He let himself relax, and finally, he rested.

 

For a while, at least.

 

 

~~~

 

 

Vibrations. Twigs snapping. Leaves… moving. Something was coming.

 

Kopaka stirred. He lay still as his mind awoke, his spine tingling as his body went on edge. He opened his eyes, though he couldn’t see much — the fire was out; only a few coals glowing beneath a pile of smoking ash. The leaves were motionless, the mist hung low, and Lewa lay across from him, unmoving on his branch, facing away from camp. It seemed to be just before dawn.

 

There it was again. Leaves pushed out of the way as something stalked the forest floor. It was coming towards them. Silently, Kopaka reached for his sword, looking to Lewa. He had to have felt it too, right?

 

A slight thump to his right — a leg, pausing on a tree root? It had to be big. Kopaka braced himself, his muscles tensing as everything went silent, ready for anything. Squeezing the hilt of his sword, his heart pounded as the seconds ticked by, and he knew it was coming. The world paused and time froze as he took a deep breath, holding steady… steady… and….

 

Nothing.

 

Kopaka squinted, looking to his right as he activated the powers of his Akaku. And for an instant his vision lit up, an orange heat signature confirming that something nearby was —

 

Skreee!

 

The screech filled his ears as a monster flew towards him, barreling through the air as it pounced. Kopaka rolled out of the way just as its claws sank into the earth, popping to his feet, whipping out his shield and readying his blade as it turned on him again. Behind, Lewa stirred, but Kopaka had no time to spare any attention — the beast was on him.

 

It leapt forward again, its eight, spindly legs scraping against his shield as he stumbled, pushed back by its weight. He swung his sword in retaliation, and the giant spider-thing screeched, retreating for only a second before pouncing again, but this time Kopaka was ready.

 

Sidestepping, it flew past him, sinking its claws into a nearby tree, and Kopaka fired one, two, three icicles through his sword, each spike embedding into the wood as the Rahi scuttled upwards, narrowly avoiding his attack. Kopaka looked up just in time to see it jumping down, flying forward, but this time he didn’t have the speed to dodge.

 

With a thud he hit the dirt, the spider on top of him, its dark eyes shining just inches from his mask as he tried to shove it off, drooling fangs yearning to sink into his armor. But with a roll and a kick he was free again, and he swung his sword as he sprang to his feet, unleashing his ice at the monster once more, forcing it back once again as Kopaka —

 

Fwoosh!

 

A fire erupted behind him and Kopaka had to pause, shielding his eyes as light engulfed their camp. The large spider-Rahi squealed, sinking away from the flames, pausing for only a second before it scuttled off, a trail of foliage fluttering in its wake. Kopaka turned to see Lewa, standing across the fire, smugly having used his air to reignite the smoldering coals.

 

But Kopaka wasn’t happy.

 

“What are you doing?” he demanded, his voice calm but stern. “I thought you were keeping watch.”

 

Lewa frowned, obviously expecting a different reaction. “Sorry for quick-saving you, I suppose.”

 

“I had that under control. Why weren’t you keeping watch?” he insisted.

 

“I was watching.”

 

“I specifically told you to wake me if anything approaches. You fell asleep, did you not?”

 

“It was just a Fikou,” Lewa crossed his arms, obviously avoiding the question. “Maybe a big-strong one, but not too dangerous.”

 

Kopaka felt his chest warm.  “And it if wasn’t? If it was a Nui-Rama, or a Muaka, or something that could’ve crippled us with one hit? What then, Lewa?”

 

“Easy, brother, everything is alright.”

 

“It is not, Lewa!”

 

The clearing was silent as the two Toa stared at each other, both in a bit of shock after hearing Kopaka raise his voice. The fire flickered as a dim light began to shine through the leaves, and they both knew that dawn would be arriving. Another day would soon be upon them, along with many more miles of travel. Kopaka sheathed his sword, placing his shield on his back as he went on.

 

“There are only six of us,” he said plainly. “We have a responsibility to the people of this island, and we need to take this threat seriously if we’re going to succeed. Everything is very much not alright, Lewa, and if you want to survive all of this, something is going to have to change. I suggest you think about that.”

 

And Lewa didn’t have much else to say. He stood there, motionless for a second, before answering with a quiet nod. He loosened his shoulders and walked over to where his axe was still embedded in its root. And then, picking it up, he turned and pointed to his left.

 

“About a day’s journey, southeast. Look for tall spire-cliffs; the mask should be at their peak-top, in the middle of the ruins.” Then he turned, looking over his shoulder at Kopaka. “I know when I’m not wanted, Ice-Toa, and I work better alone. So if you need me, I’ll be search-finding my own masks.” He swung his axe over his shoulder and hopped onto the nearest, low-hanging branch. “I suggest you quick-think about that.”

 

And in a moment, Lewa was gone. Disappeared through the trees, leaving Kopaka to fend for himself.

 

The Toa of Ice didn’t move for a minute or two. He stood there, letting dawn shine ever brighter through the canopy of leaves as the jungle slowly awoke to start another day. And as Kopaka prepared to leave, he made sure to douse the fire. With a swing of his sword ice shot into the coals, which sizzled for a moment before turning dark and dying. It would be another bright, warm day in southern Mata Nui, but Kopaka liked it cold.

 

 

~~~

 

 

As it turned out, Lewa’s directions were wrong. Maybe it was a day’s journey at his speed, swinging and levitating through the air, but it took Kopaka three until he could even see his destination: a cluster of tall, spire-like cliffs, standing in the middle of a deep, overgrown valley. From where he stood now, at the edge of the basin, he could almost make out the stone ruins that rested at their peak. He could almost see where his next Kanohi waited.

 

The journey had been long, hard, and exhausting, and Kopaka had spent it in a foul mood, but he had made it all the same — even without Lewa’s help. He had always preferred to be alone, and perhaps that was the one trait he shared with the Toa of Air; perhaps that was Lewa’s one redeeming quality. Kopaka huffed, securing his shield before beginning his final descent into the valley. It had been foolish to accept the Air-Toa’s help in the first place. He knew the only person he needed was himself.

 

Still traversing at a snail’s pace, Kopaka was ever-patient, cutting, climbing, working and wading his way through the valley, until finally, after hours, he stood at the base of the tallest spire, looking up at the great cliff before him. It stood, tall as a mountain, rising almost straight up into the sky, daring him to try and climb it. It’s peak, barely visible from so far away, gazed down on him, as he would the tiniest of insects. The Toa of Ice cracked his neck, rolling his shoulders. He had climbed many mountains in his time, but never as steep, as abrupt, or as intense as this.

 

The Mask of Levitation… he thought. How fitting that one would need to levitate to find it.

 

And so he began his ascent.

 

Searching for handholds, he climbed the vertical rock, carefully placing his boots, cautiously wedging his fingers into whatever crevice he could find. He climbed and he climbed, rising above the treetops that grew from the valley’s floor, soon finding himself exposed to the open air of Le-Wahi. It was tiring, pulling himself higher and higher, bit by bit, but he knew he could do it; he could do anything he put his mind to. He just had to focus, and he would make it, in time.

 

Kopaka was beginning to notice a trend about this island, about this strange land of Mata Nui. There was a certain… logic to it, a certain dry humor to the places he could find these Kanohi. Makuta seemed to be testing them, choosing hiding places that were never impossible to reach, but always difficult enough to test their merit. As if finding these masks were simply a game to play, a puzzle to solve, a riddle to understand.

 

Kopaka pulled himself onto a narrow ledge, frowning as he spared a minute to rest. He looked out to the valley.

 

He had always hated riddles.

 

Although only a third of the way up, he still towered above the treetops. Able to see for miles, the vast expanse of Le-Wahi stretched out before him, ending in a green haze at the horizon where the endless jungle met the bright blue sky. The mid-morning sun shone upon his armor, and a cool breeze brushed against his mask, smelling of earth and soil and life. Allowing himself this moment, he stared to the horizon, taking it all in: the sun, the sky, the trees, the earth, the air. Le-Wahi, as vastly different as it was to Ko-Wahi, was still… beautiful.

 

Kopaka took a deep breath, filling his lungs to their brim before exhaling.

 

But alas, he still had much work to do.

 

And so Kopaka turned his back on the view. Up and up he went, climbing ever higher, the distance between him and the ground rising to terrifying heights. But he never looked down, always keeping his mind on his prize. Eventually he managed to find a broken, narrow ledge that wound its way up the cliffside, some parts of which were still wide enough to walk upon, and so he shuffled his way along it. It seemed to have once been a trail, perhaps to reach the ruins at the summit, but if that was the case it was last used ages ago, and was by no means reliable, or safe. But still, the narrow, inconsistent platforms helped his progress, and he found himself another third of the way up by midday.

 

It was here that his narrow path stopped, instead turning into the spire itself, and the Toa of Ice found himself staring into a gloomy tunnel, carved into the rock by forgotten hands an uncountable number of years ago. The sun shone bright at his back, but he gazed into the dark, unsheathing his sword, knowing that it had all been too easy. He would’ve been a fool to think Makuta would leave this Kanohi out in the light, unguarded.

 

And so Kopaka stepped into the mountain, his icy eyes glowing as he left the light behind.

 

Come now, Makuta, he challenged. You should know by now that I do not fear the dark.

 

The black consumed him quickly, and soon, everything was silent.

 

Drip… drip… drip….

 

Water, falling somewhere nearby. The quiet tapping of his boots, echoing on tunnel floor. The steady, in and out of his breathing. Kopaka’s fingers were white around the hilt of his sword. The air was still. The air was quiet. The rock watched from all around.

 

Tap… tap… tap….

 

He wished he could walk quieter, but in a world as silent as this, every movement echoed. He wasn’t alone here, in this twisting, climbing tunnel — that much was obvious. He could feel it in the air, in his spine, in his bones. With a twitch of his neck he activated the powers of his Akaku, allowing him to scan the gloom for any trace of life, for any signature of heat, even through rock.

 

And there it was: a ways upward and ahead, somewhere deep within the rock: a great blur of heat, far larger than himself. Something massive, some great and terrible Rahi, lying in wait for him. But without any light, how would he know when he was close? Exactly how large was the beast, and which way would the tunnel take him? If he moved straight forward, would he soon meet his foe, or would the tunnel twist and turn for miles before forcing them together?

 

Kopaka took a deep breath, readying his shield just in case. There was only one way to find out.

 

Keeping one hand on the wall to guide him, he marched onward, steadily climbing through the inside of the spire, keeping his gaze on the strange heat signature. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen — seemingly without a head, tail, or even a clear body, it displayed as an orange blob through his mask, like the entire thing was one twisting mass of appendages. He kept it in his vision no matter how the tunnel twisted, and as he drew nearer it grew larger and larger, until it was far beyond the size of any Rahi he’d ever encountered. Blind, and up against something massive he wasn’t familiar with, he feared for a moment he was in over his head, but he soon pushed that thought away. He was a Toa. He had no room in his head for doubt.

 

Moving, walking, shuffling through the darkness, he eventually found himself at the same level as the beast, and he knew he had to be close to the spire’s summit. And then he turned one last corner, and the wall quickly fell away from his hand. Realizing he was in a larger cavern, with the orange blob ten times his size now, he readied his sword and shut off his mask, seeing light for the first time in what seemed like hours. It streamed through a small opening at the other end of the cavern, barely highlighting the edges of boulders and rock columns, and providing just enough light to see the massive, twisting beast that sat before him.

 

Kopaka froze in place. What… what was it?

 

The light silhouetted it from behind, and so he couldn’t see much, but his initial instincts seemed correct. It was a mound of armored legs and claws and tails, twisting around each other, with no head or body to be found — a huge, disgusting, horrid thing that clustered in the center of the room. Kopaka hoped he could avoid it by skirting along the cavern’s edges, and so carefully, he took a step to his left. But…

 

His boot met a puddle of unseen water, making a splash. A tiny, small, trivial splash — one that echoed throughout the cavern.

 

And suddenly, the beast had eyes.

 

First two, then four, then eight, then a dozen pairs of eyes, all glowing orange in the dark, all turning to the Toa of Ice as he cursed to himself. It wasn’t one massive Rahi, it was many, clustered so tightly together they had seemed to merge. Kopaka stood on the balls of his feet and readied his blade, channeling his power as he realized what he was up against: a dozen stingers, two dozen claws, six dozen legs.

 

Nui-Jaga. A nest of them.

 

“Come on then, you…”

 

Wasting no time, he unleashed his power, throwing giant spikes of ice as he sprinted for the exit, but he wasn’t the only one to move. All at once the Rahi came alive, scuttling across the cavern floor, walls, and ceiling, making a beeline for him as they dodged his attacks, closing the distance in seconds. Thinking quickly, Kopaka coated floor around him in ice, and the nearest of the Rahi slid, scrambling for traction as they smashed into each other and the cavern wall. Dazed, it granted Kopaka a precious few seconds, which he used to get just a few feet closer to the light.

 

Crunch!

 

A boulder to his right crumbled, crushed under the power of a Nui-Jaga’s claws, and the force of the blow sent Kopaka sliding sideways across the cavern floor. Wincing, he whirled around, just barely able to dodge the nearest one’s stinger, which sank into the ground above his shoulder. The massive scorpion struggled to free its tail from the rock, and Kopaka retaliated with one great swing of his sword, a spear of ice slashing through its armor, sending the beast flying backwards, pinning it to the cavern wall. In a second, Kopaka was back on his feet.

 

One down, eleven to go.

 

He jumped back as three more lunged at him, just barely avoiding their claws before turning to run again, raising a wall of ice between him and the monsters — but with a crash they broke through; they were too strong, too quick! Another had scuttled down from the wall, cutting off his escape, and he fired another ice spear at it, but to no avail: it scuttled out of the way, and he was surrounded as two more came from the sides.

 

Kopaka turned to face them. “Foul beasts —”

 

But he didn’t have time to finish his taunt. The Nui-Jaga to his right lunged, its stinger plowing forward as Kopaka leapt into the air, twisting his body as the poisonous barb sailed underneath him, and with a flick of his arm, his blade cut through flesh and armor, lopping off the end of Rahi’s tail. With a thud Kopaka landed safely, the Rahi’s high-pitched squeal reaching his ears as he whirled around, ready for the next attack. It came from his left as he dodged a pair of snapping claws, rolling back before popping again to his feet, and —

 

“Aah!”

 

His eyes. Kopaka cursed. His eyes! He stumbled back as a cloud of venom hit him in the mask, and his already poor vision went blurry, disorienting him as he whirled around again, ready to fend off another of the beasts. Swinging his sword wildly, he fired a stream of ice at the large shape in front of him, trying desperately to clear his vision…

 

Slam!

 

A hit from behind and Kopaka was down, losing his grip on his sword as he slid across the cavern floor, gravel and dust cutting into his back. He winced, throwing his shield above him as he heard scuttling, as something massive came down upon him, the full weight of a Nui-Jaga pushing him down, the blurry forms of its pincers trying to bite through his shield, trying to tear at his flesh and armor.

 

He kicked upward, still blind, still desperately trying to get the Rahi off him, fighting for every inch of space. But there was more scuttling, and he knew he only had seconds before the rest of them came down as well. He didn’t have the strength to push it off… he didn’t have the time! Already he could feel the others coming, and he had to move, but the Nui-Jaga clawed at his shield, its drool dripping onto his mask, its great weight pinning him down, and… and…

 

A sudden gust of air — no, a hurtling burst of wind, with the speed and power of a hurricane! The Rahi above him grew lighter, its weight lifting, and with one final kick, Kopaka pushed it off, springing to his feet and feeling for his sword. His fingers closed around its hilt and he swung it upwards, unleashing the power of winter. His frost merged with the wind, a blizzard forming before his blurry eyes, the whirling sheets of ice and snow forcing the Nui-Jaga back, back to the darkest end of the cavern. And Kopaka put distance between them, moving towards the light as he regained his bearings, already knowing who had come to his aid.

 

“Couldn’t just let you become Rahi-bones like that, could I?”

 

Lewa’s voice reached him as he finally managed to wipe the venom from his eyes, and he moved backward, keeping up his constant stream of chill until the Toa of Air appeared in the corner of his vision. They stood just before the cavern’s exit now, and Kopaka’s response was calm.

 

“I had that under control.”

 

“Uh huh, and I’m the Toa of Water.”

 

But with a subtle nod, the two Toa put forth one final burst of power, moving back into the light as the Nui-Jaga scrambled at the other end of the cavern, trying to gain their footing. But Lewa was relentless, pinning them to the far wall with his hurricane, his Miru smiling, his axe glinting in the streaming sunlight. And Kopaka turned his sword to the stone around them, his power freezing everything he pointed at. His ice coated the rock, crystals forming atop each other, growing and growing as he moved his weapon back and forth, back and forth, slowly forming a wall of ice between them and the Nui-Jaga.

 

And in a minute, it was over.

 

Lewa lowered his axe, cutting off his wind as Kopaka plugged the final hole in his wall, a dozen feet thick and spanning the cavern edge to edge. He admired his work for a moment before turning around, satisfied, knowing that even in Le-Wahi’s heat, it would take weeks to melt. Finally, he turned to Lewa.

 

“Not bad, I suppose.”

 

And he walked out of the cavern.

 

“…You’re welcome for quick-saving you!” Lewa called after him, pausing for dramatic effect before hurrying to catch up. “Again!”

 

But Kopaka ignored him. As usual.

 

He stepped into the light, greeting the outside world at sunset, finding himself atop a small, stone temple surrounded by tall, broken spires. The peak of the summit was flat, only a few hundred feet in diameter, and was covered in thin grass and mossy boulders. But what caught Kopaka’s eye was another temple — or perhaps more of an altar — placed directly across from where he stood, near the opposite edge of the summit. Atop it, he could see a shining silver object, glinting ever-so-slightly in the setting sun, and he paused, his heart almost fluttering.

 

The Mask of Levitation….

 

But all was not well.

 

His moment of triumph fizzled as he realized the air around them was humming, and they were not at all alone. His attention diverted from the shining mask, and he finally saw what they had stumbled into; he finally saw the horror that they were up against.  All along the edges of the summit, clinging to the cliff walls, clustered within the grass, and climbing across the boulders, were Rahi. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of fast and agile Rahi, each large and winged, all with grabbing pincers and all-seeing, compound eyes.

 

And Kopaka, exhausted as he was, drew his sword once more.

 

The scourge of Mata Nui’s skies; a great swarm of Nui-Rama.

 

“Kopaka…”

 

“Ready your blade, Lewa,” Kopaka retorted, feeling energy surge through his blade once more. “We have the fight of our lives ahead of us.”

 

“Brother!”

 

Ready to run straight for the mask, Kopaka didn’t have time to listen to anything else Lewa had to say. Standing on the balls of his feet, his muscles twitching, he braced himself for what was to come. His shield up, his sword ready, he scanned the summit, watching the countless pairs of wings, ready for this last stretch, this last challenge. He lowered his weight, ready to charge, and —

 

A hand on his shoulder.

 

Kopaka whirled around, seeing Lewa standing there, relaxed, his axe slung across his back, completely unprepared to fight. Confused, and at this point completely exasperated with the Toa of Air, it took all his willpower to not lash out. “What are you doing?” he snapped, settling on an icy glare instead.

 

“Relax, Toa of Slush,” Lewa walked to the edge of the temple and sat down, beckoning him to follow. “Have a sit-rest. Sheath your knife-blade.”

 

And Kopaka, so bewildered by his actions, was unable to move for a second. At a loss for words, he looked from Lewa to the Nui-Rama and back again, unable to comprehend what was going on.

 

“Come on, Brakas,” Lewa beckoned again. “Trust your local king of know-nothingness.”

 

And after a few moments of hesitation, Kopaka obeyed, if only because it seemed the swarm hadn’t noticed them yet, and maybe Lewa had some sort of plan. He walked over to stand next to his companion, still gripping his sword, but allowing the Toa a moment of his time. But instead of laying out a plan, or a well-thought course of action, Lewa took a deep breath, stretched, and laid back to stare at the sky.

 

Kopaka gazed down at him.

 

Lewa, in turn, closed his eyes.

 

And still Kopaka stood there, his momentum all but dissolved, waiting, but not necessarily expecting something to happen. The air around them hummed with the beating of wings, the sun moved closer to the horizon, and a cool breeze blew across the spire’s summit. And eventually Kopaka sighed, asking his ever-constant question once more.

 

“…What are you doing?”

 

“Taking a nap.”

 

“Do you realize where we are right now?”

 

“Do you realize where we are not?” Lewa peeked open an eye, his Miru smiling as it always did. “Because we are not in ever-danger.”

 

Kopaka was about to retort, about try and make Lewa see reason, but as he took another look around at the swarm, he realized, begrudgingly, that Lewa might be right. The Rahi’s masks… they were clean, and matched the insects’ natural color. There was no rust, no scarring no pitting… Kopaka lowered his sword, suddenly quiet. The swarm wasn’t infected. It didn’t belong to Makuta.

 

Lewa looked up at him, noticing his change in demeanor. “You see?”

 

Kopaka didn’t reply.

 

“The buzz-flyers are big and irritable, but not evil.” Lewa added, sitting up again. “You quick-run into their swarm and they’ll attack, but leave them be and they’ll slow-move on. They just want to eat the moss-grass, and not be bothered.” He took a moment to breathe, motioning again for Kopaka to sit. “Come on, might as well slow-wait it out.”

 

And this time, Kopaka complied.

 

So together, the two Toa sat, quiet as the swarm moved, feeding and crawling and buzzing about, content to ignore them as long as they did the same. Kopaka watched, quiet as the breeze blew and the evening wore on, their humming ever-constant in the background. The sunset soon spread across the sky, casting yellow, orange, red and purple against thin, wispy clouds, and for once — Kopaka realized as the minutes went by — Lewa seemed content to stay silent.

 

It was peaceful, Kopaka thought as his shoulders relaxed. Tranquil, even, watching the sun inch closer to the horizon, watching these Rahi go about their lives. He had always meditated, of course, but this seemed different, somehow. As if here, in the jungle, there was something offered that he couldn’t find in the mountains. A different kind of peace; a certain connectivity, a bond with all the life that was constantly in motion  a tie to Mata Nui that the snows couldn’t quite grasp. Sure, it was good to be alone, in the quiet, but perhaps — not often, but maybe every once and a while — it was good to be surrounded, too.

 

Perhaps — he thought as the Rahi slowly, steadily, began to move — for all his flaws, Lewa did have something useful to offer.

 

And so Kopaka leaned back, breathing the fresh, cool, evening air as the swarm made their way across the summit. One by one the bugs buzzed over the side of the cliff, having had their fill of moss and grass, flitting to the next spire, or to the trees at ground level below. And one by one, more followed, the swarm slowly thinning, slowly quieting as the two Toa watched. They didn’t speak a word to each other, instead content to simply sit, to relax, and to exist in such a strange, beautiful world as this.

 

The sun eventually dipped below the horizon, its colors fading to a soft orange glow, then yielding to the dark blue, starry sky. And as the last of the Nui-Rama passed on, the Toa were, finally, alone.

 

“See?” Lewa said after a few minutes of silence. “Calm-relaxing isn’t so bad, is it, snow-walker?”

 

Kopaka took a moment to respond. “…Perhaps.”

 

Lewa smirked, and the two got to their feet, Kopaka marching forward, finally ready to claim his prize, and Lewa tagging along behind, because what else was he going to do up here? They crossed the open summit in a minute, the light of the moon reflecting off their armor as Kopaka approached the mask. Eager to feel its power, he soon stood before the stone alter, the shining silver-grey Miru gazing up at him, finally — finally — his for the taking.

 

He reached down, his fingers feeling its cold metal, lifting it from the stone, and — he put it on.

 

Power. Power! It surged through his body, tingling his nerves, the Miru imbuing him with the energies of levitation, adding to those he had already obtained — shielding, vision, his elemental mastery of ice. He felt alive, fulfilling this little part of his duty, his destiny, and he knew that soon more would follow. He knew, with this power, he could go farther, faster, reach places he never dreamed of reaching before, and —

 

“Alright fellow Miru-wearer, quick-race you back to Le-Koro! Ready set go!”

 

And before Kopaka could react Lewa had sprinted away, throwing himself off the cliff ahead, plummeting straight down to the jungle below.

 

“Lewa…!”

 

Kopaka ran to the edge of the cliff, only to see the small shape of his companion disappear within the canopy far below. And Kopaka realized that he was alone, hundreds of feet up with no easy way down, except for a brand-new mask that he still didn’t quite know how to use.

 

He took a step forward, teetering at the edge of the vertical drop, confident in his abilities, yet secretly wishing the Toa of Air had stayed a moment to teach him how, exactly, to use this new-found power. Kopaka took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders as he stifled a scowl.

 

Lewa… he was the worst.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

Author's note: special thanks to my wife, my beta with absolutely zero Bioincle knowledge, who asked if Lewa's character was basically "Yoda, but younger, and possibly in a frat."

Edited by ZOMBI3S
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You’ve captured the atmosphere of Bionicle so well that this feels like an official story, and it’s written with such a smooth rhythm that it just pulls the reader along.  There were a couple nitpicks I had (early on it seemed like “stifling” came up a lot, and the treespeak varied a bit but I know how tough that is to work with), but really, nitpicks are the only criticisms I can offer.  An excellent read!

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What a lovely and sweet story. I've never been much good at writing Kopaka, but you've captured him so well here. And there are so many wonderful lore references!

 

I love seeing a slightly longer story set during 2001 that can really focus on character growth, and I think you've really captured both characters well. I always feel a hint of trepidation when I see Lewa focused stories because I feel like he's one of the characters that tends to get flanderized a lot. You nailed him, and it was lovely to hear him say "I work better alone." Excellent work, I feel like this slots into canon perfectly which I always appreciate.

 

Oh yeah, the treespeak - I think there was one time it was a bit over-used in Lewa's early sentences, but for the most part, you handled it really well and allowed each usage to enhance the meaning of what Lewa was saying. “You ever get shiver-cold up in those mountains?” was a fantastic use of it. I think you kept true to the treespeak that Lewa used in 2001-2003.

 

Great to see your action sequences - long, meandering sentences that feel like they go for a marathon. They give a sense of confusion and panic. I'll admit I felt a bit confused at times in the sequences, but I feel like that was what you were aiming for with those breathy sentences that just never end. It feels like Kopaka's mind must have been racing as well.

Oh, and I love the pun in the title.

Lovely work. May I ask - do you have a particular point in the story you imagine this taking place in? It feels like you slotted this in perfectly into the rest of 2001 and did your research to make sure you got everything right.

  • Upvote 2

Stories I wrote

 

Parts of a Whole Series: An Alternate Ending

Part 1: Fight for Freedom                        Wisps of Memory

Part 2: Army of One (In Progress)


Short Stories:
The Great Takara          
Tale of the Toa Stones          Masks

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You’ve captured the atmosphere of Bionicle so well that this feels like an official story, and it’s written with such a smooth rhythm that it just pulls the reader along.  There were a couple nitpicks I had (early on it seemed like “stifling” came up a lot, and the treespeak varied a bit but I know how tough that is to work with), but really, nitpicks are the only criticisms I can offer.  An excellent read!

This is like... one of the nicest things anyone's ever said about my writing?? Brb I'm gonna go cry for a minute.

 

But seriously thank you so much. I really really tried to capture that signature atmosphere of 2001, and I'm so glad you could feel it.

 

What a lovely and sweet story. I've never been much good at writing Kopaka, but you've captured him so well here. And there are so many wonderful lore references!

 

I love seeing a slightly longer story set during 2001 that can really focus on character growth, and I think you've really captured both characters well. I always feel a hint of trepidation when I see Lewa focused stories because I feel like he's one of the characters that tends to get flanderized a lot. You nailed him, and it was lovely to hear him say "I work better alone." Excellent work, I feel like this slots into canon perfectly which I always appreciate.

 

Oh yeah, the treespeak - I think there was one time it was a bit over-used in Lewa's early sentences, but for the most part, you handled it really well and allowed each usage to enhance the meaning of what Lewa was saying. “You ever get shiver-cold up in those mountains?” was a fantastic use of it. I think you kept true to the treespeak that Lewa used in 2001-2003.

 

Great to see your action sequences - long, meandering sentences that feel like they go for a marathon. They give a sense of confusion and panic. I'll admit I felt a bit confused at times in the sequences, but I feel like that was what you were aiming for with those breathy sentences that just never end. It feels like Kopaka's mind must have been racing as well.

Oh, and I love the pun in the title.

 

Lovely work. May I ask - do you have a particular point in the story you imagine this taking place in? It feels like you slotted this in perfectly into the rest of 2001 and did your research to make sure you got everything right.

 

Thank you!! It just always feels off-putting when I read fics and the characters act out of their canon selves, so I really tried to keep them as true as I could. And I don't know why, but I absolutely LOVE putting lore references into my work. So glad you found them!

 

Concerning the treespeak - ah, the freakin treespeak. It just ranges so much in the canon depending on the time and who is using it, it's difficult to find one definitive way to implement it. I'm glad you thought it worked for the most part, I tried to keep a good balance of the old-school, choppy way it was used in MNOG, and what was actually understandable and consistent with how Lewa talks it the majority of the timeline.

 

But as for your question! I tried to slip it in just a little after Bionicle Issue #2 - Trapped by the Rahi (as is referenced by Lewa obtaining his Kakama, getting ambushed by a Nui-Rama, and being saved by Onua), but before most of the events of Bionicle Issue #3 - Triumph of the Toa (where the Toa seem to learn the value of teamwork). I never actually read the Bionicle books (I have no excuse for this; I am a bad fan), so I wasn't entirely sure it fit there, but that's what I was going for. I actually did spend a solid amount of time on BS01 looking up the time frame's of everything, so... awesome! I guess it worked!

 

Oh, and as for the title... I was aiming for something descriptive yet short and relevant, something that would help the story rise up; something that would help it levitate, if you will.

 

Ehhh that was pretty bad I'll see myself out.

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Somehow you found out Lewa is my favourite original character. Nice.

 

I love it. I love it all. Balancing Kopaka's cold demeanor with Lewa's free-spirit, showing the bickering that was so 2001-norm as the Toa learned to rely on one another, descriptions of the Rahi (ooh I shuddered and verbally said "Ew" when you were describing the Nui-Jaga)...

Your employment of Treespeak is admirable. Hard to pin down exactly what it should be canonical, but even for you to put it to practice is a valiant effort. I didn't feel it was over done (I mean, it was understandable so you already got that going for you  :P ).

 

I'm all about broad-brush scenery, and despite a few reuses of certain words, I felt I was smelling the jungle air right alongside our Toa here. Your action sequences had a tense pace compared to the meandering journey Kopaka took to arrive at the ruins - which is perfect. Varied tone, even the words changed (given, the scenery fell away too so that helped). I thought maybe Makuta was going to pop up in the shadows like in MoL, but I think your directions of man vs. man, and man vs. nature (and then the redeeming scene of the Nui-Rama) were well placed.

 

Your theming was great too, as you commented on the importance of both solitude and society. I appreciate the use of your bookend statement, despite the (hopefully) obvious change in tone that Kopaka would be using as he thought it at the end of the story.

 

I see the character development, the adventure, the conflict - really well done. A lovely evening read.

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Somehow you found out Lewa is my favourite original character. Nice.

 

I love it. I love it all. Balancing Kopaka's cold demeanor with Lewa's free-spirit, showing the bickering that was so 2001-norm as the Toa learned to rely on one another, descriptions of the Rahi (ooh I shuddered and verbally said "Ew" when you were describing the Nui-Jaga)...

Your employment of Treespeak is admirable. Hard to pin down exactly what it should be canonical, but even for you to put it to practice is a valiant effort. I didn't feel it was over done (I mean, it was understandable so you already got that going for you  :P ).

 

I'm all about broad-brush scenery, and despite a few reuses of certain words, I felt I was smelling the jungle air right alongside our Toa here. Your action sequences had a tense pace compared to the meandering journey Kopaka took to arrive at the ruins - which is perfect. Varied tone, even the words changed (given, the scenery fell away too so that helped). I thought maybe Makuta was going to pop up in the shadows like in MoL, but I think your directions of man vs. man, and man vs. nature (and then the redeeming scene of the Nui-Rama) were well placed.

 

Your theming was great too, as you commented on the importance of both solitude and society. I appreciate the use of your bookend statement, despite the (hopefully) obvious change in tone that Kopaka would be using as he thought it at the end of the story.

 

I see the character development, the adventure, the conflict - really well done. A lovely evening read.

 

Haha Lewa was always my favorite too! I really tried to get his character right; I feel like he tends to be forgotten when it comes to fanfiction. And I love that you love it! I tried to make something that focused heavily on the themes, was definitively and recognizably Bionicle, all while making sure it was something I enjoyed writing about as well - early 2001 seemed to fit the bill. And I actually did think about adding a MoL-esque Makuta scene (we seem to be one the same wavelength here), but in the end I thought it was better to keep everything small and grounded.

 

This was my first fanfic exchange ever, so I was actually pretty nervous about how this would be received - but in the end you do have the final say, so I guess I did a good job! (Read: I AM SO FRICKIN STOKED RN HECK YES)

 

So yeah, glad I could be a part of this! In the immortal words of Marie Kondo, your comments and thoughts sparks joy  :)

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