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Fate Of Yrenta


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#1 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Mar 27 2012 - 11:19 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter One

 

==Off the Coast of the Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

 

The silver waters of the sea rolled gently, then churned in the wake of a small boat as it passed. In the boat were four old and very tired heroes. They had been called “war heroes” but truly, none of them felt they belonged in war. They had lost two teammates, friends they had known for thousands of years, and that was good fortune compared to the fate some other teams had met. Since the very first day they had arrived, they had seen more horrible things than they had seen all through their long careers back home. But now that war was over, and home was the destination of the four survivors.

 

Tanu, Toa of Plasma and leader of the team, looked ahead from the vessel's bow. The outline of the Northern Continent was barely visible on their starboard side. It was on that landmass that their homeland, Yrenta, was, but they had to sail around the unfamiliar territory to dock in the coastal village where their home's Ga-Matoran lived. As Tanu turned his head to stare longingly at the distant land, he gave a small smile under his orange Kanohi.

 

Suddenly, the boat lurched and he lost his balance. Leaning backwards into the boat, to not fall overboard, he grabbed a piece of rigging with his left arm. That was the arm that had been injured, and it would never look the same again. Where a large, stylized piece of orange armor had once protected his upper arm and shoulder, now there was a small, plain piece of white armor with some exposed pistons. Tanu wasn't the vain type, so it wasn't the odd appearance that bothered him, or even the fact that his arm was slightly less protected. The replaced armor got his attention because it was a reminder of the war. It was not nearly as big a reminder as the absence of Ilikia and Gareki, but it was a reminder of the dark path Tanu had nearly gone down after Ilikia's death. He stared at his arm for a long time.

 

At the helm, Vesai, Toa of Water, gestured apologetically at Tanu. She had moved the boat into a current more suddenly than she had meant, with no warning, causing the jolt. But the Toa of Plasma wasn't paying attention. Apparently he had spaced out again, lost in memories of the war. He wasn't the only one. Toa Vesai had made the slight miscalculation because she was deep in thought, too. Vesai had always been gentle and peaceful at heart. She had been a merchant, however, and sometimes had to travel to dangerous places. One day, she was badly injured. After recovering, she had taken to carrying a shield and a Rhotuka launcher to protect herself. But she never killed anything. Even after becoming a Toa, she still tried to act as gently as she could.

 

She didn't have such liberties in war. If she had been soft on the Dark Hunters, she just would have been killed. So she, along with a hundred other Toa, had been force to use their powers' great destructive potentials. Many warriors drowned before her. Some had holes blasted in them by high-pressure bolts of water. It wasn't something Vesai liked to remember. But the memories wouldn't go away. Vesai had hope that comfort would come soon, however. The Matoran would rejoice at their return, and Turaga Varlokka would sooth their perturbed minds. The Toa of Water looked down from the helm upon her friends Morok and Siok and relaxed.

 

Siok was lying on a bench in the boat's midsection, not asleep, merely resting his sore muscles, which had recently regrown after he had been terribly injured. He was very grateful to have lived, and now he had the company of his friends. Morok was sitting next to him and talking quietly of the sweet things at home they dearly missed, the things they would soon see again. There were forests and jungles and mountains, wild Rahi to watch scurrying around, and old Matoran friends to assist and protect as they labored. Siok listened and pictured such happy images.

 

But he was serious by nature and often quite dour. The universe had nearly suffered a disaster. And though the war had been won, so many Toa had died. Toa weren't the only victims, either. Several Matoran had been killed, and their city had suffered greatly. And there were the Dark Hunters. They brought it on themselves, it was true, but they were living beings all the same. Toa should never be proud of killing, and always strive for non-violence. That was what Turaga Varlokka had taught Siok and his teammates. But it was over now, thankfully. Siok dearly hoped he would never have to leave his home again. He knew his three companions were thinking the same thing.

 

Though to Siok, Morok seemed at peace, in truth the Toa of the Green's mind was swirling madly. He was doing his best to calm it by talking aloud of the wonders of home. For millennia, he had been worried about using his strength responsibly, even before he had become a Toa. There were plenty of times he felt he had been overzealous or careless, and he felt great shame about each time. He was sure he had been on the right side in the war. The Dark Hunters were villains, that was perfectly clear. But there had been such violence. Warriors on both sides had been maimed, crippled, dismembered, disintegrated, and worse. It was almost too much for Morok to take. Back home, he never had to fight so fiercely. Morok put his head in his hands and sighed. Soon he would be at peace in his warm, green jungle home.

 

Indeed, within a few hours the four Toa could see the coastline of Yrenta. But their journey home was not to be as blissful as they hoped. Just as they were sure their destination was directly ahead, beyond the silver waves, another jolt rocked the boat, this one far stronger than the last one. Still standing at the bow, Tanu yet again nearly fell overboard. As his head leaned over the water, he was the first to see the creatures moving below.

 

“There's something down there! Something hostile!” he called, just as the boat rocked again. Then the waters were gentle and quiet. Mentally reaching out, Tanu attempted to summon his Mask of Sensory Aptitude from the Ce-Suva, where he had left it before going off to war. Next to his Mask of Emulation, it was his favorite Kanohi, and its powers would quickly help him discover what was harassing them. But oddly, nothing happened. He felt no sensation on his face, saw no glow as one mask was replaced with another. Something was wrong. Even far off on Metru Nui, he had been able to summon his other masks. But now it wasn't working.

 

Before Tanu could mention that to the other Toa, another jolt came. Morok saw a flash of black and purple armor over the side. Pushing past his weariness, he concentrated and vines burst forth from the end of his staff. The plants plunged underwater, and Morok felt them wrap around something. Before the entrapped entity could fight back, the vines dragged it up above the surface, into the view of the Toa.

 

It was a Rahkshi, but unlike any Rahkshi the Toa had seen. It had a Rahkshi's basic shape, but it was adorned with fins. Its flipper-like feet had propellers on the heels. In the fraction of a second Morok spent deciding what move to make next, the “Makuta-Son” acted. Its armor grew blades that sliced the vines away, then, before it fell into the water, its fins had turned into sleek wings. The Rahkshi hissed as it soared forward through the air, before shrieking and falling into the sea, its white-hot armor turning water to steam.

 

A wave of heat and faint electric tingle was emanating from the tip of Tanu's Plasma Staff. But before anyone could comment on his fast move, the faces of four more aquatic Rahkshi appeared above the water. Vesai let go of the helm and began to manipulate the ocean around her. That, however, distracted her from the next attack. Before anyone could save her, a bolt of lightning struck her. The bolt flowed through her, then redirected itself at Morok, then Siok, then Tanu. The silver Rahkshi that had attacked landed at the back of the boat, Vesai's stunned body at its feet. Before it could finish the helpless Toa of Water, it fell, hitting the deck hard.

 

Siok was standing unsteadily, his hands gripping his Gravity Casters tightly. The other three Toa stood as quickly as they could, their muscles tingling from the electrical shock. The Rahkshi of Chain Lightning rose, too, but not before Vesai surrounded it with a sphere of seawater. The angry Rahkshi attacked again, but this time its electricity flowed harmlessly through the water. At Vesai's command, the sphere of electrified water collapsed inward, and the Rahkshi spasmed as it was shocked by its own power. Meanwhile, Morok and Tanu were holding off the swimming Rahkshi of Adaptation.

 

Morok shouted, and Tanu looked up to see another group of Rahkshi flying towards them. If the Rahkshi made it to the boat, the Toa would be hopelessly overwhelmed. Tanu decided to not give them the chance. One blast of plasma turned an approaching Rahkshi into a molten comet of dripping metal. Another fell into pieces after Morok threw a volley of incredibly sharp and durable leaves at it. With a sweeping motion, Tanu called forth a cloud of plasma that downed another two. A few more were about to make it to the boat, though, and Tanu and Morok couldn't be fast enough to stop them.

 

To the relief of the Toa of Plasma and the Toa of the Green, the remaining Rahkshi in the air suddenly plunged beneath the waves. His hands extended, Siok kept pushing the Rahkshi down until he was sure they would never return to the surface. Meanwhile, Vesai had destroyed the silver Rahkshi, and thrown its crackling Kraata overboard.

 

“Wild Rahkshi have never attacked like this,” said Morok. “What's going on?”

“Something is wrong here,” agreed Tanu, “I can't access masks from the Ce-Suva. We had better – look out!”

 

Tanu shoved his comrades to the deck as a bolt of energy zoomed overhead. Somehow, another group of Rahkshi had gotten the drop on them. Siok cried out and gripped a flying brown Rahkshi in gravitational energy, but it was too late. A bolt of explosive power shot from the Rahkshi's staff, and hit the deck in front of Siok's feet. The Toa of Gravity stumbled backwards as the bottom of the boat exploded in a shower of water, metal, and wood. The Rahkshi struck again, and before the Toa could react, they were each clinging to a different piece of flotsam. Vesai raised her Water Wand and a cyclone of water shot up from the sea, trapping the Rahkshi of Fragmentation and dragging it under.

 

Just then, another silver Rahkshi appeared overhead. Electricity flowed from its staff into the water, shocking all four Toa and causing them to lose the pieces of debris they were clinging to. Morok managed to conjure a large floating plant to support himself and Tanu, and Siok called upon just enough of his gravity powers to allow him to float easily. Under his power, the silver Rahkshi's staff became to heavy to hold, and the reptilian machine dropped it into the sea, where it was lost forever. Vesai plunged her head underwater, and saw five more black and purple aquatic Rahkshi swimming towards her.

 

“More Rahkshi, underwater,” she cried as her head burst above the waves. “Go north, get to the surface.”

“Wait, where are you...” Morok trailed off as Vesai disappeared underwater again. He was about to follow her when the water next to him exploded. He quickly stunned the other Rahkshi of Fragmentation overhead and went to follow Vesai.

 

The Toa of Water was in combat with the five Rahkshi underwater. She spared a moment to send a strong current at Morok, a clear message for him to leave. Morok had never seen gentle, mild Vesai act so firmly to her friends, and he would never see her act such a way again. In the moment Vesai had her head turned, giving her friend a stern stare under her mask, a Rahkshi seized the opportunity and impaled her on its razor-sharp staff.

 

Vesai gasped and sputtered as water entered her lungs. Morok began to cry out but he too spluttered and choked. Tanu and Siok poked their heads underwater to see what was happening, and they too saw the dreadful scene. Vesai fell to her knees and dropped her wand and shield, but then she raised her hands and the water surrounding her began to churn madly. Her three companions could no longer see her or the Rahkshi underwater. Siok looked up, saw more Rahkshi circling overhead, and surfaced again. He tried to drag Morok with him but the Toa of the Green struggled until Siok let go. Tanu reluctantly followed Siok.

 

Morok heard distorted sounds of the battle overhead rippling through the water. He held his breath until the waters stilled and he could see Vesai again. What he saw forced him to exhale. He floated underwater for a moment, staring at what he saw, and finally went to the surface, faint with lack of air and grief. Vesai had been killed. Two more of the Rahkshi were still active down there. He looked up and saw five or six more Rahkshi flying overhead, raining bolts of energy down on the swimming Toa.

 

“Tanu... Siok...” he said sadly as he swam over to his brothers.

“I'm sorry, Morok,” said Tanu. From Morok's expression, he knew what had happened. “We must leave, now, or we will die too.”

“Yes,” said Siok, as he sank a yellow and green Rahkshi. “Now there is one less Toa to protect Yrenta. We must escape.”

 

Morok nodded, but then he submerged again, to take one last look at Vesai's body. A Rahkshi suddenly stuck its frightening black face in front of him, before Morok had some seaweed drag it off. Morok surfaced again, used vines to cause two flying Rahkshi to collide, then he began swimming north to Yrenta's coast. Siok quickly took down the remaining Rahkshi, then he and Tanu joined Morok. Morok slowed to allow them to catch up, then they swam as quickly as they could. Fortunately, no more Rahkshi appeared, and they relaxed.

 

If all three had been exhausted and weary and sad before, now they were much more so. They were on their way home, it was supposed to be happy, easy times, but they had already lost another one of their friends. Before the war, none of them had died. Now half their team was gone. Siok used his gravity powers to allow the current to carry him to shore effortlessly, and Morok summoned another floating plant for himself and Tanu.

 

As the three Toa drifted, so tired they were barely conscious, to the land, they knew that their return home would not be as joyful as they had expected.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 12:52 PM.

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#2 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Mar 29 2012 - 05:05 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Two

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

After the Toa had been drifting for what felt like hours, the waves finally deposited them on a sandy beach. They lay there for a long time. Finally, Tanu got up. Morok did the same, and offered to help Siok rise, but the Toa of Gravity waved him away and stood faster than his companions expected he would be able to.

 

“I... can't believe... I mean, the loss of our friends is no longer new to us,” said Morok slowly, “but... so close to home. And those were no wild Rahkshi. That was a deliberate attempt on our lives. What is happening?”

“I fear something terrible has happened here,” said Siok. “We must ensure the safety of our villagers.”

“There's one more thing,” added Tanu. “Something happened to the Ce-Suva.”

“I remember you mentioned the Ce-Suva, but what do you mean?” asked Morok.

“My Suva was being renovated, so I temporarily relocated some of my masks to the Ce-Suva. But I tried to summon a mask from it just before the fight, and nothing happened. We should investigate. But Siok is right, first we should find the nearest village. That would be the Ga-Koro, correct? Wait – where are we anyway?”

 

The three Toa looked around. The beach they stood on was made of coarse sand. Not far off, tall grass grew. That way must have been north, because they were definitely on the south end of the continent. The beach stretched a long way to the east and west. Siok looked carefully and saw that the coastline far to the west was rocky and impossible to see past. To the east, there was a bleak expanse of wet sand as far as he could see.

 

“We aren't near the water village. I think it would be best if we head inland and look for the village of Sonics,” he said finally.

“Sonics? That village is hidden somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and silent besides,” said Morok. “It might take longer to walk to the village of Water, but at least we can find it. Just walk east along the shore.”

“I've never been here exactly,” said Tanu, “but I've visited the De-Wahi a few times. I think I can find it. Besides, someone seems to want us dead. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an ambush waiting in our expected destination: the water village.”

“Tanu has a good point,” said Siok, nodding.

“I agree,” admitted Morok, “As long as we can find the place.”

 

At that, the three Toa began their northward trek through the grassy plains. The plains stretched on for many kio, but Siok felt good. The exercise was helping his atrophied leg muscles regrow. Soon he would be as strong as his old self. The other Toa were tired and sad, but despite the troubles and tragedies they faced, they also had a great happiness growing in them. If all went well, soon they would be amongst the villagers of their dear homeland.

 

“I haven't seen even one Rahi,” commented Morok, after they had been walking for a few hours. “Not that I wish a Muaka would come and try to eat us, but... it's unsettling.”

“Not to me,” replied Tanu. “It means we're on the right track. The De-Matoran chose where to live carefully. They built their homes far from dangerous or loud Rahi if they can help it. Around their village it's so quiet and open that there's no way for anyone to sneak up on them. Sometimes they even relocate the village, I think they had to do that about twenty-seven thousand four hundred years ago.”

“That's interesting. Seriously,” said Morok honestly, “but I'm... not in the mood for history. I mean, if you know how to get there, great, lead the way.”

 

The Toa resumed their trek silently. They were close now, and before long they could see simple dwellings on the horizon. The De-Matoran would be able to see and hear them coming for a long way off. But just to be polite, Tanu decided to announce his arrival with a shout and a flare of plasma. Just before he did it, however, he realized that would not be a wise action. It was quite possible the Toa were still being hunted. If it was rude to come into the village unannounced, it would be far worse to barge in while being chased by a horde of Rahkshi.

 

“Greetings, Matoran of De-Koro. I, Toa Tanu, have returned, with his comrades Toa Siok and Toa Morok,” he said with a volume and tone that made his announcement seem to be directed at his two friends. The village was still a significant distance away.

“The village is still...” said Morok, confused, then he remembered and lowered his voice, “oh, right, De-Matoran hearing. Sorry.”

 

Soon the three Toa were amongst the De-Matoran huts, and sure enough, the Matoran had been expecting them. Vibrak, the village leader, was waiting for them in the village center. He had been the leader of the Matoran of Sonics since Tanu and Varlokka had founded the system. Before he became a Toa, Tanu had been leader of his village, so he and Vibrak were old acquaintances. Now the Matoran looked relieved to see the Toa, but also quite troubled. He was known for always being vigilant and wary of problems, but now he looked seriously vexed.

 

“Hello, old friend,” whispered Tanu. “Our return has been far from joyous. I must warn you immediately: we are being hunted. Ilikia and Gareki perished at war, but it was when we sailing home when we were attacked by Rahkshi, and Vesai was killed. Tell me, Vibrak, has anything unusual happened during our absence?”

“Yes,” replied the village leader quietly. “Not long after you left, disasters started happening throughout the land. First we received messages that Thunder Trolls had invaded the lightning village again. Matoran from all around gathered to drive them off. We succeeded, but not after many of us were killed. We called for an emergency council, but even before that could happen, there was a landslide that buried half the village of Magnetism. Then the river near the Ga-Koro flooded. Nobody died then, but they had to relocate until the waters receded. Then Tatakoa erupted, nearly destroying the Ta-Koro, and several other villagers, including ours, experienced sudden Rahi attacks. Several days ago, Turaga Varlokka retreated to the Ce-Kini to meditate on how to deal with these catastrophes, but she has not been heard from since.

“Something has happened at the Ce-Kini. But are the villages recovering?”

“Yes, and it's been quiet since Varlokka disappeared. Some of the Matoran are grumbling about your absence, but I know this is not your fault. You had to leave, and, well, these disasters...” Vibrak trailed off.

“These disasters are not natural,” finished Siok. “I fear somebody has been waiting for this opportunity. Somebody with control over the Rahkshi.”

“The Makuta?” said Tanu skeptically. “Makuta Teskor isn't a nice guy, I admit, but what does he have against us? He just hangs out in his cave up in the wastelands.”

“We'll find out,” whispered Morok fiercely. His emerald eyes blazed. “Vibrak, will the Matoran be alright if we go solve this mystery before helping the villages recover?”

“Yes,” agreed Tanu. “I wish we could help rebuilt immediately, but we will put you all in danger if we do not put an end to this... this attempt to kill us.”

“Very well,” said Vibrak. “I will inform the other villages of your return, if you -”

“No,” interrupted Siok. “I wish we could, but like Tanu said, we would put the Matoran in danger.”

“But please try to boost their spirits,” said Morok. “Now, I suppose we should investigate the Ce-Kini now, right?”

“One moment, my friends,” said Siok, picking a stone off the ground.

 

The Toa of Gravity took out a small carving chisel and quickly etched a few symbols into it. Soon the stone was adorned with a crude engraving of the symbol of the Three Virtues and a simple representation of a Toa. Then he put the stone down, picked up a similar rock and marked that one, then did the same for another. Finally, he caused all three stones to levitate, and visible energy flowed from his fingertips, imbuing each of them. Carefully, he floated the stones down to the ground before Vibrak's feet.

 

“If we do not return, use these,” Siok instructed. “Find the next destined Toa. If we do not return, the land of Yrenta will be counting on you and these stones.”

“I will do my best, Toa Siok,” promised Vibrak, “but please, please try to return. The Matoran are worried, and panic would grip the land if I had to announce your deaths. Now... now, if you must travel, take some of our Hypaka. This way...”

 

The De-Matoran leader showed the three Toa to the stables. The Toa said goodbye, and soon they were riding northeast to the Ce-Kini.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 12:53 PM.

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#3 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Mar 30 2012 - 01:32 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Three

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

Riding on Hypaka brought fond memories to the minds of the three Toa. The equine-lupine Rahi were used as steeds throughout most of Yrenta. The open plains of De-Wahi were a perfect environment for them, and, had the situation been less dire, the ride would have been a pleasant experience. But joy was not on the minds of the three Toa as their steeds galloped to the Ce-Kini in the region's center. All three feared they would find something grisly at the temple. Varlokka had gone there and not been heard from since, the Toa were being hunted by Rahkshi, and according to Tanu, something had happened to the temple's Suva. It didn't take them much thinking before a fear for their Turaga's life struck them.

 

“Rahkshi! Look out!” Siok called to his two comrades. Morok and Tanu looked up, and sure enough, another group of Rahkshi was flying at them.

 

Why do they have to be able to fly? As if they aren't difficult enough otherwise, thought Tanu as he took one hand off the reins, reached behind him, and grabbed his staff. Before he could strike, he jerked the reins with his left hand, directing his Hypaka out of the way just in time. The patch of ground he was about to run over exploded, showering him with clods of dirt and stones. The Panrahk didn't get a second chance. In a flash, the yellowish grasses below it suddenly grew until they entangled the brown Rahkshi. Morok released more of his power, and the grasses became as strong as the toughest tree. The machine shrieked as the animated plants tore its head off, its Kraata falling to the ground and slithering away.

 

Meanwhile, Siok had ended the flight of two more Rahkshi in a more direct way – he simply made them too heavy for any power of theirs to counter. His Hypaka brayed with fright as the Rahkshi hit the ground with unnaturally great force. Tanu was being harassed by a Rahkshi of Heat Vision, but he wasn't ready to retaliate. A careless attack from him or the Rahkshi could start a fire blazing across the plain uncontrollably. Indiscriminately melting the foe would be dangerous, but he had to stop it before it ignited the vast expanse of dry grass. As he dodged a pair of searing heat vision beams, the answer came to him.

 

With a strong but careful application of his power, he sent precise jets of plasma aimed at the Rahkshi's head. The hot, ionized gas obscured and damaged the mechanical eyes through which the Rahkshi's Kraata observed the world. One more blast of plasma tricked the blinded Rahkshi into directing itself at the ground. Tanu was well out of the way when it struck, but he could still hear the crash clearly, even as he fended off attacks from the last Rahkshi, a Guurahk. The ground under him disintegrated, and he and his mount would have fallen into the chasm had Siok not reacted quickly to save him.

 

“Neat trick, Tanu,” said Morok as he launched a cloud of tiny spores around the blue Rahkshi. While his target was distracted, he followed up with a shower of thorns. Finally, he finished with a large blade of plant matter aimed perfectly at the flying Rahkshi of Disintegration. The three Toa rode alongside each other as the remains of their last attacker hit the ground and rolled over and over before losing momentum.

 

“Well, they found us again,” observed Morok dryly. “Are we almost there, Tanu?”

“I hope so. Wait, look there.” Tanu pointed to the building visible on the horizon.

 

Soon, the three Toa dismounted outside the temple grounds. There was no reason to bring their poor steeds into unnecessary danger. They didn't need to get close to see the damage. Whoever had attacked had not even bothered to be discreet. A hole had been knocked into the side wall. The Toa took that entrance. The temple was mostly intact inside, but the floor had been cracked and scuffed and a few statues and diagrams had been ruined. They soon noticed the pile of rubble blocking the entrance to the main chamber. Morok attempted to kick the fallen stone away, but to no avail. He did not need to make another attempt, however. The stones burst outward, followed by an armored hand, then two Rahkshi emerged hissing from behind the rubble.

 

That was their mistake. Tanu was in no mood for a drawn out fight. The Makuta-Sons had scarcely entered the foyer when a cloud of white-hot plasma surrounded them. When it dissipated, they had been reduced to half-melted pieces of armor sticking out of a heap of slag. Tanu strode over, squeezed what was left of one's head until he was sure the Kraata inside had been squished, then stepped over the remains with contempt. Morok and Siok followed him into the room.

 

The damage in the rest of the temple was nothing compared to the sight that met the Toa's eyes as they surveyed the Suva chamber. The walls and decorations had been defaced in various ways, the Suva itself was visibly damaged, and to their horror, a small, hunched body lay crumpled before it. With a gasp, all three Toa dashed into the room. It was as they feared, Varlokka was dead. The corpse lying in front of the Suva was hers. On the other side of the room, a damaged Rahkshi lay lifelessly, its head and Kraata nowhere to be seen. It seemed that their Turaga had put up an impressive fight, which brought a tiny bit of comfort. But the Toa couldn't imagine how she could take down a Rahkshi.

 

“Defacing a temple... murdering a Turaga...” Tanu growled, but his anger immediately gave way to sadness and weariness. He sat by Varlokka's body. His companions joined him, and they stayed there, grieving, for a long time.

 

Finally Siok stood up. It was clear why Tanu had been unable to use the Suva, it had been destroyed. Siok reached into it in an attempt to retrieve any Kanohi that might have survived, but a surge of power from the Suva's malfunctioning core shocked him and forced him away.

 

“Tanu, Morok, we must leave...” he warned, “we must go before more Rahkshi show up.”

“You... you're right, Siok,” admitted Tanu, and he rose. “When – if – we return, we will give Varlokka a proper burial. There is no time now.”

 

To the relief of the Toa, their Hypaka were well and the skies were clear as they rode away from the Ce-Kini. Once he felt they were a safe distance from the temple, Morok rode up alongside Tanu.

 

“Now where do we go?” asked Morok.

“North, past the mountains, through the wastelands, to Makuta Teskor's lair. It's time to pay him a visit, and put an end to all this.”

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 12:54 PM.

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#4 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Mar 31 2012 - 01:38 AM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Four

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

The sky was darkening quickly as the Toa approached the mountain range of northern Yrenta. No Rahkshi had confronted them since they left the temple, but both the Toa and their steeds were exhausted. The dark outlines of the rocky peaks seemed utterly impassible at the time.

 

“How will... how will we climb those?” panted Morok after his Hypaka stumbled.

“There's a valley a little to the west, see?” said Tanu, pointing to a distant gap in the mountains. “We'll pass through there, it'll be easy going.”

“Hmm. It looks like a good place for an ambush,” muttered Siok thoughtfully. “Are you sure about this, Tanu?”

“We'd be even more vulnerable climbing the mountains,” insisted Tanu. “In fact, we'd have to stop for the night before even trying.”

“If you think the valley will be a safe route, Tanu, I'm with you,” said Morok.

“Now when did I say I think it's safe?” asked Tanu rhetorically.

 

Usually, the valley was a beautiful, pleasant place. But now, in the dark, with a possible ambush lurking behind every rock and tree, it was quite spooky. The Toa rode close together and quietly. They tried to stay in the shadows without putting themselves in the dark enough to blind themselves to incoming attackers. At this time, Tanu dearly missed his Mask of Sensory Aptitude. He guessed they were about halfway through the valley when he thought he heard Morok gasp. Tanu turned his head, but everything seemed normal. He studied Morok and his surroundings for a moment more, but the only thing he noticed was his steed was unusually restless. But that was not very strange, after all, they had been traveling for hours straight, under threat of attack the whole time.

 

Siok was a little confused when he noticed Tanu diverting their course ever so slightly, but did not think much of it. The team leader knew this valley, and he no doubt had a reason for moving towards the eastern side of the valley. Siok was more puzzled when his two companions stopped on the other side of a small hill and dismounted. Their Hypaka bolted away the first chance the beasts got, braying frightfully. Siok wondered what was happening until the images of Tanu and Morok shimmered and disappeared, revealing his 'companions' for what they really were.

 

Tanu chided himself for letting his guard down as he blocked a strike from a Rahkshi's staff with his own staff, then called upon his elemental powers. The tan and blue Rahkshi hissed as its staff was melted by Tanu's. The Toa knocked the Kraata out of the helpless suit of armor with a swift kick, then he turned to face another Rahkshi. A cloud of murky blackness oozed from the staff of this one, which was clad in black and red armor. The darkness threatened to blind Tanu, but a flash of bright plasma banished the shadows. It also gave Tanu's presence away to any other foes that could be nearby. As he melted the second Rahkshi into a puddle, he hoped there were no more Rahkshi on the way.

 

Morok hit the ground and rolled just in time to dodge a stab from his opponent's staff. As he looked up, he saw a bright flash not far off. As he distracted the three Rahkshi with a burst of vines, he called to Tanu. But although Morok yelled as loud as he could, the Toa of Plasma did not react. Morok realized the strike from the gray and black Rahkshi had rendered him mute as well as deaf. So, it's to be a silent fight, then, he thought as he caused the branches of a lone tree to shoot out and crush a Rahkshi and trip the other two. Then he ran towards Tanu as quickly as he could.

 

Siok quickly pinned the two Rahkshi to the ground and brought down a nearby pile of rocks on them, but there were more waiting. He turned just in time to see an orange and black Rahkshi looming over him and feel his breath being sucked away. The air returned to his lungs when he forced that Rahkshi to drop its staff. He followed up by pinning it to the ground, and approached to finish it hand-to-hand, but another Makuta-Son jumped out of the shadows. Siok felt weakness return to his muscles as the Rahkshi struck him with its staff.

 

Is this how it is to end? he wondered as he fell to the ground and the Rahkshi of Vacuum, having retrieved its staff, stood over him and began to asphyxiate him. But just as he thought he would pass out, vines wrapped around the Rahkshi and dragged it away as it shrieked. At the same time, the Rahkshi of Hunger collapsed into a pile of red-hot metal. The next moment, a pair of strong green hands was helping him up. Siok brushed himself off and caught his breath before speaking to Morok and Tanu.

 

“Thank you,” he said. “I thought I was doomed then.”

“I'm sorry,” said Tanu. “I never expected them to stage such a clever ambush. Morok was the first one to get abducted. Some of those Rahkshi had some sort of illusion power. That explains why the Hypaka were spooked, too – they were being ridden by Rahkshi impostors. Oh no – where are the Hypaka?”

 

The Toa looked around, but the steeds were nowhere to be found.

“Well, we couldn't have taken the poor beasts much farther anyway,” said Tanu.

“We can't take ourselves much farther,” added Morok. “To travel the wastelands is a feat of great endurance, and look at us. It's hopeless.”

“Well...” Tanu thought for a moment. Morok was right, but what could they do? “Very well. Before entering the wastes, we will find a cave or something to rest in. Each of us will need to take shifts guarding the other two, of course. But we mustn't rest until we reach the end of the valley.”

 

All three Toa were reluctant and dearly wished for a long rest, but Tanu was right. Fortunately, they were unmolested during the remainder of the journey through the valley. Dawn was starting as Tanu led them among some rocky ridges in the mountain's foothills. Soon they had found a cave that seemed to be an appropriate place to get some sleep. Despite their exhaustion, all three of them argued over the job of being the sentry. Finally, Tanu got the job. He stood guard for a few hours while Morok and Siok slept safely inside the cave, then the two other Toa guarded Tanu as he recovered. Then Tanu insisted they take another round of rest, for they would need all their strength for the next part of their quest. It was nearly noon when the Toa came to the place where the grass stopped growing completely. That was the northern border of Yrenta.

 

No sooner had Siok, Tanu, and Morok stepped onto the hard, gray earth when they felt a the land's unnatural affliction. The air was cold and dry, and their spirits felt like they were being crushed with each passing minute. But the time spent in the cave had been rejuvenating, and they did their best to shake off the oppressive atmosphere. They had made it to Makuta Teskor's lair millennia ago, when they were just novices. Now they were old and weary Toa, it was true, but they were also experienced veterans. We can do this, they all told themselves. They had to do it.

 

The bleak, open space and the clear, waterless air made it easy to see Rahi moving far off. Even from far away, the Toa could tell some of the beasts were large and very dangerous. None of them was in any hurry to get into a fight with a Manas, a legendary crab rumored to be from the pits of Karzahni that was said to be able to take on an entire team of Toa. And even a fight with a Nui-Jaga would be a waste of precious energy, energy they needed to deal with Rahkshi, and, though they dreaded it and hoped it were not so, possibly for a fight with Teskor himself.

 

“Careful, let's skirt around these quietly,” whispered Tanu as the Toa tried to maneuver around a herd of nasty-looking bipedal Rahi they couldn't identify. Morok took another look, and he noticed that perhaps 'herd' wasn't the right word. It looked more like... a legion. Make that a legion that's seen the enemy and is rushing to attack, he noted as the three Toa heard bellowing and the Rahi charged. The stampede would have kicked up dust had the barren ground not been so hard.

 

“Time for plan B?” said Morok nervously as the horde approached rapidly.

“Yup,” confirmed Tanu.

“So much for stealth, then,” said Siok as he let go of his identity.

 

The titan formed from the three Toa was named Ilaniuma and he had the powers of Plasma, Gravity, and the Green. He knew what these attackers were, or at least what they were similar to, because Tanu knew. They looked like Thunder Trolls, but their armor was slightly different, and while Thunder Trolls all came in stormy hues like black and blue, these came in a great variety of colors. These foes were clearly a variety of Thunder Troll, however, so Ilaniuma dubbed them “Wasteland Trolls”. Like the Thunder Trolls Tanu had fought with Ilikia many years before, these were a little taller and much stockier than Toa. They had little finesse, they merely charged and tried to pound their targets to scrap with crude, makeshift weapons. At least, that's what Ilaniuma expected until he found a few metal bolts lodged painfully into his arm.

 

The Toa Kaita growled with pain and let out a blast of scorching plasma. A dozen crossbow-wielding trolls fell, and Ilaniuma knocked seven more aside with a sweep of his staff. Twenty trolls with various shoddy-looking melee weapons howled fearfully as they floated high into the sky, their gravity inexplicably reversed. In this barren environment, the power over plants Ilaniuma had from Morok was weakened, but he mustered enough of it to take out a large group. His weapon weaved back and forth, and scores of the Wasteland Trolls fell before him. Wild Rahi from all around could see the sight, but they were in no hurry to join the battle against the raging giant. Rather, the beasts panicked and stampeded as far as they could go.

 

Though Ilaniuma was outnumbered a hundred and fifty to one (or three, considering he was an amalgam of three Toa), the trolls were eventually routed. As the remaining savage warriors fled, Ilaniuma raised his tired head at a familiar mechanical humming sound. Almost lazily, the Kaita held out his hand, then made a swift lowering motion. The seven approaching Rahkshi fell to the ground like rocks. Though Ilaniuma was weary from the fight, he willed himself to stay together, for more dangers surely lay ahead.

 

The titan's confidence soared as he came to the rocky ridge where Makuta Teskor had made his lair. It was here, over thirty-six thousand years ago, the six Toa Yrenta had been defeated by Rahkshi and left at the mercy of the Makuta. But now it would be Teskor who answered to the Toa. Ilaniuma was huge and had great power. Makuta were powerful, too, but Ilaniuma was ready. If Teskor wanted a fight, he would get one. The giant amalgam was about to enter the ghastly cave when he stopped short. Something was happening.

 

Deep, booming, sinister laughter echoed from within the cave as the Kaita dissolved and reformed into three confused Toa. From behind the nearby rocks, from the other side of the ridge, and from the cave mouth itself swarmed a small horde of Rahkshi.

 

“You have come far, Toa,” said the voice of Teskor from within the cave. “But you will come to farther. Today, you die, and the Matoran of Yrenta will have no choice but to bow before me.”

 

When their master was done speaking, the Rahkshi quickly moved into position. The three Toa stood back to back and held out their Toa Tools as they prepared for their final battle.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 12:55 PM.

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#5 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 01:19 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Five

 

==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

 

Well, Teskor has spared us the trouble of interrogating him, thought Tanu dryly as Rahkshi advanced slowly. His next thought was I guess we're going to die now.

 

“You may kill them now, my sons,” said Teskor. Siok could see his dark, large shape moving around just within the mouth of the cave. The other two Toa were busy keeping their eyes on the Rahkshi.

 

Teskor's “sons” acted eagerly. Only years of combat experience saved the Toa from the dozens of blasts of energy that all came at once. Bolts of deadly power struck the rocks around them as the three of them moved at the same instant. The Rahkshi had not expected their foes to even survive that first attack, and the Toa desperately took advantage of that. Tanu somersaulted onto a protruding boulder, then conjured an incredibly hot and bright cloud of plasma. Blinded by the light, the Rahkshi left themselves open to an attack by Morok and Siok. Immediately, they destroyed five. But there were still over twenty left.

 

At Tanu's command, the cloud of plasma exploded outward. Three Rahkshi took the brunt of the blast and fell, their armor dripping orange. The rest were merely stunned. Siok began to crush as many as he could against the ground, then suddenly shoved Morok aside. Two beams of heat vision sizzled through the air where the Toa of the Green had been standing. Morok turned to see Teskor had left his lair to join the fight. The Makuta rubbed his eyes casually, then surveyed the scene. It amused him to watch these three desperately fending off their inevitable death.

 

They were like cornered Rahi. But Teskor, as a designer of Rahi, knew that cornered Rahi could fight with surprising ferocity. Indeed, it seemed like mere seconds had passed since he had idly blasted heat vision beams at the green warrior, and already over half his Rahkshi were gone. The Toa were tired, it was true, but the Teskor did not wish to take chances. He watched the orange and white fool, apparently the leader, waste one more of the Rahkshi, then he acted. The Toa suddenly found themselves floating, but soon they were back on the ground. Teskor had noticed one was a Toa of Gravity, but he hadn't expected him to react so fast. The Toa of the Green had not gone to the ground, however. In fact he was floating higher than ever. Teskor saw the Toa's mask glow and recognized it as the Kanohi Miru.

 

From high in the air, Morok rained attacks down on the Rahkshi and Makuta below. He noticed annoyance in Teskor as he wrapped the Makuta in thick vines and pulled him off his feet. Down on the ground, Tanu was inspired by Morok's use of his mask, and activated his own. Siok moved to cover him as his Mask of Emulation scanned a Rahkshi of Chain Lightning's power in action and copied that power for Tanu's use. A second later, a bolt of pure electricity arced from Tanu's staff. The bolt struck the very Rahkshi he had emulated, then redirected itself at another Rahkshi, then another, until all but four of the reptilian machines were spasming. Morok spun as he lowered himself, sending razor-sharp leaves in all directions. Siok kept Teskor stumbling over his own hooves as long as he could while his two friends took out the remaining Rahkshi.

 

Tanu and Morok were facing the three Rahkshi that were left when Makuta Teskor created a mighty sonic boom. Rocks shattered, and the Rahkshi and Toa were blasted away from the Makuta. Siok fell onto his back, but amazingly he acted fast enough to increase the gravity of a Rahkshi so that it hit the ground devastatingly hard while he dodged Teskor's follow-up attack, all before he could stand. Tanu rolled as he hit the ground and got up fast enough to melt the last two Rahkshi before they could rise.

 

“Just us now, Makuta,” said Morok, as his friends came to back him up. “The three of us against you.”

 

The three Toa scowled under their masks and held their weapons out, but Teskor just laughed. The three of them had just fought twenty-seven Rahkshi. And they had faced who-knows-what in their journey to get here. They were exhausted, and they could not hide that fact.

 

“Thank you, Toa,” he said. “Thank you for entertain -”

 

Teskor cried out as one of the Toa interrupted him with a blast of elemental power. He cursed. If these Toa wished to get it over with, so be it. It wasn't as fun, but at least the result would be clear, and he would achieve victory that much faster. He was ready for this fight. He had shapeshifted himself into the form he preferred for combat and intimidation: a hoofed titan, with a mouth full of fangs and a set of sharp claws on each hand. Sometimes he carried a ceremonial staff, but he didn't like to fight with weapons. Makuta had a wide variety of powers, including shapeshifting. Teskor needed no sword or axe or spear. He had his claws, his heat vision, his power scream, his powers of disintegration, fragmentation, and poison, his power over electricity, plasma, and magnetism, his abilities to slow his foes, put them to sleep, or even put them in stasis, teleportation, mind reading, and the list went on. He was ready. And so, the battle began in full force.

 

Tanu began to create a blinding fountain of plasma, but had to stop to dodge the Makuta's blast of fragmentation power. It was true that Tanu and his teammates were exhausted, but they had come so far. Now, if they fought hard, there was a chance they would win. That gave them hope, and with the hope came a burst of energy. Teskor picked them up and attempted to slam them together with his magnetism powers, but Morok intervened just in time. Siok fell to the ground and rolled towards Teskor in an attempt to engage him in melee combat and take him off guard. He managed to scratch Makuta Teskor's armor with the bladed tips of his Gravity Casters, but the Makuta retaliated surprisingly quickly. He grinned as his claws sliced through one of Siok's tools.

 

As Siok fell back, Teskor activated his power of illusion. He made himself look like the green-armored one, while the green-armored one looked like him. It was a trick he loved. But Tanu wouldn't grant him that amusement. The Toa had noticed the illusion forming and seen through it. Not only that, he had copied the power. Tanu was almost enjoying himself as he surrounded Teskor – the true Teskor – with apparitions of the Toa. It worked. In frustration, Teskor let out a blast of chain lightning. But Tanu pressed the advantage. Teskor's attack was clumsy, and Tanu easily absorbed the electricity with his highly-conductive plasma.

 

Siok used his powers over gravity to make Teskor unsteady, and Morok tripped him again. Now the Toa had forgotten how tired they were. But this would still be a challenge. Each of them felt their reserves of elemental energy running low. And as the Makuta got back on his feet, he looked very, very angry.

 

“Enough!” he roared. His roar turned into a powerful screech that knocked Morok back, but Siok and Tanu advanced, forcing Teskor back into his lair.

 

The entrance to Teskor's lair was merely a dark cave. But as the fight continued, the Toa pushed him deeper and deeper inside. Soon they were battling among vats and globes full of bubbling liquid and mysterious equipment. Teskor groaned and protested as his laboratory equipment was destroyed in the fighting, but then he narrowed his eyes at a cauldron in the corner. Using his magnetism powers, he sent it flying across the room, striking Siok and spilling its contents on him. The Toa of Gravity shouted as he was knocked over and doused with the scalding liquid. His friends dashed forward to assist him. Tanu melted the edges off Teskor's claws and engaged him in melee combat while Morok checked on Siok.

 

Siok stood up and shook himself off. He had received a nasty surprise, but he wasn't hurt badly. He and Morok rushed to back up Tanu, who was blocking Teskor's dulled claws with his staff. The Makuta shoved the Toa back, then grinned as an assortment of vile slithering, bubbling, and scratching sounds became audible. Half-formed Rahi were crawling into the room, and some were climbing out of the very vats they were forming in. It was a grotesque sight, but they were weak, and no doubt Teskor only meant for them to serve as a distraction.

 

Siok pinned the unfinished creatures to the floor until they passed out. While he was doing that, he left himself vulnerable to an attack by Teskor. The Makuta's mask, shapeshifted into his face, glowed, and Siok felt himself weaken. Each second felt like it brought the burden of thousands of years upon him. The sensation stopped when Morok wrapped a vine around Teskor's head and dragged him forward. But the feeling of having aged unnaturally stayed. Siok was now weaker. But he was still in the fight. Meanwhile, Tanu fell as the ceiling over him collapsed. Confident Tanu would cause no trouble for now, Teskor risked conjuring a ball of plasma to hurl at Morok.

 

Tanu burst from the rubble in time to reach out with his elemental powers and grasp the hot glowing orb. There was a brief battle of wills as he and the Makuta struggled for control of the plasma. But Tanu had manipulated his element many times over thousands of years. To Teskor, it was just one out of dozens of powers he hardly ever had to use. Tanu subdued Teskor's control of the plasma and it flared outward, badly melting the Makuta's hands. Teskor was infuriated. He batted Morok and Siok aside and leaped across the room to where the insolent Toa of Plasma stood. He landed with a crash that knocked all three Toa off their feet. Waves of fear-inducing energy emanated from him, and he plunged into Tanu's mind. Tanu screamed as the mental assault struck him, and he was helplessly pulled off his feet by a magnetic force that placed him in Teskor's deformed and still hot claws.

 

Tanu struggled and Morok and Siok rushed to help him, but nothing could stop Teskor as he held the Toa in his claws and squeezed. Only when Siok used his gravity powers to bring down half the ceiling did the Makuta toss Tanu's crippled body aside. The attack dazed Teskor, and Morok followed up with a burst of thorny vines that clawed at him and pulled him to the ground. Teskor rose unsteadily, but the Toa shoved with all their might in unison and sent him stumbling into the wall at the back of the chamber. He tripped over a table of lab equipment, causing beakers to shatter and chemicals to spill. Before he could react, Morok had vines around his throat and Siok was pinning him to the ground with crushing force.

 

“Delay it all you want, but I will still crush you like I crushed your friend,” he said. But Morok tightened the vines and Teskor's armor began to crumple under Siok's power. The Makuta struggled, but he could not rise. His armor was battered and his mind was unfocused. The Toa would not give him a chance to pull himself together. It was then when he felt an emotion the Makuta considered most shameful: fear. But he still had one more trick up his armor. Making a show of struggling against the crushing forces of the two Toa, he moaned and growled and finally screamed before going limp.

 

“Is he... dead?” asked Morok after a long moment of silence.

“How could we have killed him? Did we lose control?” mused Siok grimly.

“Maybe he deserved it, but I... I didn't mean to kill him.”

“But we can't leave him without being sure he will not rise again.”

“Well, let's just find out if he's really dead, then,” Morok said. He approached the apparently lifeless metal figure and examined it. It looked as if he were trying to see if a mischievous Matoran was really asleep or merely faking. Then he kicked it hard. An eerie clang echoed across the still armor. Morok jumped backwards and grabbed his foot in pain, but that seemed to be all Teskor could do to harm anyone now. Just to make sure, Siok lashed out with the remainder of his elemental energies and crushed the metal body against the ground. Meanwhile, Morok had run from the body of his fallen foe to the body of his fallen friend. Siok followed.

 

“Tanu... are you alive?” asked Morok as he stood over his motionless teammate. He dreaded the answer, or rather, the lack of one. But after what seemed like a millennium, the answer came.

“Yes... but I am dying,” said Tanu. “and... it is too late to heal me. Take my staff. Take the Toa stones you made, Siok. A new generation of T... Toa must come into being. Follow... the way of the Toa – and of the Turaga – and do not give into anger and despair... as I once did. Goodbye... my... brothers.”

 

Tanu coughed and his eyes went dark. His heartlight faded slowly.

 

“Goodbye, Tanu,” said Morok and Siok sadly as their old friend died.

 

Siok picked up Tanu's staff. He thought it felt slightly strange, but he ignored that. It must be my imagination, he thought. He fastened the staff and his remaining Toa Tool on his back. Then, together, the two Toa carried the body of their friend out of the dark lair. They left the body of Teskor and Siok's broken weapon and all of the wreckage behind. The sky was darkening again as they left the cave and began their homeward trek across the wastelands.

 

Some time after they had left, wisps of gas emerged from the shadows, coalescing into a black and green cloud. Neither of the Toa would have known, but this vile nebula was what remained of Makuta Teskor, and it was still alive. After making a show of 'dying', Teskor had stealthily willed his essence out of his body. It was hard for him to watch the Toa treat his empty shell so disrespectfully and then walk out of his lair freely, but he had no choice. Now Teskor would have to find a new body for his armor to inhabit, or his essence would dissipate. However, he could maintain his cohesion through willpower for a time, and his burning rage and desperation made his will strong. Teskor vowed to make another attempt to kill the Toa and subjugate the Matoran, but not until the time was right. If he got another chance, that was.

 

He could only hope that the Brotherhood of Makuta did not hear of today's events. If they learned he had acted so rashly, and allowed two Toa to escape, they would have his essence burned slowly and painfully. Judging by the dullness of the area he had been assigned to and how often he was picked for special missions (never), he wasn't very popular among his peers. Discovery of how he had accidentally incriminated the Makuta would not improve his standing in the Brotherhood. Teridax's plan was nearly complete, and it would be disastrous if their treachery was revealed too early. Soon, maybe in about a thousand years, Mata Nui would fall. He would sleep, and the universe would be helpless before the might of the Brotherhood of Makuta. That was the answer, Teskor decided.

 

When Mata Nui fell asleep and the Makuta seized power across the universe, that was when Makuta Teskor would have his revenge.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Six

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

 

Deep in the dark wastelands, Siok stumbled, then collapsed. His end of the large bundle of leaves fell to the ground, and a pair of white-armored legs fell out. Morok knelt and carefully lowered his end on the ground. Then he wrapped Tanu's corpse again while Siok rested. Morok tried to speak, but his throat was too dry. He was so dehydrated, his joints were creaking loudly. But they were almost home. Fortunately, so Rahi or Rahkshi had attacked them, for the Toa were far too weak to fight. Morok looked back at Siok, who had stood up again. Siok nodded, and together they bent down and lifted the leaf-shrouded body of their friend and resumed their trek.

 

They had walked for a long way when Siok collapsed again. Morok fell a second later. The two Toa stayed on the ground for a long time. Finally, Siok sat up and spoke in a raspy voice.

 

“Should we... just bury him here?” he asked slowly.

“No,” Morok managed to say. “We'll bring... him home. He'll rest ...in a tomb. Even if I... have to build it... myself.”

 

The two Toa looked up and saw the mountains of northern Yrenta were close now. That realization gave them a surge of energy, and they walked the rest of the distance through the wastes without stopping, headed for the valley they had come through. Their spirits soared as they stepped onto grass once again. In the foothills, Morok's knowledge of plants let him recognize a grove that must have contained a freshwater spring. Soon he and Siok were drinking with relief, rejuvenating their dry muscles and lubricating their joints. Once they had recovered, they made their way through the valley. Dawn was breaking over the land and the valley that had been so frightening the night before was now beautiful.

 

The valley was warm and misty, but not uncomfortably humid. A gentle breeze comforted the Toa. Sweet-smelling grass grew all around, except in a few patches where, the Toa noticed, lifeless pieces of Rahkshi armor lay. Morok attempted to regrow the grass in those afflicted areas, but he was too exhausted to call upon his power. The Toa moved on. Shortly before coming to the southern end of the valley, they turned west into a gap in the side of the valley. They found themselves in a narrow ravine, but after they had walked for a while, the ravine widened into a valley nearly as big as the one that cut through the mountains. It also sloped downward, so that they found themselves looking down upon the nearest village.

 

Vibrak had not been exaggerating when he said half the magnetism village had been destroyed by a landslide. With the shrouded body of Tanu hanging over his back, Morok nearly stumbled down the slope as he and Siok rushed to the devastated town. By the time they had reached the village, they were out of breath and Tanu's body was slipping out of the leaves again. The first Matoran that saw them gasped and ran out of sight. A moment later a large group had formed and approached the Toa.

 

“Toa Siok? Toa Morok?” said one of them uncertainly. He recoiled as the maskless face of Tanu slipped out of the leafy shroud. Morok placed Tanu's body on the ground.

“It is us,” said Siok.

“Oh, you're back! You can help us rebuild, we've been so worried and plagued with disasters!” exclaimed the Matoran. “Oh dear... it's just you two. Where are the rest?”

“Ilikia and Gareki died at war. Tanu and Vesai were killed by Makuta,” said Siok grimly.

“M... Makuta? You mean that creepy being of great power that lurks in the wastelands?”

“Yes. We can explain later. In the meantime, there is business to do. Where is Protawa?”“He's gone. Swept away and crushed like so many others,” said the Matoran sadly. “I've taken charge for now. My name is Gaaos.”

“We heard of the disaster that struck your village,” said Morok. “I'm sorry we were not able to come sooner. What can we do to help?”

“We plan to excavate the part of the village that was buried and rebuild there. But many of our people have been wounded. First we must tend to them.”

 

Gaaos led the two Toa to a group of huts that housed injured Matoran. It reminded both of them of the infirmary that had been set up in the Coliseum during the war. Siok also remembered a time when the earth village under the mountains was nearly destroyed by a cave-in. The exhausted Toa sat heavily on the floor among the victims' beds.

 

“Siok, you've created three Toa Stones,” whispered Morok. “I'll pour my energies into three more, and we'll use the rest of our power to heal those Matoran that suffered while we were away.”

“I agree,” said the Toa of Gravity. “Morok will return momentarily,” he told Gaaos as Morok went outside.

 

This is it, thought Morok as he held a smooth stone in his hand, the first step in my transformation into... a Turaga. A Turaga. Wow. Am I really eligible to become a wise old sage? Tanu and Siok seem to think so. Well, I'll do my best. At that, he willed a fraction of his core energies into the small boulder. The mysterious energy glowed as it saturated the stone, then it dimmed. Morok took out his writing chisel and marked the stone as he had seen Siok do, and repeated the process two more times. He had nothing to carry the stones in, so he materialized a large, curled leaf to serve as a pouch, with vines for straps. Then he put the imbued stones into the pouch and reentered the hut.

 

Morok and Siok worked for many hours trying to heal the villagers that had been injured in the landslide. Both of them expended some of their Toa energy to heal the most injured ones. Late at night, they finally got their well-earned sleep. That morning, they told Gaaos that they would have liked to stay to help the Matoran of Magnetism rebuild their homes, but they had to help the other villages. And so, Gaaos lent each of them a Hypaka and they rode off. Their next stop was Tanu's village, the village of Plasma.

 

As the Toa rode to the west, they passed Mount Tasle. The Matoran of Lightning had lived there for as long as anyone could remember. Unfortunately, they had been forced out by a Thunder Troll attack, or so the Toa had been told. Flashes of lightning illuminated the constantly-stormy mountain, revealing sharp rocky crags and ridges. Morok believed he caught a glimpse of the silhouette of a ruined village high up on a relatively shallow part of the mountainside. He shuddered and looked away, and subconsciously pushed his Hypaka to go faster. Siok did the same to keep up. Soon they came to the small hill upon which rested the village of Plasma.

 

Even from the considerable distance they were at, the Toa could tell the village was overcrowded. Tents and other temporary shelters had been set up all around the settlement. They were no doubt full of refugees from the neighboring village. Matoran ran around nervously and whispered to themselves as Morok and Siok rode among the haphazardly-placed shelters. These Matoran are sad and afraid, thought Siok, The news that the Toa of both villages have been killed will strike them hard. The Toa came to the center of the village, and a familiar-looking Matoran of Plasma came to greet them. It was Hakki, who had taken up leadership of his village after Tanu became a Toa.

 

“Toa Morok, Toa Siok, you have returned,” he observed with relief, as the other village leaders had done. “

“Yes, Hakki, but we have some very bad news for you,” said Morok wearily. Even Hakki's mask could not not hide his apprehension as Morok dismounted and unfastened the large cloth-wrapped object that had been carefully tied to the back of his Hypaka. The two Toa tenderly put the bundle on the ground and drew back the cloth. All the Matoran who saw the sight gasped, and everybody present lowered their heads. Hakki looked horrified.

 

“I'm sorry, Hakki,” said Morok. He meant the words, but they still felt empty to him. He felt so helpless. “We are all grieving for him. And not just for him. You see...”

“You're the only ones left,” Hakki realized. “You two are our last Toa. Was the war... was it really that bad?”

“Yes,” said Siok. “But Tanu and Vesai were not killed in Metru Nui. It was the Makuta.”

“The Makuta?” asked Hakki. Apparently, he had forgotten.

“We can explain later,” said Morok. Then he whispered to Siok, “do you think the Makuta are traitors?”

“We should not jump to conclusions. There is no reason to believe our Makuta Teskor had not gone rogue and betrayed his brothers,” replied Siok. Then he addressed Hakki. “Are there any wounded Matoran here that must be tended to?”

“No,” the Matoran shook his head, “the Lightning village was sacked weeks ago. The wounded have all either recovered as much as they can or died. Not that we don't need help here, but the fire village is probably in serious trouble. Just a few days ago the volcano erupted with an enormous roar. Clouds of ash still hang over us, see?”

“That was our planned next stop,” said Morok as he saw the ash clouds in the sky. He and Siok got back on their Hypaka.

“Tell the Matoran of Lightning their village will be liberated soon,” called the Toa of the Green as he and Siok left the village, heading for the village of Fire.

 

Volcanic landscapes were very dynamic, and the terrain was unfamiliar to both the Toa as they rode into the shadow of the volcano Tatakoa. Neither of them had visited the region often during their long lives, but even if they had, knowledge of landmarks would do them little good. They had only two simple things to guide them: number one, ride towards the big volcano in the distance, and number two, avoid molten lava. That was enough to guide them for a while, but Morok was in for a nasty surprise when he found the rock he was standing on crumbling away.

 

His steed brayed in fright as the ground crumbled to reveal lava, like a sheet of ice breaking up in the sea. Morok called his partner's name, and Siok turned. He raised a hand and levitated his friend and the Hypaka out of danger. But before he could put them down gently, he lost control, and Morok and his Hypaka fell to the ground unceremoniously. He looked up, and saw that Siok was panting. The Toa of Gravity was also holding his hand to the side of his head, as if it were in pain.

 

“Sorry,” said Siok sheepishly, shaking off his discomfort. “Are you alright?”

“I think so, but I'm more worried about you,” said Morok seriously.

“Don't. I admit I'm not well, but soon we will be able to rest.”

 

Morok nodded and he and his steed got back up. This time, they proceeded with more caution. At first, the Toa were worried the village would be difficult to locate on the slopes of the vast volcano, but they soon found it was quite easy. The Matoran would be where the lava wasn't. Most of the surface of the volcano was either still molten or obviously unstable. Protruding from a thick river of lava was what looked like the flooded remains of the village. Siok pointed at an encampment not far from the river's near bank. The Toa carefully but quickly approached the group of shacks and tents and dismounted before the largest shelter.

 

“Toa,” came a bitter voice from within, and Lituan, leader of the Ta-Matoran, emerged.

“Lituan,” replied Morok. “We heard what happened here. Is there anything we can do?”

“No, because you are too late,” said Lituan. “You Toa did nothing to help when my village burned.”

“We were at war, you know that,” said Siok sternly.

“You went off to a distant land, forsaking your home. You abandoned us to... to this fate,” said the fiery village leader angrily, gesturing to the ruins of his home. “Now look at how many of us are left.”

 

No more than a dozen Ta-Matoran surrounded the Toa. The Ta-Koro had always had a low population, but the casualties must have been terrible if these were all the survivors. Siok opened his mouth, but closed it again. It took great skill and courage to argue with Lituan, and Siok was in no state for such a battle.

 

“Tell Tanu I want -” began Lituan.

“Tanu is dead,” interrupted Morok loudly. “So are Gareki and Ilikia and Vesai.”

 

That got a reaction. Lituan bowed his head and held it in his hands. He lowered his eyes, but the Toa could tell they were blazing. But it was not rage that burned in his eyes, no, it was grief.

 

“Are any of your people hurt? Please, let us see them,” said Siok.

“I'm sorry,” said Lituan. “We do have friends in dire need of healing, but after that, please... we need some time to ourselves.”

 

Lituan led the Toa into the large shack. Inside lay thirty-one badly burned Ta-Matoran. It was clear that most of them were beyond help, but the Toa would not give up. It was their duty to protect and care for these Matoran, and the Matoran were in pain and dying. Neither Toa felt the slightest bit of reluctance as they reached deep inside themselves and released the last reserves of the energies that made them Toa. They held their hands up, allowing the power to fill the room. The energies struck the injured Matoran, and as it did, wounds healed miraculously. Some Matoran that would have never woken again stirred, and their eyes glowed. At the same time, Siok and Morok became Turaga. They shrank, their armor and Kanohi changed shape and changed colors to less bold hues. Their Toa Tools transformed into Turaga-sized staffs. Morok's staff became part wood, with a large, multi-segmented leaf at the top. Lituan looked on with amazement and disbelief.

 

“You... you are our new Turaga,” he said anxiously. “Who will protect us now?”

“Soon, a new generation of Toa will come into being,” Turaga Siok reassured him. His voice was still strong, but it sounded ancient.

“These Matoran still need medicine,” said Turaga Morok. A Ta-Matoran fetched medical supplies and the Turaga spent several hours tending to the wounded. Late at night, they told Lituan they had done all they could. The village leader was grateful, but still troubled, and respectfully asked them to leave. The two Turaga mounted their Hypaka, which seemed relieved at their riders' reduction in size and weight. The steeds trotted and brayed lightheartedly as they left the dangerous volcanic terrain behind.

 

“I don't know about that Lituan,” admitted Morok as they rode back to the village of Plasma.

“He may seem unstable, but he is intelligent and charismatic,” said Siok. “I don't know him well, but I've heard he really only fit into the council of villages because of Tanu's guidance and friendship. It must have been difficult for him since Hakki replaced Tanu. And although we didn't have much choice, it's true we weren't there to help him.”

“Do you think he will keep his community isolated?”

“Time will tell,” said Siok as the village came into view, “time will tell.”

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Seven

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

 

Soon after the Turaga returned to Hakki's village, Tanu's funeral was held. A few months passed while the Matoran of Yrenta expressed the honor and respect they gave the four fallen Toa by building grand memorials. The simple grave Tanu had been given near his half-built Suva was turned into a small but impressive mausoleum. The Ce-Kini was rebuilt, and Varlokka was interred within, along with several reminders of the Toa, such as Tanu's staff. Unfortunately, everything Vesai, Ilikia, and Gareki had taken with them, including their bodies, was either left in Metru Nui or lost at sea. But the Matoran remembered them by their heroic deeds, and the new tomb in the Kini was adorned with stories and engravings of such deeds. Vibrak also found a pile of tablets Tanu had left in his village. The tablets made up a journal of Tanu's experiences in the war, and were placed in the library in the village he hailed from.

 

Meanwhile, the Turaga devoted much time to an important task. It was generally agreed that they had led the villages well since they had returned, but Yrenta could not fully recover until it had new protectors. Years ago, Varlokka had instructed the Toa Yrenta for the day when they would need to find Matoran to become Toa. Not just any Matoran could become Toa, and the Turaga spent many hours each day meditating and interviewing Matoran in an attempt to find their homeland's destined next heroes. Yrenta had many Matoran, but the villages were rather isolated from each other most of the time. Fifteen weeks after they had become Turaga, Morok and Siok decided they would have the four Matoran they had chosen transformed into Toa. Four Toa would be enough, it was better than none, and the Turaga were very certain that these four were the right choices.

 

 

-----

 

 

Vibrak wasn't sure what to expect when he dismounted his Hypaka and entered the Ce-Kini. Although Varlokka was gone, the temple was still maintained as a meeting ground and memorial to past Toa. Immediately upon entering, the De-Matoran heard voices. The chambers of the temple were designed to contain sound, to preserve peace and privacy, but Vibrak could clearly hear voices talking quietly in the main chamber. He walked slowly, taking in the magnificent works of art, as he approached the source of the voices. The two Turaga were clearly in there, but there were three other voices that he did not recognize. Judging from the deep, hearty voice, one seemed to be an Onu-Matoran. The other had a soft, quiet, thoughtful-sounding male voice. He was probably a Ko-Matoran. The last one was a bit more difficult. Vibrak's best guess was a Matoran of the Green, and as he entered the chamber, he saw he was correct.

 

“Thank you for coming, Vibrak,” whispered Turaga Morok.

“Greetings, Turaga, greetings, strangers,” Vibrak politely greeted the Turaga and three others.

“It is time for me to tell -” Turaga Siok began.

“We are to become Toa!” interrupted the Onu-Matoran. His exclamation hurt Vibrak's ears, and he gave Vibrak a slap on the back that nearly knocked him over.

“We... are to be the new Toa?” repeated Vibrak, as he brushed himself off and gave the Matoran of Earth a disapproving look.

“Yes,” said Siok. “This is Kryaju, this is Spiileus and this here is Lidon. Meet Vibrak, of the village of Sonics.”

 

The Turaga of Gravity introduced the introverted Matoran of Ice, the boisterous Matoran of Earth, and the proud-looking Matoran of the Green, respectively.

 

“It may be hard to believe,” said Morok, surveying the group of misfits, “but we are confident that you four are meant to be our new protectors.”

“How do we become Toa?” asked Lidon, the green and blue-armored jungle villager.

“Take these,” said Morok. He handed each Matoran a small, polished stone. Each stone had a simple engraving of a Toa on it, below the symbol of the Three Virtues.

“Place them in the Suva,” instructed Siok.

 

The Matoran obeyed. As soon as all of them had placed the stones into the recently-rebuilt dome, a flash of light blinded them. Vibrak felt himself fall to the floor and heard a rushing, crackling noise as some mysterious power enveloped him. His whole body tingled and his whole sense of proprioception became wildly distorted. When he could see and feel clearly again, he could tell he had indeed become a Toa. He stood up, and saw that Kryaju, Spiileus, and Lidon had become Toa as well.

 

“All right!” exclaimed Spiileus, Toa of Earth.

 

He held out his hand, and the floor shook and cracked. Soil streamed from the crack in the floor to his outstretched fingers. The noise was deafening to Vibrak, who attempted to use his new powers over sound to quiet it. He only succeeded in blasting a hole in the wall with sonic vibrations. Beside him, Lidon was tripping over his own vines, and although Kryaju had tried to be careful, he had accidentally frozen his fingers together. Morok laughed. The new Toa did not know this, but the same thing had happened to his team when they first tested their powers. Now Siok was trying to get the attention of the four novices, but they were already arguing amongst themselves. Morok shook his head. How in Karzahni are we supposed to get them to cooperate? he wondered. It seemed like it would be far more difficult than he and Siok had been expecting.

 

Vibrak had been chosen for his wisdom and perception. Though the Turaga weren't sure how much of his long life he remembered, Vibrak had served as a sentry for his village before being appointed leader, a job he had held for a very long time. His experience and vigilant personality would make him a fine leader for the new team, Morok and Siok had decided. Spiileus had been chosen for his strength and spirit. Like many Onu-Matoran, Spiileus had been a miner. His bravery during several mining-related accidents, incredible physical strength, and outspoken personality caused him to be noticed by the Turaga, and they eventually determined he was meant to be a Toa. He had reacted to the news with joy and pride.

 

Kryaju had been chosen for his intelligence and insightfulness. As a Ko-Matoran, he had taken the scholarly path. After serving as a scribe for many thousands of years, he became eligible to be truly initiated into Kotulo's circle of scholars as an apprentice. Though he was a prime example of Ko-Matoran introversion, his incredible mind and modest good nature had gotten Siok's attention. His first reaction to being told of his destiny was disappointment that he would never be able to advance to the rank of Master Savant, but he accepted his fate humbly.

 

Lidon had been chosen for his courage and skill. Since before anyone could remember, he had been a living legend in Morok's village. He was renowned for his adventures in the jungle and battles against attacking Rahi. Morok had been surprised that Lidon had not become a Toa instead of him, for he never expected the famous warrior to look up to him. More recently, Lidon was the first Matoran that Morok began to investigate, to find if he had the potential to become a Toa. He was proud, but Morok hoped not to the point of arrogance. It worried the Turaga that Lidon did not seem surprised to learn he was to become a Toa. But then again, it had not surprised anyone else.

 

Though all four were very different, each had strengths that would shine when combined. But getting the four to cooperate would be a great challenge.

 

“Enough!” Siok tried to exclaim, but he lost his voice and coughed. Using the weak elemental powers he retained, he put a slight aura of heaviness on the four Toa. It was enough to get their attention.

“You must learn to work together,” said Morok. “The safety of our land depends on it. We already have a mission for you, but first you must learn to use your new powers. After you have trained sufficiently, the duty of retaking the lightning village falls upon you.”

“Understood, Turaga,” said Vibrak. The two Turaga smiled.

“Very good,” continued Morok. “We have chosen you to lead this team, Vibrak. Is that understood, everyone?”

 

The four Toa responded affirmatively, but Lidon could not hide his disappointment. The Turaga chose to ignore that this time.

 

 

-----

 

 

In Spiileus's village, deep underground, the Toa watched as the best Fe-Matoran smiths in Yrenta crafted new weapons. For such a special occasion, Metaku, the leader of the village himself, would do most of the work. For many millennia ruling over the Onu-Matoran and Fe-Matoran had not detracted from his skill with a smith's hammer, nor had his hobby adversely affected the loving attention he gave to his realm.

 

Metaku had agreed to let the Toa practice their powers in an abandoned cavern. They had done so for some time, but now they were taking a break and overseeing the creation of their Toa Tools. Vibrak had requested a glaive, for that was the weapon of choice for the guards of his village. Kryaju had chosen the quarterstaff. Upon becoming a Toa, Spiileus's hands had become claws, and he was having them reinforced into durable, but versatile weapons, without having his dexterity taken from him. For Lidon, Metaku was forging a machete-like sword and a set of daggers based on Jivri spines. In Lidon's village, the blades from the Rahi snakes' backs were often used as weapons.

 

Though none of them had yet learned their mask powers, the Turaga had been able to identify their masks by shape. Vibrak's mask was the Kanohi Iden, which could allow him to temporarily separate his spirit from his body and explore his surroundings in a ghostly state. Kryaju wore the Mask of Charisma. That was ironic, because he was shy and rarely spoke. Spiileus had the Mask of Biomechanics, which let him control and strengthen mechanical parts, including the mechanical parts of living beings. Lidon was uncomfortable with his Mask of Rahi Control, because after fighting wild beasts for so many years, he was not looking forward to allying with them in battle. In that dilemma, however, Morok saw the opportunity for a great lesson.

 

Metaku informed them that the weapons would still take some time for forge, and so the Toa went back to training. Though they still quarreled, they had were improving quickly. The two Turaga hoped that soon they would be ready for their first task.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Eight

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~Circa 2,000 BGC~

 

 

After preparing for several weeks, the new Toa Yrenta were ready. The Matoran of the Plasma village cheered as Vibrak led his team east to the occupied ruins of the village of Lightning. Morok and Siok were pleased, but not as excited. They were afraid for the Toa, for this was their first mission together, a mission they had to do without the guidance of the Turaga. The Toa would have to learn to work together, or they would suffer. And if they suffered, so would the Matoran and Turaga. Relax, thought Morok to himself, After all, they transformed into Toa, so they must be meant to be Toa. But he was still anxious when he saw the novice Toa ride into the distance.

 

Of all four Toa, only Vibrak had ridden Hypaka before. At least, the other three could not remember riding the beasts during their lives as Matoran, and they had probably not. After all, though they were good for flat open spaces and hills, Hypaka were not much use underground, or on high, snowy peaks, or in dense jungle. So some of their training time had been spent learning to ride. None of them were comfortable with it yet, but they did their best to ignore their discomfort to please the Turaga and serve the Matoran. So with galloping steeds to carry them, it did not take them long to come to the base of Mount Tasle. The Toa hesitated for a moment before Vibrak urged them on.

 

As always, the mountain was blanketed by dark clouds. Kryaju had spent several decades studying the strange weather phenomenon in the Ko-Koro libraries. Despite the knowledge gathered on the subject, the cause of the constant storms was not completely understood.

 

“What's the matter?” asked Spiileus teasingly when he noticed Kryaju steer his Hypaka up the mountain clumsily. “Aren't you the mountain-boy here?”

 

Kryaju chose not to answer. Though he had lived all his life on a mountain, the truth was he had no memories of ever climbing up it. In fact, he had never left his village before receiving the summons for the Turaga. He had read so much he knew more than the average Matoran, but he had never actually explored the lands around him in person. The Turaga seemed to be the only ones who were not surprised by the idea of a such a reclusive tablet-worm becoming a Toa. But it had been his destiny, and Kryaju vowed to do his duty as a Toa. By doing it, he would honor the Savants of his village who had taught him.

 

Thunder boomed, and despite the protective coverings over Vibrak's ears, the sound was still very unpleasant. The coverings were designed to let him retain average hearing abilities, but nullify his weakness against loud noises. Of course, the coverings could be easily removed, for in the event that he needed to use the incredible sensitivity of his auditory sensors to his advantage. Lidon had never heard thunder before, and he jumped. Spiileus laughed at the sight of the warrior renowned for his bravery being spooked in such a way. Lidon stared at the impudent Toa of Earth fiercely. He was not used to being laughed at, nor to being startled. In the jungle, he never let anything get the drop on him. But this wasn't the jungle, it was a whole new land to Lidon. The Toa of the Green wished people would cut him some slack, at least until he got the hang of being a Toa. Then he would be an invincible hero again.

 

Spiileus looked away. Lidon was too sensitive, he had only been trying to lighten the mood. After all, wasn't it ironic that somebody like Lidon would be afraid of thunder? Spiileus decided not to take it further. If the jungle-dweller wanted to be uptight, so be it. But that left him with the icy fellow who may as well have frozen his mouth shut, and the team leader, who was in no mood for merriment. The Toa of Earth sure hoped something happened soon. But they climbed for a long time, only greeted by more lightning as they slowly ascended.

 

The trip had been so uneventful, and the thunder was so loud and constant, that Vibrak nearly did not hear a projectile whistle past him. But he heard it. As he alerted his teammates, he pinpointed the source of the attack. A Thunder Troll poked its head up from behind a rock, then grunted in surprise as the rock vibrated violently and shattered. Before anyone could protest, Lidon leaped down off his Hypaka and charged. Kryaju estimated he would last seventeen seconds in combat. He lasted for sixteen. He was not yet adept at focusing his plant powers, and the trolls shrugged his weak vines off with a laugh. He lashed out with his machete, but a purple-armored troll caught it with its bare hand, picked up the Toa with its free hand, and tossed him away. Spiileus scrambled to catch Lidon, and barely succeeded.

 

The Toa of the Green was shaken but unhurt. Kryaju erected a barrier of ice that gave him time to dismount. Spiileus approached slowly, then knocked two trolls off their feet with a sudden tremor. Vibrak rode into the fight, his Hypaka trampling the stunned trolls into unconsciousness, and took another down with his glaive. Kryaju and Lidon approached slowly and carefully. One troll felt Lidon's dagger bounce off its armor. It turned to find the source of the annoyance in time to catch a blast of ice to the face. The Toa of the Green flashed a gesture of approval at Kryaju before running to join the fight up close. This time, he was more careful, and he managed to dodge attacks until he found a weak spot in his foe's armor and targeted it. Vibrak struck the last troll with a focused blast of sound waves, and it ran away, howling.

 

“Let's keep alert, team,” said Vibrak as they continued on towards their destination.

 

Soon the ruins of the Lightning village were in sight. As a flash of lightning illuminated the area, the Toa saw that the settlement was not actually as damaged as was expected. Vibrak had learned how to use his mask, so they hid behind a rock as he activated his Kanohi Iden. His invisible, disembodied spirit flew to the nearby village. He was surprised to see that the Thunder trolls had fortified it. Their fortifications did not look very strong, yet this was evidence that they were smarter than previously believed. His ghostly form explored the recently-converted stronghold. He memorized the locations of the troll guards on the walls, where the trolls were inside the village, and which points looked most vulnerable to attack. Then he reinhabited his body and concocted a plan with his companions.

 

A shoddily-built patch in the wall made of heavy scrap metal exploded with a deafening boom. The nearest sentries immediately charged out of the hole, roaring, only to slip on a patch of ice. Vines snaked up from the ground and bound them before they could rise. Vibrak gave the signal to advance, and the Toa cautiously made their way inside. At Spiileus's command, the earth dragged three trolls downward. Vibrak absorbed the sound of their cries and redirected it upward where no one could hear. Lidon swiftly knocked the half-buried trolls unconscious. Now the Toa had a clear path to a building from behind which they could see the village center. They moved on.

 

There were many trolls in the village center. Some milled about idly, others sat around talking in an unrecognizable language. A dead Vako was hung by some enormous stakes planted into the ground. A passing troll stopped to tear a chunk out of it. He disgustingly stuffed the metal and meat into his tusked mouth, earning him a punch from another troll. Vibrak waited until their argument was over. Just as the second troll fell to the ground, missing a tusk, and the other troll resumed his feast, a loud sound was heard on the other side of the village. All the trolls moved at once to investigate, and that was when the Toa attacked.

 

Their backs turned, five of the trolls fell immediately. The rest turned and reversed the direction of their advance. More emerged from nearby buildings. One of them, an enormous specimen with a crown-like head, raised his club and roared. The trolls charged, and the Toa raised their weapons to meet them. Kryaju encased one in ice, but it easily broke free. He changed his strategy, moving in closer to attack with his staff. He concentrated his cold energies on a small area, then struck the embrittled armor, shattering it. The troll howled in pain, and the Toa of Ice finished it with a hard whack to the back of its leg. Meanwhile, Spiileus had taken down two trolls with a surge of earth. Vibrak had also downed two, and Lidon had taken down one and was now confronting three at once. As he narrowly dodged a swing from a club, Lidon felt a rush of sudden alertness. His mask began to glow. The glow enveloped the troll standing in front of him, but to no effect. Apparently, these foes were immune to the power of Rahi control. Whether they were Rahi or not had always been in question.

 

Lidon had no time to ponder classification of species. He slashed at one of the weak points he remembered, taking down one more troll. He quickly reached one of his dagger and tossed it, but not before growing a vine onto it. The vine grew as the dagger flew, so it reached between Lidon and his thrown weapon. He parried a blow from one troll while he manipulated the plant into wrapping around the other. Morok would have been proud to see Lidon make his vine toss the dagger back into his waiting hand, before turning and finishing off his fourth opponent. Wounded trolls fell to the ground, unconscious, and others fled, but more kept coming. The Toa regrouped and fought off wave after wave.

 

The three bio tall troll leader had stayed out of the fight so far, but eventually he growled and stepped forward. The Toa prepared to defend themselves from him, but before he made another move, Vibrak heard clicking sounds all around them. He shoved himself and his teammates to the ground just in time, as a hail of crossbow bolts whistled over them. The troll marksmen revealed themselves, firing again and again. Kryaju frantically made a wall of ice to shield them while the other Toa retaliated. The crossbows were delicate and rather poorly crafted, and it only took a weak blast of focused sound to reduce one to splinters. Vibrak disarmed three trolls as Spiileus and Lidon took on seven together. A few bolts lodged themselves into Spiileus's armor, but did no harm.

 

Just as Lidon was about to disarm the last crossbow-wielding troll, a tremor knocked him down. The troll leader's right foot rested in a small crater. He brought his foot down again, but this time Spiileus redirected the force of the shock traveling through the ground. The troll fell onto his back, triggering a third quake. With surprising speed, he stood and moved to confront the Toa. But he did not attack alone, no, many of his followers joined him as he charged forward. The combined attacks of the Toa barely slowed him down, and he brought his club down right in front of them. The shockwave knocked the Toa back and the sound nearly caused Vibrak to pass out. He hit the ground limply. Spiileus conjured a hand of earth to catch himself. Lidon rolled as he hit the ground and got back up quickly, and Kryaju used his staff to vault into a gentle landing.

 

Lidon's dagger struck the troll leader's arm in just the right spot before he could bring his club down on Vibrak. The Toa of Sonics got up just in time, and a swing from his glaive combined with devastating vibrations fragmented the savage's club. The Toa tried to take the opportunity to take the leader out of the fight, but he would not go down. They were forced to redirect their attention to the behemoth's many followers that threatened to overwhelm them. After nearby being taken down by two trolls attacking in unison, Vibrak resorted to more extreme measures.

 

“Spiileus!” he called, though the volume of his own voice hurt his ears, “We need an earthquake!”

 

The Toa of Earth heard the request, and as Lidon came to defend him, he plunged his claws into the ground. The rocky ground of the village shook violently. The rumbling was deafening to Vibrak, but he ignored the pain and added his own power to his partner's, using sound waves to increase the intensity of the quake. All fighting stopped for a few seconds as everyone struggled to keep their balance. Then, the earth split open, the fissure starting at Spiileus's feet and stretching across the village. Many trolls, including the leader, fell howling into the crevasse. Everyone but the Toa, who had been prepared for the tremors, had fallen to the ground. Several buildings had collapsed.

 

“Nice,” commented Lidon as his plants dragged two more Thunder Trolls into the fissure. “Wait – what happened to Vibrak?”

 

The team leader had fallen, overwhelmed by the sound of the earth splitting open. Kryaju froze the trolls standing over the unconscious Toa long enough to move to defend him. His staff moved quickly. Cold energy emanated from it, and he shattered frozen weapons and armor again and again. Nearby, Spiileus lost his balance and fell. The troll raised its huge weapon, ready to cut the Toa in half, and stopped. The Toa's mask was glowing. Spiileus felt the power of his Kanohi influence the troll's mechanical parts. Struggling against the mask power, the troll brought his arms down, but not quickly enough to strike down Spiileus before he moved out of the way. Still using his mask to slow the troll down, Spiileus got up and took it out of the fight, then he rushed to assist Kryaju. Lidon finished his foe and joined them.

 

Despite their best efforts, the Toa could not wake Vibrak. But by now, the tide had turned. Kryaju and Spiileus slowed incoming foes while Lidon moved quickly to finish them. Soon, the surviving trolls had fled.

 

“What?...” mumbled Vibrak groggily. “I'm alive. You're alive.”

“That's right,” said Spiileus happily. “We did it. Our first mission is done.”

“The village is free now,” added Lidon. “But it's taken some damage.”

“The Matoran will rebuild,” said Vibrak as he stood.

 

Spiileus closed the fissure that ran through the middle of the village. Then the Toa found their Hypaka and rode west, back to the Plasma village.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 01:19 PM.

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#6 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 02:50 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Nine

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,942 BGC~

 

 

In the middle of the jungle, Morok rushed to assist his friend. His friend was a flowering plant that was looking quite dry. As he lovingly watered it, he was grateful he had at last returned to a simple life in the village. Of course, there was plenty of work to be done managing the villages scattered across the land, but his new career as a Turaga was far more laid-back than his career as a Toa. He savored every moment he got in his garden, for at any moment, he could be called upon for something that required his vast experience. He inhaled the fragrant air and sat down, drifting into a sleep-like meditation.

 

Last he knew, Lidon had been helping a party of Matoran traders travel the jungle. Morok realized that though he himself had tried to the duty required of him, he had always felt out of place somehow. Morok had adjusted to life as a Toa, but part of his mind had always been longing for a peaceful life. He liked to travel, but being on call constantly and ready to fight for his life at any moment had been stressful and tiring. His transformation into a Turaga had let all the physical hardships he had endured catch up to him, and his joints ached with every step. But now, finally, his life had become as simple and easy as it would ever get, and his mental burden had been lifted.

 

From what Morok could tell, Lidon had no such problems. He had been a warrior by nature for as long as anyone could remember. The life of a Toa suited him well. Unfortunately, Morok could still sense arrogance in him. And anyone who has lived through an entire Toa career knows that arrogance leads to suffering. Also, since he was a warrior, he was lacking in diplomatic and stealth skills. Toa should be known to the people they are protecting, and should seek out problems to solve, but should always strive to avert battle when possible. Rather, they should find the root of the conflict and appease both sides. Turaga Varlokka had taught Morok that.

 

But Lidon had not yet learned to live by those rules. For example, not long ago the farms and gardens had been harassed by Brakas. The monkey Rahi had been sneaking in to steal fruit. Lidon did his best to defend the fruit groves from the thieves, but some always slipped past him and every day more came. He was growing more exasperated each day when finally Morok approached him. Morok asked Lidon why he had not investigated why the Brakas were so compelled to raid our village for food. The Toa answered that he had not thought of that, he planned to merely fight them off until they were too afraid to come back. Morok appointed some guards to protect the fruit gardens while he took Lidon on a trip out to the jungle. As he expected, Morok found very few sources of the food Brakas ate in the wild. The trees their favorite fruits grew on were barren. On closer inspection, they seemed to have been afflicted by some disease. Though Morok investigated the disease, he never found its cause. But to reverse its effects, he instructed Lidon to simply use his powers to regenerate the trees. After that, the Brakas stopped raiding the village.

 

Lidon had learned a lesson that day, but he still had much to learn. In fact, his entire team had still not achieved the virtue of Unity. Like in Morok's day, each of them spent most of his time looking after the region around his village, so that every village was protected. But Morok's teammates had been quick to seek each other out if there was a problem one of them could not solve alone. These Toa worked alone. Of all of them, only Spiileus, who enjoyed the company of his comrades, had actually tried to get the others to work with him. A few times the Turaga had brought them together for a mission that would be too difficult for one of them, but that only amounted to them working together about once a decade.

 

They had been separate for too long, Morok decided. He and Siok had been trying to come up with a mission that would forge the bond between the Toa. But since Makuta Teskor had died and the lightning village had been retaken, Yrenta had come under no major threats. That was not a bad thing, but the Turaga had decided they would need to reach out further. Morok had an idea, and he decided it would be a good time to confer with Siok on the subject. He finished tending his plants, then left the garden. First, of course, he had to be sure it would be alright for him to leave the village. So he approached the large tree that had housed the village hall in its branches for many millennia. After painstakingly climbing the vine ladder one still step at a time, he stopped about halfway up. He shook his head and activated his Noble Kanohi Miru. Though his mask had reduced in power along with him, he could still use it, so he decided to put that gift to use.

 

He floated up to the platform in front of the balcony and scrambled up with the help of a nearby Matoran. Morok thanked the villager and entered the chambers of Dykatte, who had lead the village since before Morok had become a Toa. Despite the fact he had been seen as the equivalent of Turaga since then, he was noticeably more youthful-seeming than Morok. Upon seeing his Turaga, Dykatte stood swiftly and bowed politely.

 

“What can I do for you, Turaga?” he asked.

“I would like to visit Turaga Siok,” said Morok. Though Turaga were by tradition automatically the most venerable members of society, his tone conveyed that the Matoran was his equal, if not above him in rank. “Will the village manage without me for a few days?”

“Yes. Lidon has just returned, and he reports the traders got to the Water village safely. All looks peaceful in the area, and there are no pressing political issues I need your assistance on.”

“Thank you, Dykatte. Remember, I intend to travel to the Ba-Koro. If you need me, send a message. Pijduk or rider, whatever you think would be a wiser choice.”

“Will do, Turaga. Farewell.”

“Goodbye, my friend,” said Morok, and he floated back down to the ground.

 

Since he was Turaga, and strenuous walking was difficult for him, Morok was entitled to use one of the villages' few Jungle Hypaka. Those rare steeds were nearly identical to common Hypaka, but they were a special breed adapted to travel through the jungle. They knew how to avoid Muaka and other arboreal predators, and were smaller and more slender than common Hypaka. Though they were not as useful for traveling over open ground than their relatives, riding a Jungle Hypaka would still be better for Morok than trying to walk all that way with his old, sore legs.

 

Turaga Morok approached the border of the semi-wild patch of land where the steeds were kept, and whistled. Immediately, a Jungle Hypaka approached. This individual was a female nicknamed Viridian for her emerald-colored armor that made her blend into the jungle. Morok patted her on the muzzle and she licked his hand.

 

“Come on, girl, it's time to go for a ride,” said the Turaga.

 

Viridian brayed softly and allowed him to mount her. He grabbed the reins that were built into her neck – Hypaka were certainly made to be ridden – and rode out of the pasture. He turned north at the exit and rode away. Once he had established the direction he wanted to travel in, he let Viridian choose how to get there. He had no doubt every detour she made was to avoid predators or other dangers. When he and his steed emerged from the jungle, Morok was grateful for his good fortune. He remembered many years during which it was impossible to ride north out of the jungle without encountering any deadly predators. The Hypaka seemed less comfortable as she entered the desert north of the jungle, but Morok reassured her and they moved on.

 

They turned west until they came to the side of the canyon, which they rode north along. Morok was thirsty and so tired he could have fallen asleep when finally they came to the bridge that spanned the canyon. Viridian was nervous, but Morok brought her close and showed her it was quite safe. The bridge was wide and very well-built. It had lasted for thousands of years, and the only times anyone had fallen off of it were during Rahi attacks. Morok saw no sign of any Rahi as Viridian took her first step onto the long span of stone and metal. The bridge led close to the entrance of the Gravity village, so not long after crossing it, Morok came to his destination.

 

As per village rules, he tethered Viridian to a designated post before entering Siok's dwelling. The Turaga of Gravity lived in a small room branching off from the village hall. Like Morok, he let the old village leader, Netun, retain his rank, but took all the administrative burdens the old leader needed them too. For quite a while after his transformation, Siok had been very weak and sickly, and could do no work, but he had since recovered. Ever since, however, he had been less physically robust than Morok. This is why the Turaga of the Green decided to travel to visit him, rather than vice-versa.

 

“You may enter,” Siok said from inside his house, after Morok knocked.

“Hello, Siok,” greeted Morok when he entered.

“Greetings, Morok. Why have you come?”

“To discuss our efforts to unite our new Toa. I have a plan.”

“Yes? What is it?”

 

Morok explained what he had in mind. The wastelands had always been inhospitable, but Morok suspected the Makuta had been responsible for some of its dangers. There was no way or reason to settle the wastes, but Morok thought they should be explored to see if what dangers still lurked in them. He proposed they send the Toa to investigate, to ensure there were no threats to Yrenta brewing up north. The wastelands were a haven for unnaturally vicious Rahi, and worse. Morok was surprised there had been no attacks by wild Rahkshi. Siok agreed that if there were no more pressing issues, it would be a good decision. They agreed to have the Toa come meet them in Siok's village, and soon they released four Pijduk, each flying to a different village and carrying a summons.

 

 

-----

 

 

“The lands to the north?” repeated Vibrak.

“Yes,” confirmed Siok. “We must know what is left of Makuta Teskor's minions, and if they will pose a threat to us. You may not remember when they once attacked us, but Rahkshi left to run wild are very destructive.”

“Also, we encountered a small army of Thunder Troll-like beings on our way to confront the Makuta,” added Morok. “If those have enough brains to band together again and descend on our villages, well, then we'd have a problem on our hands. Also, if you see any huge Rahi crabs with treads and Kanohi on their mandibles, avoid them at all costs. Those are the Manas, legendary beasts Siok and I have had the fortune of never battling.”

“The very environment can be just a deadly as any beast, too,” said Siok. “Take plenty of warm water in insulated vessels, for the air there is unnaturally arid and frigid.”

“Remember this is a... reconnaissance mission. Don't get yourselves killed, avoid all the battle you can. And remember, rely on each other.”

“We will, Turaga,” Spiileus spoke for the team.

“Meet us back here when you return,” instructed Siok.

 

For the first time in almost sixty years, all four Toa traveled together. The Gravity village was not far from the wastelands, so they traveled north along rocky mountainous paths. They came to a peak and looked down upon a slope leading down into the barren wastes. After resting for a moment, they went that way. All were silent as they climbed down. After an easy hike, the Toa found themselves at the bottom. The moment they set foot on flat ground, each of them felt parched, as if the water was being leeched from their vascular systems. An icy chill crept across their armor and penetrated them to the bone. Lidon took out a vacuum-bottle of water and drank. The water had been heated to help fend off the frigidness off the wastes, but by the time Lidon could drink it, the water was cold. For a few minutes, all of them, even Kryaju, had to stand still for a moment, shivering, until they adjusted to the cold.

 

“Well team,” said Vibrak, “the sooner we check this place out, the sooner we can go home. Let's move.”

“Where should we go?” asked Spiileus.

“Northwest,” said Kryaju.

“I agree,” said Vibrak. “We'll investigate the area around the Makuta's lair first.”

 

The four Toa reoriented themselves, then they headed towards the place where not long ago the heroes that came before them had vanquished a would-be tyrant.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Ten

 

==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,942 BGC~

 

 

The Toa had been trudging through kio of barren wastes. The dryness and cold did not bother them as much as it had when they first arrived, but they were tired of walking. The Turaga had sent them here to look for potential threats to their homeland, and they had found none. But Vibrak insisted they keep searching. Finally, he said he heard something, and the Toa followed his lead to find a camp of Wasteland Trolls near a jagged ridge in the distance.

 

“Finally some action,” said Lidon. “Let's go get 'em.”

“Hold it, jungle boy,” said Spiileus, placing a restraining claw on Lidon's shoulder. “The Turaga told us not to rush into combat.”

“That's right,” said Vibrak. “But we should see if they're up to something. Guard my body.”

“Well this is just great,” complained Lidon before Vibrak could activate his mask. “The Turaga finally send me on a challenging mission, one that should be a thrill for once, but then they stick me with three losers and tell me not to fight.”

“Complaining will do you no good,” said Kryaju, who was being unusually talkative. No one addressed the fact that his Mask of Charisma was glowing. “The Turaga said we need to work together, so we will do that. We'll get this mission done, and then -”

“Don't lecture me, scholar!” interrupted Lidon, and he slapped Kryaju to the ground.

“Shh!” shushed Vibrak, and he scowled at Lidon. “Stop this now. Guard my body.”

 

Vibrak repeated himself slowly and with authority, so his teammates stopped bickering while he activated his Kanohi Iden. His invisible, intangible spirit floated free and his body fell to the ground. Vibrak floated, bodiless, across the flat wastes until he came to the troll camp. The beastlike bipeds did not appear to be militarized, but Vibrak decided to search the whole camp. It was similar to what the trolls had done with the Lightning Village, except this time, since they had no Matoran structures to use, they had built a very crude shelter. It was merely a flattened piece of scrap metal fused to poles that supported it, with half-formed metal walls. There was nothing interesting inside the building, just makeshift weapons. All the trolls carried weapons, but in a place like this, that was not surprising. After searching the camp and finding nothing interesting, Vibrak decided to return to his body. But before he did, he noticed a cave entrance in the nearby ridge.

 

Upon reinhabiting his body, Vibrak told his team about what he had seen. They moved closer, carefully avoiding the watch of the trolls. Spiileus offered to go in alone, but Vibrak decided they should all investigate. When it became clear there was no way they could pass the troll camp without being seen, Vibrak created a diversion. Most of the trolls ran off towards where Vibrak had focused his sonic powers. With the camp nearly emptied, the Toa rushed in and easily dispatched the guards that had been left. Now Vibrak realized that this camp was a guard post for the cave. Cautiously, the four Toa entered the cave. The entrance was large, easily large enough for trolls to pass comfortably.

 

“There's a whole web of tunnels in here,” whispered Spiileus. “I can feel it.”

“There are trolls living in here. Sleeping, wandering about, digging more tunnels, I can hear them,” added Vibrak.

“What should we do, leader?” asked Lidon.

“Stay in the shadows. Protect my body. I will take a quick look around.”

 

The underground lair was half village, half Rahi den. The walls were crudely shaped, but the tunnels and chambers were dimly illuminated by lightstones. Vibrak saw nothing of interest as his bodiless essence floated through each room. The trolls had weapons, many of which were made of metal, but it seemed they were merely for hunting Rahi. Clubs and spears were scattered around a hollowed-out cavern among a few half-eaten carcasses. The sight was unpleasant to Vibrak, and in his eagerness to move on he nearly missed the small prison recessed into the corner. A Kanohi Iden user was completely undetectable without special abilities, so the Matoran cowering behind the sturdy bars did not acknowledge Vibrak's presence. Though he could not interact with his environment, Vibrak could see the Matoran. He didn't recognize the villager, but judging from his armor, he was a Matoran of Magnetism.

 

It was also quite clear that this Matoran was an adventurer. Most Matoran were content to live simple lives as workers. Some Matoran had jobs that involved combat or travel rather than simple labor; Lidon had been one such Matoran. But there were also Matoran that left their villages completely and roamed the land in search of excitement. Some of these were morally lacking and became brigands, others followed the example of Toa and did their best to help their people. Unfortunately, these individuals often got themselves into situations that required Toa intervention, especially those that wandered too far north. It seemed that Vibrak was looking at one such unlucky Matoran. He quickly returned to his body.

 

“The trolls have a Matoran prisoner,” he informed his team as soon as was back in his body.

“Well, let's go rescue him,” said Spiileus.

“Exactly,” agreed Vibrak, as he stood up, “but it won't be nearly as easy for us to get in there.”

“Good,” declared Lidon, brandishing his sword.

 

The Toa were in the dark corner of a tunnel that led to the rest of the lair. There were no trolls at their current location, but Vibrak knew there were sentries not far away. When the first troll guards came into view, Kryaju crept forward carefully. Before he stepped into the light, one of the hulking savages noticed him and roared. Apparently, their senses were sharper than the Toa had expected. Acting quickly, Kryaju flash-froze the three sentries before they could alert their kin. The Toa passed them and came to a fork in the tunnels. Vibrak led them to the right, in the direction of the prison. More trolls waited there, and this time, they had time to fight back.

 

The four Toa completely gave up their attempt at stealth as they defended themselves. Spiileus threw chunks of the cavern floor at his opponents while Vibrak launched earsplitting sonic waves from his glaive. Kryaju got up close and created an aura of intense cold as he spun his quarterstaff. Lidon tossed all his daggers at one troll, then dragged it to the ground with vines when it was distracted. He moved in for the kill, but then something knocked him off his feet. Lidon stood up and saw Vibrak turn back to the fight.

 

“He's down. Defeated. There's no need to kill him,” admonished the team leader as he dodged blows from a crude stone club.

“But they're our enemies,” said Lidon.

“And we are Toa. We do not kill without great reason to do so.”

“What about the battle with the Thunder Trolls back then?” pressed Lidon as he engaged a troll wielding a large metal rod.

“That was... different. We were new to being Toa then, and there were too many of them for us to do otherwise. We had no choice then. Now we -”

 

Vibrak was interrupted by a glancing blow that was strong enough to knock him over and make him drop his weapon. As his foe's stone club came down, Vibrak held out his empty hands and hastily unleashed his power. The club shattered and the troll stumbled back. The sound echoed through the tunnels, alerting all inhabitants to the presence of the Toa. And Vibrak had knocked himself unconscious with his own power again.

 

“He's really got to stop doing that to himself,” groaned Spiileus. The Toa of Earth took down the stunned troll before he could act to finish Vibrak. “Uh-oh,” Spiileus added as more trolls came swarming in.

 

Kryaju made a frigid aura down the tunnel to slow the trolls down. Spiileus made a cave-in to keep them at bay long enough for them to wake Vibrak. Though he complained about his sore ears, the Toa of Sonics recovered quickly, and was ready for battle when the fallen earth was smashed open from the other side. The Toa had to focus and fight hard as more and more trolls charged down the tunnel. After a long and difficult battle, the tunnel was clear. The obstruction caused by the many unconscious trolls nearly prevented the Toa from moving on.

 

“Do we really have to go this way?” asked Lidon as he climbed over a troll that was riddled with sharp leaves. Vibrak nodded.

“He's right,” said Spiileus. “I can feel it. There's no other way to get farther down this way, without a lot of digging.”

“It's not much farther,” said Vibrak. “Let's go.”

 

The Toa went through a short tunnel, battled four trolls at an intersection, then headed to the left. They arrived in the room with the prison in time to see a yellow-armored troll lift the heavy bar that kept the prison door shut. The large creature reached inside and picked up the Matoran with a clawed hand. Then he turned to take the prisoner away, but when he did, he saw four Toa standing before him. The gray Toa aimed his weapon at the troll's head, and that was the last thing the troll saw until several hours later, when the Toa where long gone. The unconscious troll fell, nearly crushing the Matoran prisoner as he dropped him.

 

“Toa... thank you,” said the Matoran with relief, as he got up.

“It's our job, my friend,” said Spiileus, “but you're lucky we came here.”

“You're one of those... explorers, aren't you?” asked Vibrak. The Matoran nodded. “You shouldn't travel the far north on your own.”

“I wasn't alone,” said the Matoran sadly. “I was one of a party of five.”

“Where are the others?” asked Lidon. He turned his head, scanning the room.

“Dead. The trolls... they ate them.”

“Ate them...” echoed Vibrak slowly. He too surveyed the room.

 

For the first time, the Toa made the connection between the weapons and Rahi carcasses and the small prison cell. This was an eating room, where the trolls would store and consume their food. Kryaju's vision fell upon a battered gray mask among a pile of unidentifiable debris, the only trace of a Matoran victim.

 

“They ate them all in here?” asked Spiileus, with disgust in his voice. “Why not you?”

“I think I was about to be the next meal,” said the Matoran with a shrug, “but they only... oh, poor Lensamio... they killed him and ate him right in here. They took the other three away, and I never saw them again.”

 

The Toa exchanged glances. If they didn't know the other three Matoran were dead, there was hope they were alive. Vibrak activated his mask and scouted the entire lair, but even after a thorough search he found no Matoran. However, he did find something else rather interesting.

 

“I'm sorry, villager. Your friends are nowhere to be found within these tunnels. I did find something else, however. It's not far away, I'd like to go get it,” he said when he returned to his body.

“Alright, leader, just be careful,” said Spiileus. “We'll protect our new friend here.”

 

Cautiously, Vibrak went the route his bodiless spirit had explored. He only encountered one Wasteland Troll on his way to the small chamber. After taking him out with a focused sonic blast, Vibrak crept down the tunnel and entered the room. There on a stone slab lay a small tablet. As far as anyone knew, trolls could not write, but this tablet had several strange pictographs. Vibrak quickly identified the most common figures engraved on the tablet as representations of trolls. Each part of the tablet had an image of a different scene. Some of the scenes depicted the trolls hunting and eating Rahi. A few showed battles against Toa, which were represented by stick figures with random mask designs. Other images were of Matoran, represented by short, wide stick figures, being captured.

 

Two of the pictographs were most interesting. One seemed to depict the troll raid on the Lightning village, which seemed to show Thunder Trolls and Wasteland Trolls were one people, or at least knew of each others' deeds. The last image showed a very large troll, surrounded by followers, all bowing before a huge, monstrous figure. Vibrak picked up the tablet and looked around the room again. Upon finding nothing more, he left the chamber. He was so engrossed in studying the tablets he did not hear the trolls approaching until their footsteps were quite loud to his sensitive ears. He bolted up the tunnel, back towards his companions, but still he heard the trolls approaching.

 

“More coming!” he warned as he darted into the room and turned to face his foes.

“I believe we should depart,” said Kryaju as the chamber began to tremble.

“I second that,” said Spiileus.

 

The Toa of Earth held out a claw and the tunnel ceiling that led deeper into the lair collapsed, raining earth and stone down on the approaching trolls. But it was only enough to slow them down. Roaring, the savages burst through. The other three Toa used their powers to help slow the trolls down as they hastily retreated. Spiileus picked up the Matoran and held him against his shoulder as the four Toa ran for the surface. More trolls poured through the many branching tunnels they passed on the way out. Kryaju tripped on one that emerged from a tunnel entrance, but Lidon stopped to help him up just in time. Vibrak flashed a small smile under his mask at that, but took on a grimmer expression when four more trolls emerged ahead to cut him off. He ducked past them, and as they turned, Spiileus and Lidon quickly stunned them long enough for all four Toa to get away.

 

Spiileus handed the Matoran to Kryaju, stopped, and turned. He bent down, and his mighty claws scooped up a heap of earth. Under his power, the clumps of dirt in his hands grew and coalesced into a large ball, which he proceeded to launch down the tunnel. Two trolls were hit directly and fell, the others staggered and roared with frustration. Then Spiileus turned back and ran to catch up with his comrades. Under his feet, the ground he passed became loose and unstable, causing the trolls to stumble. The other three Toa were grateful to have a Toa of Earth with them in this environment, and eagerly grabbed Spiileus and pulled him forward.

 

A horde of trolls streamed out of the last three tunnel entrances. Kryaju formed a barrier of ice and Lidon kept the others at bay with a net of vines. Finally, the four Toa and the Matoran emerged from the lair entrance. Spiileus, Kryaju, and Lidon sealed the entrance to the best of their abilities, while Vibrak scanned the area, glaive ready. He had expected to see a horde of trolls, or at least those that inhabited the surface camp, to be waiting for them. But the camp looked deserted. Vibrak felt a gust of wind and heard a chilling, high-pitched cry, and looked up. He saw what he suspected was the reason there were no trolls around.

 

Three large birdlike creatures were circling around in the sky. Their armor was black, gray, and red, and they had long, sharp wings. Their narrow heads had long, black beaks and each had only one eye, which was a dull yellow. Their stretched-looking legs were almost as long as a Toa's height and ended in broad, double-clawed feet. Vibrak estimated they were about two and a half bio tall. The flying Rahi quickly proved to be as hostile as they looked when one flapped its wings and a gust of wind stronger than Vibrak had ever felt blasted him against a boulder. It dove at Vibrak and lashed out with its claws, but the dazed Toa managed to duck in time. The force of his impact had left a visible impression in the stone, and he ached all over.

 

Nearby, Kryaju tried to take one of the monster birds down by covering its wings with ice, but the bird crowed and spread its wings, shattering the ice effortlessly. Spiileus stayed out of the fight for a moment as he gathered his elemental power, then threw an enormous ball of earth at the same bird. The Rahi barely slowed down as it broke through the sphere, reducing it to loose dirt and a few lumps. Lidon shot vines at the third flier in an attempt to wrestle it to the ground, but it easily tore its way free and knocked Lidon down with a blast of air. The Toa of the Green stood up quickly, but not before receiving a painful gash in his side. Vibrak was still trying to ward off the first bird that had attacked. Of all the Toa, his powers seemed to have the most effect against these foes, but it was not nearly enough. Just as he dodged another sweep of claws, the Matoran, who was on the ground now, said a wise thing.

 

“Run!” exclaimed the Matoran. The Toa obeyed, except Lidon, who hesitated.

“I am a Toa,” he declared proudly, though he was holding his side in pain and narrowly missed being hit again. “I do not -”

“You won't be able to run, or walk, ever again,” interrupted Spiileus as he intercepted the bird that was attacking Lidon, “unless you get out of here. Let's go!”

 

Kryaju scooped up the Matoran, who shivered, but did his best to ignore the Toa's cold aura. Vibrak fired an intense blast of sound at his opponent, causing it to stagger in the air. He took the opportunity to join his companion, and together, they fled. The giant birds pursued. As they ran, the four Toa looked back and concentrated their powers on the nearest bird. It screeched and stalled as it was assailed by ice, earth, plants, and sound simultaneously. It quickly recovered, but the second bird took the lead. The Toa raced across the barren wastelands, desperate to escape the monstrous Rahi. Lidon noticed something up ahead, and directed the team in that direction.

 

Lidon had seen a swarm of Draka, which were common in his jungle homeland. These bug Rahi were slightly different, having adapted to the cold, desolate wastes, but still looked like Draka to him. They were slightly larger than a Matoran, and flew in large swarms. As a Matoran, he fended them off often, and as a Toa, he had learned to dispatch them quite easily. Still, they were not to be underestimated. If he was lucky, they would distract the monster birds and allow the Toa to escape. If he was unlucky, the Toa would be caught among the swarm and their pursuers and be killed.

 

“What are you doing?” demanded Vibrak as he defended his ears from the loud, metallic flapping sound coming from up ahead.

“Trust me,” said Lidon. “It's our only chance.”

 

The Toa did not have time to stop and argue or even to change direction. Each Toa held out his weapon in a defensive stance as they burst into the swarm. Draka stingers were everywhere, landing distracting, but not fatal, blows on the Toa and birds. Lidon threw a dagger with a trailing vine at one of the birds. The blade stuck in the bird's wing, and the vine grew to entangle the appendage. Lidon tugged, and the bird crashed to the ground. Before it could react, a dozen Draka were upon it, stinging and flapping their wings. He and his three companions burst out of the swarm, still running, and now covered in small cuts. After a while, Spiileus looked back and saw the birds emerging angrily from the swarm, but they were quite far off now. After pursing a little longer, the flying monsters gave up and circled back, crowing loudly in frustration.

 

“Nice job back there, pal,” said Spiileus happily. Lidon allowed the Toa of Earth to give him a friendly slap on the back.

“Though it was risky,” said Kryaju, “that was good quick thinking.”

 

The Toa of Ice gave a small smile, though it was hidden by his concealing Mask of Charisma. For a moment, Vibrak expected Lidon to react arrogantly, but instead the Toa of the Green gave a genuinely friendly smile and laughed humbly.

 

“You guys aren't so bad,” admitted Lidon. His tone was lighthearted, but not mocking. “You, icy scholar, impressed me when you froze those troll guards before they could even growl. And you, Spiileus, covering our escape by bringing down half the tunnels... and of course, you, Vibrak, our ever-alert leader.”

“Thank you, Lidon,” said Vibrak. “So, are we a team now? Is that good?”

“Yes,” agreed all three of the others.

“To honor the Turaga and follow the same noble path they did,” added Spiileus.

“So, now what?” asked the Matoran of Magnetism, who Kryaju had recently put down.

“We have you to bring back, and we're all exhausted. I also have something I would like to show the Turaga. I think we should go back now. If there's anything else they need us to investigate, they'll tell us,” decided Vibrak.

 

The four Toa, now with new sense of unity, trekked to the south and out of the bleak wastelands.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Eleven

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,694 BGC~

 

 

“And then we left, bringing this,” finished Vibrak, pointing to the bound, squirming being that was tied up at Siok's feet.

 

The Turaga reached down to help the prisoner sit up, but the mysterious little creature spat on his hand and muttered something that was unintelligible, but undoubtedly nasty. Siok withdrew his hand and frowned, deep in thought. He and Morok had hoped, and had actually expected, the savage trolls of the north to become far less of a threat without a Makuta to guide them. For a time, that seemed to be the case. But recently, they had increased in their boldness. The Toa had been forced to battle to defend the northernmost villages several times in the last few years. And it seemed the trolls had made allies.

 

No one knew what to make of the small, twisted creatures that had been dubbed 'goblins' or 'waste-people'. The newcomers were between Toa and Matoran in size. They wore no masks, but their faces were much less beast-like than the trolls'. Though they were smaller and weaker than trolls, they were far more numerous, and seemed to be more intelligent as well. While the trolls mostly used large, blunt weapons, most of which were crudely made, the goblins were known to wield intelligently-designed blades and basic projectile weapons. Trolls did not talk, they only grunted, growled, and roared, but these goblins had a language of some sort. Siok's best theory was that they had migrated to the wastelands from the regions to the far north, and had allied with the trolls. At first he had thought the term could be 'tamed' but it was clear that the goblins did not regard the trolls as beasts. It was an alliance, or perhaps a symbiotic bond.

 

Whatever their relationship was, it constituted a threat to Yrenta. The Plasma village had just fought off a horde, with the help of the four Toa. After a long and bloody battle, the waste-dwellers had been routed. During their wild retreat, the Toa had taken a prisoner and brought it to the Turaga for study. He could not figure anything out now, unfortunately.

 

“I wish we did not have to do this,” said Siok finally, “but we will have to lock this one up for a while. Ask Hakki where we can keep him, and I will rejoin you shortly.”

 

The goblin struggled as the Toa lifted him by under his shoulders, then he stopped and hung his head in hopelessness. Siok watched the Toa haul the prisoner out, and put his head in his hand. It would be helpful to interrogate the prisoner, to find out about the invaders' plans and social structure, but the goblins spoke a language no Matoran, Toa, or Turaga understood. Memories of Ilikia, who had worn a Kanohi Rau, came back, and her absence hurt Siok. Soon, Siok decided, the Turaga would request Metaku forge a Great Kanohi Rau for one of the Toa, but for now he was too tired. Over the few centuries he had been a Turaga, Siok had gotten used to his small stature and lack of power, but his joints ached more and more as time passed.

 

For this occasion, he had brought with him the tablet Vibrak had taken from the troll lair during his first expedition into the wastelands. The tablet had images of the trolls fighting Toa, capturing Matoran, and raiding the Lightning village. One showed a troll leader and his subjects bowing before a depiction of what was clearly Makuta Teskor. Though the trolls were not skilled artists, Morok and Siok had immediately recognized the carved lines as an image of the Makuta in his ferocious, monstrous form. It was the same appearance Teskor had assumed for his battle against the Toa, with oversized hooves, enormous claws, vestigial wings, a pointed tail, fanged maw, and horns. Clearly, Makuta Teskor had used the same intimidating form to rule over the Wasteland Trolls.

 

Siok had studied the tablet several times since it had been found, but each time no new revelations came to him, only fear and pain. Makuta Teskor is dead, Siok reassured himself. Morok and I did not mean to kill him, but perhaps it is for the best. Though the Makuta was gone, however, he had left his 'trolls'. His creations had formed a small army of intelligent, bipedal Rahi that were made for combat. In addition to that, once in a while a wild Rahkshi would stray out of the wastelands and wreak destruction. A strange fact was that the Wasteland Trolls and their new allies only ventured south to destroy. There was plenty of unoccupied territory between the villages that they could settle in, but the primitive raiders were only known to reside in the wastes. Thunder Trolls still haunted Mount Tasle, but their numbers seemed to have been decreasing recently.

 

What this meant, Siok could not say for sure, but he wondered if the Thunder Trolls had begun to migrate north to live among their kin. The Turaga of Gravity sighed, raised his head, and slowly shuffled outside. Vibrak was waiting for him, and led Siok into a dimly-lit storage shack. The other Toa were in there, guarding the captured goblin. The prisoner's hands were still tied, but he was standing now. When Siok's eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he examined the prisoner.

 

This specimen was on the short side for his kind, standing only a head taller than a Matoran. Like the rest of the goblins, his body was shabby, dirty, and composed of parts of random colors. He looked like a twisted mockery of a Matoran, like something that had been taken from a graveyard, patched with scrap metal, and brought to life. While, to a Matoran, goblin faces were far more identifiable as such than trolls', their features had a wide range of shapes. Some goblins had faces that looked like that of a Brakas. This one's was disturbingly Matoran-like. The greatest difference was his toothed mouth that looked like it was capable of ingesting food, unlike the mouths of Matoran, who absorbed food energy through their hands. Aside from the mouth, his face looked like a Matoran's face that had been slightly warped. A scar ran horizontally across his right cheek, indicating where a wound had been welded shut. From that, Siok deduced the goblins had access to basic healing techniques.

 

“Has he said anything?” asked Siok.

“Nothing. He's kept his mouth shut since we brought him in,” answered Lidon.

“Not that he says anything we can understand,” commented Spiileus.

“Not for long,” said Siok. “I will personally request a new Great Mask of Translation from Metaku. When it is ready, one of you must don it and converse with this... creature. But tell me now, what were the casualties today?”

“Twenty-two Matoran killed, eight of which were Plasma villagers,” Vibrak answered grimly. “And we killed about fifty goblins and six trolls. That's about half of them.”

“That won't be enough to keep them away for long,” said Lidon.

 

Once again, Siok rested his head in his hand wearily. The incursions by the goblins and trolls had turned into a war. Since he had returned from Metru Nui, he had hoped to never face such dire times again, but now the Toa and Matoran were being forced to kill their adversaries. They had no choice, otherwise the attackers would return the very next day. But the fact that Siok was not personally fighting in these battles was no comfort to him. Every few months, a large force would attack one of the villages near the wastelands. Each time, the four Toa and Matoran from other villages would gather to help the defenders. Many died on both sides, and the attacks were becoming more frequent. The inhabitants of the wastes were persistent in their attempts to destroy the villages. Diplomacy would be a good tactic, Siok decided, if only the two sides could understand each other.

 

“We should move him,” said the Turaga after a long period of silence. “Keep him in a secure but comfortable location. Treat him well.”

“Yes, Turaga,” said Vibrak. He understood. Though these bizarre creatures had attacked them viciously, they were still living beings, and it would be wrong to be needlessly cruel.

“I will say my goodbyes to Hakki now, then ride for the village of Iron and Earth. I do not know how long it will take Metaku to forge a Kanohi Rau, but I will return to you after I meet with him.”

 

The Toa offered to help Siok to his Hypaka, but he told them to assist the villagers in recovering from the battle instead. The Toa said their farewells and left to do as he instructed, and Siok hobbled to the courtyard in front of the village hall. Hakki was outside the building, digging holes next to a row of shrouded bodies. He was working alone, but other Matoran ran to and fro around him, doing their part to restore the village. The Matoran of Plasma looked up when Siok came close, but did not stop digging.

 

“Hello, Turaga,” said Hakki numbly. He stopped digging and pulled the cloth off an orange and white body.

“Hakki,” greeted Siok. The Matoran leader gently placed the corpse in the grave. “I must ride to Metaku's village, to request a mask that will allow us to converse with the captive. I hope we can glean information from him on our attackers, but I hope even more that we can, though this prisoner, make peace with them.”

“I hope so too.” Hakki sounded inattentive, as if he were lost in thought. He covered the grave, bowed his head over it for a moment, then started a new one.

“I will return here immediately after. Goodbye, Hakki.”

“Bye.”

 

Hakki did not look up to watch the Turaga leave. Hakki was a good person, but Siok realized the war was having a very bad effect on his attitude. Long ago he was a humble but eager assistant to village leader Tanu. When Tanu had left on a sudden, fateful journey and returned as a Toa, Hakki had been suddenly appointed the new leader. Tanu had chosen well, and Hakki had led nearly as well as he had. But now times were hard. The grief of Tanu's death lingered, and the Plasma village had been attacked five times since the goblins first appeared. Each time the people of the village lost some of their friends.

 

The other northern villages, including Siok's own home, had also come under attack. The Plasma village had been their first target, and only two months later a large force of goblins had moved through the valley to attack the Magnetism village. Only the villages of Sonics, the Green, and Water, which were too far to the south, and Ice and Earth, which were guarded by the mountains top and bottom, had remained untouched. The Ta-Matoran to the far west had not been heard from for years. Lituan had cut his village off from the rest of the community shortly after Vibrak and his companions became Toa. Siok was worried about them, but respected Lituan's wishes. His people could fight well, too, and knew how to use the volcanic landscape to defend themselves.

 

Siok walked to his Hypaka. At his approach, the steed lowered itself to allow the Turaga to mount. Siok rode out of the east side of the village and headed for the village under the mountains.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 02:51 PM.

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#7 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 04:36 PM

Fate of Yrenta Chapter Twelve ==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~1,694 BGC~ 

The four Toa looked down on the land from the top of the hill. The day after the battle, they had seen the remnants of the invading army far below. The goblin horde was retreating to the wastelands, so there had been no need for the Toa to intercept them. Still, just to be on the safe side, the Toa had spent some time each day watching from this vantage point while they waited for the Mask of Translation. As usual, they saw and heard nothing unusual. The wind howled painfully loudly in Vibrak's ears as it swept across the rocky northern faces of the ridge. Only Kryaju did not shiver from the cold. The Toa scanned the landscape one last time, then turned and began their trek back to the village. They were nearly halfway home when suddenly Spiileus and Vibrak jumped, shoving their companions aside. The earth where the Toa had been standing split open, and a monstrosity they had never seen before emerged. It had the body of a Stone Ape, except slightly more upright and without the tail, and a insect-like head with giant mandibles and four eyes. Its armor was faded reddish-brown in color. Immediately, the creature bellowed and reached for Lidon, the nearest Toa to it, with hideously large fingers. The Green Toa slashed at the hand, severing one finger, and the beast recoiled. As his companions joined the battle, Lidon looked his opponent in the face. The other Toa saw Lidon's arm drop to his side, and he stood there for a moment, an expression of disorientation on his face. A slap from the hulk sent him to the ground, but Spiileus jumped into the fight to save his friend. Vibrak and Kryaju hung back, formulating a tactical plan, as the Toa of Earth's claws wrestled the mandibles of the beast. Spiileus feinted being overcome, then dodged to the side as the monstrosity moved for the finishing blow. Simultaneously, Kryaju spun his hand, striking his staff against the ground. A layer of ice flowed from the point of contact to the ground under the feet of the beast. It slipped and fell, but so did Spiileus. Vibrak acted then, sending a focused blast of sonic energy at the head of the strange being. The creature slowly got to its feet, apparently unfazed by the sound waves. Vibrak increased the intensity, applying enough noise to destroy the ears of Matoran, but the only reaction he received was a frightening, gruff chuckle from the mouth of the beast. Spiileus got to his feet, but the bug-headed giant stomped its foot, shattering the ice and knocking him back. Then it clicked its mandibles in annoyance and fixed its gaze upon Vibrak. Immediately, Vibrak felt a strange sensation overwhelm him. He remembered being in battle, but he did not know who his enemy was. He only knew he was alone, fighting for his life, among four other powerful and dangerous-looking beings. One of the fighters, this one blue and green in color, got off the ground and approached him. Vibrak stopped focusing his power on the large being and instead let out an unfocused blast of sound emanating in all directions. The green warrior and the black warrior were no threat for the moment, but there were two foes left. He turned to fend off the white warrior, but it was too late. Vibrak was trapped in a layer of ice. If he gave his foe the chance, he would be shattered into pieces in seconds. But trapped as he was, he was not helpless. At his will, sonic vibrations shattered his frozen prison, and he was free. But again he stopped. Something was wrong. He heard something behind him, and turned in time to see a massive pair of mandibles closing shut around him. He tried to twist out of the way, but fell to the ground in the attempt. Now the victorious creature towered over him, and he had no time to move. Again, Kryaju acted quickly. He had noticed the strange effect induced by looking into the creature's eyes, and when Vibrak had stopped fighting and shook his head in confusion, Kryaju had been ready. Now his three teammates were on the ground. But he would give them the chance to rise again. His hand shot out, and shards of ice pelted the giant, slowing it down. Like the Savant-Monks he had read about in legends, Kryaju jumped faster and farther than he ever had before, his staff raised above his head, ready to strike. He brought it down hard upon the beast's head, and it staggered. Vibrak took the chance to rejoin the fight, but to Kryaju's relief, he seemed to be back to his old self. The bipedal beast was remarkably durable, but the concentrated attacks of the two Toa slowly wore it down. Though their ears were still sore, Spiileus and Lidon quickly rejoined the fight. This time, the Toa were careful to avoid meeting their opponent's gaze, and the battle was soon over. “Now what was that?” mused Lidon as the creature disappeared back underground. “Has anyone seen anything like that before?”“No miner in my village has ever encountered such a thing, or at least I've never heard of it,” answered Spiileus, and Kryaju shook his head at the same time.“Who knows what beasts lurk in the deep wastes,” said Vibrak. “Perhaps the incursions of our new enemies are somehow encouraging the migration of other creatures. It makes me wonder what is happening up north, that sends these beings to our land. And I have a feeling we will find out today, for look who approaches.” Indeed, Turaga Siok was riding out to meet them. As he reached them, he immediately noticed signs of the recent battle. He inquired about it, and the Toa informed him. The story confused him as much as them. “Troubling indeed,” Siok said, “troubling indeed. I will warn the Matoran, but it is something we cannot investigate now. The new Kanohi Rau is ready. It is back at the village, and Metaku has come to present it to you personally.”“Thank you, Turaga. Now we can hopefully get some information from this prisoner of ours.” The Turaga rode slowly alongside the Toa as the five of them returned to the village. At the village, Matoran that noticed the signs of battle expressed their worry, but the Toa dismissed their fears. The goblin army had retreated weeks ago, but the villagers of the north tried to always be ready for the next attack. Briskly, the Toa entered the village hall. As Turaga Siok had said, Metaku, leader of the underground village of miners and smiths, was waiting for them. He unwrapped a bundle of cloth and proudly held the newly-forged mask. It was dull gray now, for it was unpainted and not being worn by a Toa, but its rounded shape brought memories of Toa Ilikia to the minds of all who saw it. The mask had been crafted for an important purpose, a strictly utilitarian use, but Metaku took pride in the beauty of all his works. It was a flawless traditionally-shaped example of the Great Mask of Translation. “Thank you, Supreme Smith Metaku,” said Vibrak as he took the Kanohi. The Fe-Matoran smiled at the use of his old title. “Now to put this mask to use.”“Morok is here too,” Siok told the Toa. “He is with the prisoner.” The goblin prisoner had been housed in a repurposed room of the village hall. Normally used for storage of important documents, the room was built solidly to keep its contents secure. The prisoner had been given food and water every day, and the room had been furnished into a relatively comfortable cell. Matoran were not savages, like these warriors from the wastelands, and showing the goblin kindness could make it easier to get information from him. It was even possible that peace could be made between the two factions. Siok and the four Toa went to the room and met Morok just outside it. “He is sitting in the corner,” said Morok. He opened the door, and the six of them entered.“Well, here goes,” said Vibrak. He took his Kanohi Iden off, placed it on the floor, and put on the Kanohi Rau. “Kryaju, use your mask too, please. I don't know if it will help if he can't understand you, but it's worth a try.”“Okay,” mumbled Kryaju. The four Toa approached the goblin, surrounding it. It looked up defiantly and spoke in a harsh, ugly language. Vibrak and Kryaju activated their Kanohi.“Hello,” said Vibrak in the goblin's language, ignoring the prisoner's rude greeting. The goblin cried out and stumbled backwards, shocked by Vibrak's ability to speak its language.“You talk... you speak Ukzokth language,” stammered the goblin.“Well yes, I mean...” Vibrak straightened his shoulders and tried to look intimidating. “What is Ukzokth?”“I an Ukzokth, stupid tall warrior,” said the prisoner, regaining his composure. “Orgluk is my name. Why you not kill me yet? Your stupidity confuses me. Is clear we -”“You are a helpless prisoner, and I have no need to kill you,” explained Vibrak calmly. Though the literal translation of the goblin's speech was crude, and the harsh sounds of the language were unpleasant to Vibrak's sensitive ears, he could now communicate with the prisoner. “Tell me, why do your people attack our villages?”“Is clear we better than you. The Dark Lord told us so. He say we shall dominate the universe, and that why we slaughter you and your small friends, big wielder of loud magic.”“Dark Lord?” Vibrak said suddenly, confused, in Matoran language.“I'm guessing that's a bad guy,” muttered Spiileus.“He says he is an Ukzokth named Orgluk,” Vibrak informed his friends, ignoring Spiileus's jibe. “I will talk to him more.”“What you tell friends?” Orgluk demanded when Vibrak reactivated his mask.“Never mind. Who is the Dark Lord?”“Dark Lord is our great master, foolish gray-armored one. He leads us, tells us we will rule world.”“Kryaju, back me up. Show your interest in the Dark Lord. Flatter him,” instructed Vibrak. Then he said to Orgluk, “please tell me more.”“Yes, who is this great Dark Lord?” asked Kryaju. Though the goblin could not understand him, he hoped his intrigued and flattering tone would be enough for the Mask of Charisma to work with.“He greatest, mightiest being in the universe,” continued Orgluk. “He leads us, you like rust-maggots under our feet.”“What does he look like?” asked Vibrak as Kryaju made vague indications of interest.“He looks... big and powerful,” said Orgluk, suddenly wary. “If you be lucky, you never meet him. He wields magic far stronger than your magic.”“Really? You say he's the mightiest being, but have you heard of Mata Nui?”“Pah,” the Ukzokth spat. “I wondering when you mention that name. You waste time lying to me, the Dark Lord tells us about your Mata Nui. He told us truth, that Mata Nui not exist, that all of your universe are belong to the Dark Lord.”“So, what are those large, slow allies you have?” Vibrak asked, changing the subject. “They are not Ukzokth, are they?”“Of course not, mud-brained fool. They Urshnolg. They stupid things, but strong, and good at fighting, but they stupid.”“Where do they come from? They came from before the Dark Lord, didn't they?”“The Dark Lord unite Ukzokth, give us Urshnolg for war,” said the goblin, ignoring the question, “now he guide us to destiny. He say our destiny to be masters of world.”“Tell me more about the Dark Lord.”“Ugh,” hissed Orgluk. “You ask for me talk too much. The Dark Lord be happy to know that you know he exist, and you afraid, but for me say too much is bad to the Dark Lord.” Vibrak knew he would get no more information from the prisoner. Even torture, which was out of the question, would only result in stubborn defiance. The Toa of Sonics deactivated his mask. “I have learned this,” he informed the others, “the Ukzokth are led by 'the Dark Lord.' The Dark Lord told them that Mata Nui does not exist and that he and the Ukzokth are the rightful rulers of the universe. The beings we call trolls are called Urshnolg by the Ukzokth, and the Ukzokth use them for war.”“But what could the Dark Lord be?” pondered Spiileus. “I mean, I have a feeling this is no minor warlord.”“Dark Lord... Dark Lord... Turaga Morok, do you think that could be the Shadowed One?” asked Vibrak, as the group left the room and locked the door behind them.“Hard to say,” said the Turaga of the Green thoughtfully. “I never expected him to be capable of such things, but to be honest, I know little about him. I only know that he is power-hungry, a skilled strategist, and I've heard he is also formidable in personal combat, though he has legions of operatives and warriors to carry out his agenda for him. It would be strange from him to use anything but Dark Hunters, but I do believe he would use any method if he thought it would gain him power.”“Could it be a Makuta?” Lidon suggested suddenly. “I mean, one of Teskor's brothers. Maybe they are punishing us for what happened to Teskor.”“I don't think so,” said Kryaju. “Though they are strange and mysterious to us, Makuta are ultimately our allies, for they too serve Mata Nui. I have read many ancient accounts of Toa and the Brotherhood of Makuta working together to maintain order in the universe. Also from what I've read, you are right about the Makuta being forbidding and wrathful, but if they wished to take revenge for Teskor's death, the message would be clear to us. This is a mystery, and whoever is behind it is making an effort to hide his identity.”“Maybe another one has been corrupted as Teskor has?”“It is possible,” said Siok. “But I am sorry to say that these events are occurring at a most unfortunate time.”“You see, speaking of Dark Hunters,” began Morok cautiously, “that organization is posing a threat to us that must be dealt with. You noticed it took an especially long time for Metaku to craft that mask. He had been waiting for a shipment of mask-making supplies, a shipment that was delayed by Dark Hunter pirates. They have established a blockade, and I fear if we do not act, all trade with other lands will be cut off.”“As of now, the effects have only been noticed with rather exquisite goods, such as high-quality mask-making supplies, imported high-tech tools, and the like,” continued Siok. “But it will not be long before this blockade severely disrupts our way of life.”“Should we split up, Turaga?” said Vibrak after pondering for a moment. “I do not like it, but we cannot leave this land, nor can we ignore the blockade if the situation is as dire as you say.”“I do not like it either, Vibrak,” agreed Morok, “but that is what Siok and I were planning. Two of you shall go, and two shall stay.”“Very well, Turaga,” said the team leader, and he took another few seconds to decide. “Kryaju, your powers would be useful at sea. Will you go?”“I will,” nodded the Toa of Ice.“I want to investigate this for myself, but I also want to remain here,” said Vibrak uncertainly. “Spiileus, Lidon?”“A Toa of Earth stays on solid ground when he can help it,” smiled Spiileus. “If you don't mind.”“I too would like to remain,” Lidon decided. “The Matoran need training in battle if they are to survive, and I can provide them with that.”“Okay then. Kryaju and I will depart tomorrow,” declared Vibrak. The four Toa and two Turaga went upstairs to Hakki to discuss further plans with him. Review 

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

 

~1,694 BGC~

 

It wasn't hard to find the Dark Hunter blockade. After all, the pirates were preying on merchant traffic, so all the Toa had to do was follow the common shipping routes. Still, Vibrak had kept alert the entire time. The two Toa had never been so far from their homes before, and he wasn't sure two Toa could do much in this situation. Taking the Hunters by surprise could be their only chance at success. He and Kryaju were doing their best to look innocuous, sailing in a plain Matoran cargo boat, but the lack of a full crew visible on the deck was noticeably unusual. It would have been convenient to actually have Matoran on board to maintain the facade, but there was no way he would put the villagers at risk by using them in such a way. Now, as the old metal boat sailed towards the menacing frigates in the distance, all Vibrak could do was watch and wait. Below him, Kryaju was steering the ship. Their plan was simple. They would use their elemental powers to sink as many ships as possible, and board an enemy ship if theirs was destroyed. It was perhaps not a very clever plan, but no one in Yrenta was an expert naval combatant. Soon, the time came. From behind an empty crate, Vibrak saw one of the Dark Hunter ships come up beside theirs. Grappling hooks were tossed onto their vessel, immobilizing it, and every cannon on the near side of the Dark Hunter ship came to bear on the small transport. The boarding ramp on the frigate's edge stood ready to extend. But before it did, a Dark Hunter came and leaned over the side. He had a body like a Toa, but he was taller, perhaps two bio tall, and an antler-like structure protruded from the back of his head. He was crimson and gold in color and wore a Kanohi whose power Vibrak did not recall, though he had seen the shape before. Brandishing a spear with a large, ornate golden head, the pirate spoke. “Come out, Matoran, and let us take our share of your cargo,” he boomed. “Cooperate and no one will get hurt.” Vibrak hesitated for a moment, and the Hunter repeated his command. Stealthily, Kryaju left the helm and crept up next to Vibrak. Together, the Toa poked their heads out from behind the crates, just enough so that they could be mistaken for Matoran. “All of you, come out where we can see you,” said the tall Dark Hunter gruffly, and he hefted his spear. Vibrak nodded, and the Toa acted. A blast of sound shattered the crates and struck the nearby pirate. Kryaju sent a bolt of ice to distract him for a moment longer as Vibrak sent another sonic attack at the enemy ship's hull. Immediately, that ship was ruined, but the danger was only beginning. The boarding ramp extended and and half a dozen Dark Hunters swarmed over it. More jumped from the ship, and quickly surrounded the Toa. Vibrak blasted them away with a sound wave, and Kryaju iced the deck, causing several of them to slip overboard. The remaining Hunters closed in, and the other ships were also coming near, alerted by the sinking of their comrade. One of the pirates pulled the trigger on a projectile launcher, but Kryaju encased the weapon in ice just in time, causing it to backfire explosively. That Hunter roared and took a step back, and one of his allies pushed him aside to challenge the Toa. “Just kill them!” barked the tall Dark Hunter after a moment of fierce stares between factions. Kryaju and Vibrak hit the deck just as three launchers fired, sending lethal projectiles zooming over their heads. Kryaju twisted to block a blade with his staff, and Vibrak swept at the feet of a nearby Hunter with his glaive. By moving into the crowd of foes, the Toa were able to survive. In close combat, the larger Dark Hunters were at a disadvantage, as were the ones with ranged weapons. One by one, the Toa picked off their opponents. One of them fired a large launcher up close at Vibrak, who dodged, but the explosion knocked him down and blasted a hole through both decks of the ship, nearly damaging the hull. That Hunter's partner reprimanded him for that recklessness with a hard slap, and Kryaju took the advantage to take out both of them. The Toa were still outnumbered, but they were holding their own. Just then the tall pirate, apparently the leader, held out his spear and pressed a button on it. Flashing green light beamed along the length of the spearhead, and the two Toa found themselves gripped by violent spasms. Kryaju closed his eyes, but it did no good. The blinking image was burned into his mind, and it was maddening. The Toa fell, jerking uncontrollably, and the remaining Hunters raised their weapons. Suddenly the ship shuddered. The pirate leader deactivated his spear and cursed. The Toa looked up, and saw clearly what was happening. The remaining Dark Hunter ships were firing upon them. If the crew on those ships knew their allies were on board their target, they apparently cared more about eliminating a threat to their blockade. “Either way, Toa, you're dead,” hissed the gold and red Hunter. “Bye.” He took a step closer and held up his spear as he reactivated the seizure-inducing effect, but that was all he got a chance to do. The next cannon shot struck him in the back, killing him instantly. The Toa swiftly rose and each took out a pirate as holes were blasted in the deck and hull. While the Hunters were distracted, Kryaju and Vibrak swiftly jumped overboard. The seawater felt cold to Vibrak, but not to Kryaju. As the two ships sank, the remaining Dark Hunter sailors followed the Toa into the water. The swimming pirates circled the Toa like Takea, closing in slowly, until Kryaju released a surge of elemental energy. The intense chill was accompanied by a cloud of mist that blocked all vision while Kryaju's power took effect. When the mist cleared, a ring of ice surrounded the Toa, encasing the nearby pirates. Exhausted from the exertion, Kryaju began to sink, but was quickly supported by Vibrak. As soon as possible, the Toa dove underwater and swam under the frozen Hunters floating above. But the Dark Hunters would not be trapped for long, already the stronger ones were breaking free. “We're stranded in the remote sea and surrounded by hardened killers,” observed Kryaju, unusually anxious. “What should we do?”“We've never been in such a situation,” admitted Vibrak. That was true, if the normally calm Kryaju was visibly afraid. “I'm sorry I led you into this, my friend. But it's not over yet. There's our chance, let's take it!” The Toa of Sonics pointed to the nearest Dark Hunters ship. With strength granted by desperation, the two Toa quickly reached it. Its metal hull was durable, but there was a porthole not far above the waterline. Kryaju moved first, forming small structures of ice on the hull to hold on to as he climbed. Though ice made poor hand-holds, it was their only choice. Carefully, Vibrak followed. Above him, Kryaju created a layer of expanding ice under the rim of the porthole, forcing it open. Stealthily, he ducked inside, followed by his team leader. Luckily, the room was empty. Vibrak's body went limp as he activated his mask. He returned a few seconds later with the news that the surrounding chambers were also unguarded, and contained goods that were undoubtedly stolen. Confident he and Kryaju were relatively safe for the time, Vibrak left his body again to scout farther away. The deck above them was only occupied by cannoneers looking for targets out at sea. Vibrak floated up to the top deck. There, the remaining crew members were scurrying around, pulling comrades out of the water while searching for the Toa in the sea down below. Vibrak's invisible spirit stood next to a pair of buccaneers that were arguing about the possibility that the Toa had been killed. He was beginning to relax when a loud, gruff voice echoed across the deck, carrying orders to search the ship thoroughly. Startled, Vibrak let his concentration slip and his spirit was pulled back into his body. He quickly stood up and informed Kryaju of the situation. The Toa had been safe for a few minutes, but they were still trapped. Soon they would be caught. They could easily have sunk the ship and jumped back into the water, but then they would be without a boat. They could not make it to land by swimming. On the other hand, Vibrak doubted they would be able to defeat the entire crew in a battle aboard the vessel. But he resolved to do his best. Silently, he and Kryaju approached the ladder to the deck above them. Vibrak peeked up onto the upper deck While the deck the Toa had entered by was divided into partitions for storing cargo, this one was open, with cannons sticking out of the hull on both sides and a wide, mostly empty space in the middle. Directly above that deck was the top deck, where most of the pirates were still swarming down from. Holding out his hand as little as possible, Vibrak used his mastery of sound to create a diversion that sent most of the raiders back to the top. Before they returned, the Toa moved swiftly. The gunners were poorly trained in personal combat are were quickly rendered unconscious. A few sturdy pirates remained, however, and the real sounds of battle alerted the raiders above quicker than the false ones created by Vibrak had. Swiftly, he shattered the ladder to the top deck with a blast of sound, incapacitating a few unprepared Hunters in the process. That did not slow the pirates down for long, however. More jumped down and entered the battle faster than the Toa could hold them off, and soon Kryaju and Vibrak were cornered again. Behind them was the thick hull of the ship, in front of them nearly thirty raiders advanced. “Brace yourself. Cover your ears,” whispered Vibrak. Discreetly, Kryaju did so, just as a deafening sonic wave emanated from Vibrak's glaive. Another blast ensued, then another. The attack was aimed at the far end of the chamber, but it was powerful enough to make the entire ship shudder. Kryaju fought to maintain consciousness. Vibrak, who was sensitive to his own power, was already out cold, as were the less hardy raiders on the deck. Cracks appeared on the floor and ceiling, then in the hull itself. The remaining Dark Hunters suddenly stopped their advance as all aboard felt an unmistakable lurch. The ship was sinking. “Finish 'em off, deck rats,” growled a commanding Dark Hunter. Kryaju hastily materialized a barrier of ice as rockets streaked towards him. The blast shattered the frozen wall, but was redirected enough to knock a cannon off its mounting. The barrel rolled harmlessly down the chamber towards the far end, which was sinking faster. Kryaju defended himself with a distracting hail of icicles long enough to run to the empty cannon port and jump into the water, with Vibrak's unconscious body pressed against his side. Kryaju lost his grip during the impact, and he and his leader were separated as they plunged beneath the surface. On the verge of panic, Kryaju searched for Vibrak, and was relieved to see the Toa of Sonics swimming towards him. He was weak, but awake. Both Toa felt the depletion of their elemental energies. For the moment, the Dark Hunters aboard the ship seemed to be more concerned about evacuating than finding the Toa. Swiftly, the Toa put distance between them and the Hunters. “Here we are, lost again,” muttered Kryaju.“Not quite,” said Vibrak hopefully. “Look!” A cargo ship similar to the one the Toa had arrived in was sailing towards them at top speed. It was clear this was no pirate vessel, for Matoran crew members were visible on the top deck and it was unarmed. The ship nearly passed by, but Vibrak created a sound loud enough to get the attention of the sailors. Ropes were tossed into the sea, and the Toa were hauled aboard. Immediately, Vibrak heard the danger was not over yet. Three of the blockading ships were in pursuit. Matoran cried out as a cannon shot bounced off the hull, not quite making a hole but leaving a noticeable mark below. “Toa!” hailed a tough-looking Ta-Matoran. “What a catch. Could ye return the favor and help us out o' this mess?”“This hasn't been an easy day for us,” said Vibrak, “but we'll do our best.” Calling upon the last of his elemental energies, Vibrak created a detonation of sound in the water. The intense waves pushed the pursuing craft slightly off course, and Kryaju followed by freezing the water as much as he could. Exhausted, the two Toa dropped to the deck. Suddenly, they heard the Matoran around them cheering. The Ta-Matoran, who seemed to be the captain, approached and helped them up. “Looks like ye slowed 'em down just enough for us t' make it. Ye have our thanks,” he said. “And we wouldn't 'a made it this far if ye hadn't caused that disruption back there. Look, just now they're reforming their lines.” The three ships had stopped chasing and were now returning to their allies. Thanks to the efforts of the Toa, the pirate fleet was in disarray. Soon the blockade would be reformed, but the Toa and the Matoran sailors were far beyond it. “You should be safe now,” said Vibrak. “I don't suppose you're willing to give us a ride home?”“Nay,” said the captain regretfully, “we can't afford to be taking any detours. But ye can take one of the dinghies we have aboard.” The Toa graciously accepted, and soon they were sailing north to Yrenta in a small but sturdy boat. They had been unable to dissolve the blockade, but had done considerable damage for only two Toa. They would plan their next move when they got home, after they had rested and recovered. ----- “Traitorous monster,” said the Toa of Air. “I will vanquish you, and the Matoran will be safe once more!” If Makuta Teskor had not been a cloud of gas in a metal shell, he would have yawned. While it was interesting that a Toa had discovered him, he had known of this one's approach since he was twenty kio away. This Toa was quite observant, but obviously a novice. He was one of the few from the lands to the north, primitive lands that Teskor payed little attention to, though they were technically under his control. Occasionally Teskor would test his Rahi and Rahkshi against isolated villages there, and his Rahkshi never left witnesses. The villagers north of the wastelands would cower before him, if only they knew what he was. All they knew was that some powerful figure somewhere did not like them. Except, apparently, this Toa, who must have embarked on a long and hard quest only to come to a terrible end here in Teskor's lair. But Teskor had not fought Toa for many years, and was willing to draw the fight out to hone his skills. He brandished his claws. “Come, then, little Toa, and see if you can fulfill your threats,” taunted the Makuta. The Toa of Air unleashed a powerful cyclone, but Teskor waved it off. Breezes were no use against thick protosteel. Powerful winds swept debris up and dashed it against Teskor's armor, but that attack also had little effect. Frustrated, the Toa clumsily charged into melee combat, giving Teskor a long opportunity to kill him immediately. However, Teskor chose to wait. He easily parried blows from the Toa's sword with his claws. The battle continued like that for several minutes, until the Toa finally drew back and held his sword high. Teskor felt all the air rushing away from him, gathering around the tip of the Toa's blade. Ordinarily this would have been a devastating attack, for nearly all beings needed to breathe, and would die or pass out quickly without air. However, Makuta were not such beings. A look of fear and confusion spread across the Toa's face as Teskor laughed silently, with no air to carry the sound at all. Then Teskor countered with his own vacuum power, one of his many abilities. The Toa of Air reacted, creating more air to balance Teskor's attack, but was helpless in his distraction. The Makuta adeptly switched from his power to create vacuums to his power to induce sleep, and the Toa fell. A pair of Rahkshi that had been hiding in the shadows came forward eagerly, but Teskor instructed them to continue standing guard. This will be a useful specimen, thought Teskor as he knelt to remove the unconscious Toa's mask. Yes, this will be a very useful specimen indeed. Review 

 

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

 

~1,693 BGC~

 As soon as he saw the small, gray bird approaching him, Lidon knew what was going on. Every Matoran around him gasped, lowered their heads, or made other displays of fear and sadness as the Pijduk landed in his palm. It had only been three weeks ago the four Toa had been summoned to defend the village of Lightning. The presence of this messenger bird meant another village was under attack. Lidon allowed the Pijduk to perch on his finger as he took the tablet it was carrying with his other hand. This time, it was the village of Stone. An army had been seen marching south out of the Wastelands, and Sanbi was calling for aid. Due to the jungle village's proximity to the Po-Koro, Lidon expected to be the first one at the scene. Calling upon his elemental power, Lidon conjured a tasty fruit for the small Rahi in his hand. The bird ate, then flew off, its color contrasting sharply with the vibrant foliage around it. Before it had left Lidon's vision, a larger bird had swooped down upon it. But before the flying carnivore could secure its meal, the messenger bird faded away as its defensive ability to turn invisible activated. The Toa of the Green knew that by the time the predator could even begin to search for its prey by other means, the Pijduk would be long gone. The small birds were used as messengers all across the region because they were fast, intelligent, loyal, and well-protected. “My Matoran friends,” announced Lidon loudly, “our desert-dwelling brothers are under attack! Who will join me in the battle? I regret I must ask for your participation, and I ask only for the most stout of heart to accompany me.” Lidon meant the words. Despite their powers, it had never been feasible for four Toa to win such a battle alone. Matoran warriors had fought and died in each defense, and though the Toa did not like putting Matoran in danger, their only hope was to recruit brave villagers from their homes. Nevertheless, many of the Matoran chose to join him. He vowed to do his best to keep them alive. Due to the urgency of each call to arms, each village involved in the war was prepared to send warriors almost immediately. After saying a quick goodbye to Turaga Morok, Lidon and twenty courageous Matoran rode north on the backs of Jungle Hypaka. As they traveled, Lidon thought back to last year. Last year, the Toa had captured a goblin prisoner. From the prisoner, they had learned the goblins called themselves Ukzokth, and served a being known only as the Dark Lord. That prisoner had since been released, but had probably been killed on the battlefield some time after. After interrogating the prisoner, Vibrak and Kryaju had gone to deal with a Dark Hunter blockade. Meanwhile, Lidon and Spiileus had attempted to search the wastelands, but were repulsed. Vicious beasts, hordes of Ukzokth, and an aura more oppressive than any felt before had barred them from traveling deep enough into that desolate land to find any answers. Vibrak and Kryaju had fared little better during their mission, but fortunately the blockade had soon disappeared soon after. Perhaps, it was thought, the damage the two Toa had done had been enough to convince the Dark Hunters such an endeavor was unprofitable. Since then, goblin attacks had increased, and they had gradually become more of a threat. Four months ago, monstrous Kavinika-like Rahi, which the Toa later learned were called Kavtokh, had appeared on the battlefield as Ukzokth steeds. Also, the Ukzokth warriors were becoming stronger and more cunning. Each time more Matoran died, and each time the savages came closer to killing the Toa and razing the village they had attacked. Each battle was harder than the last, and Lidon expected this one to be no different.

-----

Though the Toa of Ice may not have liked it, it had not been difficult for Spiileus to locate him. After receiving the message, Spiileus had thought it wisest to seek out the partner who lived above him, and travel to battle together. So he had gone to the surface as quickly as possible and followed the icy white Spirit Star until he found Kryaju. Out of respect for his comrade, Spiileus had resisted the urge to make small talk, and the two Toa had traveled eastward in silence. No talking was necessary, both Toa knew what had to be done. Now they were nearly at the village, and Lidon was no doubt already there. Spiileus and Kryaju had traveled quickly, and if the Po-Matoran scouts had detected enemy movement and informed the Toa early enough, there would be time to mount a solid defense. Neither of the Toa were ready for the view they saw as they stepped onto the dune overlooking the village of Stone. A horde larger and more organized than any seen before was descending upon the simple village. A few Matoran warriors, along with Toa Lidon, were visible far below, defiantly standing in front of the settlement. Before the Toa could move, several of the Matoran fell, pierced by bolts. Lidon and the remaining Matoran responded, and Spiileus and Kryaju jumped to the bottom of the dune. They rushed to join their friends, but were cut off by a tide of Ukzokth midway. Up close, the Toa could easily notice these goblins were different. While the ones they had fought before had been awkward, misshapen beings, these new foes were strong, proud, and thick in armor. They were also taller on average, and were better-equipped. Kryaju struck one with a mighty blow that would have easily felled a lesser Ukzokth, but this one roared and grappled for control of the staff. Quickly, Kryaju sent a blast of ice from his weapon, freezing his opponent, then dodged a flurry of blows from another one. This one was clad in bright but dirty gray armor and wore a fearsome, all-concealing helmet. It held two swords, one attached to each of its fingerless hands. Kryaju twirled his staff defensively, a move he had practiced for hundreds of years, but even he was hard-pressed to block the blows of this growling berserker. After a brief but intense clash, the Toa of Ice gained the upper hand. Quickly, he killed the goblin, then created a frigid blast that froze nearby Ukzokth almost solid. His weaving staff created a wake of shattered armor and ice as he followed up on his freezing attack. Spiileus was still near Kryaju, but separated by several Ukzokth and a troll. Fortunately, a thick swarm of goblins obstructed the troll from reaching Spiileus, so the Toa of Earth was free to dispatch the smaller warriors without worrying about being attacked by it yet. Or, so he thought, until the Urshnolg lost its patience and cleared a path with a few swings of its stone club. Goblins screamed as they were crushed or swatted away. From what the inhabitants of Yrenta had seen, no member of this army had respect for the life of his comrades. If the troll thought it could claim the prize of killing a Toa, it would choose the most direct path to that prize with no regard for the lives of the little goblins, and the goblins had the same attitude to their fellow servants of 'the Dark Lord'. Fearful of the wrathful troll, the nearby Ukzokth retreated, clearing a patch of sand for the Toa and the Urshnolg to duel on. Sometimes it was advantageous to let the enemy make the first attack, other times it was better to strike first. In this case it was the former, Spiileus decided. He hoped to see surprise and confusion on the savage's tusked face as he dodged a clumsy club strike, but instead he saw what passed as an intrigued smile. This being was eagerly anticipating a challenge. Spiileus would give him one. Activating his Mask of Biomechanics, Spiileus enhanced the pistons that augmented the muscles of his limbs. With enhanced strength, Spiileus leaped inside the reach of his adversary. A swipe of his claws created a shallow gash in the hulk's armor, but it quickly drew its arm back and struck Spiileus with its elbow. Had Spiileus stood against the blow, he would have been crushed. Instead, he moved with the momentum and quickly regained his balance. A brave goblin came forth from behind him in an attempt to catch him off guard, but Spiileus kicked it down and stepped on it, all without turning around. A quick, strong tremor kept the other Ukzokth struggling to stay on their feet while Spiileus darted back out of range. He approached the troll, and the club came down again. Pushing his Kanohi power to its limit, Spiileus jumped onto the club and grabbed hold as the Urshnolg lifted it back up. The giant raider slammed the club against the ground in an attempt to dislodge Spiileus, but the Toa reached for its wide shoulder, grasped it, and pulled himself up. The troll thrashed violently, and Spiileus dug his claws deep into its thick armor and muscles. From up on the troll's back, Spiileus could see the entire battlefield. More Matoran had joined the fight, and Lidon was holding off the Ukzokth quite well with his plant powers. But he could not hold forever. The troll dropped to the ground, trying to crush Spiileus. Spiileus scrambled out of harm's way and jabbed his claws deep into a weak point in the Urshnolg's vital areas. The beast roared, moaned, and lay still. Kryaju flash-froze the two goblins that stood between him and Spiileus, dispatched them, and rushed to stand at his friend's side. Together, the two Toa battled their way towards the village. Though they did not like being forced into such a situation, they could give the enemy no mercy, and the destruction they wrought was terrible. The many more Ukzokth and Urshnolg were undeterred. The savages pressed forward, growling, hissing, and baring their sharp teeth. To the great surprise of the Toa, a few of them spat threats in crude, but recognizable Matoran. A war-horn sounded, and a unit of Matoran warriors burst forth. Spiileus recognized them as an elite group of Ba-Matoran, the Knights of the Cliff. Well-trained and finely equipped, the Knights were the village of Gravity's most formidable warriors. The mass of purple armor combined with the flash of their gleaming weapons reminded Kryaju of a thunderstorm. Unfortunately, while the Knights of the Cliff fought well, they were not invulnerable to the goblins' weapons as a storm was. One by one, they fell. One knight was taking on a berserker while his comrade defended him from a rush of lesser foes. Just as the first knight knocked his opponent's helmet off, the second knight was overwhelmed and killed. Surrounded, the first knight disappeared within the oncoming horde. Spiileus struck the ground with his claws, and the sand shifted as the solid earth under it quaked. A wave of charging Ukzokth stumbled and fell in unison. Before they could rise, they were all dead, either slain by the remaining Matoran warriors or trampled by the next assault, which came immediately. Kryaju moved too late to save a surrounded Po-Matoran but quickly succeeded in avenging him. Next to him, the Toa Yrenta of Earth continued to shake the ground under the feet of the attackers. After creating a suppressive rain of icicles, Kryaju looked back at the village. Far less Matoran were standing by Lidon's side, and many goblins were swarming towards him. Spiileus heard his partner call for a retreat to Lidon's side, and he complied. Carefully, the Toa and Matoran forced their way back to the village gate. As the two Toa downed the last goblins between them and Lidon, they noticed the sun above was dimming. That was bad. The battle had lasted for hours, the Toa and Matoran were tiring, and the Ukzokth showed no sign of fatigue. Worse, it would soon be night, and Ukzokth were far more formidable in darkness. For the Matoran to have any hope of achieving victory, they would need to achieve it soon. Bodies of Ukzokth, Urshnolg, and Matoran piled around the borders of the village as the battle dragged on. By now, it was clear even the might of the Toa could only slow the assault. The settlement had long been surrounded, escape seemed impossible. A grinding and crumbling sound boomed as the invaders penetrated the meager defense, using a troll to smash the small stone wall. Immediately, the Toa ordered the Matoran back inside, and the defenders rushed to block the hole. Moments of later, ill news came from within in the form of shouts of terror and sounds of stone breaking. The village was breached and the Matoran could not secure the interior. As Kryaju darted inside the gate and it slammed shut behind him, he thought of his one last hope. He did the calculations in his head as he battled a troll, and allowed himself a small smile of relief. Just as his duel with the Urshnolg reached its climax, a stunning rumble came from the south. The troll hesitated, either utterly confused by the sound, or fearful of what it heralded. That moment of distraction was its last moment of life. Kryaju ran, covering many bio before the carcass hit the ground, towards his allies. The remaining defenders, along with the population of the village, moved for the south gate. The gate had been forced open, and scores of Ukzokth were swarming in. In their last attempt to survive, the Toa and Matoran would meet them head-on. Lidon shouted a battle cry as he and his allies charged. Surprised by their boldness, the first lines of goblins were defeated quickly. A giant ball of earth cast forth by Spiileus allowed the Matoran to exit through the broken gate, leaving the abandoned village behind. Quickly, the Toa shut the gate behind them and sealed it to the best of their ability. A pack of Kavtokh fell upon the villagers, but the Toa repulsed them with minimal casualties. They attacked with great blasts of power, and swiftly, for though the arrival of Vibrak could be their salvation, the Toa of Sonics would not survive long alone. The rest of the horde had realized what was happening and was beginning to converge on their retreating targets. Spiileus concentrated deeply on his mask, again pushing its power to the limit, but failed to defend himself from the spear of an orange-armored goblin. He felt pain shoot through his leg and nearly fell, but kept his balance and fended off the Ukzokth's next attack. Seconds later, a crossbow bolt shot into the weak neck membrane between its helmet and chest. Favoring his wounded limb, Spiileus turned to the group of Matoran he was defending and gasped. They were gone, pulled beyond the outer lines of the attacking horde. He allowed his rage and grief to empower him as he battled his way back to his friends. Night had nearly come, and though the goblins were growing stronger, Kryaju was also gaining an advantage. While not being heated by the sun, the desert was very cold. Calling upon his element was taking less and less energy as the heat left the dry air and sand. He didn't slow down to finish the Ukzokth he had frozen solid, for he had to move quickly. Injured, Spiileus fell to the ground beside him, but Kryaju could not defend his friend without leaving himself open to attack. Fortunately, he heard the clang of Lidon's sword behind him, followed by the cries of vanquished Ukzokth. Kryaju glanced back and saw Spiileus getting up carefully and merging his element with Lidon's for a strong defensive move. A bulwark of earth and plants delayed the scrambling goblins as Spiileus limped away. Lidon, Kryaju, and the remaining Matoran guarded him, cutting down the Ukzokth on all sides. Ahead, a large group of the invaders rushed at Vibrak, who already had many Ukzokth bodies at his feet. One last sonic blast defeated a significant number of the charging goblins, but Vibrak was also defeated by his own power. Together, the three other Toa fired a hail of attacks before the remaining Ukzokth could reach their unconscious friend. The goblins fell quickly, and then the survivors had escaped from the ring of attackers. The Toa and Matoran had emerged from the ranks of the invading army, but were not safe yet. Matoran came forth to support Spiileus and Vibrak, while Lidon and Kryaju used their last reserves of elemental energy to delay the goblins that gave chase. The retreating forces ran for their lives, and just as they feared they could run no further, a harsh cry in the Ukzokth language rang out from within the horde, and the pursuing party stopped and ran back. Hope replenished the strength of the Matoran, and they continued, marching briskly until the ruined village was out of sight. The villagers and their Toa stopped to rest, then headed west to the village of Gravity. “Less than half of them are left,” noted Vibrak grimly, indicating the Matoran. “And less than a quarter of the Po-Koronan escaped.” Vibrak was right. Many of the Po-Matoran had been captured or killed. Their leader Diosilek had escaped, but at the cost of his entire personal guard. It had taken the warriors of Po-Koro much urging to convince Diosilek to flee while they did their duty to protect him. Lidon noticed Sanbi, the venerable former village leader, among the survivors as well. As the defeated heroes and villagers approached the gates of their village, the Ba-Matoran sentinels looked on in solemn silence. No one in the village had been expecting such a defeat, and of the ten that had gone to battle, only three of their beloved Knights of the Cliff had returned. From the highest watchtower, Turaga Siok saw the village of stone burning. He had seen the retreat, but even he had not seen how bad the situation was until now. As quickly as his strained old legs could carry him, he clambered down and rushed to meet the survivors. “So many lost,” he whispered sadly. Review


Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 04:36 PM.

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#8 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 05:47 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,693 BGC~

 

 

For one week a terrible, unnatural-seeming sandstorm raged across the desert, obscuring the captured village and making any attempt to reclaim it impossible. During that time, the Matoran survivors of the battle watched and waited from the village of Gravity on the other side of the canyon. At all times the Ba-Matoran stood guard, ready to collapse the bridge spanning the chasm at the first sign of advancing Ukzokth. But while the storm lasted, neither side could strike. From the tallest tower the villager with the sharpest eyes watched the violently swirling brown cloud, but that was all he could see of the desert of Stone. In the small courtyard at the base of the tower, the four Toa and two Turaga held council. Since their return they had gathered their allies to them, for the sandstorm did not isolate the Ba-Koro as it did the remains of the Po-Koro, and Matoran warriors from all of Yrenta had come. Still, it was feared the next assault would come before the Matoran had gathered in sufficient strength. Also, though each village had lent warriors, none was willing to spare many for fear of compromising their own defenses. That was a prudent judgment, yet perhaps not the best choice, for now a force that may have still been too small to retake the village of Stone was gathered, while the defenses of the other villages were lessened.

 

“I agree,” said Vibrak after Turaga Siok announced his concerns with such risks. “Therefore, we should strike back as soon as possible. If we fight well, we should be able to retake the village with minimal losses and send the Matoran home.”

“Which is why we must delay no further in devising a battle plan,” added Lidon. “Last time we fought, we were unprepared and outnumbered. Now, we are at least evenly matched in terms of strength, and with a well-thought strategy, they stand no chance.”

“I agree that we must plan for battle,” said Kryaju, “but we do not know that they do not still outnumber us, nor what have done while we rested here.”

“What choice would you make, Toa of Ice?” argued Lidon. “Attack before the storms have stopped completely, so we can take them by surprise? Or wait until you can see clearly, by which time it will be too late, and all you will see is that we cannot possibly succeed?”

“It is better to know,” declared Kryaju, but he also feared that even with a clear view of the situation, there would be no hope of victory.

“The fate of the Stone village is important to me,” said Siok slowly, “yet something else worries me more. This war – for yes, it is a war and long as been – is changing. The villages of the north must adapt if they are to survive.”

“Siok and I have discussed the reports of these 'greater' Ukzokth,” explained Morok. “Each village must prepare to defend against such assaults, yet you must also discover how the goblins suddenly increased in skill and stature.”

“Perhaps it is their nature to grow over time, like Ussal crabs,” mused Spiileus halfheartedly.

“I wonder if they are the same individuals, enlarged, or an entire force of replacements? It is impossible for me to tell, yet I am certain they are Ukzokth,” said Vibrak. “I mean, they speak the same foul language, and –”

“The storm is ending!” cried the Matoran lookout suddenly, interrupting Vibrak. “The winds are letting the sand settle!”

 

More suddenly than it had begun, the sandstorm stopped. Being the Toa with the best vision, Lidon replaced the Ba-Matoran at the top of the tower. He was not pleased by what he saw. Where one stood the simple village's tall but thin walls, broken in many places, there were new walls. These walls were ugly and quickly built, yet far stronger than the original barriers. Observation posts and strange machines of war adorned the new construction. Within the village, what buildings had not been completely destroyed had been repaired, and Ukzokth scurried among them. Lidon was dismayed, but he was not one to give up easily, and wished to challenge the occupiers a second time. So when he climbed down the ladder, he resolved to tell the truth, yet inspire his comrades to battle. But despite his best efforts, the other Toa and the Turaga were not eager to retaliate when they heard his news.

 

“Rebuilt, you say?” repeated Vibrak. He was obviously surprised.

“Yes, and stronger than before,” admitted Lidon. “But walls of stone cannot stop a Toa. Together, we can reclaim –”

“No,” interrupted Turaga Morok. Using his Noble Mask of Levitation, he had floated to the top of the tower to see for himself what Lidon had described, and now he was descending slowly. “I am sorry, Lidon, but we cannot launch a counterattack now. I saw hordes of Ukzokth, far more than those we had been driven off by, defending their new fortress. Even with my old eyes, it is clear to me that we cannot reclaim the village of Stone yet.”“Though the loss of their home is a sad event, perhaps it is best that the Po-Matoran dwell among the rest of us for a time,” declared Siok.

“You mean, so they can help us fortify our homes?” said Vibrak, immediately realizing what Siok had in mind.

“Yes, Vibrak,” confirmed the Turaga of Gravity. “The walls and gates we have known will not be enough to stop this new horde out of the Wastelands. The village of Stone was perhaps the least defended settlement in the land, but that was only because its people were peaceful for the most part, and what little defenses they had proved sufficient throughout the years. Now it is time for them, and all the Matoran, to put their great building skills to use.”

“True,” agreed Morok. “Our labor must be directed to building great walls, even in the villages we believe are out of reach of the Ukzokth. But the one exception will be my village, for as long as the jungle is our friend, we will need no walls of metal or stone.”

“And I will never let the jungle become corrupted,” added Lidon.

“But first we should reinforce our northern defenses,” said Vibrak. “We can keep the goblins from traveling south, if we are vigilant.”

“I do not believe we can keep them out of our lands for long, Vibrak,” said Siok, “but we must do our best. First, the bridge must fall.”

 

And so, the village of Gravity was isolated from the desert to the east, the desert that had been claimed by the Ukzokth hordes. Many Matoran were sad to see the bridge go, as it was a beautiful and ancient structure made by the labor of skilled builders. Yet its collapse was a necessary sacrifice to ensure the safety of the village, and the lands beyond. Immediately after watching the stone arch fall through the chasm and fracture at the bottom, the Ba-Matoran and Po-Matoran began their new work. It would be utterly impossible for any goblin or Matoran to scale the cliffs to the village when the barricades were built, and the walls would be thicker than any made it that land since the reign of the League of Six Kingdoms.

 

 

-----

 

 

 

The villagers of Plasma had been anxious in the days since they had sent warriors to assist the Po-Matoran and Ba-Matoran. Hakki had had the remaining guards stay on alert constantly, and so they had responded with impressive haste to the sudden attack. These Ukzokth were the larger, stronger variety that had taken the Stone village, yet their force was far smaller. Already, the invaders were being slowly forced back. It seemed the goblins had been counting on taking the village by surprise, but had failed to do so. Now both sides had taken heavy losses, and the battle was coming to a deadlock. The Matoran were hopeful, however, as they had never fared so well against the Ukzokth without the aid of Toa. After an hour of battle, the lines of the Ukzokth were breaking. The walls of the village were unscathed, and though many Matoran had died, three times as many of the goblins had been vanquished.

 

The goblins broke into a panicking rabble, but suddenly a tall, mighty figure came forth from among them. It was the height of a Toa, if not taller, and had an aura of power. Yet this was no Toa. He wore a fearsome black helmet with a crest of spines, and his thick, dirty armor was crimson, black, and gray. His arms were asymmetrical, but that made him no less menacing. Orange eyes glowed from beneath the helmet. He held its large sword high with one mighty arm, and the Matoran faltered as he loomed over them. Then, with a deep roar, he struck. With strength that seemed to surpass that of a Toa, he sent Matoran flying with swift, devastating swings. Matoran marksmen riddled him with arrows and bolts, but any that did not merely bounce off his armor only made him more terrifying in his ferocity. With his feet, his sword, and his bare hands, he slew every Matoran that stood before him. Behind him, the goblins reorganized themselves, but stood back at his command. He would rout the Matoran himself.

 

“Stand your ground!” ordered a Matoran captain as his subordinates began to retreat.

 

Another flurry of blades and bolts assailed the tall one, but nothing got past his sword this time. The Matoran captain held up his shield as the unstoppable ravager stood over him, holding his empty left hand high. The lone attacker's left forearm glowed, and a wheel of energy shot from it, striking the captain. Energy flared between the two, and the Matoran captain collapsed. The attacker stretched as if refreshed, and, taking his sword it both hands, struck with incredible strength. The exhausted captain was savagely cut in half vertically before he could rise, shield, mask, armor, and all, and the strike marred the ground. The resulting tremor knocked the nearby Matoran off their feet. Panicking, they scrambled to the village walls. The mysterious, mighty being paused to allow them to retreat.

 

“Fear me, Matoran, know who I am and fear!” he declared, and laughed, a dreadful sound. “I am Grungzarg, Ukzokth warlord! Yes, I, mightier than your Toa, am of those people that you have long battled. The Dark Lord has made the Ukzokth mightier, and I, strongest of them all them, shall lead them to victory! You will all be conquered when your time comes! And that time will be soon! But first, you shall know grief, despair, and fear. You shall suffer!”

 

At that, Grungzarg bellowed and sprinted for the village wall. He barely slowed as he smashed through the thin metal barricade and cut down every Matoran in his path. But his target was Hakki. The village leader had been coordinating the defensive efforts from the village center, where his voice could be heard. He would have fought outside, but was a thinker and a worker more than a fighter, and his people would not have him risk his life so. But now, the remaining guards within the walls were too disorganized to respond in time. With great speed, yet slow enough so that the Matoran's horror would last, the enormous Ukzokth dashed towards Hakki and lifted him by the throat with one hand. The leader of the village of Plasma struggled, but Grungzarg took his mask in his free hand and crushed it while tightening his grip around Hakki's throat. Hakki's struggling slowed and stopped, yet all present knew he was alive and awake as the terrible warlord took him to the energy well at the center of the village. This well's unique design converted energy from plasma into energy for Matoran, so that they could replenish themselves without needing to absorb energy from fruit or meat. It was an ancient luxury the village of Plasma was renowned for, as other villages had to rely on less convenient food sources many times in their history. All a hungry Matoran needed to do was hold his hands over the well and absorb a small amount of energy from the glowing reactor within.

 

Now Hakki was being held over it, and he resumed his struggling, though it was hopeless. Grungzarg took a moment to savor the suffering of the Matoran, then released Hakki. As Hakki fell into the well, incredibly hot, bright matter and energy few knew the nature of consumed him. The well flared a beacon of blazing white light that nauseated nearby bystanders, sputtered, and went out. Grungzarg strode out, smashing another hole in the wall but not killing one more Matoran, and was gone. His minions followed, but no one chased them. A few brave Matoran looked down the broken energy well, but all they saw was unrecognizable, half-melted machinery. But even if the well was still functional, no one would have used it. Hakki's death had tainted it.

 

Review

 

 

 

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~ 1,013 BGC~

 

 

Vibrak heard the returning scout long before any of his host saw him. For a moment, he was worried about the competence of the De-Matoran that had been sent ahead stealthily, but Vibrak quickly dismissed his fears. It was highly unlikely that any of the enemy had ears as sharp as his, and sharp enough to hear a sneaking Matoran of Sonics. Soon the scout was standing in front of him in the secret camp where Vibrak's army hid. Only by careful scouting could they move forward and yet maintain their secrecy. Vibrak hoped the other three Toa were in the same situation with their respective divisions. If they were not, that meant they had already been discovered. Discovery would result in the failure of this long and painstaking endeavor, an endeavor which was close to finally succeeding.

 

“Reporting, Toa Vibrak,” whispered the De-Matoran scout. “It is as we hoped. The Ukzokth are marching into the pass, at just the right pace for us to catch them. I detected no sign of our allies, but that can only mean they have been successful so far.”

“Excellent. I know now why you were recommended to me,” commended Vibrak, equally quietly. “You are dismissed, go and get some rest. We will go forth in one hour.”

 

The plan was going perfectly. If the scout's report had been accurate, and if Vibrak and the other Toa had calculated correctly, the four divisions of Matoran warriors, each led by a Toa, would converge on the great Ukzokth force as it traversed the deep Pass of Iron. The Pass of Iron was so named because it was the result of heavy mining that cut through the slope of one of the nameless lesser peaks of the southern wing of the northern mountain range, in which the deserted village of Magnetism once lay in the foothills of. Now, there was no metal of any value left, but it had long been used as a convenient way through the mountains for anyone who happened to be in the area. It was wide enough for a war-host to move without slowing much, but a bad place to be ambushed in. Fortunately, the Toa and Matoran had done their best to ensure the goblins did not fear an ambush. As far as the vicious invaders knew, the few surviving inhabitants of the northern villages were cowering in their fortresses, and the time had finally come to strike at the southern lands. It was true that the northerners, Matoran of Plasma, Lightning, Gravity, Stone, and Magnetism, had built fortresses for protection, though they were more numerous still than the Ukzokth guessed. And it was because of these strongholds that the Matoran survived.

 

The grandest fortress, many kio to the west, had been built nearly seven hundred years ago, and it was named Aki-Naja, which was old Yrenta dialect for the Fortress of Valor. It was a suitable name, as its building had been long and hard. The Ukzokth, with greater stature and under the leadership of Grungzarg, had assaulted the fortress many times since its first foundations had been made. In the end, the construction succeeded, and though they had tried many times the Ukzokth had been unable to breach its walls. Most of the Matoran from the villages of Plasma, Lightning, Stone, and Magnetism lived there, and the rest had scattered, forming secretive settlements each inhabited by a few dozen wary, stubborn Matoran with no walls to protect them. The Ba-Matoran, as well as the Matoran of the south, had not relocated, but had turned their villages into fortresses of their own. From the walls of Ba-Naja, Siok's people carefully watched the desert across the canyon, for that land had never been reclaimed. Cordak-Naja, the Fortress of Desolation as the former village of Stone was called, still teemed with Ukzokth, and the desert was nearly as feared and inhospitable as the northern wasteland itself.

 

The wasteland had long ago ceased to be the only home of the goblins, as they set up camps throughout the mountains and hills. Much of the realm of Metaku and Spiileus had been overrun by subterranean Ukzokth, and even the Ko-Matoran that lived in the highest peaks had had to blend into the ice and hide as snow-dwelling goblins and trolls took up residence in their land. Even the jungle of the east had come under attack, but under Lidon's power, the trees and vines themselves had risen up to vanquish the invaders each time. The settlements to the south, De-Naja and Ga-Naja, had not been attacked by the Ukzokth, but the Matoran were uneasy there too, as some aspect of nature seemed to be disturbed. Beasts were vicious and harvests were poor. Turaga Morok had announced a similar phenomenon in the northern jungle. A corruption was spreading forth, slowly, from the forsaken desert. The plants there were sickly and dark and hard for Lidon to control, and the predators of the jungle had taken to needlessly violent behavior. The corruption had not stopped, but in recent months goblin attacks had become less frequent as the raiders began to gather once again. It was well-known that the terrible Grungzarg led them, but their reunion was the design of the Toa. Together, the Ukzokth would be lured into a trap. Their numbers would be enormous, greater than the combined forces of the Toa, but by taking the Ukzokth by surprise and surrounding them there was a very good chance of victory for the Matoran. It would be their only chance, else the savages would burn their way through the wide southern lands.

 

When the time for rest ended, the time to march to battle began. Vibrak hoped the plan would continue to go well, and that victory would be achieved with few Matoran casualties.

 

 

-----

 

 

“Warriors of Yrenta!” cried Lidon. “It is time! Move as one, let none pass through our assault!”

 

With those words, Toa Lidon led his army in a charge down into the Pass of Iron. Their route, from the southeast, was the only exit from the pass at this area, making it impossible for the Ukzokth to escape from the wide gorge through the mountain without getting past Lidon's army. The other three Toa were covering the other escape routes, north and south, with their forces. Vibrak came through the southern pass, meeting the enemy head-on. Spiileus and Kryaju made their way through shallow paths from the northwest and northeast, respectively, but had converged where those paths came together into the gorge of the Pass of Iron, and were ambushing the enemy together directly opposite from Vibrak's force. As he led the charge downhill, Lidon glanced to the left. Indeed, Vibrak had just engaged the enemy, and now the jungle Matoran were coming upon them from the side. The goblins were clearly dismayed by this sudden show of force, but the Toa knew Grungzarg was commanding them, and Grungzarg would react calmly and decisively.

 

Vibrak sent out blasts of deadly sound, and Lidon rained harmful plants upon the Ukzokth, but both Toa were careful to conserve their energy. For the first few minutes, the battle went smoothly, as the Matoran cut down many goblins and took no casualties. Yet soon a goblin-call sounded, and the trolls came forth. These Urshnolg wielded dreadful metal clubs instead of stone slabs, and some of them even hefted cannons on their wide shoulders, using goblin siege-weapons as personal arms. Clubs and cannonballs would have made short work of the foremost Matoran, had the Toa not anticipated this move and ordered a swift command to retreat from the thick of battle. Now it was time for Spiileus and Kryaju to make their move. A frigid wind and violent tremor indicated they were acting according to the plan. The poorly-defended flanks of the Ukzokth suffered greatly as it took time for Grungzarg to bring his rear forces to bear on the armies of Earth and Ice. The plan of the Toa was revealed, now might and skill in battle would determine if it would succeed.

 

With great skill, Kryaju downed a troll using only his staff, as he knew that he would need to conserve his elemental energy for the greatest challenge that lay ahead. Beside him, the Ice Monks that followed his example in both study and battle battered the snarling Ukzokth that accompanied the hulk. The remainder of his army followed in their wake, and Spiileus's host meanwhile endeavored to cut into the mass of goblins and force a number of them against the western cliff. The enemies caught between Vibrak and Lidon had been annihilated, depriving Grungzarg of the front of his forces, but the troll vanguards had inflicted heavy casualties on the southern Matoran before succumbing to concentrated attacks. With his most fearsome minions lost, the great Ukzokth sent forth his marksmen and the more mobile of his cannons, though he kept them behind a thick wall of spear-bearing goblins. Crossbow bolts and cannonballs tore into the weakened Matoran ranks, and Vibrak realized the southern front would be lost if he did not use his elemental powers. A blast of sound scattered the row of spear-wielders and left the goblin marksmen behind vulnerable to a counterattack of explosive Madu fruit thrown by the jungle Matoran. With renewed hope, the Matoran of the southern force pushed forward. A small number of Ukzokth fought their way through Lidon's host while it was scattered and escaped into the hills, but the vast remainder of the goblins and trolls were trapped. Now the Toa and the Matoran would vanquish them all. Had the precipices on either side of the pass been accessible, the Matoran would have dropped stones from high above. But as that was impossible, it seemed a long and devastating fight still lay ahead. Yet Vibrak remembered the teachings of the Turaga, of Morok and Siok, and Varlokka before them. The Ukzokth were violent pillagers, but it would be wrong to deny them the opportunity to surrender.

 

“Ukzokth, hear me!” he boomed, using his powers of sound to amplify his voice. “You are surrounded, trapped. You have invaded our lands, and we will give our lives to kill all of you in defense of our homes. But I have had enough of war and death. Surrender to us, and we will have peace. Perhaps you will even be tolerated in these lands, if we coexist in peace.”

 

The fighting still raged at the north end of the pass, but on the southern front all was quiet save Vibrak's announcement. Then laughter broke out among the ranks of Ukzokth. Grungzarg himself came forth, chuckling, and spoke in a volume equal to Vibrak's.

 

“You demand our surrender,” he declared mockingly, “and yet you speak as if you can fight no more. Our numbers are still great, and though we are surrounded, we are together. Your forces are divided, a weak barrier against your abandoned homes. And what makes you so sure the homes you left defenseless have not already been razed?”

“Do not suggest such a thing, Grungzarg,” retorted Vibrak. “You could not breach our fortresses with your mightiest armies. And now your mightiest army yet is defeated. If it comes to it, the Toa will annihilate your minions themselves, and then you will be alone against all of us. I would greatly prefer that to putting the Matoran at risk in further battle.”

“You care for the lives of your soldiers, Toa? I think not. They are expendable minions, pawns for a doomed cause.”

“You lie. Stop wasting time! Even now, your rear forces are falling before us. Now put your weapons down -”

“True, Toa,” interrupted Grungzarg. “But let them sacrifice themselves so that we can press on. You cannot keep us out of the southern lands. Forward host, let us move! Crush those who stand in our way!”

 

At that, the Ukzokth and Urshnolg of the southern front, those that had halted to listen to the parley, brandished their weapons once again and surged forward. Behind them Grungzarg's northern forces held off the hosts of Spiileus and Kryaju. With ferocity born of desperation, these prevented the Matoran in the rear from relieving Vibrak, whose division fought to keep the sudden charge from breaking their ranks and escaping into the open southern lands. On both fronts, the numbers on both sides decreased rapidly as sharp blades and other terrible weapons took life after life. A few groups of Ukzokth managed to slip through now and again and escape the battle, disappearing into the mountain paths to the north and south. A troll nearly knocked over Lidon as it fled, and the Toa of the Green was too busy protecting his Matoran to stop it. For a while the battle was a deadlock, but as the Toa gradually put more of their power to use, it became a slaughter. Unable to bring themselves to kill their fleeing enemies, the Toa and Matoran let the few remaining goblins and trolls scatter. Only Grungzarg and a small group of his bravest warriors remained. There were several Ukzokth with spiked armor and jagged blades, very large, but not nearly as large as their leader. Their helms revealed only their glowing eyes, and their mouths with teeth that looked like they had been made by tearing the metal into sharp pieces. A few enormous Urshnolg stood with them, too, each more ornately decorated with spikes and gruesome trophies than the common Urshnolg that had died or escaped. Their tusked faces somehow showed cruel intelligence far greater than the lesser trolls, too.

 

Carefully, the surviving Matoran and their Toa leaders circled this formidable group of remaining enemies. Suddenly an overly bold captain of the Matoran charged, leading those nearby into battle. As soon as they left the ring of their allies, whom the Toa were trying to hold back, a wheel of silver energy shot from Grungzarg's arm and struck the captain. The Matoran fell to the ground as some sort of lines of power raced from him to the goblin leader. Grungzarg roared, and his trolls began to hurl rocks at the Matoran that had dared to come forth. Left with no more time to prepare, the Toa led the remaining Matoran in the final charge. The mightiest of Matoran warriors were able to slay even Grungzarg's elite, but every one that came within his reach collapsed, drained of all energy, while Grungzarg grew stronger. Cutting the leg pistons out from under an Urshnolg as he passed, Lidon dashed to Grungzarg to engage him in single combat. Yet as he held his machete high, prepared for a might opening strike, Lidon was hit by the great Ukzokth's energy-draining attack. Somehow Grungzarg was unable to drain the Toa completely, either he was lost his concentration or Lidon resisted or something else intervened. Lidon staggered for a moment in his weakness, and was knocked back by dark, sickly vines and roots bursting out of the ground. He landed on his feet, but not in time to avoid the swinging axe of a great brown-armored goblin. Only the timely strike of a heroic Matoran saved the Toa, who quickly got back up, thanked the Matoran, and carefully moved back into battle.

 

Grungzarg and Lidon evaded attacks from their respective foes as they matched their willpower against each other. Lidon's plants fought against the twisted garden that Grungzarg had created with his stolen power. Lidon could not advance, the enemy plants protected their master, but Grungzarg could not drain Lidon any more without the Toa breaking through. The rest of the battle seemed to fade away as this went on for a while, until Vibrak let out an amplified battle cry that distracted both combatants. The Matoran were rallied, except the few De-Matoran that had dared to come to the loud battle, and Grungzarg's forces were utterly defeated. Spiileus and Kryaju attacked Grungzarg simultaneously, followed by Lidon. The goblin, last standing and greatest of his kind, bellowed and resisted defiantly, but his armor began to crack. He dropped his sword and his black, ridged helmet was knocked off his head. His bare head was rusty-orange and small for his great size, though it sported a wide maw. He fell to his knees as another barrage came, then another forced him to the ground completely. The four Toa advanced on him slowly, maintaining streams of elemental attacks, when a black and crimson smoke abruptly enveloped him. It lingered for a moment, then dissipated as quickly as it had appeared. Grungzarg was gone.

 

The battle was over, with many Matoran dead, but many more Urshnolg and Ukzokth. No one knew what to think about Grungzarg's disappearance. Only his helmet was left; he had grasped his sword again before disappearing and it had gone with him. Some recalled legends about evil beings that would disappear in such a fashion when vanquished, but few were confident he was dead. Most of the Matoran were overjoyed by their great victory, but all four Toa were appalled by the great loss of life they had all caused. Kryaju did not speak, Vibrak nervously tried to reassure his teammates, Spiileus bowed his head, and Lidon celebrated their victory, but looked grimmer. The might of the goblins and trolls was broken, and they would not recover for many years, if ever. The few that escaped would likely be nuisances. Those survivors would not make peace, that was obvious, but none but the most zealous of Matoran wanted to wipe them out.

 

After resting for a while, Vibrak and Kryaju went separate ways to inform the villagers of their victory. Spiileus and Lidon stayed long after, waiting for their elemental energy to recharge. Finally, they focused their powers over the battlefield where many bodies lay, burying it under grass-covered earth. They sat down again, tired from their efforts, then soon rose and departed.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~ 325 BGC~

 

 

With the breaking of the goblins' strength, life for the Matoran improved greatly. There was no longer open war, with marching armies and Matoran needing to hide in fortresses year round. Yet Yrenta was never quite the same again, and the Toa were as busy as ever. Many Matoran still lived in fortress villages, as the remaining Ukzokth conducted raids on the unfortified settlements once in a while, and vicious Rahi were more common than they had been in past days. The desert where Po-Matoran had lived long ago had never been resettled, as an evil aura lingered over it, making it inhospitable to even the hardiest desert-dwellers. It was thought Ukzokth still remained there, but no life had been confirmed to exist there. Due to the great many deaths during the previous centuries, a majority of the Matoran were young, and few of them remembered Toa Tanu and his team, without being taught their homeland's history. Even fewer recalled Varlokka when she had been a Toa. Old temples and monuments were forgotten by most, and left to crumble. The Toa were far more comfortable with their old roles back, no longer having to go into battle killing scores of creatures with their powers. Soon after the Battle of the Pass of Iron, they had become disillusioned with themselves, and considered giving up their status as Toa. But in the end they had regained their confidence and chosen to continue as Toa, mainly because the young Matoran needed protectors and mentors. Since then they had made several journeys in to the Wastelands. Each time the Toa would go many kio north until they grew weary and overcome by the cold, dry, desolate environment and turned back, but they had found nothing of great interest. Ukzokth and Urshnolg still dwelt there, and attacked the Toa on sight, but showed no signs of organizing for an attack. There were no clues about any major leaders among them.

 

The underground caverns ruled by Metaku and protected by Toa Spiileus were far safer than they had been. Matoran were known to disappear in the most remote tunnels and abandoned mines, but there had been no attacks of any sort anywhere near the inhabited caves for seven hundred years. But this night Spiileus slept uneasily. For some reason, his dreams were of the end of the great Battle of the Pass, when Grungzarg was defeated. The giant Ukzokth was still unaccounted for, but somehow it was not the possibility that Grungzarg was alive that troubled the sleeping Toa of Earth. During the battle, Grungzarg had used his energy-draining ability to gain a darkened, corrupted version of Lidon's elemental power of the Green. Fortunately, the brutal warlord seemed to have been incapable of dealing with multiple elemental powers at once, and so the Toa had overcome him together. Tonight Spiileus dreamed he was struggling against a power like his own, but touched with Shadow. Earth began to bury him faster than he could remove it, and there was a will, a sinister will, directing it. Spiileus could not tell where he was – on the battlefield, buried under death-stained earth, or being smothered in his own underground dwelling. He struggled, and Grungzarg, or whatever was controlling the evil Earth, pushed harder. Spiileus tried activating his mask to enhance his physical abilities, so he could burst out of the accumulating dirt and gravel, but he could not focus himself enough. Dust and several thick clods were sucked into his panicking lungs, and his armor creaked under the immense weight...

 

Spiileus's dark eyes suddenly flashed bright emerald green. Dirt obscured his lenses, and he felt he was being crushed by something. Instantly, he snapped wide awake, and found his dream had come true. He blinked and coughed, then tried again, this time in reality, to gather his willpower. This time he had more success. This was not a nightmare in which he was helpless. But it was still a difficult situation. He felt a chilling, evil aura emanate from his left side, next to where he lay in bed. A hiss came from the shadows, and more loose earth burst from the ground, moving to cover Spiileus. Swiftly, the Toa rolled out of his bed and stood as it disappeared under a fresh mound. He paused for half a second to look for his attacker, dodged as the ceiling of his home cracked and gave way under the weight of a pile of fallen earth from the cavern ceiling. Spiileus searched the room again. His eyes were adjusted to the dark, as always, but he could see nothing out of place, unless it was an indistinct patch of black darker than everything else he could see. There – it moved. Keeping his other senses tuned and tensed to move again, Spiileus focused on the dark thing. It shifted, and Spiileus found himself looking into a pair of murky emerald green eyes. It took a step forward, coming towards a very faint beam of light from the doorway, and Spiileus saw a reflection of himself. Spiileus gasped. This attacker looked just like him, yet even darker. Spiileus was mostly black with some stone gray parts, and bright steel-colored claws. This being was completely black, blacker than Spiileus's blackest parts, as its armor did not reflect even a hint of what little light it caught. In the ambient light, Spiileus's armor shone in comparison. The two beings faced each other, taking battle stance, judging each other before making a move.

 

“Surprised, my friend?” the doppelganger hissed in a mockery of Spiileus's voice. “Do not be troubled. Stay still and I will quickly put an end to your fear.”

 

What black art had spawned a dark copy of himself, Spiileus could not guess. Was it substantial, or an animated shadow? Spiileus decided to find out. He plunged his claws downward in a feint elemental attack, then charged forward. The doppelganger twisted aside effortlessly, then tackled Spiileus, knocking him to the ground. It was certainly substantial, and seemed to know Spiileus's technique as well as, well, Spiileus did himself. The real Spiileus realized that as he evaded a follow-up attack, but he was still ridding himself of the last traces of sleepiness and blind desperation. The Toa of Earth wondered if it would help to try imitating the fighting style of one of his brethren – but no, the doppelganger would expect that. Yet the doppelganger would expect Spiileus to know that, and so expect him to use his own fighting technique in a futile attempt to thwart it. Kryaju would have called such a thing a paradox.

 

“Do not waste your energy. It is no use fighting yourself, friend, for you cannot defeat yourself without being defeated,” taunted the doppelganger. Spiileus did not reply. He decided complex mind games would be no good here, and he knew his copy was thinking the same thing. He sent forth a wave of elementally-driven Earth from the bare floor of his home. As he expected, his doppelganger countered it with his own power, and they were caught in a deadlock. Both sides knew that the struggle would not go uninterrupted for long, however. The rumbling and crashing sounding from Spiileus's dwelling, as well as the small ceiling cave-in, would catch the attention of the local Matoran. Several masks, some black, some bright metallic, appeared in the doorway.

 

No sooner had they shown themselves than the Matoran were attacked by the dark doppelganger. Knowing Spiileus would move to save them, it directed a miniscule fraction of its attention to the cavern ceiling, causing rocks and earth to rain down on the villagers. Spiileus saved them with a quick wave of his claw that blasted the falling earth away, but he had expended more of his focus in his move than his copy had. A second attack from the doppelganger threw him against the wall. To their credit, the Matoran acted swiftly. Spiileus did not move, rather he stayed in that position, prepared to defend himself from there, but he could see that the Matoran had departed. He knew they would know what to do, and he expected the shadowy copy did too, and feared it. That gave him hope.

 

As an experiment, he activated his Mask of Biomechanics. A slight glow, a swirling, evil mist, came from the doppelganger's identically-shaped mask, indicating it had done the same. Spiileus now knew this being had shadow-touched elemental Earth powers, as well as a Mask of Power. Using his slightly enhanced strength, Spiileus tore a chunk from his wall and hurled it at his double. This wall was stone, not loose earth, and neither of the combatants had direct power over stone. The doppelganger dodged it easily, however, and began a seismic wave that surged towards Spiileus's end of the room, making the floor and walls shake. Taking a chance in the hope his copy would be surprised, Spiileus did not counter the tremor. Instead, he added his own power to it, causing the wall behind him to vibrate violently and crack. Just as it collapsed, Spiileus leaped forward. Amid clouds of dust and crumbling stone ceiling, the combatants met in the center of the room. Neither of them had time to gather their elemental energy; they grappled physically. Spiileus could tell by feel that the doppelganger was indeed using a Mask of Biomechanics. Its strength matched his own, and Spiileus felt its will attempt to slow his mechanical parts. Coming close to the shadow-being, and especially touching it, sent a cold feeling of dread through Spiileus, but fortunately for him his own touch seemed to have a similarly disconcerting effect on his opponent. They wrestled tenaciously for some time, then broke off simultaneously as fast, heavy footsteps were heard approaching. Matoran warriors and guards burst into the ruined one-room building, some through the doorway, others through where the wall had been. With a cry, rocks and spears were hurled at the doppelganger. It had been about equally matched against Spiileus, but now it was outnumbered. With a terrible shriek it split the ground, knocking Spiileus and the Matoran over, and fled through the cracking walls.

 

“This is not over! You and your friends will die! And you will be the one who kills you and your friends!” was heard from the shadows. At that, what was left of the structure's ceiling fell, burying the Toa. He quickly burst out, unharmed, but his attacker was gone. That his bedroom was destroyed did not trouble him, he had no possessions of value in it. In fact, his only possessions not on his person were his few secondary masks, safely stored elsewhere. His attacker's appearance, escape, and parting words troubled everyone greatly.

 

“I do not recall even the most vague legends about such things,” declared Metaku upon consulting the Toa. “You had best ask one of the Turaga.”

“Yes,” agreed Spiileus, “but what if that being returns when I am not here? It could return and slaughter you when I am away.”

“That is a risk we will have to take. But we will not be so easily bested. The memories are fading, I admit, but I have known you since you were a Matoran, young Spiileus,” said Metaku. “If any there are any Matoran that know how to defeat you, or at least escape from you, it is us.”

“But, are there any that do know that? And can it be done?”

“This creature is after you – it could have slaughtered us all before going after you, but it did not. Go now, before it strikes again!” argued the old Fe-Matoran.

 

 

-----

 

 

Metaku could be as unyielding as the forged iron products his kind were renowned for, and so the next morning Spiileus found himself walking a path that led to the surface. This road was wide and well-lit, as it was a major route to the villages of Ice and Gravity to the east. An Onu-Matoran could travel this safe and ground-sheltered road for many kio before needing to emerge onto the icy, windswept mountain paths. But Spiileus felt unusually uncomfortable underground now, despite the adequate illumination of the tunnel. At the first chance he got, he took a side path leading onto a seldom-used path among the mountainsides. The air was cold, and it grew colder as Spiileus went farther east and the land sloped up, and he was exposed, yet he was more fearful of an ambush underground than being caught in the open. Soon Spiileus was stepping through snow, his large feet leaving deep impressions in it. Behind him, the smaller mountains that his village lay under were topped with snow, and in front of him in the distance, the largest and highest mountains loomed ahead, nearly completely white. Kryaju's village lay hidden among those mountains, but that was not Spiileus's destination today. The path he intended to take wound through the snow-filled valleys between these great peaks. If he was lucky, the way would not be completely buried, and no snow-goblins or trolls would dare to challenge him.

 

To keep his mind off the cold, Spiileus pondered his encounter as he walked this path. He knew of many dark spirits of myth and legend, and of other beings from stories he had heard from the Turaga and certainly believed to be true, but he had never heard of dark Toa doppelgangers. The thing had called Spiileus a friend, in an insincere way, in a sinister mockery of Spiileus's amiability. It also spoke as if it was Spiileus, which could not be true. Spiileus knew he would not do such things – he would not try to kill himself and put his Matoran friends at risk – and Spiileus knew where he was, by virtue of being himself. He did not know where the doppelganger was. He hoped the Turaga would know what to do. Another thought was troubling him more and more as he went along. If he had a dark doppelganger determined to kill him, he should expect the other three Toa to be in the same situation. He would have liked to warn them, but he did not know where they were, for they had not had to meet for a long time, and he knew where to find Turaga Siok. Siok would be in his fortress village, on the cliff at the end of this great mountain range. The Turaga would ensure the other Toa were warned, and help arrange a meeting between them. They would also most likely have news from the other Toa, as well. That thought reassured Spiileus. Amid the stress caused by this situation, hearing of what his old comrades were up to would be good.

 

Spiileus looked up to the large mountains ahead. He would have gone to visit Kryaju's people, but he did not have time, and besides he could not quite remember where they were hidden in that vast expanse of snowy, icy slopes. He soon found the path under those mountains was still cleared, even when the parted snow along each side was twice his height. After walking for some time, Spiileus had passed over the foot of the largest mountain, and decided to take a rest. He sat down and reached into his pack, being careful not to make a mess of it with his enormous claw-hands. After searching a little, he grabbed some rations and consumed them. When he was satisfied, he took his claws off the food, rummaged some more, and took out a large, potent heatstone. This he took out, opened, and set on the ground. The heat of the stone spread around it, serving as well as a campfire for warmth. Spiileus took his mind off his troubles in an attempt to get some good rest in a short span of time. He had spent a long time relaxing, nearly dozing, when he heard a distant rumble from high up on the mountain slope ahead. He ignored it at first, but as it quickly grew louder, he looked up. The sun was growing dim, but it still reflected brightly off the snow, dazzling the Toa. He looked away and blinked. He could not see for a moment, but the sound was still becoming louder, much louder. Before he could see again, he got to his feet and scooped up his belongings. When he could see, his fear was confirmed, and he saw it was too late to escape. An avalanche was upon him. A second later, it was over him and all around him.

 

After lying still for what seemed to Spiileus like a long time, though it was not really, he blinked. He could only see white. He tried to move. To his relief, he discovered he could, by squirming a little, feel a cavity within the snow. It was wet, the snow was melting in it, but more snow kept falling down into it. A puddle was quickly forming there and spilling out. He immediately realized it was the heatstone. He reached around some more and touched something painfully hot. A little lower, and he grasped the stone's cover. Quickly, he melted enough snow away to be able to move his upper body around. Fortunately the heatstone had a small pocket of air around it, but he would have to hurry to escape before he suffocated. He freed his lower body and melted enough snow to stand, though water dripped around him. He held the stone aloft, hoping it would melt a shaft to the surface. It was no use, the snow was too deep to be entirely melted away without him holding the stone higher, and he realized that the snow under him was melting too. Thinking quickly, Spiileus threw the heatstone up as hard as he could without expending too much air. The stone melted more snow as it reached its apex of its path, then fell back into Spiileus's waiting claw.

 

Spiileus was still buried, and now he was nearly waist-deep in melted snow, as he could not find the cap to cover the stone and contain its heat. Spiileus tried to muster the strength for another throw, but he was feeling lightheaded. Just then, the layer of snow at the top of the shaft crumbled and collapsed, letting in light and fresh air. The remaining snow had not been so thick after all, Spiileus had nearly broken free. Refreshed, Spiileus moved to start melting a sloping tunnel to the surface when a shadow fell over him. He looked up. A figure was standing at the rim of the vent he had made. Spiileus looked closer. The figure was silhouetted, but he could tell it was not his evil doppelganger. It was the shape of Kryaju, though Spiileus was not sure it truly was Kryaju. He brandished his claws. The shape of Kryaju held up his hands, and the snow began to shift, threatening to bury Spiileus again. Calling upon his elemental energy, Spiileus gathered a ball of earth in his hands and tossed it at the silhouette. Kryaju's shape ducked, and the snow stopped rumbling for a moment. Then it began again, though Spiileus could not see what was going on until he found he was uncovered. Standing in front of him was the real Kryaju, judging from the color of the Toa of Ice's armor.

 

“Get up,” ordered Kryaju. “We must tell the Turaga about this immediately.”

“About what?” asked Spiileus.

“You know. Those beings that have our shapes and our powers, but touched with Shadow.”

“How do...”

“You attacked me, even when you knew it was someone with my shape and my power. As I expected, you have also encountered such a being.”

“That makes sense,” admitted Spiileus. “Help me find my stuff and we'll get going. Oh, and thanks for helping me out.”

“It was partly my fault you were buried,” said Kryaju with a grim chuckle. “I was on that mountainside when my double attacked me. Our battle set off the avalanche. I have lost track of him, but I do not think he will dare attack the both of us.”

 

Spiileus could not find the rest of his pack, but he found the cap for his heatstone. After keeping it open for a while while he walked, banishing the chill from his bones, he covered the stone again. It was late at night by the time the two travelers left the snow-surrounded path, and early morning when the canyon came into view. From the small hill on which they stood, they could see the deep cut in the brown, stony ground stretch off into the distance to the right, to the south, not so far ahead of them. Not much later they had entered Ba-Naja, the fortified village of Gravity, and were telling their story to Turaga Siok. The Turaga had looked troubled even before they had spoken to him, as if he had had a sense of foreboding.

 

“I remember stories of such beings. Shadow Toa, they were called,” said Siok. “But alas, I do not remember how to defeat them, or where they come from. The days of war are over, and are perhaps not yet back, but a more secret, piercing shadow is upon Yrenta if such foes are unleashed upon us.”

“What should we do?” asked Spiileus nervously.

“Hmm... the Shadow Toa seem to be evenly matched against you, though the slightest mistake on your part could cause your demise. And their unnatural... nature (for lack of a better word), their shadowy touch, may grant them the advantage they need. When you battle them again, be wary, but not terrified. Keep your courage, or you will not prevail. Of course, Shadow Toa could easily kill many Matoran, and it is that I am most concerned about. They targeted you first, the first time, but it was strange that they did something so bold even once. Next time, they will target the Matoran. But it will all be to harm you, to befuddle you, to trap you. If I understand the stories, Shadow Toa are made to counter the Toa they are copies of.”

“We can't stay in our villages all the time. How can we prevent ourselves from being trapped at home, without putting Matoran lives at risk?” asked Kryaju.

“If Vibrak and Lidon have survived, it would be most helpful to take council with them. The Shadow Toa would hesitate to attack you all together, but no doubt in that case they would attack villages across the land to scatter you. So, return to your villages. We will communicate by couriers. These messengers, no doubt, will be in great risk, be they bird or Matoran, but is the best way I can think of doing this. While you wait, ponder this: what viable strategy would you least expect yourself to use?”

 

Spiileus and Kryaju returned to their homes and spent days deep in thought, but neither could find an answer to that question.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 05:47 PM.

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#9 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 10:02 PM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~ 325 BGC~

 

 

Makuta Teskor was more content than he had been lately, but he was still impatient. He tended to a few bubbling pots and flasks of viruses, then sat down. His plots were going well, but too slowly. Yet again Teskor cursed Makuta Teridax's slowness. The crafty leader of the Brotherhood of Makuta wished to wait quite some time before even beginning to put Mata Nui to sleep, a process which, Teridax had said, would take a few hundred years to take effect. Teskor hoped he could keep himself occupied for that long without his own plans being rediscovered. He had been enthusiastic about the raid on Artakha nearly twelve hundred years ago, and had been greatly jealous of Kojol, who had led the attack. Teskor's envy had ended abruptly when Makuta Kojol died under suspicious circumstances shorty after the raid, but he still longed for the day when the Makuta would declare themselves openly and march to battle. For a being with as much pride, power, and ambition as a Makuta, especially Teskor, working in secrecy could be painstaking. And Teskor was having trouble coming up with excuses to keep his assigned Toa Hagah team away.

 

Not only was Teskor fearful of being discovered and tired of having to keep his plans hidden, he was also fed up with the visits of Makuta Anecrax. By Makuta standards, Anecrax and Teskor were friends, that is to say, they had a balanced system of blackmail that tied them together. Each knew incriminating secrets about the other, and so neither would dare betray the other. Teskor had held up his part of the deal, but lately Anecrax had been pestering him. Anecrax had been looking for an artifact of some sort, something that would give him great power and was central to his private plans, no doubt. Teskor had been given an update on the status of Anecrax's search several times over the past millennium, which could only mean one thing: Anecrax expected more help from Teskor. Besides this unwanted complication in his own plans, Teskor was simply very annoyed at Anecrax's habit of teleporting into Teskor's lair whenever Anecrax wished to speak to him. Teskor had tried leaving slicks of grease, small spikes, puddles of goo, and other unpleasant traps at the places he expected Anecrax to materialize, but somehow, the other Makuta would always manage to avoid these tokens of greeting. Finally Anecrax had commented on how messy Teskor's lair was, so the blue and gray-armored Makuta had given up placing the traps. Today he sighed mentally as a swirl of crimson and black heralded another unwanted visit.

 

“What is it, Anecrax?” said Teskor, exasperated already.

“I know where it is,” gloated Anecrax smoothly. His Mask of Reanimation, the color of pale polished metal bones, warped to display a small, smug smile.

“Great. What about it?” snapped Teskor. “These visits are making it harder for both of us to keep our secrets.”

“Oh, no. Your assistance of will be a great help to me, Teskor.”

“Assistance? I am assisting you by not telling our brothers about this artifact you seek, as the deal was. I'm already doing more than my end of the deal by tolerating your intrusions into my home.”

“I'm afraid the deal must be altered,” explained Anecrax. “You see, this artifact is so well-hidden because... it is hidden on one of the southern islands. Islands so mysterious, so deadly, that they are dangerous even for our kind.”

“And you wish to bring me along on this treasure-hunt? Seems like a good way to kill me off.”

“I considered that, but I promise you, your demise is not yet beneficial to me overall. In fact, it may never be. So long as I get my prize, and my plan is executed...”

“... it will have been because you succeeded on your own,” finished Teskor, not believing Anecrax's promise for a moment. “Sorry, 'brother', but I am not taking out of my own time, disrupting my own plans, to help you with your petty treasure-hunt.”

“That is a shame,” said Anecrax softly. “It really is. Telling the Brotherhood all that you wish me to keep secret will surely be less beneficial to me than making use of your services to further my own goals.”

“B-b-b-but my plans! They-they're... s-so... so close...” spluttered Teskor.

“You can afford some time off. Do not worry, if we succeed, I will owe you a favor as well. And with my new power, it will be a small effort for me to do it. Now, come with me.”

 

Teskor allowed Anecrax to teleport the both of them. Less than a second later, they were standing on the shore of a barren island. The silver sea was dark and stormy, and there were no artificial structures to be seen on the island. In fact, as far as Teskor could see, there was nothing higher than a few low, rocky cliffs and hills. The little vegetation was in the form of stiff vines growing along the ground, and leafless scrub scattered here and there. Teskor heard the cries of many Rahi he had never heard before, and saw vast, unfamiliar shapes in the distance.

 

“Well, where is the artifact – a crystal, isn't it?” he asked.

“I will lead us to where I suspect the crystal is. Stay close.”

“Why did you not simply teleport to where it was, grab it, and teleport out?”

“Because that would be teleporting into a trap that would not be so easy to get out of. Everything here looks wild and savage, and indeed everything here is, but looks can be deceiving nonetheless. The crystal will not be unguarded. From here, we can advance to it cautiously.”

 

The two Makuta continued. They had not gotten far when an enormous Rahi, no doubt one that had never tasted Matoran, and certainly never Makuta, attacked them. It proved resistant to their Rahi Control powers, but more physical attacks did the job wonderfully. No sooner had the beast fallen than a few dozen scavengers of varying shapes and sizes had rushed over and begun digging at the carcass. Anecrax smiled at the sight, as close to lovingly as a Makuta could get. Corpses and scavengers were his chief interest and field of expertise. His favorite staff, which he held now, appeared to be topped with the skull of a Toa. Teskor believed it was.

 

A short trek later, the two Makuta found themselves on a rise. Far off on the horizon the further coast could seen, but Teskor noticed nothing of interest between him and there. Of more interest were the pack of strange-looking predators that were surrounding them. These reminded Teskor of some of the scavengers he had seen, but larger and more predatory-looking. As the pack drew closer, Teskor called upon his Rahi Control ability. This time it worked, and the creatures soon began tearing each other apart. He and Anecrax had several more such encounters on the way. Each time they tried different techniques of dispatching their foes, for their own amusement. A few kio along the path, something caught Teskor's eye. He looked closer, and to his great pride, it was indeed what he suspected. He had no idea how it had gotten here, but one of his own Rahi creations survived in this hostile environment. The beast he had designed looked so majestic and formidable here, such a work of art... until a larger, far more impressive Rahi came forth and swiftly swallowed it up. Teskor's ego deflated, and the look on Anecrax's face told him the corpse-obsessed Makuta knew precisely what had happened.

 

“So, this crystal,” said Teskor, eager to leave the Rahi subject behind, “it... amplifies Kanohi powers?”

“So I have told you,” said Anecrax patiently. “You seem far more curious about the subject now...”

“So, why the Kanohi Tryna? Why not, say, use a Mask of Shielding to protect all you want protected?”

“Well,” said Anecrax as they walked on, “firstly it isn't quite so simple. The mask must be modified to be... attuned to the artifact, a difficult and risky process. I have already ruined too many masks in an attempt to make one suitable. I may even have to try again if this mask I wear does not work with the artifact, if my sources are wrong about... well, anyway, secondly, you know a Mask of Shielding is no use against ambushes. Do not be a fool. I do not trust fools to help me, the risk their blundering will compromise my mission is too great.”

“That's a lie,” said Teskor flatly. “You would use fools, so you can manipulate them into doing your bidding.”

“Are you insinuating you are a fool?” asked Anecrax. He was clearly amused. “Also, on the choice of the mask: what could be more glorious than an army of the undead to do your bidding, an army of minions that can defy mortal blows, rising again and again until they are cut into tiny pieces?...”

“I can think of a few things more glorious,” said Teskor resentfully.

 

The Makuta walked ahead in silence for several hours. Once in a while, Anecrax would look at a landmark and nod in approval. It seemed they were on the right track. But far more frequent than their finding of landmarks were Rahi attacks. The island wasn't as dangerous as some made it out to be, but the Rahi were annoying, and Teskor was getting weary. Being creatures of energized gas, Makuta did not tire the same way biomechanical beings did, but the frequent use of his powers was a strain. For a time, he had forgotten how unhappy he was to be here, now that feeling had returned. Such lack of motivation hindered him even more. Finally, a creature got the better of him. It was something like a spiny stone ape, but bigger. He had failed to react to its charge and now he was pinned down, his armor at the mercy of razor-sharp claws. The beast's armored body and willful mind resisted what weak physical and mental attacks Teskor could throw at it. For a moment Teskor wondered if Anecrax would intervene. Then he saw various Rahi carcasses swarm over the creature, scratching and biting at its thick armor. The ape-like Rahi loosened its hold, and Teskor promptly shoved it off. Unenthusiastically, he seized the beast's neck in his own protosteel claws and squeezed.

 

“Don't lose focus,” said Anecrax stiffly as he released the carcasses from his power and Teskor dropped the corpse of the ape-creature. “It would be hard to come up with a cover story to explain your disappearance. Besides, we are nearly there, and I expect I will need your help.”

 

Teskor grumbled, but complied. Soon, he could see a small yet distinctive valley ahead. He could see large shapes moving around on its yellow sides. He guessed this was where the crystal was hidden, indeed, Anecrax was taking them in that direction. As they drew closer, Teskor noticed there was a clear path leading down into the valley: the first sign of civilization on the island. He could not tell what exactly the path led to, but it appeared to be a small structure of some sort. Enormous, ferocious-looking Rahi wandered about not far from it, dwarfing the structure and obscuring it when they passed in front of it. Anecrax led them along this path, but about half a kio further, as it began to slope into the valley, he suddenly turned aside. He intently strode over to a boulder that was protruding from a steep bank of bare earth. At first, Teskor noticed nothing unusual, but upon closer inspection, he realized there was a tiny sliver of green crystal stuck in the side of the boulder. Anecrax stared at, savoring the triumph.

 

“Ready?” asked the Tryna-wearing Makuta after a moment of silence.

 

Teskor focused himself, then nodded. Anecrax pressed against a small portion of the rock's surface, and the stone rumbled. Quickly, it split open, revealing the crystal shard was really a much larger crystal, mostly concealed within. Just then, a roar, a screech, and a howl broke out, and the Makuta found themselves facing three very large and angry Rahi. None of them were of a type Teskor could identify, but one reminded him of a Kane-Ra, and another of a cross between a Tahtorak and a Kahu, mercifully smaller than a Tahtorak but still immense and capable of flight. The third seemed like a gigantic quadrupedal Kavinika, its jaws drooling something foul and caustic. The beasts wasted no time in striking together at Teskor and Anecrax. Mere mind control quickly proved useless, so Teskor tried magnetism. Crushing armor with a powerful magnetic field was a good way to make a quick kill. But even with all his will, Teskor could do no more than dent these beasts' armor with magnetism. Now the Makuta were fully focused on the battle, coordinating their efforts quickly with their innate telepathy. He tried poisoning the Kavinika-like Rahi, jabbing his claws into it as Anecrax distracted it with a Power Scream. He succeeded in piercing its armor, but overall Teskor's attack seemed to have little effect. Next he focused his Anger power in an attempt to enrage the flying reptilian-hawk thing into attacking its allies. The winged beast did not do as Teskor wished, but it did appear to be making sloppier attacks in blind rage. As it swooped down viciously again, Anecrax sent twin beams of Laser Vision from his eyes to its neck. It fell screaming, landing on the bull-like creature, which threw the body off itself in time to block a stream of plasma from Teskor's claws.

 

Teskor switched to using his elemental Shadow power. This had little more effect physically, though it seemed to frighten the beast, and distract it. Anecrax projected an aura of confusion, and Teskor ceased his shadow attack to use his dodging ability to close in on his opponent while it was confused. That plan worked. Teskor swiftly dashed under the bull Rahi and dug into its underbelly, switching back to shadow and sending deadly darkness streaming from his claws into the beast. Before it could recover, that Rahi fell, dead. Now only the giant wolf-like creature was left. It shook off Anecrax's confusion and charged, knocking Anecrax over and splattering his black and bone-silver armor with sizzling drops of saliva. Before it could shred the Makuta, Teskor negated its gravity, causing it to float upwards helplessly. Anecrax rose, his mask glowing. The great carcasses of the two fallen Rahi slowly stood. The one that had been able to fly flew again, under Anecrax's Kanohi power. Teskor reversed his target's gravity effect, causing it to slam into the ground. It was merely stunned, but Anecrax's two reanimated minions ensured it never stood again.

 

“What are you doing?” demanded Teskor when he noticed Anecrax was ignoring the crystal on the ground and instead searching the bodies of the Rahi intently.

“You'll see...” muttered Anecrax. “I hope I don't have to look too hard here. I would not mind spending the time turning these carcasses inside-out in other circumstances, but we are in a hurry now. What? Aha! I've found it. It's here, just as my sources told!”

 

Anecrax showed Teskor what he had found. A similar green crystal was imbedded in the flank of the Kavinika-like corpse. Like the one in the stone, it was almost completely buried. Anecrax seemed to enjoy extracting it, and did not mind making a mess of the body while doing so. After all, he did not expect to reanimate it. After some quick, dirty work, he held the crystal up triumphantly. He stared at it intently, and his mask glowed. For a moment, nothing unusual happened, but then, the three giant carcasses rose in unison. Anecrax did not seem to be focusing very hard yet. Then he stood straight and still, holding the crystal aloft, and his mask grew ever brighter. Teskor felt tremors in the ground, and all at once several other bodies burst from the earth.

 

“This is it! I have it! It works!” Anecrax cackled.

“Alright, now let's -” began Teskor, more eager than ever to go now that Anecrax was becoming maniacal.

“Thank you,” said Anecrax abruptly, and he disappeared in a swirl of shadow.

 

Makuta Teskor growled as appeared back in his own lair. It was rude of Anecrax to depart in such a way, but the necromantic Makuta would not forget he owed Teskor a favor. To forget would spell doom for his plans. Certainly, if either Makuta fell in the web of plots, secrets, and blackmail, he would drag the other with him. But Teskor knew that Anecrax would not risk defying Teskor when it was his turn to do the favor, just as Teskor had not dared defy Anecrax today. Teskor decided to take extra care to dispose of corpses in his lair thoroughly, just in case, as he had seen himself Anecrax's amplified power. Anecrax indeed had great power now, but he was mistaken if Teskor would let him get away with a favor that only took a 'small effort'. The favor owed would be put to good use, for Teskor decided to concoct the perfect plan for it.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~ 324 BGC~

 

 

Each of the four Toa had been attacked by their Shadow counterparts, and each had nearly been killed. They consulted one another and the Turaga, but there seemed to be no way to track down the Shadow Toa. So they waited. For months, the Shadow Toa did not reveal themselves, until finally, Vibrak was attacked again in his village. The 'Shadow Vibrak' had entered so silently not even the most sharp-eared De-Matoran could hear it. After failing to defeat its prey, it had departed with an explosion of sound strong enough to incapacitate the entire village. Only Vibrak was left standing. He paused to listen for any more approaching dangers. He heard none, and ran off in pursuit as the deafened villagers were beginning to sluggishly get to their feet. His mind was focused on one thing: to follow that running figure in the distance, and not let it out of sight. This Shadow Toa could make itself silent, and left no tracks. If Vibrak lost sight of it, it would escape. He had run for several kio when he realized the mistakes he had made. Not only had he gone too far from his village, leaving the Matoran without his protection, but there was simply no chance he could catch up with a being that could move exactly as quickly as him and had a head start. Unless, Vibrak realized as he heard frightening sounds, sounds of the earth breaking and of moaning and hissing, it stopped to confront me when I am exhausted. I have run into a trap.

 

Gray mists rose from the barren ground and encompassed him ominously. Before he lost sight of all but these fumes, Vibrak noticed where he was. He was standing in the site of the largest battle to occur on his village's territory. Several decades after the Battle of the Pass of Iron, the Ukzokth that had escaped south and scattered had regrouped enough to launch an attack on De-Naja while Vibrak was away visiting the Turaga. Outlying sentries had heard them long before they were near, of course, and so the warriors of the De-Matoran had gone forth to prevent the goblins from disturbing the peace of their home. The Matoran had not expected the opposing force to be so large. The warriors that went were all killed, but not before slaughtering enough of the Ukzokth to scatter them again and prevent an attack on the Fortress of Sonics. When the battlefield was discovered, it was turned into a graveyard, and it had since been a place of fear and sorrow for Vibrak's people. But though the mists clouded his eyes, the Toa could still hear quite clearly. What he heard was not the usual solemn silence of this dreary place. He could still hear hisses and howls, moaning and wailing, shuffling and crumbling noises. Then the mist receded, allowing him to see his immediate surroundings while keeping all else hidden.

 

It then seemed to Vibrak that a lingering cloud of mist began to take on a more defined shape. Within seconds, an apparition of a Matoran stood before him. It was a vision of a Matoran who had been killed in battle, with gruesome wounds clearly visible. Vibrak was unsettled. He had heard of ghosts, and like most of his people, he dismissed them as fantasy. No doubt this was an illusion somehow perpetrated by his dark counterpart, but Vibrak shivered. When the ghost began to speak, Vibrak nearly cried aloud in horror.

 

“It's not over yet, is it?” asked the apparition rhetorically. “We thought it was over then too. Even when we heard of the approaching Ukzokth, we thought the true war was over. They were broken forever. And at such great cost, too, do you remember? They were broken forever, or so we thought. But what are you to do? Will you and your brothers exterminate them yourselves? Or will you continue to lead us to our deaths against them? You will do whichever your conscience objects to less. Either way, it is for the Matoran, you tell yourselves. You do this so that they can live without fear. But now... why should they not fear beings such as you, who have slain hundreds with your terrible powers? Especially the younger ones, those who have known nothing but this war – they only know you as you are now, as you have become. Yet you've always been killers. Remember your first mission? Barely? I thought so. What would Varlokka say to you? I would let you know, but I have not seen her. If her spirit ever dwelt here, it must have fled out of shame and horror.”

“I expected the life of a Toa to be difficult, yet clear. I have sacrificed that fantasy to do my duty to the Matoran,” replied Vibrak quietly.

“The Matoran of Yrenta have not died out yet. Not as a whole. But so many of them have died that this is not the society you knew. This little region is part of a very dangerous continent. Threats of some sort will continue to appear, and you will deal with them as you always have. And even if you continue to protect the Matoran from these, you cannot stop it from affecting their lives. You know what a Matoran's life should be like. A simple life of labor, dedicated to Mata Nui and the good of the universe. Yours have a life of battle, dedicated to prolonging their pointless lives until each one of them meets his horrible end.”

“What – what should I do?” asked Vibrak, too unsettled to argue.

“Tell your Matoran to go back to work. Stop training them in battle. Leave it to you and your Toa brothers to protect them, but do not use your powers to kill. Doing so will make you as bad as those you fight.”

“Such would be ideal. But it is not always practical. Sometimes the Matoran must defend themselves, and we Toa will use any means necessary to keep them safe.”

“Have you no respect for life? Have you no respect for the dead?” growled the ghost. At that, several other apparitions appeared, these in the shape of both slain Matoran and Ukzokth. “You are standing on a grave right now, Toa Vibrak, the grave of a hero far greater than you. Surely you do not remember his name? I will not tell it to you. Perhaps he will.”

 

Vibrak expected a ghost of this fallen hero to come forth and speak, but instead, he heard the earth rumbling beneath him. Dead, rusted fingers burst from the ground and grasped his feet. Before he could react, he was tripped. Looking up, he saw more corpses shambling towards him out of the mist. He kicked himself free, and heard the sound of damaged and corroded metal breaking behind him. Standing up, he looked back at the body that had risen to grab him. He immediately wish he had not had to look, this corpse was more gruesome than any of the ghosts he had seen. It staggered forward, what was left of its arms dangling, its split head drooping. Vibrak shut his eyes and sent a blast of sound strong enough to reduce the walking corpse to fragments. Before his eyes were open, he felt another touch behind him. Twisting around reflexively, he found himself looking at a broken-off set of Matoran legs, still walking, while he felt the upper half of the body still clinging to his shoulders. This time, he did cry out in horror. In response, all else went silent. He could hear only himself breathing and moving, but the animated corpses continued to surround him, while the ghosts stood perfectly still and watched.

 

For one with such sensitive hearing, such eerie silence was made all the more terrifying. He barely mustered the strength to blast way the first wave of undead that came to him. Then the ghosts and the mists joined the battle, taunting him with horrible visions and myriad denouncements that combined into maddening chaos, compounded by the touch of dead metal and flesh, all over him. Vibrak lost all sense of where he was and what was happening, save that he was in mortal danger from all around. He ran, sending out blasts of sound indiscriminately, unable to see or hear their effects, but certain he had let them out. His inner elemental power was one of the few things he could still feel. He saw nothing but darkness, heard only silence, felt numb, could taste or smell nothing, yet he could still feel his internal state. He went on running and attacking his undetected assailants at random, until he was exhausted. Then he lost all hope, and lost all sensation except the feeling of despair.

 

Vibrak stayed in this state for a long time, it seemed to him. Finally, another thought entered his mind. It was a tiny fragment of realization. Though he understood nothing else of his predicament, it slowly dawned on him that he had fallen for a trick. It was an illusion of some sort, meant to break his will. With that realization, the full memory of it returned to him, followed swiftly by his outer senses. Before anything else, he recognized what he heard. His friends were nearby, and he could hear their voices. The two Turaga and Lidon were there, at least. Next he registered his surroundings. He was staring up at a stone ceiling in dimly-lit room. His mask was not on his face. He was lying on a stone table cushioned with plants. Those same plants also served to restrain him. He was tied up by vines. Utterly confused, his first impulse was to tear free and blast his way out, but he stopped himself. Instead, he decided to ask for help.

 

“Turaga?” he stammered, squirming uncomfortably. “Turaga? Brothers? Can you hear me? Come help me!”

 

He heard a response immediately. Rapid footsteps beat against the floor, heralding a heavy pair of feet and two lighter pairs. Vibrak twisted his head to see them arrive. Morok, Siok, and Lidon stood staring at him from across the room. Even from here, Vibrak could tell the expression hidden behind their masks. They were feeling fear and uncertainty mixed with hope and relief. The three of them hesitated, then Morok stepped forward, followed slowly by the others. Each of them looked ready to fight or flee.

 

“Toa Vibrak, do you recognize us?” asked Turaga Morok, looming over Vibrak's bare face. His tone was serious.

“Of course, Turaga. What is going on?” replied the Toa of Sonics. Siok and Lidon sighed with relief and came closer.

“We do not know the full answer to that question,” answered the Turaga of the Green. “But to as how you came to be here: you went mad, then you fell into a coma. You have been in this room for nearly two months.”

“Two months? What has happened since? And where are we?”“This was a store once, a place for supplying travelers on the road, back when people came this way,” explained Lidon. “Now it's an abandoned building in overgrown wilderness.”

“Why are we not in a village? And tell me, what has happened in the two months I have slept?”

 

No one answered him for a moment. The Turaga and the Lidon glanced at each other. Finally, Siok spoke.

 

“I have terrible news for you,” the old Turaga of Gravity said, though Vibrak could have deduced that from his manner. Possibilities rapidly flashed through his mind. It was likely one or both of the other Toa had been killed. Vibrak thought of the Shadow Toa and the awful encounter he had experienced, seemingly minutes ago. Perhaps entire villages were at risk, or had already been destroyed. What new threat these horrors he had seen portended, he could only guess.

 

“In your madness, you have unleashed your power upon your own village. Eleven Matoran were killed.”

 

This nearly stopped Vibrak's heartlight. It was far worse than any bad news that he had imagined. It made him begin to go numb again, and his vision blurred. He felt himself slip back into a tormented sleep. Then something stopped him, and he returned to his senses. Lidon was pulling on his hand.

 

“I...I...” Vibrak stammered, “this... tell me what else has happened! Have you been attacked?”“All has been relatively quiet,” said Lidon. “There are few Ukzokth, and we have seen no more of the Shadow Toa. Spiileus, Kryaju, and I have been looking for clues – while we were not watching over you – but we have found nothing.”

“There is something,” added Morok. “Something that has not been claimed for a long time. There are rumors that the old battlefields are haunted. But again, we have no tangible evidence of this.”

“I can support that claim,” said Vibrak. He tried to explain what he had experienced in the mist before he had lost his senses, but he could not. He could only focus on the fact that he had killed Matoran. After some stammering and rambling, the Turaga allowed him to stop. With an outstretched hand, Lidon commanded the vine restraints to release Vibrak, and tried to help him stand. But Vibrak would not get up.

“I am a Toa no longer,” he said. “My time is over. Find a new hero to replace me.”

“No!” insisted Morok. “Not yet. There is no time. We need you – your shadow counterparts are not yet accounted for, and we do not know if the loss of your power will affect the dark Vibrak.”

“Morok is right,” agreed Siok. “Some new and terrible danger has come to Yrenta. Shadow Toa, powers to blind the senses of Toa and drive them mad, and possibly woken dead. Lead your team through this, and if there is peace after, then your duty will have been done.”

 

Vibrak sat up. Lidon presented his Kanohi to him, and he put it on. Strength returned to his body and clarity returned to his mind. The Turaga were right, this was not the right time to find and train new Toa. He and his teammates had been through such doubts before, after the terrible war, but this was far worse. He had allowed himself to be controlled, and had killed his own friends. And yet, more of my friends will die if I do not set things right, he realized. Only with a strong will would he prevail. There was one test that would remove all doubt from his mind. He stood up.

 

“You may be right,” he admitted after a long period of silence. “Let us find if you are right.”

 

He indicated for the Turaga to lead them out. Upstairs they went, they had been in the store's cellar. The upper level was as empty as the cellar had been, only a few fixed pieces of furniture remained. The interior was still quite pristine, though when they went outside Vibrak noticed the walls were overgrown with dense green vegetation. They were somewhere in the jungle, and it was the middle of daytime, though most of the jungle was dark. Here and there the ground was less shadowed, in a few places the sun's light was nearly unhindered, and it created a patch of brilliance. It was rather quiet, but Vibrak could hear many small noises made by the wildlife. He looked around. There, in darkness so deep he could barely see it, was what he was looking for. It was a protruding crop of stone, with no life on it, not even a bit of moss. He wanted it broken into pieces, and he was about to use his sonic powers to do so when he thought better of it. Use of his powers here would cause a major disturbance.

 

“Lidon, break that rock, please,” he directed.

 

Lidon looked at him quizzically, but complied. Tough wooden vine-like growths shot from his sword and grasped the rock. As a tree's roots can split stone over years of growth, so these plants fragmented Lidon's target in a second. Vibrak strode over quickly and knelt among the pieces.

 

“Now, we will see what my destiny is,” he announced. His core power, the energy that made him a Toa, flowed from him in visible glowing streams, imbuing the six largest fragments. But when the flow of power ceased, he looked unchanged. He had not yet accomplished his duty and destiny as a Toa, or he would have become a Turaga.

 

“It seems that there is more I must do,” he admitted. He was not sure whether to be more relieved or disappointed.

 

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Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Twenty

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~ 324 BGC~

 

 

Vibrak waited on the old battlefield. It had gone undisturbed since he had last come here, and now he could see graves torn upon, and remains that had moved that night, but were now still again. It was the darkest hour of night, and Vibrak began to shiver. He resisted himself. He had to remain focused and confident here. There were no mists or ghosts this time, and all was quiet, yet not too quiet. Evidence of what had happened during his previous visit was apparent, but it seemed as if the haunting had passed on. He waited, standing perfectly still, while hours passed. Finally, it seemed to him that the darkened sun overhead had begun to glow slightly, signaling dawn was not far off. Vibrak sighed. He had half-expected nothing to come this night. After all, he would not have returned to this place if he was not ready to. His shadow doppelganger knew his mind, and rightfully expected a trap. Vibrak wondered if the 'Shadow Vibrak' knew that he had come alone, or if it suspected the other Toa were waiting nearby. That did not matter now, what mattered was that it had been too clever to come.

 

At a Toa's pace, the fortress village of Sonics was a short walk away. Vibrak had not yet returned to his village, for he feared that more than he feared the Shadow Toa. He did not want to face his people, knowing he had accidentally killed some of them. But maybe that is where my challenge lies, he thought. Maybe I must face my fear there, not here. That thought made sense to him. Making a grim face under his Kanohi Iden, he turned and began the trek back to his home. He stayed alert and looked behind him often, for though he did not expect his dark counterpart to be so bold now, it was better to be safe. Soon he could see the walls of the fortress, and he was about to say something to alert his people to his arrival when he stopped. It was not fear of facing the Matoran that stopped him. The village was silent. He could hear the wind blowing, and Rahi crying far off, but no Matoran voice or footstep or other bustle could be heard. There was trouble there.

 

He sprinted forward, then slowed himself. His dark copy must have been in the village, not there. He listened to his surroundings, but heard no additional threats. To be safe, he lay himself down in a patch of long grasses before activating his Kanohi mask. His body went limp, helpless but not dead, and his invisible spirit raced with great speed to the fortress, passing through the walls without slowing. Vibrak was surprised by what he saw and heard. The De-Matoran were there, and they were going about their business as if nothing was wrong. What was more, he could hear them now, and they could hear naturally as well. Yet the sound of the village had been prevented from reaching his ears far outside the walls. Vibrak knew then that he had made the right choice. His doppelganger had expected him to charge in, glaive raised high, in an attempt to rescue Matoran that were in no immediate danger. Such a blunder would not have improved his damaged image in the eyes of his people, and it would have likely resulted in another trap. He was certain the Shadow Toa was hiding somewhere in or near the village, waiting for him to arrive. But it would be hard to hide from a ghost. Vibrak searched the entire village in a matter of seconds. He was unable to see or hear the dark being lurking in the shadows, but when he found it, he could feel it. Confident he had a chance at victory this time, he allowed his spirit to fly back into his body.

 

Now it was his turn to be silent. He knew his doppelganger was hiding in a remote corner of a building near the center of town, in the middle of things yet still hidden. Vibrak would need to sneak in unnoticed to both Shadow Toa and Matoran and get the drop on it. De-Matoran had excellent hearing, yet their eyesight was no better than average. With care to silence himself, the Toa of Sonics was able to move a great distance unnoticed, until he was at the fortress walls. Fortunately, now that the times were relatively safer, additional entrances had been built into the fortress. Vibrak took care to move to the southern side, for that side was least illuminated by the coming dawn. Unfortunately for him at this time, each gate was well-guarded. Sitting in the shadows, he activated his mask again and sent his spirit forth to look around. He saw it was no good here, even a squat, dark Onu-Matoran could not have passed unseen. Perhaps he would have a chance at the western gate. There, he noticed he might have a chance, for a Matoran was approaching to speak to the guards. If he was quick, he could use that distraction to pass. If he was too slow, the opportunity would pass, if he moved at the wrong time, he would be seen. There was more light to be seen in on this part of the gate, and it was getting no darker while he waited. He deactivated his mask and moved swiftly and silently to the western wall. Flattened against its darker half, he could not be seen from above, and one would have to look carefully to see him from ground level.

 

He wondered how much of Yrenta's fate depended on the success or failure of this ridiculous endeavor. Perhaps it would make small difference, but he knew that he might never get another chance to defeat his shadow doppelganger if it was alerted to his presence. He could risk no disturbance, even if he could disable a guard without harming him or being caught, the report would reach the hiding Shadow Toa before he could, and his element of surprise would be lost. He crept as close to the gate as he dared. The villager was beginning to speak to the guards now, he could hear it very clearly.

 

“Still no sign of Toa Vibrak?” asked the villager.

“No sign,” answered one of the guards grimly. “I doubt the Turaga will be able to cure him – you heard what happened that day, until you went unconscious. I was one of the last to succumb to the noise. It was terrible to endure the whole thing. He was gibbering madly, swinging his weapon and blasting away randomly. I noticed he was starting to collapse just as I was, I reckon he was about to begin his long sleep then. And he's slept since. I do not think he will ever come back.”

“Maybe... maybe we don't need him back,” said another guard uncertainly. “Times are more peaceful now, except for maybe some unnatural things out there. But those things, if they exist, they are after the Toa. They are here because of the Toa. We can handle the Rahi now, as long as nothing worse comes... well, let Vibrak sleep peacefully knowing he is needed no more.”

 

The villager and the other guards continued their discussion. Vibrak registered and remembered what was said, but paid it no heed yet. He needed to concentrate. To his fortune, judging by the sound of their voices and breathing, the guards and their visitor were facing away from the gate, and had stepped away from their posts. Vibrak checked to make sure no one was outside the wall to see him down here, then moved to the edge of the gate, just out of sight. He waited, straining to hear the right moment to move while keeping himself completely silent. Then the moment came. One of the guards was pointing out where Vibrak had collapsed, and he guessed that they were looking across the village at that spot. He poked his head around and found he was correct. Right then, Vibrak moved more quickly and stealthily than he ever had or ever would again. He was doing it to avoid being detected by his own villagers. Around the corner of the open gate he went, stopping at a hidden spot behind some crates, in the shadow of the gatehouse. He waited until the villager was leaving and the guards had turned back to face the outside, then he moved again. Now that he was inside, the hard part was over. He could stay in the darker part of town, as long as he reached his destination before the brightening sun illuminated the entire village.

 

Most of the Matoran were out of bed by now, but still too sleepy to be very alert. Without much trouble, he avoided those heading to work and the few that were still leaving their homes for the day. Soon, the building he had detected the Shadow Toa in was directly ahead. It was a warehouse, good for hiding in and knowing when others were approaching, for it was large and shadowy, yet busy. If he approached without stealth, the workers would see him and greet him, blowing his cover. He spent a few minutes studying the workers moving in and out, carrying supplies in many shapes and sizes of container. The shadow he was standing in was now uncomfortably sparse, and he decided the time for stealth was nearly over. He made his way to the wall just outside where he had seen his doppelganger. To be sure it was still there, he activated his mask for a moment and went through the wall. The Shadow Toa was there, surely, and yet something was wrong. He expected it to be tense and alert. Instead, it was limp, as if it was unconscious or dead. Vibrak nearly made an audible gasp. He had not counted on the Shadow Toa using its mask to scan the area. Surely, if he had not yet been seen, he soon would be. And yet, if he acted quickly, he could end this.

 

He returned to his body and immediately struck the wall with his glaive, with an elemental attack behind his strike. That part of the wall shattered, revealing the body of his doppelganger being blasted across the room and landing among a stack of crates, toppling them and being buried. The warehouse workers fled yelling, but the Shadow Toa ignored them. Its evil spirit returned to its body, it jumped up, brushing off debris. But it was too slow, for Vibrak was already launching another attack right in its face. The next blast of sound should have shattered its dark mask, but instead it just knocked it down again. Vibrak was so startled he allowed it to stand again, and as it did, the dents in its armor disappeared. As a creature of darkness that had surprised its opponent was wont to do, it let out a long, low laugh. Vibrak frowned. The laughter increased in intensity, causing Vibrak to drop his weapon and clutch his audio receptors. The building's windows shattered, but the noise was dwarfed by the rumble that the Shadow Toa's laugh had become. Vibrak struggled to remain conscious and regain control of himself, and with an effort of will, he succeeded. Drawing upon his own power, he absorbed the lethal sound waves as excess elemental energy. Yet his counterpart would not let him use that absorbed sound against it. Using its own glaive, the twin of the weapon Vibrak had dropped, it swiftly sent a focused sonic blast at Vibrak while he struggled to control the excess energy. The result was a double hit on the true Toa of Sonics. Struck by the initial attack, he released the unstable energy prematurely, resulting in a boom louder than all the thunder of a storm where he stood. Shelves and stacks of crates toppled outwards and broke from the shockwave, and Vibrak fell flat on his back.

 

“Don't you understand?” asked the Shadow Toa, standing over the injured and unmasked Vibrak. “You cannot defeat me without defeating yourself, for I am you.”

“You... are me?” said Vibrak slowly, sore and dazed.

“Yes, and you are the one who has done all this damage, all this evil. Accept it.”

“No, I have not...” protested Vibrak, but then a realization struck him. “Yes, you are me... a part of me. From where else could you have come?"

 

With that, he willed the Shadow Toa back into him. It had no power to resist anymore, he knew it was just a manifestation of his dark side. Its physical form blended into his and vanished, leaving Vibrak alone. He realized he and his brothers had been contending with their doppelgangers the wrong way when he noticed that Shadow Vibrak was apparently indestructible by physical attacks. At the crucial moment, the taunts first spoken to Toa Spiileus in his underground home, taunts that Spiileus had told the other Toa about, finally made sense. Then something else occurred to Vibrak. His last thought before he lost consciousness was the realization that he had still not become a Turaga yet.

 

 

-----

 

 

Meanwhile in his lair, Makuta Teskor sensed the failure of his Shadow Toa. One of them had been eliminated, and the secret to their downfall was known to the Toa. He snarled with frustration, gaining the attention of Anecrax. The other Makuta was sitting across the chamber, grasping the power crystal in both hands. His eyes had been closed with the effort and pleasure of using his Kanohi power over long distances, but now he glanced questioningly at Teskor.

 

“The Shadow Toa scheme is over,” growled the gray and blue Makuta. “They know how to eliminate them now.”

“You should have had the Toa of Sonics killed while you had the chance,” commented Anecrax. “Do you want to play with them, or do you want results?”

“Don't you have something to do?” retorted Teskor, noticing Anecrax was no longer channeling his mask power.

“I am taking a break. It seems my subordinates were fighting a Toa, but I decided to give us all a respite.”

“Your undead attacked a Toa and you let him go?” said Teskor incredulously.

“We did such a thing earlier.”

“After driving him insane.”

“Not insane enough, apparently. He is the one that just defeated his Shadow Toa, I expect. You let him know too much.”

“You are no help. This is too early. I won't get results until Teridax does, I should have remembered that.”

“You called upon me,” reminded Anecrax. “You gave me an opportunity. This region will make a suitable testing site.”

“I know, I know! And I will let you carry out your tests... when the time comes.”

“If I find no alternative site in the meantime.”

“You will -” began Teskor, but Anecrax rudely teleported himself away.

 

Teskor got back to work. There was no reason to waste the coming centuries of waiting.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 10:03 PM.

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#10 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 11:31 PM

Fate of YrentaChapter Twenty-one==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~2 BGC~

Toa Kryaju walked alone through the mountain passes, alert as always yet at a leisurely pace. The recent centuries had been peaceful. It was odd, as soon as Vibrak had defeated his Shadow counterpart, the unnatural threat looming over the land lifted. The dead had walked for a time, but they did no more, and the Shadow Toa were never seen again. What was stranger was the fact that in all those years, Vibrak still had not yet become a Turaga. He had forfeited his guaranteed existence as a Toa, yet it seemed there was more for him to do, he had not yet fulfilled his destiny as a Toa. Kryaju admired his selflessness, but decided to not make the same choice. It could be disastrous to transform into a Turaga at an undesirable time. But Vibrak had had his personal reasons too. It had taken many years for the Matoran to see him as they had before, and he had not completely forgiven himself for what he had let happen. For over three hundred years, he had searched for his final purpose. The Matoran of Yrenta had peace the like of which they had not known for millennia, and for the first time, the Toa had spent time abroad, visiting new regions and solving their problems.On a small island far to the east, Lidon's quest to assist the locals had led him to a mystery he could not solve. Wisely, he had sent a request for assistance to Kryaju. Kryaju and Spiileus had just put an end to a Dark Hunter extortion scheme in the Southern Continent, so the scholarly Toa of Ice gladly offered to help. Spiileus had remained to ensure the Matoran there would be safe, while Kryaju had sailed back to the port village of the Ga-Matoran in Yrenta. He had been away from home for months, and he suspected he would find some information of use to Lidon in the hidden archives of his home village, high in the mountains. A swift trip up the river to its source and a climb up the steep, winding path over the western bank had brought him to the feet of the eastern reach of the mountains of the north. Not so long ago, those lands had been blasted and desolate, home to savage foes, now they were calm and lightly forested. Kryaju had given himself little time to enjoy the pleasures of this green place, for he was eager to return home, both to see his people again, and to help Lidon the sooner. So he had come to the mountains' rocky base, found a path, and begun the trek to the heights of his homeland.As he climbed higher, he came upon the lowest drifts of snow. Above him, a thick layer covered the slope, and he soon found himself knee-deep in it. The path was completely buried beyond this point. With a simple gesture, Kryaju parted the snow, uncovering the path as he trekked. It was tiring work. After traveling in this fashion for several kio, Kryaju stopped to rest. It would take a team of Matoran with shovels and plows to make this path suitable for common use again. Apparently, it had been abandoned for many years, thought it was well-preserved enough at its start to make an ignorant traveler think otherwise. Taking a small bundle of rations out of his pack, Kryaju looked up to the nearest peak. That one was named Onkilo, after an ancient hero of folklore. Kryaju was still too far to the east, his village was quiet some distance west of Onkilo and its neighbors. While he ate, Kryaju admired the view of the other directions. He was quite high now, and could see many kio of the the uninhabited lands to the south. To the east, he could barely descry the canyon that separated Ba-Matoran territory from the lost desert. And if he squinted, he thought he could see a tiny sliver of reflected light south of the canyon – all that could be seen of the river that he had come up, that went past the jungle at to the sea. From his perspective, the villages and fortresses far to the west were hidden by the mountains and high hills, though he did see a brief flash of lighting from Mount Tasle.Rested and sated, Kryaju stood and resumed his journey. The way up looked arduous, but to retrace his route and find another way up would be more difficult. The sooner he reached his village, the better, for his own sake and that of the villagers Lidon was helping far away. Less than three kio ahead was a flag marking the location of a small shelter for wayfarers. The day was late, and Kryaju could feel more snow was on the way. He decided to rest at the shelter when he came to it. Dark clouds came from the north, and it was very cold and dark when Kryaju reached the buried shelter. Using a small fraction of his elemental power, he cleared the shelter's door of snow and ice, allowing him to open it, and stepped inside. The air was now cold enough to make even a Toa of Ice shiver a little. Kryaju was wise enough to carry a heatstone with him while traveling in the mountains. He took it out and warmed his hands and feet. He shut the door, and when the insulated shelter was warm enough, but not too warm, he covered the heatstone and put it away. Then he dozed for a couple hours.It was the middle of the night and frigid when Kryaju started again, but he was freshly warmed and rested. Refreshed so, he was confident he would reach his village by noon the next day. As he exited the shelter, he almost overlooked a sign of danger. To the ignorant observer, the fresh mound of snow looked only slightly out of place. Snow had fallen, and was still coming down gently, and it seemed plausible that some trick of the weather and the geography could cause a large pile to accumulate there. An traveler experienced in these parts, however, recognized it for what it was. A Snow-Troll was hidden there, waiting to ambush a victim. Kryaju knew this when he noticed the bulge in the blanket of snow, and decided on a counter-strategy. He decided to play dumb, and began to walk the path as if he was oblivious to the danger, using his powers to clear away the snow as he went. As he expected, a heavy club soon came down upon him, aimed to crush him flat into the frozen ground. He adeptly spun to dodge the attack and face his attacker. The troll muttered in surprise and lifted its club again.Like the Thunder Trolls of Mount Tasle, Snow Trolls were extremely resistant to the element of their environment. Cold temperatures did not bother them, they seemed impossible to freeze to death and they were strong enough to break free of shells of ice that would immobilize nearly anything else their size. Their armor was especially resistant to piercing attacks, such as sharp icicles, and spikes in their feet ensured they could remain standing on the slipperiest terrain. Altogether, a Snow Troll was a daunting physical opponent to a Toa of Ice. But Kryaju had never met a clever troll. It would expect him to throw all his elemental attacks at it until he was exhausted. Kryaju would not fight that way. Though he was not nearly as suited to heat things as a Toa of Fire or Plasma, his control over ice and the cold allowed him to divert and even temporarily absorb it. The first move would be to disorient his opponent by depriving it of its preferred environment. Invisible elemental energy flowed from the snow around the Snow Troll into Kryaju's staff. Kryaju released the power to the side, creating a harmless chill in the air that blew away. The troll was left standing in a large puddle.Against another enemy, Kryaju could have frozen the puddle and left that enemy trapped. In this case, however, it would slow Kryaju down more than the troll. Instead, he chose a more physical attack. A creature such as a Snow Troll had to react quickly to changes, but despite its effort to focus its weak mind and hulking body, it hesitated for a moment upon finding itself ankle-deep in liquid water instead of snow. Kryaju dashed forward quickly, feinted a move, and ducked behind the reach of its club as it came crashing down again. His staff was made of high-quality metal, durable but light, stiff but not brittle even at incredibly low temperatures. But against most of the troll's thick armor, it could do nothing but annoy the troll. Only a very sharp blade could cut through it, and only a very heavy blunt blow could crack it. Fortunately, trolls, like everything, had weak spots. This one took its clawed right hand off its club and batted at Kryaju, who ducked again to avoid the attack and pushed the arm forward as it passed over him, using the troll's great momentum against it. The large creature staggered, nearly losing its balance, and in a flash the Toa struck hard at three of its weak points. A swift, strong sweep at the piston at the back of its right leg kept it off balance longer, followed by a strike at the lightly-armored section where its left arm met its body, finished by a vicious jab at its left eye. A small crack appeared on the lens of the eye, and it flickered. The troll groaned with pain and frustration.In this period of time lasting only seconds, the Snow Troll had impaired vision, a battered leg, one arm numb and the other arm thrown to the side. Kryaju had studied and fought enough to have a strong hunch of what it would do next: a headbutt or an all-out body slam. In that attack, the troll would likely fall over, but it would be able to get back to its feet. Kryaju would be squashed as flat as the wafers of traveling rations he carried with him. It could be a devastating move, but not hard to counter. All he would have to do...Kryaju stopped nearly long enough to lose the battle. In such a dark and misty night, there were no shadows to be seen except for the one shadow the covered the world. But Kryaju could feel when something was lurking behind him, towering over him. He was not the cursing type, but a vulgar obscenity passed through his mind as he desperately threw himself out of the way of a pounding fist from behind. He lurched forward and grabbed onto the troll it front of him, the one he had been fighting. It reacted impulsively, kicking its left leg out in an attempt to throw Kryaju off of it. Kryaju let go and let himself be launched through the air, landing as gracefully as he could. The troll found it could not long support its great weight on its injured right leg, and fell over. The Toa of Ice stood up. He was out of that trap, but now up against two Snow Trolls. They had not been known to hunt in groups for a long time, but if they were now, Kryaju had to assume even more would arrive at any time. He scanned the immediate area for conspicuous heaps of snow and saw none. A group of two or more trolls could be a challenge for a somewhat weary Toa who had not fought any for a long time, but fleeing was not an option. The terrain was too rough for him to escape quickly enough. He would have to defeat any foe that attacked him, whether that meant scaring them away, beating them unconscious, or killing them.Fighting two opponents at once had the potential to be twice as hard as fighting one. A smart warrior like Kryaju knew how to avert this. Two large, stupid brutes trying to crush a smaller, more nimble and clever target were quite likely to smash into each other, if that target knew how to manipulate the battle. Kryaju knew how to manipulate battles. The first troll got back onto its large feet, and together with the second one, they marched forward threateningly. Kryaju made a move that was either stupidly obvious or brilliantly counter-intuitive. He sprinted to the Snow Trolls and stopped between them. Both trolls turned to face him, and he was caught between the two, in very close quarters, the first to his right, the second on his left. The trolls were smart enough to not use their clubs, for this close to each other they would clobber each other before they clobbered the Toa. Instead, the second troll kicked at Kryaju, hard, but carefully enough to not hit its comrade. Anticipating this, Kryaju dodged and stuck his staff between the troll's lower legs and twisted it to the side. Its left leg was pressed back, the right one, the one that had been used to kick, was pushed forward. As that troll staggered, Kryaju feigned being tired and taken off guard. This was, to a degree, true, but he was not an easy target yet.The first troll fell for the feint, however, and thrust a hand at the Toa, trying to grab him or crush him with the momentum of his heavy arm. Kryaju was still moving too quickly, and instead it grabbed the right leg of the other Snow Troll. Before it realized what it had hit, it squeezed hard, digging its claws into its ally's leg armor. Before the second troll realized what was attacking its leg, it lashed out. The resulting kick nicked Kryaju with enough force to send him crashing into the snow a few bio away, and the first troll took the brunt of the attack in its left knee. Armor shattered, the flesh and metal bones under it split, and it fell to the ground moaning. One of its legs now had a crippled knee and the other was still weak in its piston. That enemy was nearly immobilized, and the trolls were now quite cross with each other. As the second troll wrenched its leg free of the grasp of the first, it ripped the claws out of the hand and left them imbedded in its leg armor, to the great discomfort of both trolls. And the second troll was now limping, the claws had dug into its leg deeper than Kryaju had hoped. If he could keep fighting so well for just a little longer, the fight would soon be over.“Good show, Ice-warrior!” called a somewhat high-pitched, scratchy voice. “But it's all over now. We've all had our fun.”Kryaju looked around as he got up. It was dark, but he could make out small shapes blending in with the snow. Ko-Matoran? No, these were slightly larger and much uglier. These, he realized, were the snow-goblins, the Ukzokth of the mountaintops. In his moment of distraction, he was nearly struck by a boulder the troll hurled at him. Acting on reflex, he created a wall of ice to block it just in time. The leader of the goblins did not show himself yet, but he went on.“Ragh and Blung have done an admirable job against such an opponent, though you made it difficult for them. Poor Blung is crippled now, and his life is forfeit. To compensate Ragh for the loss of his brother, he shall have the first choice of what part of you he will take. Lads, attack!”Kryaju had already been moving before the goblin-leader finished talking, first to avoid the troll that was still standing – Ragh, apparently – and next to dodge the hail of arrows, bolts, and spears the Ukzokth rained upon him. Fortunately he had much elemental energy left, as his powers would have availed him little against the trolls, but he was nearly exhausted physically. He battered down one wave of goblins with his twirling staff and agile feet, and another, and yet another. After the first wave, he found he could do nothing but stand still as he channeled his Ice powers to ward off a horde as it came a few at a time, its full number unknown. Yet each time the surge of goblins became larger, and Ragh was still advancing, limping angrily, slowly, but too quickly for Kryaju to escape. When the troll reached him, scores of goblins were frozen in various poses of fear and anger around him. It lifted its massive stone club and brought it down. Kryaju dodged, but stumbled with weariness as he did so. Before he could stand, a barbed spear pierced his back, followed by another, and crossbow bolts lodged in his limbs. He cried out in pain.“That's enough!” said the leader of the goblins. The Ukzokth ceased the attack, and the leader came forth. He was a rather large blue and white one of them. Kryaju did not recognize him, and guessed he must have been a minor chieftain of some sort. But that was far from his main concern.Kryaju struggled with all his strength and elemental power against Ragh when the troll picked him up, but he was too weak. It was over. Ragh chose a body part, for food or a trophy or some other ghastly purpose, and relieved Kryaju of it. Then he threw what was left of the region of Yrenta's first Toa of Ice to the ground and let him die. Review

 

 

 

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Twenty-two

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~2 BGC~

 

 

It was very easy to find the general area a Toa was in, and in what direction he or she was traveling. One simply had to find that Toa's Spirit Star and navigate to it. A Toa might be able to hide, but if there was a Spirit Star directly above in the sky, it was proof he or she was nearby. If there was no Spirit Star, there was no Toa. To Vibrak and his companions, an astronomer's claim of seeing Kryaju's Spirit Star burn out above the mountains could mean nothing but his death. It was among the worst news they had heard in their long lives, and frustratingly it had taken them nearly two weeks to gather in the port village. Now Vibrak, Spiileus, and Lidon traveled the route they guessed Kryaju had taken, up the river, through the pleasant forested lands at the feet of the mountains, and to the path at the base of the mountainside. The Toa of Sonics led the way, consulting the map that had been sent with the urgent message.

 

“Here it is, plain enough,” he said, showing them the obvious start to the path. “Let's be careful, though, I expect it will not be so clear for long.”

 

Vibrak was right. Soon they were in the snowy parts Kryaju had trekked through, days earlier. Fresh snow had fallen, making the way more difficult, but it was obvious that some force had recently parted the deepest layers of snow, and it was thus easier than it had been when Kryaju passed through. They were on the right track. According to the concise message they had received from the village of Ice, they would soon find an abandoned shelter, if it was still standing. The Toa of Ice's Spirit Star had been above that location when it faded away. The air was cold and the wind howled, fortunately the Toa had packed heatstones for the journey. The message warned to not travel by night and to seek shelter during storms. It was late morning by the time they reached the shelter, which was as Kryaju had left it: buried under snow, but with the door accessible. Barely a word had been spoken since they had started upon the path, hours ago.

 

“Looks like we found something,” commented Lidon. A frozen puddle was a short distance ahead, on the path beyond the shelter. The frozen carcass of a Snow Troll lay about a dozen bio to the left of it.

“Yes, let's take a closer look,” said Vibrak.

 

Those two signs were but the first the Toa found in their search. It did not take them long to find goblin corpses, along with some discarded weapons. Spiileus recognized a disturbance in the snow as where Kryaju had sent ripples of elemental energy to freeze wave after wave of Ukzokth. Upon closer investigation, they found used arrows and fragments of metal, but nothing they could identify from Kryaju save a few rations that had fallen out of his pack. There was one last clue to resort to: footprints. The snow had buried most of them, but the troll footprints were still quite apparent. One set led away to the north. The Toa decided to follow it. Along the way, they could see traces of goblin footprints, and occasionally the corpse of a wounded goblin that had not made it home. The Toa paid little attention to these, except for one that caught Vibrak's eye. He squatted down next to it and investigated.

 

“These are sword cuts on his body,” observed Vibrak. “I expect this large one in his stomach is what killed him, though it seems he traveled quite a way while wounded, judging from the footprints and lack of signs of battle here. And look at the position of his fingers. Something was taken out of his dead hands. The other Ukzokth most have attacked him, but let him walk back with them until he collapsed, then they took what he was holding.”

“Do you think this has to do with Kryaju?” asked Spiileus.

“If they did kill a Toa back there, there would be plenty of prizes to bring home,” said Lidon grimly. “I expect that an argument broke out about who gets each prize, and this fellow's possessiveness cost him his life.”

“I agree. Let's move on,” said Vibrak. “Be on your guard. They haven't covered their tracks, it is possible they are expecting Toa visitors.”

 

Were it not for the path the troll and goblins had beaten through the snow, the Toa would not have been able to follow. They spent most of the day on that trail, and before it came to the dwelling place of any goblins, it ended. The trail of footprints and snow pushed aside ended, leaving the Toa at a dead end of snow up to their waists.

 

“So much for not covering their tracks,” said Spiileus. “A Toa of Plasma would sure come in handy now.”

“I think we're close. See that ridge over there?” indicated Vibrak. “I am going to scout it out. Stay here. Rest, warm yourselves up, but stay alert.”

 

Vibrak activated his mask and sent his spirit flying over the fallen snow. From the dead end of the trail, he had thought he had seen the entrance to a cave. He soon found he was correct. He had discovered an underground Ukzokth village. His invisible, intangible spirit could not be hindered, so his search did not take long. A look at the goblins confirmed his fears for Kryaju. With sadness and disgust, he realized that several of them were wearing parts of his brother's body, some bits more recognizable than others. The Toa of Ice was certainly dead, but Vibrak did not retreat yet. He noticed a large central chamber with a fire pit in it. In a dark corner of the chamber a great white troll snored. In front of the blazing fire several Ukzokth that appeared to be of high rank conversed. The largest of these was wearing Kryaju's mask on his shoulder, others had hands, feet, and other bits dangling off of their armor. Vibrak noticed the goblins seemed to regard the fire in some shamanistic way. He could not understand the harsh language they spoke, but it seemed important to him. He deactivated his mask and returned to his body, but was determined to investigate further.

 

“Kryaju is dead,” he announced regretfully as he stood up. “Those things tore him apart, as you expected, Lidon, and are wearing him as trophies.”

“That is bad news. But I am glad the truth is known,” said Lidon, but he seemed to be more deeply affected than his words suggested.

“Are we going to do anything about these monsters?” asked Spiileus. “We can't clear out every goblin home, but if this one is a threat...”

“We are going back,” said Vibrak. “We are going to eavesdrop on them.”

“We? With your mask, shouldn't you go back alone?” said Spiileus, confused.

“They were speaking Ukzokth language. I could not understand them. With this mask...” Vibrak's mask glowed and was replaced by the Kanohi Rau forged by Metaku almost seventeen hundred years ago. “With this, I can understand them, but of course not spy on them in spirit form. I'll need to go in person, so we'll all stay together.”

“Huh. Almost forgot about that mask,” said Lidon. “Of course, I haven't wanted to speak with the filthy things, and most of them seem to have picked up enough Matoran speech to annoy us now... anyway, if we want to understand the nasty things the goblins say, we have some digging to do, it looks like.”

“Perhaps not. I have an idea,” said Vibrak.

 

Vibrak held out his glaive and let out a carefully adjusted wave of sound, nearly silent, but certainly present as a tiny vibration. In the wake of his maneuver, the loose layer of fresh snow collapsed, compacting into a much thinner and denser layer. Now the snow ahead was not even up to his knee, and thick enough to walk on without sinking in much.

 

“That was brilliant, brother,” complimented Spiileus. “Now let's get a move on, it's getting late, and you know what the note says about traveling here at night.”

 

The Toa of Earth shivered to illustrate his point, and stepped on to the compacted layer of snow. Vibrak went in front, and as they went he used his power again in this way, to destabilize the loose layer of fresh snow. Soon the cave mouth was in plain sight, but it was guarded. Vibrak lay prone in the snow and gestured for his companions to do the same.

 

“How will we carry out a stealth operation when the one entrance is guarded?” asked Lidon.

“It will be tricky,” agreed Vibrak, “but we must remain undetected. Hmm... got any masks that might help?”

“If I did, I wouldn't be wearing this Mask of Rahi Control out here, where it's useless.”

“I have a...” mused Spiileus. “Aha! Why didn't I think of this before... I have a Mask of Quick Travel.”

“Nice, how come you get such handy masks?” snapped Lidon.

“Hey, sorry, it was a gift from Turaga Siok. I actually forgot about it... it's not much use in tunnels where I can barely see where I'm going anyway. Look, you can have it, okay?”

“No, I'm sorry,” admitted Lidon. “I'm just angry because... well, you know, what happened to Kryaju.”

“We are all upset,” said Vibrak. “But you'd better lend me that Kanohi Kualsi first, Spiileus. I have a plan in mind.”

 

Spiileus swapped his Mask of Biomechanics out for his Kanohi Kualsi, then removed the mask and traded it for Vibrak's. Vibrak put on Spiileus's mask, explained the plan, then executed it. In the flash of a heartlight, he teleported to the mouth of the goblin village. Using a technique he had relied on many times before, he redirected the sounds of battle so that nobody could hear them as he took out the sentries. The Ukzokth wailed as he attacked, attempting to alert the others, but from inside, all that could be heard was the howl of the wind. Spiileus and Lidon got up and ran as he hid the goblins' bodies under the snow. Fortunately the tunnels were large, so that trolls could move through them easily, and very dark. The three Toa had to silently eliminate the group of goblins in the foyer just inside the cave mouth. Then Vibrak and Spiileus switched their masks back and they moved on undetected. The central chamber was barely within view, around a corner, when Vibrak signaled for them to stop.

 

“I can hear what I need to hear from here,” whispered Vibrak. “Drat, this mask will glow when I use it... is the coast clear?”

“Yes, for now,” answered Lidon. “Seems they're all giving their elders some time alone to hold council.”

“Perfect timing,” sighed Vibrak happily, and he activated his mask.

 

His sensitive hearing discerned the harsh syllables being whispered in the chamber, and his Kanohi Rau translated into understandable language. They were words of frustration, hatred, fear, suspicion, and dominance.

 

“And y'know Ikglag was done in in that squabble over the foot, to add one more to the list...” one Ukzokth was saying. “I understand their hollowed-out heads make regal soup bowls...”

“And Blung sure found the meat tasty,” interrupted another.

“Not the point! What I'm saying is, why should we go after the Toa? We did nab that one, but he's got friends I'm sure... three more like 'em. And ignoring those, I'd rather not have those ice Matoran knocking on our door anyway. Which they will all the sooner, now we've killed their big hero.”

“What should we do, then?” asked another. “Live off snow and the occasional Ice Vermin?”

“No! But we could've razed their village... maybe even more than one village... while the Toa were away. Then we'd have plenty 'a warmth and good eating. 'Stead of thirty of us being frozen... might as well have just eaten them.”

“You do got a point there,” agreed the second goblin. “I don't trust this 'Dark Lord.' Heard he sent our kind off to die fighting Toa, and abandoned us. I dunno what Kunshnagk's thinking, saying we should let him boss us –“

“Shut up, Mruz! Shut up, all of you!” barked another Ukzokth, who apparently was Kunshnagk. “I heard what you were saying. Would you like to ask the Master about these issues? Eh?”

“Maybe...” whispered Mruz, so quietly that Vibrak could barely hear him. He doubted Kunshnagk could.

“I thought not,” said Kunshnagk, oblivious to Mruz or ignoring him. “The 'Dark Lord' is back, and he is requesting our service. We might not remember it, but he made us all. If nothing else, we must trust he who made us.”

“Yeah, I made myself a bit of stew from the leftover Muaka meat,” somebody snickered. “That stew had reason to trust me, didn't it?”

 

Sounds of a struggle echoed from the chamber, followed by the sounds of the wisecracking goblin protesting and moaning. Judging by the sound of it, he had not been killed, but had been given a thorough beating. Kunshnagk called out for order, and all fell silent.

 

“He is back,” repeated Kunshnagk firmly. “He is back and calling upon us. He is our master. Now, let us commune with him.”

 

The chamber and tunnels darkened. Vibrak risked a peek around the corner and realized the purpose of the central fire in their rituals. They did not use the fire for it, they used the shadows. The fire was to keep the shadows away while they did not need them. He wondered what, if any, mystic ritual they could perform by darkening the room, but Spiileus pulled him back before he could see any more.

 

“I am here, my devoted of the mountains,” boomed a voice from the shadows that now covered the center of the chamber. “Why have you called for me?”

“For direction, my lord,” said Kunshnagk humbly. “As you know, the Toa of Ice is dead. But we have suffered great losses in the act, and I expect alerted everyone in the process. The eating is bad out here, and we'll be found soon I f... I expect. What should we do?”

“I will not have my people starve and freeze. There is another tribe on the other side of Mount Onkilo that is traveling to you as we speak. When you meet up, move west into Matoran hunting grounds. Try to remain unnoticed while we consolidate our strength. But if you are discovered, do what you must do.”

“Matoran hunting grounds? As in, grounds the Matoran hunt in, or grounds where Matoran can be hunted?”

“Both. But try to remain unnoticed by their community. I would like you to unite with one or two additional tribes before you attack.”

“As you command, Master. I trust that soon we will take our place in your reformed army?”

“Do as I wish, Kunshnagk, and it will be so. My chosen will take their rightful place in this land, and those loyal to me will be rewarded.”

“I am loyal to you, my lord. But some of us, such as Mruz here, question the wisdom of attacking such dangerous foes as Toa.”

“What? No, no my lord!” spluttered Mruz. “Chief Kunshnagk misunderstands!”

“Mruz can do as he wishes,” said the voice from the shadows, though he seemed to imply the opposite. “The wisdom of those who follow me will be proven. And Kunshnagk, you are the chieftain – do what you must to keep your tribe in line.”

“As you say, Master, I do what I must,” said Kunshnagk. Vibrak heard Mruz scream as a blade cut through his neck. The Ukzokth's head hit the ground and bounced, followed by his body.

“You serve me well, Kunshnagk. We can afford no distractions. We can tolerate no dissenters.”

“Yes, lord, no dissenters...” echoed Kunshnagk, and another scream heralded the death of the first goblin, the one that had mentioned one named Ikglag.

“I do hope the rest of your tribesmen are loyal. A chieftain is of little use if his followers are traitors,” said the voice from the shadows. A long silence indicated the unspoken submission of Kunshnagk's followers. The voice broke the silence. “Good...”

“So, we await the arrival of the nearby tribe, then we move to better lands to the west. We keep a low profile until one or two more tribes join us, then we wipe out the village of Ice.”

“Exactly.”

 

Kunshnagk began to say a subservient goodbye to his 'Dark Lord', but at the same moment Lidon stepped forward. His companions pulled him back, but not before his heavy step echoed down the tunnel. The ritual was interrupted by silent curiosity and wariness.

 

“Lidon, what are you doing?” demanded Vibrak in a terse whisper.

“They killed Kryaju, now they plan on destroying his village. And they have summoned their leader to him. Let us end this now!”

“We don't know how many are in here, and I don't think their master... and if he is...” mumbled Vibrak.

“I must do this, for Kryaju.”

“I thought you didn't even like the ice-boy,” said Spiileus.

“He was less annoying than you,” retorted Lidon, and he jerked free.

 

Lidon would not be restrained. He ran into the chamber, and even in its darkness he could be detected. Vibrak had to admit the way he charged Kunshnagk and cut him down with a cry of “For Kryaju!” was impressive. But he could not take on a whole village of goblins in the dark on his own, and the troll was waking up too. Vibrak and Spiileus ran to back him up.

 

“Just once, I'd like to sneak out of a place as well as we sneak in,” said Vibrak as he got into position next to Lidon.

“We were going to end up fighting these anyway,” said Spiileus. “Might as well be before they meet up with those other tribes.”

“But this isn't the place to do it. There's not enough room to maneuver in here, and it's too dark to see what's coming at us.”

“We're underground, brother. This is my place,” reassured Spiileus as the Toa focused elemental attacks on the Snow Troll.

“Give me a moment...” said Lidon. He had something in mind, but the Toa were too busy fighting to execute it.

 

The troll may have been virtually immune to ice-based attacks, but concentrated attacks from three other Toa brought it down quickly. By the time it fell, all the Ukzokth chieftains in the chamber were dead too. The many remaining goblins were blindly swarming into the central chamber and throwing themselves at the intruders. While watching for more goblins running through the dark, the Toa noticed the pair or orange eyes watching them from the shadows. Again, Lidon was the first to charge. With a yell, he leaped to the sinister eyes and drove his sword right through the middle of them. His blade bounced off hard rock, jarring him, and the voice grunted dismissively.

 

“It seems I will have to adjust my plans,” it said nonchalantly.

“Show yourself, fiend!” demanded Lidon. There was no response but the continued glare of the eyes. “Alright, enough shadow! Time to use a technique I learned from Turaga Morok: lightvines!”

 

The Toa of the Green send a luminous vine twisting from his sword, illuminating the chamber. As the light banished the shadows, the glowing eyes disappeared. Lidon growled and sent a ring of the lightvines around the perimeter of the chamber. Now no goblin could enter the chamber unseen, every entrance was lit. It was too late to save Spiileus from being pierced in the leg by a spear. He stood his ground, ignoring the pain, but the Ukzokth kept coming. Their bodies piled in a circle around the Toa and scattered throughout the room. Vibrak counted perhaps a hundred of them now. He guessed that was about half of them.

 

“Tenacious things!” said Spiileus as he stepped onto a pile of bodies to maintain the high ground. “I think their plan is to bury us alive in their own carcasses.”

“We've taken out the leaders, now we must weather the rage of the followers,” said Vibrak. “I hope if something happens to me, you two will handle yourselves with more care.”

“Of course, and I've had enough of this,” said Spiileus. “Get ready to run...”

 

The three Toa sprinted out of the chamber as Spiileus brought it down. Vibrak struggled to keep the sound of tons of rock falling from overwhelming him. Lidon kept a coil of lightvine wrapped around himself to see where they were going. Spiileus kept collapsing the tunnel behind them, and blocking off additional tunnels branching off the main one as they fended off the swarms of Ukzokth that poured out of them. When they could feel a cold draft from the cave entrance, Vibrak signaled for them to stop.

 

“It is night,” he said. “We must camp here. I do not hear any goblins, but we must take turns resting in case they return. Spiileus, you are hurt.”

“It's not bad. Just a little prick.”

“Very well, but you and Lidon should rest first. I will awaken you in about two hours, if we are not attacked before then.”

 

The Toa placed their heatstones on the ground and huddled around them. Lidon and Spiileus allowed themselves to doze while Vibrak guarded them. Listening carefully, he heard muffled cries and scratching noises of buried goblins trying to escape. The noises soon stopped. The sounds of loose earth and stone settling continued for some time, then Vibrak was left with only the sound of he and his companions breathing and the howl of the wind outside. Lidon offered to take the second shift, allowing Spiileus to spend more time recovering. He could not hear what Vibrak could, but the glow of his lightvines ensured nobody could sneak up on him. Spiileus took the third shift, and they rotated in this way throughout the night. At the end of his last shift, Vibrak went to the cave entrance and saw the glow of dawn. He woke the others and they moved on.

 

“It seems we have affected that being's plans,” he said. “But that does not mean the Ice village will not be targeted soon. We must warn them.”

“I agree, and we should deliver the sad news of Kryaju in person,” said Lidon.

“To the Ice village, then. And come to my village after,” said Spiileus to Lidon. “I was serious about giving you my Mask of Quick Travel.”

 

Lidon accepted, and the three Toa traveled to Kotulo's remote village. Their passage was watched, but no enemies dared to confront them.

 

“For the past three hundred years, I have wandered the universe, trying to fulfill my destiny,” said Vibrak when they spotted the village. “Now I realize I belong in this land, back home. My fate is to protect my people.”

Review

 

 

 

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Twenty-three

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1 BGC~

 

 

Vibrak's words proved true for the next year. The village of Ice, in fact, was not the first to be attacked, but the time soon came for the Ko-Matoran to defend themselves. Kotulo considered the result of the battle to be a tactical victory, but decided it was time to lead his people in search of a new, more secretive sanctuary. They had sealed and hidden their fabled library before leaving, and none had heard from them since. Everyone else had their own safety to consider. The scattered tribes of Ukzokth had reunited, and full war had begun again. Toa and Matoran alike were hard-pressed to save their homes. Aki-Naja and the other fortresses were restored to their former might, and unfortified villages looked to them for protection. But this time there was no front to defend. The goblins were entrenched beyond the northern border, and were attacking from all sides. This distressing comeback of the Ukzokth and their killing of Toa Kryaju drove fear into the hearts of the Matoran. Before they had had time to grieve, the people of Yrenta had been conscripted into a sudden war. Most of these were younger Matoran that had few surviving veterans of the old war among them. Each battle was a desperate struggle, each victory seemed almost miraculous. And each time, Matoran died. Most of these Matoran had never fought before.

 

Among these were many of the Ga-Matoran from the village where the river emptied into the sea. Their territory had been haunted by goblins and aquatic trolls for many years, but this was the first time those invaders had amassed for an assault on the village itself. Lidon was coordinating the defense; the other Toa were fighting elsewhere. It had been Vibrak's hope that Lidon's confident, martial demeanor would inspire the demoralized Ga-Matoran to fight to their best ability. The Toa of the Green now looked upon the assembled mass of blue-armored villagers and hoped that his brother had the right idea. He had come with his own force, most of them warriors from his own home, which was larger than the fighting force of the Water village. Still, it was their home that the Ga-Matoran were defending. How they fared would decide the outcome of the battle.

 

“Hail, Matoran of Water!” he began his speech. “Ten days ago, it was exactly one year after the death of Toa Kryaju. You may not have marked the day, but now you know. I realize that his death fills you with fear and grief. Me, too. But I do not allow that to overcome me. We know what this enemy is capable of. We cannot let them do to us what they did to Kryaju. You may ask yourselves 'Why bother to fight back we are to be overcome anyway?' To answer that, I must question you. Do your rulers oppress you?”

“No!” shouted the members of the crowd. They muttered among themselves in confusion, not quite understanding his point.

“Are they the leaders they should be?” Lidon pressed. His audience was inspired by that. The Matoran of Yrenta were blessed to have leaders that were all fair and just, and Akahati was especially loved by her people.

“Yes!” they boomed, in unison.

“That is our advantage over these creatures, or these people as they may be, that attack us. They have a hidden master that rules them by fear and awe. It is he that drives them against us. I know you are a peaceful folk, so I will promise this: we will turn aside the blades of these Ukzokth, weather their assault, and when they have been taught how futile it is to attempt to conquer us, we will release them from their slavery. We will show them that this master of theirs is not to be followed so blindly. He is one and they are many, and you, the Matoran, are even more. Let this battle be the one in which they learn to fear us – and to trust us – more than him!”

 

The crowd cheered at that. Lidon himself doubted that they could convince the Ukzokth to go home by defeating them in one battle, but he did believe that that was the key to ending the war, and that this battle could be the turning point. There was no need to present doubts and complexities in a motivational speech. Nor was there time. Just now, scouts were rushing in, shouting that the enemy had been sighted.

 

“Now, it begins! Let us show them our special advantage!” he shouted, and rallying the Matoran to him he made his way to the battlefield.

 

The Ga-Matoran built their homes in a traditional style out of buoyant aquatic plants. The village was literally on the shore, so that a portion of it was floating and a portion rested on the sand. Now it was high tide, and most of the village was over the water. At this time, only a few small walkways provided access from the beach. Lidon sent the majority of his forces to defend those. Goblins of many clans were emerging from hidden lairs and converging upon the beach, and it would be up to Lidon's soldiers and the villagers to defend the village from that direction. From the sea came an attack only a Toa stood a chance against. He made his way to the outermost pier of the village and waited. The rest of the defenders, all especially brave and agile Ga-Matoran swimmers, came with him. These were by no means elite warriors, but they were the best allies he could muster for the fight. Each of them knew that some of them would die that day. They could all clearly see the large shapes swimming toward them.

 

These were the Sea Trolls, yet another variation of those brutish and mysterious beings. Completely amphibious, capable of swimming or walking along the sea floor, and just as strong as their brethren, the Sea Trolls could have shredded the village nearly effortlessly. Fortunately for the defenders, a Toa of the Green could transform their fragile botanical structures into a vicious fortress of moving vegetation. On his signal, Lidon and his followers dove into the water. The trolls were soon upon the village. Great finned arms reached out to rend the leafy foundations of the pier, and found themselves wrapped in vines tougher than tree roots. The Ga-Matoran cut through their surprised and immobilized enemies while Lidon called upon more of the village to awaken and defend itself. This technique was not new to him, he had done so in his own jungle home many times. But he had not yet fought underwater in such a manner.

 

One troll that had not been restrained lashed out at Lidon. The Toa blocked the claws with his sword, but the force of the blow knocked him back and caused him to drop his weapon. Before the Sea Troll could attack again, grasping weeds shot from Lidon's hand. The plants held the hulk still long enough for Lidon to lunge forward and stab one of his throwing daggers deep into a weak area in its armor. The troll growled and sank away, incapacitated. Lidon surfaced to take a breath, then went after his sword. He spotted it resting on the sandy seafloor, and sent a handy retrieving vine out from his hand to return it to him. Meanwhile, the Ga-Matoran above were falling back before another wave of trolls. None of them had been slain yet, but they could not fight off the assault themselves. As Lidon moved to assist them, he almost did not see a smaller, faster shape attack him from behind...

 

 

-----

 

 

Anecrax teleported in to find Teskor's lair was more cluttered than ever. Tablets, cauldrons, vials, scavenged Kanohi, and other items littered rickety shelves and tables. The most impressive sight was still there from last time Anecrax had visited: a rather makeshift-looking empty portal. It consisted of a large frame embedded with various bits of machinery and artifacts of power that would have intrigued him sometimes, but right now he had no interest in it all. Teskor was standing in front of it, and now the blue Makuta turned to his visitor, full of subdued annoyance. He never appreciated these unannounced visits, but the years had forged a bond between the two Makuta, and he would rather have it be Anecrax dropping in than Gorast or Antroz.

 

“I see you are still reaching out into other universes,” commented the black and bone-colored Makuta. “I thought the incident with the shadow-devouring light beings had taught you a lesson.”

“Such risks must be taken. I have come so far, and put such effort into this, all without a Kanohi Olmak. To abandon the project now would be a tremendous waste.”

“What about your own considerable forces, as well as mine? I am on your side, and my abilities are not insignificant,” said Anecrax. He looked for something dead to reanimate to illustrate his point, but saw no such thing.

“Bah, the Ukzokth? They are rabble. Less numerous, less disciplined, less formidable than Visorak... I could gain a small amount of favor for adding them to the Brotherhood army, but other than that, their only real use is in entertainment. And your preferred method has its limitations,” said Teskor, applying just enough of his magnetic powers to Anecrax's mask to cause it to slip off.

“Do not touch the mask,” growled Anecrax as he put it back on his face.

“I will respect your property when you respect mine, my uninvited guest. For now, I tolerate your intrusion because we understand each other.”

“The time is near,” said Anecrax with a nod. “I intend to be prepared when the time comes. Our brothers will need us. We will have their respect.”

“Indeed. Now watch. Today, I will draw forth my mightiest servant ever!” announced Teskor.

 

Teskor shot a bolt of electricity from his claws. It struck one part of the portal frame and redirected itself along the perimeter, activating the various components. An interdimensional rift appeared and expanded to fit the frame. At first, the portal was absolutely black and silent, but it quickly seemed to register something. A faint heat emanated from the rift, then suddenly the Makuta were nearly overwhelmed by it. They could only strive to activate their Heat Resistance powers while the portal frame glowed white-hot. Various liquids in containers scattered throughout the cavern boiled. Teskor cried out in disappointment and frustration as the frame began to collapse, both from the heat, and as Anecrax could now see, something tearing it apart.

 

“This had better be worth it,” said Teskor as he and his brother Makuta looked in shock at the ruins of the portal project... and the enormous being towering over those ruins.

 

 

-----

 

 

Lidon nearly kicked his attacker out of instinct, but restrained himself upon glimpsing long, sharp claws. Instead he threw a dagger behind him, towards the attacker, and used the moment of distraction that gave him to turn and bring his sword to bear. The being that had ambushed him was neither troll nor goblin, nor any other sort of creature Lidon recognized. It was slender and mostly green-armored, with spines and plate armor of other colors covering its body haphazardly. The Toa feinted with his sword then made a quick jab with his dagger, but his opponent was too quick and agile in the water. He attempted to propel himself to the surface to breathe. The new enemy lunged at him, trying to restrain him, and Lidon caused a leaf of seaweed to intervene. The aquatic attacker quickly sliced through the attacking plant, but not quickly enough to prevent Lidon from surfacing. To his dismay, Lidon saw that the trolls were now forcing the Ga-Matoran back, and destroying the foundations of the village as they advanced. If this new enemy kept him out of the fight, the battle would be lost.

 

He could not fend off the creature underwater, however. He climbed onto a nearby pier and manipulated the structure to fend off the nearest trolls. In moments, claws began to shred the pier. Lidon would not allow it. Grasping vines lifted the green-armored being out of the water, and it gasped for breath. Lidon wondered what do as it hung there. He did not wish to kill something without knowing why it attacked him, but this was a battle. He could afford no more distractions. He raised his sword to bring a quick end to the creature, but something else acted first. A similar set of claws cut through the vines, releasing the trapped being, and then Lidon found he was surrounded by several similar beings. He looked to shore and saw that the battle there was going well, but the village was quickly being destroyed by the trolls. The Ga-Matoran could not hold them back without his aid. With a shout he leaped onto a nearby walkway and ran as claws from the water shredded it under his feet. He was just in time to jump in front of a Sea Troll before it could crush a trio of terrified Ga-Matoran.

 

“Fall back!” he commanded as he fought off the troll. “Press onto land and hold position there.”

“Yes, Toa Lidon!” said one of the Matoran, and the three of them started off.

“Wait!” called Lidon as he pushed the troll back into the water. “Tell the others that several creatures of a new sort, very agile water-breathers, have joined the battle against us.”

“Oh dear! We will tell them,” the Matoran called back.

 

Lidon braced himself for the troll to emerge from the water, likely with backup this time. Instead he noticed signs of a struggle below. Confused, he risked a dive underwater. To his surprise, he saw the trolls and the other aquatic beings fighting each other. It looked like the new creatures were winning. Their claws cut through the trolls' thick armor as easily as Lidon could cut through a leaf, it seemed, and they were far too quick for the trolls to counter. This battle was not completely one-sided however. One of the mysterious green-armored swimmers made a tactical error, and was smashed against the seafloor by its opponent's massive foot. The troll began a finishing blow, and that was when Lidon intervened. Vines entangled the troll while the stunned water-breather roused itself and then tore the troll apart. Then it moved toward Lidon.

 

It seemed to be approaching with hostile intent despite Lidon saving its life. The Toa of the Green assumed a defensive posture, ready to block the claws as they came at him. Unfortunately, his sword proved as resistant to the claws as the troll armor had. He dropped the hilt of his shredded blade in surprise, and felt hands – not sharp claws, but none too gentle – grasp his neck.

 

“Why did you interfere, Toa?” it demanded. Lidon nearly inhaled water in his surprise. “No, I will let you get some air so you can talk. How tedious.”

 

The green water dweller and its allies brought Lidon to the surface. Lidon managed to turn to see that the village was almost completely demolished. However the Matoran were driving back the Ukzokth, most of the Sea Trolls were dead and the remainder were too clumsy on land to be much of a threat against so many Matoran.

 

“Who are you?” asked Lidon when his and his captors' heads were above the surface of the water. “You allowed the Sea Trolls to destroy the village, but it seems you are enemies. Why?”

“It is not obvious that we are three separate factions?” said the leader of the aquatic creatures when they were submerged again. “Our hatred of the trolls matches our hatred of you.”

“I understand your enmity against the trolls,” said Lidon when he was allowed to breathe air again, “but what do you have against Toa and Matoran?”

“Over three thousand years ago, our home was invaded and destroyed by your kind. Is that not plain enough? Long have we wished to bring you to justice, but this day our other enemies did the work for us. We had only to remove you from the scene. Now you may give us a reason to not do so permanently.”

“I... I do not believe this... Matoran would never...” Lidon was interrupted by being dragged underwater again.

“Matoran fishers intruded upon our territory. In our attempt to settle this dispute, Toa destroyed our home. They melted the very stone of it. What have you to say about that?”

“I do not know of this. Wait! Please, let us discuss the matter with my Turaga. He will know.”

 

The sea-dwellers debated this intensely. Meanwhile, the Matoran had won the battle on land and were searching for casualties and missing survivors. Lidon was on that list, none of them could see him from the shore. Finally the leader of the creatures pulled Lidon underwater and spoke to him.

 

“We are still angry, but we agree that justice has been done. Your home has been destroyed, as ours was. We have difficulties enough without inciting more hostilities. But you will take us to your Turaga, and if he does not excuse the behavior of your kind, we shall never allow you into these waters again.”

“Very well, but he lives quite far inland. This is awkward... you could get there by the river, I suppose.”

 

The mysterious sea-dwellers allowed Lidon to speak with the survivors of the battle. He explained the situation to them, and left with the promise to help repair their village as soon as he could. The journey to the jungle village was not a short one, but the water-breathers were patient. They seemed very intent on speaking to Turaga Morok, although it was sure to be an awkward conversation, and not only because one party breathed water and the other breathed air. Fortunately, faster messages had been sent, and Morok met them near the southern edge of the jungle, at an enjoyable green riverbank. He did not look pleased to see his visitors, Lidon noted. In fact, he looked rather frightened. He also had an air of sorrow and regret, which was usual for Morok, but his was usually subtle and subdued. Now his manner was full of the feeling.

 

“I am Turaga Morok,” he greeted the aquatic beings at the river. “I was there when my team... my team and I... drove you away and destroyed your home. I am sorry. Only two of us are left to answer for our crime, but I ask on behalf of my part: how can I make amends?”

“You speak fairly, Turaga,” replied the leader when Morok had plunged his head underwater to hear. “We all can see the genuine regret in you. Justice has been served, as it was by our intervention that your villagers' home was destroyed. We only ask now to be left in peace, with none of your kind intruding upon our territory.”

“Justice was not done to the Matoran of Water. It was not their fault that your home was destroyed. It was the fault of me, and of my old companions. But I do not wish for this to escalate. I do not expect intrusion from us to be a problem for you. Our people are dwindling. And we are not the only ones threatened by these attackers, it seems. I have an idea. Let us collaborate to defend each other from this common threat. With your prowess and our support, the coasts will be kept safe.”

“We brought just retribution upon the Matoran of Water that intruded upon our home. Now we are appeased. And to your offer, I must decline. No, we will keep to ourselves. You see, we were once trained and armed to be living weapons for some faction. We cannot say what this faction was. But we are free now, and we live as outcasts, scavenging to survive. We wish to be left alone.”

“Alright then. But I trust you will continue to oppose the trolls that enter your territory?”

“Of course.”

“I'm terribly sorry about what I did. I wish I could help you, but these are hard times...”

“They are indeed, Turaga, and the times are growing worse. But it gives me some relief to know that our home was not destroyed by unrepentant monsters... yet.”

 

The sea creatures departed respectfully. Morok would not tell Lidon more of the story, and so the Toa of the Green was left to wonder. The scenario seemed very strange to him. But the important part, he decided as he traveled back south, was that the Matoran of Water were safe. The trolls and goblins were gone, and with a Toa of the Green helping, a village made of plants could easily be rebuilt.

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 15 2013 - 11:32 PM.

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#11 Offline The Iron Toa

The Iron Toa
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Posted Jan 16 2013 - 01:45 AM

Fate of Yrenta

 

Chapter Twenty-four

 

==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~0 BGC~

 

The rest of the year passed with occasional battles. Neither side seemed to have an advantage over the other. The Ga-Matoran village was rebuilt, as was Lidon's sword. Ukzokth reinforcements eventually came from the north, but they were unable to breach the line of defense the northern fortresses kept. So those fortresses faced sieges while the villages in the south fended off smaller attacks. The Toa and brave Matoran adventurers struck back whenever they had the chance, eager to force the goblins out of their lands. Apparently, Lidon had succeeded in making the defense of the Water village the turning point. Although the village had been razed while he was engaged by the vengeful sea-people, the Matoran counted it an encouraging victory. The reason for this was that while Lidon was missing from the battle, it was rumored that the Sea Trolls had injured or slain him. Instead of falling into despair at this, the villagers instead responded with wrath and stubborn defiance. The words of Toa Lidon and the thought of him falling in battle were enough to drive the Matoran to push back against the Ukzokth and Urshnolg until the attackers fled in fear.

 

Lidon and his brothers had had similar successes since then, although the lands were far from safe. The goblins prowled plains, jungles, valleys, and mountains still. And most alarming of all was the report that the edges of Metaku's realm, long haunted by cave-goblins and other deadly subterranean creatures, were being mysteriously melted. The Onu-Matoran were baffled. They had first attributed it to seismic activity, but further examination disproved that idea. Rightfully worried, Metaku had called on the Toa to investigate. Due to the death of Kryaju and Lidon's nearly disastrous encounter with the aquatic people, Vibrak decided it would be best if his entire team investigated. Whatever threatened the underground realm, it might have been far too dangerous for one or two Toa alone.

 

“None of us have excavated there for many years,” Metaku had told the Toa. “But is impossible to be sure of all Ukzokth activities. I expect they uncovered something. We have legends of evil spirits hidden in the deep, that we must be wary of lest we set free. Although I am not sure I believe the legends. It is possible that the goblins have simply tapped a magma flow and let it go out of control. Whatever the case, I do not wish to have my realm turned into an enormous fiery forge. Also, I would not care if the magma floods the goblins out – except the less space they have to inhabit, the more they will attempt to claim from us.”

“We will investigate this phenomenon, and with Spiileus's abilities, I am confident we will soon put an end to it,” Vibrak had reassured the village leader.

“We are indeed fortunate to have the aid of a Toa of Earth, “ Metaku had agreed. “But I believe even he will have some difficulty navigating these tunnels. As I said, we have long since abandoned them, and it was only by chance that our scouts discovered this menace.”

 

Metaku's people had given the Toa a map, but there was no guarantee it was still accurate. A mining foreman guided them to his team's project, which was nearest the place where the phenomenon had been discovered. Beyond that point, there was no knowing what the goblins had done to the tunnels. The glow of their eyes and of their lightstone-embedded belts provided the only illumination for the Toa. Vague tremors shook the earth. As they came to undisputed goblin territory, the tremors increased in volume, yet were still illusive. Only Vibrak could hear them clearly, and he could not fix on the origin due to the echoing of the many passages. Here, the old Matoran tunnels served only as a foundation, barely noticeable, for their twisting burrows. Only Spiileus had any sense of direction in this area, and even he was having difficulty navigating. As one who could go for years without seeing the sun, he had trained himself to develop an internal sense of time. His estimate was not precise, but he reckoned they had seen the last definite sign of Matoran presence about eleven hours ago. Toa did not tire easily, but all three of them were becoming frustrated. Vibrak called for them to stop.

 

“The drumming sound is quieter now. We need to get this straightened out before we go any further,” he said. “Spiileus, are we still traveling north?”

“I think we're facing southeast at the moment,” said Spiileus after taking a moment to calculate their position. “But this tunnel spirals. We are going down, and I think we're on the right track.”

“Good. Let's rest for a moment, and then... – wait, I hear something else,” whispered Vibrak. “Ukzokth below us... Maybe half a kio away, maybe closer, the tunnels' acoustics make it hard to tell. I only know a few words of their tongue, but they sound... agitated.”

“They're goblins, they're always agitated about something,” said Lidon. “But do you think they know we are coming?”

“No, unless we've been spotted by goblins too silent for even me to hear. Let's keep it that way. We don't want the whole horde swarming us, even with Spiileus here. I'll switch masks, just a moment...” Vibrak switched to his Mask of Translation. “I still can't discern what they are saying, but we'll get closer to them if we keep going this way. Come on, and quietly now.”

 

The Toa traveled through the spiraling tunnel, sometimes moving closer to the Ukzokth, sometimes farther. After a while they were on a straight path to the goblins, and Vibrak could hear them clearly. His Kanohi Rau translated their alien language into Matoran speech, and he discovered they were indeed anxiously discussing a great wave of heat that was coming towards them. Vibrak could hear it too, the roaring of flowing magma and melting rock. The goblins were fleeing from it, headed to the Toa. The tremors were more noticeable in this place, perhaps heralding a large troll. Vibrak readied his glaive. Lidon and Spiileus looked him and prepared for combat as well.

 

“I hear it too,” said Spiileus. “Or rather I feel it more... the footsteps are shaking the earth, even more than any – ”

“Wait,” interrupted Vibrak. “The goblins are nearer now. They are fleeing in terror, and will be upon us any moment now.”

“I've not met many brave goblins, but I admit I'm apprehensive about looking for something they're so afraid of,” said Lidon. “Do you think they'll run by without noticing us if we cover our lightstones and hide?”

“Not likely, but we'll – here they come, just be ready!” said Vibrak.

 

There were more Ukzokth than Vibrak had guessed. When they caught sight of the Toa, the goblins froze in fear, looked back the way they came, then back at the Toa. After a moment of hesitation, they continued forward. A few of them charged the Toa blindly and were cut down, while the smarter and luckier ones ran past and escaped into the darkness, still yowling in fear. The encounter was over in a few seconds, and there was still no sign of a troll. Spiileus shrugged and the Toa moved on. No one in particular was leading, there was only one route to follow at this point. The tunnel spiraled down more times, and the air grew progressively hotter as they descended. The tremors were unmistakeable, and over the sound of the magma and melting Vibrak could hear the source of them. Something was stomping in the magma, making splashing noises in it like a Ga-Matoran wading in a stream. He wasn't sure if his teammates could hear it, and was about to mention it when Spiileus shouted.

 

“Look out!” shouted the Toa of Earth.

 

He thrust out a claw and grabbed Lidon's hand, but in his haste he accidentally cut through the Toa of the Green's armor. Lidon cried out, startled, and instinctively pulled himself free. He regretted that a moment later, however, when the ground he was standing on gave way. The tunnel floor in front of Vibrak and Spiileus collapsed, revealing a red glow and a searing heat. The shock of it stunned the two of them for a crucial moment, a tiny fraction of a second while Lidon fell away before them. When Vibrak and Spiileus could react, they realized it was too late. Lidon had fallen beyond their reach. Vibrak almost could not dare to look.

 

“Hey! Hurry up and help me!” called Lidon just as Vibrak was about to look over the edge, expecting to see his friend's dead body, or to find that he had been irrecoverably melted and carried away.

“We can't see you,” said Vibrak. “What's under you?”

“A lot of magma with no safe place to land on, and I think something's come – oh no, the vine is going to burn! I'm going to fall...”

“We're coming, Lidon!” said Spiileus. “Vibrak, brace yourself!”

 

Vibrak did as he was told, expecting Spiileus to attempt some dangerous stunt. He was right. A surge of elemental power crumbled the ground under his and Spiileus's feet. The vine supporting Lidon caught fire, and the three Toa fell together. In midair, Spiileus summoned a mound of earth under their feet to shield them from the magma. They landed on it softly enough, finding themselves on a tiny artificial island in a river of magma flowing through a large hall. The mound under their feet was quickly melting away. Spiileus turned and let out another surge of elemental energy, creating an earthen bridge to solid ground. The Toa ran across it as it melted under their feet. Vibrak and Lidon nearly let themselves drop, exhausted and relieved. Spiileus stopped for a moment, concentrating, then let out a blast that smashed open a hole in the passage, revealing another tunnel below and to the left. The Toa backed away, and the magma drained into the lower tunnel through the hole Spiileus had made.

 

“Once again, I am grateful we have a Toa of Earth with us,” said Vibrak. “Well done, Spiileus.”

“Yeah, nice job Spiileus,” said Lidon. “But I wish we had Kryaju here to cool us off.”

“It's a temporary solution” warned Spiileus. “If we stay here too long we'll have the ground melted from under us. And I think we've almost solved this mystery – look!”

 

The Toa looked down the hall and finally came face-to-face with the source of the heat. And it did indeed have a face, one contorted with rage and confusion. When it focused its gaze on the Toa, the confusion was replaced by a look of recognition, and the being snarled. It was terrifying to behold – four, perhaps five bio tall, Toa-like in shape and proportions, and covered in armor with the many colors of fire. The giant shook itself constantly, radiating incredibly intense heat that grew nearly unbearable as it approached. It stepped out of the magma flow, narrowing the distance between the retreating Toa. The rock of the tunnel around it melted in its presence, and its feet left deep molten prints in the ground. It did not need to reach out to smite the Toa. When it was fifteen bio away, the Toa were nearly on their knees. Their armor was beginning to glow red-hot. The giant did not slow.

 

It called out in some bizarre language the Toa had never heard before. The sound filled them with terror. Lidon and Spiileus's fear was compounded by confusion and a spark of bitter humor when Vibrak's mask began to glow. He was still wearing the Mask of Translation. How could it possibly benefit them to understand this creature's taunts? Vibrak, however, found a spark of hope. He hailed the fiery giant in whatever language it was speaking.

 

“Stop, please!” he begged. “What are you, and what do you have to gain by destroying us?”

“Little cold things with powers talk too?” said the giant, confused. It stopped for a moment.

“I can talk to you,” said Vibrak. “Who sent you to kill us?”

 

Lidon and Spiileus moved back, fixated on Vibrak, who was struggling to speak to the giant in the scorching heat it was emanating as it vibrated. They could not understand a word of what was being said, and were utterly confused. Their fear mingled with their hope. A nagging thought, almost subconscious, passed through Spiileus's mind unheeded. He was too concerned with the giant to notice the vague tremors that continued even when the scorching titan was standing still.

 

“I do not know,” replied the giant. “And I do not care as long as he sends me home.”

“Sends you... home? Where are you from?”

“I do not know what you would call it. But it is a good place. Not cold like here. But I will never go back, that abductor will never let me go back until I destroy you.”

“You don't have to... abductor? So he... took you from your home then. Ow... so hot...”

“I do have to. I doubt there is any other way. Only that one could take me away, only he can send me back. I am sorry, but I hate being here. It is so cold, and I miss my people.”

“Cold? So you are shivering... but you are melting the rock... and... ouch... I cannot stand this... Please, just... let us go... we will...”

 

At that moment, several things happened suddenly and simultaneously. Vibrak passed out in mid-sentence, overcome by the heat. Lidon stepped forward to catch him as he fell and pull him back. The giant took another step forward, shaking its head regretfully and shivering. The earth rumbled, but not from its heavy footstep. Earth and boulders rained down from above all around, nearly crushing the Toa, while rifts opened in the hall's floor. A large rock struck the colossus in the head, smashing its cranial armor. A gout of flame burst out of the wound, and it screamed and fell into a fiery chasm before the eyes of the astonished Toa, who were struggling to conquer the oppression of the heat and escape. The tunnel was collapsing above them and under them. This was an earthquake as powerful as it was sudden, a disaster they had not seen coming, though a select few in the universe had.

 

To Be Continued In End of Yrenta

 

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