One Thousand Years Prior.....The sky was weeping. In the distant layers of the heavens, top-heavy clouds broiled with moisture and emptied pales upon pales of water to batter the streets of the Great City. The horizon was but a receding memory now, the entire sky gripped in the vice of a single, homogeneous grey mass that bore over Metru Nui like a ghost. The streets were vacant because Matoran were afraid to go out in the wild humidity or the fusillade of raindrops angrily pelting the protocrete. Not even those Ko-Matoran used to mists or Ga-Matoran accustomed to rain dared to creep out of their dwellings......Inside the Coliseum, the situation was no less dull. The Toa Nuva rested in their quarters, each of their normally flagrant personalities worn down into states of apathy with the depressing scene playing outside the window. The only one whose spirits didn't seem to be affected was Kopaka, but that was perhaps due to the fact that the coldness they all felt right now was something he'd long adopted as a lifestyle......"This is dismal," Onua finally said, nervously tapping a crystal fossil in his hands......"Your analytical finesse never ceases to astound me, brother," Kopaka shot. He stood at the edge of the room, distancing himself from the rest of the group. "Do tell me, is the colour of the sky still blue? Such trivial facts elude my grasp without your constant relaying of them.".....Onua glared at his icy brother, but before he could speak, Pohatu cut him off. "I'd say it's grey right now," the Toa of Stone intervened, ignoring the sarcasm in the voice of the Toa of Ice. "Bordering on black.".....In the corner of the room, crunching on a madu fruit, Lewa shook his head. "I don't heartlike the moodfeel of this. Makuta is defeated, so why do sorrowbad darkclouds continue to covershroud us?"....."It's just the weather," Gali stipulated. "It's allowed to rain, you know. Just because the Dark Spirit no longer commands the skies, that doesn't necessarily amount to immediate sunshine and brilliant blue afternoons. The world still has to follow its seasons.".....Onua set the fossil down, treating it with care as though he might disturb the stone-encased stasis the rahi inside was experiencing......"Still, it's hard to celebrate the rejuvenation of the earth when it doesn't give us anything that we could ascribe to such," he said. "After everything we've been through to save this world, the least it can do in return is give us a little sunshine.".....Lewa stammered his agreement around a mouthful of fruit, while Kopaka said nothing and Pohatu offered a small "amen." Gali remained silent, and she cautiously glanced to where their Fire brother was sitting. A grim look gripped the Toa's mask, and he stared pensively out the rain-spattered window. The Toa of Air quickly noticed where Gali's gaze had strayed to and he too cast a look at Tahu. "Firespitter, what's your quicktake on the sky getting all emotional on us?".....Tahu looked up, a light returning to his eyes as if he had woken from a daydream. It did not take long for reality to set in and solemnity retook his expression, whereupon he lifted himself from his chair and growled, "Scores of Matoran have died, battles fought and after a history of violence stretching into the youth of the world itself, you five are going to sit around and argue about the weather?".....He glared at every one of them before stamping out of the room......A soft whistle. "What crawled up his mask?" asked Lewa......"The hothead has a point," Onua said. Across the room, Kopaka scoffed. "Why am I not surprised to find you agreeing with him, Onua? After all, together the two of you comprise the bulk of the intellect in our little assemblage here, don't you?".....The Toa of Earth rose stiffly to his feet, as if issuing a challenge to his brother. The two locked eyes for a long moment, before Onua exhaled heavily and followed Tahu's suit, storming out of the room. Gali sighed in the corner, not even bothering to get angry at this point......"Have I ever told you how much of a charmer you are, Kopaka?" Lewa chided, before standing up to leave too. "You must be a hoot at parties."....."I'm with airhead here," Pohatu agreed, hauling himself upright and coming up alongside the Toa of Air. There was no air of animosity about the two Toa, only a conceded disenchantment with their brother. They walked out. The only Toa now remnant in the room were those of Water and Ice, on opposite sides of the chamber, equally silent. The silence was not natural this time, but tense. Diffidently, Kopaka looked over to the Toa of Water. "Gali, you know I didn't mean it like that..."....."Save it," she said before leaving......Toa Tahu paced, and he mused. He would be a liar to claim that the melancholic state of the weather outside was not affecting him as much as it was the other Toa. He would not admit it though, lest he be faced with the same shame he'd lashed them with earlier. But it wasn't just that. There were other things apart from the rain that occupied his mind. Dark images that crept in the fringes of his thoughts and caused him to freeze, stricken by fear. He told himself that he dreaded that the mission would not end, that the Makuta would continue to elude their efforts until the world fell into dissolution and they hunted him until the end of their days. But somewhere inside he knew that wasn't his greatest fear. His greatest fear was that the mission would end, that the world would be restored to peace, and there would be nowhere for him to go. No ends to strive for, no duty to exact, and no destiny to fulfil. No purpose. He feared succeeding over the evil that plagued these lands......He feared Paradise......In a very frightening and perverse way, Tahu felt keenly certain that without the Makuta to challenge, he was incomplete. And he hated that. It pervaded him with revulsion for himself, guilt that he felt more at ease handling the darkest soul existent than in the company of his brothers. Maybe Kopaka was right. Maybe the flame inside had melted away all traces of reason within him......He came to a door. One sharp rap on its sturdy frame. He stood there, treading from side to side, twiddling his fingers. Another rap. Seconds after his knock the knob slid sideward and the door came open. Through the gap, he could see naught but darkness, broken by the inconstant light of a fire. He smelled no smoke, and knew this must be the work of a firestone. Orange luminescence cast Vakama's frame in stark relief......"Turaga. May I come in?"....."Always," Vakama said. He stepped out of the threshold and held the door open wide. Tahu had to kneel down to enter; these halls were not designed for beings the size of Toa. The room inside was cosy, the fire crackling from a welcoming hearth and copper masks and amulets gleaming on the walls. The windows were shuttered to the storm so that he could barely hear the rainfall or the thunderclaps. This truly was a sanctuary in and of itself......"Please, sit," the Turaga said. As ever, his voice was patient and paternal. It coaxed forth confidence without insisting upon it. "What is troubling you, my son?".....Tahu lowered himself stiffly into one of the seats, revelling at the comfort of the rahi hides. Even so, he could not bring himself to relax fully......"It's the Makuta," he divulged. His voice was low and embarrassed. "We have not received a threat for nigh a drift now and the elements no longer act against their masters. The Matoran have every reason to rejoice, as do we, the Toa."....."But?"....."But I can't bring myself to feel jubilant. Mata Nui has yet to emerge. I fear for His absence and for the fate of us all if circumstances return to what they were.".....Something flickered in the eyes of the Turaga, a brief recall of those trying times on the island above the sky when the Matoran anguished under Makuta's torment......"There is a blight in my heart that I cannot seem to rid myself of. Heal me, Turaga. Purge my doubt. It is the seedling of the Makuta, surely.".....A long sigh escaped the lips of the Turaga. He strode over to the side of the chamber, ran a keratin spoon through a brewing pot of tea. The herbal fragrance perfused the room. Over the hypnotic sound of the spoon clattering against pottery, Vakama spoke softly, "To my regret, Tahu, that is one thing I cannot do. The shadow of doubt lingers in the hearts of all beings, no matter how noble, and it evades even my ability.".....He withdrew the spoon from the pot and tapped it on the rim. Pouring two cups of the steaming beverage, he handed one to the Toa. "However, I can tell you this. Your sorrow is not without reason.".....A frown creased Tahu's ordinarily handsome features as he sipped the tea. The hot drink soothed some of the anxiety that bubbled within him. "Tell me honest, Turaga. Does the Makuta still live?".....Vakama sat. Oddly, he did not turn to meet to eyes of his protégé. Rather, he peered into the flame. Flickering firelight concealed the paleness that was seeping into his mask......"The Makuta will always live, Tahu. Mayhap not here, mayhap not now, and lo not a thousand years from now. But it is the resilience of darkness from which he sprung, and through the resilience of darkness through which he will timelessly persist. However, do not fret. It is through your actions and those of your brothers that none will ever have to face his wrath manifest again......"From this day, the Makuta will no longer be in the stars, or in the waves, or in the beasts or the hideouts. His only resting place," he tapped his heartlight, "is here. And some may say that it is there where he is more dangerous than any elsewhere.".....Tahu sniffed. He sipped his tea, confounded by the impossibility of his Turaga. "You speak in riddles, Wise One. If the Makuta no longer reigns, why then is my sorrow justified?".....It was at length that he received no reply. Pink eyes darted through the fire and suspicion curled the Hau brandished upon the Toa's face. "What aren't you telling me, Turaga?".....His question hung in the air. The crackling of the fire became the dominant sound in the room, but its flames were nothing to fill the hollow chill that reflected off these walls. Vakama expelled a deep sigh and his tense posture slackened, indicating that he would forfeit his nagging thoughts to Tahu. He drank before he spoke, groping for the right words to say. "Dume, myself, and the others have been discussing ever since Makuta vanished. We pondered the Great Thoughts, and what we found was ... unpleasant."....."Do share," the Toa of Fire leaned in to his advantage. The discs had turned......"I fear what I tell you in this chamber, you may wish you never learned.".....Choler rose in his voice now. "I am the leader of the Toa Nuva. This world's totality is indebted to our quests. I have a right to know whatever it is that can disturb the likes of one such as you.".....Vakama realised that he was defeated at this point. The look on his mask was sullen. He hesitated to meet the warrior's eye, leaning decrepitly on his firestaff and examining the runes scattered about his chamber. "Things are not well in Paradise.".....Tahu frowned. "But that is the place of the Great Spirit's slumber. What could be wrong?".....Vakama tapped his firestaff on the ground and faced the fire pit, a tic he had adopted before performing a tale. But there was no vigour in his motions now, stiff and perfunctory they were, and he went through the routine in hopes it would set his nerves at ease. "The Wall of Stars is fraying. Mata Nui is awake, but His spirit no longer runs through this world."....."Where then?" Tahu demanded. "I shall rally the Toa Nuva and we shall go and bring Him back ourselves."....."A place much like this one," was the answer, cryptic as expected. "It is not the place of the Toa to transcend this world. Your strength will too fail if His absence is prolonged.".....Tahu muttered under his breath. "Those places Takanuva spoke of, perhaps?".....The Turaga shook his head. "No. The Great Spirit is still within this realm, but not this world. Above the sky, where our island home once was, He is driving a harbinger land to deliver us to the haven we were once promised.".....Such words caused Tahu's breath to catch, and the Toa recoiled, before chuckling elatedly. "That's terrific! He's coming back to save us! After the carnage this world has endured, we are finally reaching what we always dreamed of ... why, then, are your humours damped?".....The eyes of all the races under Mata Nui were meant to glow with natural brightness, a feature innately inspired by the hope that the Great Spirit embodied. But there was nothing natural or bright about Vakama's eyes when they met those of Tahu. When the Turaga spoke, it sounded as though his lungs had shrivelled and his vocal conduits had fried, his words seemingly emanating from a thousand mio away and a hundred years in the past......"For Mata Nui to save us," he intoned, "this world must end.".....Tahu retired to his quarters with a heavy heartlight and a sour frame of mind. He collapsed onto his bed, rubbing at his eyes and breathing hoarsely. From his disposition, one might assume that he had just run the length of Le-Metru and back again, but it was not physical strain that fatigued him, but something deeper than that. The implications of his discussion with the Turaga rang inside his cranium like kolhii balls in a magnetic dome. After all they had achieved in order to resurrect this world, now it was fated to end – and at the hands of their very own Great Spirit, no less? It was too much to fathom......"Trust in Him.".....Echoes of those words played in his mind, seeding through his thoughts from a place where the very foundations of his psyche arose. They came in the soft, ancient voice of Turaga Vakama, from a time when he and his brothers were first roused on the island of Mata Nui. "Invest your faith in the Great Spirit, and all things will be granted. In time.".....In time. Yes. But just how much time was left?.....With this notion burdening him, Tahu fell uneasily into slumber. Even in his sleep, his mind was plagued with nightmarish creatures, the embodiments of his fear and his doubt. In his mind's eye, he stood on the peak of a mountain. Behind him was the throat of the torrid Mangai volcano, and before him were the rolling hills of Ko-Wahi. Only these hills were no longer resplendent with dainty tops of snow and ice, but rugged and bare hunks of brown rock that seemed to crawl with insects. Upon further scrutiny, Tahu realised that those were not insects. They were Bohrok......A steady incantation rose up from the crawling mountains. It was not the usual chant of the Bohrok, nor was it even delivered in their hollow, mechanical voices. Rather, it was the voice of the Makuta, amplified and distributed among a thousand vessels, rising up in a steady vibrato to pierce the skies. It said:....."Your time has come, little Toa."....."My brother will avenge me."....."And you?"....."You shall perish.".....Tahu's throes rocked the reality of the dream state, but nothing he did would prevent the Bohrok from enclosing on him. He let out a funnel of fire to ward off the insectlike mechanoids, but after blasting a few of them to burnt piles of skittering metal, his power tapered out and the incendiary potential would no longer respond to him. One by one, the Bohrok piled closer until they were everywhere, swarming, buzzing, swallowing him in an enormous mound, just as hoto bugs devour a cadaver......"Your time has come—"....."Brother will avenge—"....."Will perish—".....He screamed and shut his eyes. For what felt like eternity, everything went still. Hapless in the confines of his own mind, he was certain he must now be dead. Slowly, experimentally, he removed his hands from in front of his face, awing that there was room for his arms without clattering against a Bohrok shell. One eye pried open. White light seared his retinas, and Tahu recoiled at the intensity of it. Little by little, he opened both eyes fully, allowing them to adjust to the unyielding brilliance. All around him was an amorphous realm of white. It lacked the definition of a ground, a sky, a horizon. He could not tell which way was up and which was down, or if gravity were even working as it should. The vast, shapeless void caused him to cringe......"Hello, Tahu.".....Unlike the serpentine pitch of the Makuta, this was a deep and regal tone, as though it were drawn from the mouth of one of those noble heroes of old that Vakama would often speak about. Tahu turned, his steps clumsy, as he had no visual reference of where to move his feet. Finally orientating himself to face the speaker, he saw what was almost a mirror image standing before him. Only it was not a reflection – it was an entirely separate being, in a refined and casual stance converse to Tahu's own jittery demeanour, a being who only happened to resemble the Toa of Fire in physical build and facial chisel......This being's armour was the exact same make and model of Tahu's, but shaded brown and awhirl with the mottled patterns of organic sediment. It speckled too. Not like the rhinestone speckles Tahu had seen embedded in some rahi shells, but with an intrinsic shimmer that made it appear as though the strata of this figure's armour housed stardust. A smile rose on the mask of this curious figure. He had noticed Tahu's gawking......"Who?" the Toa of Fire breathed incredulously......"Now, Tahu. Have you learned nothing in all your years, the folly of asking needless questions?".....The booming voice came less from the movements of the being's mouth and more from the whiteness all around. Tahu faltered for breath. He stumbled away, in fearful wonder of the majesty embodied before him. "It can't be."....."Search your heart, Tahu. You know it to be true."....."No..." the Toa of Fire was on the verge of hyperventilation. "This isn't real. You're just a figment of my imagination. Nothing more.".....A saddened frown settled on the figure's face. He rose up one brown, sparkling arm, and snapped his fingers. The snap echoed as a thunderclap, and beneath their feet, the whiteness dispersed into an aerial view of Metru Nui. The buzz of the streets far below cascaded into their vantage point in the heavens, and frigid winds blew through the high atmosphere. As a Toa of Fire, he was unaffected by the nip of the sharp air. The enormous height still made him dizzy though, despite the invisible floor that separated him and a plummet to certain death......"Is that not real?" the figure demanded, pointing down to the city. Again his arms opened and the whiteness above them evaporated in an explosion of stars and nebulae, like those Tahu had once seen over Mata Nui but a thousand times more vivid, nursed among fractal clouds of colour and distance. "Are those not real?".....No longer could he support himself. Knees buckling, Tahu collapsed to the floor, perilously close to becoming a whimpering wreck. When he spoke, his voice was low and wistful. "Mata Nui... is that you?".....The figure smiled. "You were created in my image, Tahu. I can't imagine why it would be so hard to recognise your own reflection."....."Forgive me," he pleaded......Mata Nui dismissively waved His hand. "Grovel not. That is what the Makuta would have you do. To your feet, my son.".....Obediently, Tahu scrambled to his feet. He surveyed the vastness around him. Below, Metru Nui seemed a hairbreadth away in comparison to the inconceivable expanse separating him and the cosmic bodies overhead. Both images, above and beneath him, were so incredibly departed from each other that it caused his mind to pain. He focused his gaze back to Mata Nui, a central point he could stare at without having his head invert itself struggling to accommodate the impossible dimensions around him......"What Vakama said ... is it true?".....The Great Spirit nodded, solemnity weighing down on His regal countenance. "The world you know was never meant to last, Tahu. You must understand this."....."But," his voice became akin to the whine of a petulant child, "we are your people! Everything we have ever strived for in life, we have done so in your name. You can't abandon us! What about the virtues? Unity? Duty? Destiny?".....Tahu's agony was audible. Even the Great Spirit could not conceal His empathy for the yowling Toa, but even still, His stance did not waver. "You have fulfilled your duty well, and all under your mantle have made me proud. Unity is still being worked toward, but on a scale you cannot yet comprehend. As for destiny ... it was never your destiny to live forever."....."Not me, you clod!" Tahu roared. In his anger, he forgot that he was throwing names at the Great Spirit Himself. In this moment, he did not care. "Them! The Matoran! You can't just kill them!"....."It is the way of things," Mata Nui said, like a teacher instructing a youngling the basic tidings of night and day. "It must be.".....Hot tears streamed down Tahu's face. His anger swiftly burned out and was replaced with aching defeat. "Then what's the point anyway?" his voice was teetering on losing its coherence. "Why tell me?"....."You were made in my image, Tahu. It is you who are the keeper of this world. Not the Makuta, nor Tren Krom, nor Artakha and Karzahni. You alone must provide your assent before I return this world to the dust it was before even my inception.".....Tahu bit back his tears but the sniffles were wracking his body with continual convulsions. He glared at his Great Spirit. "And if I refuse?"....."You will not," Mata Nui said it as though it were a fact. Coming from His mouth, it might as well have been. "It is destiny.".....At his side, the Toa of Fire's hands clenched into fists. His eyes had all but dried out, his cheeks damp with only the memory of tears. Slowly, his breathing regulated to what it had been. Choosing his next words carefully, he looked at his feet and regarded the oblivious Matoran, way down below, smaller than grains of sand from where he stood......"Then this day, I defy destiny.".....Mata Nui nodded. If He were surprised, He did not show it. "Very well," He said grimly. "You have chosen your fate, Tahu. Now you must exact it, and pray that you made the right decision."....."Pray?" Tahu echoed, his voice taut. "To who?".....The Great Spirit did not respond. Rather, He took a step back and His body erupted in a cloud of ashes that swirled out of existence. Overhead, the nebulae hurtled back into sparkles in the space of a second and Metru Nui rushed up to meet Tahu like a field of spikes. He did not have time to fret, for the vertigo was too much. When it hit him, it was so great that as soon as things began to spiral out around him, his body shuddered and imploded into a defiant comatose state. Rather than ridding him of consciousness, however, it suddenly woke him, and he found himself standing in a chamber in the sublevels of the Coliseum. It was the dark of night. He knew this because rather than a domed wall and ceiling around him, there was an endless slope of debris that careened out toward the horizon in shattered bits of metal, compiled beams and shredded wood furnishings among other expanses of rubbish. Above him, where an enormous tower ought to soar hundreds of bio above him, there was only empty sky, navy blue and shot with glinting white stars. The Coliseum has fallen, he realised......Then Tahu looked before him...
Click here for the second half of the story.
Edited by Kagha, Apr 04 2012 - 12:45 AM.