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Kara-Nui: Crossing The Nadir

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PROLOGUE

He was our salvation.

A Toa of Light who claimed to have crossed the endless ocean from a landmass unknown to us, and landed here--on Kara-Nui. He said his name was 'Arrec,' and that in the language of his island, this meant 'a welcoming.' He was worshipped like a god, like Mata Nui Himself had stepped down from His place in our heavens and graced us with His presence--and Arrec might as well have been god to us. He was beautiful, and radiated like the twin suns. We embraced him. In the days following the Toa Civil War our island had become a place of sadness and pain, he turned that into happiness and comfort. He marched around the island, proclaiming his name and his good works to all who wanted to hear. He claimed he would help us to rebuild. To bring us back to the old ways and save Kara-Nui from ruin. Reunite her Toa under a single banner and make us strong again.

He was a deceiver.

He had preyed on our vulnerability like a muaka preys on the beasts of the flock. We had been blind to the truth, too caught up in jubilation to see something wasn't right. He revealed his true colors to us in an act of brazen violence--unveiling himself as a Toa of Shadow, a warrior enveloped in darkness and spite--and felling a multitude of innocents. Our angel was a demon. He claimed to be an envoy of the Unseen Voice, a figure seen as myth in our culture, who in just a matter of days revealed themselves to be so very real. He had come to take the island in the name of his master. The Toa who remained after the Civil War tried to fight back, but were struck down one by one by his dark might. Those who did not fight simply surrendered, and whether they lived much longer after that was up to Arrec. Our once beautiful savior was now twisted and ugly as blood splattered onto his gunmetal armor, as he tore us apart wearing a face of determination--and glee. It didn't take long for him to stamp out all opposition and take control of the island, settling into a recently-constructed tower at its center, the bodies of those he had murdered piled around its base.

He was our end.

- excerpt from an unpublished article by Hashei, Kara-Nui chronicler, before he vanished from his home without a trace

----

The object hummed with energy, a light glow emanating from beneath the cloth wrapped tightly around it. A pair of cold blue eyes studied it, as the figure turned it over in his aged and shaky hands. He wasn't going to stand idly by as his island fell further and further into the dark. If he could not fight back, maybe someone else could. And he prayed they'd do better than he did, and not make the same mistakes his comrades had.

He prayed they'd be nothing like them.

...

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CHAPTER ONE
 

The Hau-wearing Po-Matoran glanced nervously from side to side, clutching something wrapped in cloth close to his chest. The Po-Kara street was empty at this late hour, unsurprisingly, as under new management Kara-Nui had a harsh curfew. He bolted across it, saying a silent prayer to Mata Nui as he did, and skidded to a stop on the other side in a dark alley. This was to be their meeting place. He had contacted his friend Izel, a Ga-Matoran he'd known for years, with a location and the words "details later". He'd found something. Or maybe it had found him. Either way, he now possessed something very powerful, and very illegal. A borderline heretical totem that could very well save them all.

For Gehad had a Toa stone.

A noise caught his attention. The Po-Matoran peered into the night and saw a familiar figure clad in blue and silver armor: Izel. The Ga-Matoran was half-crouched, sneaking slowly towards the alley, eyes darting around behind his Pakari. "Hurry up!" said Gehad in what could only be described as a harsh whisper. Izel stood to full height and dashed over--the Po-Matoran always thought his friend was oddly tall for his kind. "I hope you have a very good reason for this," the Ga-Matoran began, glancing over his shoulder, "sneaking across city lines to get here wasn't easy." Gehad looked down at the object he held. "I do."

He unwrapped it slightly, producing a glow that illuminated the alley. Izel's eyes widened. "I seriously hope that isn't what I think it is." Gehad looked down at the stone in his hands, taking note of symbols carved into it and a name in Matoran scrawled across the front: TAROS. It sounded familiar, and he wondered why someone would leave their name on a Toa stone. Maybe it was some arcane practice forgotten to history. He looked up at Izel. "Believe me, I'm just as surprised as you are," he said. "Where did you even get that?" Izel asked, leaning forward and looking closer at the stone. Gehad sighed. "Well," the Po-Matoran began, trying to figure out how to explain himself, "it just...showed up on my doorstep."

The look on Izel's face indicated doubt.

"I swear to Mata Nui," Gehad said, "I don't know how it got there or who put it there or--"

Another noise made him go quiet. Immediately they both looked behind them, outside the alley. Gehad quickly wrapped the stone back up in its cloth, obscuring its glow. The noise got clearer as it got closer: footsteps. Slow. Mechanical, even.

Maxilos.

Without even thinking, the Po-Matoran grabbed his friends hand and darted out of the alley, the machine patrolling outside barely catching a brown and blue blur passing by in the dark. It relayed the information to its fellow units and began following. 

...

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CHAPTER TWO


The pair fled the dubious safety of a Po-Kara patrolled by Maxilos units for the city's outskirts, a place that could be generously described as "rough"--this was where the criminals and so-called lowlifes of the city lived, at odds with local rahi species, which had only become more wild after the Unseen Voice made its presence known. Some concluded it must have been influencing them in some way, as part of its takeover, but Gehad had no time to ponder this as he slid down a hillside, stumbled, and rolled until he stopped face-down at its base, still holding the Stone.

"Are you OK?" Izel was still standing at the top of the hill, the Po-Kara gates behind him, and the beams of distant searchlights dancing around the city. Gehad first checked if the Toa Stone was intact, and finding it was, breathed a sigh of relief and checked the rest of him. "I'm--ow--fine," he said, carefully getting to his feet. Izel looked over his shoulder nervously. "I don't think I can get down there, and there's already Maxilos and Mata Nui-knows-what-else looking for us," he said, "I don't think this was a good idea, Gehad." The Po-Matoran standing below him cracked his back, noting that something felt slightly out of place but chose to worry about it some other time. "What are you gonna do, run back home and get thrown into a pit of Zyglak or something for being out past curfew? You can't just walk away now."

Unfortunately, Gehad was right. There was no turning back now and the searchlights were getting closer. Izel begrudgingly started making his way down the hill, only to stumble as well, rolling to a stop at his friend's feet. He got up and adjusted his Pakari and Gehad chuckled, patting the Ga-Matoran on the shoulder. "You alright? A fall usually hurts your pride more than anything, I say."

"Yeah. And sure."

"Shrug it off. Let's get moving."

~~~

The man reclined in his throne of bodies, resting his head in his hand and toying with a damaged Miru that once belonged to a Toa of Air he'd graciously slaughtered. At both his sides stood a Maxilos unit, their armor painted black to signify they were his own personal guard. The room itself was flanked by two large windows, and a hallway to a balcony extended from behind the throne. The man wore armor of gunmetal and white, and the mask upon his face was twisted and unspeakable. The voice of his master came to him, and its words were like honey as they invaded his mind. My beloved envoy, it said, I have sensed that which should not be. He shuddered. I have searched my realm inside and out and discovered a disturbance. The energy of a Toa. That light. Faint, but enough to sicken me. The voice paused, and the man felt as if its presence had shifted from his right audio receptor to his left, leaning in closer. One of those...things. A Toa Stone. It is here, on Kara-Nui. In the hands of...

He sat upright, dropping the mask he held, the sound of it shattering on impact with the floor echoing through the chamber. An image formed in the man's mind of a brown-armored figure clutching something. They spoke in unison.

"A Matoran."
A Matoran.

The doors to the chamber opened and a ebon Maxilos with white markings stepped inside, kneeling before its leader. It spoke in monotone: "Sir, two Matoran have been sighted in Po-Kara past curfew. They were last seen heading for the outskirts. Reports indicate they may be carrying contraband."

Arrec smiled.

"Kill them. And bring me whatever they might have."

The Maxilos could not feel it, but the presence was smiling too.

...

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Edited by King of Kings

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CHAPTER THREE


Izel and Gehad leapt over a mound of dirt and trash and huddled behind it. The Ga-Matoran peeked his head out as his friend fiddled with the cloth wrapped around the stone he carried, as it had gotten caught in his armor. "Blasted...confounded...Mata Nui-forsaken little--!"

"Be quiet!" Izel snapped as he whipped his head around and put a finger to his lips. "Do you want them to find us? Let me see it." He knelt down and tugged lightly on the cloth. No good. He carefully parted the offending plates on Gehad's side and the Po-Matoran winced a bit. He pulled the cloth out and unfortunately, it tore, causing him to fall back and unwrap the stone. Its glow illuminated them both and while not blindingly bright, it wasn't exactly hard to miss. "Cover it!" Izel said, scrambling back to his friend on his hands and knees. Gehad fumbled with the stone in a panic. They hadn't noticed the sound of someone--or rather, something--walking towards them, but he certainly did notice the sharp end of a staff coming down between him and the Ga-Matoran, narrowly missing either of them. There was a beat as the pair looked up at their attacker, who had seemingly paused for effect, before yelling their Kanohi off. The machine spoke what appeared to be an automated message.

"Under direct orders from the Last Toa, the Voice's Body, you are to be terminated and your contraband confiscated."

The Matoran got to their feet in a flash, Gehad tucking the stone under his arm, and bolted as the Maxilos raised its staff and swung at them. It stepped over the mound with ease and relayed a message that it had found the fugitives. Nearby Maxilos mobilized, armed with various weaponry: staffs, swords, and stun rifles both short and long-ranged. Toa were a massive threat to the rule, and the possibility of the stone finding a Matoran destined to use it was frightening to Arrec, though he did not show it to his toy soldiers. Then again, the emotionless robot guardians might not have cared either way. Orders were orders.

No matter how messy they might get.

~~~

A figure of small stature walked the halls of the tower, nervously regarding Maxilos units as he passed by them and ignoring the Toa-shaped shadows he had begun seeing out of the corner of his eye since Arrec had taken over. It had been some time, and yet he had still not gotten used to his new home beneath the island's malevolent ruler.

Although, being kidnapped in the middle of doing your job and being given a new role as a propagandist for that same ruler would be hard for anyone to adjust to.

Hashei sheepishly knocked on the big, imposing gates to Arrec's "throne room". They felt more like the doors to Karzahni itself. As he waited for an answer his eyes wandered throughout the hallway of the ornate tower, and he turned his attention to statues lining the walls representing the members of the island's main Toa team, the Kara. Its former Toa team, after the Civil War tore them apart. He looked behind him and saw the bronze visage of the team's Garai-wearing Toa of Stone and felt a weight in his stomach at the sight of it. He pushed the feeling away as the gate opened slightly and half of a Maxilos answered from behind it.

"Do you have business with the Last Toa, the Voice's Body?"

Stupid titles.

"Yes, you dumb machine. I work here."

The Maxilos stood there for a moment staring down at Hashei. The Matoran wasn't sure if it was processing what he'd just said, or taking offense at being called dumb. He was pretty sure they didn't have feelings.

"Hashei. Ta-Matoran. Chronicler of Truth and only the Truth. Enter."

If by 'truth,' you mean, 'whatever lies Arrec wants me to tell the island's cities this time.' He half-nodded to the Maxilos as it backed away from the gate and opened it fully. Arrec wasn't sitting at his throne made of--Hashei had to hold down his lunch for a moment--the bodies of dead Toa. He pretended he couldn't notice limbs poking out of it and hands reaching for help that wasn't there. According to what Arrec had told him, the Unseen Voice's influence was strongest near him, and that it could detect a being's thoughts and intentions. He wasn't sure if that was true, but nonetheless Hashei cleared his mind and kept any disparaging thoughts away as he passed by the gruesome scene and walked across the hallway behind it, leading out to the balcony which currently sat under a starry night sky that would have been beautiful, had something terrible not been leaning over the railing at that moment awaiting him, looking out over a stolen land. "Dear chronicler," the Toa of Shadow didn't even turn to face him, "it is good to see you again. I need you to write a decree for me." The Ta-Matoran dug through his knapsack for a tablet to write on. "What do you want me to decree, sir?" he asked, feigning loyalty. Arrec told him, and the chronicler scribbled down the gist of it. "How soon do you want this put up?"

"Tonight. So that in the morning my people will see it and know: I do not tolerate pretenders."

"Yes, sir."

Hashei looked down at his tablet.

BY DECREE OF HIS BELOVED, THE LAST TOA, AND THE VOICE'S BODY

ANY CITIZEN WITH THE MEANS OR INTENTION TO BECOME A "TOA" WILL BE EXECUTED WITH NO TRIAL. IF YOU KNOW A FRIEND OR COWORKER WHO HAS BEEN ACTING SUSPICIOUSLY, REPORT TO YOUR NEAREST MAXILOS

ARREC HAS SPOKEN. MAY THE VOICE'S WISDOM BE PRAISED.


...

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Edited by King of Kings

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CHAPTER FOUR


"Are we good now?"

Gehad leaned up against the collapsed remains of a metal hut, covering up the Toa Stone with his hands, small beams of light escaping out of the space between his fingers. He watched as Izel, out of breath, caught up to him and doubled over with his hands on his knees. "Once those things start tracking you they don't stop," the Ga-Matoran said between breaths, "they don't need to recharge or anything; they can just keep going." He walked over and leaned against the same hut and slowly slid to the ground, resting in a seated position by his friend. "I think we lost them, but it won't be for long."

Gehad sighed and removed a hand from the stone to tap the chin of his Hau. "They know what we have," he began, before he stepped away from Izel and began pacing, holding the Toa Stone out in front of him and staring down at it. "And because of that," he continued, "they aren't going to just drop the search. Arrec doesn't leave loose ends. If he did, there'd still be other warriors like him on Kara-Nui. Like...like..." He paused and looked closer at the stone, remembering the name engraved on it. "Like who?" Izel asked. The Po-Matoran looked towards Ko-Kara, the icy peaks of the mountains encircling the city barely visible from there.

"Son of a piraka."

~~~

Hashei handed the tablet with the decree off to another Matoran with the poor fortune of having to work under Arrec, and returned to his quarters. By morning the message would be displayed in every city and everyone would have a new reason to be afraid of the Toa of Shadow. He wondered if it would start witch hunts; neighbor after neighbor turning on eachother to gain favor with Arrec or just survive. He hated the thought, but knew there was nothing he could do. Was there?

He hung his knapsack up and sat down on his bed. The small room was definitely never intended as a living space, and he had concluded the first time he saw it that His Highness had moved him into a closet. Shelves of past events were tightly packed into a corner next to a Matoran-sized desk that was currently sitting right against the end of the bed. He had to fight to ensure the records he'd kept for so long weren't destroyed after he was brought to the tower, as in Arrec's eyes they were heretical to his rule, and made the excuse that he was only keeping them so they could be rewritten as propaganda: replacing the Toa Kara's stunning escapades and heroism with a falsified tale of how the Toa of Shadow had come to the island as its "savior." A lie, but it worked.

Truthfully, he remembered well the day Arrec showed up--seemingly out of thin air--wearing gold armor that seemed to glitter in the sunlight. How he seemed less to walk from place to place than float, how when he was nearby everyone's conversations were reduced to hushed whispers. It was only when they had settled in to him being there, firmly believing he was some kind of deity who would bring them out of dark days that he repaid their love with violence. Nothing chilled Hashei more than remembering what it was like to watch that gold armor shift like a living animal into shades of gunmetal and the smooth edges morphing into knife-like protrusions, and Arrec's mask...

...he winced and tried to think of other things. He decided to sleep. Maybe tomorrow would be better, he told himself.

His eyes flickered, and then shut as he drifted off.

The dreams came.

~~~

Out of many, one.

You are a drop in the ocean, Little One. You are not alone. But when the Truth comes...

...will you face it, or become like the others?


...

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CHAPTER FIVE


Hashei awoke with a start. At first he thought it might be morning, but a quick glance out his (tiny for the space) window and seeing stars stare back at him between the skyscrapers of Kara-Nui's hub told the truth. He let out a deep sigh and looked down at his shaking hands. Another one of those dreams. Maybe they were visions. He was, after all, a chronicler, and that job did tend to carry an air of...something. He couldn't find the word, his head was fuzzy. He tried to recall the details and grabbed a small journal out from under his pillow, the images already fading from his mind. Phrases that started to lose their words, scrambling apart. One. Truth. One Truth? No, that wasn't it.

He looked over previous pages. They looked like the ravings of a madman. He'd encircled all the important things. Recurring imagery of a figure, perhaps the one speaking the words to him. A feeling of unease. The word 'truth' always coming up. He was no closer to an answer, but it all had to mean something, didn't it? Like a sweet whisper, something from the dream returned to him. A voice like silk.

You are a drop in the ocean.

He looked back to the stars outside. Maybe that ocean wasn't one of water, but something else. Something less knowable. Part of him worried it was the effects of that blasted Unseen Voice, trying to infiltrate his mind and sway him to Arrec's side. For some reason, when he thought about it, a new word came to him: Vorosha, but he didn't remember hearing it in the dream. Unfamiliar. Not Matoran. Another entry for the journal, he supposed. He started writing again, but a commotion outside his room and vibrations like an earthquake caught his attention, causing a couple items to fall from his shelf. He set his things aside and went to his door. For a moment, he stood there and debated if he should open it, but something told him he had to--like a hand taking his own and forcing it onto the handle. He opened the door a crack and quickly shut it, turning on his heel and slamming his back against it.

There was something very large, and very green, currently walking through the tower. Through, meaning, like it wasn't even there. Tearing through its walls. Hashei slid down the door into a slump.

Mata Nui wept.

~~~

Arrec paced the room, a part of the tower once used for training by the Toa Kara, dummies representing dissenting Matoran or types of rahi still scattered about. He was getting impatient. No word yet that any Matoran with Toa Stones had fallen to his machines. Surely it wasn't that hard to kill beings like that, was it? He struck a dummy in the shape of a gray Matoran wearing a noble Huna, causing it to fall over. Maybe he should have left his tower and done it himself. (He knew the island better, anyhow.) His thoughts were interrupted by the floor shaking violently. Arrec! the Voice spoke into his mind, There is something in the tower. The envoy wanted to respond sarcastically to his master stating the obvious but the floor shook again, this time more violently, and the ground beneath Arrec was shattered apart. He fell and landed on his back in a pile of rubble, in the center of the tower's main hall, his staff and other items laying beside him, dummies and equipment from upstairs surrounding him. Something large stomped near him and flung a Maxilos into a nearby wall, and the machine shattered to pieces. Matoran were scattering around him, running for the nearest exits. The Toa of Shadow's audio receptors were ringing as he slowly got up, the scrambled noise of the other Maxilos speaking to eachother and their opponent roaring coming into focus. He soon realized the tower's attacker wasn't roaring at all, as what it was saying became clearer above the cacophony of destruction.

"WHERE IS HE?"

The large green figure crushed another robot beneath its claws. "WHERE IS THE TOA?" its voice boomed across the damaged halls of the tower. Arrec got to his feet and retrieved his staff. A Tahtorak had invaded the city. He remembered Hashei's records saying a horde of the beasts had invaded the island hundreds of years ago, but the Toa Kara stopped them. Apparently one didn't take. The massive rahi picked up a Maxilos in its jaws and bit down on it, separating it into two pieces that fell right at Arrec's feet. "You seek a Toa?" he asked as loud as he could over the chaos, "I am this island's only Toa." The Tahtorak paused its rampage to look down on him and narrow its eyes. It studied him for a moment, before huffing and saying, "Wrong Toa." It turned and swiped its tail through a couple rooms towards Arrec, who deftly dodged it by leaping in the air and focusing his power through his weapon, sending a black and red bolt of shadow out and striking the beast in its side. It roared out in pain. "Wrong Toa, but yet you fight back? I will devour you for getting in my way." The Toa of Shadow landed and turned to a Maxilos--one of his own guards--standing nearby. "Evacuate the tower, the Matoran who work here are of no use to me dead. Especially the Chronicler, Hashei. I want double the guards escorting him."

The Maxilos saluted and motioned for a pair of its kind to follow it before exiting. Arrec turned his attention back to the Tahtorak. "Let us play then, monster. I think I'll mount your head in my quarters, right next to Toa Mir's hatchet." The rahi's red eyes seemed to glow brighter at the mention of that name. "You know the Toa I seek? Perhaps I will leave you just enough alive to tell me where he is, and then bite your head off."

Mir had been the Kara's Toa of Stone, and the one who killed the most Tahtorak when they first invaded the island. Truthfully, Arrec didn't know what happened to him after that. He had acquired his Toa tool from somewhere else--Mir himself had been long missing before he terminated the remaining Kara. But that was beside the point, he now understood why this rahi was here, and why it was ruining his gorgeous tower. He pointed his staff at the Tahtorak. "You have trespassed. I can only imagine what the rest of my city looks like at the moment. There is no 'perhaps,' you animal," he said, twirling his weapon for added effect and changing to a battle-ready stance, "I will kill you. When Toa Arrec makes a promise, he keeps it." The Tahtorak huffed again and then roared at him, its jaws inches away from Arrec's Kanohi. It raised its claw and swung at him, only to feel air as wisps of shadow slipped through its fingers. The Toa was gone. Confused, the rahi immediately studied the room. "Trickery! You are not clever, warrior."

"No trickery," Arrec's voice came from behind the Tahtorak. He reappeared on its back out of a cloud of darkness and drove his staff into it. The sound the beast made must've echoed across the entire island, perhaps even past it. It shook its body, causing Arrec to lose balance and fall off its back. In a panic it charged forward into a pillar and another part of the upper floor came down on its head, bringing with it a Matoran and two Maxilos. The two robots quickly got up and ran to Arrec to assist him, despite one of them having lost its arm under rubble, while the Matoran simply lay unmoving. The Toa of Shadow was leaning against a pillar setting things back into place. For a moment it seemed the Tahtorak was finished, until it lifted its head. The rubble slid off and the body of the Matoran rolled onto the floor, drawing its attention for a short moment. It blinked and tilted its head quizzically, before snapping down and...well, Arrec was too preoccupied with retrieving his tool to watch it eat someone. He ordered the two Maxilos to use their stun rifles on the creature (causing a confused reaction from the one missing its arm) and pulled his arm back before launching his staff like a javelin at the Tahtorak, shadow energy crackling off of it. It turned to face them, bits of armor falling out of its jaws as two stun shots hit it causing it to pause, right before Arrec's staff hit its mark on the side of the beast's head and it cried out as a burst of shadow exploded inside its skull. The Tahtorak clawed at its wound in vain before letting out one last strained cry and collapsing.

Dragon: dead. And the shadowy knight felt nothing staring at its corpse in the middle of the tower. He regarded it like a pest that had been taken care of.

Arrec groaned as the adrenaline died down and he could feel everything that hurt in his body. He would have to retire to his quarters so the Voice could repair him. He ordered the surviving Maxilos units available to begin clean-up and find any workers who may have hidden away during the attack, and walked through the new archway the creature had created through its trail of destruction outside the main hall, to a large Tahtorak-shaped hole in the wall to see the sun rising over a trampled city. He cursed under his breath. Matoran were running back and forth to help their fellow man, clearing out rubble and digging for survivors. It was ironic, in a way, that the largest attack the island had faced since Arrec took power was not from some revolutionaries trying to overthrow him, but a beast with a vengeance for a missing man. A beast that couldn't use doors. Oddly, it seemed the damage began close to the tower, and he knew there had been no warning signs of the creature before it entered. It was as if it had just...manifested.

He returned inside. Hashei had new material to write.

...

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Edited by King of Kings

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