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End Of Yrenta


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#1 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 01 2012 - 01:42 AM

End of YrentaChapter One==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Imlen, get down!”Imlen ducked. A disk flew over his head and hit a wall, triggering a fireball that left a smoldering impression where it struck.“We're over here, run!”Imlen ran after Vilam. Around a corner, they came face to face with the rest of their team and some other Matoran. They paused there to catch their breath, but were soon interrupted. The building they were hiding behind disintegrated. Projectiles crossed the empty space where the building had stood. A Rahkshi backed away from the battle, seeking an escape. It had just knocked Najma out of the way in its retreat when it was struck by something and exploded. Najma, who had traveled with Imlen for four hundred years, was killed instantly from the resulting shrapnel. Dozens of other Matoran fell around him, killed or wounded by numerous ranged attacks. This was not collateral damage. After routing the Makuta forces, the Dark Hunters had begun to slaughter every laborer they saw. Imlen had been nearly too shocked to react. Such a massacre had never occurred during this war.But it was a war, and inevitably innocent Matoran would get caught in it. Imlen did not know what started it, but he had heard it had been raging across the universe for centuries – since soon after that terrible earthquake that was dubbed the Great Cataclysm. Whatever strife the aftermath of the Cataclysm had caused between the Makuta and the Dark Hunters, that disaster had had grave effects on the remote region of Yrenta. Buildings crumbled, the ocean swelled over the plains of De-Wahi, and the Toa were missing, presumed dead. They had been underground when it happened, gone off to put an end to some mysterious threat. Whatever the Matoran of the underground feared, it had not come back to them, but neither had the Toa. Without the Toa, the Matoran were overrun by the Ukzokth, twisted creatures often called 'goblins', in a matter of days.Makuta Teskor had saved them from that menace, revealing himself and the dominance he had attained over the Ukzokth before the Matoran were wiped out. Few remembered who he was, and those few had misgivings. Some had spoken out against him, claiming he had done horrible deeds in the past and was probably behind the Ukzokth all along. Those individuals did not last long, as Teskor, well-intentioned or not, quickly demonstrated that he had no tolerance for dissenters. The Turaga had quietly disappeared as well. In exchange for keeping the Ukzokth from getting carried away (he didn't seem to mind if they harassed the Matoran a little, killing and pillaging occasionally) he had requested that the Matoran honor him over Mata Nui. For the first few centuries, it seemed to be all about him. Statues honoring Mata Nui and the Toa were torn down and replaced with ones for him, old tombs and temples were buried, and every Matoran pitched in to pay him tribute.Then the war came to the borders of Yrenta, and he got serious. The people formerly ruled by Metaku (one of the dissidents who had disappeared) were put to work mining and crafting for the Brotherhood of Makuta army. The old fortresses that used to defend the Matoran from goblins were renovated in preparation for Dark Hunter attacks, and tribute was tripled to pay for the war. But although many of the older, wiser Matoran, as well as some of the bright and brave young ones, had spoken out and disappeared, a few others had more success at staying alive while doing nothing to help Teskor and his brothers. Among those rebels were Imlen and his companions. He had been opposed to Teskor since day one, remembering old stories about him slaying a Toa from his village, and he soon had a following. Over the years, he had lost companions and gained new ones.Today it seemed likely he would lose all his companions, and his own life too. The attempt to liberate the Matoran laboring in this fortress had gone all wrong. Imlen and his friends had joined the community of Matoran that kept the walls and weapons in order, hoping to lead the Matoran in deserting Teskor's forces when the Dark Hunters attacked. But the Rahkshi, Ukzokth, and other beings the Makuta commanded had kept the Matoran from leaving until the Dark Hunters had destroyed them. Now it was clear the Dark Hunters did not intend for them to leave alive either. It was a ruthless strategy: cripple the enemy's army by destroying the slaves that supported it. In Imlen's experience, the Dark Hunters were all corrupt and greedy beings that would do anything for money and power. But whoever was leading today's attack must have been especially heartless.Several Dark Hunter soldiers charged. A thick-armored warrior with enormous hands and feet picked up Vilam and tried to crush her. Grimacing with pain, she pressed a button on the hilt of her sword, and the blade became electrified. Neither the jolt nor the blade's sharpness were enough to hurt the Dark Hunter's hand much, but it was a nasty surprise. He cried out in shock and dropped his Matoran of Lightning prisoner, and cursed as she bolted out of reach. One of his companions threw a stack of deadly bladed disks at the fleeing Matoran, but the villagers took cover behind another building just in time. They kept running, and only after making a few random turns in an effort to evade the Hunters did they dare to stop to catch their breath.“Najma!” gasped a Matoran of the Green with a bow strapped to his back. “I saw him go down, we left him behind!”“I know,” said Imlen. “I'm sorry, Paqyar, I saw him... he's gone.”“And you're next!” said a slender, blue-armored warrior. His red eyes glowed, and the Matoran found themselves inexplicably mesmerized. Only Napruha, another Matoran of Lightning, was unaffected for some reason. She growled and skewered the hypnotic being with her rapier. He yelped, then hissed in anger. He grabbed Napruha's arm, pulled the weapon out of him, and disarmed her with a crushing grip. With his other hand he brought his sword to bear on her. Napruha blocked his initial attacks, but her Matoran-sized shield was no match. She was soon struck a mortal blow. Fortunately for them, however, this broke the other Matoran from their trance.“Go! I will hold him off!” Napruha managed to say. She stood defiantly between the Dark Hunter and her friends, who obeyed her and fled. The Hunter gave her a quick death and pursued the others, but he was too late. He had lost them.Ahead, the Matoran saw a surviving group of Brotherhood soldiers, led by a Steltian lieutenant. It seemed the soldiers had a clear escape route, but if the Matoran accepted their protection, they would lose their freedom. Then it would be back to laboring for the Brotherhood until the next opportunity to escape came, if they lived that long. Imlen considered it. Last time the Dark Hunters had captured a fortress, Teskor had sacrificed a considerable number of Ukzokth to take it back, an act which was beneficial to the Matoran. However, after that, dozens of Matoran had been worked to death improving the recaptured fortress and laboring to make up for the Brotherhood's losses. Fortunately none of the Matoran had actually been sent into battle, as they served the Makuta better as laborers, but Imlen feared Teskor might do something rash as a result of this recent defeat. Matoran were no match for the Dark Hunters' army, but if he was willing to throw away the lives of the Ukzokth, he might decide he had more than enough Matoran to waste. Yet, the Dark Hunters would certainly kill them all immediately. In a choice between death and slavery, Imlen would choose the latter, at least for a little while.But it seemed the choice would be made for him, one way or another. The lieutenant had spotted them and ordered two soldiers forward to retrieve them, while the rest retreated. They were halfway to the Matoran when another Dark Hunter emerged from an alley. This one was a male Vortixx, an unusual specimen to find away from their homeland of Xia. His quick, precise movement set him apart from the other Dark Hunters – the Matoran sensed something especially dangerous about him. They were soon proven right. As soon as they turned to him, the Brotherhood soldiers sent to escort the Matoran were dead. His sword moves were some of the fastest Imlen had ever seen. As the bodies hit the ground, the Vortixx turned to the Brotherhood lieutenant and his group. The lieutenant took another step back nervously, and ordered the rest of his company to attack. The warriors, consisting of four recruited soldiers of different species, three Visorak, and a Rahkshi, attacked together. Imlen gestured to his friends, and they took the opportunity to flee.The Matoran stopped short as a series of knives landed in the ground in front of them, thrown by the Vortixx as a warning. He had barely turned away from the Makuta forces. Intimidated, Imlen and the others paused. They wondered what it was for. The Dark Hunter could have easily killed them. He certainly was doing well in his fight. A hail of shuriken stung the recruited soldiers, distracting them while he took out the Visorak. The Rahkshi, a Turahk, attacked with its fear power. This slowed the Vortixx enough for the soldiers to score a few hits, but it was not enough. Seconds later, the Rahkshi was scrap, and the four soldiers were next. The last one standing, the terrified Steltian, held up his axe and shield as the Dark Hunter charged him, but it was no use. The Matoran were still standing in place, almost equally afraid as the lieutenant when his head was removed from his body.“Well, well,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter as he leaped backwards and landed smoothly in front of the group. “Four Matoran trying to escape. And judging by your weapons, you are not mere laborers.”“Are you going to kill us?” the Po-Matoran known as Mosori said bitterly.“Those are my orders,” the Dark Hunter admitted. The Matoran prepared themselves, but he did not act yet.“We won't make it easy,” said Vilam, trying to sound more certain than she was.“Hmm... but you do have some spirit, don't you?” chuckled the Vortixx. “You're renegades of some sort, I can tell. Rebels, bandits, adventurers, whatever you call yourselves, whatever others call you. I think it would do the Brotherhood some harm to let you go. Don't you think?”“Certainly,” said Imlen hopefully.“Well then, I think it would be in both our best interests to let you go. Agreed?”“No doubt,” said Imlen, more confidently this time.“Better run. Sounds like my friends are coming,” warned the Vortixx. He was right, the Matoran could hear others approaching.They took his advice and fled. Fortunately, the fortress wall had been damaged nearby. A hole had been blasted in the inner wall, and the outer wall was weakened significantly. With moderate effort, Mosori kicked the damaged section down, and the four Matoran spilled outside. Nearly stumbling, they continued down a hill and stopped half a kio away. There a large rock formation provided cover, and they rested.“Kara-Naja, there it burns,” said Paqyar, referring to the fortress. “I wonder if Aki-Naja is next.”“I doubt it,” said Mosori. “We Po-Matoran put our best into the Fortress of Valor, and I know Makuta's got it full of his forces up and down the hour-chart these days. Not that it makes much difference to us.”“Don't say that,” said Imlen. “You know there are still many of our brothers and sisters trapped in there, working for the Makuta until they drop dead or die in the war. I won't stand for it. If battle ever comes to that fortress, I swear I'll be there to help them escape.”“We need to see to our own survival first,” Vilam pointed out. “Look, our group is almost half gone. Weti, Najma, and Napruha, all of them are lost.”“I know. I... I don't know how we can...” stammered Imlen.“The Matoran must save themselves,” said Paqyar, answering the unspoken question. “We must show them: if they are to be free, they must work together to achieve it. They can't rely on a small group of rogues to do it for them.”“So that's your plan, is it?” said an unfamiliar voice.“Not again!” groaned Mosori.“We were followed!” gasped Vilam as she and the others stood. “That treacherous Vortixx – wait, that's... oh, Kraata slime.”Vilam's curse was a terrified whisper. For she and the others peered around the rock and saw a Brotherhood soldier flanked by two Rahkshi and led by a leashed Energy Hound.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Apr 01 2012 - 01:43 AM.

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#2 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 01 2012 - 10:03 PM

End of YrentaChapter Two==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Matoran were caught now. There was no way they could outrun Rahkshi, and Energy Hounds could track a being to anywhere in the universe. And it was clear this soldier would not take prisoners. With a gesture, he ordered the Rahkshi forward. One of the Rahkshi was surrounded by a swarm of small insects, which it sent to sting the Matoran. The other raised its staff, and clouds gathered overhead. Hail pelted the Matoran, and lightning struck frighteningly close. Paqyar managed to nock an arrow and shoot, but sudden winds blew it wildly off target. Vilam and Imlen tried to make a stand against the Rahkshi, and were quickly knocked down. Mosori yelled and charged the Energy Hound. He dodged past the Rahkshi, raised his hammer, and struck the tracking Rahi hard on the head. A clang sounded, and the creature staggered. Then it recovered and growled. The Brotherhood soldier released its leash, and it pounced on Mosori.“Mosori!” Vilam cried out as the Po-Matoran was ravaged by the hound's teeth and claws.“R... run!” Mosori struggled to say. The other three Matoran tried to get up and flee, but were pinned down by the Rahkshi. All they could do was dodge their attacks for a little longer.“I don't think so,” said the Brotherhood soldier. “Enough delaying, you little worms are d – ”He was cut short by a knife in his back. He cried out in pain and turned, just in time to see the Vortixx Dark Hunter the Matoran had encountered earlier. In the time it took for him to blink, the Vortixx had covered the distance and swept his sword over the soldier's shoulders, cleanly decapitating him. The Energy Hound was next, thrown knives caused it to release Mosori, roll over, and die. The two Rahkshi turned away from the Matoran and struck back, but did not last much longer. The Hunter's curved blade slashed through the machines' armor and killed the Kraata inside with swift, precise swings. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam stood up as the insects and unnatural weather dispersed.“You followed us!” said Paqyar.“Not exactly,” said the Vortixx, pointing up at the Rahkshi's fading clouds. “That could be seen for kio around. I guessed it would be worth investigating. I'm sure I'm not the only one.”“You're right,” agreed Imlen as he walked over to help Mosori. “We need to move on, quickly.”“I... can't go,” coughed Mosori. “I don't think I can... walk... leave me here.”“No, Mosori, we – ” Vilam began, but was interrupted.“He's right, he can't walk,” said the Vortixx. “He'll just slow you down.”“He's not hurt too badly,” protested Paqyar. “We can't leave him to die here.”“I won't let that happen to him. I think I can help,” said the Vortixx.“You? You want us to trust you with him?” said Vilam.“Ah, right, because I'm a Dark Hunter, and I'm supposed to kill you all, or at least abduct you or something. If that's what you want...”“No, wait!” said Imlen. “What... what do you have in mind?”“There's a village nearby you can take him to, isn't there? Don't worry, my allies in the Shadowed One's army don't know about it.”“You're right,” said Imlen, unsure whether to be worried or relieved. “We'll head there.”“Let's go, I can hear others approaching,” said the Vortixx urgently. He picked up Mosori and sprinted away.“I don't like this,” said Paqyar as the Matoran rushed to catch up.“We don't have much choice, now be quiet and let's get out of sight,” said Imlen.Moving stealthily through rock formations and foliage, the Matoran followed the Vortixx. They knew of the village he was referring to, but it was actually barely even a village. It was a recently founded collection of huts known merely as Yotvis's Home. Yotvis was the Matoran that had founded it, but he was gone now. The most popular story was that goblins got him when he was traveling. All that was certain was that he had been a Ba-Matoran who brought his friends here where they hoped to survive unnoticed by the sinister forces of the world. Their seclusion had lasted for a few years, then Teskor's minions found them and ensured they were part of the Makuta's new social system. Imlen had visited a few times before, and knew that the inhabitants were especially sympathetic to his cause. Most of them would not dare to openly rebel, but he was confident he would find shelter for Mosori here. The Vortixx stopped where the village was just out of sight, and the Matoran caught up.“Here's where we part, Matoran,” the Dark Hunter said, letting Mosori down. “I don't wish to be seen here, and I must return to my allies.”“What is up with you?” demanded Paqyar. “You're no ordinary Dark Hunter.”“We're not all so bad,” said the Vortixx. “Some of us are just trying to make a living. Some of us even have some noble personal quest.”“But...” Paqyar said, too late. The Vortixx ignored him and jumped away.“I guess we were lucky,” said Vilam. “Or else this is part of an elaborate Dark Hunter plot.”“Looks like we have something else to worry about,” Imlen called from the hill he stood on. “Come and take a look.”Mosori leaned on Paqyar's shoulder as the three Matoran came to Imlen. They could see Yotvis's Home below. There were no Matoran outside in the village, which was not unusual, but even from this distance it was clear something was wrong. Most of the huts were open, and there were no lights, although it was getting dark. It was all disturbingly still and silent. The Matoran carefully came closer, and no one came to greet them.“Looks like we missed something,” said Vilam as they walked through the village center. “The Brotherhood must have come and taken them away.”“Let's see what we can find here anyway,” said Imlen, looking around curiously. “If this was for labor, they wouldn't have brought everyone...”“I see footprints. Leading to the north, alright,” observed Mosori. “Matoran and... some bigger kinds. Rahkshi and other enforcers, I expect.”“Do any of the Matoran prints look like – ” Imlen was interrupted by a muffled cough coming from one of the huts.As a precaution, the team ran in with their weapons drawn, although the sound did not seem to come from anything threatening. Indeed, a dusty brown mask popped out from a pile of damaged tools and other junk. It was a Po-Matoran.“Imlen?” he said with relief. “Oh thank goodness, I was afraid they'd be back.”“Rodas, what's going on?” asked Imlen, recognizing the Matoran from his previous visit. “Let me help you up there, then you can explain.”The Matoran of Plasma walked across the room to the junk pile and held out his hand to Rodas the Po-Matoran. Rodas took it and accepted the support in standing up. When he stood, Imlen's companions noticed that he was missing most of his right foot. Such a condition was not as uncommon in these times as it used to be. Without letting Rodas lose his balance, Imlen stooped to retrieve the Po-Matoran's cane and handed it to him. Rodas gave a short bow of gratitude, then he shuffled over to an overturned chair. Imlen righted it for him, and he sat down. Once he was settled, he began to explain without needing to be prompted again.“They came to take us to work, as we knew they would. They used to always let the crippled Matoran stay behind if they didn't have any work for them. And they rarely do, since most of it's bricklaying or smithing. They have no time for any other sort of crafting, these newcomers. Just making walls and weapons... anyway, when they came yesterday it was different. First, it was who came. They were a few Rahkshi, but there was someone else leading them. He... he was a Toa.”“A Toa?” Imlen's companions cried out in disbelief.“Not in the traditional sense of the word of course,” explained Rodas. “He was no hero like Gareki or the others. But he had the characteristics of one, you know, tall and slender, fancy weapon, elemental powers. This one was a 'Toa' of Ice. White armor with fancy silver, and a nifty spear too.”“What did he do?” asked Imlen. He did not like the sound of this.“Well, when he was gathering up all of us to go to work, instead of letting Miruka, Vatai, and Basi – the other maimed Matoran here – instead of leaving them behind, he killed them. He called them 'broken' and had their bodies taken away for 'resources.' He would have gotten me too, but I saw it happen to the others first, and I hid. Even creepier, he attacked Toruba for no reason I could tell. He called her 'defective' something and didn't kill her, but watched her like a Kahu the rest of the time. I was as bewildered as everyone else when it happened, but now I've thought of it for a while. I've learned a bit about Kanohi, and I bet that 'Toa' had a mask that gave him mind reading ability. Makes me shudder to think about it. Anyway, after that he and the Rahkshi took everyone off north. It was all very abrupt, no time to clean up before leaving as you can see. He was very brusque, just told us to gather up and move out. He didn't answer any questions, or converse with us at all really. Just the orders and his strange insults.”“So a Toa who murders those who are no use to him and who might be able to read minds is working for the Makuta,” summed up Mosori as he sat down on the floor. “Great. My wish has been fulfilled, a Toa has been delivered to us. A Toa who happens to be a sociopathic killer. I should have been more specific in my wishing.”“Yeah, this is bad news,” said Imlen. “And we came here helping to find shelter for Mosori here. He's been hurt.”“It's not too bad,” said Mosori. “I think I can almost... ouch, no, I can't stand yet.”“I don't expect them to come back soon,” said Rodas. “Make yourselves comfortable, we'll spend the night here.”“'We'll'?” said Paqyar, noticing the pronoun.“When you go, I'm going with you,” explained Rodas. “Don't even try to argue against it.”“Of course. I was going to suggest the same thing,” said Imlen with a smile.“He's coming with us?” said Vilam skeptically. “No offense, Rodas, but we live a dangerous life.”“Consider this. Everyone else in this tiny settlement has gone away,” said Rodas. “The only ones that used to keep me company while the others went away were just killed. If their killer finds me, he'll probably kill me too. They took most of the food too – the only thing they did bother to pick up before leaving, actually. Handicapped or not, I'd rather go on an adventure, even a very dangerous one, than sit here until I starve and rust.”“I'm sorry, I hadn't thought of that. I've always judged new members of the team by how good they'd be in a fight. And seeing as you can't stand up without support, well, you know...”“I'm honored to be called a member of your team so soon,” chuckled Rodas. “But my intention is only to accompany you to the next community that I can settle in. One where I won't be killed off because I'm missing a foot, preferably.”The Matoran closed the door and made themselves comfortable. The land was rather arid, so a hot day gave way to a frigid night. Wind howled outside the windowless hut while the Matoran huddled around a pile of heatstones within. To the northeast eerie flashes of lightning illuminated Mount Tasle in the night. But few Matoran were known to live on that mountain now. Most of the Lightning folk had mingled with the others, partly because of Ukzokth attacks, and partly because Teskor's labor recruitment enforced it, bringing Matoran from all around Yrenta to work in his fortresses. Imlen debated with his companions about hiding on the mountain later while they also asked questions of Rodas to satisfy their curiosity.“No, sadly, it was a construction accident,” answered Rodas after Mosori asked him if his foot had been lost in battle. “I was a clumsy builder, and the tools we use for cutting stone on a larger scale, for buildings for example, can go right through you as easily as the rock.”“Have you ever been in a battle?” asked Vilam.“I must have, long ago... I've been around a while. But I don't remember much. The days of waiting for the Toa to return, and when the Makuta revealed himself, those take up much of my memory, so that the times before that are vague.”“I know what you mean,” said Imlen. “Some things I'm not sure if I was around for or not, but I remember the stories. You remember Toa Tanu, don't you?”“Of course I remember Toa Tanu. He was the leader of our Turaga's team when they were Toa. And... he died. How, I do not recall.”“I was told Makuta Teskor killed him. I believe it.”“I can believe that too. But... it hasn't even been three thousand years, and it feels like such a long time ago.”“It's Mata Nui's sleep,” said Paqyar. “Nothing's been the same since the Cataclysm.”“I agree, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “Now, I don't have a universe to run, so I'm going to sleep willingly. I'm exhausted.”Vilam found a comfortable corner to curl up in and went to sleep. Imlen set a schedule for keeping watch, then the others followed her example. He took the first shift, and while he did, he tended to Mosori's wounds. Had he strained himself, the injuries could have become much worse, but in this condition, he would hopefully be fully ambulatory by morning. By the time he was done, it was his turn to sleep. But that did not come easily to him. Today he had witnessed the deaths of three of his closest friends, and many other brother and sister Matoran. He had been in several narrow escapes and been rescued twice by a mysterious potential ally, or perhaps a sympathetic enemy. And now he was resting in the site of another disaster, one which a Toa was apparently behind. It had been an eventful day. After what felt like hours of reflection, he finally began to fall asleep.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Apr 18 2012 - 02:05 PM.

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#3 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 02 2012 - 10:25 PM

End of YrentaChapter Three==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Before Imlen could get even a moment of full sleep, Paqyar woke him up urgently.“Huh?” he groaned sleepily. “It can't be my turn already...”“No Imlen, get up, quick!” said Paqyar. “They're coming, the Brotherhood, they found us again!”At that, Imlen snapped wide awake. Now he could hear voices of Brotherhood forces descending upon the abandoned village. The door to the hut was in plain view, there would be no escaping that way without being seen. Thinking quickly, Imlen beckoned Paqyar and Vilam to him. Together they struck a part of the wall on the side of the hut facing away from the village center. The damaged area crumbled, forming a hole wide enough for a Matoran to squeeze through. As he helped Rodas get up and through the hole, Imlen heard shouts and questions from outside. The noise of the wall breaking had been noticed, and the Brotherhood soldiers were coming closer. Rodas hobbled away as quickly as he could, and Mosori was next. Mosori's injured legs wobbled, then with great effort he ran after Rodas. Imlen sent the other two Matoran in front of him, and squeezed outside just in time to see a Visorak peer into the hut. It fired a Rhotuka spinner, too late to hit Imlen. The spinner flew through the hole behind him, past the fleeing Matoran and hit a rock outside, discharging into a splatter of acid.“Rodas – here, I'll help you,” said Imlen as he helped Rodas climb onto his back. The Po-Matoran was heavy on his shoulders, but Matoran were strong for their size, and this was an emergency. Imlen kept running.“Where's the inexplicably friendly Dark Hunter when you need him?” whispered Vilam as she did the same for Mosori.“It's time we relied on ourselves – dodge left!” said Paqyar, glancing backwards and seeing some sort of projectile zoom towards them.“Behind the rock, there,” said Imlen as the Matoran dodged. “Then we turn right and make for the shrubland.”The five Matoran paused for a moment behind the rock formation Imlen pointed out. Then they came out on the other side and headed south. Mosori insisted he would be able to run now, and though his legs wobbled at first, he was soon able to match his friends' pace. Paqyar took Rodas on his back, allowing Imlen to go unburdened for a turn. Behind them, the Makuta forces were no longer in direct pursuit, but they were spreading out to search the area. The Matoran slowed to a brisk walk, until a few kio away they came to a swath of small, dry vegetation. Exhausted, the Matoran dropped down into the bracken. Voices of soldiers and Visorak sounded behind them, far too close for comfort. The Matoran kept going on their stomachs, panting as they dragged themselves quietly through the undergrowth. Finally, they stopped to rest under a large bush.“Here... is... good...” panted Imlen. He had not slept for almost a full day, and was unable to hold it off any longer.“Just for a little while,” yawned Paqyar. “They can't see us now, but we should find a better place to hide.”“It's almost dawn,” said Rodas. “You all get some sleep, I'll wake you if they get close.”This time, Imlen felt refreshed when he was woken, though it couldn't have been more than a few hours. The sun was still only about a quarter lit. Rodas warned him that the searching Makuta forces were getting closer, and they woke the others. Soon they were on the move again. Imlen did not have a particular direction in mind, they only worried about staying out of sight and getting far away. Several times enemies came frighteningly close, but failed to spot them. After hours of crawling, the Matoran noticed the searchers start to turn back.“Finally,” said Vilam. “I can't believe they put so much effort into finding five Matoran in the first place.”“I know, don't they have a war to – ” Paqyar gasped and stared behind him. “Oh, no.”“Up!” said Imlen as turned and he saw the growing fire. “Grab the Po-Matoran and run!”Now their hunters' final plan was revealed. The Matoran were forced to reveal themselves to escape the rapidly-spreading fire, and a few remaining Visorak went after them. These were Vohtarak, the red Visorak that were naturally resistant to heat. What had been a good place to hide was turned into a deathtrap. The Matoran had been staying in the thickest areas, now they ran along the most barren path they could find. If they could make it for another kio, they would be clear of the flammable vegetation. But the fire was catching up too quickly, and so were the Visorak. Paqyar cried out in pain and fell as a Vohtarak's Rhotuka hit him. Even if they had not stopped to help their brother, the Matoran were too slow. As huge sheets of flame roared closer, one last desperate idea struck Imlen.“Get down! Dig, dig as deep as you can!” he called. The Matoran, except Paqyar, who could only moan in pain, got on their knees and plunged their fingers into the dry earth. A wave of heat nearby blasted them over. They forced themselves to keep working, until when the flames were nearly upon them, they had made depressions that might have been deep enough to save them. They lay in the shallow ditches face down, covered by a thin layer of dirt. Imlen helped Paqyar, then buried himself. He hoped he had not just dug his own grave. Then the flames came over him. He felt like his armor was going to melt. He struggled to remain conscious. Then, the fire was gone. Imlen's back ached, but was not badly burned. But he had nothing to breathe. For a moment, he thought he could not summon the strength to free himself. Then he made it. He lifted his head out and breathed deeply – only to catch his breath suddenly. He was face to face with a Vohtarak. Then he registered sounds of battle to his left. His companions were fighting off another Vohtarak.The Visorak in front of him lunged forward, snapping its mandibles. Imlen ducked back into his hole just in time. The Visorak climbed over him, clawing at the dirt. Imlen managed to reach his axe and swung upwards, cutting the Visorak's unprotected belly. It wasn't a lethal blow, but it distracted the Rahi long enough for Imlen to burst out of the ground and shove it aside. He looked over at his friends. Rodas and Paqyar were on the ground, dead or alive, he couldn't tell. Vilam parried the other Vohtarak's jaws long enough for Mosori to intervene with a crushing blow to its head. Vilam finished it off as Mosori moved to help Imlen. The Matoran of Plasma raised his axe defensively, and the Visorak's jaws closed around it. The blade shattered, and Imlen dropped the splintered hilt. Mosori jumped in just in time and grappled bare-handed with the Vohtarak's mandibles. The Vohtarak responded by launching a Rhotuka at him. He let go and dropped to the ground. The spinner flew over him harmlessly. Imlen picked up Mosori's hammer and attacked wildly while Vilam came in from behind. That Visorak was killed, but more were coming. The Matoran dropped as more Rhotuka zoomed overhead. Imlen returned the hammer to Mosori and checked on the two fallen Matoran. Paqyar was just now overcoming the effects of the spinner that had hit him, but Rodas was wounded. They did not have time to check how badly.“Take my hammer back, Imlen,” offered Mosori as three more Visorak closed in. “I can fight bare-handed better than you can.”“Alright,” said Imlen. “Paqyar? Paqyar, can you fight? Look!”“Uh... uh-huh,” grunted the Matoran of the Green as he stood and took out his bow. “The rest of you, take cover.”Paqyar released one arrow each at the advancing Visorak, and ducked to avoid the incoming spinners. The Vohtarak fired again, aiming lower this time, so the Matoran were forced to jump out of the way. The Vohtarak stopped advancing, and the Matoran realized they would surely be hit again before Paqyar could finish them off at range. The archer focused on one of them, and took it down just as a spinner flew straight towards him. Vilam leaned forward and blocked it with her sword, falling over in the attempt. She got up and Imlen called her over to help with Rodas. The Po-Matoran groaned and stirred as he was dragged behind a nearby rock. Mosori and Paqyar followed. The rock provided momentary cover, but the Visorak changed the direction of their attack and managed to hit Imlen. Overwhelming, burning pain brought the orange Matoran to his knees.“Imlen!” cried Paqyar. “Hang in there, you'll be alright. How's Rodas?”“Looks bad,” said Mosori as he took his hammer back. “Visorak mauled him badly.”“I'm almost out of arrows,” said Paqyar. “It took almost half of what I had left to kill that one.”“I see one way out of this,” said Vilam. “Paqyar, keep that one distracted. Mosori, we'll rush the other.”“Can't think of a better plan,” said the Po-Matoran, and they charged.Vilam's electric sword dispersed incoming Rhotuka. She and Mosori covered the distance to the Vohtarak and attacked. Again, she parried its attacks as Mosori brought his hammer down. This time, however, the Rahi was not stunned. Instead, it hissed and charged Paqyar, knocking the other two Matoran down. Vilam got up and attacked it from behind, but her sword bounced off its hardened shell. She shouted a warning, and Paqyar ducked to avoid its spinners. He stood long enough to release his last arrow at the other Visorak. It pierced its green eye, goading it into charging too.“Sorry I need to borrow this, Rodas,” he said as he picked up the maimed Matoran's cane and desperately used it to defend himself.“Regret not bringing another weapon now?” said Vilam as she and Mosori came to support him.“Your turn to use this, Paqyar,” said Mosori as he threw his hammer with all his strength at the Visorak opposite him.The hammer bounced off the Visorak's head, staggering it for a moment, and Paqyar picked it up, dropping Rodas's cane.“Whoa, heavy,” he commented as he brought a clumsy two-handed blow down. It missed his intended target, but hit the Visorak's jaw, damaging it. The giant bug Rahi screeched and moved two steps back. Meanwhile, Mosori grappled with the other Visorak, trying to provide Vilam with a weakness to aim for. Just as his strength was spent, Vilam found an opportunity to lunge below the Visorak and stab it hard in the stomach, shocking its innards. That one died, and the remaining Visorak recovered and leaped at Paqyar. Imlen broke out of his pain-induced incapacitation then, and grabbed the Vohtarak from behind, stopping it. Its shell warded off all attacks, but together the Matoran managed to subdue it and strike a lethal blow to its underside. They were safe for now, but too late to help Rodas. His internal systems were mortally damaged by the Visorak, he had only seconds left to live.“Don't... be too sad,” he coughed. “This was... not my time.”“What do you mean?” asked Paqyar.“A cripple... wouldn't last long... anyway... but a hero...”Rodas could speak no more. With his last strength, he offered the pouch of belongings he had brought to the Matoran. Mosori accepted it. He and the others watched Rodas die, then he looked inside the pouch.“He may have been a cripple,” said Vilam, “but he was a hero too.”“Hmm, mostly carvings. Interesting,” said Mosori as he examined the bag's contents. “I wonder what significance he meant by handing these to us.”“We'll have to decide later. We'll bury him, but we cannot stay long,” said Imlen.After a short service, the Matoran departed. Paqyar thought he saw enemy forces moving on the horizon, so the Matoran changed direction and found themselves traveling south again. They were weary now, but Imlen convinced them to keep going for a while. Their perseverance was soon rewarded, for about a kio to the south the land began to become more lush and fertile. Trees and ponds dotted the area, and a small forest was nearby. A short while later, they were resting in a grove of large trees, comfortable but hidden. Mosori opened the pouch Rodas had given him and examined the carvings contained with in. There was a small figurine of the Toa of Stone Gareki, along with a few tablets with carvings depicting adventures of the Toa, as well as landscapes, villages, and fortresses. Mosori felt a rather heavy piece at the bottom of the bag and took it out curiously. It was a stone model of a building, which looked familiar somehow, but he couldn't quite tell why.“Do you recognize this building?” he asked.“Hm, looks familiar, but I can't say,” said Vilam.“Me too,” said Paqyar.“Oh, I recognize it,” said Imlen after considering for a moment. “It's an ancient temple, used by our Toa long ago. The Ce-Kini, it was called.”“Huh. I wonder why Rodas had a model of it,” mused Mosori.“He remembered the Toa better than most,” said Imlen. “Better than he remembered his own life, sometimes.”“And what does this mean?” Mosori showed them a tablet with a detailed etching. “Looks like some Toa and some glowing stones.”“I'm not sure. He sure seemed to know a lot more about Toa than he ever told me. I wonder...” a strange thought struck Imlen. “Could it be that this is a clue for us? He mentioned heroes – maybe there's somewhere we can find out what happened to the Toa and the Turaga, somewhere like the Ce-Kini!”“Kind of a stretch, don't you think?” said Mosori, as he blinked in surprise.“He was a good artist,” observed Vilam. “But if you're suggesting he was some kind of mystic too...”“Not a mystic. He just might have remembered things the rest of us forgot.”“Like what? What do you expect to find there?” asked Paqyar.“I... I don't know. Something that can help us, I hope. Even if it's just information. I think we're on to something. Trust me.”“I think we can guess closely enough what happened to the Toa,” argued the Matoran of the Green.“He has a point, actually, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “I got this sword from an old memorial, remember. And even if we find nothing there, perhaps we could use it as a place to gather allies to us.”“Alright, I can't come up with any better ideas anyway,” admitted Paqyar. “But what memorial? I don't remember where you got that sword.”“It was for an old village leader named Kuchapi. She was killed in battle while wielding this sword. When I found it, I thought it was time for it to be put to use again.”“It should be safer there, too, at least from the Dark Hunters and the Brotherhood,” said Mosori. “If you're sure about this, Imlen...”“Sure?” Imlen glanced at him and chuckled. “Call it a hunch.”Review

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#4 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 03 2012 - 04:29 PM

End of YrentaChapter Four==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Matoran traveled for several more kio that day, but Mosori's injuries eventually began to cause him trouble. He had endured much strain during the day's action, and when that caught up with him, he could walk no more. Fortunately, the Matoran were in pleasant, peaceful country. For three full days they made camp and rested while Mosori recuperated. On the fourth morning, Mosori insisted he was fully healed. The other Matoran made him prove it, and when they were satisfied, they continued on. They traveled through a small forest, which Paqyar claimed had been grown by a Toa from his village. Vilam pointed out that while Toa of the Green could create plant life, they couldn't account for the water sources that sustained the forest. Merely to pass the time, she and Paqyar argued about it until they were tired. That night their camp was assailed by a Rahi, but Mosori drove it off. They left the forest without further incident early the next day.A series of low hills separated the forest from the plains that the Ce-Kini was built in. Large herds of Cows and other Rahi roamed wild here. The Matoran had seen no other people or enemies (barring wild Rahi) since the day Rodas was killed. Some of the hills were high enough for the Matoran to see for many kio over the flat lands before them. Still, their destination was too far away for even sharp-eyed Paqyar to descry. Imlen was relying on memory to guide them to the temple. Where exactly it was wasn't clear to him, but he was more sure than ever before he was supposed to find it. Such strong hunches did not come to Imlen often, but when they did, they always proved true. Or almost always, at least. Imlen wondered what this one would lead to. As Paqyar had implied, the Toa and Turaga were most likely dead. But any clue to their fates would be better than nothing, and the Ce-Kini seemed a good place to look.Maybe they would find some information about another Toa – the evil Toa of Ice that Rodas had told them about. Imlen vaguely recalled stories of Toa that would turn from the side of good, but he was curious about why this one was working for the Makuta. Where did he come from? Was he part of a team? If so, were his teammates evil too, or did he betray them? Imlen tried to reassure himself that the Makuta would not waste such a rare ally punishing Matoran. The Toa would probably be sent into battle against the Dark Hunters, and even a Toa wouldn't last long in that war. But Imlen still couldn't stop worrying about it. As Mosori had said in Rodas's hut, the wish that a Toa would come to Yrenta had been fulfilled in a horrifically twisted manner. Still, anyone who deliberately murdered Matoran was not a true Toa, not in the literal sense of the word. The Matoran could continue to hope that someday new heroes would come. Until that day came, the Matoran would suffer through the time, and ones like poor Rodas would suffer most of all. Imlen felt helpless, and not just because he was still unarmed.The fact that he was unarmed struck troubled him especially at this moment. For he heard a rumble, and Paqyar called out “Stampede!” Imlen looked to where Paqyar was pointing, down the hill to the east, and sure enough, a herd of Cows was running madly down there. The herd was far below, but coming closer quickly. And Imlen was not worried about the stampede as much as what had caused it. These Rahi Cows and their Kane-Ra allies could sometimes startle easily, but would not keep stampeding so far unless seriously threatened. It was a large herd, they should have been able to eliminate the threat. Something must have made them very afraid. Imlen was only a little relieved when the herd passed them a safe distance away. The sound of a hundred hooves was still nearly deafening when one far more frightening sound reached the Matoran's ears. It was the hum of a Rahkshi in flight.The Matoran gasped and quickened their pace. If there was anywhere to run to, they would have sprinted at full speed. But there was nothing but bare hills all around. Perhaps the local Rahi would have allied with them against the Rahkshi, but it had already frightened them all away. Dread overwhelmed Imlen as the Rahkshi swooped low. A bolt of electricity shot from its staff and bounced from one Matoran to the other, frying all four of them. Fighting pain, Imlen and the others managed to get themselves up as the mechanical abomination stopped a short distance in front of the group and landed. With that one attack, the Matoran were nearly defeated already. Vilam managed to delay the end a little longer, as this time she held her sword high when the Rahkshi attacked, and the blade absorbed the electricity. Its charging unit nearly overloaded, so Vilam released the excess electricity harmlessly into the ground. With no other way out of this situation, the Matoran ignored the electrical tingling of their muscles and charged together, except Paqyar, who took out his bow and arrows.With a kick that looked effortless, the Rahkshi knocked Mosori to the ground. Vilam was next, and Imlen grabbed her sword in time to hit the end of the Rahkshi's staff with it, absorbing its third lightning attack. Imlen managed to parry and dodge a few blows until Mosori, still on the ground, bashed the Rahkshi's ankle. This caused it to stagger for a moment while the Matoran of Stone and the Matoran of Lightning stood and reentered the fight. Imlen ran behind the Rahkshi, and as it turned to him he tossed the sword back to Vilam. That was a foolish move, for Vilam did not trust herself to catch the sword by the hilt. She dodged it, and while she was picking it up the Rahkshi turned to her and shocked her. Thinking quickly, Mosori and Imlen touched the Rahkshi, so that when its chain lightning redirected itself at them, the Rahkshi was shocked by its own power as well. Encouraged by that, the Matoran reacted faster than the Rahkshi did, and gave it a hard shove. Then they ran.“Nice moves,” said Paqyar as they fled. “You gave me time to get some decent shots off.”“Didn't you run out of arrows?” said Vilam. The Rahkshi was now flying after them.“Yeah, but I made more.”“Made more?” said Imlen. “How?”“Scrap metal and – look out, Vilam!” Paqyar warned, and Vilam absorbed another attack. “And wood I harvested. You didn't expect I – here he comes – got this far without learning that craft, did you? Not like I can just go to the store and – ”“Less talk, more running,” said Imlen as Vilam nearly dropped her sword absorbing a fifth lightning bolt. “Where's Mosori?”The Po-Matoran was the slowest of the group, and he had lagged behind. The Rahkshi zapped him, but missed. Hissing in frustration, it landed to finish him off. Mosori's friends turned and watched in horror as he took the full force of an electric attack. His body sizzled and fell to the ground. Imlen couldn't bear to watch. He looked away, and heard the buzz as the Rahkshi took flight again towards him... but something sounded odd. Imlen looked back and was surprised by what he saw. The Rahkshi was struggling to fly as Mosori, badly burned but more determined than ever, clung to its leg with all his strength. It was strong enough to carry him easily, but the awkward balance its unwelcome load gave it was greatly confounding it. Mosori kicked it, his mighty Po-Matoran legs denting its armor. In response, the Rahkshi shook and twisted violently, but still Mosori held on. It flew higher and faster, but this only gave Mosori time to climb onto its side. He grasped its ridged back tightly.Paqyar was nervous about hitting Mosori, but risked shooting the Rahkshi. His first shots were far off the mark, but Mosori seemed to take notice. He responded by kicking at the Rahkshi's hands and staff, and Paqyar realized his intent. The archer shot several more arrows, aiming for the Rahkshi's hands. The Rahkshi was twisting and turning in midair, but – more out of luck than good aim – one arrow finally hit the joint in its wrist. Mosori followed up immediately, kicking with all his might. As a result, the Rahkshi's staff fell to the ground. Again, it hissed, but this time it sounded almost afraid. Either in pursuit of its staff or simply attempting to move the battle to the ground, it dived suddenly. As he and the Rahkshi rapidly approached the ground, Mosori let go of the Rahkshi's spines and jerked its head back with both hands. The Rahkshi struggled, and his legs lost their grip on its body. He swung around in front, still gripping its head in his hands. Then the Rahkshi punched him, and he felt himself losing his grip.It was too late for that to change anything, however. At that moment the Matoran and the Rahkshi hit the ground. The Rahkshi had been flying at full speed still, and the impact nearly knocked the other three Matoran off their feet. Astounded by this strange end to the battle, they cried out and ran to the crash site. As they feared, Mosori lay dead. He had survived more than many Matoran could, but few indeed could have survived that impact. The Kraata controlling the Rahkshi was one of those few. The crumpled heap of Rahkshi armor struggled to rise, failed, and the Kraata fell out. It released one far weaker bolt of lightning at the Matoran before Vilam stepped over and cut it into pieces. Then the Matoran let themselves fall to the ground, exhausted, relieved, and saddened at once. Imlen fought the urge to let himself lose consciousness. Danger was still too close.“Better get up,” said Vilam. “We're not safe out here.”“I agree. And we're much less safe without Mosori,” said Imlen.“We'd better bury him,” said Paqyar.“True,” said Imlen. “But that's a shame. I can think of no grander monument than this scene.”“It won't be undisturbed for long,” said Paqyar. “We'll make sure people know the story.”Yet again the Matoran worked quickly to bury their companion in the wilderness. The grave was far more shallow than it should have been, but all three of them kept glancing at the horizon, expecting more danger to come any moment. When they could wait no longer, they lifted Mosori's body and lowered it in. Then they covered it with dirt, and as a last touch, Vilam engraved a simple message in the earth with her sword, its electricity melting the words into glass: “Mosori. He defeated a Rahkshi. Really.”The Matoran marched in silence for the rest of the day. There was still nowhere to hide, and the fear of the next encounter was driving them crazy. It was after midnight when they found an abandoned Rahi burrow they could fit in. Once they were confident it was truly abandoned, they went to sleep. It was around noon when they woke up. All of them had slept at the same time, instead of taking shifts, but they had been undisturbed. Now that they had left the hills where the herds roamed, there were few Rahi about. Imlen wasn't sure what had made the burrow they had slept in. The Matoran could hear no sound other than the ones they made themselves and the occasional howl of wind all that day. That night, they were unable to find shelter. They decided to sleep directly under the sky, and this time they took shifts. Nothing came to them that night. They were grateful to be away from enemies, but the solitude was unnerving.“This is pleasant enough land,” said Imlen later that day. “I wonder why no one lives here.”“Hmm,” wondered Paqyar. “I don't know. Never thought about it.”“I'm afraid to find out,” said Vilam.“Me too,” agreed the Matoran of Plasma. “Could just be social or economic reasons, though.”“True. Not much to eat, I guess,” said Vilam.“Looks like you could farm here, though,” Paqyar pointed out.Just the thought of an unknown danger lurking in those lands convinced the Matoran to travel through the night. They finally stopped the next morning, and after a short sleep with no shelter again, they went on. On the morning of the day after that, Paqyar noticed something on the horizon to the northwest. It was a building. The Matoran turned and traveled closer to it, and soon discovered they had gone too far to the southeast. They had passed the Ce-Kini hours ago. But now they had found it. Soon they came to the remains of a long-untended road. It was barely there, only marked by occasional flagstones surrounded by short grass. As they came closer, the stones gradually merged into a recognizable path. There were still a few hours until noon when the Matoran found themselves walking between small stone totems marking the approach. Chunks of stone littered the ground on either side. A quick inspection revealed these had once been statues, and they had been deliberately smashed. Someone had been here since the temple had been abandoned. Yet the statue fragments had been lying there for a long time. Whoever did this had done so many years ago.Review

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#5 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 04 2012 - 02:32 AM

End of YrentaChapter Five==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Well, here we are, team,” said Imlen as they looked up at the gate. The remains of a giant stone mask loomed above a partially-collapsed entrance.“If anyone lives here,” said Vilam nervously, “I'm not sure I want to meet them."“What if it's one of our old heroes?” said Imlen.“Well, there's a chance of that,” Vilam admitted. “Alright, let's go.”It was dark inside the temple. The only light came from the entrance and a hole in the ceiling. The Matoran each took out a lightstone. The stones illuminated the walls, revealing scratched carvings and shredded tapestries. They were in the central chamber, which had a smaller room on each side. At the back of chamber was a damaged stone dome. A strange tingling feeling affected the Matoran as they came close to it. Suddenly a flash of right erupted from the cracks in the dome. Startled, the Matoran jumped back. Imlen's equipment spilled out of his pack, including a pouch that hit the floor with a clatter.“Isn't that Rodas's pouch?” asked Vilam as she picked it up.“Oh, yes,” said Imlen. “I had forgotten about it. I took it from Mosori's body before we buried him.”“It's taken a beating,” said Vilam, placing the bag's broken contents on the floor.“During the fight with the Rahkshi,” explained Imlen. “Let's take a look at it.”“Just like puzzle stones,” said Paqyar as the Matoran sat down and reassembled the fragmented tablets.“Keep at it,” said Imlen, glancing up from the pieces. “I think I saw something.”The room to the right had a small hole in it, letting a shaft of light inside. Something in the dim glow around the shaft caught Imlen's eye. He stood up and went to investigate. Holding his lightstone high, he looked upon the platform at the back of the room. It seemed to have writing and decorations on it, but had been defaced. As Imlen stepped closer to investigate, he almost tripped on something. It felt like a metal pole, but when his foot touched it, he felt an unfamiliar sensation. He turned and directed the lightstone along its length. As he saw what it was, his eyes brightened. He gasped.“Vilam! Paqyar!” he called excitedly. “Guys, come here!”“What, what is it?” said Paqyar and the two Matoran scurried into the room.“Look at this,” said Imlen, picking up the object with a grunt.“That's a Toa-sized weapon, alright,” said Vilam.“Not just any Toa tool,” explained Imlen. “This was the staff of Toa Tanu.”“Hm. He's buried in the north, but this must have been another memorial,” said Paqyar, examining the back of the room. “Someone's defiled it, too.”“Right, looks like the staff is meant to fit... here,” said Vilam, indicating a damaged frame on the platform. “Maybe it'll stay if we put it back carefully.”“Wait,” said Imlen. “Here, touch it. Feel that? What is that?”“I... don't know,” said Paqyar as he touched the staff carefully.“We should put it aw – wow, what is that?” said Vilam, fascinated by the sensation.“Maybe there are carvings around here that explain it,” suggested Imlen as he lowered the staff gently.The Matoran searched the room, but there was nothing legible left. All the engravings had been ruined by whatever had defiled the temple.“Hmm, I think I saw a picture of the head of this staff on Rodas's carvings,” Paqyar said when they finished searching.“Maybe there's something in the other chambers that can explain it,” said Vilam.“Worth a look,” said Imlen. “Here, help me bring it to the center.”The feeling the staff gave them when they touched it changed as they brought it to the central chamber. Somehow, it felt like it resonated with the dome in the back. The Matoran were curious, but they ignored that for the moment. They placed it on the ground next to them and looked over Rodas's carvings. The fragments of the carvings were small, and had been tossed around a lot during their travels. Each work took a rather long time to reassemble, and each one, while interesting, gave them no clear information they could use in this situation. At last, one of them, covered in both pictures and text, got their notice.“'And so the Turaga placed the two remaining' ...” Paqyar read. “... 'remaining' – can't read this next word – 'on the central Suva, where future heroes' … drat, I can't make out the – ”“Oh!” interrupted Imlen. “Of course, a Suva! That's what the dome there is. Both a memorial to Toa and something they use to store their masks in. But what did the Turaga put there?”“I'll go look,” offered Paqyar, and he stood up.“Paqyar, wait,” Vilam ran after him. “That thing could be dangerous.”“You're right,” said Paqyar, but he ran to the Suva anyway. Vilam followed him.“I don't like this,” said Vilam. “This feeling is almost overwhelming. Who knows what sort of energy is leaking out?”“Look, these must be what the Turaga left here,” said Paqyar, picking up two polished stones the size of his fist. “Weird, feels like Tanu's staff. Check it out, Vilam.”Vilam reached out and touched one of the stones. Imlen watched, and touched Tanu's staff curiously. The sensation was stronger than it had been, and seemed to be guiding him towards the Suva. He could not explain his reasoning as he picked up the staff and dragged it as he walked over to his friends. He was a few bio away from it when suddenly it erupted again. Bolts of energy flew wildly from the Suva, striking the Matoran. The stones Paqyar and Vilam held disintegrated. They screamed, until they realized they were not being harmed. The feeling was uncomfortable, but invigorating. The three Matoran stumbled and fell. Paqyar and Vilam tumbled down the small steps that the Suva rested on, and Imlen landed on his back, his hand grasping the staff tightly. Vilam cried out as Paqyar's foot shot into her face. Reflexively, she pushed it out of the way. The light had vanished, but the three of them were still dazzled. Vilam wondered how Paqyar's leg had reached so far when her sight returned, along with the others'. Though at first, they were sure their vision was still not working. For the appearance of their friends, and of themselves, was unfamiliar.“Us?” said Vilam in disbelief as she stood on her elongated legs. “We're Toa?”“Not what I was expecting to find, I admit,” said Imlen, holding the staff, which was now just the right size for him.“So, now what?” said Paqyar. “We save the Matoran?”“Not so fast,” cautioned Vilam. “We have plenty of enemies easily capable of killing Toa, and we're far more prominent targets now.”“You're right,” said Imlen. “And we need to learn to use our new abilities. I still feel dizzy in this new body.”“Right. Let's see what I can do,” said Paqyar.The new Toa of the Green called upon his elemental power, growing a small stem between his fingers. Before he could stop it, the power was flooding out of control, causing the stem to grow into a growth of vines that covered the room. The Toa sighed with relief when the growth stopped, but the plants remained.“We'd better save the testing for outside,” said Imlen. “Wait – your weapons, look!”Paqyar and Vilam checked the weapons strapped to their backs. They had changed to match their new bodies. Their masks gave off a strange feeling too, but the Toa failed to harness whatever new powers the Kanohi had been given. They decided to try again later, and to keep searching the temple for more information. In the chamber to the left of the entrance they found a broken sarcophagus. A scrap of golden armor and the letters 'lokk' were the only clues to who had been laid to rest there. The Toa did not recognize what that meant until they consulted Rodas's carvings. Searching through the carvings, they found one that referenced how the Toa of Yrenta were established. The engraved letters triggered long-dormant memories in their minds. The first Turaga of Yrenta, Turaga Varlokka, had been buried in this room. Whoever had defiled the temple had apparently taken her, too.“I've seen enough,” said Paqyar, as he stood up and left the room. “I just can't wait to get my hands on whoever did this.”“Paqyar, wait!” called Vilam. “We haven't thoroughly – ”“We'll come back and search more later,” Paqyar turned to reply. “I need some fresh air.”“I agree with him,” said Imlen. “I think we should also step outside for our first practice session.”“Good point,” conceded Vilam. “Alright, but let's be careful. We don't want to attract any attention out here – or kill each other.”The three novice Toa left the Ce-Kini interior. At the bottom of the front steps, they split up and began testing their powers individually. Imlen's first use of his elemental power summoned a large, formless cloud of plasma that was quickly dispersed by the wind. With concentration and practice, he managed to conjure smaller and larger masses of plasma, and keep them intact longer. After experimenting for about an hour, he tried something new. Aiming the tip of Tanu's staff – now his staff – at a chunk of rock about ten bio away, he channeled his powers through the weapon. Concentrating on it, he managed to keep a ball of plasma intact and rapidly launch it at the stone. He missed. He tried again, and hit this time, melting the rock. Meanwhile, Vilam and Paqyar had been testing their new powers. The Toa of the Green beckoned to his friends.“Hey, check this out,” he said, growing a small shaft of wood in his hands. “Now I just need to find out how to grow them pointed,” he added as he nocked the shaft on his bowstring, pulled it back, and released it.“Brilliant, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “What do you think of this?”Vilam spun around and swung her sword in swift, agile motions. Their physical transformations had made the Toa awkward at first, but their new forms were more lithe. Vilam was quickly becoming accustomed to the change and learning to harness her new gracefulness. She finished by shooting lighting out of her sword and causing it to arc back into her other hand. She soon found she could not hold the absorbed energy for long. She tested how long she could control it, and when she reached her limit, she released out of her sword again. But it did not blast out of the sword as she had expected. Curious, she inspected the hilt's capacitor and found it to be warm. She willed the stored electricity out of the capacitor, and this time it shot out of the blade.“Interesting,” she said to no one in particular. “I had expected the sword's battery and capacitor had been ruined in the transformation. But it seems it can still generate a little power on its own, and store a little extra power if I give it some.”“Alright, team,” said Imlen a little later. “Do you have a decent grasp of your element now?”“Well, I've learned a lot the past couple hours,” said Paqyar.“Me too, but we're far from being proficient,” said Vilam.“What I meant was, do you think we could duel without really hurting each other?” said Imlen.The Toa agreed that a mock-battle would be a good idea, if they were careful. They started with a free-for all. Forming a triangle formation five bio away from each other, they began. Paqyar tried to summon shafts of wood for arrows, but fumbled, instead creating misshapen chunks. Imlen checked Vilam's position, then blinded Paqyar with a bright cloud. He misjudged how long that would take, and was struck by Vilam's electrical attack. He composed himself and countered, summoning a shield of plasma to absorb the lightning. He and Vilam remained in a deadlock in this manner for a long moment, then suddenly vines pulled them off their feet. Paqyar chuckled and caused the vines to tighten around them. The entangled Toa released their elements unfocused through the whole of their bodies, burning the plants away. Vilam got back up faster, and after stunning Imlen with a quick jolt, ran after Paqyar. Paqyar managed to get some arrows off, but they did not slow her. He desperately released a burst of random plant growth from his off hand, which Vilam quickly hacked through. Paqyar staggered back – and was suddenly hit in the chest by a ball of plasma.“Hey, you stole my kill!” laughed Vilam.“Watch it, Imlen!” croaked Paqyar. “That actually hurt.”“Sorry,” said Imlen.Vilam offered to help Paqyar up, but he shook his head and they resumed the fight. After some more intense battling, they abandoned all pretense of competition and declared it a three-way tie. They were burnt and battered, but had been having more fun than they had had for a long time. Now the sun was dimming, and they remembered the seriousness of their situation. In a week, they had lost most of their closest friends. They had undergone an unexpected transformation that could one day lead to them saving their homeland, but now they were just high-profile fugitives. They were powerful, but that power was untamed, and they were alone. Imlen sighed and lead his friends back into the temple. At the stop of the stairs he paused and laid his hand against the broken gate, wondering what had transpired here.In a way he had never expected, he question was answered. He felt a strange sensation and turned to address his friends. But his friends were gone. Instead, he saw a team of Po-Matoran replacing broken flagstones in the road and repairing the stairs at his feet. The statues and totems were suddenly whole, as was the stone Kanohi Miru above him. Startled, he willed himself to concentrate on the vision, for he realized what he was seeing. He was glimpsing the temple's past. He tried to look at a different time, but could not control the power. A boulder in a dark quarry – the source of the stone he was touching – flashed before his eyes, then the phantom scene was gone. He heard his name being called.“Imlen?” Vilam repeated. “Are you alright?”“What happened?” asked Paqyar. “Your mask was glowing.”“It... it was?” Imlen touched his mask. “I guess I activated it somehow.”“Somehow?” said Paqyar. “How?”“I... I'm not sure. I just was wondering about the temple's past, and suddenly I was looking back in time. I saw the temple being repaired, and where the rock I was touching was dug up.”“The mask lets you see the past?” asked Vilam.“Of an object I touch, apparently,” amended Imlen. “I haven't figured out how to control what I see, or when it activates.”“What luck!” Paqyar exclaimed suddenly. “Don't you realize – with that power, you could learn... well, almost anything, but for a start, what happened inside the temple.”It was indeed an incredible stroke of good fortune. Yet that fortune seemed to fade as Imlen searched the temple again. Most of the time, he could not even get his mask to activate. When it did, he saw many scenes, most of which showed no one in the temple. A few showed people visiting, or repairing the structure. He once caught a glimpse of a new team of Toa being formed, but lost track of that vision too quickly. A few times, he saw Turaga, but what he saw was irrelevant to his current quest. Until, viewing the history of a random tile that had come loose from the floor, he saw their greatest clue yet.Review

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#6 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 05 2012 - 04:25 PM

End of YrentaChapter Six==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Again, Imlen saw a Turaga shuffle across the floor of the temple. He had seen this Turaga in the mask's previous visions, and although this Turaga had not been around for over five hundred years, Imlen instantly recognized him. It was Turaga Morok. This scene was different than the other visions of the Turaga he had seen. Morok was alone, and looked worse than Imlen had ever seen him. His armor was battered and dirty, and he looked sad. Not just said, Imlen noticed, but also worried. Or even afraid. Morok walked past Imlen's field of vision, and the Toa of Plasma carefully willed the mask to expand the scene. For a moment, he lost control, and feared he had broken the phantasm. But then the temple came back into focus. Morok was doing something to the Suva – Imlen couldn't tell what – and then the Turaga stepped back as a small secret compartment at the base of the dome opened. The sight of Morok depositing something in the compartment and closing it shocked Imlen out of the trance, and he snapped back to the present.“There's something in the Suva,” he said.“Something? I don't want to get near that thing again,” said Vilam.“I think it'll be alright – look,” said Paqyar.In transforming the Toa, the broken Suva had used its last energy. Its inner glow had died out, leaving it nothing but a cracked stone dome. Imlen approached and examined it. Halfway up the side of the dome, in a straight line from the middle of the room, was a large button. Imlen pressed it, and the Suva rumbled as something opened. It was not the compartment Morok had opened, however. The top section of the Suva rotated and split open, revealing a compartment that took up most of the dome's interior. It was empty except for half of a Kanohi and some fine metal dust. Imlen checked to make sure there was nothing more to that section, then pressed the button again. Thin sections of stone slid upward and together, resealing the Suva. Imlen beckoned to his friends, and they examined the exterior of the Suva carefully. Something near the bottom caught Paqyar's eye. He brushed it off, disturbing a large amount of dust.“I think... I found... something,” he announced between coughs.“What, what?” said Imlen eagerly.“Just a little writing – mostly illegible, but come see what you think.”“'Place the mask carefully' ...” read Imlen. “No... 'potential Toa' ... 'stone' … 'transform' ... 'Toa' … I don't see how this could help.”“Ah, the word 'open' is here,” said Vilam. “'Only' … 'only n' … 'natural elemental' … ah, it says 'only natural elemental energy can open' ….”“Now we're on to something,” said Imlen. “So, only a Toa or Turaga can open the compartment. But where is it? We can't just blast the Suva randomly.”“Maybe here. Something looks just out of place in this spot,” said Paqyar, indicating a small part of the Suva in front of him.“Worth a try. But be careful – we don't want to break anything.”Paqyar channeled a miniscule amount of elemental energy into the point he had noticed. To his surprise, instead of manifesting as plant life, it formed a glowing green vapor that was sucked into a widening crack in the stone. With a quiet thud, the compartment they had been searching for swung open. Paqyar beckoned his friends over as he held his lightstone into the small chamber. There were some more tablets within, as well as some small pieces of equipment such as a compass. There was also a strange mechanical contraption built into the walls of the compartment, made evident by the presence of moving metal parts.“Don't touch that,” Paqyar warned. “I think I can see what it does. See, it's supporting this stone block here, and keeping this valve closed. This trigger here will drop the block and open the valve.”“Ah, I get it,” said Imlen as he touched the valve very carefully. “Ouch, acid. It's designed to trigger if someone attempts to break in. Forcing this open will cause the contents to be crushed and dissolved. We're lucky it wasn't set off when the Suva was damaged.”“I didn't expect any of the old builders to have been so... crafty,” said Vilam.“I'm glad they were. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been the first to find these,” said Paqyar, retrieving the compartment's contents.The Toa of the Green placed the items on the floor where the three of them could look them over. There was a set of basic traveling equipment, including the compass. They were already well-equipped, but took the supplies as spares, just in case. Morok had even thought to include a pack of ageless ration canisters. These very rare canisters contained concentrated food energy, and would keep well indefinitely – even centuries had no effect, unless the containers were ruined. Hence, they were useful for placing in hidden caches for emergencies. But the most important find was a series of inscribed tablets. In a refreshing change, the letters in these were perfectly legible. None of the three Toa could recall what Morok's handwriting looked like, but it was obvious enough that this was his work. The Toa arranged the tablets in order and began to read.“As of the time of this writing, it has been four weeks since the disaster,” the engraved letters said. “That day, the earth cracked, buildings crumbled, and the sea rose up as far as the village of Sonics. The water is receding, and the Ga-Matoran were unharmed, but the De-Matoran have disappeared. Their fortress is intact, but deserted. We have not been able to investigate. On the day of the disaster, the Toa were below the mountains. There was great damage to Metaku's realm. Many were buried in the quake, and I fear the Toa were among them. In addition to the initial casualties, the disaster has had more dire consequences. Everything is dimmer, less vibrant. Even the air feels strangely listless. All these point to one thing: Mata Nui himself has been gravely hurt. Initially we feared he may have died, but if that had happened, we would have all died with him. Then we hoped he had merely been briefly stunned. But after weeks, it is clear to us that he is asleep. The universe still functions, but it has changed for the worse, and will not be restored until he wakes.“Though I fear what this portends, we have more current problems. Mere days after the disaster, the Ukzokth attacked in overwhelming force. Many small communities were eradicated or enslaved. Fortresses that should have been able to hold out for months were breached in days. Just as those bastions were overcome, a new side joined the war. At that time, many of the Ukzokth halted their attack. The others were slain. But though our people rejoiced, Siok and I were afraid. For the one who had 'saved' us was our old enemy, the Makuta Teskor. He claimed he had conquered the Ukzokth just in time to stop them from wiping us out. Now I see he has always been behind them, working behind the scenes all the time we had thought him dead. His lies were accepted by the Matoran all too readily. His past deeds forgotten, he has been accepted as a savior.“His influence is quickly spreading, and we are powerless to stop it. Already, those who speak against him have begun to disappear. Siok and I have refrained from publicly commenting. We have spread dissent quietly, but it has not been enough. It shames us, but we must hide. Siok and I will disappear until the time comes. We have done what we can to set the rise of our next Toa in motion. Two of the Toa Stones, the remaining two of a set we made long ago, are in the Ce-Kini. Only Vibrak knew where the others were hidden. Siok has spoken of leaving Yrenta to get help. It sounds like suicide to me. Perhaps we should not simply wait for heroes to arrive, but the lands beyond are dangerous. Who knows what has happened out there since the disaster? And Teskor would surely hunt us down. I hope Siok has abandoned that hopeless idea. I do not know where he will go. We have agreed to stay hidden, even from each other.“I can only hope that Siok finds refuge before Teskor finds him. As for myself, I do not need to go far from home. The jungle is not the most vast region of Yrenta, but there are many places to hide there. Even if enemies find me there, the jungle will protect me. My village has stood for millennia, and has only now been conquered through deception. But the plants and Rahi are not so easily swayed by deceitful words. They know things for what they are.”“I... I don't believe it,” muttered Paqyar, as he stood up. “All these years, and he has been hiding in the very same jungle.”“He made a good point about that, however,” said Vilam. “Even if you had been looking for him there, you might have never found him.”“I know, trust me. No one knows that better than us Green Matoran,” said Paqyar. “But it's just... if he was there the whole time, why didn't he tell us?”“You know how things are, Paqyar,” said Imlen. “Had he shared that secret, the word would have been spread, and the Makuta would have found out. You read it, the two Turaga did not even tell the other where he was hiding.”“What do you think of the rest of it?” asked Vilam. “I wonder if Turaga Siok did leave Yrenta.”“If he did, he did not succeed in bringing back help,” said Imlen grimly. “Now, I noticed something curious. If the fortress of Sonics was not destroyed in the Cataclysm, why did the De-Matoran disappear?”“Good question,” said Paqyar. “I had assumed they were wiped out, but then I never got the chance to actually look for myself.”“Me too. We all had other things to worry about. Their disappearance was just one more thing to add to the pile,” said Vilam.“Also, there is a possibility we must consider,” said Imlen. “Turaga Morok may have not made it back to the jungle after he deposited his recordings here.”“True,” sighed Paqyar. “I hope that's not the case, however. So, how about that fortress of Sonics? Should we investigate it? It's close, isn't it?”“It is close, but I think we should head to the jungle next. Morok should know of us as soon as possible, and we need guidance from him. Besides, something might have wiped the De-Matoran out. If it's still there, I'd like to get some combat experience first. We'd better not rush off to die.”“I concur,” said Vilam.“Me too,” said Paqyar. “Besides, I can't wait to get back home.”“Unfortunately, we'd better not reveal ourselves to the Matoran yet, for the same reason Morok did not,” said Vilam. “I'm sorry, Paqyar.”“You're right,” said Paqyar regretfully. “At least it will be good to see the jungle again. I have been away for years.”Their path clear for the moment, the Toa camped in the temple that night. The next morning, they packed their equipment and left. They headed directly east, towards the distant river. Their longer legs and heroic endurance let them travel at a much faster pace. Later that same day, they arrived at the banks of the river. Since the Cataclysm, the Ga-Matoran had relocated to a site not far away. The Toa were careful to keep their distance, and were only spotted by the occasional Rahi. The river was much wider and more wild than it had been in past ages, and the Toa had to travel a considerable distance to find a safe place to ford it. It was only early evening when they made it across the river and to the eaves of the jungle, but they set up camp there and went to bed early. Paqyar had insisted that the inexperienced should never travel the jungle at night, even Toa. Imlen and Vilam were nervous that night, spooked by the calls of unknown Rahi and intimidated by the vast, all-encompassing plants that lay before them. Paqyar, on the other hand, had trouble sleeping for the opposite reason. Returning to his homeland had invigorated him.Before his disappearance, Turaga Morok had confided his fears to Paqyar, along with a handful of other trusted Matoran. That same day, he had disappeared without announcing his departure. Even the village's best trackers had been unable to find him. In the following years, the spreading corruption had touched the jungle, but the village remained well-insulated. And so, about three hundred years ago, Paqyar had decided to travel the land and do what he could to improve the lives of his fellow Matoran. His situation became more dangerous as he regularly committed acts in opposition to Makuta Teskor's authority, and even more dangerous when the war against the Dark Hunters reached his homeland. Only by teaming up with the small band of heroes led by Imlen had he survived. Over the years, members of their team had died and new members had joined. Now he and the other two Toa were all that were left of that group.Early the next morning the Toa rose and entered the jungle. Paqyar guided them, keeping them to the safest path. He pointed out signs of wild Rahi, and which plants were dangerous. Imlen attempted to use his Kanohi to look for evidence of Morok's passing, but he found that the mask's power did not work on living targets. What bare rocks or patches of earth he could find showed nothing of any use. Soon the Toa figured that the best way to find the Turaga was to let him know they were looking for him. Unfortunately, that would also alert the local predators to their presence. They stopped traveling stealthily, and in the next few hours they encountered various aggressive Rahi. Most of these fled when given a taste of their elemental powers, and posed little threat to them, so the Toa had let their guard down when a Muaka pounced on them.Review

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#7 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 06 2012 - 12:47 PM

End of YrentaChapter Seven==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Paqyar shoved his friends out of the way just before the enormous feline Rahi's jaws closed around him. Vilam and Imlen shouted and retaliated together, forcing the beast to release Paqyar before he had been seriously hurt. Its extended neck retracted and it brought its entire body forward on rapidly-spinning treads. Imlen dodged raking claws as Vilam parried them. She delivered a painful shock from her sword, and the Muaka roared. It staggered, but resumed attacking even as Paqyar got up and began bombarding it with arrows and thorns. Imlen's plasma heated its armor until it glowed a dim orange, and still it battled them. Another swipe of its claws sent him flying into a nearby tree, a row of scratches across his breastplate. It extended its neck at him, and his friends focused their attack on that part, forcing it to retract it and come at them again.“Even a Muaka should have gone looking for easier prey by now,” said Paqyar.“I know,” said Imlen, getting back up and rejoining the fight. “We might need to just kill it.”“I'm trying,” said Vilam as she parried its claws and unleashed blasts of lightning. “Wait, there's something strange about its Kanohi.”The Muaka bore a dark Kanohi mask on each of its shoulders. Vilam summoned a forceful bolt and knocked one mask off, then the second. As the Kanohi clattered to the ground, the Muaka paused. It growled for a moment, sounding confused, then retreated into the foliage. The Toa picked up the masks it had left behind and examined them. The masks were rusty and scarred, and the Toa felt slightly nauseous from just holding them.“Infected masks,” said Imlen. “So corruption spreads among the beasts here, too.”“We've long noticed something wrong in the jungle,” Paqyar said. “But nothing so overt as this. We must be cautious.”The Toa began traveling quietly again. Still, they had several more encounters. A few more of the Rahi they battled also had infected masks. Each time the infected masks were removed, the Rahi would cease their attacks and disappear. Some had even seemed grateful to the Toa, but none had remained with them. They soon reached the other side of the jungle. They were dismayed by this, as they had found no trace of the Turaga. After traveling a short distance north, they reentered the jungle and began to search that area. They searched until dusk, and the Toa were weary. Paqyar said they should make for the eaves of the jungle again immediately. Not far into their journey back out, they were challenged by another Rahi. Paqyar caught his breath as it slithered out of the vegetation.“What's wrong, Paqyar?” said Imlen, noticing the Toa of the Green's concern. “It's just another Jivri.”“No, no,” he stammered. “Not just another Jivri. The Jivri Nui.”“What's a Jivri Nui?” asked Vilam, readying her weapon as the serpent coiled menacingly.“Not 'a' Jivri Nui,” said Paqyar as he grasped her shoulder and pulled her back. “The Jivri Nui, the King of Snakes. Get down!”Paqyar shoved Vilam to the ground as a Rhotuka spinner buzzed past. The snake Rahi lunged towards them, forced to stop just in time by a ball of plasma.“We beat four other Jivri today,” said Imlen. “I think we can take on this one.”“Maybe,” said Paqyar as he helped Vilam up and assumed a battle stance. “But it's a legendary, one-of-a-kind Rahi. If it's stayed alive this long...”His point was punctuated by the snake's next move. It ignored Vilam's sword as it bounced off its scales and twisted, scratching her with one of the seven blades on its dorsal surface. The Toa of Lightning cried out in surprise, then continued the fight. A moment later, the venom took effect. A feeling of numbness spread from the wound, slowing her. Her friends came forth, allowing her to retreat. The Jivri Nui coiled around Imlen's staff, apparently attempting to slither up it and bite him in the neck. As Imlen heated his staff, he realized too late it was a feint. The serpent dropped down and plunged its fangs into his foot before he could react. Imlen jumped back, clutching his foot, and the Rahi fired another Rhotuka from the launcher at the end of its tail. With remarkable accuracy, it struck Paqyar in the center of his chest. He screamed, not just from the pain of the poison burning into him, but also the fear of what would come next. Vilam had collapsed, her limbs paralyzed, and Imlen was on the ground too, his injured leg quickly numbing.“What... what does the venom do?” he asked fearfully.“The paralysis you feel will spread until you are unable to breathe,” said Paqyar, who had also fallen to the ground. “And you die. Don't worry, he'll wait until then before he starts eating us. Or so the stories say.”The Jivri Nui appeared to be in a hurry today, however. As Imlen found himself unable to move, the Rahi slithered to his vulnerable neck, bared its fangs, and... stopped just short of striking as a voice called out.“Not so fast, my old friend,” the voice said. The serpent hissed subserviently in reply. “I thank you for your concern, but we have nothing to fear from these three. Indeed,” continued Turaga Morok as he floated down from the treetops, “I think I have been waiting for them for a long, long time.”“Turaga Morok?” said Imlen in a mixture of disbelief and relief. He could not quite see for himself, for the venom was preventing him from raising his head.“That is me. I can tell you've been looking for me,” said the Turaga as his feet touched the ground and his mask turned off.“A little help here, please,” said Paqyar out of the side of his mouth. The paralysis was starting to affect his face, and Vilam could only mumble unintelligibly.“Oh, right. Don't worry, someone with a Toa's constitution should last about another fifteen minutes before the paralysis stops your lungs. But, luckily for you, the antidote is right here.”“Great. Could you hand it over – I mean, you'd better just pour it down our throats,” said Imlen awkwardly as his mouth began to numb.“You misunderstand. I don't have it. He does,” said Morok, pointing to the serpent. “If you'd be so kind, friend...”Morok took out a trio of small glass vials as the Jivri Nui slithered over. To the awe of the Toa, it raised its head before Morok, allowing him to squeeze the venom sacs at the base of its fangs. The poison dripped into the vials. When an adequate amount of the liquid was present in each vial, the Turaga thanked the snake and released it. Next, he cupped his hands and conjured a small amount of some sort of herb. After rummaging through his pack for a moment, he pulled out a pestle and mortar, and ground the herbs into a powder. He sprinkled a few pinches of the herb powder into each of the vials, then held them up triumphantly. Then he went about feeding it to the Toa. He started with Vilam first. At this point, she could not even open her mouth without help, so Morok lifted her mask, pulled her mouth open, and poured a vial of the potion into it. She gagged, and Morok strained to pull her upright.“I'm alright,” she said through a partially responsive mouth.Morok let her down and went to the others. Imlen was last, and he noticed the poison affecting his breathing by the time the cure was poured down his throat. Immediately, the effects ceased, and began to quickly reverse. Soon they were able to stand up, though they were tired and sore, and decided to remain seated. The whole time, the Jivri Nui stared at them. It looked as concerned as Morok had been for their health.“We're both very sorry about that,” said the Turaga. “Can't be too careful in these times. When we encounter three powerful strangers wandering through the jungle, we play it safe – safe for us, that is – and subdue them before talking to them. Or flee.”“How – ” Vilam began to say.“How did I befriend the legendary, ferocious, venomous, terrifying Jivri Nui?” Morok interrupted. “Why the same way we made friends back home, with a gift of pretty plants, friendly conversation, and helping with the chores. But no, really, not long after I began my exile, I found him injured. He had been in fight with one of the Makuta's creatures, and mortally wounded. He was... resistant to my help at first, but I managed to heal him before it was too late. And he has repaid the favor many times since. But you surely have many more questions than that, and I have some questions for you. So, let's get started then.”“Where do you live? Shouldn't we go there first?” asked Imlen.“Where do I live? I live in the jungle, silly!” laughed Morok. “I would not be very good at hiding if I stayed in one place for five hundred years, now, would I? And before you mention it, don't be too afraid. Most of the things you've encountered are my friends. Most of the rest aren't so bad either, but keep to themselves. Regardless, the only ones you have to fear now are the ones under the Makuta's dominion.”“One other thing, Turaga,” said Paqyar. “You said we were three strangers. We have not seen each other for a long time, so I can forgive you for not recognizing me.”“Oh, Paqyar! No hurt feelings, I hope, friend,” said the Turaga bashfully.“Not at all,” said Paqyar with a smile. “It's so good to see you again, after all these years.”“It is. It really is,” said Morok quietly. “But, now to business. There's a lot to talk about, and even more to do. First, I'd like to know what's going on, and how you became Toa.”The three Toa told their story to Turaga Morok. As they told him, he did what he could to tend their wounds. The venom did not damage organic tissue, only paralyzed it, but their armor had been badly corroded where they had been struck. Paqyar's chest armor was in especially bad shape. Morok did the best he could, instructing the Toa of the Green to temporarily reinforce the damaged metal with wood. Meanwhile, he responded to the details of their story. He knew of the war between the Dark Hunters and the Makuta, but was appalled by their account of how bad it had gotten. He listened excitedly to the tales of their several narrow escapes and sighed mournfully at the death of Rodas. The tale of Mosori's sacrifice thrilled him, but he also expressed sadness for his death. When they got to the part about how they became Toa, he stopped them. It was now late at night, but they did not end their discussion quite yet.“So, did I hear you correctly when you said there was a Toa working for the Makuta?” he asked.“Sadly so, and a ruthless one too, from what Rodas told us,” said Vilam.“How terrible,” said Morok with a sigh. “What could drive those who are supposed to be our heroes to do such things? I have known of such things happening before, but these days... trust and goodness are becoming rare. The Makuta's influence is everywhere. In fact, Makuta Teskor could be speaking to you at this very moment! Of course, I'm not Makuta Teskor. If I was, I would be able to do... this!”Morok stood up and held his hands in the air. Nothing unusual seemed to happen.“What was that?” said Imlen anxiously.“That was nothing, because, whatever it was, I couldn't do it,” chuckled the Turaga. “I am just Turaga Morok, and you have nothing to fear from me.”“You're... different than I remember,” said Paqyar hesitantly.“Oh? Stranger, you mean? More eccentric? Well, maybe it's because I've been a hermit for over five hundred years!”“Uh, right. Just to make sure you're not the Makuta,” said Vilam, “answer this: what did you do the last time you visited the Ce-Kini?”“Last time I... oh, well I went to deposit some records, and equipment for any traveler that happened upon them. But how could you know that?”“My mask lets me see the history of objects I touch,” explained Imlen. “While we searched the temple for clues, we figured that out, and eventually I saw you. From that, we found the items you had stashed.”“Ah, of course. The Mask of Psychometry. I've never seen one in action. On another note, I could tell you that it's said Makuta can read minds, but I'd better not. I don't want to worry you too much. Oh drat, I just said it, didn't I?”“Don't worry, Turaga, we trust you,” said Paqyar. “But I want to know why Imlen's figured out how to use his mask, and Vilam and I haven't.”“Oh, it will come to you,” said Morok. “In fact it's very unusual for one to learn that so soon after becoming a Toa. I call such things 'strange twists of fate' and I suggest you get used to them.”“So, anyway, we read the tablets you had written and came here to search for you,” Imlen briefly finished the story.“So, now what?” asked Vilam.“Now, we rest. It's the middle of the night, and there's much to do tomorrow. Don't worry, he's going to bed,” said Morok, pointing at the Jivri Nui hiding in the trees, “but more of my friends will come watch over us as we sleep.”“He's still here?” said Paqyar incredulously, staring at the serpent.“Not for long,” yawned Morok. “He's done more than his share of help today.”The Toa unpacked their belongings and went to bed on the jungle floor, trusting Morok's Rahi friends to watch over them.Review

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#8 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 07 2012 - 03:01 AM

End of YrentaChapter Eight==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa woke comfortably the next morning. The sun was already bright, and Morok appeared to be dozing. However, when the Toa got up, he immediately stood and bid them good morning. The Toa looked around, and after careful inspection noticed about a dozen small creatures watching them from the trees and vines. Morok smiled as he studied them, then he caught sight of the staff Imlen carried and stared.“That staff,” he said reverently, “that is Tanu's staff. My old friend's...”“Ah, yes,” said Imlen, suddenly embarrassed. “I hope you don't find it offensive.”“Offensive? No, I know Tanu would be proud to know that, in this way, the heroes of this time carry his legacy,” said the Turaga.“There's much more to his legacy than this,” said Imlen. “But I'm proud you think of it that way. Also, it's not like I broke into his tomb to retrieve it. I found this on the floor of the Ce-Kini.”“On the floor?” said Morok. “The temple was defiled, wasn't it?”“It was. Seemed like a long time ago,” said Vilam. “Probably not long after you visited it for the last time.”“Well, that is far from the worst of Teskor's crimes,” said Morok, shaking his head sadly. “But the time has come to put a stop to that. One careful step at a time, of course.”“Indeed,” said Imlen. “We noticed in your records you wrote that the De-Matoran had left their home mysteriously deserted. We considered investigating, but decided to find you first.”“It sounds like a good next step,” said Morok thoughtfully. “I do not wish to send you back north until you are ready. And if we can find the De-Matoran, we may gain allies that remain unknown to our enemies.”“You're sure they're not all dead?” asked Paqyar.“No, I'm not sure,” said the Turaga. “But when I looked, I saw no bodies, and no signs of a struggle. The walls appeared to have stopped the flood from doing any damage, and the land was damp, yet inhabitable when I investigated. And I did not dare to search for long, but in the short time I was there I saw no records explaining their disappearance.”“Did it look like they packed up and left?” asked Vilam. “I mean, did they leave things behind like they were in a hurry?”“I don't remember seeing much left behind,” said Morok. “But I don't remember their dwellings standing out as being exceptionally clean either. It was too long ago for me to be sure of the details.”“Sounds to me like they got going quickly, but not in a terrible rush,” said Imlen. “But we should go and look ourselves.”Before the Toa prepared to go, Morok gave them advice in combat techniques and the use of their powers. After a few hours of lessons and training, they packed their things. Before they left, Morok had some more advice to give them.“I will remain in the jungle. You know how to find me. Enter it, and my friends will inform me, and we will meet you. Remember, keep a low profile. Try to avoid being seen, by people and by Rahi. However, if you find the De-Matoran, it should be okay to reveal yourselves to them. Soon, we will advertise our presence to the rest, but not yet. For if you did, the news could spread to the Makuta and the Dark Hunters, and they would move against you. Or the Matoran might rise up against their enemies too soon, and be slaughtered. I must have you know this: your careers as Toa have begun in a more dangerous time than any before in this land. Remember that, and be careful.”“We will, Turaga,” said Imlen. “Farewell.”“Farewell, and may we meet again soon!” the Turaga said, and he retreated into the jungle, signaling it was time for the Toa to leave.By that afternoon, the Toa had made it to the western bank of the river. They walked across the land carefully, and were unmolested the entire way to the former region of the De-Matoran. Their fortress lay silent on the horizon, in the midst of a wide plain of tall grass. As the Toa approached, they noticed that though the fortress was whole, the effect of centuries of dereliction were clear. What were once sharp, clean corners had been eroded, and various mosses and ivies were growing on the walls. The main gate was left slightly open, and the Toa entered through it. In the fading light, the rows of empty stone buildings were eerie. A lone bird cawed and came down to roost on a nearby roof. Paqyar scrutinized it carefully, and was satisfied it was merely a wild Rahi, and not under the control of an enemy. He joined the others in searching the town.As with the exterior, the only visible damage was the result of the passage of time without maintenance. Any footprints the De-Matoran had left had faded long ago. The Toa searched the houses, and found they were left in a condition much like Morok had described. The few possessions that were left were large items, such as furniture, and were left in rather careless positions. It indicated a population that had time to leave, but not a long time, and only what they could carry. Imlen began to search the past of various objects while the other Toa looked for physical clues. They looked carefully for signs of a fight, but there were none. Imlen tried many times, and still failed to see the time the fortress had been abandoned. After a while, he took a break from that and helped his friends search. They spent the rest of the day examining the village, and Imlen studied the past of some more objects. Still, they found nothing more of use.That night, they entered a modest building that seemed to serve as a library, or a hall of records. The Toa studied the most recently written tablets. The accounts of the community's history were meticulous up to a line that told about Toa Vibrak going to meet with his brothers to end something that was threatening the Matoran living under the mountains. After that, the records ended abruptly. It seemed to Vilam that they were being blatantly secretive about their fate, deliberately teasing whomever might read their records. The library was quite cozy, and it was late, so the Toa decided to sleep there. Vilam offered to take the first night watch, and while the others slept, she searched the building some more. She wondered if there was more worth investigating than the fortress's recent history. Her efforts were rewarded when she found a few tablets with personal records engraved by Vibrak.By the time she had found them, it was Imlen's turn to watch. She wished to read what she had found, but knew she should get rest, so she handed them to Imlen. He noticed that Vibrak's entries were minimal and far between. Apparently, he had only written things that were very significant to him. The accounts were interesting, and one was quite disturbing – the one telling of the time he had been caught in an illusion and killed some Matoran – but to Imlen's frustration, his last entry was long before the time he had gone away. He had presumably died on that journey anyway, and the De-Matoran had not left until after that. Still, Imlen had been hoping to find some sort of clue. After many attempts, he managed to scry on the last time Vibrak or the De-Matoran had handled the tablet. As he expected, it had been put away for a long time before the De-Matoran had disappeared.Imlen growled in frustration and dropped the tablet. His mask power was incredibly useful, but it could also be so frustrating. Even if it found the time he was looking for, that did not guarantee there would be anything useful to be seen in that time. He realized that he should not have been using it at the time anyway, since he was supposed to be guarding his friends as they slept. As he spent his shift in silent contemplation, something else occurred to him. Since the Water village was not far to the east, and although there was much more space to live in seclusion to the north, the north was much more dangerous. So, if the De-Matoran had gone elsewhere, they had probably not gone north or east. That left south, which would mean leaving the continent entirely by sea, or west. If they had sailed away, it was unlikely they would be found. But Imlen decided that it would be worth the effort to search for them to the west.After Paqyar's shift, the Toa got ready to go. Vilam took the time to study Vibrak's journal herself. She found nothing of use in it, but decided to bring it with her. She hoped the De-Matoran would be grateful to have it returned to them. It was still dawn when they left the Fortress of Sonics, as they expected a long trek ahead of them that day. The plains stretched for many kio to the west before terminating at a ridge of hills, the unofficial western border of Yrenta. The official border, when there was one, had moved depending on the prosperity of the region, but throughout their history the hills had been explored little by the Matoran of Yrenta. They were not nearly as dangerous as the northern Wasteland, but were judged long ago to be unfit for colonization, and the Matoran living on either side of the ridge had little interest in getting acquainted. Imlen was not sure exactly what it was, but there was a reason the hills had been left alone, and he was sure they would be at their most dangerous in this era.The hills did not look particularly intimidating to the Toa when they were arrived. They were more barren and rocky than most of the terrain in southern Yrenta, but looked easy enough to navigate. The Toa reached the summit of the first hill just before noon. From that height, they could see why no Matoran lived here. There was a small valley before them, and more hills beyond that. All were desolate and windy. The Toa could see large Rahi moving all around, as well as swarms of voracious insects. They stopped to rest for a short time, then continued on. They did their best to stay out of sight, but the vegetation and rock formations were sparse in the valley. The three of them had just reached the bottom of the valley and were beginning to scramble up the steep opposite slope when they heard a sound like a row of glass bottles shattering.A pack of Nui-Jaga was upon them, calling out with that distinctive cry. There were eight of the scorpion-like Rahi, and they were rapidly scurrying down from the northwest. Before the Toa could retreat, they were surrounded. The Jaga advanced, and at that moment they learned the folly of attempting to prey on Toa. Vilam struck first, with bolts of lightning that knocked out three immediately. Imlen formed a glowing, electrically-charged fog around the rest while Paqyar attempted to subdue them. He found that it took more energy and concentration for him to call forth plants in a barren place, but managed to summon some dry scrub that entangled the Rahi. Imlen increased the temperature of his plasma, while Vilam poured more lightning into it. The plants holding the Nui-Jaga caught fire and burned away, allowing them to flee. The Toa congratulated each other and moved on.The western slope was difficult to climb at first, but gradually became more shallow as the Toa ascended. They heard a loud buzzing as below them a swarm of insects descended on the three unconscious Nui-Jaga. The large Rahi were devoured in seconds, and the swarm moved for the Toa next as the travelers stared in surprise. A quick blast of lightning sent several of the bugs to the ground and scattered the rest, and the Toa continued their hike. Soon, they were attacked by a group of spider-like Rahi they did not recognize. Again, the Rahi were easily defeated, but the Toa were becoming weary. Vilam hoped that there would be no more encounters for a while. Her wish was denied her, however, for Visorak scurried around the opposite side of that hill. Paqyar spotted them first, and urged his friends to take cover, but it was too late. The Visorak had seen them.The Visorak were fierce, strong, and battled to the death, but it was much easier for the three to beat them now that they were Toa. Still, these Rahi were far more of a challenge than the wild beasts they had fended off earlier. And they were followed by reinforcements. After a fierce battle, Vilam fried the last of them. Just then, the Toa heard a familiar hum. Three Rahkshi landed in front of them and brandished their staffs. They were obviously eager to fight, after all, they had never had the opportunity to fight Toa before.Review

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#9 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 07 2012 - 11:31 PM

End of YrentaChapter Nine==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa attacked immediately. Two of the Rahkshi seemed to vanish, while the third endured their assault and fired a ray of power from its staff. The Toa were caught in it, and were overcome by a feeling of disorientation. One of the other Rahkshi appeared back in the fight seemingly out of nowhere, and battered Paqyar to the ground with a supernaturally fast onslaught. In a daze, Vilam blasted everyone around her. Toa and Rahkshi alike staggered for a moment, and the Rahkshi of Confusion's hold over them was broken. Behind Imlen, the third Rahkshi's concealment was broken, but the Toa of Plasma did not see it in time. The end of that Rahkshi's staff dug into his back armor, and he fell forward. Vilam turned to protect him from a follow-up attack, but left herself open to another Confusion attack. This time, she refrained from lashing out with her power, and stood babbling meaninglessly.“Imlen!” Paqyar called.Imlen rolled out of the way as the stealthy Rahkshi tried to bring its staff down on him. Paqyar tried to snare the two Rahkshi attacking him and Imlen with a growth of vines. The quick-moving Rahkshi dodged, and the stealthy one was entangled just as it was changing colors to blend in with the environment. Imlen got up and prepared to take out the Chameleon Rahkshi while it was trapped, but the Rahkshi of Dodge leaped next to him in a flash and began forcing him back. Meanwhile, the Rahkshi of Confusion bashed Vilam in the face, knocking her mask off. Its hold on her was broken again, but she was greatly weakened without her mask, and stunned from the blow to the head. The Rahkshi followed up with a sweep at her legs, causing her to fall to the ground. She attempted to call forth a blast of lightning, but could not concentrate enough. The Rahkshi of Chameleon broke free of Paqyar's vines at that moment and disappeared.It reappeared a moment later to strike Paqyar, and retreated again before he could strike back. This process repeated over and over while the other two Toa battled their respective opponents. These Rahkshi only had one ranged attack between them, one which did not even do any direct damage, and yet they had the upper hand in the battle. They were much more skilled than the lone Rahkshi Mosori had defeated. Vilam could only weakly defend herself as the Confusion Rahkshi alternated between pummeling her and clouding her mind, and Imlen could barely fend off the rapid strikes of the dodging Rahkshi. Again, he attempted to call upon his element, only to be interrupted by a quick attack that broke his concentration. He tried something different. He feinted striking the Rahkshi's side, then brought his staff to the ground to melt the earth into lava. The Rahkshi was too quick, however, and his move backfired. He had just started to heat the ground when a mighty sweep of the Rahkshi's staff sent him flying back.A short distance away, Paqyar fell to his knees, battered from all sides. Then, the Toa had some success when Vilam managed to grab her opponent's staff, sending a weak electric attack through it. While that Rahkshi was dazed, she reached over and grabbed her mask. She felt power and clarity return to her, and when the Rahkshi recovered, it was hit by another, stronger bolt of lightning. Vilam moved towards Paqyar, but was struck midway by another confusion ray. Paqyar could not hit the Rahkshi that was attacking him, but snared the Confusion Rahkshi as it ran after Vilam. Imlen stood up and surrounded himself with a shroud of plasma, preventing the Dodge Rahkshi from approaching him without being blinded. Concentrating on maintaining that defense, he ran over to join the others. As he came closer, he saw the Chameleon Rahkshi striking Paqyar again, and blasted it. A moment later, the Toa stood together again, though Vilam was confused and all three were battered.“Vilam! Snap out of it, sister,” Imlen said as the Rahkshi resumed their attack.“Don't talk to the Brakas fish,” she mumbled incoherently, and was smacked to the ground by the Rahkshi of Dodge.“This isn't good – ow!” said Paqyar as the Rahkshi hit him next.Imlen blasted plasma all around the ground, giving Paqyar the time to help Vilam up. All three of them were sore and tired, but Paqyar was determined for them to get out alive. Just then, his mask glowed. As he reached out and pulled the Toa of Lightning to her feet, a glow embraced the two of them. The light lingered for a few seconds, and when it was gone, the two Toa stood fused into one being.“Fusion? That's your mask power?” said Imlen groggily as he was struck in the head by the Chameleon Rahkshi.“Y... yes,” said the fusion in Paqyar's voice after a moment. “Vilam's mind... struggles against mine due to the confusion, but the confusion... also makes her willpower... too weak to resist much. Now her mind is clearing.”As it spoke, the merged being lashed out at the startled Rahkshi. As its two minds began to cooperate, it became much more effective. The Rahkshi of Confusion was eliminated by a concentrated barrage of electricity, arrows, and plants. The other two Rahkshi nearly knocked Imlen's mask off, and the fusion caught him as he staggered back.“Fuse with us, Imlen,” said Paqyar. “It doesn't hurt.”Imlen allowed himself to be absorbed into the amalgam, and it glowed as it reformed into a new being. This fusion, instead of being controlled by Paqyar's mind, was a true Toa Kaita, with its own individual mind made of its component parts working in perfect unison. Like all Toa Kaita, he had his own name. His name was Samruna. He paused for a moment to consolidate the unification of his mind, and two remaining Rahkshi attacked while he was distracted. But their staffs could do little damage to the Kaita. With a sweeping kick, he sent the two machines flying back. A blast of electrified plasma destroyed the Rahkshi of Chameleon before it could rise. Next Samruna materialized a giant, primitive arrow – simply a tapered wooden shaft with leaves for flights – nocked it to his bow, and launched it at the Rahkshi of Dodge as it tried to flee. The projectile skewered the Rahkshi, pinning it to the ground, and at the Toa Kaita's command a tangle of branches burst from the wood. The plants tightened, crushing the Rahkshi and its Kraata.The battle was over. Exhausted, Samruna dropped down on his knees and broke into the three Toa that had formed him. The Toa lay on the ground for a moment, then more of the hungry insects swarmed over them. This time, Imlen dispersed them with a small application of his elemental power. Then the Toa rested for a short while, but they soon heard shouts and the screech of Visorak. More Makuta forces were on the way. The Toa were in no condition to fight them off. They were bruised, dented, tired, and low on elemental energy. Most of the enemy force was approaching to the west, so the Toa got up and traveled back the way they had come as quickly as they could. When they came to the steep valley slope, they stumbled down and landed in a dry thicket. A Brotherhood scout was there at the bottom just in front of them. Still lying in the bracken, Vilam shot a lightning bolt out of her sword. Imlen jumped up and finished the encounter with his staff, first knocking the scout's mask off, then knocking him unconscious, but not before the scout could shout.Imlen helped the other two Toa up, and they quickened their pace. The scout's cry had helped the approaching Brotherhood forces pinpoint their location, and they were closing in. The Toa made it to the bottom of the hills on the edge of the plains. They could hear the Brotherhood soldiers and Visorak on the hilltops behind them. Projectiles whizzed past, some exploding as they hit the ground or discharging into bursts of energy, others fragmenting or merely embedding themselves in the earth. One exploded next to the Toa, detonating with a surge of electricity, and blasted them off their feet. As they got up, they looked back and saw some of the faster Makuta units were chasing them, while ranged attackers rained fire down on them from the ridge. There were no more Rahkshi to be seen, but the Toa expected more to arrive at any time.“Any ideas?” said Paqyar, beginning to slow from fatigue.“We might need to just stop and make a stand,” said Imlen, shaking his head. “There's not a whole lot back there, no more than a platoon's worth including the Visorak. But I don't know how dangerous those warriors are.”“It might be better than exhausting ourselves running,” panted Vilam. “Paqyar, can you use your mask again?”“I'm not sure,” said Paqyar as they continued to run. “I'm tired, and can't focus. Wait – the grass is taller up ahead.”“It's still not enough to hide us,” said Imlen.“Maybe not. But good thing I'm a Toa of the Green,” said Paqyar.The Toa ducked as they reached the tall grass, then went down on their hands and knees, crawling as fast as they could. They were far out of range of the attackers on the hill by now, but hiding in the grass only slowed their remaining pursuers a little. More projectiles rained down around them, and shouts sounded not far behind. Paqyar considered the situation. He tried causing the grass a short distance away to rustle, tricking the Brotherhood forces into thinking the Toa were moving through there. The feint worked for a short time. Now the soldiers and Visorak were among the grasses. Silently, Paqyar animated the grass around him. He did not expend the energy to strengthen the plants, and they posed no threat to the enemy, but distracted them while the Toa moved away. Soon a few of them came too close, forcing Vilam and Imlen to blast them and give their position away again.There were only about five or six soldiers in the field now, but there were a dozen Visorak in the field too. Worse, the Toa could now hear the buzz of flying Rahkshi converging above. They dropped to the ground again, changing direction and crawling to the northwest. The grass seemed to actively hinder their passage now. They realized one of the Rahkshi must have been manipulating the plants, though the Rahkshi fortunately had not located them yet. The force on the ground was now passing them, and they ran into a lone Visorak at the northern edge of the group. With desperation and ferocity, the Toa fell upon it and slaughtered it before it could call for help. The Toa stopped and lay still in the cover of the grass. The soldiers and Visorak passed them, but the Rahkshi lingered. Several times they landed, searched on foot, then took to the sky again. The Toa stayed there and rested for a while.The Rahkshi remained, however, and the Makuta's forces resorted to a tactic they had used not long ago to flush out fugitives hiding in vegetation. If they were willing to burn a shrubland to get Matoran, torching an entire section of the plain to catch Toa was not very drastic in comparison. This region was less arid, so the fire did not spread as fast, but there was much more fuel to sustain and carry it. The edge of the tall grasses was not far, but the Toa would be exposed there. That would be better than burning to death, but the Toa had just nearly been defeated by three Rahkshi, and there were now at least five nearby. The Makuta-Sons were relatively uncommon in Yrenta even in this age, but the appearance of Toa probably justified sending all available Rahkshi to eliminate them.“If this is going to be a recurring tactic, we should start carrying buckets of water around,” quipped Vilam.“Can you put it out, Imlen?” asked Paqyar. “Absorb it or something?”“I don't think so. That's a job for a Toa of Fire, not Plasma.” said Imlen. “We'd better get out of here. On the count of three: one, t –”“Wait!” interrupted Paqyar.“What, Paqyar?” demanded Imlen impatiently, as the fire was now uncomfortably close.“I'll catch up, you'll know when to move!” said the Toa of the Green rapidly.Paqyar crawled as fast as he could away from his friends, and risked standing up when he was confident he would not get his friends in trouble too if the Rahkshi saw him. He knew the fire needed something to burn to spread. In this case that fuel was the grass. None of the Toa present were able to absorb or control the fire. But Paqyar could do just that to the fuel. He put his plan to the test. It took an effort, but he managed to convert a swath of grass into elemental energy and absorb it, creating a barren gap wide enough to stop the fire from reaching the area he stood in. Then he got down under the grass again. By then, the fire was almost upon Imlen and Vilam, and they got up and ran. So far, the smoke and flames covered their escape. Paqyar hoped that if the Rahkshi had noticed his diversion, they would come soon, for he was struggling to hold on to the absorbed power.Fortunately or unfortunately, one soon noticed the large patch of grass the fire had been prevented from reaching. The Kraata inside it reasoned that the Toa would surely be hiding in that small safe area, and called his brothers in for the attack. Paqyar saw them coming and gulped. He was taking a big risk for his friends. He did not plan to turn it into a sacrifice as Mosori had, but it would be a close call. This time, he had a slight edge in the form of the plant life he had absorbed. When he felt he could contain it no longer, he released it in a blast at the three Rahkshi landing nearby. The machines were caught by surprise, and one was instantly crippled. Paqyar ran before the other two could free themselves from the grasping vines and thorns. He sprinted wildly, and was pleased to see only more two Rahkshi, these ones following him from the air. No Rahkshi at all would be better, but they had a chance if they could take on the vile things one or two at a time. He saw his friends not far off, and soon caught up to them. The Rahkshi were right behind.“What was that about?” said Vilam as they prepared for battle.“A... plan...” Paqyar panted, and he coughed. “See, only... two... of them at a... time.”Imlen and Vilam got in front of Paqyar, allowing him to catch his breath as the Rahkshi attacked. One of them, a yellow Rahkshi, shot searing red beams from its eyes. This was probably the one that had ignited the plain. Its first attack missed and struck the ground. Fortunately, there was not enough grass here to start another wildfire. Imlen felt some of his elemental power had returned, and he wanted to end this quickly, so he stepped forth to unleash a devastating cloud of plasma. Before he could summon the power, however, the other Rahkshi hit him with a ray from its staff. Imlen was instantly sent into a deep sleep. Worried, Paqyar checked on him, confirmed he was only sleeping, and got out his bow. Vilam sent out a trio of quick bolts, one for each of the Rahkshi and a weak one to jolt Imlen awake.It worked, but he did not immediately shake the effect off. He stirred, and after a moment he got up drowsily just in time to be pushed away by Paqyar. The patch of grass he had been lying on was struck by the Heat Vision rays and burned to the ground. While he was waking up, Vilam had been preventing the maroon Rahkshi from putting any more of them to sleep while dodging the yellow Rahkshi's attacks. Paqyar stood back and peppered both Rahkshi with arrows. He got a lucky hit in the Rahkshi of Heat Vision's head. The Kraata inside was not dead, but hurt, and the machine stumbled. Imlen had woken up by then, and only needed to expend a small amount of energy to finish the yellow Rahkshi off. Alone, the maroon Rahkshi of Sleep did not last much longer. By this time, the other two Rahkshi were advancing quickly.Running to their prey instead of flying was their mistake. On the open plain, they made easy targets. Vilam took out one immediately with as powerful a bolt as she could summon. After a few attempts, Paqyar pierced the other one's knee with an arrow. What had once been one of the Makuta's most dreaded enforcers was reduced to a limping, broken machine. Paqyar prepared to finish it off, but before he could it let out a terrible scream, loud enough to make the ground shake. The Toa were deafened, though that did not save the Rahkshi. Paqyar caused rending vines to sprout from the arrow, tearing the Rahkshi apart. Imlen communicated through gestures which way the team should go next. They were safe for the moment, but would have to move quickly. This battle had been short, but they were even lower on elemental energy now, almost out. They would have to rest before fighting again, and more enemies would surely be on the way. Even if news of their presence had not already been spread, the fire and that Power Scream could be noticed from far away, and were a big indicator something was going on.“That could have gone better,” said Vilam later, when the Toa could hear again.“At least we're alive!” yelled Imlen. The Toa were traveling east, and had not encountered any enemies since defeating the Rahkshi.“You're yelling,” said Paqyar.“What?” asked Imlen loudly. Apparently, his hearing had not completely come back.“You're yelling!” repeated Paqyar, louder this time. “Wait for your hearing to come back!”“Sure, sorry,” Imlen whispered. Vilam chuckled.The southern plains were no longer safe with Brotherhood forces looking for them there and few places to hide. They doubted their chances of making it past the hills. And so, the Toa decided to return to the jungle in defeat.Review

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#10 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 09 2012 - 06:38 PM

End of YrentaChapter Ten==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Don't feel too bad,” Turaga Morok consoled the Toa. “At least you're alive.”“That's what I told them,” said Imlen. “But the Makuta knows about us now. The Brotherhood warriors are searching the plains of De-Wahi for us. I hope they don't attack the jungle or the Ga-Matoran in an attempt to find us.”“I hoped your existence would stay secret for a while,” said Morok. “But that was an impractical thing to hope. There is much open space and untamed wilderness in these lands, but you cannot hide in the wild forever. You will need to confront your enemies, and aid your friends.”“I still don't think we should meet the Matoran. The Makuta probably hasn't told them, and we're not ready to protect them yet,” said Vilam.“I agree,” said Imlen. “We were on the run most of the time. We can't have the Matoran expect us to lead them to battle.”“True, none of us are ready for that yet,” said the Turaga. “But that time is coming. By your account, Paqyar learned to use his Kanohi, you formed a Kaita, and together the three of you defeated eight Rahkshi. Even a few at a time, that number is still impressive.”“The first three nearly defeated us, but the others put up much less of a fight,” said Imlen thoughtfully.“I'm not clear on the details, but I've heard that Kraata and/or Rahkshi have levels of maturity that determine their power and intelligence,” explained Morok. “And as living creatures, the Kraata that see more combat experience will generally be more formidable than other Kraata of the same strength. But do not underestimate any Rahkshi. I mean, do not underestimate anybody or anything. But don't let that make you too fearful to do what you must. Don't underestimate yourselves either. Now, you should rest. I also have something that might be of use to you.”“How did you get that?” asked Paqyar, indicating the healing and armor repair kit Morok showed them.“I persuaded some Brakas to steal it from the village,” said Morok. “I regret having to resort to theft, but I'm sure if our people knew what it was for they would have gladly donated this.”“We need it, but I still don't like this,” said Imlen tentatively. “It doesn't feel right to let them suffer while we hide right outside their homes and wait, and stealing from them makes it worse.”“We've already agreed about the present need for secrecy,” said Turaga Morok. “But as for this village, they are not suffering nearly as much as the others. The Makuta's corruption spreads, but my friends and I are doing a pretty good job of keeping the Matoran here safe from it.”“If they're so well protected, we should be able to let them know the truth,” argued Imlen.“But...” Morok tried to protest.“The Brotherhood already knows of us, the news will spread quickly,” Vilam supported Imlen.“The times are changing, and my people – your people – deserve to know this,” said Paqyar.“The village is not completely isolated. There are traders and such, and Makuta enforcers,” Morok pointed out. “But you make good points. Very well, how about a compromise: I will arrange to meet with trusted Matoran from the village in secret. Over time, more will know, but we will try to restrict the knowledge. By the time it is public, you will be ready for the next stage of your quest.”“That sounds fair,” said Vilam.“I agree,” said Imlen.“Me too,” said Paqyar.“Now, you really should treat your wounds and armor,” said Morok. “If it makes you feel better, I will make it up to the village somehow. If you don't consider keeping them safe from the spreading shadow and mentoring their next heroes to be enough, that is.”The Toa accepted the healing kit, and spent the next few hours treating their contusions and patching their armor. Then they slept for a long time.

-----

“You found three Toa and you... let... them... go?” demanded Makuta Teskor, drawing the last words out threateningly.“L-let them go? N-no, they escaped,” said the sniveling lieutenant. “They destroyed seven Rahkshi and badly damaged an eighth – ”“You allowed them to escape,” interrupted the Makuta. “I realize that you did not do so deliberately, and that you personally never got close enough to fire a shot or make one swing of your sword. But you were the commanding officer, and it was under your poor leadership that our forces let the Toa slip through their fingers. In addition, you did not send messages as per regulation. Other platoons only found about it from the light and noise you made while letting the Toa escape.”“But it was – ” the lieutenant was interrupted by a magnetic force closing his throat and lifting him into the air.As in many other places, Visorak made up the majority of the Brotherhood's forces in Yrenta, but they also hired beings of many species as soldiers. They especially relied on these for low to medium-ranking leadership positions, as they were more replaceable than Rahkshi, more intelligent than Visorak, and more adaptable and versatile than both. At least, that was the concept. In practice, they were mostly arrogant sycophants, pompous, ambitious beings that instantly became unbearably flustered and obsequious when threatened. Upper-class Steltians, such as this particular specimen, tended to be the worst. Teskor couldn't figure out what the other Makuta saw in them. He guessed this one would begin to take irreversible damage from lack of air in a few seconds. Savoring the last moment for as long as he could, he released the lieutenant. The Steltian fell to the floor, nearly unconscious, and gasped for breath. Makuta Teskor jolted him awake with a blast of electricity.“You will... assist me in the lab,” he said, and the lieutenant nodded helplessly. “You will think of what you did wrong, and when I judge you fit to return to service, you shall.”The Steltian looked even more terrified now than when he was being choked. Apparently, he knew that the Makuta's 'lab assistants' never failed to end up as experiments themselves. But there was nothing he could do about it, and he knew that. Teskor was looking forward to his service, but he had other things to consider first. The Toa had been found in the south, heading west from where the De-Matoran used to live to the hills at the border of Yrenta. It was possible they had arrived by sea, but in that case they could have sailed south of the hills to reach their destination. Discounting the possibility that they had encountered trouble at sea, it was more likely they were Toa from this land. Either way, they were trouble. But if they were from Yrenta, that would make things interesting. Regardless, he would let his minions – his most capable minions – deal with them. Since Makuta Teridax's plan had succeeded in putting Mata Nui to sleep, Makuta Teskor had outgrown his petty feud with the Toa and Matoran of Yrenta.He was above that now. Matoran were his subjects, and Toa were usually his enemies, though not always. A shining exception was one of those capable minions, a Toa of Ice named Zima. The last of Teskor's Toa Hagah, Zima was a Makuta's ideal Toa: loyal, competent, ruthless, and unambitious. The Toa guardians of the Makuta had long been deceived and diverted to prevent them from learning their masters' true intentions. And yet, when the time had come to purge the Hagah, Zima had been one of the few who remained loyal to the Makuta. Teskor's faith in him had been substantiated when the Toa of Ice had eliminated every one of his teammates. The rest of Teskor's Hagah had attempted to resist the purge, but unfortunately for them their most formidable member had remained unwaveringly loyal to the Makuta. Of course, Zima had not battled them all at once. He seemed naive, almost mindless sometimes, but had been clever enough to pick off his former comrades one or two at a time.This sort of naivety made him an excellent servant. He truly believed the Makuta were the rightful rulers of the universe. His personality was more like that of a robot than a person, and he seemed to think his nearly emotionless manner was the proper way to act, with behavior not completely grounded in cold logic being flawed. Teskor had to downplay his emotions and the role they played in his schemes while dealing with Zima, and conceal some of his thoughts from the Toa's Mask of Telepathy, lest he conclude that the Makuta were also 'malfunctioning'. But that inconvenience was greatly outweighed by the benefits of employing him. His only personal agenda was an ordered, functional universe under the rule of the Makuta. He knew that the universe was being damaged in the attempt, but placed that blame on those who resisted what he considered the inevitable inheritance of his masters.Unlike the Makuta and the mercenaries they hired, Zima only cared for his own well-being so that he could serve what he believed was the greater good. As his teammates had learned when he turned on them, the closest thing to friendship he understood was the concept of working together towards a common goal. On the subject of mercy, he did not distinguish between living and nonliving beings. If the death of someone was the most efficient way of achieving his goal, he would kill without empathy or remorse, for Teskor had long ago convinced him that the Toa Code was obsolete. These qualities all made him Teskor's best enforcer, and so he had summoned him to his chamber for a very important mission.“I am here, Master,” he said in his nearly monotonous voice as he entered.“Satisfactory punctuality, Zima,” said Teskor. “I have a special mission for you now. Enemy Toa have been sighted in Yrenta, and I need you to eliminate them.”“Of course, Master. Where must I go?”“Hmm, unfortunately they have eluded us,” said Teskor thoughtfully. “They were seen in the south, attempting to cross the western border, and were forced to flee to the east. After that, we lost track of them. They could have gone in any direction. You and your team will lead the mission to find and eliminate them.”“Yes, Master,” said the Toa of Ice as he noticed but ignored the Steltian cowering in the corner. “I will prepare at once.”Teskor summoned the rest of Zima's new team – his ten most disciplined and powerful Rahkshi – and the eleven of them departed together.

-----

The Toa traveled north along the river. Since they had failed to pass into the lands to the west, they had decided to investigate a different mystery. When Toa Vibrak and his team were lost during the Great Cataclysm, whatever danger they had been confronting had also disappeared. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam's new goal was to find out what had happened there that day, and with diligence, Imlen's mask would reveal the answer. Up ahead the riverbank rose into high cliffs, and beyond that the river ended in a desert canyon. But the Toa were not going there. At the point where the riverbank became too steep to walk down, they turned slightly to the west. The plan was to move west just south of the mountains, hidden among the foothills, until they found an entrance to the underground realm where the Onu-Matoran lived.Turaga Morok and the Toa had done their best to calculate the safest path, but it would still be a risky journey. The mountains and hills were home to most of the fortresses and outposts, some of which they would need to pass uncomfortably close to. But they had a better chance there than walking on the open plains. When they came to the foothills they first went north between them and the mountains, then south to walk among the hills, then slightly north again later, and so on. In this fashion they weaved among the hills, staying as concealed as they could and avoiding territory the Brotherhood prowled. They were in luck when they came near the fortress that was hardest to avoid, for the Makuta forces occupying it had another concern. The fortress was under attack by a small but elite Dark Hunter force. The Toa feared for the Matoran forced to labor within, but did not dare to intervene, not yet. They moved on.Soon before they arrived at the tunnel entrance, they encountered a small Brotherhood patrol. The Toa took them out easily and quietly, but were then faced with a dilemma. The soldiers were unconscious and no threat at the moment, but they would awaken later and report the presence of the Toa. Killing them would prevent that, but they were helpless prisoners. After wondering if it was worse to execute prisoners or to put their mission, and by extension the Matoran, in danger, the Toa compromised with themselves. They smashed the Kanohi of any of the soldiers that were wearing them, destroyed their weapons, and Paqyar summoned constrictive, leafy vines to bind and gag them. They would be trapped until they were found and freed, and only then would they be able to report what they had seen. Another possibility was that wild Rahi would eat them first, but the former scenario was more likely in this area.The main entrance to the underground realm was well-guarded of course, but a quarter-kio beyond it was an unwatched side entrance, formerly used for transporting ore. The Toa had to hunch over to walk through this shaft, until they reached another tunnel. This one was wider and also empty. The Toa knew that the Onu-Matoran and Fe-Matoran population living here had declined and been forced into a smaller area over the past millennia, leaving many tunnels abandoned. But they did not know exactly which tunnels were rarely used, which were completely abandoned, and which ones were forgotten completely or collapsed. Also, they had only a general idea of where in the vast network of tunnels and caverns the previous Toa had gone. They expected to be underground for a long time. They had prepared for that by packing enough supplies, but could only hope that few Brotherhood forces prowled down there.They wandered the tunnel for hours before encountering other living beings. They stumbled upon a tribe of cave Ukzokth, stunted, black-armored goblins that were like degenerate Onu-Matoran. In the past, the Toa and Matoran had been forced to slay Ukzokth by the dozen. But they were not at war with these creatures, and so the Toa could not bring themselves to deliberately kill them. But the Ukzokth attacked, heedless of how outmatched they were, and a few of them were mortally injured in the fight. Several more were struck down but not slain, and the rest fled shrieking into the dark. Though the goblins had apparently served Makuta Teskor, it was unlikely that these savages, isolated in abandoned tunnels, were in contact with the Brotherhood. Still, the encounter set the Toa on edge. Their presence underground was now known.It took the Toa days to search the subterranean domain. They encountered a few more groups of Ukzokth during that time, and each time they tired too much to move on, they made camp and slept. Many times they had to dig or blast their way through cave-ins that had happened hundreds of years earlier. Once they passed close to what remained of Matoran territory, and an Onu-Matoran had caught a quick glimpse of them. The Toa had quickly hidden and hoped that would not cause any problems for them in the future. Finally, the Toa found a conspicuous trail of igneous rock leading through caverns and large tunnels that appeared to have been melted long ago. The Toa followed it, and found the frozen flow led consistently downwards, as additional tunnels and caverns below intersected the magma's path, and magma had melted through the floor and poured down into them. The Toa scrambled down each of these former cascades of molten rock and continued to follow the path.For the most part, the resolidified stone was smooth, but in many places the ceiling had collapsed, cracking the stone and nearly blocking the large tunnels. At one point, the way was completely blocked by a large cave-in. The Toa did not turn back here. Imlen melted half of the rock away, while Paqyar created tough roots that crushed and ripped the other half apart. The Toa stepped over the broken stones and clods of earth. A short distance ahead the tunnel opened up into a large cavern. The Toa entered, and found what they had been looking for.Review

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#11 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 10 2012 - 01:32 PM

End of YrentaChapter Eleven==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The cavern was half-collapsed, and the rest of it had various slabs of stone and piles of earth scattered throughout it. To the surprise of the Toa, one stone lay near a large carcass that belonged to a giant being they did not recognize. The Toa approached and found the body was merely an empty suit of armor. Before they could ponder that for long, they gasped, for a smaller body was nearby, pinned under a larger rock. It was a dead Toa, and as they inspected the corpse, they identified it as the remains of their lost Toa Lidon.“So, this is what happened,” said Imlen. “During the confrontation, this titan and Toa Lidon perished in the quake. But what happened to Vibrak and Spiileus?”“Let's find out,” said Vilam. “We're depending on you and your mask for that, Imlen.”Out of curiosity, Imlen first scanned the enormous suit of armor. As he concentrated on it, his consciousness was transported into an inferno. What he saw was a realm of fire and lava, but strange creatures thrived in it, perfectly comfortable in the heat. Of course, Imlen was not actually there, so he could not be harmed, but the shock of it was enough to cause him to lose his grip on the vision and return to the present.“Did you see where this came from?” asked Paqyar, indicating the hollow colossus.“I... I think so,” said Imlen. “I've never seen anything like it. A place of fire and lava, where it seemed nothing could survive, not even any of the lava-dwelling creatures I know of. And yet there was life thriving there.”“I've never heard of such a place,” said Vilam.“Nor have I,” said Paqyar. “But let's find out what happened to the Toa.”Imlen attempted for hours to revisit that fateful day while the others searched for clues. Paqyar and Vilam had no success, as any traces the previous Toa had left had been wiped out by the Cataclysm or the lava, or other unknown factors. Finally, as Imlen activated his mask while touching a fallen stone, he saw the cavern floor turn into molten lava. The fire giant lay on the ground, flames gushing from a wound in its head. Soon it would leave nothing but its dead armor. The sight of Lidon being crushed to death next jarred Imlen, and he maintained his focus just long enough to see the remaining Toa crawl away into a side tunnel, which was promptly sealed by the collapse. Snapping back to the present, he told his friends what he had seen. Immediately, they decided to follow. Imlen called upon his power to create a burst of plasma hot enough to melt a path through the collapsed half of the cavern, towards the tunnel he had seen. After waiting for the tunnel he had formed to cool, he led his team into it. Holding their lightstones in front of them as they crawled, the Toa soon found the tunnel Vibrak and Spiileus had escaped into.“This is fascinating,” said Paqyar. “The damage in this tunnel does not seem to be as bad, they may have even made it!”“Something still happened to them, or they would have returned to us,” pointed out Vilam.Vilam was soon proven correct. After they had crawled through the tunnel for a short distance, it became large enough to stand up in. Not far from that point, the Toa found a small chamber branching off from the tunnel. Peering inside, they saw another dead body, one that seemed strangely familiar despite them not recognizing it immediately. The Toa entered the chamber, and examined the corpse. It was a small, hunched figure in black and gray armor, but clearly not a cave goblin. It seemed to have been hastily buried, and mostly uncovered somehow, perhaps by a tremor. The Toa lifted it and found themselves staring into dark, dead eyes through the holes of the corpse's mask. It was a Turaga. Vilam found a small stone with letters carved into it behind the body, and picked it up.“'Spiileus, a more selfless hero than I could ever hope to be. – Vibrak'” she read aloud.“Spiileus became a Turaga, then died?” said Imlen quizzically.“That's what it looks like,” said Paqyar. “But you're the one who can look into the past. How about you find out?”Imlen agreed. He attempted to do just that. He tried many times and still failed to find out what had happened, but he was determined to keep trying until he had the answer. If Vibrak had not died in the cavern with Lidon and the giant, and had not died here with Spiileus, could he still be alive? And had Vibrak been referring to any specific event when he called his brother a more selfless hero than him? Imlen felt he had to know the answers, even if it took him days of scanning the chamber's past. However, he had not gotten even an hour to do so when sounds echoed outside the chamber. His breath caught in his throat. He and the others were hearing footsteps. He quickly looked around the room. There was nowhere to hide.“Run,” he whispered.He and the others dashed out of the chamber. Just as they did, energy bolts shot towards them from both directions of the tunnel. They pulled back into the chamber entrance and glanced from side to side. There were Rahkshi, two on each side. Imlen cursed in his mind as he remembered the Brotherhood soldiers they had tied up. He had forgotten about them, and that had been days ago. But even if those had not reported the Toa upon being freed, it was only a matter of time until the Makuta started to search every corner of Yrenta for them. From their defensive position on the threshold, the three Toa retaliated at the Rahkshi. But the machines expertly dodged or endured all of their attacks, and were now running towards them. In a few seconds, they would be at the chamber.“Paqyar!” said Imlen as the Toa retreated into the chamber. “Can you use your mask – help us merge?”“I'll try,” said Paqyar just as the four Rahkshi entered.Paqyar overcame his panic and concentrated. His green Mask of Fusion glowed, facilitating the amalgamation of the Toa into Samruna. The Kaita had to crouch to fit in the chamber. As he tried awkwardly to position himself, the Rahkshi pounded him with attacks. He resisted and retaliated, but again the Rahkshi were also unaffected. Samruna decided he was outmatched, and it was time to escape. He half crawled, half lunged into the tunnel, knocking over one Rahkshi and forcing the rest to dodge. While they were distracted, he created a barrier of plants over the chamber entrance, then allowed himself to separate into the three Toa. The Toa paused for a moment, recovering from the ordeal of merging, then realized what was happening and ran. Imlen twisted to the side as he ran to melt the ground behind him. The Toa had only gotten ahead a few bio when the Rahkshi burst into the tunnel, went into flight mode, and hovered after the Toa over the molten ground.The Toa kept running, though the Rahkshi were gaining on them. Vilam called out to Imlen, and he looked ahead to see another cave-in blocking the tunnel. He released a blast of plasma at it, and the Toa winced as they skipped over the resulting magma. They turned the corner and stopped to confront the Rahkshi as they followed around the bend. A moment later the Rahkshi came around, and the Toa released sudden elemental blasts. That slowed the Rahkshi a little, and the Toa turned and continued to flee. Now they felt hope mingled with dread, for they could see sunlight ahead, but more Rahkshi were coming through from that entrance. With a primal battle cry, the Toa charged, releasing an even more powerful elemental barrage at the Rahkshi ahead. The Rahkshi on both sides attacked back, and Paqyar failed to dodge one of their attacks. He was frozen in a stasis field. Imlen shouted and reached over to grab Paqyar's hand, but found his own hand stuck as it entered the field. Vilam tried zapping the stasis field to dissipate it. At first, the electricity stopped as it entered the field, then it seemed to move slightly.Vilam increased the intensity, and the field was overloaded trying to freeze the lightning. As it faded, Vilam was struck by an attack that left her moving in slow motion. Paqyar and Imlen grabbed her and dragged her behind them. The Toa almost reached the exit, but the Rahkshi in front of them barred their escape. The pursuing Rahkshi were directly behind, and so the Toa were surrounded. Bolts of energy whizzed past and hit the ground at their feet and the tunnel sides next to them. Lashing out in desperation, Imlen and Vilam created an electrified cloud of plasma as intense as they could manage. The Rahkshi jumped back, and continued to launch bolts at the Toa, but much less accurately this time as the Toa were concealed. Some of their attacks dissipated in the plasma. Imlen concentrated on maintaining the cloud as they ran forward, still dragging Vilam. They made it outside and let the plasma disperse. The Rahkshi emerged immediately after them.“Too bad they don't seem to be offering the chance to surrender,” said Imlen as they dodged and parried attacks. “At least then we'd have time to come up with a plan.”“How can get rid of this slowness effect?” said Vilam slowly.“I think it'll wear off... eventually,” said Imlen.“That's not soon enough,” said Paqyar. “Let's try merging again.”Again, Paqyar used his mask to guide them through the rapid process of merging into Samruna. The Toa Kaita stood to his full height and began to unleash his combined elemental powers on the assembled Rahkshi. But he was about to learn that Rahkshi knew that trick, too. The mechanical creatures stood together, and in a flash of light six of the seven combined into two Rahkshi Kaita. One of the Rahkshi Kaita leveled its weapon at Samruna, and he was pressed against the ground by overwhelming artificial gravity. The other Rahkshi fusion pointed its weapon at the sky, and a thunderstorm formed on the mountainside. The remaining lone Rahkshi fired twin laser beams from its eyes, searing a hole in Samruna's armor. The Toa Kaita struggled against the gravity, and deflected the Rahkshi of Laser Vision's next attack. The first Rahkshi Kaita blasted him with a sonic wave. He endured it and retaliated with a hail of arrows that sprouted into grasping roots and crushing vines.The Rahkshi of Laser Vision took to the air to avoid the attack, and the second Rahkshi Kaita burned the plants away with blasts of plasma. Samruna stretched out with Imlen's power and took control of the Rahkshi's plasma, turning it back on the source. The Rahkshi Kaita shook with annoyance, and the two of them pounced. Samruna fended off their brutal assault of physical blows and supernatural powers, and countered with his own. This continued for a short while, but not long. Merging into a Kaita had not changed the fact that the Toa were hopelessly outmatched. The Kaita with the gravity powers seized an opening in Samruna's defense to send the him high into the air, then reversed its power. Samruna bellowed as he hit the ground hard enough to crack it. Samruna's will to stay conscious and whole was intense, but perhaps it would have not been enough were it not for the Mask of Fusion whose power was one part of the triple-use Kanohi he wore.He knew he had to escape. Getting to his feet slowly and unsteadily, he unleashed as powerful a blast of lightning as he could muster, and prepared to bound out of range and flee. But he was stopped by the arrival of more enemies. Three more Rahkshi had arrived and merged upon seeing him, and this Kaita gripped Samruna in a magnetic force. As his armor began to buckle and crush him, Samruna released a surge of electrified plasma at the Kaita, and as he planned, it was attracted to the magnetic field in the direction of the Rahkshi. The magnetic force stopped as the plasma shocked the Rahkshi Kaita controlling it and almost melted its weapon. Now released, Samruna ran as the three Rahkshi Kaita and the Rahkshi of Laser Vision unleashed their combined powers. But the Rahkshi's Slow power struck again, rendering his great strides so sluggish he may as well have been shuffling away. He attempted to defend himself, but in a few mere seconds he fell before the terrible onslaught of ten different Rahkshi powers. He dissolved into three semiconscious Toa.The Toa rolled out of the way feebly as the Rahkshi continued to concentrate on them. Then something changed. The Rahkshi of Laser Vision and two of the Kaita stopped their attack and turned. With a surge of sudden hope, the Toa jumped up and got ready to run. Then they froze, metaphorically then literally. For as they got up they looked upon a Toa of Ice. He was clad in extravagant but soiled white and silver armor. He carried a spear, with which he cast a blast of cold that encased Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam in a layer of ice. The attack had seemed almost effortless, but he did not have time to follow up on it. The Toa could not move, but they could just barely see what had him so occupied. A new side had entered the battle. Judging by their appearance, they were Dark Hunters. The Toa of Ice jumped into the air, somersaulting and landing in the midst of the regrouping Rahkshi, which remained fused into Kaita. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam now had the Rahkshi and the enemy Toa on one side and the Dark Hunters on the other.“We've got you this time, Zima,” said one of the Dark Hunters, addressing the Toa of Ice.“This is a waste,” said Zima monotonously. “But you are irreparably defective and must be scrapped. Know that your remains will be put to better uses.”“We're not going to end up as experiment material for your Makuta, you freak!” retorted another Hunter, and the battle between the factions began.Imlen and his friends were beaten and exhausted, but he knew that the arrival of the Dark Hunters had given them another chance. He stretched out with his elemental power and with it he encompassed the ice entrapping the three of them. In milliseconds, the ice melted, then boiled, then ionized. He gathered the water plasma around his staff and launched it at the face of the nearest Rahkshi Kaita. His companions supported him. Paqyar entangled the Rahkshi of Laser Vision long enough for a Dark Hunter to destroy it. Vilam shocked another Kaita, and as Dark Hunter attacks pounded it, it stumbled and reformed into three individual Rahkshi. One more of these was promptly taken out by the Dark Hunters, but the Hunters' victory was not assured. Zima, if that was the Toa of Ice's name, had managed to block or evade every attack. One Dark Hunter knocked an entire Rahkshi Kaita aside and charged him, but the Toa of Ice calmly leveled his spear and froze him in his tracks. Then his spearhead vibrated and released a sonic blast. The intense sound waves shattered the frozen warrior into pieces, ice, armor, and all.The other three Toa decided that they had lingered for too long. As they attempted to flee, Zima turned to them and released another blast of cold. Imlen countered, and for a moment there was a deadlock between heat and cold. Then Zima overpowered Imlen, and ice began to envelope the Toa. But they were ready this time, and broke free. The Rahkshi of Magnetism seized the Toa again, but was interrupted by a Dark Hunter while another three Dark Hunters engaged Zima. These Dark Hunters were skilled, but there were only seven of them, plus the eighth that had been killed by Zima. Soon another Hunter fell, drained to death by a Rahkshi of Hunger. By now a second Kaita had split apart and one of the Rahkshi forming it had been destroyed. As the battle raged, the Toa fled. Just as they thought they would make it, one of the Rahkshi noticed them and attacked unnoticed from behind. A wave of energy from its staff washed over the Toa, sending them into a deep sleep. It seemed they were not fated to escape.Review

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#12 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 11 2012 - 11:43 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twelve==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen awoke as he bounced roughly. He found he was being carried over someone's shoulder, and his hands were tied. Whoever was carrying him seemed to be a rather large being. Imlen's first instinct was to struggle, but he forced himself to go limp and wait. His captors were speaking among themselves.“What do you mean, we're not taking them back to base with us?” the being carrying Imlen was saying.“I mean we're going to get them to a safe place and let them go,” said a voice that seemed familiar to Imlen somehow.“Are you mad?” said the first being. “Letting Toa roam free? If he found out, Bulwark would...”Imlen suppressed the urge to shudder. He had heard whispers of that name. Allegedly, Bulwark was the Dark Hunter in charge of operations against the Makuta in the area. As his code name implied, he was said to be like a walking one-being fortress. Rumors claimed Bulwark was three bio tall and clad in red armor, which he may have painted to attract attention to himself. Imlen did not know if the massacre at Kara-Naja had been at his direct order, but would not be surprised if that was the case. Either way, he was not eager to meet him.“They'll do more damage to our enemies than to us,” insisted the familiar voice.“Maybe at first,” said the other.“Do you think it would be wiser to bring them alive into the center of our operations? They are beaten and bound for now, but Toa are never easy to keep as prisoners. In fact, the one you are carrying is awake right now,” the second being pointed out, and Imlen caught his breath.“Bulwark has the highest authority here,” said the Dark Hunter carrying Imlen, apparently not caring that the Toa of Plasma was awake. “Something like Toa running around in the middle of our war is something he needs to make a judgment on personally.”“Yet I outrank you. You're not even really an operative, which is why you don't have a code name, Tehen. You're just a mercenary. A grunt. Cannon-fodder. And I say we will let them go, once we get out of Makuta territory. That is my order, and I will accept responsibility for it.”“Fine,” growled Tehen. “When Bulwark executes you for your blunder, maybe I'll get your job. Then we'll see who's the grunt. Of course, it won't be you either, because you'll be dead.”“I think he'll understand,” said the other Dark Hunter, sighing at Tehen's poor attempt at humor. “Do you have any complaints, Boramfi?”There was silence. Imlen risked looking around, and saw the Dark Hunter leader carrying Paqyar. He realized why that Hunter had sounded familiar. It was the Vortixx they had encountered earlier. The one that must have been Boramfi was carrying Vilam. He stared ahead silently, ignoring the Vortixx.“Boramfi, answer me when I address you,” said the Vortixx.“You're the boss, can't argue with that,” said Boramfi finally. “However, I just came up with a third option.”Imlen heard a sudden whoosh and saw a white blur. Boramfi was running back the way they had come with supernatural speed. The other two Hunters shouted and attacked him, throwing knives and launching Kanoka, but he was already far out of range. In seconds, he was kio away. Imlen realized at once what had happened. Boramfi had betrayed his companions in hopes of getting a reward from the Brotherhood for turning Vilam in. It was bold to betray the Dark Hunters only to depend on the generosity – and the mercy – of the Makuta, but Imlen could admit that if the deserter was rewarded well, it would encourage others to do the same. That could easily solve the Brotherhood's Toa problem. Of course, he had no intention of allowing the double-crossing mercenary to deliver Vilam. He kicked Tehen to get his attention and spoke up.“If you're planning to let us go, now's a good time,” he said.“To save your friend?” said the Vortixx, and he laughed bitterly. “Too late for that, even if you have a Mask of Speed of your own.”“I need to try,” said Imlen firmly.“Alright,” sighed the Vortixx. “I was hoping you'd do more damage to the Brotherhood instead of just running off to die, but at least if you do die, Tehen will stop bothering me about it.”“How about you come along?” offered Imlen. He wasn't eager to work with these thugs, but he would need all the help he could get.“No thanks. You may have noticed all but three of us were killed trying to take out Zima,” said the Vortixx as he woke Paqyar and set him down. “I don't feel like rushing back there. Besides, there's a good chance the Brotherhood's already executed your Toa of Lightning on the spot.”“What?” mumbled Paqyar sleepily. “Where – executed Vilam? What's going on?”“The Dark Hunters... saved us,” said Imlen, hesitating to admit the strange fact.Tehen threw him to the ground roughly, and Imlen attempted to melt through his bonds. The linked cords were somehow resistant to his power, but Tehen sliced them apart for him. The Vortixx did the same for Paqyar.“But one of the mercs decided he'd get paid better for turning Vilam in to the Makuta,” continued Imlen as he yanked Paqyar over for emphasis. “These two curs won't help, so it's up to us.”“You're throwing your lives away,” called the Vortixx even as Imlen and Paqyar jogged away after Boramfi. “She's probably already dead.”“Don't pretend to care about our lives,” replied Imlen, and his eyes burned fiercely. “But if she's dead, then this will be for revenge. On the Brotherhood, and especially on your 'friend'.”

-----

Vilam woke up and saw the ground moving in a blur under her. Her wrists were tied together and someone was carrying her over her shoulder. She looked and saw it was a white and black-armored being with a crested head. He was bringing her somewhere quickly, and she wanted some answers before they arrived. She decided a quick shock would get the point across quickly enough. She directed her hands at her captor and released a blast of lightning, but her bonds absorbed the electricity harmlessly. She tried releasing it through the whole of her body, to the same effect. She yelled in her abductor's ear and kicked and struggled, but as she expected that did not even slow whomever was carrying her.“No use struggling, Toa,” he said. “In a few seconds you'll be with the Brotherhood.”It was foolish of him to declare that. Vilam had suspected from the moment she had awoken that she was going somewhere she did not want to be, and he had just confirmed it. This time instead of pounding on his armor and squirming uselessly, she kicked hard at his face, throwing her momentum behind the blow. His mask went flying off, and immediately they began to slow to a normal running place. Her captor growled and threw her down, and she twisted and jumped to her feet. The white-armored being probably regretted not tying her ankles too. But it looked like he was planning for it to not matter, as he leveled a projectile launcher of some sort at Vilam. She dodged a colored sphere that hit the ground behind her and turned into a splash of liquid. He fired again and again Vilam dodged. He snarled and tackled her, and she did her best to get away with her hands still tied. Even without a Kanohi, her opponent was still strong, but she managed to twist out from underneath him before he could harm her.“I'm sure they'd rather have me bring you in alive,” he said as he aimed his launcher and took out a sword. “But they'd probably kill you anyway, and I think bringing your corpse in as proof of my deed will be good enough for them.”“You're not a Brotherhood servant,” she deduced. “What makes you think they won't lock up or execute you too?”The crested being didn't answer, but all Vilam wanted was to distract him. It worked, and as he hesitated for a fraction of a second, Vilam looked around for something to help her. Her gaze fell upon his Mask of Speed, which had fallen to the ground about five bio away. She ran towards it, dodging the salvo of spheres he fired in her direction. She figured that she could move her hands enough to put it on. But she had not learned to use Masks of Power yet. She allowed that doubt to slow her for just too long, and one of the spheres struck her. Its shell faded as it impacted, splashing an orange liquid over her. Instantly she felt weak, as if her physical strength had been drained. Vilam endeavored to keep running, and a thought occurred to her. She wondered if she had not learned to use her Kanohi simply because it was only useful in a situation she had not yet been in. That idea gave her strength, and she made it to the mask.Just then she heard the approach of flying Rahkshi. Quickly, she bent over and picked it up, then held it up to her face and used it to push her original mask off. She held onto that mask and willed the Mask of Speed to activate. For a moment, nothing happened, and she narrowly dodged another sphere of liquid. She heard the Rahkshi land next to her abductor, and just then she felt the power of the mask surge through her. She ran faster than she ever had before, speeding away from the one who had captured her and leaving him at the mercy of the Rahkshi. She did not expect them to show him any, as he had nothing to offer them and had no other excuse for being in Brotherhood territory. But that was his problem. He should have thought of that before trying to keep a Toa prisoner. He had not even done a good job of securing her, and Vilam was curious about that. She could not guess why, but was grateful for it. Suddenly she paused. Everything was a blur to her as she ran, but she thought she had seen a green and an orange blur on the horizon. Then she saw she was correct, as she spotted Paqyar and Imlen waving to her.“Vilam! You're alive,” said Paqyar happily, helping her free her hands and giving her an affectionate fist-bump.“Fortunately, I am,” said Vilam, laughing lightly with relief. “Who was that guy, and how did you get here?”“The surviving Dark Hunters from that battle with the Rahkshi and the Toa of Ice captured us. One of them decided he'd get a better deal for delivering you to the Makuta, and he bolted. Hey, is that his mask? Looks like his method of speedy delivery backfired on him.”“Right, and congratulations on figuring out the mask,” said Paqyar.“Thanks, I still don't know how I did it though. And I can't get this one to work,” she said, holding up her original mask.“How about I try wearing it for a while?” offered Paqyar. “Maybe I'll find out what it's for.”“Sure, no problem,” said Vilam, handing over the mask. “But how did you escape the other Dark Hunters?”“That's the weird part...” began Imlen as Paqyar gave Vilam his Mask of Fusion. “They let us go.”“Let you go?” repeated Vilam incredulously.“That's right,” said Paqyar. “And one of them was that Vortixx we met at Kara-Naja.”“Strange. There's more to him than he reveals, and I'm not talking about concealed weaponry,” said Vilam.“I know what you mean,” said Imlen. “But what we need to figure out now is: where are we?”The Toa looked around and got their bearings. They found they were in former Matoran of Plasma territory at the western end of the mountains, where the ridge turned into a series of hills. In fact, they were not far from Kara-Naja and Yotvis's Home, where they had started their fateful trek south a couple of weeks ago. The Dark Hunters had been taking them away from Makuta territory, which meant that the Hunters must have still occupied the fortress, or completely razed it. In any case, the Brotherhood did not have a presence in this land, but the Dark Hunters likely did. Vilam did not expect the rest of them to be as helpful as the Vortixx. They considered heading back to the jungle, but decided to head southwest instead. Perhaps from the north they would make it into the land to the west, and find if Vibrak or the De-Matoran had gone that way. Vilam put on the Mask of Fusion and managed to stuff the Mask of Speed with her carried belongings. Then the Toa oriented themselves and traveled away from the hills and towards the border of Yrenta.There were hills at the border in the north too, but they were smaller and less desolate than the ones in the south. Their terrain was also more well-known, as the Ta-Matoran had lived beyond them in the northwest, near a volcano. The Matoran of Fire lived in isolation, but they had been a part of the greater community of Yrenta until about two and a half millennia ago. The Toa considered visiting them, and decided that maybe they would, depending on how far south they had to go to get away from the Dark Hunters. The Dark Hunter force was much smaller than the Brotherhood's, and the Toa saw none of them as they traveled. But they knew the Hunters were keeping this land free of the Makuta's minions. Vilam wondered if there was any particular reason the Dark Hunters were here, besides attacking their enemy the Brotherhood of Makuta. Rumors she had heard said they wanted to punish the Makuta for some transgression, and it was possible the Matoran of Yrenta had just been unlucky enough to have their homeland chosen as a battleground.She could not see what the Makuta wanted with this land either. The Makuta of the region – Teskor, his name was, she remembered – had been around for a while, but she did not know why. There were many Matoran laborers for the taking, she supposed. The Northern Continent was the most populated island she could think of, though it was not as technologically developed as Xia or Metru Nui. The island capital of the universe had been cut off from the rest of the world since the year of the Great Cataclysm, making a bad era even worse. But Yrenta had declined technologically over thousands of years, and so the lack of imports from Metru Nui were no great loss. And this made Vilam wonder. She did not know what the Makuta were planning, but wondered why the Brotherhood did not simply amass their forces and conquer Xia, Nynrah, and other vital locations. With exclusive access to Xian and Nynrah technology, consequent conquest of the universe would be that much easier for them.Vilam realized why the Brotherhood had not done so millennia ago. It was benevolence, or more likely, the pretense of it. They had long been considered loyal servants of Mata Nui. She was not sure how much of that had been true, but now the Makuta had openly expressed their malice and ambition. Vilam and her friends had not thought of it much, but she realized that their quest to free their home was a conflict with a universe-spanning organization, and before or after that quest was complete, they would be drawn into a larger conflict against it for the fate of that universe.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Apr 16 2012 - 12:03 AM.

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#13 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 13 2012 - 12:45 AM

End of YrentaChapter Thirteen==Lands West of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa had made it. That was, they were beyond where the borders of Yrenta had ever been. That did not, however, mean they were safe. They stumbled upon a Visorak patrol, and though they eliminated all of the bug soldiers, this proved that the Makuta forces had a presence this far west. They turned more towards the south, heading in the direction of the region just west of the southwestern hills they had failed to cross. The Mask of Speed only affected the one wearing it, but Vilam was able to put it to good use by scouting ahead for the team. Paqyar did not like letting her go ahead alone, but she was doing fine, reporting the position of enemies ahead so the Toa could change their course. Still, all three of them agreed Paqyar had the best vision, and so he persuaded her to let him use the mask for a time.The land he scouted was not particularly fertile, but it was less barren than the hills at the southern border. The Toa meandered slightly east and mostly west to avoid Visorak and soldiers. The Brotherhood patrols Paqyar saw could not catch him when he had his Mask of Speed activated, and he made sure he was never followed as he returned to his friends. That evening, Paqyar saw the glimmer of water on the horizon. He went to investigate and found a small Ga-Matoran village beside a pond. He stayed far enough away to avoid the Matoran from noticing him, then went to tell his friends what he had seen. The Toa debated whether to stop at the village. It was getting late, and their only shelter was what they carried with them. Also, any information the Ga-Matoran could give would be useful. On the other hand, they still wanted to keep their existence as secret as they could, and did not wish to put the Matoran in danger by taking refuge in their homes.In the end, they decided to have one of them go ahead and speak to the Matoran alone. Imlen was chosen, as he was technically their leader, though he did not always act like it. He was also the most charismatic of them, which was a major reason he had been leader of that band of Matoran rebels and later Toa in the first place. Paqyar gave Imlen the mask of speed, and the two of them promised Vilam they would give it back when Imlen was done with it. Paqyar indicated the direction as Imlen put on the mask, and the Toa of Plasma ran off. The other two Toa waited, taking turns standing guard while the other sat and rested. Imlen soon came to the edge of the village and stopped. Several Matoran saw him, and ran off to gather the others. They all looked very excited, but Imlen could not tell if they were excited in a good way or a bad way. He continued towards the village center, and a small crowd that seemed to be the village's entire population formed in front of him. The one Matoran in the front and center spoke.“Toa of Plasma,” she greeted him with a miniscule bow. “Come inside, quickly, before they see you.”“I'm sorry if my presence puts you in danger,” he said he was led into the one hut in the village big enough for him to stand up in.“We're already in enough danger,” said the Matoran once they were inside. “We're lucky to be allowed to live here, but once in a while the Brotherhood recruits us for labor, and less of us return each time. And they also help themselves to the pond, letting their beasts of war pollute it. That's probably why they let us stay – so we can clean the water for next time they arrive. We're more fortunate than most others around, but I'm happy to see a sign of coming change.”“I'm not sure how I can help,” said Imlen. “I cannot fight an army, and showing resistance would just get you all enslaved or killed.”“Perhaps, but perhaps if we cause them enough trouble they will decide it's not worth it and leave the others alone,” said the Ga-Matoran.“Or torment them in retribution after slaughtering you,” argued Imlen. “Something must be done, but... but it's not time for Matoran to stand up yet. In fact, I need to keep a low profile. Actually... I have two friends waiting for me.”“Well, go get them,” said the Matoran. “I would like to speak with all of you at once. But make sure you are not seen!”Imlen left and ran back to his friends. He gave the Mask of Speed back to Vilam, and she put it away. Without the Kanohi Kakama the trek back took two hours, and it was late at night when the three of them arrived. To their relief, none of them had seen any Makuta forces on the way. Still, they quickly scurried into the large hut and shut the flap door behind them when they arrived. The Ga-Matoran Imlen had spoken to, who seemed to be the village leader, was waiting for them.“Greetings Toa,” she said, standing up as they entered. “Allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Ikemisu, spokeswoman for the village council.”“I am Imlen, and this is Vilam, and this is Paqyar,” Imlen introduced them. “You say there is a council, but there are so few of you here.”“The council is only three members, plus me,” she explained. “We choose new leaders every three years. And don't worry, I cannot make important decisions for the others, but I do have authority to grant sanctuary to strangers, at least for a short time.”“You are still taking a big risk by housing us,” said Vilam. “Even though we did not see any enemies around.”“Yes, and we really should get to the point,” said Imlen. “We are searching for a tribe of De-Matoran that disappeared from our homeland. Do you know of any in this area?”“I have heard of some, in fact,” said Ikemisu. “Now, none of us have ever met them, mind you, but once a Matoran trader, all too eager to tell tales of his travels, mentioned a hidden De-Matoran village to the west. At the time, we scolded him for revealing the secrets of others, but I could not help but be curious, and so I still remember after all these years.”“What did he say about it?” asked Paqyar.“Only that it was almost directly west and a little north of here, and that it was hidden,” she said, and chuckled softly. “We stopped him from saying any more. But don't worry, if you get close enough, the Matoran of Sonics will hear you, and welcome you if they will.”“Good point,” said Vilam. “Can you tell us anything about the terrain there, or any landmarks?”“I've never been there, so I can't tell you what the landmarks look like. But several kio in that direction the land grows more lush,” said Ikemisu. “I've heard there are ravines hidden among the forests there. Sounds like a good place to hide a village to me.”“It does,” said Imlen. “Now, we have been traveling all day, and I don't mean to trouble you...”“Say no more,” said Ikemisu. “You may rest here for the night, as long as you are careful to not lead enemies to us.”The Toa gratefully accepted. They unpacked their bedrolls on the hut floor and went to sleep.

-----

Makuta Teskor listened to the report and dismissed the messenger. Zima had apprehended the enemy Toa, but had been interrupted by Dark Hunters in the attempt. The Toa of Ice and his Rahkshi companions had defeated the Dark Hunters, but failed to kill them all, and had allowed the survivors to escape with the unconscious Toa rebels. Technically, he had been unsuccessful in his mission, at least so far, but the Makuta would not punish him. Zima was too valuable to harm for one failure, and Teskor knew he already did his duties to the utmost of his abilities. Besides, Zima's quarry had been captured by the Dark Hunters instead. If the unfortunate Toa were not executed, they would probably be locked up in Kara-Naja. The Dark Hunters would perhaps ransom them, but that would take time, even if the pathetic villagers were able to scrounge up enough money to satisfy the Hunters. Regardless, the Toa had been forced to run, and in doing so had run right into the arms of another enemy. Teskor decided he had been worried for nothing. These Toa were irrelevant.Still, if there were Toa prisoners at Kara-Naja – prisoners that could escape, or be released – that was one more reason to retake the fortress. Better reasons included that Brotherhood forces were divided with Dark Hunters controlling that area, and that by retaking it, the Makuta could turn the tables and make things even harder for the small force of Dark Hunters. A better reason still was the rumor that a leader among the Dark Hunters, one called Bulwark, had taken the fort as his base of operations. That he, a leader of thugs with delusions of military discipline, would set up a permanent base in Makuta property indicated his boldness. The fact that in the weeks since, Teskor's forces had failed to recapture the fortress indicated his skill and that of his subordinates. Teskor allowed himself to feel impressed. Mere centuries ago, he would never have admitted that to himself, but now he did not mind at all when an opponent gave him such a feeling. He found it made defeating them much more satisfying in the end.He would need help, however. He expected if he kept throwing his forces against the fortress, eventually the Dark Hunters would be killed one by one. But that would be a waste, and if losing a fortress to the Dark Hunters had not been noticed enough to damage his reputation among his brothers, wasting an army to retake it surely would be. Instead, he saw the opportunity to turn it into a glorious victory. He would need to borrow the aid of his fellow Makuta, but he was confident that, if he played carefully, he could take most of the credit. That credit would be worth a lot when it was Zima who led the charge and defeated Bulwark personally. A Toa achieving such a victory for the Brotherhood would make for very good publicity, Teskor decided as he teleported to Destral.

-----

The next morning the Toa got up and prepared to leave immediately. They thanked Ikemisu and the other Ga-Matoran for their hospitality, and she reminded them to be wary of falling in ravines in the location they planned to search. She told them that area was known to be dangerous to travelers, because of both the terrain and wildlife. The Toa thanked her once again for the advice, and they left. In the morning daylight, they could see for kio in all directions, and saw nobody else, except the Matoran of the pond village they were leaving behind. By early afternoon, they could see a large forest on the horizon, or perhaps several small forests, each less than a kio apart. They headed for the northern half of the forests as Ikemisu had advised, and a few hours later they were walking under the treetops. The Toa breathed the fresh air deeply. They could not tell exactly how they could sense it, but this land felt refreshingly free of corruption.That did not mean it was free of danger, however. After walking through the woods for almost two hours, they were attacked by a troop of some sort of Rahi apes. As the Rahi descended upon them from the trees, Vilam shocked them in an attempt to convince the beasts to leave them alone, but still the Rahi attacked. Some remained in the branches to hurl fruit, while the rest attempted to maul the Toa. Vilam and Imlen fended them off in melee combat, and Paqyar decided this would be a good opportunity for target practice. He took out his bow. A well-aimed blunt arrow would knock them out of the trees. These Rahi were too tough to be injured by such a fall, but it could knock them out, or at least daze them. Paqyar's first shot missed, but his second hit. The arrow bounced off the ape's armor uselessly and fell to the ground.Paqyar glanced over to where the arrow had landed, wondering if he could reuse it, and he felt a strange sensation coming from his mask. He concentrated, and the arrow flew off the ground and into his outstretched hand. He tried again, drawing the arrow farther back this time. This time it hit hard enough to fragment on impact and dented the Rahi's armor, causing it to tumble out of the tree. Paqyar tried to use his mask to retrieve the pieces of the arrow, and found he was only able to retrieve one piece. He tried to pull the other fragments to him, but that did not work. Next he tried it with a rock, knocking another ape down with a quick, hard throw. He focused on the stone when it hit the ground and found he was able to retrieve it telekinetically as well. He launched a few more volleys of arrows, then decided to finish the easy way. At his command, the tree branches moved, throwing the remaining Rahi apes off of them.“I figured this mask out, Vilam,” Paqyar announced when the battle was over. “It allows the user to retrieve projectiles telekinetically, but only ones you've already launched, and only one at a time. You don't use projectiles, so that must be why you never learned how to use it.”“That would explain it,” said Vilam.“It does make sense. Honestly, I expected you to learn how to use the masks first, as you're the smartest of us,” Paqyar said, and Vilam laughed modestly. “Say, do you mind if I keep it? You can use keep the Mask of Fusion in exchange, of course.”“Certainly. My old mask won't be much use to me, but it sounds perfect for you,” said Vilam.The Toa continued their trek, leaving a troop of sore and unconscious apes behind. A little later, Paqyar barked a warning and held his arms in front of his companions. He pointed out where there was a sudden drop nearly hidden by overhanging vegetation. The Toa had found the first of the ravines Ikemisu had mentioned. They descended carefully, and found it was much more spacious at the bottom than the view from above indicated. Still, it was too small to hide a community of Matoran. They climbed out and searched the surrounding area, including another, larger ravine. This one was also devoid of Matoran presence. They searched the rest of the forest, climbing into and out of ravines and glens, until it was late at night, but decided to not stop yet. They were not yet tired enough to want to stop, and they had the feeling the Matoran they were looking for were not far.But then they were forced to rely on their lightstones for illumination, which attracted predators and Rahi that were annoyed by the light. After fighting off a few different kinds of beasts, they decided it was a good time to stop. None of them wanted to sleep, but during their lives as Matoran renegades, they had trained themselves to sleep whenever the time for it came. In a life on the run, one often could not choose when it was time to rest and when it was time to act. They found a small area that had no signs of dangerous Rahi inhabiting it, and took shelter between the roots of a large tree. As usual, they took turns guarding the other two as they slept.There were undisturbed the whole time. In fact, each of them noticed that it was eerily silent. No birds or insects or any other Rahi made a sound throughout the night. The Toa discussed that fact in the morning and concluded that they were indeed close. De-Matoran always chose to live in quiet places, because of their sensitive hearing. The Matoran of Sonics living in Yrenta had chosen to dwell in an open plain so they could see and hear any approaching threats. The bottom of a narrow valley would be a very different place to live, but times were different now. The Toa had never seen a place such as this, so verdant and yet scarred with numerous chasms that did not appear to be the work of erosion. Vilam and Paqyar were just discussing how oddly broken the ground was when the ground gave way under Imlen and he fell.Review

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#14 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 15 2012 - 01:28 AM

End of YrentaChapter Fourteen==Lands West of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen landed with a thud. He had a badly twisted ankle but was otherwise unharmed. He managed to stand up and reached for the rim of the pit. It was just out of reach, but the other Toa came to pull him out. When he was back on the surface, he inspected his injured ankle while the other two Toa looked at the trap. It was obviously just that, and not a natural hole. It had been disguised by a mat of earth held together by the grass growing in it. Curiously, this patch of false ground was attached to a vine, which had made a peculiar sound when the trap was sprung. If there were any De-Matoran in the area, they would have heard and recognized it. And they were quick to respond. While Imlen was sitting and Paqyar and and Vilam were examining the trap, a Matoran of Sonics came forth. He carried a spear, which he held boldly in front of him. He had been hiding somewhere nearby, but the Toa could not tell where. That was good, they supposed, that the Matoran had learned to be so stealthy. The Toa stood up, though Imlen was a little unsteady, and addressed the Matoran quietly.“Greetings, De-Matoran,” whispered Imlen.“Hello, Toa,” replied the De-Matoran nervously, still holding his weapon at the ready.“You can put that away,” said Imlen. “We're friends, and we've been looking for you.”“For me?” said the Matoran, confused. “Why?”“For your entire village,” said Vilam. “It is here, isn't it?”“So you know, then,” sighed the Matoran. “How did you find us?”“It wasn't easy. But don't worry,” said Paqyar. “We're allies, as he said.”“What do you want with us, though? We are only Matoran.”“You left Yrenta centuries ago, and we would like to know why, and what has happened since,” said Imlen. “Also, we wonder if you know what happened to Toa Vibrak in the end.”“Toa Vibrak?” said the Matoran, tilting his head to the side. “It has been a long time since we've had a Toa Vibrak. But I think our Turaga Vibrak would like to speak with you.”The Toa exchanged glances. So, Vibrak was alive, and had become a Turaga! The Matoran led them a short distance to a slope leading down the middle of a small chasm. As they entered, they found it was much larger inside, almost like a cave. The slope was rather steep, and Imlen stumbled as they descended. His friends caught him, and he told the Matoran about the minor injury he had sustained falling into the trap. The villager flashed Imlen an apologetic look, then nodded and showed them the safest places to step on the way down. The De-Matoran moved with barely a sound, but despite their best efforts the footsteps of the Toa echoed through the gorge. They could see several other De-Matoran below look up and stare. They were surprised that an entire village could fit in such a place, even a small, narrow one. Most of the buildings were small huts, which formed rows of two or three each that spanned the gorge's bottom from wall to wall with room to walk between them. There were a few larger buildings, and in some places the Toa could see light coming from windows in the chasm's walls.“Turaga Vibrak should be around there,” whispered their guide when they reached the bottom, and he pointed to one of the larger buildings. “I will take you to see him now.”Imlen nodded, and the Toa found they could move more quietly on the level ground at the bottom. No doubt they were loud enough for everyone in the village to hear them, but the De-Matoran looked less annoyed now, and now just curious. A few of them went back to whatever they had been doing before. Paqyar noticed something strange in their behavior. After studying them for a moment, he realized it almost looked like they were moving slightly to an unseen rhythm. No one was actually dancing, however, and the Toa of the Green decided he must have been mistaken. But as they came close to the building their guide had indicated, he thought he heard something just on the edge of his audio perception. Still, he half dismissed it as his imagination until the De-Matoran led the three Toa inside and to a porch at the back of the building.A villager was sitting on the steps, facing away from the Toa. He was strumming on a stringed instrument the Toa could not clearly hear until they were right behind him. He must have heard them coming like everyone else, but he chose to remain seated until that moment. Then he got up carefully and turned. As he stood before them, the Toa could see that he was no Matoran. They knew at once he must have been Turaga Vibrak. The Turaga studied them in turn, looking from their feet to their masks then back down again. A faint smile flickered beneath his mask, but quickly vanished and he grunted regretfully. He spoke, and his voice was soft in tone and volume, yet rough in an aged sort of way.“Hello, Toa,” he said, politely yet grimly. “You have come a long way to find us.”“Yes, and we have come looking for answers,” said Imlen. “I am Imlen, and this is Paqyar, and this is Vilam. Now, first: the De-Matoran left our homeland, and you led them, didn't you? Why?”“Because it was too dangerous there, obviously,” said Vibrak. “I expect you are on a quest to free your homeland – my old homeland. That will be difficult, if not impossible, but I suppose I should not discourage you. Very well. It seems to me you have already deduced much, but I will tell you briefly how my brothers died, and the disaster struck, and I led my people away. Do you recall when we disappeared from Yrenta?”“Kryaju was killed two years before,” said Imlen with a nod. “So it was you, Spiileus, and Lidon who went underground. We found the place where you confronted that titan of fire, and we found the bodies of your brothers.”“Yes, Lidon was the first to die, and Spiileus soon followed,” said the Turaga sadly. “I would have been the second to die, had it not been for the late Toa – Turaga – of Earth. You see, although only Lidon and the giant were killed immediately, all of us were mortally wounded in the quake. I was injured more severely than Spiileus, so I could do nothing to resist as he poured his inner Toa energy into me, healing my wounds. But we had achieved our Toa destinies at that moment, and it was time for both of us to become Turaga, as I had expended my Toa power long ago. His healing saved me, but I could not do the same for him. All I could do was try to drag him to safety, but his injuries and the strain of the transformation were too much for him, and he soon died.”“I see now what you meant on his epitaph,” said Vilam. “A shame it remained so hidden.”“I am so sorry I did not announce what had happened,” said Vibrak. “But I knew something terrible had happened, and that there was nothing I could do to stop what would follow. And so I secretly traveled back to my people and led them away. I knew I could not do the same for all the other villages, but that I could trust the De-Matoran to keep to themselves.”“In some ways I wish you hadn't. But I know that your people would have been targeted by the Makuta if you had remained in Yrenta with them,” said Imlen. “And at least you were able to bring them with you in your exile. Speaking of which, we have found Turaga Morok, alive, but Turaga Siok has disappeared, and may have left Yrenta.”“And Morok managed to go into isolation without abandoning his homeland!” said Paqyar, raising his voice, and many nearby De-Matoran stared at him and covered their ears. “Don't you think if you had worked together, you would have brought new Toa to Yrenta much sooner? Instead, we found the way on our own, and it might be five hundred years too late. We can't fight the Makuta – and his Visorak, and his Rahkshi, and some crazy Toa he has working for him – they all chased us out of Yrenta!”“Please, quiet,” urged Vibrak. “You are right, and I am sorry. I was thinking only of fleeing, and saving those I cared about most. I realize that hopeless, selfish thinking does no good when it allows a shadow to flourish that may consume us all. I mean, we are safe here, for now, but for how long? Long ago I came to realize that we cannot hide forever, but all I could do was wait and hope – for new heroes, such as you. But you have another point, Toa of the Green. Even if the three of you were to become skilled enough to best Makuta Teskor, as Tanu, Morok, and Siok did, it would not be enough. He has too many minions, and brothers that will avenge him. You will need to plan carefully, for removing him will not free Yrenta.”“You knew that the war against the Dark Hunters has come to Yrenta, right?” asked Vilam, and Vibrak nodded. “Do you think we could play those two against each other some how? The Hunters are after revenge. If we could help them get it, and drive the Brotherhood from Yrenta, that would be a step in the right direction. The Dark Hunters are not rulers. They might try to extort us somehow, but if we made it so that Yrenta was not worth keeping, for either side...”“If we make trouble for the Dark Hunters, they will kill us just as eagerly as the Makuta,” said Imlen.“Our lives might be what it takes,” said Vilam. “But the Hunters are not as well equipped for making the lives of every Matoran miserable.”“Unless they have a way to kill them all at once or something,” said Paqyar.“Toa Vilam has some good ideas,” said Vibrak. “Pitting two enemies against each other is a good way to have one defeated and the other weakened. But Toa are not manipulators, not like these villains. You have already left Yrenta, and this conflict spans the universe. I would advise you to not only rely on mutual enemies, and to look for more allies of your own.”“Like who?” said Paqyar. “We can't drag Matoran into this, and there aren't any races that live around here.”“You mean other Toa,” said Imlen. “But where can we find them?”“I do not know exactly, but we hear rumors of some passing through every few decades, sometimes more frequently,” said Vibrak. “None have come to us, before you, of course. I suggest you travel the continent, assisting the locals when you can, to gather allies.”“I don't like that idea,” said Imlen. “Leaving Yrenta for a short time is one thing, but a life of wandering the continent? I won't abandon my homeland.”“I agree,” said Paqyar. “Our goal is to make life better for the Matoran of Yrenta, and I don't see how not being there will help them.”“Will your presence there be of any help?” argued Vibrak. “Think, Paqyar. You three cannot fulfill your quest on your own. And consider the others out there that need your help. Matoran everywhere need the protection of Toa. Your duty is not only to your homeland.”The Toa and the Turaga debated about this a little longer, but the outcome was clear from the beginning. Imlen and Paqyar were adamant about returning to Yrenta immediately, and Vilam was undecided. She wanted to stay for a while, days if necessary, and give the matter more consideration, but the other Toa would not allow it. And so, after spending the night there, allowing the Toa of Plasma's ankle to heal, the Toa set off. Vibrak tried to discourage them each time he spoke, but it was no use. When the time came to say goodbye, he mumbled it, then sat down on the steps again and began to play another song. The Toa could not hear the notes, but they noticed a mood of sadness and regret permeate the village. The De-Matoran seemed to be mourning the loss of their would-be heroes already. Imlen was determined to prove them wrong.

-----

Makuta Teskor teleported himself and his reinforcements into the fortress in which he was marshaling his legion in Yrenta. There the units he had acquired from his fellow Makuta merged with the ranks of his own forces. Along with a few platoons of soldiers and Visorak, the additional units consisted of four Exo-Toa, large machines that could function autonomously or as power armor for Toa, and four of Makuta Anecrax's best Rahkshi, donated to replace those Zima had lost to the Dark Hunters. Teskor knew that his brothers had not let him 'borrow' these units out of generosity. Every one of them had ulterior motives. Some of them were more dedicated to Makuta Teridax's Plan than others, but most of them were ultimately dedicated to themselves. Teskor knew that well, as he was one of that majority. He arranged his forces so that none of the borrowed platoons had a vital role, and so that if any of them, Visorak, Rahkshi, soldier or Exo-Toa, tried anything funny, they would be easily eliminated. A mutiny by them would still cause trouble, but he had done his best to minimize the risk, and he doubted the Makuta he had enlisted the aid of would betray him in such a way.“Warriors of the Brotherhood of Makuta!” he addressed them once the legion was assembled. “You know what you are here for. The criminal syndicate known as the Dark Hunters has dared to take and hold one of our fortresses. They are stubborn, and have refused to yield to our initial attempts to retake the fortress. But today the Brotherhood of Makuta will work together to cast them out! And let me ask you something. How many times have you clashed with Toa? Not many? Well, they are much less common than they used to be, and with good reason. These so-called heroes, once our reluctant allies, have long stood against us. They honor an absurd Code above the need to do what must be done, and would prevent the Makuta – and all of you – from taking what is rightfully ours. But though most Toa regrettably hold to these beliefs, a few have remained loyal. One of these is the elite Toa of Ice, my own personal Hagah, Toa Zima. And he will be your commander. He will raise the banner of the Makuta over Kara-Naja once again, and the many Toa that oppose us will see this and despair!”The legion cheered, but not as enthusiastically as Teskor would have liked. He knew that many of the soldiers were mercenaries, no less than the Dark Hunters were, and did not care much for the Makuta, as long as they got their pay. Also, being led by a Toa would be awkward for all of them, especially the Ukzokth. The goblins' numbers had dwindled, but they were cheap to replace, and so Teskor had begun to use them as expendable combatants. He had even released Grungzarg from stasis, rebuilt him, and reinstated him as leader of the horde. The towering Ukzokth champion would lead his people to war with the others, mounted on the back of a hideous beast. Attempts to do anything novel to the Steltian lieutenant had failed, although impressive alterations had been made to others of his kind. In the end, Teskor had decided to use a method of Makuta Mutran's and salvaged what was left of the subject's mind and body to create Grungzarg's mount.The only warriors that were not uncomfortable at all about Zima were the Exo-Toa, of course. The Exo-Toa were designed to be used by Toa, and they could be programmed to obey anyone. In fact, Makuta Teskor had reserved one of his own Exo-Toa for Zima. The animated armor was a big target and hindered elemental powers, but granted a Toa additional protection and immense strength, and their electro-rockets could shoot farther than Zima could launch ice. Teskor knew Zima would use the machine wisely, and discard it if necessary. He took the Toa of Ice aside to speak to him one last time before the Toa went to lead the legion forth.“Remember, the Dark Hunters may be holding your traitorous kin in the fortress,” he reminded Zima. “Have them killed. Do not allow them to escape.”“Yes, Master,” said Zima, bowing slightly. “To verify: primary objective is to eliminate the Dark Hunters in the fortress and the surrounding area. Secondary objective is to eliminate the Toa, if they are there. Tertiary objective is to leave the fortress as intact as possible while achieving the other two objectives. Correct?”“That is correct,” confirmed Teskor. “Do you remember how to operate an Exo-Toa?”“I do,” said Zima as he nodded.“Very well. And remember to be prepared for any trouble from the additional units I acquired,” said the Makuta. “They or the Makuta that sent them may be... defective.”“I will, Master,” said Zima.“Excellent,” said Teskor. “Now, go, lead our forces to battle.”Zima entered the specially marked Exo-Toa and took his place at the front of the legion. As the fortress's gate opened and his forces marched through it, Teskor reflected again on how the last thousand years had changed him. Before Zima had proven his worth, Teskor would have done anything (to others) to exterminate the Toa from the universe entirely. Long ago he had hated how he could never be the hero of the people he watched over and maintained the ecosystem for, because he did not have a Toa's selflessness, honor, and kindness, and knew he never would have. The disgraceful way the Makuta were skipped over in the common peoples' reverence for the powerful beings of the universe was still the original motivation for the Brotherhood's plans. But now Teskor knew to not let his jealousy blind him. He would have what he wanted, but he needed to plan carefully to get it, not angrily smash everything that stood in his way.Review

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#15 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 17 2012 - 12:23 AM

End of YrentaChapter Fifteen==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam had made their way back the way they had come, bypassing the Water village they had rested in three nights ago. On the afternoon of the second day, they had entered Yrenta. Strangely, they had encountered no Brotherhood forces or Dark Hunters the entire way, and there was not even a Visorak to be seen at the border. They walked east for several hours, hoping to meander around the fortresses as they had last time. As they approached the low mesa Kara-Naja was built on, they could see wisps of smoke and flashes of light in the distance. Once in a while, a barely perceptible tremor rumbled under their feet. There was a siege going on, and it looked to be a major battle. Imlen quickened his pace, and the other two did so as well to keep up with him.“It's the Brotherhood alright,” said Paqyar, who could see farther than other Toa. “And it looks like this time they might have brought enough strength to do the job... ten times over.”“It does look like overkill,” said Vilam as they came closer to the besieged fortress. “Dark Hunters are tough, but there's not many of them. Are you sure we should be getting closer, Imlen?”“This is our chance,” said Imlen, and he moved even faster. “I'm not calling those thugs friends, but... we'd better go help the Dark Hunters out, at least for now.”“If they don't kill us first,” Paqyar pointed out.“Right. Maybe we can help the Hunters take out that crazy Ice Toa or someone else important,” said Imlen.“But let's not charge right in,” said Vilam. “We don't want to rush into the midst of battle and get killed. I don't expect it, but it would be a big help if we could convince the Dark Hunters into letting us into the fort.”The Toa debated tactics as they jogged to the fortress. Before they could implement what little planning they had done, however, they were surprised ten bio from the walls. It appeared they were too late to help break the siege, as the Dark Hunters were jumping from the walls and scattering. This was not surprising, for the Hunters were too few in number to effectively defend the fortress, and the Brotherhood army seemed to outnumber them fifty to one. One group of fleeing mercenaries ran past the Toa, nearly trampling them. A group of Brotherhood warriors, consisting of Visorak, a few soldiers and a Rahkshi chased after the Hunters. The Toa acted then, calling for the Dark Hunters to stand their ground and unleashing an attack on their pursuers. A few of the braver Hunters turned to join the Toa, and that group of Brotherhood warriors was eliminated.“Thanks for the help, Toa, I guess,” said one of the Dark Hunters as most of the rest fled.“Yeah, well, we're here to hit the Brotherhood as hard as we can,” said Imlen. “Who's leading the attack?”“'Toa' Zima,” spat the Dark Hunter. “And there was a big one of those Ukzokth creatures, but I think he's dead now.”“Where is – look out!” said Vilam as another Rahkshi came and attacked.Imlen cursed as the other Dark Hunters fled and the one that had spoken with them was frozen in stasis after dodging only two attacks. The Toa did not give the Rahkshi of Stasis Field another chance. When it was destroyed, they broke the Dark Hunter free. He thanked them, but refused to accompany them. As he ran after his comrades, the Toa ran towards the fort. As the Dark Hunters were scattering, so were the Brotherhood forces in an attempt to cut them off or catch them. Also, the Brotherhood would not have had time to completely consolidate their hold of the fortress, and the Toa intended to take advantage of the situation to slip inside. That looked like it would not be so easy, however. Imlen melted a hole in the wall ahead, and a horde of Visorak and warriors poured out. Thinking quickly, he melted away the top of the wall there, so that molten rock poured down into the gap. That barely bought the Toa enough time to run to another side of the fortress. There they saw what they were looking for.A group of elite-looking Dark Hunters was holding position there, fending off the Brotherhood force while other, less capable mercenaries escaped. At the center of the action was the aptly-named Bulwark. He held a launcher the Toa did not recognize in one hand, and in the other he held a shield that projected a force field that deflected every attack. Dozens of Visorak, Rahkshi, Ukzokth, and Urshnolg carcasses littered the ground, along with dead Brotherhood soldiers and a couple wrecked Exo-Toa. Each time a living creature died in the fight, Bulwark's Kanohi glowed and pulled energy out of the fresh corpse, invigorating him. There were only a few dead Dark Hunters, but it looked like that would not last long. A sudden hail of energy bolts downed one more Dark Hunter, and a group of ten Rahkshi charged, led by a bounding Exo-Toa. A group of Visorak followed. The Exo-Toa was moving much more gracefully than the robots usually did, and when it slowed for a moment the Toa could see why. Zima was operating it.Zima, his Rahkshi, and the Visorak fell upon the Dark Hunter squad. By the time the Toa had charged into the battle, the Rahkshi had killed or disabled a few more of the Hunters, and Zima's Exo-Toa had mauled several others. The machine's armor seemed almost as impervious as Bulwark's force field. The Rahkshi and Visorak prevented the three Toa and the other Dark Hunters from interfering as Zima engaged Bulwark. An electro-rocket followed by a series of brutal strikes from the Exo-Toa's claw finished the gradual depletion of the titan's force field, causing it to fade, but by then the Exo-Toa had been nearly destroyed by the miniature rockets Bulwark had been launching at it. Zima took a step back, and in one fluid motion, he ejected from the ruined machine and over his opponent's head. As Bulwark turned, a Visorak launched a Rhotuka at his back, but the titan resisted its effects.As Bulwark and Zima sparred, the lone Visorak ran around the Dark Hunter and jumped onto his shield, dragging it down. Bulwark quickly threw the Rahi off and blasted it, but that left a fatal breach in his defenses. The Toa of Ice took the opportunity to lunge forward and stab him in the shoulder, causing his shield arm to go limp. He followed with a kick to the knee, and the Dark Hunter fell onto his back. To finish, Zima stepped onto Bulwark and plunged his spear under his opponent's chin. The Dark Hunter's mask was knocked off by the force, and the spear pierced his head. Bulwark was slain, and only two of the Dark Hunters that had stood with him were left, though along with their temporary Toa allies they had taken down many Visorak and six of the Rahkshi. Imlen and his friends knew was time for them to flee once again. Before Zima removed his spear from the dead Dark Hunter commander, the other Toa blasted him with a combined elemental attack and ran while he was distracted.“Run!” Imlen called as the Toa fled, dodging the attacks of the remaining Visorak and Rahkshi.He hoped that the Dark Hunters would follow, but to his frustration one of them attempted to take out the Toa of Ice before he recovered. No doubt a more skilled operative could have succeeded, but that one stood no chance. Just by slowing, she allowed a hail of energy bolts and Rhotuka to batter her. Zima finished, freezing the Dark Hunter and shattering her as the other Toa had seen him do earlier. The sole remaining Hunter attempted to split off from Imlen's group, but the Toa followed him. Imlen knew splitting up was a good choice to avoid being caught, but also knew he and his friends could use all the help they could get. Zima and the four remaining Rahkshi continued to pursue them, and the Toa knew they could not defeat them alone. Still, the Dark Hunter was outrunning them even as Zima and the Rahkshi were catching up. And the Dark Hunter had no reason to help three Toa he didn't know. Imlen wished it had been that Vortixx again.“Maybe we can take them out if we make a stand together!” he called.The Dark Hunter ignored him, as he expected. He was not even confident himself that the four of them would prevail anyway. Just the three Toa were even less likely to survive, but he knew that they had to try. They could not keep running and dodging forever. He called for a stop, and he and his teammates turned in unison and attacked. Imlen started by surrounding Zima and the others in a cloud of plasma, which Vilam electrified. Zima burst out from the cloud, and Paqyar rained arrows down on him which grew into grasping thorns. The Toa of Ice sent out an aura of cold that froze the plants solid and leveled his spear at Paqyar. The Toa of the Green dodged to avoid the same fate as his plants, but was struck by an energy bolt from a red Rahkshi. Fear overcame him and he ran, screaming. Another Rahkshi stretched forward as if its metal body had turned elastic and knocked Imlen down.Vilam defended Imlen as he got up, and by now the Toa of Plasma had let his cloud disperse. It had slowed the Rahkshi down, but none of them seemed damaged much by it. One of the Rahkshi took off and flew after Paqyar. Vilam tried to shoot it down, but it ignored her lightning and flew out of range. Imlen released a stream of plasma at Zima, but he dodged. The fourth Rahkshi stepped forward and morphed into a shape with claws and fangs. Zima attacked again, freezing Imlen, and Imlen immediately vaporized the ice to free himself. He knew that as long as he had elemental power left, he would not be defeated that way. But the Toa of Ice was using his powers more conservatively. Imlen would run out first. Zima had years – probably millennia – of experience, and Imlen realized that Zima's Kanohi Suletu let him read his opponent's thoughts, giving him more of an advantage.“I can't hit Zima,” he said to Vilam. “Take out the Rahkshi one by one.”By now, Vilam was already battling the Rahkshi. She parried the claws of the Rahkshi of Shapeshifting while avoiding the energy bolts of the Rahkshi of Fear. The Rahkshi of Elasticity twisted around Imlen, constricting him. Imlen forced it to release him by releasing a wave of plasma, but that slowed him down enough so that Zima froze him again. This time he broke free with his own physical strength before the ice could fully form. Then the Toa of Ice ceased attacking at range and moved into melee combat. Imlen deflected his spearhead with his staff, but he could not maintain his defense for long. The Toa of Ice was too fast and skilled. He tried forming an obscuring cloud of plasma, but as he expected Zima countered by lowering the temperature, causing the glowing plasma to turn into normal air. Vilam had managed to slice off one of the shapeshifted Rahkshi's claws, but was barely withstanding the assault of the machines.Meanwhile, Paqyar had not gone far before the other Rahkshi caught up to him. The Turahk's power had put him into a nightmare, and all he could do was run. He felt like he was suffocating – and that was when he realized he really was suffocating. Realizing that it was this lone Rahkshi that was sucking the air away, he snapped out of the dream. He did not have much time to act. His plants would not survive in a vacuum, so the Rahkshi had a strong advantage over him. But that vacuum power could also be used against it. Paqyar reached for a quiver full of arrows he had made earlier, with heads made of sharpened scrap metal. Instead of taking out a single arrow, he grabbed an entire handful of arrows and tossed them in the direction of the Rahkshi. As he planned, the suction of the Rahkshi's staff pulled the arrows towards it before it could react. Most of the arrows did no damage, but a few penetrated the Rahkshi's arms and body enough to slow it down. It ceased maintaining the vacuum, and Paqyar took a deep breath.Then he called upon his elemental power. The vines he summoned around the Rahkshi of Vacuum wilted and died as the Rahkshi cut air off from them, but Paqyar only intended that as a distraction. One by one, he used his Mask of Rebounding to retrieve a few of the arrows he had thrown. Then he shot them as hard as he could at the Rahkshi's head. The machine created a force of suction to pull the arrows off course, causing each of them to bounce off its staff. Then it released the absorbed air with a blast that knocked Paqyar down. It ran forward to the Toa and stood over him. The Rahkshi began to suffocate him again, and the arrow trick would not work at this close range. Instead, as the Rahkshi leaned in close, he reached above its head and summoned a heavy block of wood. The block fell and struck the Rahkshi in the head, causing it to fall forward on top of Paqyar. The Toa of the Green grabbed it and quickly summoned some plants to tear the machine's head off.The Rahkshi's Kraata slithered out. Before Paqyar could crush it, the Kraata released a sudden blast of air. Paqyar nearly fell over again, but without the Rahkshi armor to protect it and amplify its power, the Kraata was no match for him. The Toa shrugged off the wind the Makuta-spawn created and squashed it. Then he ran back to his friends. When he arrived, one of the Rahkshi, the Turahk, was destroyed. Vilam had used the Mask of Fusion to merge with Imlen, but Zima and the two remaining Rahkshi were still more than a match for them. Vilam's concentration was being eroded, and as Paqyar rejoined the battle, the amalgam of the two Toa split apart. Vilam started to collapse, and Paqyar helped her remain standing. Zima was ready for that, and he froze them in a second. Imlen used the last of his elemental power to melt them free. Paqyar began to shower the Rahkshi with arrows, and the Rahkshi morphed and stretched into forms with narrower profiles, making themselves far harder to hit.“Vilam, we need you,” said Imlen as he smashed through a layer of ice Zima started to form around him. “Use your mask again, help us merge.”A moment later, it was too late for that. Zima froze Imlen solid, and Vilam was cut off from Paqyar by the Rahkshi. Clearing her mind, she took an alternative option. Before Zima could shatter the frozen Toa of Plasma, Vilam activated her mask as she charged the Toa of Ice. For once, Zima was taken completely off guard. He struggled mentally, and he had great practice, but Vilam was driven by the great will to live and to save her friends. For a few seconds, she had nearly absolute control of the fusion, enough time for her to weaken the ice around Imlen and slow the two Rahkshi with an aura of frost. Zima focused himself and threw his psyche against Vilam's, causing them to separate, but by then Imlen had broken free and moved to help Paqyar. He pummeled the Rahkshi from behind, distracting them while Paqyar entangled them. The Toa of Ice and the Toa of Lightning nearly fainted as the fusion was dissolved. Zima recovered faster, but as he got up, Paqyar and Imlen had already picked up Vilam and fled.“That was way too close,” said Paqyar as Vilam recovered enough to run with them.“Thank you, Vilam,” said Imlen. “That sudden trick saved us.”“I'm thankful it worked,” said Vilam. “And surprised, too.”“I feel like a pretty lousy Toa for being so outclassed by that Zima,” said Paqyar. “I guess Vibrak was right, we aren't ready for this.”“And I think it might be too late to ask the Dark Hunters for help,” said Vilam. “I'm not sure how many survived, but without Bulwark, they might just leave Yrenta.”“That would be best for them at this point,” said Imlen. “The Brotherhood's cracking down way too hard on them here. And... the same goes for us.”“You think we should leave Yrenta?” asked Paqyar, and Imlen nodded. “And go where?”“Anywhere that fulfills two requisites,” said Imlen with a shrug. “One, we're needed there, and two, we can survive there. And right now, Yrenta fits the first, but not the second. Let's move faster if we can, I'm not sure if that crazy 'Toa' is still after us.”Review

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#16 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 17 2012 - 05:03 PM

End of YrentaChapter Sixteen==Senjo Town, Stelt, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa had traveled the Universe for seven years. They had been on many adventures, mostly on the Northern Continent, but they had gone to the larger but less populated Southern Continent a few times, along with many tiny islands around the continents. But all that time, they had never dared to visit the island of Stelt. Stelt was a barren island, not a small one, but not particularly large either. Besides its advantageous position between Xia and the Southern Continent, and east of the Northern Continent's Tren Krom Peninsula, Stelt was well known for constant warfare and gladiatorial battles. The Brotherhood of Makuta had a presence here, with a Makuta assigned to watch over the island, and they were known to recruit the natives for the war. Several of their officers, including, it was rumored, the leader of the Visorak horde, came from Stelt's ruling class. But Stelt, at least for now, was truly neutral, for the political situation was far too chaotic for it to be anything but that.There was another thing Stelt was famous for: clandestine trade, whether that was goods, services, or information. The Toa had finally risked coming to this hostile place to partake in that activity – specifically, information on who could help them free Yrenta, and perhaps the services of those beings. Three Toa traveling together could easily attract a lot of attention, but they tried to keep a low profile. They had been careful to avoid the places that had a significant Brotherhood presence, which added up to a large part of the island, and the places that were in open war, which was even more. And so, they had come to the settlement of Senjo, which was relatively peaceful, with inhabitants that were mostly indifferent to both the wars that scarred their island and the war that raged across the universe. They would not find any help if they remained out of sight, and so after a quick scan of the streets they entered the town's tavern.It was small for such a building, although it was much larger than what the Toa were used to, having been built for much larger beings than Matoran. And so there was only a small crowd in the main room, consisting of many species. There were a few Matoran, Steltians of both the laborer race and the leader race, a Vortixx or two, and half a dozen others, some of which the Toa could not identify. Most of the patrons looked up and stared at them as they entered. The three of them were certainly an unusual sight in this isolated town. Imlen bowed his head humbly and cleared this throat.“Ah, I see, um, we've been noticed,” he said nervously. “So I'll say what we're here for. First, we're looking for other Toa.”Most of the clients ignored him and returned to their previous business, and some of them grunted with disdain. A few continued to stare at the Toa but said nothing. But the innkeeper, a Steltian of the laborer race, waved them over. Imlen and the others walked over to the counter.“I can tell you about where other Toa might be,” said the proprietor in surprisingly good Matoran. “But it'll cost you, of course. And you need to get one drink each before I consider dealing with you.”“Fair enough,” said Imlen, handing over a small pile of cash.Fortunately, the Toa had collected a decent amount of currency of various kinds that they had been awarded in their travels, as well as items that the Steltian might be willing to barter for. But the innkeeper gave the money a disapproving look.“That isn't worth much around here,” he muttered.“Well, we also have – ” Imlen began to say, as he reached into his pack.“Keep your voice down,” said the innkeeper quietly. “I try to keep things decent here, but you shouldn't talk about the wealth you carry, not on Stelt.”“Thanks for the tip. I hope it doesn't cost us,” said Vilam, and the Steltian looked at her curiously for a moment before laughing.“Hey, some of us have some decency,” he chuckled. “Tell you what – just having you here will bring business later, with the rumors of Toa visiting and curious customers and all, so I'll give you the drinks on the house. But the information will cost you. A lot more than this pile.”“Uh, do I want to know what sort of 'energy' you've 'charged' these with?” said Paqyar as the innkeeper handed over three canisters of some sort of colorful liquid Protodermis. “Makuta viruses or something? Visorak venom?”“Secret recipe,” said the innkeeper with a wink. “If you think I might have doctored it with something unpleasant for you, well, I can say I didn't. But you can't be too careful, so I don't mind if you want to drink them later. But it's on your Toa honor to drink them sometime, alright?”“Sure,” said Imlen. “But now let's get to business.”The Steltian called for an assistant to take over and led the Toa into a back room. There, they bartered for the information piece by piece. The innkeeper got piles of several different kinds of currency, along with assorted tools and supplies. In exchange, the Toa learned that a Toa of Air with a maimed arm had visited the island not long ago. Allegedly, he had also been looking for information, but had gotten involved with local matters and ended up being chased off the island by the Brotherhood. Rumor told that he had fled to a particular port settlement and chartered a private boat. To Imlen's relief, the Toa were not completely broke by the time they had learned all that, but the innkeeper had gotten more than a good deal, the free drinks notwithstanding. They thanked the innkeeper and left. As they walked down the street to the edge of town, Vilam felt someone trying to grab something from her from behind. She turned and released a small blast of electricity, enough to stun a being.“Really? Trying to steal from three Toa?” she asked the black-armored being, who just stared at the ground. “And they said the laborers here were stupid.”“Well, Toa are safer to steal from,” Paqyar pointed out. “After all, they won't kill you. But they might do this.”Paqyar wrenched the mask off the thief's face and tossed it into an alley. The thief scurried after it, and the Toa moved along. The port they were heading for was on the other side of the island, and the journey was long and difficult. As with everywhere on Stelt, the land they crossed was desolate and battle-scarred, but that posed the least danger. Many times, they had to change course to avoid armies and Brotherhood agents. Once they were even caught in the middle of a sudden battle when one local warlord's forces ambushed another one's. Several days later, they came to the seaside town. It seemed neutral enough, with minimal signs of Makuta presence. But it was also much less isolated than Senjo, and more likely to be full of dangerous characters. Still, whoever had helped the Toa of Air escape could at least be persuaded to support their cause, and so the Toa asked around for him. Soon they were directed to speak with a Matoran of Magnetism.“Toa,” he greeted them as they approached. “You'd better not stick around. Rumors of you reached my ears the day before you got here, and I'm sure it got to others even faster. Trust me, get out of here before you get the Makuta of Stelt himself after you.”“Like how a certain Toa of Air got himself into trouble?” said Imlen.“Toa of Air? What Toa of Air?” said the Matoran.“No, it's okay, you can tell us,” said Imlen. “We're... we're friends of his.”“Now you're the one who's lying,” said the Matoran.“So, you were lying first?” said Imlen, and he chuckled. “Alright, we don't really know him, but you can trust us. And you just pointed out how easily rumors spread – we heard about the Toa of Air all the way back in Senjo.”“Senjo? Never heard of it,” said the Matoran. “But settlements come and go as war destroys them. Well, I have not met many Toa, but all the ones I have met have been honorable. I think I can tell you.”“We've met only a few other Toa as well, but I would not define the first one of those we met as honorable,” reminisced Imlen. “Please, tell us about this Toa.”“He came looking for information, like you. He was wondering about the location of some Dark Hunter. He didn't get an answer, because he made enough noise for the Makuta to take notice, and fought back when they sent their goons out to get him. He even tried to rally the people of Stelt against the Brotherhood, something I'd have expected of a Fire-type myself. Of course, the Steltians were too busy fighting themselves to notice and he got himself run off the island. I managed to get him away.”“Sounds like the kind of guy we could use,” commented Paqyar, and Imlen nodded at him.“You have your own boat service?” asked Vilam, surprised.“Oh, yes, we Matoran do well enough here on Stelt,” said the Matoran. “We do good work and stay out of the way, and the Steltians treat us well in return.”“So, where did you take him?” said Imlen.“Just the short distance to the Southern Continent,” said the Matoran, gesturing across the sea to the south. “But he said something about meeting up with his friends there and heading to Nynrah.”“Nynrah, eh?” said Vilam. “We've never been there... darn, it's far off, isn't it?”“Not for my boats,” said the Matoran proudly. “We on Stelt have some of the fastest vessels, probably because of all the people that need to get away quickly.”“Hold on, are you offering to take us to Nynrah?” said Imlen. “We don't have much money, and besides, this Toa might be on the Southern Continent.”“True, but I dropped him off at the Southern Continent almost a week ago. If we head directly to Nynrah, we might still miss him,” said the Matoran of Magnetism. “But my boat can probably go faster than his, so we could catch him if we went straight there. Also, Nynrah is a lot smaller than that whole continent. You're much more likely to find who you're looking for there. As for the cost, I will give you a discount. But I must warn you: to get to Nynrah, we must pass through Dark Hunter seas.”“If you're willing to take that risk, so are we,” said Imlen. “Let's get going.”The Matoran had a small selection of boats, one of which was just the right size for three Toa-sized passengers to travel comfortably in. As with many of the vessels found on Stelt, it was armed with Kanoka launchers, but this particular ship only had two. The Toa hoped they would not have to use them, for the vessel was far from being a frigate. After they accepted the price – a sizable amount, but not more than they could afford – the three of them and the Matoran boarded and set sail. Paqyar thought he saw someone look at them from the docks when they were far away, but they soon turned and sailed out of sight of the shore. He continued to keep watch while the other Toa rested.“So, Matoran – I mean Captain – what's your name anyway?” Paqyar said when they were out in the open sea.“Kyulget,” said the Matoran.“Alright. I'm Paqyar, and she's Vilam, and he's Imlen. So, what makes you so willing to go all the way to Nynrah?”“I guess I just wanted an adventure,” said Kyulget with a shrug. “And I'm getting paid for it, too.”“I'd have thought living on Stelt would be enough of an adventure,” said Paqyar.“That's not an adventure, it's just life. Seriously, it's not bad if you're careful. I'm no warrior, and when battle comes to town I can just sail away until it's over. Besides, the warring factions are usually careful to not destroy the docks. After all, they keep in mind how much Stelt depends on... 'tourism'.”“Now, what about these Dark Hunters?”“Nynrah is south of Odina, their island headquarters. We should be able to avoid Odina itself, but the Dark Hunters will likely be watching the passage. I'll explain it more when we get there.”“Sure. I'd better get some rest too anyway. And I'm thirsty, do you – oh, I have this,” said Paqyar, taking out the drink the Steltian innkeeper had given him. “I guess I told the innkeeper I'd drink it. Wake me up if I start to die, Captain Kyulget.”Paqyar opened the canister and carefully took a sip. It tasted terrible, and he immediately felt ill. He staggered as the boat rocked and a moment later he fell unconscious. A little while later, Kyulget woke him. Paqyar still felt awful. At first he was furious that the innkeeper had tricked him into drinking such poison. Then he remembered the Steltian had actually suggested they wait until they were safe before drinking it. He realized it was a test of sorts – if the Toa had been foolish enough to drink it on Stelt, the innkeeper would have refused to deal with them. They had been wise enough to not trust him, and so they had passed his test. He admired the mischievous deceit of the innkeeper, though he could still not stand up. The trip would take a long time anyway, so Paqyar decided to go back to sleep.The voyage went on uneventfully. A few days later, the boat passed through one of the great Sea Gates. On the other side, they turned south and sailed past the first island of any significant size they had seen since leaving Stelt. The day after that they came to another island. After Kyulget went ashore there and returned with fresh supplies, they continued. About a week after leaving Stelt, the ship passed through another Sea Gate and turned west into a tunnel. Kyulget explained that Odina was nearby, and the passage let travelers bypass the island, leaving the Dark Hunter capital relatively isolated. Still, he expected that Dark Hunters would probably be watching the tunnels, he and warned the Toa.“They'll probably charge a 'toll',” he said. “But don't resist. In fact, stay out of sight. Hopefully they won't search us.”“And if they do?” said Vilam.“If they find you, we'll just hope they aren't too angry about me trying to smuggle you past,” said Kyulget. “Dark Hunters are all different. A few might like to kill Toa just for fun, but most of the ones I've known are more professional than that. But they might decide to kidnap you and hold you for ransom. That's a good way to get money, if there's anyone to pay it.”“Not for us,” said Imlen. “Not many knew about us back home, and we don't know anyone with any real wealth to speak of.”“Tell that to the Dark Hunters,” said the Matoran. “And if ransom doesn't work, they're into... 'alteration' too. Most of their operatives have artificial enhancements of some kind, and they could always use more test subjects. But let's hope we can avoid all that. Now, you'd better go inside.”The Toa agreed, and they went down to the vessel's hold. A short time later, they stopped. The boat thudded against a larger vessel and a clang echoed from above as a gangplank was lowered between the ships. The Toa heard beings board, perhaps two or three of them. They quieted their breath as they heard the Dark Hunters and Kyulget converse.“What's your business here, Matoran?” said a voice that the Toa recognized as belonging to a member of a certain amphibious species.“Traveling to Nynrah,” replied Kyulget.“Are you carrying cargo or passengers?”“I'm alone, just carrying enough supplies for the journey.”“You'd better be telling the truth. We're going to search for ourselves, you know.”The conversation stopped momentarily as the Dark Hunters began to search the vessel. Then Kyulget spoke again. His voice was full of shame, sadness, and resignation. He did not wish to betray the Toa, but there was no way to stop them from being discovered.“Wait,” he said. “I... I'm carrying passengers. Three Toa.”Review

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#17 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 19 2012 - 07:58 PM

End of YrentaChapter Seventeen==Sea near Odina, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa heard a short wail, then a splash.“That's for lying the first time,” called the amphibious Dark Hunter. “The rest of you, get over here! We've got Toa.”Heavy footsteps sounded on the deck above. Supplies and equipment clattered as the Dark Hunters ransacked the ship. The Toa decided to not make them search the whole thing. They got up immediately and dashed to the ladder as a lone Dark Hunter came down. Vilam parried his weapon while Imlen brought his staff down on his head, knocking him out. Another Dark Hunter tore a large hole in the deck, allowing himself and his comrades to drop down around the Toa. There were three surrounding the Toa now, taking up almost all the space in the hold. More were above. The Toa attacked first. In these close quarters, Paqyar and Imlen were at a disadvantage. Vilam managed to disable her opponent, but not before Imlen had been disarmed. Paqyar was desperately blocking his opponent's claws with the blades on the front of his bow. Imlen poured a stream of plasma out of his bare hands, incapacitating the gray-armored Dark Hunter he was battling.As Imlen retrieved his staff, two more Dark Hunters jumped down to replace the ones that had fallen, landing on the unconscious bodies. Vilam was turning to assist Paqyar when one of the two smacked her in the back of the head. She was knocked out, and Paqyar blasted a storm of leaves in his opponent's face, giving him time to back up. At that moment, the combatants noticed the boat was moving forward again. Another Dark Hunter's Mask of Strength glowed, and he threw a punch that Imlen narrowly dodged. The Toa of Plasma countered by jabbing the brawler with the end of his staff. Then he heard something whir, and he looked up in time to see one of the Dark Hunters on the deck aiming a launcher down at him. Just before the Dark Hunter could fire, a thrown object struck her in the arm. She turned, and Imlen continued to battle the Hunter that wore the Kanohi Pakari. Paqyar managed to release an arrow at nearly point-blank range, puncturing his opponent's eye. However, that seemed to only make that Dark Hunter angry.The masked bruiser punched again, and as Imlen ducked he released a sudden cloud of blindingly bright plasma. While his opponent stumbled, Imlen grabbed him and used his body as a stepping-stone, bounding up to the deck. Paqyar used the moment of distraction to follow. They planted their feet on the deck just in time to see the Dark Hunter with the launcher shove a crate aside, revealing the dripping wet Kyulget cowering behind it. Before she could turn, Paqyar shot her in the back and grew binding vines out of the arrow. While she was restrained, Imlen knocked her unconscious as he ran over to Kyulget. He just realized that Vilam was still down in the hold when the Dark Hunters they had left below held her unconscious body up into view.“Good effort, Toa,” the amphibious Dark Hunter said, standing on the other side of the deck. “But you'd better give it up, or my friend here tears your friend here in half.”“What happens to us if we do surrender?” said Imlen, keeping his staff aimed at the Hunters.“We're equipped to hold Toa on Odina,” shrugged the Dark Hunter. “The Shadowed One can decide at his leisure.”“I don't like the sound of that offer. But it seems I don't have much choice,” said Imlen, and he lowered his staff. “Are you coming up here to get us or should we come down?”“Just stay there,” said the Dark Hunter, and another Dark Hunter standing beside him fired a launcher of some sort at the Toa.When he dodged, Imlen knew he was putting Vilam's life in danger. But if he and Paqyar just let themselves be captured, it was unlikely they would ever escape. He had been hoping that the Dark Hunters would get closer first, but it was too late to pretend to cooperate now. Vilam was lowered back into the hold, and Paqyar dashed forward to save her, dodging another shot. The Dark Hunter with the Mask of Strength was beginning to fulfill his leader's threat when an arrow knocked the glowing Kanohi off his face. Another Hunter came forth to just stab her. He ignored the arrows Paqyar put in his back, but could not shrug off a crate to the head. Kyulget dusted off his hands theatrically as the container knocked his target unconscious. He and Paqyar dropped down into the hold while Imlen battled the Dark Hunters on the deck. While in close quarters, the Toa of Plasma had minimized the use of his elemental power. Now, on the open deck, it was time for him to put it to its full use.Without his Mask of Strength, the Dark Hunter brawler was easily dispatched. Kyulget handled the other, taking a Kanoka out of a nearby crate and hurling it at him. The Dark Hunter had not expected any trouble from a Matoran, and so he did not react in time. The disk struck him and teleported him out of the ship. Kyulget laughed vengefully as he heard a splash. Above, Imlen snarled as plasma streamed from his staff, blinding his enemies and melting metal. Dark Hunters all around him were forced to jump overboard to save themselves, until only the leader, the amphibious being, was left. He picked up a launcher that one of his subordinates had dropped and fired at Imlen from behind. The projectile vanished in a flash as it struck, and Imlen felt his mechanical parts moving against his will. He strained against the force manipulating him, but only succeeded in wearing himself out. He dropped to the ground.The Dark Hunter lunged at him, and Imlen saw Paqyar, Vilam, and Kyulget climbing up to the hold behind him. The Hunter noticed where he was looking and turned in time to be struck in the chest by a bolt of lightning from Vilam. When he fell, there were no Dark Hunters left standing on Kyulget's boat. But the danger was not over yet. The Dark Hunters that had jumped overboard were getting back onto their vessel, and the crew was bringing the ship's many weapons to bear. Kyulget ran to the stern to see to his boat's engines.“The gangplank!” he called over his shoulder.“Right,” said Imlen, melting the walkway that connected the two ships. “Vilam, Paqyar, get their gunners!”With electricity, arrows, and plants, Vilam and Paqyar delayed the Dark Hunters that manned the enemy ship's Kanoka launchers and other weapons, preventing them from getting a shot off. As they did that, Imlen vaporized a small area of the Hunters' ship's hull below the waterline. He heard Kyulget cheer as his boat surged ahead while the other vessel began to sink. Imlen sighed and let out a small laugh of relief. Once they were moving forward steadily and leaving the Dark Hunter ship far behind, Vilam went down to the hold. A moment later, Imlen heard her cry out. There was an electric buzz and a thud, then the Toa of Lightning poked her head above the deck.“They were waking up,” she said. “I put them back to sleep.”“Oh, right, them,” said Imlen, looking around at the unconscious Dark Hunters that littered the deck. A few more were below in the hold. “So, what do we do?”“Throw them overboard, obviously!” called Kyulget, coming forward from the stern.“No, that won't do,” said Paqyar. “If we do that, they'll either be stranded here to drown, or they'll recover and follow us. Toa don't abandon prisoners to die.”“You should have thought of that before you sank that boat,” said the Matoran.“Emphasis on the term 'prisoners',” said Imlen. “We did not have much choice back there.”“Paqyar can use his plants to bind them. And this is a boat, you must have plenty of rope lying around,” said Vilam. “Besides, these are criminals. We might be able to turn them in when we get to Nynrah... and get a reward for it.”“Good point,” said Kyulget. “Alright. But make sure they are secured and disarmed. And even then, have someone watching them at all times.”The Toa and Matoran agreed to keep the Dark Hunter prisoners in the hold. They searched the unconscious mercenaries and removed their weapons, including any that were bolted or welded to their bodies. Then they tied the captives up five times as securely as seemed necessary, and the Toa took shifts watching them. Kyulget kept the boat going at as fast a speed as it could maintain until they left Dark Hunter waters. Later that day, they passed another rather small island, and the next day, they reached their destination. The boat sailed to Nynrah's main port and stopped against a dock. Some natives – local authorities, or customs agents – came to greet them. These were not the famed Nynrah Ghosts, which were Matoran. These were members of Nynrah's native species, which was known as a race of crafters. Kyulget suddenly looked uncomfortable, but it was his ship, and so he had to represent them.“Three Toa,” said one of the natives. “A rare sight these days. Your kind has become far too uncommon.”Imlen merely nodded, and Kyulget spoke hesitantly.“In addition to these passengers, we're carrying... additional... passengers – or rather, 'cargo', of a sort.”“What do you mean? Speak plainly,” said another native, looking at the Matoran curiously.“We have several captive Dark Hunters aboard,” Kyulget blurted out with one breath. “We were wondering if maybe there was a reward for them...”“Likely,” said the first native, exchanging a glance with his partners. “We'll help you unload them.”“Right. Thanks,” said Paqyar. “Careful – they are disarmed, but dangerous still.”“Why so nervous?” Imlen whispered to Kyulget as they led the Nynrah natives onto the boat. “Are you in some kind of trouble here you didn't tell me about?”“No, no, nothing like that,” Kyulget whispered back. “I just realized what the Dark Hunters would do to me if they found I was involved in this.”“Ooh. Didn't think of that,” admitted Imlen. “Well, maybe the reward will be enough for you to start a new life, away from Stelt.”The Matoran muttered something Imlen could not hear. The conversation ended, and one by one the captives were brought ashore. All of them were awake now, and all were very angry. Paqyar thanked himself for having decided to gag them. Some more local enforcers came to escort the captives away, and assured the Toa that the Dark Hunters would be safely contained. The enforcers requested Kyulget and the Toa to follow to claim their reward, but the Toa declared their intention to continue their own mission. They parted from Kyulget then, but the four of them promised to meet again before leaving Nynrah. For now, the Toa began to ask around about the Toa of Air they sought. They started by asking the locals they had first met, whom had gone back to work at the docks. If the Toa of Air had come to Nynrah at this port, they would have found out about it. However, that did not seem to be the case.“Sorry. We'll let you know if he arrives,” one of the natives finished speaking.“But I can guess why he's here,” said another. “If I was missing half an arm – and could afford it – I would pay the Ghosts a visit and get them to craft a prosthetic.”“Good thinking,” said Imlen. “The Ghosts only live in one village, right? So if he heads there, he should be easy to find. But if he does show up here later, I'd like to be around to greet him. Who wants to visit the Nynrah Ghosts, then?”“I'll go,” Vilam and Paqyar both said.“You probably won't see them even if you visit their village,” said another of the natives. “They keep themselves shut away.”“I could use a walk anyway, after being on that ship for days,” said Paqyar, and Vilam nodded in agreement.“Very well, I'll wait here in case he arrives,” said Imlen, then he turned to the locals. “You are under the jurisdiction of the Brotherhood here, right?”“There is a Makuta watching over the island,” confirmed one of them. “They keep to themselves mostly, but I'd try not to make much noise if I were you. In fact, you should leave as soon as your business is done here. These days, three Toa traveling together does not go unnoticed.”“Thanks for the advice,” said Imlen, turning back to his friends. “We might be waiting a while anyway. If the Toa of Air shows up, we'll meet you at the Ghost village. If we don't show up for, say... a week, meet me back here.”“Be prepared to camp out,” said another local. “Don't expect the Ghosts to provide lodging.”The Toa thanked the port agents for the help and split up. Imlen knew that to keep a low profile, he should also camp outside the town. But that was no way to find someone he was waiting for, so he stayed in a local inn. There was much chatter in the inn, talk of engineering and production, and of competition between the Dark Hunters and the Brotherhood of Makuta for Nynrah's favor. Imlen was weary, and so he payed little attention to it. He stayed in town for days, and during that time he received an uncomfortable amount of curious looks. He thought he heard talk about his presence whispered behind his back. He was beginning to consider finding his friends and leaving the island early when he heard a commotion outside. He opened the window of his upstairs room and dropped down to the street. No one seemed to notice that, and he could see why.Some strange beast – or a bestial being – was hurtling down the street. It did not attack anyone, but knocked people and objects over obliviously, growling. It stopped for a moment to howl madly, and Imlen could see it was about the size of a Toa, with metallic gray and black armor. Its face reminded him of a Kavinika, but it was clearly not one. It was not any sort of Rahi he had ever seen. He was about to confront it when he saw two other beings in his peripheral vision. He turned, and saw two Toa running after the beast. The one in the lead was a flustered-looking Toa of Psionics, and behind her must have been the one Imlen had heard about. He was a Toa of Air, and his left forearm was nothing but a stump. In contrast with his partner, he looked more exasperated than embarrassed. The wild creature overturned a food stand and began to feast on the spilled wares when the Toa of Psionics held out a hand in its direction, and it stopped.“Great, Vayrag,” groaned the Toa of Air as the Toa of Psionics went to retrieve the beast. “What a first impression we've made.”“You've certainly made a... unique impression on me,” said Imlen quietly, coming forth.“Oh, another Toa,” said the Toa of Psionics, risking a glance away from the creature, which she seemed to be keeping under control with her elemental power. “What brings you to Nynrah?”“Looking for potential allies,” said Imlen. “But I have the feeling this isn't the place to talk about it.”“Right,” said the Toa of Air, as several locals converged on the Toa and their beast. “Sorry about the mess.”“We'll clean it up, and we won't be here long,” the Toa of Psionics attempted to placate the natives.“Keep that thing leashed!” one of the locals called.“Get it out of here,” said another.“I'm still hungry,” the creature spoke, to the great surprise of Imlen and the locals. “Get me... I mean, I'm sorry about the...”“What is he?” asked Imlen as the creature's speech degenerated into growls and snarls.“Vayrag is a Toa, like you,” answered the Toa of Psionics as she and the Toa of Air began to clean up the mess.“Or at least, he was,” said the Toa of Air as Imlen helped. “Until the Visorak did that to him.”“You mean it was...?” Imlen trailed off.“Hordika Venom,” said the Toa of Psionics sadly. “He's not usually like this, but being stuck on a ship for days can make anyone restless.”Imlen knew all about Hordika Venom. The mutagenic poison of the Visorak transformed its victims into mindless, ferocious beasts. He had only seen its effects on Rahi, which had the effect of making even peaceful creatures needlessly violent, and caused them to grow spines, fangs, and other natural weapons. Sometimes that even included natural Rhotuka launchers, and Imlen noticed the Toa Hordika here – Vayrag – had one on his back. Vayrag was docile for now, but he did not speak. He sat quietly until the other Toa were done cleaning the mess and apologizing to the natives. Then the four of them them left the town. The Hordika stood up and walked on digitigrade feet. Imlen also noticed that one of Vayrag's arms ended in a some sort of twin claw and saw weapon, and the other in a hand that looked mostly normal.“We're heading to the village of the Nynrah Ghosts,” said the Toa of Psionics, still walking as Imlen tagged along.“I guessed you would. I sent my two friends ahead there,” said Imlen.“So, you travel with two others as well,” said Vayrag, who was quite lucid now. “Together we make six. Interesting.”“But do we want to team up?” said the Toa of Air. “We could use allies, I admit, but not just anyone.”“I think we're fortunate to have found each other,” said Imlen. “In seven years of travels, I've met only a few other Toa. None of them were willing to team up for long. I was hoping there would be something different about you.”“Got some sort of personal quest?” asked the Toa of Psionics.“I want to free my homeland from the Brotherhood of Makuta,” said Imlen.“You can't get rid of the Brotherhood,” laughed the Toa of Air grimly. “But if you want to hurt them as much as you can, I'd be happy to help.”

-----

Vilam and Paqyar had received as friendly a reception as they had been told to expect. The doors to every building in the village were shut. When they had knocked and requested lodging, they had been told to go away. And so they spent the days just outside the village, spending the nights in their sleeping pouches under the sky. The sounds of the Matoran crafters working their miracles could be heard even from behind closed doors. The noise was beautiful in a way, but it made sleeping difficult. Therefore, the Toa were awake the night different sounds mingled with the noise of metalworking. They immediately recognized the sounds. Rahkshi and Visorak were on the move, and they were heading in the direction of the port the Toa had arrived at. Paqyar and Vilam got up and followed stealthily a safe distance behind. They traveled for the rest of the night, and until afternoon of the next day.The Brotherhood force reached its destination in an open, uninhabited area. The Visorak circled around a small group of beings, and Paqyar could see that those beings were Imlen, two other Toa, and another being he could not recognize. He and Vilam were about to charge to save them when several more Visorak and Rahkshi suddenly came from behind. As they surrounded him, he and Vilam realized that the Visorak had known they were being followed all along, and had waited until now, when they could trap all six of their targets at once.Review

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#18 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 20 2012 - 09:37 PM

End of YrentaChapter Eighteen==Nynrah, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Apparently, the Makuta of Nynrah was the curious type, or at least he had some reason to prefer the Toa alive. If the Rahkshi and Visorak had attacked immediately with lethal force, the Toa might have been defeated in seconds. But the energy bolts and Rhotuka that rained down on them had powers to paralyze and otherwise incapacitate. The Toa of Psionics, who had said her name was Mozmana, was grazed by a Rhotuka. Iskanemo, the Toa of Air, moved to cover her as she fell, but she was soon back on her feet, having resisted the effects of the spinner. A wave of psychic energy sent several Visorak running in terror, while Iskanemo created a cyclone that blew more of them away. Now that the Toa had resisted, the Rahkshi and Visorak were using lethal force. Imlen and Vayrag teamed up to take on three Rahkshi, blasting the machines with plasma and Rhotuka of magnetic elemental energy. A short distance away, Paqyar and Vilam fought their way over to the larger group.Vilam knew that if they could just make it over to the others, they could make the Visorak regret waiting to capture them. She sliced and blasted the bug Rahi that threatened to swarm over them, and Paqyar cried out and launched an arrow at a Rahkshi that was approaching the Toa of Air from behind. The arrow did not stop the Rahkshi, but the Toa of Air turned and activated his mask. The Makuta-Son went flying back, violently repelled away from its target, who finished it with a cyclone that lifted it high into the air and dropped it. Several Visorak surrounded him, and he activated his mask again, pushing him into the air. He continued to rain elemental attacks on his enemies from the sky, while Imlen and Vayrag were losing their fight against the three Rahkshi. The Rahkshi were too fast, and what few attacks managed to strike them barely slowed them down.Then Vayrag roared and launched a Rhotuka that glowed brighter than any of his previous attacks. It struck one of the Rahkshi, and other the two and a few nearby Visorak slammed into it hard enough to deform metal. Imlen conjured an intense globe of plasma that melted the pile of enemies before they could get up. Mozmana wielded her sword one-handed, fending off a few more Visorak, while with the other hand she channeled her elemental power, keeping the Rahkshi in front of her mesmerized. After defeating the Visorak near her, she released her hold on the Kraata's mind. It was too late for the Rahkshi to react, however. She sliced through its head and the Kraata inside. She moved to rejoin the others, who had all grouped together by now, except Iskanemo, who was still flying. The tide appeared to have turned in favor of the Toa, but there were still three Rahkshi and about two dozen Visorak remaining.Imlen failed to dodge a powerful laser vision attack, and the beams burned a hole through him, narrowly missing his vital organs. He cried out and fell, and Vilam retaliated, focusing the remainder of her elemental energy to into a powerful bolt that zapped the Rahkshi of Laser Vision, frying its Kraata. Iskanemo absorbed the air around a group of Visorak, suffocating them, then released it as a windstorm that blew over many more. The other Toa made sure they would not get up. While they were dealing with the Visorak, one of the remaining Rahkshi plunged its staff into the ground. Toxic fumes drifted from a green glow that spread across the ground, killing any plants it passed over. Iskanemo shouted, and the Toa dodged, but Vilam moved to help Imlen, whose wound had rendered him unconscious. She threw him out of the spreading poisonous aura, but could not get herself out of it in time. It passed over her, leaving her choking on the fumes. She passed out.“Vilam, Imlen!” Paqyar called, running over to assist them as soon as the poison faded away.“Wait for me, rookie!” said the Toa of Air as he followed, swooping in low to the ground.“We'll finish the Visorak,” said the Toa of Psionics.The Toa of Air and the Toa of the Green combined their powers to make a tornado of plant life, preventing the two Rahkshi from finishing off their injured brother and sister. Mozmana's psychic attacks caused one Visorak after another to pass out, and Vayrag slaughtered those and the remaining Visorak with claws, fangs, and his elemental Rhotuka. Meanwhile the two green-armored Toa had managed to take out another Rahkshi, a Rahkshi of Shattering, but were in a deadlock against the Rahkshi of Poison. It was enduring all of Iskanemo's air attacks, and poisoning any of Paqyar's plants that got close. Paqyar released another arrow, and it dodged again, but as it dodged it was struck by Vayrag's Rhotuka. The magnetic force warped its body where it had struck, and it staggered, allowing Iskanemo to jump into melee range and finish it off with his sickle. Finally, the battle was over, and Paqyar attempted to aid his fallen comrades. He hoped he would not lose his old friends just as he was making new ones.“Will they be alright?” he asked.“Not without help,” said the Toa of Air. “Fortunately, Mozmana here wears a Great Mask of Healing.”“They'll be alright,” said the Toa of Psionics, healing power flowing from her mask into the wounded Toa.“Thank goodness,” said Paqyar as Vilam and Imlen stirred and got up. “We owe you guys.”“Same to you. They sent more than enough to deal with the three of us,” said the Toa of Air. “Almost enough to take out all six of us. Not quite enough, but more will be coming soon. I'm Iskanemo, by the way, and that's Vayrag. Before you ask, I'll tell you: he's a Toa of Magnetism, mutated by Hordika venom. He's more and less feral at different times. Looks like the battle brought out the beast in him.”“Shouldn't you stop him?” asked Vilam, indicating the Hordika feasting on Visorak carcasses.“He's not doing any harm,” said Iskanemo. “We'd be much more efficient warriors if we could eat Visorak ourselves.”“It's often best to not fight his urges,” said Mozmana.“Right. Now, these are my friends, Vilam and Paqyar,” said Imlen. “I guess you two saw the Visorak moving and followed along.”“And aren't you happy we did?” said Paqyar. “But the Makuta here, or his commanders at least, know we're here.”“Not a surprise at all considering what a scene we made when we got here,” said Iskanemo.“The Matoran who brought us here should still be in town,” said Imlen. “His boat might be a little cramped for all of us, but – ”“Whoa, hold on there,” said the Toa of Air. “I thought you wanted to take a stand against the Brotherhood. What better place than Nynrah?”“I'd prefer to take a stand that I didn't die in during the first round,” said Paqyar. “And our stand is more... personal.”“I know, you want to free your homeland in the Northern Continent. Imlen told me,” said Iskanemo. “But do you know how important Nynrah is? This is bigger. It's more important.”“It's more suicidal,” said Imlen. “Unless the Makuta of Nynrah is a pushover, which I doubt, if Nynrah is so vital.”“So you want to resist the Brotherhood in your homeland, and maybe even vanquish one of the Makuta,” said Mozmana thoughtfully. “It would be quite a symbolic victory, even if the region and its Makuta were relatively unimportant ones.“Exactly,” said Imlen hopefully.“But Iskanemo is right. Striking a target that would actually hurt the Brotherhood is an even greater victory. But it isn't safe here. You both have good points, all I know is that we need to get moving.”“Alright. First stop is the Ghost village,” said Iskanemo.“But they'll be waiting for us there,” protested Vilam. “And in the port... where do we go?”“I say we go back to the port. I'm willing to fight my way out – not into more trouble,” said Imlen. “Whoever else is with me, let's go. The airhead can stay and die alone if he wants.”“'Airhead'!” snarled Iskanemo, pushing away Mozmana when she attempted to use her power to calm him. “You insolent... no, we need to work together. My way. And that is – ”“We need to go, now!” interrupted Vayrag, scampering away from his meal. “More are coming!”Iskanemo sighed and joined the others in fleeing in the direction of the port. After jogging in a straight line for a while, they changed course slightly to evade their pursuers. Several hours later, they had to slow to a quick walk. They found shelter and stopped to sleep before nightfall, for they did not want to be ambushed in their sleep in the dark. When each of them were fully rested, they continued. The next morning they came to the port, and as they expected, Brotherhood agents were waiting for them. The natives had already abandoned the streets in preparation for the coming fight. As the Toa began to blast a path through the soldiers, Rahkshi, and Visorak that stood between them and the docks, more Makuta forces converged on them from out of town. The Toa pressed harder against their foes' defense. Together, Vilam, Imlen, and Iskanemo formed a tornado of electrified plasma that cleared a path. Imlen winced as the glowing twister spun out of control and demolished the front of a building. Fortunately, it looked like no one had been hurt, but he had more to worry about anyway.“Where's Kyulget?” asked Paqyar as projectiles whizzed overhead. “Anyone seen a Matoran of Magnetism?”“He's probably hiding with the others,” said Imlen. “Don't worry, I'm sure he can tell why we need to leave in a hurry.”“Or maybe he's in his boat. I see it over there,” said Vilam, darting towards the docked vessel.“Sure we want to go in that?” said Iskanemo dubiously.“It's not a combat vessel, but it's fast,” said Paqyar. “And I think flight will do us more good than fighting.”“Good point,” said the Toa of Air as he jumped aboard with the others.“Kyulget!” called Imlen and his teammates as they began to launch the boat.“Wait, we're just taking his boat?” protested Mozmana. “And he's probably not even on board?”“The lives of six Toa outweigh the convenience of a single Matoran,” said Vayrag.“Besides, if all goes well, he'll have more than enough money to buy a new one,” said Paqyar. “I'll explain later.”Mozmana submitted, and went to help Imlen get them moving while the others defended the boat. Fortunately, many of the Visorak and Rahkshi had powers meant to be used against living beings, and they were unable to damage the hull with their Rhotuka and energy bolts. Iskanemo indicated which enemies to focus on, especially the Panrahk and Guurahk, Rahkshi of Fragmentation and Disintegration that could blow the boat to pieces or crumble it to dust if they got a lucky hit. A Brotherhood soldier managed to score a hit with his Cordak Blaster before a sudden change in air pressure knocked him into the water. The Toa looked below and to their relief they found that the hole was above the waterline. Paqyar wasn't taking any chances, however, so he grew a vine out of the wooden deck, with which he swung overboard and into the hole. He landed down in the hold, and with a quick application of his plant power he formed a wooden patch over the hole. As he came back onto the deck, he noticed they were leaving the port behind. A few Rahkshi were flying after them, but Iskanemo buffeted them with a gale, allowing Imlen and Vilam to pick them off easily.The Toa celebrated their escape, and decided to keep sailing north, past the Dark Hunter-controlled waters they had passed through on the way to Nynrah. They decided to stop at one of the two northeastern-most islands of the universe upon getting to them. They were happy to be away from their enemies, but they were cramped on the boat, and all of them felt vulnerable. They knew they had been lucky to escape Nynrah with such little damage to the boat, and feared the craft would not fare so well in their next confrontation. Vayrag was the most agitated, pacing and growling like a caged Rahi, and Mozmana had to stay by his side constantly to keep him calm. Soon they were passing through the giant tunnel the Dark Hunters had confronted Imlen's team in. The Toa of Plasma felt tension grip him, and he started a conversation with Mozmana to alleviate it, while Vayrag was sleeping. As they spoke, he kept his eyes on the sea ahead.“Seems you have a... difficult couple of teammates,” he said casually.“They have their quirks, but they're good friends all the same,” said Mozmana. “And I can't claim to be entirely reasonable all the time. I feel quite stupid for protesting us taking this vessel. It was just an impulsive reaction.”“I hate to steal from Kyulget too, but trust me, he can handle himself. He lived alone on Stelt.”“Stelt, huh? I've been there. It's a nasty place in many ways, but the blending of cultures in the places visitors gather is fascinating. Now, your friend mentioned earlier that the Matoran would be receiving a large sum of money. If you'd satisfy my curiosity...”“We captured some of the Dark Hunters that held up the boat and tried to capture us, and Kyulget turned them in for bounties,” said Imlen, laughing lightly at the memory. “It was around here that they confronted us, so keep alert. But, hey – if you wanted, you could have read my mind for that information, couldn't you?”“I could have, but I prefer not to,” said the Toa of Psionics. “I was taught to consider it rude to do unnecessarily. After all, if we don't respect the privacy of our friends' thoughts, what kind of friends are we?”“Rather impolite ones,” agreed Imlen, and he chuckled again.“I'm told I should expect to encounter Dark Hunters,” said Iskanemo as he and Paqyar climbed up from the hold. “Shall I try scouting ahead? I can't fly as well over water, but it's worth a try.”“What is that mask, anyway, and why doesn't it work over water?” asked Paqyar. “I've never seen one like it before.”“It's the Mask of Repulsion,” explained the Toa of Air. “It allows me to force any one target away from me at high speed. I can target the ground with it to fly, but that technique is tricky to use over an ocean. My air powers help.”“Most Toa consider a Kanohi that repels nature itself to be immoral, which probably explains why you haven't seen it before,” said Mozmana. “That matter is one of the things Iskanemo and I have accepted our disagreement about.”“I don't really get it,” said Imlen.“Don't worry about it now,” said Iskanemo activated his mask and shot into the air, causing the boat to rock violently.He flew off, to return a little while later with dirty, battered armor. He reported that he had seen a Dark Hunter boat, and they had seen him, and they had fought. Mozmana seemed to disapprove of him stopping to fight alone, but Imlen was impressed by his account of taking out five of the Hunters when the whole crew was attacking him at once. He admitted that those five were merely unconscious, and would be awake by the time the two vessels met, but he had removed any weapons and Kanohi they had on them and dumped them into the sea. About an hour later, the Dark Hunter ship came into view. The mercenaries were ready this time, but so were the Toa. They had crates of Kanoka at the ready, and Mozmana and Paqyar were manning the boat's two launchers. Iskanemo took to the air again, carrying as many disks as he could. The other Toa defended their ship from incoming projectiles. Several Weaken and Increase Weight disks struck the hull, threatening to cause the boat to break apart or sink. Imlen rushed to apply Regeneration and Levitation disks to counter the effects.Vayrag leaned over the boat's railing, eagerly anticipating the moment the craft would come side by side and allow him to engage the enemy in melee combat. Until then, he battered the Hunter ship and its crew with Rhotuka of magnetic force. His spinners dented the hull, but he could not summon enough power to penetrate it. Above, Iskanemo laughed wildly as he darted around above the enemy vessel, his Kanohi Crast pushing hard against its deck. He dropped his load of Kanoka disks, most of which were intercepted before they could hit. The rest bounced off the deck, discharging their energies in a variety of harmful effects. Iskanemo turned to return to his allies, and as he did so a Zamor Sphere struck him, causing his mask to fall off. Vayrag saw him plummet, and launched a magnetizing spinner at the Toa of Air as fast as he could. It struck Iskanemo a few bio above the water, causing his Kanohi to change course in midair and cling to his body as Vayrag intended. It also had the unforeseen side effect of causing him to slam into the Dark Hunter ship fast enough to knock him out.“Oops,” said the Toa Hordika. “Don't worry, he'll stick there until I demagnetize him. Or until the Hunters pry him off.”“Looks like we'll need to retrieve him,” said Mozmana. “You three stay here, once we're in range Vayrag and I will jump aboard.”“Right,” said Imlen as he melted another incoming projectile. “Get ready to take the launcher, Vilam.”The vessels continued to exchange salvos until they were side by side. Several Dark Hunters extended planks and threw grappling hooks across the distance and attempted to cross over. Imlen kept intercepting incoming disks and other missiles while Mozmana and Vayrag struggled to get aboard the enemy vessel. Vilam and Paqyar turned their launchers against the Dark Hunters that remained on the deck. Mozmana used telekinesis to knock the Dark Hunters attempting to cross the gap into the sea, and she and Vayrag charged up the main boarding ramp. Vayrag tackled another Hunter as he landed, and after killing him with his fangs, he darted over to the spot above where Iskanemo was magnetized to the hull. Mozmana and the Toa manning the launchers covered him as he crawled down the side of the ship, using his claws to dig handholds into the hull.“Need a hand here!” he called from below.“Can't help now,” replied Mozmana as she battled the Dark Hunters on their deck. “Do what you can.”A Dark Hunter turned and blasted the Kanoka launcher Paqyar was aiming. The resulting explosion demolished the launcher and nearly knocked Paqyar out. Vilam got up from her launcher, shocked that Dark Hunter into unconsciousness, and helped Paqyar up. The Toa of the Green assured her he was not hurt, and went down into the hold to check for hull damage. As he feared, Imlen had not been able to prevent all the attacks from striking the boat. Water was leaking in slowly through cracks, and there was a badly damaged patch that looked like it would collapse into a large hole with one more hit. Paqyar created a large growth of a particular marine plant to absorb the seawater, then repaired the damage as well as he could. He could not do anything about the tattered metal plates that protected the boat, but it took only a miniscule amount of his elemental power to regenerate the wood that made up the body of the hull.Beyond the damaged section of hull, on the other side of the Dark Hunter boat, Vayrag held on with his clawed arm as he tried to wake Iskanemo. His efforts were in vain, or at least they were not working fast enough. An idea came to him, and carefully he climbed down until he could reach Iskanemo's Kanohi, which was magnetized to his leg. He tried pulling it off, but the force pinning it to the Toa of Air's body was far too strong for him to overcome with only one arm. Above, he heard Mozmana grunt as she dodged and blocked attacks. Vayrag and Iskanemo could not wait for her help, she needed their help. Fortunately, both of them could swim, though neither of them was very good at it. Bracing himself, Vayrag struck his ally with a spinner that counteracted the magnetism that pinned him to the ship. The unconscious Toa of Air dropped into the sea, and Vayrag followed.He grabbed Iskanemo and pulled him to the surface. The shock of falling into the water caused the Toa of Air to stir, but he was still dazed. Vayrag let go of him momentarily to pursue his sinking mask. Once it was in range, the Hordika fired a series of Rhotuka at it, until one hit. The Kanohi became strongly magnetized again, and it shot towards the nearest metal object, which in this case, was Vayrag. As he swam up to support Iskanemo, the mask clapped onto his foot. The impact was jarring, and hoped the mask was not damaged. He lifted his foot and found it wasn't. He managed to pry it off, reduced its magnetism to what a Kanohi normally had – just enough to secure it to a face – and slapped it onto Iskanemo's. Revitalized by the mask's energies, he opened his eyes wide. Vayrag heard Mozmana cry out, and a weapon clattered on the deck above.“Mozmana! She needs help,” said Iskanemo, now wide awake and floating on his own. “Grab on!”“I'll tear those brutes apart,” growled Vayrag as Iskanemo's mask propelled them into the air.Now below them, Mozmana was desperately dodging and using her elemental power to defend herself. Her sword lay on the other side of the deck, and the Dark Hunters were not giving her time to retrieve it telekinetically. A lithe, quick-moving Dark Hunter knocked her down, and prepared to finish her when a bolt of lightning struck him in the back. He turned to Vilam, who had launched the attack from Kyulget's boat. Before he could retaliate, the Toa of Air and Magnetism swooped down. A gust of wind knocked many of the mercenaries down, and Vayrag let go of Iskanemo. He dropped down and rampaged across the deck, fulfilling the promise he had made to himself a few seconds ago. Mozmana called her sword to her, and plunged it into the back of the lithe Dark Hunter. The rest scattered before Iskanemo's winds and Vayrag's savagery, jumping overboard or running to the lower deck. The Toa turned their attention to the vessel's weapons, and quickly destroyed them.“Alright, time to go,” said Mozmana, jumping across the narrow gap between the ships.“I'm not done yet!” snarled Vayrag.“We are,” said Imlen. “But don't worry, I won't leave them like this.”Imlen used the last of his elemental energy to melt a large hole in the enemy craft.“That's better,” he said. “Now let's go.”“I'd rather slaughter them all myself,” said Vayrag as he leaped aboard the smaller boat. “But that is a more efficient way of doing it.”Imlen did not mention that it was likely most of the Dark Hunters would survive. He was sure they could all swim, and help would arrive for them soon. By then, however, the Toa would be a safe distance away. As the Dark Hunter ship foundered, Vilam went below and revved the engines. They continued at full speed until they were on the open ocean again. Soon, they passed the nearest Sea Gate. When they were beyond it, they relaxed. Their next destination was a few hundred kio ahead.Review

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#19 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 21 2012 - 11:10 PM

End of YrentaChapter Nineteen==Northeastern Sea, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

When the Toa reached the next island, they needed supplies, but did not wish to attract attention. So Imlen traveled inland alone in search of local settlements. Vayrag and Mozmana went ashore to take a walk. The island was small, but there was plenty of wilderness near the shore for them to hike unseen. The other Toa had wanted to take the opportunity to enjoy the dry land as well, but Iskanemo insisted they stay to watch the boat. They did not expect the Makuta or Dark Hunters to find them in this relatively insignificant corner of the universe, but still were not going to take foolish risks. Losing their vessel could potentially be a major setback. Paqyar understood and accepted this, but he was still bored. After sitting in silence for a while, he attempted to start a conversation.“So, Iskanemo...” he began. “Sorry we couldn't stay on Nynrah long. I guess you were looking forward to getting that arm fixed, huh?”“That would have been a nice bonus. But I was actually hoping to get some weapons,” said the Toa of Air. “I could get a prosthetic a lot of other places – maybe sometime I will – it wouldn't be as good as a Ghost-made one, but I was visiting Nynrah for the same reason our enemies do: for weaponry. Ever been to Xia? Heard of it? Well, a lot of those fancy machines, lots of war machines, that they make on Xia are actually designed by the Nynrah Ghosts.”“They must charge clients a fortune for high-tech weapon designs,” said Vilam.“I was hoping to find a way to do them a favor, so they could repay me with something unique. I suppose it's too late for that. For now, at least. Maybe once things settle down over there I'll try again.”“How did you lose your arm, anyway?” said Paqyar, still curious.“It was a few hundred years ago. I was in the way of some Dark Hunter heist that had to do with my homeland. They tried to eliminate me, and only succeeded in eliminating this part,” Iskanemo said, indicating the missing part of his left arm.“Did they get away with it?” asked Vilam.“I couldn't stop them. Whatever treasure they took, it hadn't been important to us, but they killed some Matoran that got in the way. Yet one good thing came of it. I realized that I was wasting my life patrolling one region. I love my people, but I know now that I have a greater responsibility.”“We're not so different, then,” said Paqyar. “Except we left our homeland because it was too dangerous, and we plan to return soon. At least for long enough to make things better for them.”“With our help, I take it. We'll see,” said Iskanemo. “I'd die to save Matoran, but I'd rather die to save a million than a thousand.”“After that happened, do you hate the Dark Hunters as much as you hate the Makuta?” Vilam asked, diverting the conversation.“I don't hate them all personally – that's not the way of a Toa – but I hate the fact that their organization exists, and I know their leader is an evil being.”“We've had mostly bad experiences with them. Especially the time they massacred an entire settlement, just before we became Toa,” said Paqyar. “But we've met a few that aren't so bad, or at least they seem that way.”“Be careful of what you assume, Paqyar,” said Iskanemo. “Assumptions like that are a good way to get yourself betrayed, and killed.”At that moment Vayrag and Mozmana returned. They expected Imlen to come soon, and so they waited. A few hours later the Toa of Plasma arrived, moving as quickly as he could while carrying two large crates. The other Toa went to meet him as he approached, and relieved him of his burden. Once the supplies were on board, they unpacked them. They spent the next few hours ensuring the boat was in as good a condition as they could get it. With Vilam's help, Paqyar smoothed the wooden patches he had created to repair the hull, making the boat as hydrodynamic as it had been. Imlen and Mozmana used some scrap metal they had acquired to restore the craft's armor, and Vayrag and Iskanemo tried to repair the destroyed Kanoka launcher. They found the launcher was irreparably damaged, so they moved the remaining launcher to the center to compensate. When the repairs were done and the remaining supplies were safely stowed, the Toa cast off.They sailed north until they passed another island, then they turned west. Once they were far into the sea, at least a hundred kio from any charted island, they came to a stop. It was time to decide their next destination. Imlen and his friends were set on going directly to Yrenta, but Mozmana's team had been hinting they had another goal in mind. Imlen hoped that would not delay them for long. In the seven years he had been traveling the universe, he had thought of his home every day. Hopefully, the defeat the Dark Hunters had suffered just before he left had ended the battling in Yrenta, allowing the lives of the Matoran to return to the state they had been in for the few centuries before the Hunters showed up. But even if the Matoran were no longer being massacred by mercenaries and worked to death to build fortifications, Imlen could not tolerate the evil Makuta ruling over them. Also, he was sick of sailing. He felt vulnerable in the boat, and the water seemed to be rising up to flood it. Then he realized that was not far from the truth.“We're sinking!” exclaimed Vilam the same moment Imlen noticed it.“Who's the fool who left a hole in the boat?” said Iskanemo as the Toa rushed into the hold.“Impossible,” said Paqyar. “We've sailed for kio and...”“Then it's sabotage,” said Mozmana, jumping off the ladder and landing with a splash.The seawater in the hold was ankle-deep, and rising quickly. There was a large gash in the middle of the hull, which Paqyar sealed as quickly as he could. After instructing his allies to climb up a safe distance, Imlen vaporized the water that had leaked in. Then the Toa began to search the hold. A moment later they heard machinery grinding and something being thrown overboard. Iskanemo was the first to get back up to the deck, but he saw no one. Vilam and Vayrag followed him. They quickly inspected the motor and discovered that it had just been destroyed. While Paqyar, Imlen, and Mozmana were in the hold and the other three Toa had their backs turned, something stabbed Iskanemo in the back. The unknown assailant was gone before the Toa could see him, leaving only some drops of water. Iskanemo's injury was potentially lethal, and Mozmana heard him scream. She rushed up to the deck, followed by the other Toa, and used her mask to heal him. When he was stable, she reached out with her elemental power, scanning for minds in the area.“He's down there!” she called, pointing to under the bow. “Wait – he's over there now.”“A teleporter, “ said Vilam.“Split into groups of two,” said Imlen. “Watch each other.”Mozmana covered Vayrag as he began to magnetize the metal panels on the side of the hull. If the saboteur tried clinging to them, he would be in for a surprise. Before the Toa Hordika of Magnetism could finish the job, the boat shuddered and began to sink again. Mozmana sensed a presence directly underneath the boat, which moved as soon as it felt her mental scan. She called out, and Paqyar and Imlen went below to repair the hull again. This time the boat was even more badly damaged, and Imlen had to quickly vaporize the water rushing in before the boat submerged. As Paqyar began to close the hole, the two Toa heard the crackle of electricity and a thud behind them. They turned in time to see an unknown being lying on the floor. Before they could get a good look, his body glowed and he vanished. Vilam was gone with him.The Toa of Lightning reappeared underwater nearby, still clinging to the mysterious saboteur. Fighting electrically-induced spasms, he reached for a dagger, and Vilam let go and pushed him away before he could stab her. Then he turned and attacked. Within a few seconds, Vilam knew she was outmatched. Her opponent was almost as fast as her lightning, capable of teleporting at will. She had to resist the instinct to gasp or cry out as he scored several small hits, and she was running out of air. The other being seemed to be wearing some sort of breathing apparatus, but he did not allow Vilam to damage it. She resorted to her emergency tactic. As he appeared behind her, Vilam reached back and grabbed his outstretched arm. Ignoring the deep cut he made in her grasping arm, she activated her Kanohi. With a flash of light, their bodies merged.The attacker's mind was strong, and Vilam just barely managed to exert enough control over the amalgam to teleport onto the deck. Then she released her mental hold, allowing the fusion to split back into two beings. Her allies on the deck immediately jumped on the saboteur and knocked him out before he could recover. A moment later, once they were satisfied the vessel was seaworthy again, Imlen and Paqyar came up. Paqyar conjured bonds of plants to restrain the unconscious assailant. He, Mozmana, and Vayrag watched over their new captive while the other three investigated what other damage had been done. A few minutes later, the group was reforming when the prisoner teleported away. Fortunately for the Toa, he had not left his bonds behind. Mozmana sensed him reappear behind the cabin, and the Toa retrieved their choking captive.“Tried to 'port away as soon as you woke up, and forgot you were tied up, eh?” said Paqyar. “You probably noticed we removed your breathing device as well.”“Who are you, and why are you trying to sink us?” demanded Iskanemo once the saboteur had stopped coughing up water.“My name would... not mean anything to you,” wheezed the prisoner.“Who are you working for, then?” said Imlen. “You're a Dark Hunter, aren't you?”“Dark Hunters are not the only hunters,” said the saboteur with a laugh. “I suppose there would be no harm in me telling you I attempted to kill you on orders from the Brotherhood of Makuta.”“It might do some harm. To you, specifically,” said Vayrag, baring his fangs.“How did you get aboard?” asked Mozmana, more for the benefit of the others, as she could simply read his mind if she applied enough mental effort.“We didn't need any help locating you on Nynrah,” he replied, glancing at Vayrag meaningfully. “But a certain Matoran approached us and confessed to bringing you to the island. In exchange for a pardon of that crime, and in fact a substantial reward instead of punishment, he directed me to his boat, where I stowed away. And don't worry, Mozmana. He will be compensated for the loss of the vessel.”“That Piraka,” growled Imlen. “Kyulget betrayed us!”“And it seems he got away with it too, though this assassin has failed,” said Vilam.“He got away with the reward. But the consequences will harm him as much as anyone,” said Mozmana.“What do you mean?” said Paqyar.“If we had been killed, there would be six less heroes to set things right in this universe,” explained the Toa of Psionics. “He has only succeeded in delaying us a little, but the point remains that when we are done, life will be better even for Matoran like him.”“Ah, so he'll have to live with the universe in this lousy state that much longer,” said Imlen. “So I guess he's lucky we survived.”“Not if I ever get my claws on him,” growled Vayrag.“He might have delayed us more than 'a little',” said Iskanemo. “You've failed to kill us, but your sabotage was a partial success. Bad news for us: the engine and the back-up sails are both gone.”“We're drifting?” said a few of the Toa at once, and Iskanemo nodded.“Good news is, we're in a current that's taking us in the same general direction as we were going,” he said. “But I can't tell exactly where we'll end up, and I estimate we'll be out here for at least a week. Probably multiple weeks.”“Wonderful,” said Paqyar sarcastically. “Any way at all we can regain control?”“You could make a replacement sail, Paqyar,” Imlen realized. “And Iskanemo can help guide the winds.”“Unless your friend is an expert in sail design, it will not work as well,” said the Toa of Air. “But it will be a lot better than letting the current take us. Still, we'll be in this ship for a long time.”The Toa prepared what was left of the emergency sail system – a collapsible mast and some rigging – and Paqyar grew enormous leaves and branches to form a crude replacement of the missing parts. The other Toa helped him refine the design to the best of their abilities. The whole time, they kept an eye on the captive Brotherhood assassin. Paqyar had made sure to bind him extra before getting to work, and the prisoner seemed to be cooperative. Once the makeshift propulsion system was prepared, the Toa of Air and the Green stood by it, ready to set a course.“We're from the Northern Continent,” said Paqyar. “So, we should head in that direction.”“What? No,” said Iskanemo. “We haven't agreed on that yet.”“True. So, where should we go?” said Imlen.“The Southern Continent is ahead,” said Iskanemo, blowing wind into the sail to direct them to the continent. “We'll head there and get this ship fixed, or replace it.”“And then where?” asked Vilam, getting the feeling Iskanemo was holding something back.“Iskanemo, Vayrag, and I have discussed the matter with each other,” said Mozmana. “We have agreed to aid you in your quest, if you aid us in a short mission to Xia first.”“Xia?” said Imlen and his friends in unison, and they babbled protests.“A short mission, huh?” said Paqyar. “Because we'll be killed quickly, right?”“Listen. We've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” said Vayrag. “Just as you have been waiting for help with your own quest. We're near Xia now, and the six of us could do some real damage.”“Don't worry about it yet,” said Mozmana. “You have a while to consider it.”“I will consider it,” said Imlen after hesitating for a moment. “For now, let's get this prisoner into the hold, then get some rest.”The Makuta assassin was carried down the ladder and secured to a crate in the hold. He did not struggle, in fact it was unsettling how passive he was. He had not said a word since his interrogation, during which he had also been cooperative. The Toa suspected he was waiting until the right moment to attempt an escape, and maybe gathering energy for some ability they had not seen him use. So four of the Toa sat and rested in the hold where they could watch him, and made sure at least one of them was always awake. Up on the deck, Paqyar and Iskanemo also relaxed. Once in a while Paqyar would adjust the sail, or Iskanemo would manipulate the wind, to make sure they kept sailing in a straight line towards the coast of the Southern Continent. Their control reduced what could have been several weeks of drifting to, in Iskanemo's estimate, about a week of sailing. After traveling for several days, they could see the continent in enough detail to notice a large forest, with a small strip of grassy land between it and the shore.“Where on the continent are we going?” asked Vilam, who had come up to visit Paqyar and Iskanemo.“I'm not sure. Someone in the northeastern part of it, I think,” said the Toa of Air. “It's a big place.”“I know,” she said. “We went there a few times in our travels, and sometimes we stayed for a while. But we never got to explore much of it.”“Not many people living there, though,” said Paqyar. “Good for avoiding trouble, but I hope it does not take long to get going again. I've longed ached for the sight of Yrenta, and it has gotten worse this past week.”“Remember, we are taking a detour to Xia first,” said Iskanemo.“I didn't agree to that, and if Imlen listens to me he won't either.”“One thing at a time,” said Vilam, and Iskanemo nodded.Unfortunately for Paqyar, Imlen seemed to be close to agreeing to the request of the other Toa team. It was only fair, he had told his friends, and Iskanemo was right – they had a responsibility to battle evil for the sake of the whole universe, not just the small, isolated region they came from. Still, a decision on the matter had not yet been made. Imlen wanted to see his homeland as much as his friends did. And, as they came closer to the coast day by day, he turned his attention to the mission ahead. He consulted his memory of the Southern Continent. Its primary inhabitants were a few thousand Matoran, it was mostly lush, covered in forests and swamps, but there were also mountains and deserts. During his travels there, he had encountered many strange flora and fauna. The wildlife was generally more dangerous there than in Yrenta.Also, the continent had suffered a strange disaster during the Great Cataclysm, in which a region in its center had been destroyed and replaced by a waterfall that poured out of the sky and into a hole in the ground. At least, that was what the rumors said. During his visits to the continent, the most Imlen had seen of it was a mysterious glint in the sky in the direction of the alleged waterfall. He had never been close to the land's center, and neither had he and his team come this far to the continent's east. When the boat finally landed, it was in a region he did not know the name of. The Toa packed supplies and were ready to explore, but there was one more matter to address first.“What will we do to him?” said Paqyar, indicating the assassin that was still tied up in the hold.“Bringing him will be trouble,” said Iskanemo. “But we can't leave him, to possibly escape and report us.”“I wish we could turn him into the authorities, as we did the Dark Hunters,” said Imlen. “But there are no authorities around here. And the nearest ones are his employers.”“I notice you don't want this on your consciences,” said Vayrag abruptly, and he plunged his claws into the captive. “So don't feel responsible for that.”“Vayrag!” said Vilam, as she stepped forward to check on the prisoner.He was dead, and he had not said a word or even struggled as Vayrag executed him. Perhaps there had not been time for him to move – it was too fast for the other Toa to prevent – but Vilam doubted it. He could have at least teleported across the room, though he would have brought the crate he was bound to with him. Vilam realized that although she did feel somewhat responsible for the assassin's demise, Vayrag had a point. It was the most practical and efficient way to deal with the situation, and that realization unsettled her.“That was not what a Toa should have done,” she said.“I'm more savage than the average Toa,” retorted the Hordika. “He can thank his masters for that. They wanted to make me into a monster. I'll show them how well that worked out.”“But...” Vilam began to protest.“This is not the time to argue,” said Mozmana, exerting a fraction of her elemental power to calm her allies' minds. “We are a team, at least until we make it off this continent.”“I agree,” said Imlen. “We're a team. That does not mean I've decided to accompany you to Xia, but we have traveled together for what, almost two weeks? We're a team for now, I say it's time we act like it.”“What do you three call yourselves?” asked Iskanemo. “Most traveling Toa teams go by a name.”“Never really thought of it,” said Paqyar. “Our homeland is called Yrenta, so we're the Toa Yrenta, I guess. Third team to bear the name.”“We are called the Toa Muktirhith,” said Mozmana.“I've never heard a name like that before. It's a bit of a mouthful, too,” said Imlen. “What does it mean?”“Where I come from, it's a word we use to mean 'liberator',” said the Toa of Psionics. “Or more accurately, 'one who battles tyranny'.”“Liberator? Battler of tyranny?” said Imlen thoughtfully. “I rather like the sound of that.”Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Apr 21 2012 - 11:33 PM.

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#20 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 23 2012 - 08:44 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty==Northeastern Part of the Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa extended the gangplank and stepped onto the beach. Mozmana and Iskanemo carried the corpse of the Brotherhood assassin, and they began to bury it in the sand. The other Toa looked at the boat and noticed it had come quite far ashore. Upon inspecting it more closely, they found it was too far inland. The emergency repairs had caused them to land clumsily, and now the boat was stuck. They tried with all their strength to dislodge it enough to have a chance of launching it again, but they failed. They would need to abandon the vessel. The Toa went back aboard to gather what supplies they could carry, and they found several heavy-duty backpacks. With those, they could carry plenty of basic supplies. Once he had packed a satisfactory amount of necessities, plus some extra, Paqyar filled the remaining space in his pack with Kanoka.“I say we find ourselves a Toa of Water,” he said as he took another disk from a crate. “It would make all this sailing easier.”“Pay attention to what you're doing, Paqyar,” said Imlen. “Who knows what will happen if those go off.”“I have some idea,” said the Toa of the Green. “These are mostly Weaken and Increase Weight disks, but there are also some Teleport and – ”“Whoa, hold it!” Iskanemo interrupted, and he held up a red Kanoka. “Where did this come from?”“What do you mean? Kyulget got all these,” said Paqyar, and then he noticed the symbol painted on the disk Iskanemo held. “Hey, it's a Disk of Fire. Don't see those often.”“Take a closer look,” said the Toa of Air grimly.“It's a power level eight,” Paqyar observed. “The most potent kind. If we could find someone who knew how, we could get a neat Mask of Fire made out of it.”“I find it rather unlikely that the Matoran who owned this boat acquired such a treasure. And if he did, I find it even less likely that he would leave it buried in a random crate,” said Iskanemo. “Imlen, you wear the Great Mask of Psychometry, right? See what you can find out about this disk.”Imlen complied. He saw the Kanoka in storage somewhere he did not recognize. He guessed it was a factory on Xia. That vision passed, and on his second attempt, he saw it being placed in another storage area, far from its original location. This time it was not with other disks, but with an assortment of dangerous tools and weapons. He tried to examine the rest of the room the disk had been stored in, but the apparition would not allow it, and he snapped back to the present. Before losing his focus, he had caught a glimpse of a symbol he recognized.“This belonged to the Brotherhood of Makuta, at least for some time,” he said.“As I thought,” said Iskanemo. “That assassin brought it on board, and could have blown us all up with it. I guess someone found it and stored it with the other disks, and so he lost it.”“If you're right, that was a very close call,” said Vilam.“Let's all be more careful next time,” said the Toa of Air.Paqyar took the fire Kanoka and stored it carefully in a separate pouch. When the Toa were done packing, they began to travel inland together. Mozmana scanned for the presence of Matoran or other locals, and detected none in the area. They headed northwest, towards the northern coast of the continent. Stelt and the Northern Continent were beyond that coast, so the Toa expected to find some locals in that area that could provide them with a boat. For now, they passed through quiet forests, and occasionally a swamp or meadow. They traveled for days, and did not encounter anyone but Rahi. Some of these beasts were aggressive, but none of them could stand before six Toa united. As they traveled, the Toa debated going to Xia. Vilam, Imlen, and Paqyar would all have rather gone directly to Yrenta, but Imlen was willing to go if that was what he had to do to gain the help of the other three. Vilam agreed with him, and Paqyar was still firmly against the idea.As on Nynrah, both the Dark Hunters and the Makuta competed for influence on Xia. The Vortixx grew wealthy from supplying both with high-tech goods, particularly weapons. To keep that arrangement safe, they surely had plenty of security. And with a war going on, the Brotherhood would have their own forces present to protect their assets. Paqyar supposed the only reason Xia was not being torn apart by the conflict was the fact that neither side wanted to lose the island. Iskanemo would have loved to escalate the tension between the two factions until they destroyed each other's production facilities, but he said he would settle for some extensive sabotage. Paqyar still thought it would be suicide. He realized his apprehension could have partially come from the fact that Xia was polluted and barren, in opposition to his element. But that was not as relevant as the danger Paqyar knew was waiting for them.He decided to voice his objection once more. Complaints were all he had left to resort to, as he had already expressed his reasons, but he expected his friends would thank him later for reminding them what a bad idea it was. Before he could form words, Mozmana shushed him. For a moment he thought she had read his mind and preemptively stopped his complaints, then he noticed something up ahead. The landscape abruptly changed from a pleasant green forest to a gray waste, full of black, leafless husks of trees. It was possibly the result of some sort of natural disaster, or perhaps a fire. Yet the Toa felt uneasy as they entered the dead area. That feeling increased when they discovered scattered Rahi carcasses. The bodies seemed to have been dead for months, and the environment had corroded them, but there was no sign of even the smallest scavenger. Not even Protodites had contributed to the decomposition process.“What... what could have done this?” said Iskanemo, who usually seemed so knowledgeable and self-assured.“Killing everything around for kio without leaving a mark on the victims,” said Imlen with disbelief. “I... I've never known of... of anything that could do that.”“Is everything really dead?” said Vilam. “I mean, it looks like it, but...”“I can sense no minds but ours,” said Mozmana. “Anything that I could have detected... they are gone.”“At least that means whatever did that is not around,” said Paqyar, looking around nervously as they walked. “At least, probably not.”“Should we go around?” said Imlen.“Well, something is keeping life from returning here – if it had just killed and left, this would not be so barren after months,” said Vayrag. “So that can't be good.”“Right,” said Mozmana. “This place is making us all uneasy, I can feel it. Let's get around.”The Toa backtracked to the living forest they had left, and headed west without straying into the barren area. After walking for several hours, they came to the western edge of the mysterious devastation, and they traveled north along it. The blighted area went on for several kio on their right, while the only sign anything was amiss in the forest to the left was the scarcity of wildlife. The local Rahi were also afraid of the nearby wasteland, apparently. The Toa were relieved when they finally left the place behind them, but were still nervous, lest whatever had obliterated all life in that area arrive to do the same to them. Yet a kio past the dead land, nature was normal, as if the terrifying place not far to the south did not exist. Soon the Toa stopped to rest, but only for a brief time, and they moved quickly when they resumed their travel.They traveled for a few more days, and they came to a small village that they estimated was about twenty kio from the coast. They noticed the stone huts that formed the village were rather large, and they soon discovered why. It was not a community of Matoran, but rather a species of red-armored beings that were about the same size as Toa. A few of them wore Kanohi, and these appeared to be the more privileged or important ones. The villagers were surprised to see the Toa, which was to be expected in such a place and time. A message was passed to the village leader, who remained shut away in his home. Soon his decision was reported, and the Toa were allowed to take shelter in the village, as it was nearly night. Most of the locals ignored the Toa, but not all were indifferent. Some of them seemed relieved, and hopeful for something.“I can sense your anticipation,” Mozmana said, stepping out of the hut the Toa had been staying in and addressing a nearby villager. “Is there something we can do for you?”“Perhaps,” said the local hesitantly. “We... we have not decided if we should request it of you. That sort of thing is really up to our chief, Merbesi, and he has a lot on his mind already.”“Are you aware of what has happened in the region to the southeast?” said Vilam, who had overheard the others and come outside. “The area in which everything has died?”“It's true, then?” said the villager. “Most of us don't travel far from the village, and when one of our scouts came back telling stories, we didn't believe him. In hindsight, that seems foolish, admit. But, you know, in a boring little village like this people things up for fun sometimes.”“Oh. If you did not expect it was true, I take it what task you have in mind is unrelated,” said Mozmana. “Not that that's a bad thing. Now, come inside, and tell us what we can do for you.”The villager hesitated, and Mozmana repeated her request. Then he looked around, and when no one was looking, he followed the Toa inside. He quickly closed the door flap behind him.“Sorry,” he said. “Merbesi is a good leader, but he is often too proud to ask strangers for help.”“What's going on?” asked Imlen as he noticed the two Toa and the villager enter the hut.“Ask him,” said Vilam.“I'm not sure how important this is,” began the villager. “But some of us have a funny feeling...”“Out with it!” barked Vayrag, and he growled quietly.“Things have been disappearing from the village. Sometimes food, but usually random objects,” said the local. “Of course, we expected one of us was stealing from the others, but we investigated and it seems none of us are guilty. We began to keep a closer watch on our possessions, and discovered that some sort of energy beams were striking the objects and causing them to vanish.”“What did the beams come from?” said Paqyar.“The perpetrator of these thefts, apparently. But we've never even seen him. He shoots them from the shadows, taking the object, then shoots the beam somewhere else, and he disappears.”“Another teleporter, it sounds like,” said Imlen. “We just had a bad experience with one of those. But how do you know the objects are being stolen, and not annihilated?”“Oh. Well, the few times we've come close to catching him, he's dropped some of the objects he seized. But wait, it gets stranger. A few times, the village sentinels have claimed to have been teleported away from their posts, and when they returned, the thief had stolen something else. They were confused, but unharmed.”“Any connection between the objects that have been stolen?” asked Vilam thoughtfully.“Besides the food, some of them might have been useful for surviving in the wilderness. But the others... let's see, there was a map of the center of the continent – as it was before the Cataclysm – a broken mask, a flute, a volcanic rock, a magnet from some tool, some flower petals, some decorative beads... and that's all I can think of.”“I don't get it,” said Imlen after considering the list for a minute. “How long has this been going on, and how often does this thief strike?”“This started about three weeks ago, but only once during the first week. Then he showed up almost every day the last week. Since we've been staying alert, he's only come twice his week. The day before yesterday is when he stole the map.”“This is interesting, and I don't mean to sound insensitive, but we have more important things to worry about,” said Iskanemo. “You may have not noticed, but the Makuta and the Dark Hunters are battling each other over who gets to enslave the universe. We can't stop to help catch some petty thief.”“I think we should help,” countered Imlen. “It's our job to help those in need, and I'm just too curious to just walk away.”“We'll talk this over,” Paqyar turned aside to tell the villager.“Right. Don't tell Merbesi I told you,” he said as he left.“I agree with Imlen,” said Paqyar, turning back to his allies. “Who will trust us if we decline requests for help?”“If that was a request, it was a very, very gently spoken one,” said Iskanemo. “And I suspect you're just saying that to get out of going to Xia.”“Sounds boring anyway,” said Vayrag as Paqyar spluttered a protest. “I want to feel my claws slicing through armor and flesh, and if this thief is as harmless as he sounds, you won't let me do that to him.”“Hold on. Imlen and Paqyar have valid points, but I have more,” said Vilam. “If this is nothing important and easily solved, it will grant us a little relaxation that would be good for us after traveling for weeks. If there's more to it, it might be important enough to satisfy you, and will help us learn to work together.”“Exactly,” said Imlen. “We'll need all the practice we can get before we go to Xia, and think of this as a warm-up.”“So you agree we are going to Xia, then,” said Mozmana.“Well, that's not what I meant. I still need to convince my other teammate, it's – ”“Fine,” said Iskanemo. “Just because I'm too tired to argue.”“Not me,” said Vayrag. “I've been sitting in this hut all night, I need to get out.”“It's only been a couple hours, Vayrag,” said Paqyar. “But I think I have a working compromise.”Paqyar suggested that Mozmana and Vayrag continue north and acquire a new boat. Fortunately, the locals knew enough about the surrounding area to direct them to the nearest coastal village. The two of them left, and the others promised to follow them in no more than five days. The next morning, they were finally brought before Merbesi, to explain why two of them had left and the rest lingered. Instead of telling him their plan, they said they merely wanted to rest a few days. The chief seemed suspicious, and he was nervous about sheltering Toa for long, but he grudgingly allowed it. The Toa suspected he had actually guessed their true purpose and was thankful for it, yet too proud to admit it. Still, they did their best to hide the observation they made of the village over the next three days and nights. On the morning of the fourth day, while the Toa were scattered throughout the village, they heard shouts.They rushed in the direction of the shouts, and found the villagers battling a large Rahi they did not recognize. The villagers were hardy, but the beast was too strong for them. They would be no match for it alone. The Toa released a focused blast of elemental power, and the Rahi roared and turned to them. Another attack caused it to stop in the midst of its charge, and upon being struck by a third elemental blast, the creature fled. The village was safe, but several of the locals had been mauled. The Toa made sure none of them were dead, and did what they could to tend the wounded. Vilam was just helping up one of the villagers, who had been merely stunned, when she saw a flash. Immediately, she ran in its direction. As she ran, a beam of light caught her, dazzling her, and she felt the teleportation effect take hold.Review

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#21 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 24 2012 - 04:39 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-one==Merbesi's Village, Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vilam reappeared three bio above the ground. Before she could control her fall, she landed hard on her front. Dazed, she shook her head and got up as quickly as she could. There was another flash at the edge of the forest surrounding the village, and she ran after it. As she ran after the second teleporter she had encountered in the past three weeks, and the second non-Rahi opponent in that time, she missed the Mask of Speed she used to have. That Kanohi had been lost years ago in a battle with Frostelus, and she had since gotten used to relying only on one mask, as her brothers did. But there were times when it would have been very useful. She heard the other three Toa behind her, but she was already far ahead. Once again, she was going to face the teleporting being alone. A doubt entered her mind, a small thought that she should wait for her friends, but she ignored it. If she waited, her quarry would escape.There – another beam of light flashed between the trees. It seemed the thief could not teleport far each time. Vilam sprinted, catching up, and when there was another flash, she could estimate where the beam would end. Aiming carefully through the trees, she released a bolt of lightning that was strong enough to stun an average being. Under the electric crackle the bolt made, she heard a voice cry out. It was not a voice like what she had expected. It sounded much smaller and weaker. Vilam did not let her guard down, and she had her sword ready as she prepared to apprehend the unknown being. When she found her quarry, she nearly dropped her weapon in surprise. Lying still at the base of a tree was a Matoran. Vilam whispered a lamentation as she investigated the motionless body. She had not accounted for the thief being such a small being, and had shocked the Matoran with potentially lethal strength.To her relief, the Matoran – a Ga-Matoran, she noticed – stirred. Before the Matoran opened her eyes, she suffered a spasm. Vilam could sense no electricity shocking her, and held the Matoran still until she stopped twitching to prevent the little being from hurting herself. The Ga-Matoran looked small and weak, even for a Matoran, which were usually quite strong for their size. Her blue and silver armor was filthy and dented. Vilam looked upon the small thief with pity, and wondered why she had been stealing from the village. Obviously, she needed the food and supplies she had stolen to survive alone, but she could have gotten help. Vilam expected the red-armored beings would have been sympathetic, and there were other villages nearby besides. And she could think of no explanation for the theft of the other objects. She helped the Matoran up and greeted her.“Are you alright now?” she asked, and got no answer. “What are you doing out here?”“What's going on?” said Paqyar as he and the others showed up. “Is that a Matoran?”“You mean to tell me these people ignored the story of everything in a large area dying mysteriously, and yet they were freaked out by one Matoran?” said Iskanemo.“The Matoran was actually affecting their lives, and only one of them saw the blighted area,” said Vilam. “And this Matoran can teleport somehow. I wonder how.”“Hey, what are these?” said Imlen, picking up a pair of matching tools.Imlen experimented with the tools, holding one in each hand. He pressed a button on one and found himself teleported several bio away. He aimed the tools at a spot beside his friends and pressed the button. Nothing happened. He waited a brief moment for them to recharge and tried again. This time he reappeared next to them. He looked around for an object to test the tools on, and found a small boulder. By aiming one tool at the boulder and another at its intended destination, he was able to teleport it around. He continued to experiment, and found he was able to aim at two objects at once to reverse their positions, as well as teleport things into the air. That whole time, the Ga-Matoran did not respond to the Toa. She just stood and stared ahead blankly. Imlen rejoined the others. Only when he put a hand on the Matoran's shoulder and attempted to escort her into the village did she finally speak.“No, no!” she cried, and Imlen let her go.“Sorry,” the Toa of Plasma hastily apologized. “But you've been stealing from these people. Don't worry, we can help you. Can you tell us what's going on?”“No help... dust for water... volcano's gone,” the Ga-Matoran babbled.“Did I do this to her?” said Vilam.“I don't think so,” said Iskanemo. “I think this poor Matoran is insane.”“Idris!” the Matoran shouted suddenly. “Idris, don't... don't go!”“If only Mozmana was here,” said Paqyar. “We should bring her to her.”Imlen and Iskanemo went to the village to report what had happened. The villagers were relieved that the phantom thief was only a Matoran. They were disappointed that the Toa had not found any of the stolen objects, but Merbesi told the two Toa to leave that to his people. Apparently, it was already hard on his pride that he had had to rely on others to catch the thief. With difficulty, he managed to thank the Toa for their assistance. The two of them then gathered their belongings and the others', and once they returned to the others outside the village, the group traveled north to the coastal settlement Mozmana and Vayrag had gone to. Imlen took the little Ga-Matoran by the hand, and she allowed him to lead her. Occasionally, she would exclaim something. The Toa could understand most of the words, but not any meaning they might have had.“I remember,” she said that night as they prepared to make camp.“Remember what?” said Vilam, excited by her sudden coherence.“Why did I go? Why did they go? Was it the same reason? No, they went up, I went...” the Matoran whimpered quietly and stopped talking.“Any idea what happened to her?” asked Paqyar.“Something traumatic,” said Imlen. “But I'm not sure what.”The next day the four Toa and the Ga-Matoran came to the coastal village. This one was populated by several types of Matoran. Some of them were Ga-Matoran, but none of them looked like the Matoran the Toa had found. Most of the buildings were huts of wood, though a few were made of green plants in traditional Ga-Matoran style, and a few larger buildings were stone. The Toa were led to a boat maker's home, in which their teammates were lodging. There was not room for all of them in the hut, so they went outside. The Ga-Matoran was introduced to Mozmana, who attempted to tend to her while the others discussed the next step. Apparently, there was no boat in the village large enough for the six of them. The locals informed them about another village to the east. They decided to go there, after resting and settling the matter of the insane Ga-Matoran. They looked for Mozmana, and found she had taken the Ga-Matoran to the edge of the village, where it was quiet.“It's clear she has suffered severe mental trauma,” said Mozmana as the Ga-Matoran sat silently. “There seem to have been two causes, each separate traumatic events. Yet it seems to me the first such event was long before the second, and the memories of it were lost until after the second event. That is to say, a more recent disaster uncovered memories of an earlier one, and the weight of them both has damaged her mind, and she mixes the events together.”“Can you repair her mind?” said Vilam hopefully.“With or without my power, it would take many months,” said Mozmana, shaking her head sadly. “There is no simple wound in her mind, but rather deeply ingrained anguish. I can help reorder her mind, help her control her fear, and feel her memories – which are vague – but to restore her completely...”“Turaga Jovan!” the Ga-Matoran exclaimed. “Turaga! Come back!”“I did not feel that coming,” said Mozmana, clearly surprised. “Have any of you heard of this Turaga Jovan?”“Not me,” said Imlen as the others also responded negative. “I wonder what I will find if I look into the past of her teleporter tools.”Imlen picked up the tools and activated his mask. Immediately, he regretted it. He saw a nightmarish land, with a red sky and gray ground. All was terribly wrong there. Dust poured over mountains, turning stagnant pools to mud. An exhausted-looking Matoran sat on a rock, and before he could get up, he was turned to stone. In a forge worked by terrified slaves, the tools Imlen held in the present were carefully crafted into their final shape. All that flashed through Imlen's mind in a second, and that was all he could bear to watch. If the Ga-Matoran had lived there, it was no surprise that she had gone mad. As he returned to the present, he found he had fallen over and was hyperventilating.“See something bad?” quipped Iskanemo as he helped him up.“Yes,” Imlen croaked. “Some... nightmare land...”“Dust falls!” the Ga-Matoran cried. “And waterfalls – a giant waterfall! The land is gone, the land is gone...”“I saw dust falls,” said Imlen. “And 'a giant waterfall'... do you think she's talking about the center of the continent?”“That would make sense, especially since she stole a map of that area as it used to be,” said Mozmana. “But that does not explain the other event that happened, and that place you – ”“Karzahni!” the Ga-Matoran suddenly screamed.“Karzahni?” echoed Paqyar. “That place is just a myth, isn't it? Or is it a mythical person?”“She has some very painful memories,” said Mozmana. “I do not wish to make her experience them again.”“What about her name?” said Vilam. “Does she remember it?”“Her name was slowly being forgotten as a result of living alone, but I pulled the memory forth from obscurity. Her name is Sisretan,” said Mozmana, and the Ga-Matoran looked at her as if she had addressed her. “That, at least, is a step in the right direction. If we could take her with us until she was cured, I would, but our future will be far too dangerous. The villagers here have agreed to accept her into their community. These are good people, I sense. They will care for her.”“So, we'd better get some rest before heading to the next village,” said Imlen. “Let's hope that's the last stop before we can finally get back onto the ocean.”“Wait, I have an idea,” said Paqyar, and he went into town.Paqyar went to talk some Matoran, and the other Toa introduced Sisretan to her new comrades. Most of them did not seem happy about accepting a crazed, unwashed kleptomaniac into their community, but it was impossible for them to see the small Ga-Matoran without feeling pity for her. She seemed happier among other Matoran, and soon she walked to the beach. She seemed almost cheerful now, and the villagers allowed her to swim in the sea under careful supervision. When she emerged from the water, her armor was still far from glistening, but it was no longer caked with mud. Imlen smiled as he saw another Ga-Matoran take her hand and lead her off. Then he frowned curiously as he heard a splash from another direction. He and the others went to investigate, and they saw Paqyar standing proudly before an enormous floating piece of wood. Looking closer, Imlen could see the piece of wood was hollow, and very vaguely boat-shaped.“I don't feel like taking another walk,” he said. “So with some help from these fine crafters, I'm going to make our own boat.”“That's... enterprising of you,” said Imlen, and he could not help but laugh.“How long do you suppose it will take?” asked Vilam.“If this hull I just made is adequate, a few days,” said Paqyar.“Just a few days? And there's a catch to this, isn't there?” said Iskanemo. “You won't let us take this to Xia, will you?”“I've come to accept the inevitable,” said Paqyar. “There's no way to talk you out of it, so that's that. So on the contrary, I am planning for this boat to be disposable.”“Show some optimism, Paqyar,” said Mozmana. “We've had a long time to plan this. And Iskanemo, don't be so cynical.”“Something good enough for us to get to Xia, and then scuttle with no great loss,” said Imlen. “I like your idea. Let me know what I can do.”“But we will still need to pay to get this working, right?” said Vilam.“Yes, but the price will be small for something as crude as I have in mind,” said Paqyar. “Especially since I can provide most of the raw materials.”Over the next three days, the Toa and the boat makers of the village worked together to turn the crude hull into a crude functional vessel. Paqyar provided additional wood for the decks, which the Matoran hastily nailed into place. The village's stock of metal was small, and expensive, but the Toa bought enough to make a motor. A few Matoran set to work building the engine, which would make it much faster than a sailboat, yet not as fast as the Steltian vessels. For the craft to be seaworthy and fast enough to serve its purpose, the wooden hull would need to be smoothed and streamlined. A team of Ga-Matoran got to work on that, and the Toa were pleased to see Sisretan working alongside her new friend. She still barely spoke at all, and even then only in mostly random phrases, but she had behaved herself. Mozmana was confident that she would someday communicate clearly with her new brothers and sisters.When the boat was ready, Mozmana went to confer with the villagers one last time about how to help Sisretan recover. While she did that, the other Toa brought the supplies they had salvaged aboard, long with some additional supplies they purchased. When that was done, the Toa thanked the Matoran for their assistance, and said farewell to Sisretan. They promised to visit again someday if they had the chance. The afflicted Ga-Matoran only stared blankly at them, until another Matoran led her away. Then the Toa boarded their new ship and set a course for Xia. The route took them near Stelt, and they turned to take a wide route around that island. In the afternoon of the day after they left the Southern Continent, they came close to the shores of Xia. In keeping with the plan, they kept the vessel well out of sight from the shore as they moved to part of the island they expected to have low security. There they moored the vessel, and rested.They waited until it was late at night, when the stars would have shone down on them had they not been obscured by smog. Then they sailed as close as they dared. The trick here was to avoid detection. Mozmana held up a hand for them to stop, then she and Iskanemo plunged overboard and swam the rest of the way to the shore. Once it was certain they had reached land safely, the other four sailed around to another part of the island. They brought the boat in for a landing at the cargo unloading docks for a factory. As expected, that place was heavily defended. Vilam took the helm while the other three Toa battled against defensive emplacements. When they were close enough, Paqyar hurled Kanoka at the defenses, using his Mask of Rebounding to retrieve and reuse any disks that did not break or fall into the sea.The vessel was quickly riddled with gaping holes, and Vilam brought it against one of the docks. The last major projectile launcher destroyed itself by firing open the boat at dangerously close range. The resulting twin explosions caused the hull to splinter, and the Toa jumped onto the land. Local security was quickly converging on the docks, supported by Brotherhood enforcers. All six of the Toa had landed on Xia, and all was going according to plan.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Apr 24 2012 - 04:40 PM.

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#22 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Apr 26 2012 - 12:29 AM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-two==Armaments Production and Shipment Districts, Xia, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vayrag rampaged through the streets, blasting and mauling hired guards along with Brotherhood soldiers, Exo-Toa, and Rahkshi. Behind him ran the three other Toa. A powerfully-charged Rhotuka caused a large group of enemies to magnetize to each other, allowing Imlen and Vilam to defeat them with their combined powers. Paqyar was especially nauseated by the pollution of the island, and he had to expend additional energy to keep the plants he summoned strong enough to fight. Fortunately for him, he still had plenty of Kanoka left, though he was saving the powerful Fire disk for an emergency. He realized that every moment was potentially an emergency, and hoped that he would recognize the most desperate moment before it was too late. The security force moved to close the gap in its lines, and local officers saw to their wounded allies. The Exo-Toa and Rahkshi stepped on and crushed living and dead bodies alike.That last attack had cost too much elemental energy for the Toa to maintain such a strategy, and the group they had taken out was a small portion of the security force present. Vilam spotted two possible hiding locations: a warehouse and a waste processing center. She gave her comrades a subtle signal, then cried out and pointed in the direction of the warehouse. The Xian and Makuta forces moved to cut the Toa off as they ran towards the warehouse, then the Toa split up and evaded them. Stealthily, each of the Toa changed direction and headed in the direction of the waste processing center. Imlen was the first to arrive, and he ducked behind an enormous waste receptacle. As he expected of such a thing on Xia, the waste processing was very minimal. Byproducts and refuse of every sort were buried, burned, or floated down greasy slicks that led either to the sea or Xia's single stream.“Where's Vayrag?” said Imlen after he and the others had waited for a minute.“I've been here,” said the Toa Hordika, climbing down and around from the other side of the waste container.“Whoa, startled me there,” said Paqyar. “Vilam, are you sure this is a good idea? This place looks rather hazardous, and unless you're relying on the chance we'll be beneficially mutated by energized garbage...”“Just a temporary stop,” said Vilam quickly as she began to move again. “Look for another place to hide.”“Quickly, they'll be spreading out to look for us,” said Imlen, scanning the area.“I just hope they don't spread out far enough to find Mozmana and – in there!” Paqyar indicated a derelict-looking building just as the sounds of security forces got uncomfortably close.A trio of Vortixx enforcers spotted them as they ran to the building. Vilam half-turned and released a triple bolt that knocked all three of them out. She hoped that encounter went unnoticed long enough. The Toa entered the run-down structure, and found it was pitch black inside. They slowed to a careful walk and groped their way around in the dark. They found nothing but walls, and after a few minutes Imlen dared to create a dim globe of plasma in his raised hand. There was no hostile response from inside or outside, so he maintained the light, allowing himself and his allies to look around. The building was indeed abandoned. It looked like it had once been a factory, but it was hard to be certain, as it had been stripped clean of machinery. It had not, however, been cleaned of dust and grime. The windows were so filthy all light from the outside was blocked, and Imlen guessed that even in the night, his light would not be seen from outside.But it was only a matter of time until the local security and Brotherhood forces came upon the factory in their search. And an abandoned building was an obvious place to hide. After another minute to rest and recover, the Toa crawled through a small delivery chute of some kind on the other side of the building. As Paqyar came out last, a security team led by two Rahkshi came upon the Toa. There was no chance to be stealthy at this time, so Imlen, Vilam, and Paqyar merged into Samruna. The Toa Kaita scattered the entire group with a swing of his arms, and Vayrag took out one of the Rahkshi before it could recover. The other Rahkshi reduced its density, causing it to be immune to his claws, and floated away. The Hordika launched a Rhotuka at it and missed, then snarled and turned to the others. Samruna conserved his elemental energy, and used his size and strength to pummel the Xian and Makuta enforcers. Vayrag made sure those who fell would not get back up.As the Kaita and the Hordika took out the last two members of the security team, the Rahkshi of Density Control returned with reinforcements. Samruna then called upon his elemental powers, and along with Vayrag's, he immediately devastated a large portion of the reinforcements. Vayrag brought a couple damaged Exo-Toa down on the survivors. Three Rahkshi remained. Samruna hurled a volley of Kanoka, and one of the Rahkshi was struck by a Weaken Disk that allowed him to shatter it with a thrown piece of rubble. A second Rahkshi was struck by another disk, and shrunk to the size of a Matoran. Vayrag pulled it to him with his magnetism powers and shredded it. Again the Rahkshi of Density control turned nearly intangible and attempted to flee. That did not save it from Samruna's plasma powers. The Rahkshi were the last members of the security team to be defeated, but an even larger force was converging on the district. The Makuta of Xia – or whomever was overseeing the island in his absence – had surely been informed of the situation.Samruna separated into the Toa that had formed him, and the three of them plus Vayrag took cover and looked for another place to hide. They spotted a packaging facility of some sort with an unguarded entrance, and ran inside. There was a small night shift of guards and workers on duty, and the Toa attacked swiftly, hoping to render them unconscious before anyone could sound an alarm. The Toa noticed too late that there were many other workers sleeping at their posts, and the sound of battle woke these off-duty workers. The workers scattered, and the Toa knew even if none of them cared if the Toa were caught, the commotion would be noticed by the searching security force. Yet as the Toa ran outside, they noticed their intrusion and the search for them had caused confusion among the locals. Fleeing workers woke their neighbors, and the streets filled with agitated laborers, overseers, and guards.The searching Brotherhood enforcers did not react with patience. After a brief attempt to bring order to the crowd, they moved through and over the mess of confused Vortixx. From inside a building whose workers had just run outside, the Toa saw this. They did not know how satisfied the Vortixx were with their working conditions, but being trampled by Rahkshi and occupying soldiers was enough to irritate anyone. The spark to ignite a riot came in the form of a series of blasts from a Panrahk that destroyed a large workshop the Toa had recently passed. The workers inside attempted to flee as the building crumbled. Some of them made it, others emerged from the rubble with various injuries. A few of them did not emerge from the ruins. The brown Rahkshi began to shatter the fragments of rubble, looking for the Toa underneath. Of course, the Toa were not in the pile, but several innocent Vortixx were.The locals did not like that. The workers that had escaped from the shop surrounded the Panrahk and tore it apart. As the machine was being destroyed, it resisted, and two more Vortixx were slain. Ordinarily, Vortixx were content to work for whomever, as long as they were paid. Fighting with the customers was bad for business. But, in the opinion of the low-ranking laborers that did most of the work in the district, the Brotherhood had just crossed the line. The workers went from clogging the streets in confusion to actively resisting the enforcers. The Toa ran out into the streets, and saw how quickly and ferociously the riot was spreading. Brotherhood soldiers and Xian security officers were assaulted, Exo-Toa were toppled, and even many more Rahkshi were destroyed. Reinforcements continued to pour into the district, and soon the rioters would be mercilessly subjugated.“I think the others have had enough time,” said Vilam as they took shelter in another empty building.“I agree. We should be able to steal a boat from the docks easily enough, if we hurry,” said Paqyar.“What about the workers?” said Imlen. “It's already turning into a massacre.”“It will be for us, too, if we don't get out of here,” said Vilam. “There's too many of them, there's nothing we can do.”“We didn't tell them to riot, or even ask them nicely,” said Paqyar. “And this frenzy is getting to Vayrag.”“It sure is,” growled Vayrag. “I want to be out there, tearing through my enemies!”“Shh, you'll give us away!” Imlen shushed the Hordika as he howled, and turned to the others. “You're right. We've done all we can do loosen the Brotherhood's grip on Xia. Let's go.”Just then, something hit the walls of the building from outside. The Toa dodged and fled the building as it trembled and the ceiling started to collapse. Vortixx typically took too much pride in their work to vandalize their own workplaces, but there was bound to be collateral damage in such a struggle. As he and the others ran towards the docks, Imlen grimly wondered what would be more difficult and costly: rebuilding, or replacing the workers that had rebelled. The Toa soon found they were not the only ones fleeing to the sea. With the exception of exiles, low-ranking male Vortixx were not allowed to leave the island. Exile would be the most merciful punishment any captured rioters could hope to receive, so those who realized it was a lost cause were voluntarily leaving the island. But though the rioters were outnumbered, they were not all outmatched in terms of firepower.Many of the rogue laborers had looted weapons from the very armaments factories they worked in, and were using the high-tech devices to blast their way to freedom, or just blast as many enforcers as they could before they were overwhelmed. This contributed to the destruction of the district's buildings, and the air was becoming even smoggier than usual as fire spread, burning pollutants of all kinds. The Toa took cover against a wall and wheezed. Fleeing rioters passed them, and when they continued, they found the escaping Vortixx rebels in battle with a large force of Rahkshi, Brotherhood soldiers, and guards and officers that remained loyal to the Makuta. Several of the rioters managed to get onto boats, most of which were sunk. Imlen heard a Vortixx enforcer loudly complain to a Brother soldier as a particularly large cargo transport was destroyed.“On the count of three,” he said as they took shelter around a corner. “One...”“Need to shred enemies now!” interrupted Vayrag, and with a feral roar he charged into the fight.“Okay, now!” said Imlen.The battle for the docks was horrifically chaotic. Haze that burned the lungs spread outward and downward until it was all the way to the ground, and it obscured the combatants' vision. The Toa coughed and wheezed as they fought the security forces, while attempting to see a suitable escape vessel through the toxic fog. Vayrag was lashing out half-blindly, and all the other Toa could do was keep a safe distance from him and hope he could continue to evade attacks with his senses blocked. There were over a dozen Rahkshi, and the Toa knew that were it not for the rioters, they would have had no chance. Yet the rebels were only enraged and heavily armed laborers, and they were no match for the Rahkshi and trained soldiers despite their superior weapons. Paqyar had given up using his elemental powers in this environment, and again resorted to throwing Kanoka. His friends heard him call out, and saw him pointing to something. Vilam and Imlen strained and through the haze they could just barely see a nearby boat. Even in this pollution, which he was so unsuited for, Paqyar seemed to have the best eyes. Imlen turned back to acknowledge him, and found Paqyar was not where he had been.“Paqyar!” he called. “Where did you go?”There was no response, and he repeated the call, this time loudly enough to be heard over the sounds of battle. Still, there was no reply. Then a Rahkshi of Weather Control created a wind that blew the smog away for a short time, and Imlen saw Paqyar. Or rather, he saw what was left of him. That wasn't much more than a pair of legs. A shocked Vortixx rioter with an enormous cannon mounted on his shoulder still stood over the remains. Imlen snarled and tackled the Vortixx. Vilam and Vayrag were busy fighting on their own, so they did not notice him vengefully assaulting the confused rioter. The air around him superheated and ionized, and the Vortixx wailed as his armor glowed red-hot. Imlen savagely beat the unlucky rebel with his staff, causing his melting armor to ripple and splash. The Vortixx fainted, and before Imlen could finish him, a strong hand restrained the Toa of Plasma. Imlen started to protest to Vilam, then realized the hand was not Vilam's at all. Nor was it Vayrag's, or any other Toa's. He looked up and saw a face that did not look out of place at all here, then he realized he had seen that particular face before, about seven years ago.“He didn't mean to, you know,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter. “Toa aren't murderers.”“Unlike Dark Hunters,” retorted Imlen.“I'm just a simple Vortixx, doing my part to improve the lives of my people,” said the Dark Hunter.“Sure you are,” said Imlen sarcastically. “Aren't Vortixx all about the individual putting himself first?”“Does this seem like a good time to discuss cultural stereotypes to you?” said the Dark Hunter as he defended himself, Imlen, and the beaten rioter from advancing Rahkshi.“Good point. And you haven't stabbed me in the back yet,” said Imlen, turning to help the Dark Hunter finish off a fourth and fifth Rahkshi. “Didn't back in my homeland either.”“Thanks for noticing,” said the Dark Hunter, and he called to Vilam and Vayrag. “Hey, you – Lightning Toa and... beast Toa... thing – over here!”“Paqyar? No!” cried Vilam as she ran over and saw what had happened.“Who did this?” demanded Vayrag. “I'll rip out their...”“Never mind!” snapped the Dark Hunter, earning a defiant growl from the Toa Hordika. “The Weather Control Rahkshi are gone, and soon the smog will be so dense you'll be running into each other, if you don't suffocate first. Luckily, I found – ”He had to stop mid-sentence to fight off the Rahkshi, soldiers, and security officers. The last of the rioters at the docks had been defeated, and the Vortixx Dark Hunter and the Toa stood against a few remaining Rahkshi and many others. Before anyone else could attack, the Dark Hunter took out two of the Rahkshi, then jumped back and held up the Level Eight Disk of Fire.“ – this,” he finished. “Now run! Now!”The Toa complied, rushing for the nearest vessel. The boat Paqyar had pointed out was gone, but there was another not far from where it had been. A flash of light, a rush of heat, and the roar of fire erupted simultaneously behind them as they ran. The Toa nearly fell over. When they recovered, they continued to run, and a moment later they jumped off the high dock into the boat. Before dropping down, Imlen turned to see the results of the fireball. Of the entire group that was advancing on them, no one was left standing. Of course, more enforcers were on their way from deeper into the district. The Dark Hunter was not there, but Imlen just barely saw a figure moving rapidly among the buildings in the distance. The fire was nearly extinguished, though the smog was still enough to make him dizzy. Before he could fall, or be attacked by the enemy reinforcements, he followed his allies into the boat.“I hope Mozmana and Iskanemo are alright,” said Vayrag as they launched the boat and set a course to where the team had split up.“They'll want to stay here when they meet me,” growled Imlen. “That's a good idea, actually. Let's leave them behind.”“What are you saying, Imlen?” said Vilam with disbelief. “We – ”“It's their fault Paqyar is dead,” said Imlen bitterly. “This was all their idea.”“Don't talk like that about them,” warned Vayrag.“We agreed to help them,” said Vilam, who continued to steer the boat to the rendezvous point. “Do you really mean to betray them?”“We didn't have a choice,” said Imlen. “It's not betrayal, it's... it's... what they deserve.”“You monster. If you want your barbaric revenge, you'll have to deal with me first,” said Vayrag, readying his Rhotuka launcher.“Ever heard the expression 'the Lohrak calling the Stone Ape ugly'?” retorted Imlen.With that, Imlen and Vayrag began to fight.Review

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#23 Offline The Iron Toa

The Iron Toa
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Posted Apr 27 2012 - 11:55 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-three==Off the Coast of Xia, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vayrag launched his Rhotuka, and a powerful magnetic force began to deform Imlen's armor. Before either of them could make another move, Vilam intervened.“Stop!” shouted Vilam, and she struck Imlen with a bolt of lightning that knocked him out. “Sorry about that, Imlen. And Vayrag. Don't worry, he'll get over it.”“He'd better,” said Vayrag, demagnetizing Imlen's armor and putting his launcher away.Dawn had come and was passing when Vilam brought the boat to the rendezvous point. Imlen had been awake for a while, and he was sulking. He seemed too upset to do or say anything. Vilam knew how he felt, but she also knew they were not safe yet. She kept the boat anchored, and waited. A little while later, Mozmana and Iskanemo appeared on the shore, just barely close enough to be seen. As the two of them prepared to swim, a lean, dark figure came out of the shadows and struck them both from behind. Vilam gasped as she saw them fall, and immediately raised the anchor and headed towards the land. Whether or not Imlen had noticed what had happened, he did not react. At full speed, it only took a few minutes to reach the shore, but that was almost too long for Vayrag. As soon as the boat was close enough, he leaped out of the boat and pounced on his friends' attacker.“Whoa, wait,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter as he caught Vayrag mid-pounce with one hand and set him down. “They're alright. Sorry, I needed to get your attention, and prevent these two from reacting rashly to my appearance.”“I should still maul you for treating my friends like that,” growled Vayrag, checking on his friends and trying to wake them. “But I... I don't think I could beat you. Who are you?”“He saved us a couple times years ago, back home,” said Vilam as she came ashore, followed by the silent Imlen. “But he's a Dark Hunter.”“What do you want, then, Dark Hunter?” said Vayrag. “Off-duty from killing Toa?”“I don't usually get those jobs,” said the Dark Hunter casually. “But before we say any more, let's wake these two. And before that, I'd better make things a little safer.”Before the Toa could question that, he moved swiftly to disarm them. Half-reflexively, they fought back, and the Dark Hunter dodged or endured their attacks effortlessly. Seconds later, Imlen's staff, Vilam's sword, and a knife Vayrag had been carrying were lying at his feet. Of course, he could not steal their elemental power, nor harmlessly remove Vayrag's claws, but he had again asserted his superior combat ability. He added Mozmana's sword and Iskanemo's sickle to the pile, and woke the unconscious Toa. As the two of them got up, the Dark Hunter showed the courtesy to place his own weapons on the ground in front of him. Vilam was certain that he was still capable of defeating them even while disarmed. Upon getting up, Iskanemo and Mozmana immediately prepared for combat, then relaxed when they noticed no one was fighting.“What's going on?” said Iskanemo, seeing the pile of weapons in the midst of the group.“Sorry for my rude greeting,” chuckled the Vortixx Dark Hunter. “I've come to discuss something with you.”“Where's – ” Mozmana began to say, suddenly noticing the missing member of the team.“Paqyar is dead,” Imlen chose that moment to speak. “Because of you.”“Oh. Oh, no,” said Mozmana, and Iskanemo muttered a curse word regretfully.“Yes, it's true,” said Imlen angrily. “And I want nothing more to do with you. Let's go, Vilam.”“Hold on there, Jet, hear me out,” said the Vortixx as he grabbed the turning Toa of Plasma's shoulder.“My name is Imlen,” Imlen responded indignantly to the nickname. “What do you want?”“To have Toa Zima taken out,” said the Hunter.“Zima? He's still around?” said Vilam with surprise.“So you are out to kill Toa,” said Vayrag suspiciously.“Zima is a villain,” explained Imlen. “A servant of the Makuta, and traitor to the word 'Toa'.”“And the Makuta that oversees your part of the Northern Continent – Teskor – has made him his champion,” said the Dark Hunter. “Since he defeated us in Yrenta, Zima has been assigned to hunt his fellow Toa.”“And has he... had any success?” said Mozmana apprehensively.“He has killed several Toa,” confirmed the Vortixx. “I believe his mission is to convert them to the Makuta cause, but as far as I know, every one of his targets has resisted. That's no surprise, really.”“Why do you care about this?” said Iskanemo. “Your kind is one of the factions most responsible for the decline in our numbers.”“Well, you Toa do interfere a lot...” said the Dark Hunter.“Like what you've been doing?” said Imlen.“Point taken. But I personally don't want to see Toa go extinct. More relevantly, Zima must be eliminated because he is dangerous as an individual and as a symbol. Makuta Teskor is using him to demoralize his enemies and gain prestige among his allies. It's working.”“It sounds like he's not on Yrenta,” said Imlen. “And I plan to – ”“Return home and free your people,” interrupted the Hunter. “I know. But listen: if a Toa's responsibility to help those in need means nothing to you, you at least have a grievance against Zima. Even if you do not care for his other victims, you can at least consider this part of your quest. And I know you mean to battle Teskor. I cannot expect you to triumph over him. He is a lesser among his brethren, but a Makuta all the same. But you would have no chance if Zima was protecting him.”“If Zima is far from Yrenta, he will not be able to defend his Makuta,” said Vilam.“I never said he was far from Yrenta. Last I heard, he was somewhere else on the same continent. I do not know what the effective range of a Makuta's teleportation power is, but I suggest you consider that.”“So this Zima is a rogue Toa working for the Makuta...” said Iskanemo.“A Toa of Ice, and Teskor's last Toa Hagah,” the Dark Hunter clarified. “It is said he killed his teammates himself.”“And if he is linked to Imlen and Vilam's homeland, they should be happy to hunt him down,” said the Toa of Air. “Very well – ”“Wait. This is a job for Vilam and I,” said Imlen. “I told you, I am done with you three. And you, Dark Hunter... do you have any more information?”“I'm not going to just give you directions,” said the Vortixx. “I'm taking you there.”“You? But – ” Imlen began to protest.“And we are going too,” Mozmana said, stretching her arms to indicate herself, Vayrag, and Iskanemo.“No time to argue,” said the Dark Hunter as the Toa noticed mechanical whirring and heavy footsteps coming closer.A small group of Rahkshi and an Exo-Toa had found them. They were no match for five Toa and an expert Dark Hunter operative together, but the presence of the intruders had now been detected. The Toa and the Dark Hunter grabbed their weapons and destroyed the Brotherhood patrol. When the fight was over, the Dark Hunter plunged into the water and swam for the boat. Imlen pulled Vilam's hand and they followed him. He knew the other Toa were also following, but he could do nothing to prevent that. He was fatigued and weary with grief, so the others passed him. Mozmana helped Vilam into the boat, and with Vilam's help Imlen climbed up last. He scowled at the others for a moment, then gave up on keeping them out of his business. He went down to the vessel's hold to be alone. The hold was empty, and so he had a lot of space to himself down there. A small corner of his consciousness hoped they would get to their destination before they needed supplies, but he mostly did not think about that.He could only focus on the fact that Paqyar was dead. Imlen had lost many friends before becoming a Toa, but that had been years ago, and members of a Toa team shared a special bond. Paqyar had been killed instantly and by accident, too. No heroic sacrifice, no time for meaningful last words. And it was supposed to be his last stop before finally returning home. Paqyar had not wanted to go to Xia, he had known it was too dangerous, and no one had listened. Well, they had listened, but they not considered his concerns to be of any worth. With a shock, Imlen realized that he had also ignored his brother's warnings. Iskanemo also had a good point about the Toa's duty to protect the entire universe, and Imlen had not been eager to listen to his wisdom. Still, Imlen felt it was wrong of Iskanemo and Mozmana to persuade him and his friends into going on a mission they were not ready for. With seven years of experience, Imlen, Paqyar, and Vayrag were no longer novices, but Iskanemo knew they were far less experienced than his team.And yet no one had forced Imlen to take his team to Xia. In turn, he had not forced his teammates, but no one was expecting Paqyar or Vilam to leave him. The bond between the two teams of three Toa was much weaker than the bonds between the individual team members. As Imlen thought of this, his anger at the other Toa turned into shame, along with the grief and regret he already had. He suddenly felt exhausted, and went to sleep. Later, he snapped awake and saw Mozmana's hand reaching above him. She displayed a smile that was visible through a gap in her Mask of Healing, and bent down to help Imlen up. He did not respond, and she said nothing. She turned and left, and Imlen remained in the hold, though he felt a little better. He suspected her psychic abilities were partially responsible for that.Vilam was not as angry, and did not display her emotions as openly, but she was equally as upset. It was never easy, but Vilam had learned to not be crippled by grief, and instead endure it or harness it to do what must be done. Paqyar had died on a mission for the three other Toa, and so Vilam resolved to make sure Mozmana and her friends fulfilled their promise to help the Toa from Yrenta with their quest. She tried to plan what exactly to do when they reached the northern continent, and if they defeated Zima, what to do after that, but she was too tired. No one spoke, so it was easy for her to fall asleep. The other Toa took turns sleeping, always leaving two to watch the Dark Hunter as he brought the boat to the northern coast of the Northern Continent. They knew the Vortixx could kill any of them, maybe even all of them, if he wanted to. He had not shown even a tiny hint of any intention to do so, but Mozmana and Iskanemo were still unhappy about being knocked unconscious, and as a rule, Toa did not trust Dark Hunters.After a meandering voyage through waterways and along coastlines that lasted about three days, the boat came to its destination on the Northern Continent. The Vortixx brought the boat to a large Matoran port on the western side of the trapezoidal cape in the center of the continent's northern coast. Viewing the coast from the boat, the Toa could see the settlement was built in various traditional small-village styles, with huts of stone and plant material, like Sisretan's new home. However, it was much larger than the Southern Continent village the Toa had sailed away from. This was large enough to be called a city by Matoran standards, though it was far less urbanized than the lost island of Metru Nui. Before sailing into the port, the Dark Hunter had the boat anchored where it was and summoned the Toa into the hold.“I haven't had anything to drink since yesterday,” said Vayrag, demonstrating his dry, creaking joints. “Could we get to the town already?”“Hungry, too,” groaned Imlen. “We should have stolen a boat that had enough food aboard to last the journey.”“You can get your supplies once you're in town,” said the Vortixx. “I'll drop you off as soon as we're done here.”“This is the place?” asked Imlen.“If my information is correct, he's somewhere nearby,” said the Dark Hunter with a nod.“But I thought you were going to help fight him,” said Imlen.“If you had not spent the entire journey in the hold, you would have heard me tell your friends that all I'm doing is giving you some free information and a free ride,” said the Dark Hunter.“Really, Imlen,” said Iskanemo. “I know you're grieving, but you just ate, drank, slept and moped all three days.”“Shut up, Iskanemo,” snapped Imlen, then he addressed the Vortixx. “Listen, we'll need all the help we can get.”“And this is all you can get. Be happy all five of you came along.”“But – ”“It's alright, Imlen,” said Vilam. “He's planning to shadow us and sneak up on Zima while we confront him.”“How do you know that?” said Iskanemo. “You're not the Toa of Psionics here.”“And I am, and I can't read his mind for some reason,” said Mozmana.“Keeping a stealth attacker in reserve for a critical moment is a basic tactic, and his body language subtly indicated he was bluffing,” explained Vilam.“Darn, you're too clever for your own good,” sighed the Vortixx. “Don't you remember that Zima wears the Mask of Telepathy? If you're expecting me to jump out of the shadows and stab him in the back, he'll know that.”“Oh. Any other ideas, then?” said Imlen.“He has a mask with a psionic ability, but as you pointed out, you have something better than that: a Toa of Psionics,” said the Dark Hunter. “You'll know to expect me, but if you can prevent him from 'hearing' your thoughts, it won't matter.”“So, how will we find him?” said Mozmana.“Do I need to guide you through all of this? Ask around, you'll hear about him,” said the Dark Hunter. “And don't bother to keep a low profile. Maybe he'll come to you.”“So, no splitting up?” asked Imlen, and the Vortixx nodded. “Do you really expect him to take us all on?”“Not alone, and not if he can help it,” said the Vortixx. “He'll have plenty of backup, which is why we'll need to take him down hard and fast when the time comes. And I must emphasize that you must not split up. He is an incredibly skilled Toa, but it's not just combat ability that allows him to eliminate entire Toa teams. He waits until the right moment, when his targets are alone or in groups small enough for him to handle.”“So, keep our thoughts shielded, stay together, try to find him or let him come to us,” said Imlen. “That's it?”“Wait, I don't like the idea of letting him ambush us,” said Iskanemo. “I think we should try to not let him know we're around.”“That won't be easy to do without splitting up. And I was only trying to speed things up. After all, I expect him to find you first no matter how stealthily you try to be,” said the Dark Hunter. “But that's just my advice. You five are in charge of yourselves, and after all, this isn't my fight.”The Dark Hunter winked at that last phrase and gracefully hurdled up the ladder. A few seconds later, the Toa heard a quiet splash. The Toa were not sure if they agreed with his plan, but they were too hungry and thirsty to think of an alternative. They decided that could wait, and to refresh themselves in town before thinking about how to find and defeat Zima. The anchor was raised, and soon the boat entered the port. The Toa sighed with relief as they finally walked down the gangplank and set foot on one of the docks. Matoran of all types were here, both denizens and visitors by the looks of them, and most of them were Ga-Matoran. All the Matoran stared at the five Toa, especially at the Hordika that coughed and creaked from dehydration. Vayrag bared his fangs and muttered angrily at the curious Matoran. At that, the Matoran scattered, clearing a path as the Toa walked into town. Imlen heard Mozmana utter a brief reprimand to Vayrag, but was distracted looking at the local stores. Soon, he found what they were looking for: a general store selling basic supplies, including rations and water.“Oh, my,” said the shopkeeper as they entered. “Mata Nui awake! Toa – four of them, and... and what sort of being is this?”“He's a Toa too,” said Iskanemo, to the confusion of the Matoran. “Don't mind us, we just need basic supplies. Food and water first, please.”“Er, yes, of course,” said the shopkeeper. "I do wish I could give them for free, but I can't... not these days, not anymore. I'll give you a discount though – fifty percent off!”“Good enough deal for us, thanks,” said Vilam, selecting the supplies they needed.“Yeah, thanks,” said Iskanemo as he handed over the money. “Also, we came for information on Toa Zima. Heard of him?”“Toa Zima? Y-you know him?” said the Matoran fearfully.“Don't be afraid, we're no friends of him,” said Imlen.“I did not think you were,” said the shopkeeper. “I'm afraid for you.”“He has a reputation here, I take it,” said Iskanemo, taking a drink of water and passing it around.“He killed four Toa we all knew and loved!” said the Matoran. “Protectors we had had for centuries. He even killed the last one right outside town – we collected the frozen, shattered...”“I'm sorry,” said Mozmana, using her power to calm the Matoran and sooth his grief. “We will put an end to – ”She cut herself off upon seeing a group of armed Matoran rush inside.Review

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#24 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 05 2012 - 01:22 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-four==Domain of Makuta Krika, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

“What's going on?” demanded Imlen as the Matoran surrounded the group.“So you are Toa,” said the leader of the armed Matoran. “What is that creature?”“I am Toa Vayrag,” said the Toa Hordika with strained patience.“He's really a Toa?” said the Matoran leader. “Not some dangerous beast?”“I'm both,” said Vayrag, baring his fangs in a smile.“We don't like having dangerous strangers in town, especially since we lost our Toa,” said the Matoran leader. “We're even suspicious of other Toa, especially those that steal boats.”“What? How – what makes you think we stole a boat?” said Iskanemo.“I noticed the vessel you arrived in,” said the Matoran leader. “I've seen ships like that before, the company that owns them doesn't sell them.”“Come now, Kyhudh,” said the shopkeeper to the leader. “They're Toa. They live a life of adventure, and sometimes they need to bend the rules for the greater good.”“We used to allow that, Sopur,” said Kyhudh. “But I can't trust beings just because they're Toa. Not anymore.”“Because of Zima? But surely you know he's a rare exception,” said Imlen. “And we've come to hunt him down.”“Alright, we'll give you a chance,” said Kyhudh, and he dismissed his subordinates. “But the boat stays behind where it can be returned. No more ignoring the laws.”“Very well,” said Mozmana. “Do you know where to find Zima?”“Just that he didn't set sail from here,” said Sopur. “I expect that means he's on the continent somewhere, but it's possible he took a boat from some other place.”“He was traveling south from here, actually. He left four days ago,” said Kyhudh. “There is a Po-Matoran village to the south. You should look there first.”“And you should probably not come back for a while,” said Sopur. “Give us a chance to get over what happened.”“Are you sure you'll be alright?” said Iskanemo.“I'm more worried about you,” said the shopkeeper. “After all, you're the ones going looking for Zima.”When the Toa left the store, they found all the Matoran had hidden themselves in their homes, with the exception of Kyhudh's city guard. They certainly were paranoid. Once they had the necessary supplies packed, the Toa decided to travel directly to the Po-Koro to the south that Kyhudh had told them about. They walked for a few hours over grassy land that gradually became rockier and steeper. By late afternoon, they were hiking through foothills. They passed several kio east of a small mountain on the way to a larger mountain directly ahead. About an hour after dusk, they came to a steep valley between the last hill and the side of the mountain itself. The Po-Matoran village was on the other side of the valley, on the bottommost slopes of the mountain. There was a nearly vertical drop in front of the Toa, and no path in sight. They remembered the directions Kyhudh and Sopur had given them and walked half a kio west. There, the slope was less steep, and there was a winding path leading down.The path was well-maintained, but it was long, and the Toa had to move slowly in the dark. It took them an hour just to get to the bottom. The Toa decided to reach the village before stopping for the night, but needed to take a brief rest. The arid night was cold, and howling wind chilled the valley. Taking shelter behind some rocks, they got out their bedrolls and sleeping pouches, as well as a heatstone that was shrouded to hide its glow. The Toa huddled around the heat source and wrapped themselves up, though they kept alert for nocturnal predators. Several stone huts in the village ahead were illuminated, until one by one the lights went out. With only the muted light of the heatstone and the starlight, the Toa could barely see. They relied on Mozmana to sense incoming threats by continually feeling for unknown minds in the area. Reaching out with her psionic power, she sensed several hostile Rahi, but they were far off. She sensed the grief felt by Vilam and Imlen, and it stung, especially the resentment the Toa of Plasma had for her and her friends. Still 'listening' carefully for approaching enemies, she decided to start a telepathic conversation with him.I'm very sorry, Imlen, she projected. Sorry I... we brought Paqyar to Xia.Apologies won't bring him back, Imlen consciously thought in response to Mozmana.I know. Nothing will, projected Mozmana. His work is done. We still have a job to do.Get out of my head, thought Imlen angrily.Very well, but first I want you to know this: you have a destiny to fulfill, and I will stay with you until you have done so, projected Mozmana. I swear it. I will help you as much as I can until your destiny is fulfilled.I suppose that would mean I'd be stuck with Iskanemo and Vayrag too, right? thought Imlen.Iskanemo? I do not know. I am a psychic, not a future-seer, responded Mozmana. As for Vayrag, I certainly hope he stays with me.Why? What do you mean? thought Imlen, who seemed suddenly interested, despite his earlier message.You know. Without my influence, he would turn into a savage beast, thought Mozmana. He has only half the body and half the mind of a Toa. But he is still a Toa in spirit. I do not want that to be taken from him.I did not realize your influence was so important to keeping him... docile, thought Imlen.Indeed. I am ashamed to think like this, but... I do hope that he dies before I do, projected Mozmana. Without my help, he will lose all of his former identity. He is aware of that, and he does not want that to happen to him.Wow... perhaps Paqyar was lucky in a way. We still have to face the future, and he... he does not need to worry about anything anymore, thought Imlen. Tell me, how long have you, Vayrag, and Iskanemo known each other?That is a story for another time. It is time to continue, thought Mozmana.“Alright, I still want to get to that village tonight,” said Iskanemo, right on cue. “Let's get going, team.”The Toa continued their journey. The bottom of the valley was narrow and rocky. Halfway across, a large feline Rahi pounced on them. But Mozmana had sensed him coming, and the Toa were ready. The valley was illuminated for a brief moment when Imlen released a blast of plasma that knocked the beast back in midair. The Rahi roared and jumped behind a rock, which Vilam shattered with a lightning bolt. The cat charged Vilam, and Mozmana held out her hand, attempting to affect its mind directly. The Rahi resisted her mental intrusion, but was stopped by a sudden continuous wind. It struggled against Iskanemo's gale, then the Toa of Air reversed the flow, sucking the creature's breath away. He maintained the vacuum until the Rahi attempted to retreat. He let it, and it fled. The Toa continued, and came to the Po-Koro before midnight.The village was larger than most of the settlements in Yrenta and the southern continent, but much smaller than the port city the Toa had arrived in. As was usual for Po-Matoran communities, the homes were entirely constructed of stone, even the furniture. Apparently, the struggle in the valley had gone unnoticed, for the village was asleep. Only one Matoran was outside: a guard dozing next to a small fire at the center of the village. Hearing the Toa approach, he jumped up and babbled sleepily in surprise. He pulled out a spear, and Mozmana held out her hand peacefully. The others were not sure if she was using her elemental power, but the Po-Matoran guard seemed to wake up more and calm down. Perhaps it was merely the realization of who he was looking at, and the meaning of Mozmana's gesture.“Toa?” said the Po-Matoran. “Careful, Toa, you – you're in danger!”“Because of Zima?” asked Imlen.“You know then?” said the guard, nodding. “Of course – you came from the port, didn't you?”“Yes. Where is Zima?” said Vilam.“I do not know. He last passed this way four days ago,” said the Matoran sadly. “You should go in and see Turaga Xhaliki. I'm sure he'll want to talk to you.”“Will you introduce us?” said Mozmana.“Oh, no. I need to stand guard out here,” said the Po-Matoran. “Just wake him gently.”“I can do that,” said Mozmana.The guard indicated one of the adjacent buildings. It was a large stone hut, the largest structure in the village. As with the other huts, the door was also made of stone, with a lubricated bottom so it could be moved easily. The entrance was just large enough for the Toa to pass through. The interior was spacious, but barely large enough to comfortably accommodate the five Toa. There were a few stone items of furniture, consisting of chairs and a table of a suitable size for Matoran, as well as a bed, upon which a Turaga of Stone slept. Mozmana stepped over to him while the other Toa sat down on the floor, and she held her hand out over him. The Turaga stirred and opened his eyes. He was fully awake when he spoke, though he was still lying down. His voice conveyed some relief, but mostly fear and regret.“Hello, Toa,” he said, then he sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. “I presume Rakun let you in. Welcome to my village.”“Turaga Xhaliki? Thank you for your hospitality,” said Imlen.“We know of the murder of your region's Toa, and we offer our condolences,” said Mozmana. “We have come to bring Zima to justice. If only we had come sooner.”“I know,” said Imlen. “And if we had skipped going to Xia, Paqyar would still live.”“There is no 'if', just what is, what has been, and what will be,” said the Turaga. “It has happened, and now we must continue to fulfill our destinies.”“We have encountered Zima before, in our homeland,” said Vilam. “Under orders from the Makuta that oversees that region, he enslaved and murdered our Matoran friends. I think we are meant to defeat him.”“Oh, Zima,” said Turaga Xhaliki sadly. “Why have you done such things?”“What is it, Turaga?” said Mozmana, noticing something strange about the Turaga's attitude.“I... I've known Zima. I met him before, long ago,” said the Turaga. “I was still a Matoran then. And he was a hero.”“You mean Zima was once a true Toa? Do you know why he turned evil?” said Iskanemo.“He was strange even then. Unsociable, even for a Toa of Ice,” said Xhaliki. “In fact, I think little has changed overall. But he never violated the Toa Code, not in those days. He and his teammates would occasionally visit this region and help us deal with local threats – Frostelus, Dark Hunters, rampaging Rahi, and the like. He was always concerned with order and duty, and neither kind nor malicious. I suspect that when he was recruited by the Makuta, he was corrupted by their promises to enforce order.”“Do you think he still thinks he is doing the right thing?” pondered Mozmana. “Maybe he does not see himself as a villain.”“Even if he needs to kill every other Toa?” said Vilam. “No. I don't believe anyone could be so... deluded.”“I've never met a being with a mind quite like Zima's, however,” said the Turaga. “But please, it is very late now. Rest here, and tomorrow we will locate him.”The Toa squeezed around each other until they could each find a spot to sleep in. As usual, they took turns sleeping and watching. One Toa stood alert at the entrance at all times through the rest of the night. Rakun the guard insisted on staying at his post until his shift was over, and then he summoned another Po-Matoran to take over. This next guard briefly spoke with Vilam during her shift, but he had no information about Zima. Unlike Rakun, he seemed to want to go to bed, and Vilam allowed it. The night passed peacefully, and in the morning the villagers gathered around, curious about the visiting Toa. The Toa learned Zima had passed south through the village, and was probably traveling through the mountains beyond. They prepared to leave immediately, and as they did that Xhaliki spoke with them again.“When Zima came this way, he told us what he had done,” said the Turaga. “He said that he killed our Toa because they were rebelling against the righteous rule of the Brotherhood of Makuta. We were all too afraid to protest, but he could hear our thoughts. He sternly ordered the Matoran to only mind their labors, and told me that if I spread 'propaganda' against the Makuta, I would be killed as well. I expected him to kill me immediately, but I suppose he wanted me to remain to keep the village running. He seemed to be in a hurry, though he took the time to drive off a rock lion that was straying close to the village.”“You mean he defeated a rock lion?” said Vayrag in surprise.“Well, he scared it off. I did not see the fight for myself, but I heard it lasted about an hour until the lion gave up and fled.”“That's not encouraging,” said Iskanemo.“Are rock lions as tough as they're said to be?” asked Imlen.“Oh, yes,” said the Toa of Air. “But they're not as dangerous as five Toa. Let's go.”“Will you come back, if you live?” said Turaga Xhaliki.“Sorry, Turaga, I do not plan to,” said Imlen. “Vilam and I are on our way home after seven years. But if Zima is vanquished, you will find out soon enough, I expect.”“That is true, and I understand,” said the Turaga. “Well, I hope it is your destiny to defeat him. Farewell.”The Toa thanked the Turaga again and resumed their journey. They followed a path that went around the side of the mountain. Beyond that was an entire range of larger mountains, far larger than the mountains of Yrenta. The road wound between the mountains, and the next evening they saw a Ko-Matoran village on a crag above them. They climbed up to the village and asked about Zima. They were told Zima had been seen passing the village on the path below, but he had not stopped at the village. The Toa were worried about their ability to catch up to him, but they were tired, so they spent the night in the Ko-Koro. The Matoran would have offered to give them mounts, but they only had Ussal and other riding Rahi that were too small for Toa. The villagers informed the Toa of a settlement of larger beings that had mounts suitable for Toa, and perhaps even self-propelled vehicles. However, it was on the other side of a mountain to the southwest.The Toa left the Ice village in the morning and returned to the path. As they traveled south, they debated whether to go to the town the Ko-Matoran had told them about or continue to go straight. By the time they came to the fork in the road, they decided to go to the settlement. There was little hope of them catching up to Zima at their current pace, and he may have also passed through that town. The path that split off from the main route led around a mountain and down to the small town near the bottom. The Toa reached the town, and saw a narrow, rocky valley below, with a larger mountain on the other side. The settlement was inhabited by members of a well-known species. They were about the same size as Toa and their armor was mostly black and white. Vilam and Imlen vaguely recalled encountering a Dark Hunter minion of the same species back in Yrenta.The town was not much more populous than the villages the Toa had passed earlier, but it was significantly larger, to accommodate the larger denizens. The locals did have a few self-propelled vehicles, but they would not give them away for free. They were reluctant to sell them, and their price was too high for the Toa anyway. The Toa purchased some fast but reasonably priced riding beasts instead. The news of Zima and his deeds had just barely come to the town, and the Toa of Ice himself had not been seen by the locals. Still, the locals would not allow the Toa to rest in their homes, for they did not want trouble from the Brotherhood. The Toa rode back towards the main road through the mountains, and stopped to camp before reaching it. By then it was late at night, so they slept under the stars and continued in the morning.Their Rahi allowed them to travel at a much faster pace. They rode for a few days, passing through several more settlements along the way. Zima had been seen by the inhabitants of some of these, but he had apparently stayed away from most of the villages. The Toa were disturbed to find that his name was known in many of the places they visited, even if the locals had never seen him. After passing through an area of lower elevation, the Toa entered another mountainous region. Not far to the south, the mountains began to slope west to meet the smaller mountains of Yrenta. By now, the Toa expected Zima was heading to Yrenta. He reported to the Makuta that watched over that region, so in a way, it was his home too. The thought of returning home – and of Zima returning there – caused Imlen and Vilam to ride faster and longer than before. The other Toa increased their pace to keep up.The Toa rode fast for the rest of the day, passing another village, then camped outside for the night. They rested for a long time, as the steeds were exhausted, and they anticipated a confrontation with Zima soon. The next morning they followed an old unused road that led west towards Yrenta. Below them, to the south and west, stretched the inexplicably cold desert known as the Wastelands to the inhabitants of Yrenta. Makuta Teskor was known dwell there, as it was well within his control. Imlen wondered if the wastes were in the middle of his territory. He had learned that Yrenta only formed the southern border of his domain, but was not sure how far that domain extended. The vista of the Wastelands from the mountainside surprised Imlen and Vilam. The wastes had seemed so vast, but from the road they now traveled on, the Toa could clearly see fertile land north of the desert.They could also see a bipedal figure walking alone into the Wastelands almost directly west of them. They stopped and looked carefully. It was Zima. The Toa found the nearest path down the mountainside and rode down after him.Review

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#25 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 06 2012 - 12:56 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-five==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

It had taken a while to find a safe way down, and longer to ride down that path. The way was rocky and steep, so the Toa had to ride slowly. Meanwhile Zima trekked at a steady pace, increasing the distance between him and his hunters. If he noticed he was being followed, he did not show it. The Toa were at least a kio behind him, maybe two kio, but the air was clear enough for them to see much farther than that. And yet, though it was daylight, the desert below them was not bright. Nor was it dark. A shadow hung over the Wastelands, as if clouds covered the sky, but there was not a drop of moisture to be seen. The Toa could see groups of creatures moving far away, much too far away to identify them. Finally, their steeds stepped onto the gray ground of the Wastelands. Immediately, the Rahi and Toa alike felt both a physical chill and a chilling dread. The Toa struggled to keep the beasts calm.“What is this? It's colder here than in the mountains,” said Vayrag.“This land is tainted by Shadow,” said Mozmana. “Whether or not this was ever a natural desert, there is nothing natural about it now.”“It has been like this as long as we can remember,” said Vilam. “The Makuta dwells somewhere here.”“In the heart of it all, no doubt,” said Iskanemo. “And that is where Zima is heading.”“Then we must catch up to him right away!” said Imlen, urging his mount to go faster. “He is alone, that will not last much longer.”“He's seen us, I'm sure of it,” said Vayrag as his steed and the others' began to gallop. “But I haven't noticed any reaction.”“He is alone, but can we defeat him?” said Vilam. “It is already so cold.”“But it's very dry, so he will need to expend more energy to form ice,” Iskanemo pointed out. “Still, Imlen's plasma will be vital. Don't let him go down.”The Toa reached Zima a few minutes later. The Toa of Ice had turned to face them, and wasted no time. An even greater chill came over the other Toa, and they shielded their faces instinctively, although there was no wind. Zima took out a Kanoka launcher and fired a series of disks, which Imlen melted in midair. Vayrag was the first to dismount, jumping off his steed and charging Zima almost as fast as the Rahi had been galloping. He scurried forward, hunched over on his long, clawed arm, howling and releasing a volley of Rhotuka spinners. The other Toa continued to ride to Zima, blasting him with a combined elemental blast and threatening to trample him. The Toa Hagah adeptly dodged the passing Rahi, and impaled the one Vilam was riding. She jumped off and released a blast of lightning before her feet touched the ground. Zima blocked the electricity with his spear, then with one hand plunged his spear into the ground to discharge the energy, and reached out with the other hand, channeling his element through the disk launcher.Vilam shivered. It was so cold, she could barely move. Then Zima aimed his spear at her and released a sonic blast. It was far less powerful than a Toa of Sonics' attack, not devastating, but it was enough to knock the frigid Toa of Lightning down. Fortunately for her, Zima did not have time to finish her off. He darted out of a cloud of plasma Imlen was gathering around him, dodged the Hordika's spinners, and fought against Iskanemo's wind as he focused his next attack on Mozmana. Her powers were preventing him from using his Mask of Telepathy, which granted him a great tactical advantage. The powers of Imlen and Iskanemo were destroying and diverting his disks, so he put the launcher away. But even without his Kanohi power and his Kanoka, he was a dangerous opponent. Still, the other Toa had him outnumbered, and even with the advantage of the cold climate, his elemental power was no match for the powers of five Toa combined.He stood no chance if he let his foes attack him at range. He needed to turn the fight to melee combat. Application of his elemental power caused the Rahi steeds to collapse, nearly frozen to death. Without that advantage, the other Toa could not prevent Zima from closing in on them. He advanced on Vilam, who had since gotten back up, and Vayrag charged him before he could reach her. The Toa Hordika of Magnetism dodged Zima's spearhead and wrestled with him up close. Imlen, Vilam, and Iskanemo withheld their attacks, so as not to hit Vayrag, but Mozmana did not need to worry about that. Zima nearly fell to the ground as her mental assault supplemented Vayrag's physical attack. Vayrag noticed his weakness and drew back slightly to plunge his claws into him, but that gave Zima an opportunity. He kicked the Hordika with his right foot, causing Vayrag to stagger as he brought his spear to bear. Vayrag dodged quickly enough to avoid being skewered completely, but he was wounded.The other four Toa released a full elemental attack as Vayrag fell to the ground. Zima anticipated that and easily dodged. The tenacious Vayrag was still trying to fight, so Zima kicked him unconscious without slowing as he showered the other Toa with a hail of ice spikes. Imlen created a screen of plasma to vaporize the flying shards. The Toa of Plasma expended more valuable elemental energy in that exchange than Zima had, just as the veteran Toa of Ice had planned. Iskanemo manipulated the air to suck Zima's breath away, and Zima countered by forming a flurry of snow that was drawn to Iskanemo by the vacuum. The Toa of Air's concentration was broken, and Zima charged him. Mozmana was too occupied shielding her allies' minds to notice Zima's charge was a feint until it was too late. Just before he was in melee range of Iskanemo, the Hagah turned and thrust his spear at the Toa of Psionics. Mozmana leaned back to avoid being impaled, but the spearhead still cut through her thin abdominal armor.She cried out and fell to the ground. She was immobilized, but regained her concentration enough to continue to counteract Zima's Kanohi Suletu. Zima prepared to end that, but for a brief moment he neglected to consider the mask powers of his opponents. Before Zima could plunge his spear into the fallen Mozmana, Iskanemo's mask glowed and the Toa Hagah was violently blasted several bio away. He landed on his feet, though somewhat awkwardly, and was struck by a bolt of lightning. He grabbed his Kanoka launcher again and retaliated with a salvo of disks. As he expected, Iskanemo blew most of the disks off course, and Imlen vaporized the rest. But that was just a distraction to allow him to move into melee combat again. Zima released a blast of ice at Iskanemo as he charged again, preventing him from concentrating on his mask. Mozmana was attempting to get up, but it only took Zima a low-level Weaken Kanoka to cause her to collapse again. In desperation, she channeled a powerful mental attack into his mind.For a moment, he was overcome by agony. Stinging, burning electrified plasma added to the pain, but he struggled through it. Imlen and Vilam faltered as their opponent endured their attack, and a second later, they were nearly frozen solid. They moved, but it was too late for Imlen to dodge. Vilam screamed as a Reconstitute at Random disk struck her brother and turned him into a shapeless blob. Fortunately, the effect was temporary, but she did not know how long it would last. While it lasted, the effect was grotesque, and Imlen was out of the fight. She moved to cover Iskanemo as Zima launched more shards of ice at his face. The fight was going all wrong. Vayrag was unconscious, Mozmana was too, or nearly so, and Imlen was also incapacitated. The Vortixx Dark Hunter was nowhere to be seen, and Vilam doubted he could sneak up on Zima in this open desert anyway. She realized that Zima could probably now hear her thoughts, and she indeed noticed a slight reaction from him. He seemed to be expecting someone else to join the fight at any moment. But then Vilam heard a familiar sound and knew that the reinforcements were not on her side.Four Rahkshi were diving down towards the battle, as if they had appeared in the sky spontaneously. Iskanemo barked a command, instructing Vilam to distract Zima while he dealt with the Rahkshi. She complied, and released forked lightning bolts as Iskanemo called upon his elemental and mask powers. One Rahkshi reversed direction in midair, repelled by the Toa of Air's mask, and strong winds buffeted the other three. The repulsed Rahkshi lost control and crashed into the ground, but Iskanemo could not prevent the other three from landing around him. There was a Rahkshi of Disintegration, a Rahkshi of Sleep, and a Rahkshi of Power Scream. Iskanemo used his mask again, propelling himself into the air as energy bolts converged on where he had been standing. In his experience, Rahkshi were tricky opponents for a Toa of Air, so he focused on Zima. Vilam was dueling him in melee combat and losing badly, and she was relieved when Iskanemo dived in to relieve her.“What about the Rahkshi?” she said, as she and Iskanemo dodged the energy bolts that came from behind.“Try to wake the others,” said Iskanemo, and he tried to use his mask again, but Zima broke his concentration. “Or... something. Be quick!”Iskanemo's sickle was small, but a faster weapon to use than Zima's spear. The two of them sparred, both their weapons and their elemental powers clashing, while Vilam turned to the three Rahkshi. A bolt struck her, and she felt a sudden sleepiness. She struggled against it, and with a two-handed grip, she channeled a bolt at the Rahkshi of Sleep. The attack did not defeat it, but it caused it to stagger, and the sight of it spasming gave Vilam rejuvenating hope. The Rahkshi of Disintegration struck next, causing the ground under her to crumble. She jumped out of the way, and as she did so the Power Scream Rahkshi attacked next. The terrible sound forced her to drop her sword and cover her ears, and she stumbled. Again the Rahkshi of Disintegration blasted the ground, and it gave way under her. She grabbed her sword just in time and plunged it into the wall of the pit she was falling into. She could see the bottom, and dropped down carefully. Now the Rahkshi had to come to her, and as they appeared over the rim of the pit, she blasted them viciously.Meanwhile, Iskanemo had repulsed Zima again, and the Toa of Ice launched another volley of Kanoka. Rather than manipulating the air to blow the disks away, Iskanemo dodged them, but that left him open to another blast of cold. He stopped suddenly, and had to release a sudden gust of wind to deflect the last two Kanoka. Zima was quickly covering the distance between them. Another elemental attack froze Iskanemo long enough for Zima to move close enough to use his spear. Iskanemo blocked the thrusting spearhead, but it was forceful enough for him to stagger back. In a flash, Zima launched a Kanoka at him. At first, nothing seemed to happen, and Iskanemo called upon his element again. Then he felt his powers go wildly out of control. Zima pressed himself against the ground as Iskanemo blew himself away with a sudden cyclone. The cyclone lifted the Toa of Air high before disappearing abruptly. Iskanemo hit the ground hard before he could react, and achingly looked up to see Zima approaching rapidly to finish him off.Vilam channeled a great amount of elemental energy at the Rahkshi of Sleep, destroying it before it could render her unconscious. The Rahkshi of Power Scream roared down at her, forcing her against the wall of the pit, and the Rahkshi of Disintegration once again caused the earth around her to crumble. She ducked forward to avoid falling deeper underground, and the Rahkshi of Power Scream attacked again, causing her to fall forward. The two Rahkshi dropped down on top of her, and she rolled out of the way as they stabbed at her with their staffs. She released lightning from all around her, causing the Rahkshi to falter. Then the purple Rahkshi screamed right in her face, and she was bested. The horrible screech overwhelmed her, and she fell to her knees. Even when it was over, she could hear a roar echoing in her ears. The Rahkshi prepared to finish her, and at that moment she realized that the roar was actually a different sound.She lashed out with her sword, causing the two Rahkshi to hesitate. That same second, the roaring quieted, and a multitude of knives rained down upon them. The noise started again, louder than before, as the Rahkshi staggered, blades lodged in their backs. Vilam snarled with determination and struck again, cutting down first the purple Rahkshi, then the blue one before they could recover. Again, pain and weariness came over her, but she endured it. Her friends likely needed her help. She climbed onto one of the fallen Rahkshi, and from there she was able to lift herself out of the pit. The fight had lasted for some time, and she was surprised to see that the other Toa were recovering. Vayrag was the last to get up. She was not as surprised to see the Dark Hunter battling Zima while the wounded Toa got up. Zima was outnumbered again, but the battle was not over. Rather, another phase of the fight was beginning, as many more Rahkshi were arriving.“Thanks for finally showing up,” said Iskanemo to the Dark Hunter as Vilam ran over.“You could have picked a better place,” said the Vortixx, sparring with Zima while dodging Rahkshi energy bolts. “He's the target, take him out!”The Toa tried to focus on Zima, but there were over a dozen Rahkshi reinforcements that prevented them from doing so. The Dark Hunter was skilled, but Zima was too. He expertly parried the Vortixx's sword for a few seconds, then chilled the blade, making it brittle. A small sonic blast made the Vortixx jump back as the blade shattered in his face. With one swift motion, the Hunter grabbed a series of knives and hurled them. Zima dodged most of them, and one of them dug into his armor. That slowed him briefly, and the Vortixx followed up with a punch that knocked him back. He nearly dropped his spear, and desperately conjured a burst of ice. That bought him the time he needed to recover, and he launched a salvo of Kanoka. As he expected, the Dark Hunter leaped high over him. Zima turned and plunged his spear into the Vortixx's leg as he landed. The Vortixx cursed in pain and staggered, but he was not yet defeated.Nearby, Imlen and his friends were having difficulty fending off the Rahkshi. Vayrag and Mozmana were still sore, but were determined to stay in the fight this time. The Hordika was by far the most ferocious fighter. He roared and snarled as he tore through the Makuta-spawn with little regard to his own well-being, shredding armor and enduring the various effects of the energy bolts. Imlen and Iskanemo moved to cover him before he got himself killed. As Imlen turned to dodge an attack, he saw something and gasped. An army was approaching. Visorak or Ukzokth, he could not tell which, but they would be upon the Toa in less than half an hour. He felt his elemental energy reserves running low, and now was the time to use what was left of his power. He melted one Rahkshi, then another. The other Toa also brought the remainder of the elemental energies to bear, and within a few minutes the Rahkshi were destroyed.The Toa were barely able to stand by this point, however, and the Dark Hunter and Zima were still evenly matched. Imlen and Vilam were the first to interrupt their duel, as this was personal for them. The other Toa followed, and together they attempted to move behind Zima. But they were exhausted, and the Toa of Ice merely chilled the air around him, keeping the other Toa at bay without taking his eyes off the Dark Hunter. The Toa backed off and sat down. They needed rest, and if only the Vortixx could keep Zima occupied for another minute, they would have another chance. Zima knew this, and he decided to not allow it. He leaped over the Dark Hunter, away from the sitting Toa. He retreated towards the advancing army, allowing the Vortixx to waste energy trying to stop him. The Dark Hunter's acrobatics were quickly tiring him, and though Zima had also moved a lot, he was less fatigued. A forceful bash with the shaft of his spear knocked away the Vortixx's last dagger. As he anticipated, the Vortixx jumped back to avoid his follow-up thrust.He had nearly won, but the other Toa would not give up. They had had a brief moment to rest, and now they got up and advanced on him as quickly as they could. Zima took a step back, and did something he rarely ever did: he stumbled. He recovered in time to fend off the Vortixx, but Imlen persisted. He swung his staff, diverting Zima's spear. Zima countered the clumsy attack easily, plunging his spear through the Toa of Plasma. The other Toa screamed Imlen's name, but Imlen only grunted. He dropped his staff and grasped the spear that perforated his chest. Zima tried to pull his weapon out of the wound, but it was too late. A quick punch from the Dark Hunter knocked him down, and he let go of the spear, leaving it lodged in Imlen. Zima was defeated, and now Imlen felt the pain. The injury was dire, and he was exhausted, and covered with dozens of smaller wounds. He fell to the ground and his senses faded away.Review

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#26 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 10 2012 - 02:30 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-six==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

“Will... will he live?” asked Vilam.She feared to hear the answer. Mozmana did not reply immediately, holding Vilam in suspense for what felt like a long time. The Toa of Psionics was kneeling over Imlen, tending his wound and using the power of her Kanohi. Her Mask of Healing could save lives, but it could not heal every injury. Finally Mozmana looked up.“I don't know,” she said grimly. “I've healed his shredded lung, but he has some mechanical damage here that I can't fully repair.”“Did you use any of these?” said the Dark Hunter, stepping away from the unconscious Zima and holding up some tiny spare parts and other implements.“No, give me those!” said Mozmana, and the Vortixx stepped forth and handed over the medical supplies.“Everyone should carry the necessary tools to fix his vital parts in an emergency,” he said as Mozmana got to work again on Imlen. “If you Toa neglect to equip yourselves for worst case scenarios, no wonder your kind is dying off.”“You're right, but now's not the time for lectures,” said Mozmana tersely. “Good – he's breathing steadily, and his heartlight is... in adequate condition. He'll recover. Help me weld this shut.”“Did I hear that correctly?” said Iskanemo, who had just been making sure the Rahkshi and their Kraata were all destroyed. “He'll be alright?”“Yes. But don't wake him,” said the Dark Hunter. “He needs rest for the new parts to start working regularly with the rest of his body. He'd experience considerable discomfort if he woke before that.”“That's a relief. I'd feel terrible if he died, after what happened to Paqyar,” said Iskanemo.“If only he could hear – ” Vilam started to speak, then stopped suddenly when the Vortixx jumped up and fired a Kanoka from Zima's launcher.The disk flew above her head and seemed to hit something invisible far behind the group. It went off as it bounced off its target, causing the camouflaged Roporak to reveal itself as it shrunk. The Dark Hunter sprinted in its direction and tossed a series of shuriken. The metal stars stuck into the carapaces of several more of the stealthy Visorak. Spinners shot towards the Vortixx from behind, and he dodged acrobatically. The scouts of the approaching Brotherhood force had found them, and the rest of the army would soon be upon them. Fortunately, Roporak preferred to strike stealthily from a distance, and the spider Rahi had missed their chance to do that. Iskanemo and Vayrag charged into battle after the Dark Hunter. Vilam nodded to Mozmana, and Mozmana joined the fight, leaving Vilam to watch over Imlen and Zima. The Toa of Ice had been beaten unconscious by the Vortixx, and his Kanohi and weapons had been taken from him. But he could not be left unattended, nor could Imlen. Vilam could have launched lightning bolts at the Visorak her allies were fighting, but decided to concentrate on watching over the two unconscious Toa.After all, it was only a small group of Visorak. One or two Toa alone should have been able to defeat them. Indeed, just as Vayrag had caught up to the Dark Hunter, the Vortixx plunged a short, curved blade – his backup melee weapon – deep into the body of one Visorak, then killed another with a volley of knives almost offhandedly. The Toa Hordika wrestled another Visorak, and overpowered it. He sliced through it, and at that moment another Visorak attacked him from behind. He was surprised, and the Roporak's mandibles snapped shut around him. He and the other Toa could not see what was going on, but Vilam could, and it shocked her. The Visorak that ambushed Vayrag was the one that the Vortixx had just perforated with thrown knives, and the one that had been stabbed got up to assist it in mauling Vayrag. For a moment, Vilam wondered if those Visorak were lucky and tenacious enough to survive such wounds and keep fighting. But in the next several seconds, her allies took down more of the brown Visorak, and all of the fallen soldier Rahi got back up.“What... what's going on?” said Iskanemo as he and the others noticed Visorak that should have been dead rise again.“They're being reanimated. Destroy the bodies utterly,” said the Vortixx, then he addressed Mozmana. “You – scan for minds, find if there's someone else here doing this.”“No time now,” said Mozmana, dodging and blocking the attacks of the Visorak. “Help Vayrag!”Iskanemo blew away the undead Roporak that were attacking Vayrag, and ran forward to check on his fallen friend. The Hordika was alive, but badly injured. The Visorak Iskanemo had blasted into the air fell to the ground, got back up, and advanced on him. His preferred tactic of suffocating his enemies into submission was no use against reanimated creatures, so he summoned another cyclone. The wind lifted and dropped the moving carcasses again, and he began to shred them as quickly as he could before they could recover. A few bio away, Mozmana was having some difficulty. Her psychic attacks were also ineffective against the undead, and she could not sense anyone nearby that could be controlling them. She was agile and adept with her sword, but she was not trained to destroy targets that kept moving even when their bodies were sliced into pieces. As usual, the Vortixx seemed to be faring well. It was impressive how thoroughly he was able to destroy the Visorak with only short blades.He was not fast enough to protect Mozmana, however. She knocked over one reanimated Visorak, and cut its legs and jaws off. It struggled as she did that, and while she was occupied, one of the Roporak that was still alive hit her with a Rhotuka. She struggled against the resulting paralysis, but the poisonous energy immediately slowed her. Living and undead Visorak swarmed over her, dragging her down. She pushed them away with a telekinetic attack, but could not get back up. Iskanemo used his Kanohi Crast to smash another Visorak into a rock formation, then ran over to Mozmana. Swirling winds shielded the two Toa from attack while the Vortixx picked up the unconscious Vayrag and carried him over to Vilam. The Toa of Lightning had not been idle during this. She knew that the undead Visorak were far more difficult to incapacitate, and even if the Toa and the Dark Hunter could defeat them, the rest of the approaching force would be upon them in minutes. Already, arrows, crossbow bolts, and Rhotuka were raining down upon them.When the Vortixx placed Vayrag in her care, she had already summoned the three surviving Rahi steeds. The vehicle the Dark Hunter had arrived in was also nearby. He ran back into the battle as a pack of Ukzokth riding monstrous Kavtokh arrived. They launched spears and arrows at Iskanemo, and the wind caught the projectiles and swirled them around him. Then the wind stopped and the projectiles fell to the ground. Iskanemo had run out of elemental energy. Before he could change tactics, another volley of arrows rained down upon him. He remained standing even as arrows pierced his armor, but was slowed enough for the goblins and their Kavinika-like beasts to tackle him. The Vortixx charged in to save him, and found that like the Visorak, both the Ukzokth and the Rahi rose from the dead immediately after dying. After a brief struggle, he emerged from a pile of body parts that were still trying to kill him, carrying the two Toa. Both of them had suffered by the fangs and claws of the Kavtokh.“Ouch. Thanks,” said Mozmana, who could not move her body but could still talk. “We... owe you for this, I guess.”“Careful what you say,” said the Dark Hunter. “I'll hold you to it. I'm saving you Toa because I have something for you to do.”Vilam rode over to him on Imlen's steed, with the other two following. She zapped a couple of undead fighters to cover the Vortixx as he ran over to her. He secured Mozmana behind Vilam, then he helped Iskanemo onto the back of a second steed and mounted it. They rode the short distance to Imlen and Zima and dismounted. Zima was stirring, so the Vortixx picked up a Kanoka and slammed him with it. The disk's power weakened Zima, causing him to lie still. The Vortixx chained him securely to the back of his vehicle while Vilam endeavored to get her friends to safety. But the Visorak and Ukzokth were approaching rapidly, and it seemed hopeless. Vayrag and Imlen were unconscious, Mozmana was paralyzed, and Iskanemo was having great difficulty standing. Each of the steeds could support no more than two Toa. Vilam twitched to the side, narrowly avoiding a Rhotuka that struck the Rahi Mozmana sat on. The steed moaned and fell over dead, its organic tissue dried to dust by the spinner. Mozmana's limp body landed on its side.“My mask, Vilam!” said Mozmana as Vilam began to pick her up. “Take it, and heal the others!”“No, use it to heal her,” said Iskanemo as Vilam took Mozmana's Kanohi. “It's just Visorak paralysis, easily cured, and I'm not badly hurt.”“Right,” said Vilam, and she replaced her Mask of Fusion with Mozmana's Mask of Healing.The use of the mask was difficult. It required more mental stamina than Vilam was used to for a Kanohi, and she was still slightly dizzy from the Rahkshi of Power Scream's attacks. The Vortixx finished securing Zima, and protected her as she attempted to concentrate. After an excruciating minute, Vilam succeeded, and Mozmana got up. Vilam returned her mask to her and put her own mask back on. By then, the Makuta's army had caught up to them. Arrows bounced off the Dark Hunter's armor as he picked up Imlen and placed him in the rear seat of his vehicle. Mozmana took Vayrag on one of the remaining steeds, and Vilam helped Iskanemo onto the other. The beasts panicked as projectiles hit the ground all around them, and Mozmana used her power to calm them. The Vortixx drove away slowly enough for the Toa to follow him if they moved quickly. Soon they left their enemies behind, save the Kavtokh. Vilam and Mozmana urged their steeds to go faster, and they galloped away from the ravenous monsters.The Vortixx took them to the mountains they had come down to the Wastelands from. They went up the nearest path that could accommodate his vehicle and headed north. After traveling for a little while, they looped around a mountain and headed south on the other side of it. After about an hour, they stopped just beyond a stretch of the road that led along a precipice, on the edge of another mountain. The Dark Hunter led them into a cave for shelter, where Mozmana tended to the wounds of Vayrag and Iskanemo. The Kavtokh and Visorak bites were painful and debilitating, but they were not lethal in this case. Imlen stirred and clutched his chest. Grimacing, he opened his eyes and looked around. The Vortixx had placed a lightstone on the ground in the center of the cavern, allowing Imlen to see that it was large enough to comfortably fit the entire group. The Vortixx himself was sitting next to Zima, who was still unconscious, chained and bereft of his mask and equipment.“What... happened?” mumbled Imlen. "Where are we?"“Take it easy, friend,” said Iskanemo.“We're safe for now,” said Mozmana after doing a quick mental scan to assure herself that was true.“We all... made it?” coughed Imlen, looking down at his aching chest.“We made it out of the wastelands,” said the Vortixx. “And I hope we've evaded them. But I'd like to get moving again until nightfall.”“Hold on – we need information,” said Vilam. “Especially Imlen, who was unconscious for all that.”“I'll tell you what I know later,” said the Vortixx. “If you want to fill him in on what happened, that's fine with me, if that one – Iskanemo – will ride with me instead.”“I do owe Imlen a lot more than that,” admitted Iskanemo. “Alright... at least that way I can keep a closer eye on you.”“Let's get going then, come on,” said the Vortixx, and he and Iskanemo brought Zima back out to the vehicle that was hidden behind a rock outside.“I'll tell you the main thing you need to know,” said Vayrag as the rest of the Toa prepared to continue their journey. “That army in the Wastelands – those creatures rose from the dead upon dying.”Imlen was not sure what to say, so he merely nodded in acknowledgment. The group continued south to where the mountains turned into rocky hills. Below them, to the west, they could see a small sandy desert, where the Po-Matoran of Yrenta had once lived. Long ago, they had been forced out by Ukzokth, and the Toa could see the goblins' fortress on the site of the old Po-Koro. The desert and the hills were both dry, though not as dry as the Wastelands, and prone to extremes of temperature. Imlen shivered, both from fear and cold, as he listened to Vilam's account of what had happened. A wind blowing eastward over the land swept sand from the desert and sprinkled the chilled granules across the hills and the beings traveling through them. The Vortixx instructed them to find shelter, and soon they found a very large burrow in the ground. It looked big enough to comfortably fit the entire group and their means of transportation.“It's occupied. I'm not sure what it is, but there's something very big sleeping in there,” said Mozmana, mentally scanning the burrow. “We had better find another place.”“Ah, no, it's no problem,” said the Dark Hunter. “But I'll need to borrow this...”“What? Hey – ” protested Mozmana, but before she could stop him, the Vortixx had taken her sword.He stealthily slipped into the burrow. A minute later, he emerged and returned the sword to Mozmana. A thin layer of grime covered the blade up to the hilt, indicating it had just been used.“Alright, get inside” ordered the Vortixx.“You killed it?” said Mozmana disapprovingly, though she and the others felt they had no choice but to follow his instructions.“The sooner we got shelter, the better, and we're more important than him. If it makes you feel better, he was asleep the whole time,” said the Vortixx. “I'll tell you Toa what I know about those walking dead, but first I need to deliver someone. Stay in there. I'll be back soon.”“Wait – where are you taking him?” protested Imlen as the Vortixx made sure Zima was secure on the rear of the vehicle.“I can't tell you that,” said the Vortixx. “You have my promise you won't see him again... for what that's worth.”The Vortixx got back in the vehicle and started its roaring motor. The Toa watched him speed off, then went into the burrow. It was indeed large enough for them to all fit comfortably in, though the massive carcass dominating the den was unsettling. Vilam opened a bag of Rahi feed and fed the steeds while Mozmana checked everyone's wounds. They were all sore, and the three older Toa still limped slightly, but they would soon be completely well again. Once the Toa were settled in, they began to discuss the situation. Before they could come to any conclusions, the Vortixx returned. The Toa stared at him hard, determined to get some answers.“What happened to Zima?” demanded Vilam.“I delivered him – still chained, of course – to an ally, and that's all I will tell you,” said the Dark Hunter. “Your quest against him is complete, and that should be enough.”“Who are you? Why did you help us escape?” said Vilam.“You know who I am. I am a Dark Hunter,” said the Vortixx. “If you must know, my code name is Jutsu.”“'Jutsu'?” Imlen chuckled, then coughed. “Who... comes up with these code names?”“And I saved you because of our encounter with those undying creatures,” said Jutsu, ignoring Imlen. “Tell me, have you ever heard of a Makuta named Anecrax?”“No,” said Imlen, shaking his head.“Teskor is the only Makuta we know by name,” said Vilam.“I know who Makuta Gorast is, and I've heard of one named Tridax, and a few other names, but never heard of Anecrax,” said Iskanemo.“I don't know much about him either,” said Jutsu. “But apparently he's obsessed with death and reanimating the dead.”“You mean, he was the one reanimating the goblins and Visorak we killed?” said Vayrag.“I strongly suspect that is so. But though the Makuta have many powers, that is not one of them,” said the Dark Hunter. “And – unless he was hiding on the battlefield somehow, which I doubt – he was far out of range of a Kanohi Tryna.”“So he has some special means of creating undead from far away,” said Vilam.“And you think he's somewhere around here?” guessed Imlen.“Correct,” nodded Jutsu. “This unique ability of his must have some limit – otherwise, we would see the dead walking everywhere – and so I suspect he is in this part of the continent. More specifically, I think he is in the Wastelands, and probably working with your Makuta Teskor.”“So, what? You expect us to fight two Makuta at once?” said Iskanemo.“Oh, goodness, no,” said Jutsu. “I expect you to use your brains and come up with a plan to deal with them that won't get you killed. Or at least, I'd like to expect that. Anecrax is a threat to everyone, and the universe needs Toa to keep it safe from beings like him.”“What about you? Aren't you going to help?” said Imlen, and the words still felt strange to say.“Do I look like a Toa to you? I wish you the best, and not for your sakes, but I have other jobs to do. I mean it this time,” said Jutsu, glancing meaningfully at Vilam. “It's time I report to the Shadowed One.”“Wait,” demanded Imlen, and he readied his weapon to stop the Hunter. “What's the Shadowed One's goal here? What's your mission?”“I have told you all I will,” said Jutsu firmly.“No, you haven't,” said Vilam as she and the rest of the Toa drew their weapons and surrounded him.“You're making a mistake,” said the Vortixx, crouching into a combat stance.Review

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#27 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 12 2012 - 06:01 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-seven==Hills East of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Imlen was the first to move, surrounding Jutsu with a ring of plasma. He was also the first to fall. Fortunately for the Toa, Jutsu was not using lethal force, but he made knocking Imlen's mask off and sending him flying into the wall with one kick look as easy as simply stabbing him. Iskanemo caught the dispersing plasma in a cyclone, swirling it around Jutsu, and Vilam electrified it. Without slowing, the Dark Hunter spun around, hurling many shuriken around him. Many of the shuriken were caught in the hot whirlwind, though some made it through, peppering the cavern with bits of molten metal. The Toa ducked instinctively, and Jutsu burst free. Vayrag had just been waiting for that. With a snarl, he jumped onto Jutsu's back and launched a low-powered Rhotuka into him, causing the Vortixx's body to become magnetic enough for him to hold on. Jutsu spun and shook in a vain attempt to dislodge him, then simply dropped onto his back, crushing the Hordika into submission.Vayrag let go, stunned, and Jutsu got up, only to be stopped by Mozmana. She was holding a hand out toward him, channeling her power through it as strongly as she could. She had never encountered a being with a mind as well-protected as Jutsu's, but she seemed to have finally succeeded in penetrating its defenses. She had to a degree, at least. His secrets were still buried within his mind, beyond reach, but her power appeared to have him mesmerized. Iskanemo and Vilam came forth and held him still, and he struggled weakly, as if dreaming. Imlen and Vayrag recovered and also came forth. Mozmana nodded slightly in satisfaction, and with new confidence, she reinforced her mental effort.“What is your mission?” she asked sternly.“I won't... tell,” Jutsu struggled to say.“You will tell us,” said Mozmana, strengthening her grip on his mind. “Has the Shadowed One sent you to us? What for? And what is your personal agenda?”“I... it's... not for you to...” the Vortixx began, then gave in. “Well, I guess... you figured it out mostly anyway.”“Tell us in all detail,” ordered Mozmana, without loosening her hold on him.“Not... all detail. But you can know this: though my kind has killed many Toa, the Shadowed One knows not to underestimate their potential,” said Jutsu, speaking more fluently when he was not fighting against Mozmana's power. “I am assigned to... manipulate you into doing deeds that will be in our advantage. But I promise you, this – most of this – is in your own best interest. We both want to see the Brotherhood fall, correct?”“Correct, but what more is there?” said Mozmana.“Nothing... no, I... won't tell more!” said Jutsu, and suddenly he threw Iskanemo and Vilam off him.Mozmana's concentration was broken by his sudden retaliation, and Jutsu had full control of himself in an instant. He tossed an Increase Weight Kanoka at Mozmana, pinning her to the ground, and leaped into his vehicle. Before the other Toa could stop him, he sped out of the lair. He was long gone before Mozmana could get back up. The Toa decided to rest while they could, and decide what to do next in the morning. Occasionally, a far away nocturnal Rahi would howl, and the sound of the wind was louder and more consistent, but other than that the night was quiet. Two Toa at a time took turns guarding their brothers and sisters as they slept. The day had felt much longer than it actually had been, and so the Toa slept soundly, and for many hours. In the morning they decided to travel southwest, and within a few hours they were at the southern edge of the desert, just outside the eaves of the jungle of Yrenta.

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Makuta Teskor looked up and grunted as he saw a red and black mass of smoke coalesce into Makuta Anecrax. As was usual for these visits, the skeletal Makuta's Mask of Reanimation was altered to display a very smug smile. Teskor was always annoyed about how much satisfaction Anecrax got out of his work. Even when he suffered setbacks, or even total failure, he seemed to never get frustrated. Teskor supposed that was the kind of Makuta only suited to play in a lab all his life, while more ambitious Makuta – like Teskor himself – claimed real power. Then Teskor thought again, and realized that belief was dangerously wrong. Anecrax was as much after power as he was, he just enjoyed the methods he used to get it much more.“They're ready,” said the necromancer Makuta proudly.“They – oh... right,” said Teskor, remembering Anecrax's latest project. “Good for you.”“Capturing those Dark Hunter scientists certainly helped advance my work,” explained Anecrax. “And if anything, these are even harder to destroy than that Sentrakh being the concept is based on.”“Don't get carried away,” warned Teskor. “The rest of us do not wish to rule over a universe of corpses, no matter how lifelike those corpses are.”“I know. But consider what excellent servants they make,” said Anecrax. “And now I have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate.”“Oh?”“Oh, yes. I was there when you received the news,” said Anecrax happily. “You have intruders in your domain, and Zima is gone. Luckily for you, I have the perfect alternative.”“A perfect alternative?” scoffed Teskor. “They are not even alive!”“Nor are they dead,” said Anecrax proudly. “Isn't it beautiful?”“Yes... beautiful,” said Teskor sarcastically. “Now get out.”“Of course, let me just summon them here, and we'll help ourselves,” said the other Makuta.He concentrated, reaching out with his teleportation power. Another dark miasma appeared and formed into his three new minions. Teskor grunted dismissively and allowed them to walk out of his lair. He had decided it did not matter. If Anecrax's latest experiment passed this field test, the Toa team and mysterious Vortixx lurking in Teskor's territory would be dealt with, and Teskor would not need to bother with them. If they failed, it would give Teskor the opportunity to mock his rival and solve the matter himself. Either way, while Teskor was not as petty as he had once been, he resolved to have the Toa and their friend punished for depriving him of Zima. The Toa Hagah had been a rare sort of being, exceptionally skilled and even more loyal. But most all, he had been an irreplaceable propaganda symbol. Anecrax's latest project was frightening, but not the same as a Toa that willingly served the Makuta.

-----

Imlen and Vilam were surprised by what they found in the jungle. The flora was always changing over time, and neither of them had ever kept track of what trees were where, but the past seven years had changed the jungle in a way the Toa could not quite define. There were more of certain kinds of plants, perhaps, or maybe some parts were more overgrown or barren than they had been. Whatever had changed, a more perceptible surprise was the greeting they received. The last time they had visited the jungle, they had not encountered any Matoran. This time, scouts spotted the group and greeted them only half a kio from the jungle's eaves. The Toa were led to the Green village, which, as always, was protected by a ring of dangerous plants. The floral guardians allowed the group to pass, and the Toa stepped inside. Imlen and Vilam had not seen the place for hundreds of years, while the other three Toa of course had never visited it. Iskanemo, however, knew a place like it, and he mumbled something about his home.Most of the homes were in the trees, reserving space on the ground for farms and gardens. The treetop houses were made of woven vines and leaves, while the buildings on the ground included those as well as hollowed-out rocks covered with moss. Every plant used in construction was alive and cared for, from the roofs to the vine bridges connecting the canopy district to the trees themselves. Though it was a large enough village in a small jungle to be easy to find, the jungle had shielded it from the outside. And so, it had thrived while the Matoran living to the north had been enslaved. Imlen estimated there were nearly two hundred Matoran in the village, mostly Matoran of the Green, with a Matoran of Air minority. There were also at least a dozen refugees from other villages. The Toa soon learned that the villagers were fortunate in another way, for Turaga Morok had returned to them. The Turaga greeted the Toa in the main treetop plaza, which was the enormous leaf of a peculiar one-leafed tree. He wore a festive assortment of leis and leafy wreaths around his neck and shoulders, and his leaf staff bore flowers. The Toa knew seven years meant little to beings such as him, but living with his people again seemed to have refreshed him, for he seemed quicker and more energetic.“Welcome back, my old friends. And hello and welcome to you new friends,” he said happily, then his mood turned somber. “Where is Paqyar?”“He died in Xia, just before we came here,” said Imlen, and looked at Iskanemo.“That is unfortunate. But I am sure he was a hero to many, in his short life as a Toa. Alas that he never saw his homeland again,” said Morok, and he cast off his floral decorations. “Your return is to be celebrated, but now is not the time.”“That's true. Merriment must wait,” said Vilam. “But thank you for the welcome. Now, we have much to discuss...”After introducing the three elder Toa, Vilam and Imlen apologized for their long absence, and the five Toa and the Turaga discussed what had happened in the past years. Morok had not left the jungle, but had heard enough to know that after the Dark Hunters left, the Brotherhood had withdrawn most of its forces. The Matoran were not forced to work as hard in Makuta Teskor's fortresses, but in turn, the Makuta had let his Ukzokth do as they would. Again, Matoran took shelter in those fortresses, which they had originally built for that purpose, though the banners of the Brotherhood now hung from their walls and towers. The jungle had been attacked, and had prevailed against its invaders each time, with a little help from the Matoran. Siok was still missing and presumed dead. Morok ended his tale on that sad note, and talk turned to what had happened in the past few weeks.“I have... bad memories of Dark Hunters,” said Morok when the Toa told him about Jutsu. “I lost a close brother and a close sister, and many distant siblings to the Hunters during the War. This one you speak of may be different. Less brutal, it seems, but he may well be just as ruthless, and even more manipulative.”“He keeps showing up, especially when we need his help, and he does help,” said Imlen. “It's kind of awkward.”“Hmm. It is fortunate that our enemy has a second enemy,” said the Turaga. “But I would call one side my friend no sooner than the other.”“We will be careful,” assured Vilam. “Now, about these undead...”“It is not the first time I have heard of such a thing,” said Turaga Morok. “A mysterious curse of that sort briefly touched our land, in the days of Toa Vibrak and his team. In the months preceding the death of Toa Kryaju, the Toa were plagued by Shadow Toa, mysterious and sinister manifestations of their inner Shadow. During that time, the dead walked in some places. Mostly eerie places with an abundance of corpses, such as graveyards and battlefields.”“The Wastelands are spooky,” said Imlen. “But we have not encountered any Shadow Toa.”“I believe the simultaneous occurrence of the Shadow Toa and the undead was not a necessary link, but contrived,” said Morok.“You mean the Shadow Toa were not responsible for the walking dead, but part of the same plot,” clarified Vilam.“Exactly.”“Sounds just like this Makuta Anecrax we were told about,” said Iskanemo.“I do not think I have ever heard of him before,” said Morok. “Hmm. Two Makuta could be twice the trouble... but if Makuta are as friendly to each other as they are to everyone else, a partnership between them could be disrupted.”“How do you propose we turn them against each other?” asked Mozmana.“I do not know. I don't know what their plans are, their collective plan and their individual agendas,” said the Turaga. “We need to find that out, but we will need help. Sneaking off into the Wastelands with no idea of what to expect will get you killed. So I say we make ourselves known.”“What do you mean?” said Imlen.“The Matoran deserve to know who their heroes are, and to have a Turaga again. And if we hide from them, we will miss out on their knowledge,” explained Morok. “By gathering information from them, we can start to assemble this puzzle. And, most importantly, I think this is a situation in which it is best to let the enemy make the first move. You will reveal yourselves, and the Makuta will reveal their pawns and plans. It will be dangerous, of course, but you are Toa. You can prevail, and you have a far better chance of it than you would confronting the Makuta with no plans and not enough knowledge of your own.”“It sounds risky. Perhaps we will be able to defend ourselves, but what about the Matoran?” said Iskanemo. “It sounds like there are a lot of those Ukzokth things scattered around here, and if they were assembled into an undying army, they could be unstoppable. I know the people of Yrenta have experience defending themselves, but if you had to completely dismember every single goblin, you would be overwhelmed.”“We would not achieve victory through armies in that case,” said Morok. “But if he assembles his forces and marches them upon us, that only makes it easier for you to find and destroy the source of Anecrax's power. Teskor has already conquered this land, though his grip has loosened. Now we have Toa again, and he has not yet enforced order among his scattered warriors.”“So the time has come to reunite our people before he reunites his,” said Imlen. “I agree with that, but I do not think it is time for their Turaga to come forth. It's still too dangerous for you.”“And I hope you're considering this on a larger scale,” said Iskanemo while Morok pondered Imlen's opinion. “No Makuta with such an ability – the power to create armies of the undead – would use that ability only to conquer one little Matoran territory.”“You're right. Both of you,” said the Turaga. “This Makuta Anecrax intends to put his method to the test. Makuta Teskor allows him to use his domain for the tests – but to what degree? Does Teskor care if Yrenta is reduced to a lifeless wasteland? There – ”“Lifeless wasteland?” interrupted Vayrag. “Do you remember the blighted land in the Southern Continent? And if Anecrax is obsessed with death...”“Yes, I remember,” said Imlen, and he explained it to Morok. “While traveling through the eastern part of the Southern Continent, we came upon an area, several kio wide and across, in which everything appeared to have died suddenly. It seemed to have been that way for months, and it was still devoid of life.”“That could be Anecrax's doing. But if he could do that easily, I think we would know,” said Mozmana.“I hope you are right. In any case, I do not think he would destroy us in such a way unless we really frustrated him,” said Morok. “It is my hope that we can discover a way to play the two Makuta against each other. Imlen, I want the Matoran to know I am alive. But I will stay here, at least until we know what we are up against.”The Toa spent the rest of the day making plans and talking to the Matoran. The villagers were happy to see them, but many of them knew Paqyar, and they mourned his death. The Toa were asked many times why they had been away for so long. There was no easy answer to that. Imlen had helped many people during his travels, but leaving his home had always haunted him. Now he and Vilam were back, and though Paqyar was gone, he had been replaced by three more experienced Toa. It was time to show everyone that although the numbers of the Toa were declining, they could still protect their people. The Toa slept in the jungle village, and the next morning they began their journey. Their first stop was the Ga-Koro, the nearest village to the jungle. After saying goodbye to Turaga Morok and the jungle Matoran, they traveled south and left the jungle.The land south of the jungle had once been farmland cultivated by a union of jungle Matoran and water Matoran. In recent centuries, the farms had suffered from Ukzokth raids and unchecked Rahi. The war with the Dark Hunters had caused many of the farmers to be brought north and forced to build fortifications and armaments alongside the northern Matoran. Now the area was covered with fields despoiled by invaders, dotted with derelict homesteads. The Toa doubted any of the farmers were left. If any had been left behind by the Brotherhood slavers, they should have moved back to the villages. Goblins still scoured the countryside. They would eat the untended crops until they were gone, then they starved until the plants grew back. At this time of year, the fruit was returning after months of barrenness, and the surviving Ukzokth were flocking to the former farmland in famished foraging parties.Before they were halfway to the Water village, the Toa were found by a small horde. These Ukzokth seemed to have eaten enough to not be weak, but were still hungry enough to be frenzied by the arrival of prey. The goblins preferred meat, and they were always equipped for the opportunity to obtain some. They were proud to eat Matoran, and Toa would be an even greater meal. As far as anyone knew, Kryaju was the only Toa to meet that gruesome fate. And it seemed that it was not likely to happen this time either. The goblins were fierce, but their band of a few dozen was no match for a team of five Toa. During the war against the Ukzokth, Vibrak's team had been forced to kill many of them, but this time the Toa only had to drive them off. Still, the battle was violent, and several of the twisted creatures were inadvertently slain. The Toa were relieved to discover that these did not rise from the dead.Soon the remaining Ukzokth fled, and the Toa continued. Imlen and Vilam told the other three about the history and geography of Yrenta while they hiked briskly through the wilderness. On the way, they encountered and defeated another roving band of goblins, as well as several ferocious Rahi. That afternoon, they came upon the Ga-Matoran village. It was much as Imlen and Vilam remembered, though as with most of the other villages, it had regressed over time. The small settlement served as Yrenta's port, which explained why the Makuta had allowed its population to remain, for keeping the sea routes open helped to maintain his realm. But while once fantastic and exotic wares had been brought ashore and sold in the market, now most of the cargo went to the Brotherhood military, or to other, richer territories of the continent. With Metru Nui lost and Xia and Nynrah focusing on weapons production, their fantastic technology no longer improved the lives of the common people.Many former merchants turned to fishing, which supported the village well enough, although it was far less glorious. Also, another line of work was born: the transportation of refugees and migrants. In the wake of the Great Cataclysm, and with the Dark Hunters, the Brotherhood, and lesser factions tearing the universe apart in their quest for power, Matoran and others traveled to and from the Northern Continent in search of a better life. Some denizens of the continent sailed away to more isolated lands, while inhabitants of distant islands that had been struck by natural disasters or caught in wars looked for shelter in more developed regions. Most natives of Yrenta remained, maintaining loyalty to their homeland and waiting hopefully for their lives to improve. But with Yrenta as it was, under the watch of a domineering Makuta, devoid of benevolent protectors and plagued by savage creatures, virtually all the refugees that came to the region traveled to other lands as soon as they could.The Toa had heard this from Morok and his people, and now they could see for themselves. They received the staring from the locals that they had become accustomed to, followed by looks of wonder and excitement. For the first time in five hundred and forty-three years, the people of Yrenta had Toa protectors again, and they rejoiced.Review

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#28 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 14 2012 - 11:03 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-eight==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

“Hello,” said Imlen to the group of Ga-Matoran that came forth to greet them. “Is Akahati here?”“No,” said the foremost Matoran, and she looked down sadly. “An evil Toa of Ice came and killed her years ago.”“Zima. Well, he has been defeated,” said Vilam. “Once and for all, we hope.”“I hope so too,” said the Ga-Matoran. “I am the new leader. My name is Merileva. Welcome to our village.”“Thank you,” said Imlen, bowing. “You may not recognize us, but Vilam here and I, Imlen, are from Yrenta.”“Imlen the renegade?” one of the other Ga-Matoran spoke up excitedly. “I've heard of you! I knew you had a greater destiny!”“Oh, I... don't know what to say,” said Imlen. “Just doing what I need to.”“And these three have come to help us in our quest,” said Vilam, prompting the others to introduce themselves.“I'm Iskanemo.”“I am Mozmana, Toa of Psionics.”“And I'm Vayrag, a Toa Hordika... of Magnetism.”“Is there anything I can do to help you?” asked Merileva.“You should hear the full story,” said Vilam.Merileva agreed and led them into the village hall. On the way, the Toa passed a large red being with a tail being led into a hut that was far too small for him, and they saw other refugees moving around at the docks. The village hall was the biggest building, and like the others it was made of aquatic plants. Several curious Matoran followed them inside, and the Toa allowed it. The more information and feedback they received, the better. The Toa told their tale to their audience, and received information in turn. The Ga-Matoran traveled less than they used to, and the few times they did were usually overseas rather than to the rest of Yrenta. Therefore, they had no news about their homeland that the Toa had not already learned in the jungle village, but they had many rumors and first-hand accounts from other lands to tell. They also kept track of what the Makuta was having shipped to their village.“Lots of weapons and weapon parts,” a Ga-Matoran that unloaded cargo was saying. “Plus parts of machinery we don't recognize, and strange liquids and such too. Lab materials, we think, but none of us can figure out what any of it does.”“You knowingly help ship these things to the Makuta?” growled Vayrag. “Why? Why not sabotage the supply lines?”“He'd kill us!” cried another Ga-Matoran.“He'd force us to do it, somehow, or he'd replace us,” said Merileva. “I'm not happy about what these things are being used for – and I don't know exactly what most of those uses are – but if we rebelled, well, not only would we be destroyed, but the other villages might suffer his wrath. Things aren't great now, but we're doing as well as we can by keeping things as they are.”“I understand,” said Imlen. “It was not the right time to resist, it was time to obey and wait. Again, I'm so sorry we were gone for seven years. But now is the time to resist! If we can prevent him from obtaining supplies from this port, I'm sure he'll find an alternative, but it will inconvenience him – weakening him while we strike.”“But what about his response? He will punish this village. He'll do something terrible to them,” said Mozmana. “We can defend it, but not forever.”“And it would be no good to be stuck here,” said Iskanemo. “Any other ideas?”“Well, I suppose...” said Merileva reluctantly. “I suppose we could flee Yrenta until it is safe again.”“To where would you go?” said Vilam while the gathered Matoran expressed their surprise.“I don't know. But the universe is a big place,” said the village leader. “I'm sure we can find a temporary home somewhere nearby.”“The universe is also a dangerous place,” said Mozmana. “You will need our help to relocate safely.”“Hmm, that will take away some of the time we'd have to attack while Teskor and Anecrax are caught off guard by the loss of the port,” said Imlen.“Not necessarily,” said Merileva. “We've made other allies: seafarers that can protect us in the water, and guide us to our new sanctuary.”“It will take time to make new boats,” Iskanemo pointed out. “Poor, clever Paqyar... – won't the Makuta notice something's up?”“They have not kept a close watch on our village for years,” said one of the Matoran.“You may have noticed you were not attacked by Rahkshi upon arriving,” said another. “As long as things go smoothly, they leave us alone.”“Hmm... how subtly do you think you could sabotage the equipment you deliver?” said Vilam thoughtfully. “How long would it take for them to notice?”“I don't know,” said Merileva. “I don't know how soon the equipment is used after it's received. It depends on how we tamper with it, of course.”“We could time it so that we leave just as they find out what's going on, and so that we ruin as many items as possible,” said another Ga-Matoran. “Brilliant!”“It will take time to make arrangements, however,” said another Ga-Matoran, and the Toa agreed.The Toa remained in the village for days, helping Matoran to build enough boats to move the village's entire population – over a hundred – and the supplies they would need. Ga-Matoran were experts in nautical affairs, and already had many boats ready to sail before the project began. With most of their normal jobs suspended, it did not take long for the boats to be constructed. The Matoran that were still moving cargo for the Makuta subtly sabotaged the objects they delivered, and when the boats were done, the boat builders began to stow the villagers' belongings aboard. By then, they had made contact with the allies Merileva had mentioned. They were slender water-breathing creatures with incredibly sharp claws. Some of them had helmets that allowed them to breathe on land, and these came ashore to assist the Matoran. They had strange patchwork armor, but Iskanemo could identify them as members of a species native to the sea around the embargoed island of Zakaz.“One of their kind was once an infamous warlord,” he told his friends, then he addressed the creatures. “What are you doing so far from your homeland – um, home sea?”“Our kind was given these claws by a mysterious faction that endeavored to turn us into living weapons,” said one of the water-breathers with a voice that gurgled through the water in his helmet. “My folk were given... additional modifications. Experimental ones. It did not go well, and all we that survived got out of that bonus package was this strange appearance. We didn't belong with the others, so we found a new home near your coast. We got into a dispute with these villagers long ago – ask your Turaga – but now we have an understanding.”A week after the Toa arrived in the village, the Ga-Matoran were ready to go. They smashed the last shipment they were supposed to deliver and dumped the wreckage into the sea, then they were off. The Toa had told the Matoran about lands they had visited in their travels that might be suitable, and so the Matoran set sail for the nearest of those: a small island off the coast of the Southern Continent. It was strange how thoroughly gone the village was. Even the huts themselves had been dismantled, rolled up, and packed with the supplies. The Toa watched the boats sail away, escorted by their sea-dwelling allies, then turned north and returned to the jungle village. Morok was pleased by their report, and told them he had gone ahead and sent messengers to the other village to spread the news of the return of the Toa. It was his hope that this would inspire the villages to unite without needing the Toa to be constantly present.Still, the Matoran needed guidance and protection in this transition. After conferring with Morok, the Toa left the next day. Their first destination was the Fortress of Gravity to the north. They had acquired three Hypaka, swift steeds native to Yrenta. These were ridden by Imlen, Vilam, and Vayrag, while the other Toa rode the two surviving steeds from the town in the mountains. The Rahi made the trip quicker, but it still took several days, for they had to take a detour. The homes of the Ba-Matoran were built into the cliff on the eastern side of the mountains of Yrenta, overlooking the canyon that separated that territory from the desert that used to be inhabited by Po-Matoran. In past ages, a bridge had spanned the canyon, allowing easy access from the cliffs to the desert and the jungle directly to the south. When the Ukzokth defeated the Matoran of Stone and claimed the desert, the bridge was severed, and now travelers from the east had to cross the river west of the jungle and travel through the rugged terrain leading to the mountains.The foothills this far east had no fortresses, and many goblins dwelt there, as well as the troll-like brutes called Urshnolg. They took advantage of the isolation to gather and multiply in that untamed corner of Yrenta, and they ambushed any travelers that were bold enough to take that route to the cliffs. The Toa fought them off as they came, and when they came to the center of Ukzokth territory, a horde had assembled and was closing in on them from all sides. Imlen and Vilam knew Ukzokth, and knew that the savages had them outmatched. The creatures were small and weak, but knew how to attack in overwhelming numbers. Their Urshnolg counterparts were much rarer, but far more physically powerful, and some breeds of them were resistant to certain elemental attacks. The specimens present seemed to be Stone Trolls, which had no special resistances, but were stronger and tougher than other sorts, and Gravity Trolls, which were excellent climbers and hard to knock down or lift up.“Clear a path through them!” ordered Imlen as they dodged arrows from the approaching horde. “Keep going north!”“If we can get to the Ba-Naja, we can defeat them there,” said Vilam.“We'll have more cover behind those hills there,” said Iskanemo, pointing ahead and a little to the east. “As long as we don't let them trap us there...”The Toa rode to the place Iskanemo indicated, breaking through the ring of Ukzokth. Mozmana caused confusion among her enemies with a mental attack, and Iskanemo, Vilam, and Imlen followed up with a storm of electrified plasma. Vayrag blasted any of the goblins that still stood in the way, and the Toa made it to the little valley. As they expected, the trolls and goblins swarmed up the hills around them and in front of them, but there were rock formations and trees to provide shelter from their arrows. Ten Urshnolg barred the way to the north, toppling trees and rocks to form a barricade. Iskanemo blasted one back with his Kanohi, then turned to fend off the approaching Ukzokth while the others battled the trolls. Most of the hulks wielded stone clubs or tree trunks, though a few of them had metal weapons that had been provided to them by the Makuta when they served in his army.Vayrag leaped onto one and perforated the weak areas in its armor with his teeth and claws, then did the same to another. Without dismounting, Vilam shocked a few others into submission while Mozmana's psychic assault overwhelmed the simple minds of three more. Imlen melted the armor of two Urshnolg, and as he turned to face another, it swatted him with a spiky mace. He and his Hypaka went flying, and landed in the middle of a group of Ukzokth. The beast had taken most of the damage, and it died underneath him. Imlen rolled off the carcass as the goblins' blades came down on him. He felt the sting of a minor hit, and created a cloud of plasma to burn and blind his enemies. Iskanemo moved to help Imlen, covering his escape with a gale, and helping him climb onto the back of his steed. When the Toa were together again, they struck hard with their elemental powers, stunning the Urshnolg long enough for them to burst through the barricade.With the horde at their backs, the Toa rode on through the hills, towards the mountain paths leading up to the Fortress of Gravity. With Iskanemo's steed now carrying twice the burden, their progress was slowed, but the urgency of the situation caused them to ride for many hours at the fastest pace they could achieve. Late the next night, they judged they had gotten far enough from the Ukzokth to rest for a while, and so they did. They were now on a road leading up Yrenta's easternmost mountain, not including those of the border on the other side of the canyon and desert. This route was not traveled as much as it once had been, but traffic on it was still a common occurrence. The Toa had come by a seldom-used path leading up from the eastern foothills, while now most travelers came from the west, traveling along the mountain range. Above them, they could see the lights of an outpost or a tiny village that watched over the road.The Toa had traveled in the dark, refraining from making light to avoid being seen by the goblins. It seemed to have worked, but now they saw the reason the Ukzokth and Urshnolg had apparently slowed their pursuit. The violent creatures had seen the Matoran settlement above, and were advancing on it. By the light of the stars, the Toa could just see small and large shapes scaling the nearly vertical slope. Judging by the shape of the mountain and the position of the village, it would be too late by the time the villagers could see them. The Toa mounted and rushed up the road. They soon came to the settlement, which consisted only of a few huts and a watchtower overlooking the road. The ride had been short, but the goblins and trolls that lived in this area were naturally expert climbers. Imlen and Vilam expected they would reach the top before long. Imlen made sure their presence was known with a brilliant globe of plasma, and seven Matoran of Gravity came out to greet them.“Toa?” said one of them. “I never thought I'd – ”“A horde is coming,” interrupted Imlen. “Ukzokth and Urshnolg, climbing up the cliff.”“I'll light the warning beacon” said another Ba-Matoran, pointing to the top of the tower.“No, I'll do it,” said Vilam, and she ignited the pile of wood on the tower's roof with a well-aimed lighting bolt. “Now get to the fortress, we'll hold them off here for as long as we can.”“Right, get going,” said Imlen, and he turned to the other Toa. “Come on, if we hurry, we can catch them while they're still climbing.”The slope the savages were climbing was a five minute walk away, and when the Toa arrived, the first of the Ukzokth were swarming over the edge. Iskanemo sent most of them down with a windstorm, and Vilam and Vayrag picked off those that remained. Mozmana covered Imlen as the Toa of Plasma called upon his elemental power to heat the precipice. The ledge melted, and a cascade of lava washed over the slope. Most of the goblins were swept away, leaving their strongest members and most of the Gravity Trolls. The Toa maintained control of the edge for a while, defeating the invaders that came over the top. But more and more came, and the Toa were forced to retreat. The rest of the horde was coming up the road. Now was the time to fall back to the Fortress of Gravity. The Toa called their steeds and reached the fortress within an hour, with the Ukzokth about another hour's march behind them. Like the other fortresses, this one was named in old Yrenta dialect, and so it was called Ba-Naja.The village of the Ba-Matoran had been well-defended for as long as anyone could remember. Because it was built into a cavern in the side of a cliff and only accessible by a few guarded paths, only enemies that could fly or scale smooth, bare rock were much threat to it. Since the loss of the Po-Matoran village across the canyon, the Ba-Koro had been fortified, and even more construction had been ordered by Makuta Teskor when he claimed it for the Brotherhood. The cavern had been expanded, and more dwellings excavated in the cliffside. There was only one way in, and that path led along a narrow ledge for almost a kio. The ledge had a tall fence that could be collapsed, so travelers could pass safely without fearing the drop on their right, but enemies would be denied that safety feature. There were also several bridges that were also collapsible, and traps that could be activated by the flip of a switch all the way back inside the fortress. There were many sentries standing guard, and all of them insisted on staying at their posts when the Toa passed.The Ba-Matoran of Yrenta had a proud martial tradition, though their most famous order, the Knights of the Cliff, had been disbanded long ago. Indeed, Ba-Naja was one of the most secure fortresses in Yrenta. Many Matoran considered it only second to the Aki-Naja, which was still occupied by Brotherhood forces, and so villagers of other elements also took shelter within its walls. When the Toa entered, they were surprised to find these refugees outnumbered the Ba-Matoran natives. The Matoran, in turn, were far more surprised by the presence of the Toa, although the sentries had already arrived and spread the news. Apparently, such a thing had to be seen to be believed, but despite the shock, the fortress's commanders and warriors were ready. The leader of the community, a Matoran of Gravity named Netun, came forth to greet the Toa. While he was not as slow and frail, he had the manner of a Turaga. He had been leader of the Ba-Matoran for almost eighty thousand years. Indeed, while his memories of those days were vague, just before the start of his reign he had welcomed an adventurous Matoran named Morok when Morok's new friend Siok brought him to the Ba-Koro.“Welcome, Toa,” he said. “It seems our time together will be cut sadly short.”“Perhaps,” conceded Imlen. “But let's see what we can do to prevent that.”“The fortress is strong,” said Netun. “But we have not faced such an assault for many, many years.”“We came to unite the Matoran,” said Mozmana. “Unfortunately, we have accidentally gathered the Ukzokth to us instead.”“Turaga Morok lives, and he has sent messages,” said Vilam. “The others will know of us.”“Morok... is alive?” said Netun with disbelief. “I did not dare to believe the rumors. That is happy news, but sadly we can only guess of poor Turaga Siok's fate. Now, it is time to prepare for battle.”Netun led the civilians into shelter while the Toa assembled Ba-Naja's fighting force. Many brave Matoran answered the call, but it was a pale shadow of the former military. While some expertly-forged relics of the old wars were still in good condition, most of the weapons and shields were rusty, falling apart, or merely improvised laborers' tools. And yet, the Fortress of Gravity had never had five Toa defending it. That would certainly count for a lot. The defenses were prepared, and soon most of the Ukzokth force was crawling along the ledge that now had no fence, no bridges, and was full of deadly traps. The others scaled the vertical cliff face, bypassing those defenses, but the Ba-Matoran had protective measures in place for them, too. Within the fortress, more levers were pulled. At several points along the ledge and under the walls of the fortress itself, scalding, slippery liquid was dumped down on the climbing invaders. Hundreds of Ukzokth and Urshnolg screamed and plunged to the bottom of the canyon.“So, the Ukzokth war has begun again,” said Imlen, wincing involuntarily and looking away from the slaughter.The Toa heard a shout. The surviving attackers on the ledge were bypassing the traps by brute force and replacing the bridges with stone slabs and logs, and now they were coming into range. The Matoran retaliated with conventional ranged weapons. Catapults and ballistae, bows and crossbows, and many other sorts of projectile weapons were aimed and their projectiles launched. It was another slaughter, for nearly the entire remaining horde had to move along a path that was three bio wide at the widest point. Dozens more of the invaders were killed, and several large boulders were launched to block the passage. All went still and silent for a minute, then the stone barricade shattered. An Urshnolg vanguard was still approaching, and more Ukzokth suddenly swarmed around them. It did not seem possible, unless another horde had arrived in secret to reinforce the first. Then the first light of dawn came, and the Toa could clearly see what was happening. The dead ones were walking again.Review

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#29 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 16 2012 - 11:24 PM

End of YrentaChapter Twenty-nine==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

“Anecrax! The goblins have not assembled on their own, the Makuta have unleashed them upon us,” said Imlen, then he shouted to the Matoran. “The dead ones rise! You must destroy the bodies utterly!”“We'd better wait until they get closer before we use our powers,” said Iskanemo, taking a spare crossbow. “We've already used much of our energy tonight, and who knows how long this fight will last.”“I agree,” said Vilam as she and the others also received ranged weapons.Most of the goblins' weaponry was inferior, but some of the trolls carried cannons. They were primitive weapons, but could be terribly destructive. Yet the walls of Ba-Naja were thick, and Imlen was confident it would take many cannonballs to bring them down. Indeed, after a thunderous salvo, the fortifications were barely chipped. Then the cannons were fired again, and only when the projectiles struck did the Toa realize they were not cannonballs this time. Imlen and Vilam recognized the effect, and identified what had just been launched. They were disintegration Zamor, rare and devastating siege weapons that could cause stone to crumble. Breaches formed in the walls. A tower with a catapult was struck, and rubble and boulders rained down upon the Toa and nearby Matoran. Just in time, Mozmana used telekinesis to shield them from the falling debris. Imlen relieved her by turning the stone to plasma and channeling it at the undead horde.“Good save, there,” said a Po-Matoran captain that had come over to report to the Toa. “Netun has sent messengers through the escape tunnels. If all goes well, the other settlements will send reinforcements as soon as they can.”“That could take days,” said another warrior, a Matoran of Lightning. “And what if all doesn't go well.”“Well, that's what the escape tunnels are for,” said the captain, and he looked over the battlements at the walking dead below. “Do you know what's causing... that to happen?”“Not exactly. Something to do with a Makuta, we think,” said Vayrag as he launched a series of arrows.The Po-Matoran muttered something fearfully and returned to his post. The reanimation made the Ukzokth and trolls harder to stop, but their progress across the ledge was still slow. The battle went on slowly in this manner for a while, then someone called out, and the Toa turned their attention to the cliffside. The fallen climbers had returned, and were moving much faster than the enemies approaching by the road. The rest of the scalding oil was dumped on them, but without pain or the fear of death, the undead goblins and trolls only fell if the liquid made them slip or pushed them off. Boulders and chunks of rubble were passed to that side of the wall, and the Matoran dropped the stones over the edge. This succeeded in felling many more climbers, but they kept coming. The Toa turned back to the main gates as arrows and bolts came from that direction.The Ukzokth on the ledge had come close enough to use bows and crossbows of their own, and several Matoran had been killed by their first attack. The defenders looked in horror as their dead allies arose as enemies. In their hesitation, the Matoran next to the fallen ones were killed by the undead corpses of their brothers and sisters. These, too, got up under the enemy's control, and began to spread this plague through the fortress. By killing only a handful of Matoran, the Ukzokth were turning the tide of the battle. The Toa rallied the survivors to destroy the undead Matoran. It was a terrible thing to need to do, and several more Matoran joined the ranks of the undead when they could not destroy the corpses of their friends. The Toa realized this was not working, and they ordered the surviving warriors to retreat. Deprived of victims, the numbers of the undead Matoran stopped increasing, and the Toa did what the other defenders could not bring themselves to do. They eliminated the reanimated beings within the walls, but it looked as if too much damage had already been done.The outer defenses had been abandoned, and if the Matoran came forth again, more would be killed and start killing others. The Toa shut the gates and sealed the breaches as well as they could, and waited for the horde to swarm through and over the walls. The fortress was as good as lost. Ba-Naja's escape tunnels led to secret paths in the mountains, and the Toa had only to delay the enemy army while the Matoran made it into those tunnels and sealed them. Then, of course, they would need to find their own way out. It seemed that would involve breaking through the entire horde to escape along the cliffside path, but first the Toa needed to make a stand behind the walls. After preparing as well as they could, they did not need to wait long. They heard a grinding roar, and looked to see undead Gravity Trolls smashing holes in the eastern wall. The climbers had reached the top. At nearly the same time, the enemies on the ledge came to the battered gates, and soon burst through.The Toa braced themselves for this next stage of the battle, then stopped in shock. They took a step backwards in unison. There appeared to be three ghosts floating above them. The ghosts looked like Toa. Their transparent bodies were black, with silver plating, but they did not have the hunched posture common to Toa of Earth. Then the 'ghosts' turned opaque and landed on the ground. The Toa jumped back out of the way. The advance of the undead slowed, and the Toa stared at these newly-arrived beings. Besides the fact they had apparently materialized in the fortress out of nowhere, or turned ghostly and flown, there seemed be something strangely wrong with them. The strange beings gave the Toa enough time to realize what they were, then they attacked. The reanimated Ukzokth and Urshnolg surged forward as the undead Toa attacked, one with Fire, one with Sonics, and one with Stone.“This isn't good,” said Vilam as the Toa were forced to retreat.“Undead Toa is a surprise by itself,” said Mozmana, parrying a strike from the undead Toa of Stone's hammer and releasing a telekinetic blast that made him stagger. “But elemental powers require one's body and spirit to be one – reanimated beings should be unable to use them.”“Also, I can't explain their arrival,” said Imlen as he fended off many charging Ukzokth. “Maybe they have density reduction powers somehow?”“These are no ordinary – ”Vayrag was interrupted by a blast from the undead Toa of Sonics. The attack knocked him out, and Vilam moved forward to help him. Iskanemo created a vacuum to block the fire and sonic attacks, and the Toa made it behind the next wall. The wall was not there for long, however. Before they could even close the gate, the undead Toa of Stone caused the entire structure to crumble. Again, Iskanemo created a vacuum, but this time the three undead Toa all charged him at once. He used his mask to repel the Toa of Sonics, letting the vacuum barrier disappear. The Toa of Fire scorched him, then lunged forward and nearly decapitated him. Iskanemo ducked in time to avoid that fate, but the undead Fire Toa's axe knocked off his mask and left a gash in his head. Imlen conjured a cloud of plasma to cover Iskanemo's retreat, however that backfired when the undead Toa of Fire harnessed the heat of the plasma and turned it against the Toa. Imlen fell back as his armor began to glow red-hot. Mozmana telekinetically retrieved the Kanohi Crast and tossed it to Iskanemo, who caught it and put it back on.Meanwhile, Vilam fended off the undead invaders. Fortunately, these strange reanimated Toa were not as skilled as Zima had been, and she was able to survive until Imlen recovered and came to support her. Iskanemo fainted from his wound, and Mozmana dragged him and Vayrag farther into the enormous cavern. Imlen used his staff to block the attacks of the undead Toa of Fire and Toa of Stone at once, and Vilam followed up, disarming the Toa of Stone before he could retract his weapon. Imlen pressed the advantage, allowing Vilam to cut the arm off the undead Toa of Stone. He punched Vilam with his remaining arm, and she and Imlen were forced to retreat before another wave of Ukzokth. They caught up to Mozmana, and together the three of them made another stand. The undead Toa of Stone had recovered his hammer and somehow reattached his arm, and he worked in conjunction with the Toa of Fire to create a spray of lava. With difficulty, Mozmana managed to telekinetically redirect the lava, and hit the Toa of Sonics with it, causing him to stagger. Vilam tackled him and brought her sword down, but before her blade could touch him, he turned intangible and nearly invisible again.“What?” she gasped as the ghostly Toa of Sonics floated away and rematerialized behind an Urshnolg.“Can't... keep this up,” said Imlen, struggling to defend their two fallen companions. “Vilam – use your mask... help us merge.”“Now is a good time,” agreed Vilam. “Ready, Mozmana?”“Ready.”With Paqyar dead, Samruna could no longer exist. The Kaita formed by Imlen, Vilam, and Mozmana was a different being, and her name was Ondumuru. She towered over the battlefield, and swept dozens of Ukzokth aside with each attack. Her domination of the fight did not last long, however, for the three reanimated Toa soon also merged. The two Kaita sparred and matched their elemental powers, and Ondumuru struggled to defend her fallen allies from the undead horde. She stood her ground long enough for Vayrag to recover and drag Iskanemo away, and a moment later the undead Toa Kaita struck her in the leg and she fell. She used the last of Imlen's plasma power to melt the goblin corpses that swarmed over her, and attempted to stand. But the other Kaita caused bonds of stone to form from the cavern floor and grasp her, and she was restrained. As her opponent brought his weapon down on her, she managed to tear one arm free of the stone shackles and block the attack. A surge of lightning caused the undead fusion to stagger back, and Ondumuru burst free.She fell back deeper into the fortress's cavern. Stone huts and fortifications were smashed in the battle, and the powers of the undead Toa of Stone caused rocks to rain down from the cavern ceiling, damaging the structures further. Ondumuru was pelted by falling boulders, and she stumbled. Her concentration was broken, and she split into three individual Toa. Imlen, Vilam, and Mozmana rolled aside just as the enemy Toa Kaita smashed the ground where Ondumuru had fallen. The three Toa scattered to avoid the heavy blows of the towering Kaita, fighting through the advancing horde of animated Ukzokth and Urshnolg carcasses. Suddenly a windstorm cleared a path for them, and they saw Iskanemo and Vayrag had recovered. The Toa of Air and the Toa Hordika of Magnetism were injured, but determined to keep fighting. The five Toa regrouped in a nearby plaza, then surged forward. Fighting alongside each other, they toppled the undead Kaita and forced it to dissolve.“You wounded me. Time to return the favor,” said Iskanemo as he intercepted the fallen Toa of Fire before it could rise.With a sweep of his sickle, he decapitated the undead former hero. Its body floundered, though it remained standing. He pressed the advantage, slicing through the headless body's armor, but the other two undead Toa quickly got up and forced him to step back. Black cables or tentacles of some sort shot out from the Fire being's neck stump and the severed head. The two bunches of cables met and spliced together, and a moment later the head was reattached, though the neck armor was still damaged. The living Toa looked on in shock, and in their hesitation the undead horde seized the advantage. Most of the walking dead had been damaged enough to be immobilized, but more kept coming, and the Toa were hard-pressed to defend themselves as battered Ukzokth corpses and hulking reanimated trolls advanced on them, compounding the attacks of the mysterious undead Toa.“I'm out of power,” said Vilam as she used her last lightning bolt to blast apart a shambling Urshnolg.“Me too. We need to get out of here,” said Imlen. “To the tunnels!”“We'll lead them straight to the Matoran,” protested Mozmana as Imlen began to lead the group towards the back of the excavation.“We've given them plenty of time to flee,” said Iskanemo. “And if we don't leave now, we won't be around to protect them later.”Mozmana agreed, and she ran with the group to the very back of the fortress. They outpaced the horde, but Anecrax's Toa caught up to them, and they battled before the innermost wall. Netun had shown his Toa allies where the secret tunnel entrances were, and they found one. It was sealed, and there were no living Matoran to be seen, indicating the inhabitants of the fortress had indeed escaped. As per emergency procedure, the mechanism to open the hidden door had been dismantled, and the door was barricaded from behind with a layer of stone at least a bio thick. The Toa lacked the elemental power to break through, but they managed to trick the undead Toa into damaging the portal. It crumbled, and the rock wall behind it was cracked. While the other Toa protected them, Mozmana and Iskanemo attempted to penetrate the barrier. Mozmana used the remnant of her elemental energy to focus a telekinetic blast. Aided by the repulsive force of Iskanemo's mask, she pushed the damaged stone aside.The Toa rushed into the tunnel, and the three reanimated Toa immediately chased them inside. The tunnel was dark, and with Imlen's elemental power gone, their only source of light was a weak lightstone Mozmana had been carrying. Their undead adversaries had no eyes, and could somehow sense their surroundings as easily in pitch blackness as in the brightening dawn outside. Fortunately, their elemental energies were almost also depleted. The living Toa moved forward, doing their best not to stumble in the dark as they fended off the reanimated Toa corpses behind them. They could not be certain if the rest of the undead horde was still following them. The tunnels were kio long, and they seemed to battle for hours, sparring as they retreated. The undead Toa soon ran out of elemental power, and they were outnumbered, and no faster than a living Toa. But they did not tire. Imlen and his allies were lost and exhausted, and they suffered many small wounds over the course of the battle. Only their determination to survive sustained them.Their determination would be enough this time, for after an excruciatingly long fight, Mozmana was the first to defeat one of the three opponents. While defending the team from the rear alongside Iskanemo, she sliced off a hand of the undead Toa of Sonics. She shredded the writhing cables when they attempted to reattach the limb, and with that, the walking corpses retreated. The three of them became ghostly and faded into the darkness, leaving the severed hand. Iskanemo took it and made sure it remained motionless. The Toa stopped to collapse a section of the tunnel behind them, then continued. By late morning they emerged from the tunnel, and they came upon a site where the Matoran had camped a few hours ago. The fortress's civilian population had scattered, and the Ba-Naja defense force's retreat plan was to march west and rendezvous with any reinforcements from other settlements that came to them. The Toa traveled west until noon, then they found a safe place to rest and recover. After sleeping and tending to his wounds, Imlen examined the severed Toa hand. His Kanohi did not work on living beings, but this body part had long been dead, and so he activated his mask.As he expected, he saw a De-Matoran. He scanned the past of the hand again and again, and deduced the story of the dead being. The De-Matoran had become a Toa, and that Toa had become a famous veteran. Along with other great heroes, the Toa of Sonics had been recruited to work for the Brotherhood of Makuta, serving on a team of one Makuta's personal protectors. Then, the Makuta had betrayed the Toa Hagah. Once he knew that much, Imlen stopped looking for more of the hand's history. He could guess the rest. The Toa of Sonics, along with the rest of his team – including the Toa of Fire and Toa of Stone – had been defeated and subjected to horrific experiments that turned them into the lifeless walking bodies Imlen and his friends had fought. He reported what he had learned to the other Toa, and after that they continued their journey. Within two more hours, they caught up to the retreating Matoran army, and together they marched to the nearest Matoran settlement.When they came to the village, they found it was abandoned. It appeared to have been raided by Ukzokth, but there were no bodies or signs of a fight. Upon closer inspection, it was determined that the inhabitants had left long before the pillagers came. That was not surprising, as many other unprotected settlements had been left empty over the past few years as Matoran flocked to the fortresses. After camping at the abandoned village overnight, the Matoran warriors and the Toa traveled to the nearest of those fortresses. It had been named Shelek-Naja because of its location in a quiet, isolated place, but now it was packed with Matoran. The Toa soon learned that most of the Matoran present were warriors that had received Netun's summons and had recently come to the fortress upon hearing they were too late to save Ba-Naja.The Toa and the Matoran militia stayed there for four days. During that time, news was spread, and the dispersed population of Ba-Naja gathered to take shelter in the Fortress of Silence. Netun had done well to keep his people safe, and eventually all the noncombatants that had fled were accounted for. In contrast, the defense force had suffered heavy losses. Out of about a hundred and fifty defenders, almost a third of them had been killed. While that did not cripple the Ba-Naja militia, Yrenta had not seen such a slaughter of Matoran since the massacre at Kara-Naja. Had the warriors fought to the last, they would have all perished as their fallen joined the ranks of the enemy horde. Now the Toa stood on the arch above the main gate and addressed the crowd of Matoran. All over Yrenta, news of the arrival of the Toa had spread, but so had news of the undead scourge, and the people were frightened.“Warriors of Yrenta, people of Ba-Naja!” Imlen shouted. “You have lived under the shadow of the Makuta for over six centuries, but now you have Toa to free you. I am Imlen, of what once was the village of Plasma. With me here is Vilam of Mount Tasle, and our three new friends: Iskanemo, Toa of Air; Mozmana, Toa of Psionics; and Vayrag, Toa of Magnetism. We are the Toa Muktirhith, the Liberators, and we will find the source of this terror that conquered Ba-Naja, and end it, and we will overthrow Makuta Teskor!”

-----

Teskor growled as the messenger left. The courier had been terrified, but Makuta Teskor saved his wrath for the one who was to blame. When the two Makuta had the chamber to themselves again, he released his emotion in the form of a punch that dented Anecrax's armor. The other Makuta was not hurt, but he was startled out of his trance. His mask deactivated, causing his distant legion of undead to fall to the ground in unison, and he glared at Teskor.“You oaf,” said Teskor before the other could speak. “Not only did your useless hunks of dead flesh and metal fail to kill the Toa, but you got the Matoran to rally against me. And you killed fifty of them, and let many more of my Ukzokth and Urshnolg be slaughtered. I don't like having my subjects massacred... without good reason.”“The ability to form them into an army of the undead is enough of a reason for me,” said Anecrax, smoothing out the impression in his chest.“Exactly!” barked the blue and gray Makuta. “You're stealing my thralls.”“Very well,” said Anecrax, and he let out a sigh that was completely forced, as Makuta did not breathe. “I'll let your dead subjects lie for now. But I insist that you let me continue to test my favorite servants against these Toa. Their defeat means there are still improvements to be made.”“Agreed, provided some of my Rahkshi accompany them,” said Teskor. “And they will go directly for the Toa, and kill them. No toying with their prey, no grand battles. Let the Matoran stand around aimlessly with their weapons out for a while, then they will go back to work. Though I expect I will need to send Rahkshi to subdue them, once the Toa are gone.”Review

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#30 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 23 2012 - 11:22 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

While the Toa usually found adequate shelter and were left undisturbed while they slept, they always took turns sleeping in case they were attacked in the night. This night, that habit paid off. Several hours before dawn, Mozmana and Vayrag had been standing guard in the abandoned village when the Makuta's enforcers struck again. The three animated Toa corpses had returned, and they were accompanied by five Rahkshi. Mozmana rushed into the hut her allies were sleeping in and sent out a psychic wave that jolted them awake. Vayrag followed as energy bolts blasted the ground where he had stood, but as soon as he took shelter in the hut, the stone structure shattered violently. Iskanemo and Mozmana used wind and telekinesis to deflect the falling rubble, and the Toa Muktirhith fled the ruins as the undead Toa of Stone caused the remnants of the hut to turn into grasping bonds.Imlen was still disoriented, and he tripped over stone fragments that were growing grasping appendages. The animated stone pinned him to the ground, but the shock cleared his mind. He turned the stone shackles into plasma and rolled aside just as a Rahkshi of Hunger struck the ground where he had been. Imlen channeled the ionized rock vapor and some of his own elemental energy at the Vorahk, melting it before it could react to his sudden dodge. Nearby, Iskanemo was depriving the Toa of Fire and Toa of Sonics of the air they needed to sustain their elements. It was an effective tactic, but it required concentration, which was broken when a Lerahk targeted him. His Kanohi Crast slammed the Rahkshi of Poison through the wall of a nearby hut before it could strike, but that left him vulnerable to an attack by Anecrax's Toa of Stone. A blunt mass of solid rock materialized and rammed into him, and he fell.Vayrag attacked a Rahkshi of Gravity from behind while it was busy keeping Vilam pinned. His Magnetism Rhotuka caused the blue and silver Rahkshi to collide with a Rahkshi of Fragmentation, knocking both machines down. The Hordika charged the two fallen Rahkshi, but was trapped midway in a stasis field. Vilam channeled a powerful bolt at the magnetized Rahkshi and moved to finish them off, but was intercepted by the reanimated Toa of Sonics. A burst of sound overwhelmed her, and she stumbled back. Another lightning bolt prevented the Sonics monster from following up on its attack, and Vilam engaged it in melee combat. Meanwhile, Mozmana dueled the Toa of Fire. Whatever sort of mind these undying beings had, her mental powers were ineffective against them. She barely managed to dodge her opponent's flames and counter with telekinesis, and she was outmatched in melee combat. She was quickly forced into a desperate defensive stance, and retreated a step at a time across the village as she sparred.Both Iskanemo and the Lerahk recovered, and after a brief battle between them, the Toa of Air emerged the victor. Iskanemo ran to help Mozmana, and blasted the undead Toa of Fire away just as it overcame her and prepared a killing blow. He continued his attack against it while Mozmana engaged the Toa of Stone that had come to support its partner. She adeptly dodged and deflected the rocks it launched at her, and together she and Iskanemo pressed the advantage. On the other side of the village, Vilam endured the power of Anecrax's Toa of Sonics and broke through its defenses. Before she could finish the duel, the Rahkshi of Stasis Field turned aside from its fight with Imlen and froze her. Its distraction gave Imlen ample time to destroy it, and he readied himself as the Toa of Sonics came for him. The Panrahk and the Rahkshi of Gravity summoned the strength to pull themselves apart and followed. He shielded himself with a cloud of plasma, and the Rahkshi of Gravity forced it to the ground, causing the earth around him to glow red-hot.The Rahkshi of Fragmentation and the Toa of Sonics struck together by causing the ground under Imlen to explode and amplifying the sound into an overpowering shockwave. Imlen was blasted back a few bio and landed on his back. The Rahkshi of Gravity prevented him from getting up. In a desperate move, he used a large amount of his elemental energy to melt the ground in a wide area around him. The two Rahkshi and the undead Toa were surprised, and Imlen took the opportunity to free Vilam. A focused burst of plasma overwhelmed the stasis field that trapped the Toa of Lightning, and she in turn freed Vayrag. The two released Toa turned to help Imlen, who moved to join them as soon as the ground was cool enough. Together the three of them quickly destroyed the two remaining Rahkshi, and the former Toa Hagah of Sonics floated away. Iskanemo and Mozmana rejoined the group, having just prevailed in their fight.“Good work, team,” said the Toa of Psionics.“Thanks for waking us so promptly,” said Vilam. “What happened to the other two undead Toa?”“We damaged them badly, but they escaped,” said Iskanemo. “I hate how elusive they are – they could attack us again at any time.”“Still, we managed to destroy five Rahkshi, and they were not low-ranking ones either,” said Imlen. “And we've demonstrated that Anecrax's Hagah are no match for us on their own.”“By the way, they can use mask powers. The Toa of Fire has a Mask of Strength. I found that out the hard way,” said Iskanemo, caressing a multitude of dents in his armor.“The Toa of Sonics has a new hand, too,” mentioned Vilam. “He seemed faster this time, too. Anecrax must be upgrading them.”“And we're their practice targets,” said Vayrag. “Let's find this Makuta Anecrax and end this.”“I doubt we could prevail against two Makuta at once,” said Mozmana. “And besides, the Matoran here need our help first. They should not need to hide inside fortresses while Ukzokth plunder their villages.”“I would like to put a stop to this as soon as we can, but you're right,” said Imlen. “As long as the dead do not walk again, we should be able to subdue the goblins. And if we are quick, we should be able to destroy these abominations Anecrax has made next time. I doubt they are completely invulnerable in ghost form.”It had already been almost two weeks since the fall of Ba-Naja, and Anecrax's influence over the dead had vanished. The Toa had returned to the Fortress of Gravity to find it empty, with the exception of some motionless corpses. After those had been thoroughly disposed of, Netun and his people returned to their homes and began to rebuild. Upon arriving, they had encountered a band of Ukzokth that had taken shelter in the fortress, but the Toa had been with them to drive the goblins away before any Matoran were killed. Once the villagers had rebuilt most of their fortifications, the Toa left, and they had begun to help the inhabitants of Yrenta elsewhere. There were many places to go to set things right, but they had not dared to split up, and the recent fight had proved their caution to be justified. After retrieving their belongings from the hut that had been shattered, the Toa rested in another of the abandoned homes until morning, then moved on.The Ukzokth were not organized enough to pose a threat to the fortresses – unless the dead walked again – but the Matoran could not sustain themselves for long without the many tiny villages supplying food. And so, the Toa began a quest to drive the goblins out and make the countryside safe for the Matoran. They started with the settlements along the southern side of the mountains, where most of the Matoran of Plasma, Lightning, and Magnetism lived. Some Po-Matoran also lived there, but most of them had moved in with the Ba-Matoran after the loss of their home. The Toa spent several weeks driving the Ukzokth away from the abandoned villages and crippling their offensive ability, forcing the savages to retreat to the most isolated parts of Yrenta. During that time, the Toa had a few encounters with Rahkshi and Anecrax's undead Hagah. On each occasion, his enforcers had been modified from last time, having been granted tougher armor, faster reflexes, greater strength, and increased healing abilities. But they could not overcome the five Toa Muktirhith alone, and each time the Toa managed to evade or destroy any Rahkshi that had been sent along with the undead.When the scattered villages were occupied again by Matoran, the Toa traveled under the mountains to the realm of the Matoran of Earth and Iron. The tunnels were unguarded, allowing stunted black Ukzokth to roam unchecked. Because of this danger, the underground realm had rarely been traveled to during the past several years, and the mission of the Toa was as much to reestablish contact as to ensure the safety of the inhabitants. Long ago, every known tunnel and cavern under the mountains had been counted as part of the territory, just as the jungle belonged to Morok's people. But more and more of the enormous natural labyrinth had been claimed by Ukzokth and other monsters, and other parts had been crushed or sealed by cave-ins over the millennia. The Onu-Matoran used to correct such disasters, but the hostile creatures living in the dark places had made such a task more difficult, and the Great Cataclysm had caused damage that seemed irreversible at the current rate of progress.The Toa intended to make the tunnels safe again, allowing the Onu-Matoran to excavate long-lost places under the mountains. After defeating a horde of cave Ukzokth and Earth Trolls that had assembled in response to their presence, they made their way to the heart of the tunnel network, where the Matoran settlement was located. Upon reaching the great cavern that housed the village, the Toa could see for themselves why this place had endured. The road outside the entrance stopped at a sudden drop, which was fortunately illuminated by Imlen's plasma before the Toa went off the edge. A gap stretched about five bio to the opposite side, where a stone wall with an iron gate blocked the entire tunnel, and an extendable bridge was retracted. The gap had also been given away by heat rising from it, and a reddish glow from the bottom. Two bio below the path, at the bottom of the gap, was magma. The Onu-Matoran had formed this underground moat, excavating to magma, or perhaps rerouting the molten rock to suit their purpose.“We can't see them, but I sense Matoran sentries on the other side,” said Mozmana. “Keep us lit up, Imlen. I'll introduce us.”“Right – the rest of you stay alert,” said Imlen, as he created a flare of plasma he was sure the sentries – and any nearby Ukzokth – would see.Greetings, Matoran of the underground, Mozmana projected telepathically to the two guards, while transmitting the mental conversation to all individuals present.What are you over there on the other side, sending words into my head? the sentries thought before Mozmana could finish her greeting.Do not be afraid. I am Mozmana, Toa of Psionics, and I have come here with four of my fellow Toa, Mozmana projected, and she introduced her companions with a combination of words and images in the minds of the Matoran.Toa? This is fantastic! thought one of the sentries excitedly.Well, you look like Toa, at least, thought the other. I'd let you in, but we'd better discuss it with the others first.Wait here. I'll get Bwatana, our leader, thought the first sentry.“Tell him to hurry,” said Vayrag to Mozmana, and she politely forwarded his request.The Makuta took Metaku from us, the remaining sentry told the Toa while his comrade departed. Bwatana is no great smith, but we Onu-Matoran understand the ways of the underground better than anyone else, and that's what counts in these times.“They said you have not received any visitors for a year,” said Imlen, and Mozmana sent his message to the minds of the Onu-Matoran. “Is that true? How many of you are left?”Forty-one Onu-Matoran and eight Fe-Matoran, replied the sentinel. A fifth of what we used to have, before the Cataclysm, and I'm told hundreds more lived here in the peak of our community.“A village losing two hundred Matoran... that's awful,” said Iskanemo. “I'm sorry to hear that.”We know it's not the only place where that's happened, thought the sentry. And about half those losses were from the Great Cataclysm, and many more from the months after. It took us a while to figure out how to survive.“Why did you stay in this place, if it's so dangerous?” asked Vilam. “Surely, you could have found another cavern, or even another cave system entirely.”Ah, but you are of the Lightning folk. Your people fled Mount Tasle when it became too hostile. My people are more rooted in the earth, if you'll pardon the pun, replied the sentry. By now, we've secured our village well, as you can see, and our numbers are so few, we fear to leave. The Ukzokth greatly outnumber us, by how much we cannot tell, but we would have no chance if they surrounded us.“A mysterious new shadow looms over Yrenta, of which I will tell you more when we are inside,” said Imlen. “We must put an end to it, but while we are here, we will do what we can to help.”And when we are free to leave our village, Bwatana will lead us to aid the surface folk, responded the sentry. I'm sure of it. But here he comes, now. Excuse us.Mozmana ended the telepathic conversation to allow the Matoran to converse privately. Less than a minute later, the cleverly-designed mechanical bridge extended, with the end settling securely on the side of the gap on which the Toa waited. They crossed carefully, and as they reached the other side, the portcullis lifted into a recess in the ceiling. The Matoran waved from small windows in the wall, and came to greet the Toa when they passed through to the interior of the village. Bwatana stood in front, flanked by the sentries, and all three of them were Onu-Matoran. The village leader instructed the watchers to return to their posts, and led the Toa to the center of the settlement. Matoran were very efficient workers, and the Toa were sure they could have removed all the earth and stone that had fallen on their village during the Great Cataclysm long ago, but Bwatana explained that the villagers had decided to sculpt most of the debris into monuments. And so, in many places in which there had once been homes, there were gray statues – not as high quality as Po-Matoran work, but lovingly carved – of Matoran that had been buried by that disaster.“I am sad to see that Spiileus is not among you,” he said quietly to the Toa as an audience gathered around them in the center of the village. “But no one has seen him since... since that one day. I suppose there's no hope of him returning.”“We know what happened to him,” said Imlen, and some of the assembled Matoran overheard him and gasped, so he addressed the entire crowd. “Spiileus sacrificed his Toa energy and his life to heal Vibrak during the Cataclysm. The two of them became Turaga, and so your Toa achieved his destiny with his last act. By doing so, he allowed Vibrak to escape and lead our De-Matoran brothers away to a safer home. Before leaving, Turaga Vibrak buried your Turaga in an underground chamber. The body of Toa Lidon rests nearby; he was crushed by falling rocks.”“A noble end to our hero,” said Bwatana solemnly. “Perhaps someday we will be able to add to his monument, when the tunnels are not so dangerous.”“We have come to help you make your realm safe again,” said Iskanemo. “But there is something else we must deal with – a mysterious new threat. This is a strange question, I understand, but have the dead moved down here?”“No... not that we have noticed,” said Bwatana, while the other Matoran also responded negatively and looked at the Toa with bemusement. “Barely any of us have left the village in the past few years, so we cannot say that such a thing has not occurred in the rest of the tunnels. But here, all of our dead have remained in their graves.”“That is good,” said Imlen.“But unfortunately you seem to have have little knowledge of the amount of Ukzokth here and where they are concentrated,” said Vilam. “It will take a while to root them out.”Bwatana agreed, and together the Toa and the Matoran made a plan. First, they decided, the Matoran should have a safe route to the surface, in case they needed to evacuate or call for aid from the other Matoran. The Toa patrolled the main tunnel, clearing it of goblins and watching the entrances to it while the Matoran installed gates, magma moats, and other defenses. These would not stand before a concentrated assault, especially with no one guarding them, but they would keep wandering creatures out. The work was expected to take weeks, and just after it was halfway done, the undead Toa attacked again. Mozmana sensed them before they could strike from the shadows, and so the Toa Muktirhith were ready. They instructed the Matoran to flee, and Imlen flushed the reanimated attackers out with a ball of plasma that made the tunnel as bright and hot as day on the surface.Again, Anecrax had upgraded his minions. While most undead moved rather like puppets to some degree, the necromancer Makuta had gone far beyond such simplicity. This time, his enforcers moved with unnaturally fluid movement, and their original bodies seemed to be no more than exterior shells that had now been covered with blades. The Toa of Sonics and Stone worked together to split the tunnel's ceiling, and Iskanemo and Mozmana called upon their powers to divert the rocks and earth that fell from the crack. Imlen launched the globe he had manifested at the Toa of Fire. As he expected, the walking husk of a hero absorbed the heat, turning the plasma to harmless cold gas. This was a feint for Vilam, who had shot a lightning bolt through Imlen's attack and willed it to continue to its target even as the plasma deionized. Vayrag tackled the Toa of Fire as the electricity stunned it, and Iskanemo and Mozmana still countered the other two, for the Toa Muktirhith had succeeded before by focusing on one of the enemy Toa at a time.Vayrag managed to pin his opponent without cutting himself on its spikes, and his claws dug deep through its armor and severed the writhing black cables that Anecrax had turned the Toa's innards into. The cables retaliated, grasping Vayrag's arm even as the fire-wielding abomination recovered and stood up. Vayrag struggled to free himself from the grip of the thick wires, and Vilam charged into melee combat to help him. Imlen moved between the two groups to prevent the other two reanimated Toa from interfering. Soon, the Toa of Fire was in pieces, and the main part of it faded away. Mozmana had been incapacitated, and Iskanemo was fighting desperately until his friends relieved him. The Toa of Sonics was defeated next, and when the Toa of Stone was overcome, Imlen was ready to end it. It could reduce its density enough to float and be nearly invulnerable, but this just made it easier to destroy with heat. Application of his elemental power turned the ghostly being into plasma, and it condensed into a shapeless mass of molten metal as it cooled.Vilam shouted a warning, and Imlen turned to see the severed pieces of the Toa of Fire were crawling aggressively towards him. He and the others easily destroyed these, and the battle was over. Enough damage had been done to set the Matoran back several days, but eventually the project was done. The Ukzokth had noticed, and soon they assembled and broke through. It was just as well, as this made it easier to cripple them. The Toa instructed the Matoran to retreat to the village, and the five of them faced the horde alone. The slaughter was terrible, but the goblins could not be negotiated with, and the Toa did what they had to do. The Ukzokth could not overcome the might of the Toa, and after a long battle, the survivors retreated. Over the next few days, the Toa executed the next phase of their plan. The Ukzokth lairs were sought and found, and the Toa forced the savages far from the tunnels and mines that had once belonged to the Matoran. The Onu-Matoran and Fe-Matoran emerged from their village to reclaim and fortify these before the goblins crept in again.During this time, messengers were sent to the surface to spread the news of the realm's triumph, and they returned to tell the Toa that the other villagers were doing well in the wake of their recent efforts. When the Onu-Matoran began to mine in shafts that had been abandoned for centuries, the Toa left for their next destination. The village of the Ko-Matoran had always been isolated, but a year before the Cataclysm, the sage Kotulo had led his people into hiding. No one knew where they had gone, but there were many places to hide in the mountains, especially for the Ko-Matoran, whose structures of ice blended into the white peaks and crags. Unless they had been forced to leave Yrenta, they were most likely in the same range they had always lived in, though perhaps many kio away from the original site of their village. Again, the Toa would rely on Imlen's mask to reveal the clues that would lead them to their goal. Therefore, their first destination was the abandoned site of the Ko-Matoran settlement.Kotulo's village had been off the maps for over five hundred years, but the Toa were able to find an old map that had the location marked without much difficulty. After all, Onu-Matoran were well-known for preserving the past, though the cartographer's hut the engraved tablet had been found in was far from the Great Archives. Tunnels led from the Onu-Koro to the high slopes of the mountains above, and the Toa traveled these and emerged before a clear sky and a blindingly reflective sheet of snow. Once their eyes had adjusted from the dark to the dazzle, they headed to where the map indicated the village had been. The Toa passed the spot several times before they realized that they were at the correct coordinates, for there was nothing left of the village. The Ko-Matoran had apparently demolished their structures, allowing the ice they were made of to become one with the ubiquitous snow, and carried everything else away. But Imlen did not need buildings or furniture. He picked up a nearby rock and scanned it.After many attempts to deduce useful information from the stone, Imlen discarded it and attempted again with another. After hours of viewing the millennia of the icy rock's history, he learned that the Ko-Matoran had traveled to the northwest. The search for physical and psychometric clues took days, but slowly the Toa uncovered a trail. Eventually, they found themselves staring up a path that led up one of the highest mountains. Before any of them could take the first step onto the path, the snow shifted all around them, and corpses emerged from their icy graves.Review

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#31 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 25 2012 - 12:06 AM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-one==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa stood back-to-back and looked at the ring of ambushers. The walking corpses were mostly of Ukzokth, along with some Urshnolg and Rahi. There were also some undead Matoran among them – all together, an improbable number of corpses for this particular location, unless some unusual disaster had occurred. More likely, Anecrax had recently moved them here to lie in wait. Either way, there were enough to pose a challenge to the Toa, but not an overwhelming number. They cut down and blasted the undead as they approached, while taking out the larger ones before those could come close. The reanimated creatures continued to come in waves, then they stopped suddenly in the midst of combat, falling dead into the snow once again. The battle had only lasted a few minutes, and there were many whole corpses remaining. The Toa looked around in confusion for a moment, then began to destroy the bodies before they could rise again.“What... happened?” said Imlen. “Why did they stop?”“Something's wrong. I can feel it,” said Mozmana.“What? What's wrong?” demanded Iskanemo tersely, ready for a nasty surprise to appear at any moment.“The undead Toa – maybe... but there's something else,” said the Toa of Psionics uncertainly.“I think you're right,” said Imlen as he destroyed the carcass of an Ice Vermin, and he pointed something out. “There's someone up on the mountain... standing still. Wait – what's that?”A black ring was rippling outward from the figure, covering the ground in fleeting shadow where it passed. Imlen barked a warning, and together the Toa lashed out with their elemental powers. Whatever the ring was, it was something sinister and harmful, they were sure. The one casting it was at least a kio away, but they hoped they could somehow interrupt him or disrupt the circle that sped towards them, expanding rapidly. Perhaps their elemental powers had some effect on the shadow, but they could not be certain, for it washed over them a moment later, and they nearly lost consciousness. It felt like they were struggling against the force of death itself, without having suffered any physical injury. One by one, they dropped. Then the sensation stopped becoming worse, though it had done its damage. The Toa felt weak, as if they had had their masks removed, but several times worse. The corpses got up and marched forth to finish them off, and only with tremendous effort and willpower were the Toa able to get to their feet and raise their weapons.“Anecrax,” panted Imlen. “He... no... can't end... like this.”“Be ready... I will release... what strength I have left,” said Mozmana.With difficulty, the four other Toa summoned their elemental powers to destroy the advancing undead, while Mozmana stood in the center of them as if in a trance. She focused all the mental power she could, and the other Toa dropped to the ground as she released it with one desperate blast. It was far weaker than a Nova Blast, for the passing shadow had weakened her greatly, but the telekinetic shockwave she created devastated the immediate area. The decaying bodies of the undead creatures were torn apart by the force of it, and avalanches were triggered for kio around. She staggered forward to make sure she had not killed her friends, and fell to the ground before she could get an answer. To her relief, she could see the other Toa crawling over to her, but that was the last thing she saw before she passed out. Vayrag and Imlen also fell unconscious, and Iskanemo and Vilam were unable to stand.“Wake... up,” said the Toa of Air weakly. “We're not... safe yet.”“If the undead... Toa come...” Vilam failed to finish her sentence, as she too passed out.Iskanemo got onto one knee and immediately fell back down. He managed to lift his head and look around, and he saw no enemies about. Hopefully Mozmana's shockwave had destroyed any nearby hostile creatures, but the Toa could not count on Anecrax's enforcers being defeated so easily. One desperate idea came to Iskanemo, one plan that could save them or doom them. Straining to move his body with what little strength he had left, he rolled over onto his back. In that position, he extended his powers to the air around him. With his last energy, he created a windstorm – not as natural-seeming as he would have preferred, but enough to get the job done – that lifted the snow from the ground, blowing it all around the Toa, and burying them. Iskanemo passed out, half expecting to never wake up again. If the plan worked, the winds would pile snow on the Toa, concealing them from enemies. It was not guaranteed to succeed in that, however, and it also had a good chance of making them freeze to death faster.Hours later, Imlen was the first to wake. Fortunately, the time of day was a little after noon. Had it been night, the Toa would have frozen within minutes of being buried. But though Imlen was chilled and still somewhat weak, he was alive, and the sleep had refreshed him enough for him to vaporize the snow on top of him and stand. He could see vague lumps in the snow, but no clear signs of his friends' presence. Another application of his elemental power melted the top layer of the nearby snow, revealing the bodies of his companions. He dashed over to the nearest one, Vayrag, and found he was alive. Without much difficulty, he managed to awaken the Toa Hordika, and the two of them saw to the other three Toa. All of them were alive, but Mozmana could not stand and could barely talk, and the other two would not wake up at all. Their armor was frighteningly cold. Imlen's plasma warmed them, and they stirred, but they still did not rise.“Hypothermia...” said Mozmana, and she managed to reach up and touch her mask. “Take it... heal us.”Without delay, Imlen tore the Mask of Healing from Mozmana's face. He quickly removed his own Kanohi and placed it on her, for he feared that the weakness of being deprived of a mask could kill her in such a state. The use of the Mask of Healing was mentally exhausting, and Imlen was still weary, but he was determined to save his friends. With the power of the mask, he restored their frozen organic tissue, while Vayrag took the heatstones from their packs to keep them warm. Imlen healed Vilam first, as she was his closest friend, and next he healed Iskanemo. Mozmana was in the best condition, so he tended to her last. One by one, the thawing Toa woke and sat up. They looked around. The corpses that had been demolished in the recent fight were scattered around the area, having been buried by the blizzard Iskanemo caused and partially uncovered by Imlen's melting of the snow. The Toa stood up achingly and huddled around a pile of the heatstones.“Thank you, Imlen,” said Mozmana as they swapped their Kanohi back.“We're just lucky to all be alive,” said Imlen.“Indeed,” agreed Iskanemo. “I'm sorry I had to cover us with snow. It was a risky strategy, but no more risky than leaving us exposed for Anecrax or Teskor's minions to find us.”“You did that?” said Vayrag. “Well, it worked. Good thinking.”“We should get moving,” said Imlen. “They might still be out there.”“No, we should rest longer,” argued Vilam. “We have some strength, but we should recover more before we expend any more of that strength climbing the mountain. We have warmth now, and if we are careful, we will not be surprised here.”“I suppose you're right, Vilam,” said Imlen. “But what of that ring of shadow? What could it... oh, no.”“The same thing that eliminated all life in that place in the Southern Continent? Perhaps it...” Mozmana considered nervously. She closed her eyes and reached out with her elemental power, and gasped. “No... I – I can sense no minds around us. Not even the smallest Rahi.”“Maybe there weren't any creatures living in this area,” said Iskanemo.“It could be, but...” Imlen realized something, and spoke with dread in his voice. “The Ko-Matoran. If they live nearby...”Imlen got to his feet without finishing his sentence. He immediately started up the path, and the other Toa rushed to follow him. They were tired, and the hike was difficult, but Imlen would not stop. He was determined to find the Ko-Matoran as soon as possible, but if his fears were correct, the Toa were already too late. The trail was very vague, and after climbing for hours, the Toa came to the end of it. They were only halfway up the mountain, and the path ended abruptly. The Ko-Matoran had not wanted to be found, and so of course there was no clear route to them. Imlen cried out in frustration, then he calmed himself, and he and his friends began to search for clues. Eventually they could discern three possible routes, and after debating the matter, they took the one in the middle. By dusk, it had led them to nowhere but a dangerous craggy ridge. The Toa were frustrated and exhausted, and they camped there on the mountainside, sheltered by icy rock formations. At dawn, they attempted to return to the junction of trails, but winds had shifted the snow in the night, and they were soon lost.“North is that way,” Vayrag indicated as they stopped for the fifteenth time to get their bearings.“I know,” said Iskanemo impatiently. “We can descry the Wastelands from here, see?”“Just trying to help,” muttered the Hordika as they cautiously hiked south along the northwestern side of the mountain.“Like you 'helped' by leading us this way in the first place?” said Imlen scathingly.“Yes. I still say it's the right way. The path just got difficult to follow,” said Vayrag. “You should trust me. I've got tracking instincts, plus I'm a Magnetism type. I had a natural sense of direction even before I was turned into a Hordika.”“You do have a point,” conceded Vilam. “The Ko-Matoran would hide beyond a dangerous and unclear path. But if that ever was a trail, I doubt we could reach the end of it now. Frankly, it's almost a miracle there's any visible path left at all.”“Were it not for what I saw with my mask, I would not believe the Ko-Matoran ever lived in this area,” said Imlen. “And if they did live here... they probably don't live anywhere anymore.”“You saw a Matoran walk this path in your vision, didn't you?” said Vayrag.“I thought I did. But he could easily have turned east and gone up that route,” said the Toa of Plasma.“Now we just need to concentrate on getting b – ”Iskanemo was suddenly interrupted, as the icy precipice he stood on gave way and fell. The other Toa looked over the edge with horror. To their relief they saw Iskanemo rocketing back up, supported by his Kanohi and the winds. He soared up to stable ground and landed neatly on his feet. He was battered, but did not seem to be seriously injured.“Iskanemo, are you alright?” said Mozmana, rushing to his side.“Yes, I'm fine,” said the Toa of Air. “Stay away from the edge, but we'd better find a safe way down. I saw a Rahi carcass down there, and something else – a Matoran or Ukzokth corpse, maybe, but I can't be sure it's either.”The Toa found a steep but relatively safe route down over the icy rocks of the slope. From there they went to where Iskanemo had fallen, and indeed they could see the remains of a large beast. The body was quite fresh – the cold could keep it well-preserved, but it did not seem to have been killed more than a few days ago anyway, and it had not been touched by scavengers. It was easy to see what had killed it. Matoran-sized javelins were stuck in several parts of its body, and a few of them had pierced its head and chest deeply. Or at least, these could have killed it, if something else had not killed it before it succumbed to its wounds. A quick search revealed the hunters that had attacked the beast. They were all dead. There were five Ko-Matoran, each equipped with traveling and hunting gear, all lying dead in various positions from which they had apparently ambushed the Rahi. None had any visible injuries, with the exception of minor scratches and dents that were to be expected of travelers in this hostile environment.“So it was that,” said Imlen grimly. “However the Makuta did that... they did it. The wave of shadow killed the Ko-Matoran.”“Perhaps not all of them,” said Mozmana. “We survived, and besides, their village could have been out of its range.”“Possible, but not likely,” said Vilam. “I doubt the village is far from here. We should be able to find it soon and see for ourselves.”“Let's not bother. This is all the proof I need,” said Imlen. “It's time to put a stop to this before it happens again.”“You say we should confront the Makuta now?” said Mozmana, and Imlen nodded. “But we should tell the Matoran before we leave them.”“We can tell them what happened if we get back,” said Iskanemo. “If we fail, then... there won't be any Matoran in Yrenta to wonder what happened to us, not for long.”“You're right,” sighed Mozmana. “I do not wish to abandon the Matoran, but we must end this threat immediately. Though I fear to face the Makuta.”“I do not expect us to defeat two Makuta at once,” said Imlen. “But if we can remove their ability to spread this circle of death, it will be a worthwhile victory, even at the cost of our own... lives.”Imlen uttered that last word slowly and in surprise, for as he was speaking, the carcasses of the Matoran hunters and their prey stood. The Toa reacted immediately, cutting down an undead Matoran directly in front of them, and turned to fight the others. But the undead were not advancing upon them. They were marching away to the north, and ignoring the Toa entirely. The Toa followed, curious, and as they traveled for kio, the reanimated Matoran and Rahi were joined by other walking corpses. There were undead creatures of all kinds: Ukzokth, Urshnolg, and every species of Rahi native to the mountains. To the dismay of the Toa, the horde was joined by a group of several dozen undead Ko-Matoran, all with no apparent injuries. The reanimated beings traveled north out of the mountains, and were joined by many more as they traveled, though several times some of these marched blindly off precipices. Even if these were not destroyed, they could not keep up with the others, and were left behind.The Toa followed this oblivious undead horde to the wastelands, and they could see for many kio around in the clear, dry air. What they saw shocked them. A large and jagged black tower had been erected in the center of the gray wastes, and beings – more undead, it seemed – were converging on it from all around.“Looks like Anecrax knows we are coming,” said Vayrag.“If we can just destroy whatever he uses to support this army, it will collapse,” said Imlen.“There's something strange about this I can't quite define,” said Vilam. “What is Makuta Teskor's plan? What is Makuta Anecrax's?”

-----

Teskor felt his teleportation attempt violently repulsed, and he found himself sitting dazed outside the tower. Growling with anger, he stood up. He shapeshifted his hands into claws and slashed at the wall. The protosteel did not cut as deeply as he had expected – the walls were quite strong for something that had been built so quickly. But it would be no match for his Makuta powers. Pressing his claws against the rough stone surface, he channeled his Disintegration power through them, and a section of wall crumbled into powder, leaving a hole large enough for him to enter through. He found himself in the empty space under a wide spiraling staircase. With an application of his Fragmentation power, he blasted a hole in the stairs above, and he reduced his density to float upwards through the hole. Then he restored his density to normal and rushed up the steps. He had only gone two revolutions out of many up the stairs when he sprung the first trap.Enormous, spiked metal balls swung down from chains in the ceiling. At the same moment, spikes emerged from holes in the wall, and a trapdoor in the steps behind him opened. He managed to dodge the traps swinging from the ceiling, but was struck by several of the wall spikes. They were made of inferior metal, not strong enough to pierce his armor, but they caused him to stumble backwards, and he fell through the trapdoor. There was a spiked floor many bio below, and Teskor reduced his density again to stop falling and float back up. He remained in this lightened form this time, until he came to a trap that launched fire at him. The heat threatened to tear his dispersed particles apart, and he was forced to solidify himself. He growled again and punched the wall, causing cracks to run through the stone. These traps posed little danger to him, but they were terribly annoying. He vowed to make Anecrax pay for the frustration, as well as everything else.The necromancer Makuta had lost what little self-control he had had, and probably his sanity too. He had sent his undead Hagah to kill the Toa again and again, and each time they had failed. His experimental enforcers came back damaged, and he had directed all his time to rebuilding them, making them more dangerous and less lifelike each time. Then one of his three pets had been lost, and he decided to do whatever it took to get revenge on the Toa. And so, he had betrayed Teskor by sending waves of indiscriminate death through Yrenta, and worse – he had slaughtered many Ukzokth and formed a new army of the undead, contrary to the agreement of the two Makuta. Now he was gathering this horde to him in this tower that he and Teskor and their minions had built over the past weeks. From there, he would unleash a new wave of death over all of Teskor's domain, and cause the victims to rise under his control. Then, in his madness, he would attempt to do this to the entire universe, betraying his brother Makuta and the Plan – unless Teskor could stop him.That would be the hard part. Makuta Teskor was encountering more and more traps – traps that had not been there when he oversaw the tower's construction – on the way up, as well as several undead minions. But they were no challenge, rather mere hindrances. His opinion did not change when Anecrax's two ghostly former Toa materialized in front of him, but he did figure the climb up the stairs was about to get more interesting.Review

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#32 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 28 2012 - 11:21 AM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-two==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The journey had taken two days, but the Toa Muktirhith had kept up with the undead horde and come to the tower in the center of the Wastelands. The reanimated creatures had continued to ignore them, until now. The tower's gate opened, and most of the army began to charge up the stairs inside, but some of them stopped to form a defense against the Toa. The Toa broke through the ranks of undead in melee combat, conserving their elemental energy for the challenge that lay ahead. They reached the base of the stairs, and fought their way up step by step, but more of the walking dead streamed in constantly from the open gate below. The Toa passed many traps that had already been triggered, and the tower occasionally shook from the peak downwards as they climbed. It took over an hour for the Toa to reach the top of the stairs, and yet the periodic rumbling continued. A pair of massive undead Urshnolg guarded the top of the stairs. The Toa took them out and paused for a moment outside the tower's uppermost chamber.“Anecrax is already being attacked,” said Imlen as the tower shuddered once again. “Now is our chance. Everyone ready?”“Ready, brother,” said Vilam.“Ready,” said Iskanemo.“Ready,” snarled Vayrag.“Ready as I'll ever be,” said Mozmana.“Let's go,” said Imlen, and they charged.The five Toa rushed into the large central chamber of the tower's peak. What they saw surprised them, until they remembered Morok's advice. The Toa had done nothing yet to deliberately turn the Makuta against each other, but the tensions between Teskor and Anecrax had apparently reached a critical point on their own. The two Makuta were battling each other, though the one that must have been Anecrax was mostly dodging. His Kanohi was glowing, as was a green crystal imbedded in the center of his chest. Teskor, a blue and gray Makuta with claws, was roaring and snarling as he tore through a swarm of undead minions that sought to stay between him and Anecrax. The Toa hesitated for a moment at the sight of this scene, and were forced into the room by a stream of undead reinforcements. The chamber floor was covered with crawling body parts of Anecrax's horde, and the Toa nearly stumbled. They recovered and fought side by side, cutting down the reanimated creatures that threatened to swarm over them.“It's as good as over, Anecrax,” said Teskor, catching sight of the Toa. “Even these Toa must realize that your army must be disabled as soon as possible.”“They can try,” cackled the necromancer Makuta, and he launched a wave of shadow at the Toa, causing them to stagger. “Really, brother, consider what I've told you. We Makuta are special – we don't die when our bodies are destroyed, and someday, maybe, we can learn to survive the destruction of our essence. These other beings... so fragile, and what good are they alive anyway? They're more loyal and better workers when they're undead, and they can keep moving after taking a lot more damage.”“Makuta are not satisfied ruling over corpses. They are not true subjects,” said Teskor, and he caught Anecrax by surprise with a sonic attack.Anecrax staggered back, but his undead minions barely slowed. Makuta Teskor was right: for there to be any hope of victory over him, his control over the undead must be broken. The Toa intended to bring both Makuta to justice, but first, they focused on reaching Anecrax. This proved difficult. He was dodging about the room, and each of his undead creatures had to be sliced into small pieces to be taken out of the fight. Soon the doorway was obstructed by a pile of dismembered corpses, and more undead pushed these aside as they attempted to break into the chamber. The Toa had to call upon their elemental powers to keep themselves from being overwhelmed, and the chamber filled with a storm of plasma, lightning, wind, and severed metal parts flying everywhere. Vayrag managed to hit Anecrax with a Rhotuka, and the dead and undead pieces covered him, dragging him down. The Makuta used his own magnetism powers to free himself, and he recovered in time to counter Teskor's attack.Dodging backwards, he threw down his scepter and brandished a large sword. The two Makuta sparred in close quarters, Teskor's claws clashing against Anecrax's blade, and they matched their many powers, making the tower shake. Teskor would have had the upper hand, had Anecrax's minions not interfered. His claws were fine for personal combat, but they could not cut through the many undead creatures fast enough. When he had the opportunity, he slammed the black and silver Makuta into the wall with a Power Scream, and magnetically pulled a dead Urshnolg's club into his claws. Wielding this oversized mass of metal, he quickly cleared a space around him. Anecrax got to his feet and used his Elasticity power to stretch across the chamber and pull himself away just before Teskor lunged forward. Teskor's claws dug into the wall behind which Anecrax had been a moment ago, and he snarled. Many more of the other Makuta's undead advanced on him, and Anecrax himself moved to engage the Toa.“This is a Makuta matter. Something for my brother and I to settle,” he said as he faced the five heroes. “But this will be fun. It's been years since I killed a Toa.”“And you never will again,” said Vilam, and she launched a lightning bolt at the green gem in his chest.“A rebellious spirit, but impressive skills,” said Anecrax, dodging the bolt easily. “You will make good minions, with enough improvement.”Anecrax retaliated with a blast of shadow that hammered the Toa like physical blows. The darkness blinded the Toa, and even the light of Imlen's plasma was smothered. Mozmana shouted a warning, and the Toa ducked just in time as the Makuta appeared behind them and swung his sword. The blade swept over their heads, and Anecrax immediately followed up on his missed attack. The Toa felt their armor begin to crush them under a strong magnetic force, and they focused their elemental powers on Anecrax, forcing him to release them. As he staggered for a moment, the Toa struck together again. Mozmana kept him unsteady with a psychic attack while Iskanemo created a cyclone that lifted scattered weapons and body parts off the floor. Imlen and Vilam turned the debris into electrified slag and plasma, and Vayrag struck Anecrax with a Rhotuka. Anecrax grunted in pain and frustration as the superheated metal stuck to him. Application of his Fire Resistance power kept it from melting through his armor, and he attacked the Toa viciously with his sword.On the other side of the chamber, Teskor was dragged down by grasping carcasses. But they could not pierce his armor, only slow him. He was soon back on his feet, though those feet were being pulled on by a dozen undead appendages, preventing him from moving much. Another of the reanimated parts crawled forward each time he destroyed one, until he was knee-deep in Rahi and Ukzokth remains. He could see that Anecrax was toying with the Toa by attacking them alone, but soon they would be out of the fight, and if Teskor was still restrained next time the two Makuta fought each other, he would have a fatal disadvantage. For the moment, he escaped the grip of the creeping dead things by reducing his density, and he floated up to the chamber's ceiling. Then he resolidified and dropped down, summoning his Fragmentation power and punching the ground as he landed. A large section of the floor fractured violently, and more of it crumbled from the force of the blast. The Toa and Anecrax were both surprised, and their battle paused for a fleeting moment.Iskanemo recovered first, and he sent the Makuta hurtling into the chamber below with his Mask of Repulsion. Teskor had already landed neatly on the level below, and he pounded Anecrax with attacks even as he fell. The necromancer hit the ground awkwardly and endured Teskor's attacks until his undead seized the blue Makuta. The Toa took a moment to catch their breath, but the undead remaining in the upper chamber advanced on them quickly, and they were soon fighting again. Suddenly something blasted a hole in the wall of the tower, and the Toa glanced outside to see Rahkshi battling Anecrax's horde. Several of the Makuta-Sons were leaving the fight outside to enter the tower and support Teskor. The Toa made room for these and made their way to the edge of the broken floor, leaving the undead on that level to the Rahkshi. The chamber below was smaller, and the two Makuta were locked in furious combat. Anecrax moved quickly, though he had to devote part of his attention to sustaining his army. It seemed Teskor would have had the upper hand had he not been constantly tearing undead bodies off of him.“I can sense your Rahkshi have arrived,” said Anecrax. “That could tip the scales. Fortunately, I too have reinforcements, for you see...”From above, the Toa Muktirhith saw Anecrax's undead Toa of Fire and Toa of Sonics appear and attack Makuta Teskor.“You were not thorough enough with Gromsvuk and Atsusa,” said the necromancer as his enforcers forced the other Makuta against the wall. “I'm surprised, actually. The Toa managed to destroy poor Traidmaur, I – ”“And now we'll finish the other two!” called Vayrag as he and the other Toa dropped down.“And then what, Toa? How long do you think you'll survive in a room with two Makuta?” said Anecrax, and he pinned them to the ground with increased gravity to emphasize his point.“Oh, they'll die,” said Teskor, using his own power over gravity to counteract Anecrax's. “But you're first!”With that, Teskor's eyes glowed bright and each released an intense laser beam. Anecrax was struck in the chest and staggered back. Teskor had missed the crystal, but the lasers had burned holes through his armor. Anecrax glanced down at the wisps of greenish smoke leaking out of him and snarled. Iskanemo barked orders, and at his direction Imlen and Vilam attacked Anecrax. He and Mozmana engaged the undead Toa – Gromsvuk and Atsusa, Anecrax had called them – and Vayrag shredded the remaining reanimated creatures. Imlen felt very strange and uncomfortable turning his back to Teskor, but whatever that artifact Anecrax had that let him create such an army, he was the greater threat. Doors on either side of the room burst open, and more of his undead minions surged inside. Vayrag was surrounded and dragged down, though he continued to struggle. Iskanemo sustained a vacuum, negating Gromsvuk and Atsusa's elemental attacks, and Mozmana confronted them in melee combat.With another Makuta and two Toa opposing him, Anecrax would have been expected to go down quickly. But he was defiant, and he changed from a defensive stance to a vicious onslaught, forcing Vilam and Imlen to retreat. Three of Teskor's Rahkshi dropped down, and before he could direct them otherwise, they attacked the Toa of Lightning and Plasma. Again, the two Makuta were left to battle each other alone in their corner of the chamber. Protosteel clashed against protosteel, and the walls cracked before dozens of missed and deflected attacks. Meanwhile, after a furious exchange of blades, Mozmana was disarmed. She flipped backwards and attempted to telekinetically retrieve her sword. Atsusa, the undead Toa of Fire, grabbed the weapon before she could, and Iskanemo was forced to move to defend her. He released his hold on the air around the two Hagah, and the vacuum bubble collapsed, allowing them to create fire and sound. The two Toa Muktirhith fell back before the resulting elemental onslaught, regrouping with Imlen and Vilam and letting the Rahkshi shield them inadvertently.“Where's Vayrag?” said Vilam, looking around the room desperately.“He was... oh, no,” said Mozmana, indicating where the Hordika had been fighting.There was nothing there but a heap of carcasses, some of which were still squirming. The Toa of Psionics dashed forward, and was about to dig through the pile when she paused. She ducked behind the grisly mass and reached out with her elemental power, searching for Vayrag's familiar mind. A moment later, the other Toa saw her catch her breath. She nearly collapsed, but the Toa were still in danger, so she got to her feet and rejoined the fight.“He's... dead,” she said, her voice breaking. “My friend, my dear brother...”“I... I'm sorry, Mozmana,” stammered Imlen as he sparred with a Rahkshi of Plasma. “I... I...”“Let's finish this,” said Iskanemo fiercely, summoning a great blast of air.The blast combined with Iskanemo's Kanohi Crast to sent a Rahkshi of Stasis Field crashing into the wall. The Rahkshi and the stone both broke apart in the impact. A shattering sonic boom from Gromsvuk finished off the last Rahkshi, a Guurahk. The four Toa Muktirhith now faced the undead Hagah together, and another wave of reanimated creatures entered the room from both sides. These surrounded Teskor, and Anecrax's Hagah fought defensively, keeping the Toa occupied so the Makuta could finish their fight. Only the general shape of their bodies, their elemental powers, and their masks marked Anecrax's favorite enforcers as former Toa. Those three factors together usually indicated a Toa, it was true, but these beings were less lifelike than ever. They turned intangible before any melee strike could land on them, and their writhing internal cables moved them in frighteningly fast and unnatural ways. Yet more of Anecrax's horde entered, forcing the Toa back towards the center of the room. Teskor stumbled and Anecrax brought his blade down, leaving a gash in Teskor's armor.“Stay still. The next cut will let your essence leak out in seconds,” said the skeletal Makuta, readying his sword.“Let's try something else,” said Teskor, and he released a blast of electricity.While Anecrax was stunned, Teskor followed up with a stasis field. That only briefly held the necromancer, but it gave time for Teskor to unfurl a set of wings and fly up and out of the tower. Anecrax followed, and as he flew up, the walls began to fragment. Teskor was bringing down the uppermost level of the tower. The Toa dodged falling rubble, and Iskanemo boldly reached out and grabbed Atsusa. Before the undead Toa of Fire could free itself or turn ghostly, a large chunk of stone crushed it, nearly taking Iskanemo's good arm off in the process. Sections of black rock continued to fall, until the peak of the tower was gone, and the Toa were left in a broken chamber left wide open to the sky. Many of Anecrax's minions had been crushed, and the rest of his horde was blocked by rubble for the present. While fending off the remaining crawling undead in the room, the Toa Muktirhith focused their attack on Gromsvuk. In a few minutes, Anecrax's last Hagah was destroyed, and the room was still. Or nearly so, for the two Makuta were battling in the sky above, and occasionally something from their duel would strike the tower, causing it to shudder.“Drat, they're too far away,” said Vilam, launching a lightning bolt that missed both Makuta by a large degree.“Not for me,” said Iskanemo, and he launched himself into the air with his mask.“Iskanemo, wait! Don't go alone,” called Imlen, and Iskanemo circled back.“You expect us to just sit this out?” said Iskanemo as he descended.“No, I – ”“I have an idea,” Vilam interrupted Imlen. “Mozmana, Iskanemo, we will form a Kaita – if you think you can support the weight of the three of us, Iskanemo.”“Great idea – whoa,” said Mozmana, narrowly dodging an energy bolt from the battle above.“Yes, but what about me?” demanded Imlen. “I suppose I could stay, but if those undead break through...”“Of course not,” said Vilam. “You can hold on tight and take a ride.”“Sounds crazy,” said Imlen. “But I guess the life of a Toa is full of crazy things, right?”Vilam nodded and activated her mask. She, Mozmana, and Iskanemo merged into the Toa Kaita known as Kalavai, and Imlen climbed onto the fusion's shoulders. Using the power of Iskanemo's mask and element, Kalavai shot into the sky. Imlen held on tight as the Kaita flew towards the dueling Makuta. Anecrax saw them coming and channeled his gravity power at Kalavai, forcing her down, but that left him vulnerable to Teskor's attack. The blue and gray Makuta let out a mighty Power Scream, causing Anecrax to lose his concentration. Kalavai recovered and swooped underneath him. Imlen aimed his staff.“This is for Vayrag,” he called, hurling an intense ball of plasma at the necromancer Makuta. “And this is for all the Matoran you've killed!”With that, he released an even more intense stream of plasma at Anecrax. While the Makuta hesitated, struggling to keep the heat from melting his armor away, Teskor lunged at him. Anecrax screamed in protest as his brother ripped the green crystal from his chest and crushed it into powerless shards. Many of the undead on the ground below collapsed, and a moment later Anecrax deactivated his mask and the rest also fell. The Toa passed by him, pounding him with elemental attacks, but it was Teskor that struck back. A surge of shadow nearly caused Kalavai to break apart, and she lost altitude in her recovery. She hovered a few bio off the ground, with Imlen still grasping her massive shoulders, while Teskor's voice boomed out.“Your insane dream has been crushed, brother,” he said. “Now, before we can settle this between us, we must remove these Toa interlopers.”“They'll die,” declared Anecrax. “Trust me, they'll die... you'll all die!”“We should not go back up there,” said Kalavai to Imlen as Anecrax viciously attacked Teskor. “And the presence of the Makuta is making it difficult for me to remain whole.”“I agree.” said Imlen. “It looks like Anecrax's control over the dead is diminished. But we still need to take them out.”Kalavai said no more as she gently descended. Once on her feet, she separated into her three constituent beings. The four Toa stood for a moment, taking the opportunity to rest, until one of the Makuta plummeted into the ground near them. It was Teskor, and Anecrax followed, swooping down as the clawed Makuta picked himself up out of the crater his impact had formed. Anecrax was no longer distracted maintaining his army, and so now he fought with greater speed and agility. Teskor's Rahkshi had also been destroyed, and so the Toa and the Makuta were alone outside the broken black tower. The battle had been long, and the sky was beginning to dim. But Makuta did not tire, not in the sense that most beings did, and the two of them continued to battle each other. The Toa would have kept out of their fight, but both Teskor and Anecrax wanted them dead as much as they wanted to kill the other Makuta, and so the Toa were forced to defend themselves. A storm of supernatural powers and clashing metal engulfed the battlefield.The Makuta seemed to be evenly matched, but the Toa feared Anecrax would spread more death if he escaped, and so they focused their attacks on him. Yet they let Teskor do most of the work, so that his strength would be depleted when it was his turn to be taken down. Anecrax fought back with the madness and murderous hatred of all lesser beings he had developed. He had come to view life as most beings knew it as an abomination, and was determined to annihilate it and any of his fellow Makuta that stood in his way. Both he and Teskor were wounded over the course of the battle, and though their essence leaked from holes in their armor, they did not slow. The Toa also suffered injuries. Imlen fell as he was struck by beams of Heat Vision, but he was not hurt badly, and he rejoined the fight a few minutes later. Not long after, Mozmana was shocked badly by a storm of chain lightning, and she fell. The other Toa had only enough time to determine she was alive but unconscious. Teskor reached out and attempted to finish her with a barrage of shadow bolts, and Vilam jumped in front of Mozmana and did her best to endure the onslaught, blocking what she could with her sword.Iskanemo quickly broke Teskor's assault on his sisters. Again, he released an intense blast of air backed by the repulsive force of his mask. Makuta Teskor was thrown back nearly ten bio, and he landed on his back. Anecrax stunned the Toa with a sonic blast and charged his brother. He was upon Teskor nearly before the other Makuta could rise. When the Toa recovered, Iskanemo saw to Mozmana while Imlen and Vilam followed the Makuta. As they rushed over, they could see Teskor was at a clear disadvantage. They had been fighting for over an hours, and so the Toa paused to rest. Iskanemo roused his sister and rejoined the others, and they stood there with their weapons held defensively, breathing heavily, as they watched the Makuta finish their duel.Review

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#33 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted May 30 2012 - 07:39 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-three==Wastelands North of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Anecrax's onslaught was especially fierce now that he had a clear advantage. The sword clashed against the claws, and soon Teskor's right wrist was half severed. More of his foul-looking green and black vapor wafted from the cut, and he stumbled and fell backwards. Anecrax brought his sword down heavily – perhaps not a killing blow, given the nature of Makuta, but surely enough to cripple his foe – and Teskor barely managed to catch the blade with his left claw in time. Anecrax tried to pull the blade back for another swing, but Teskor was gripping it and would not let go. Realizing this, Anecrax pushed downwards, attempting to make the blade continue its original path to Teskor's armor. Even without the momentum of a swing, the sharp edge could saw through his protosteel shell if it had firm strength behind it. The blue Makuta struggled, but with Anecrax's weight behind the sword, he could only slow its descent. The blade came closer just a tiny fraction of a bio at a time, but it seemed he could do nothing to stop it. To the curiosity of the Toa, his Kanohi began to glow at that moment.“A desperate tactic, and a laughably ill-conceived one,” said Anecrax without slackening on the downward push. “Aging a Makuta to death? How long can I live for? Another hundred thousand years? Five hundred thousand? A million years? A billion? An eternity? Either way, you cannot accelerate time fast enough for it to – ”Anecrax stopped suddenly as his sword snapped in two, sundered by Teskor's grip. He stepped back involuntarily, dropping the hilt. Teskor released a blast of lightning and moved nearly as fast as it. In the flash of a heartlight, he was grasping Anecrax by the throat. He lifted his brother with his undamaged arm, and he managed to move his other claw enough to tear the Kanohi Tryna from Anecrax's face and toss it away. The necromancer's essence gushed from his bare face, obscuring it, and Teskor squeezed his left claw, making holes in Anecrax's neck from which more essence leaked. He leaned in close to his former ally, but spoke loudly enough for the Toa to hear.“Fast enough to kill you directly?” he finished for Anecrax mockingly. “Perhaps not. But metals rust and corrode much sooner than that. Protosteel seems to last forever, but the equivalent of a dozen millennia or so weakened your sword enough for fresher metal of the same type to break it. So, if your consciousness survives in some way, as you speculate, you can remember how I killed you.”With that, Teskor decapitated his brother. As Anecrax's essence bled out even faster, it was incinerated by Teskor's power over plasma. The Toa looked on, and they felt both horror and relief as the insane Makuta expired. Then Teskor tossed the broken black and silver shell aside, and the five beings prepared to face each other alone.“You're outnumbered and injured, Makuta,” said Mozmana. “Surrender now, lest we are forced to kill you.”“I have another offer,” said Teskor. “Mata Nui no longer rules over this universe. This is the age of the Makuta, but the transition has been rough. Aid us, and we will undo the damage that was done, and we will bring peace and order to the universe. There would be no Dark Hunters. No Zyglak or Frostelus or any other savage creatures... including my Ukzokth. The Matoran would be safe under the rule of their new benevolent lords.”“That's a noble goal,” said Iskanemo. “What would you have us do?”Iskanemo's agreement was obviously a ruse, and the Makuta noticed. He released a surge of shadow just as the other three Toa charged. His enemies were knocked to the ground, and Teskor followed with a chain lightning attack that zapped them before Vilam could counter it. She was the only one to remain standing, and as her allies spasmed on the ground, Teskor bore down on her. Her sword was no match for his protosteel claws, and after a few clashes, it was shredded. Vilam stumbled and fell backwards, and narrowly dodged as Teskor attempted to strike a killing blow.“I would have you die,” said the Makuta he summoned a sphere of shadow in each claw. “For you are rebels, dissidents – you have no place in the Brotherhood's universe.”“You're right... we don't,” grunted Imlen as he sprayed plasma at Teskor's mask, interrupting his attack on Vilam.“Because we're true Toa,” added Mozmana, getting to her feet and moving to help her sister.“And this is not the Brotherhood's universe,” said Iskanemo, and he knocked Teskor back with a blast of wind and his mask power.Teskor said nothing in response to that. He merely rushed back into combat, but not before the Toa were able to stand and recover. The battle was not as flashy as the previous fight had been, for the Toa had nearly depleted their elemental powers. Teskor, too, was tired, in the way that Makuta could tire. It was more mental exhaustion than physical, but he was slower and less potent. And yet the fight was intense, as none of the combatants would give up. When she had the chance, Vilam recovered the lower half of Anecrax's sword. It was no longer quite as strong as Teskor's claws, but it was still tougher than Vilam's sword had been, and now it was about the right size for a Toa. She reentered the battle in time to deflect a pair of laser vision beams aimed at Iskanemo. The Toa of Air was doing his best to widen the gashes in Teskor's armor with his sickle, and he had some success, though he suffered shallow scratches a few times when he failed to dodge quickly enough.Imlen felt quite ineffective, as his staff could not damage the Makuta, and he had little elemental energy left. But he resisted the impulse to waste the last of his power aimlessly. For now, he did what he could to distract Teskor and defend his allies. The Toa and the Makuta sparred for a while without using any special powers, until Mozmana finished severing the claw that Anecrax had damaged. Teskor growled as his essence leaked out, and that growl rose in pitch and intensity to become a Power Scream. But Iskanemo reacted quickly, creating a vacuum to block the sonic screech before it could blast the Toa back. The other three Toa unleashed their elemental powers to daze Teskor as the Toa of Air manipulated the vacuum to draw more of the Makuta's essence out. That lasted for a long moment, then Teskor lashed out. Iskanemo was forced to release the air he absorbed, and he did his best to focus it at his enemy. Teskor staggered, and the Toa tackled him, knocking him down. Mozmana and Vilam severed his other claw and pinned him down while Iskanemo drew out the rest of his essence as one murky mass.“Now, Makuta, I will kill you for your crimes,” said Imlen, pointing his staff at the hovering cloud that contained Teskor's consciousness. “Though it may be contrary to the Toa Code I was taught, I feel I am doing the right thing by ridding the universe of such a monster.”The other Toa did not object, not even Mozmana. Without the most secure of prisons, any Makuta was too dangerous to keep alive. Exceptions to the Code could be made in such cases, such as war, and though it was unofficial, this was a war. So with that, Imlen released all the plasma power he had left. Teskor's essence began to burn away... then the jet of plasma waned and ended. Much of the essence was gone – but how much could Makuta live without? What was left of Teskor blew away in the wind without dispersing before the Toa got an answer.“Did... did we do it?” said Vilam when the green miasma was gone.“I don't know,” said Iskanemo. “He's defeated, but there's a chance he is still alive. But again, he's gone for now. So, now what?”“Now we return to the Matoran, and Turaga Morok,” said Imlen, and the other Toa nodded. “It's time they hear of this victory.”Now that the heat of battle had left the Toa, and they were exhausted, they noticed for the first time all day how dry and cold the Wastelands were. The march to the south was difficult, but their spirits were high, and nothing they would face on the way could compare to the danger they had just survived. As they approached the snow-tipped mountains, they thought of the Ko-Matoran, and most of the joy left them. The thrill of success was tempered by the memory of the victims of the two Makuta. The Toa resolved to later find out if the Matoran of Ice truly were all dead, but first they needed to rest, recover, and inform the people of Yrenta of what had transpired. It was late at night when they left the Wastelands, and they camped in a cave in a pleasant valley that cut through the mountains. The next morning, they continued on their way. They were nearly out of the valley when Iskanemo pointed something out.“That tree looks out of place,” he said, indicating a tree that looked normal to the rest of the Toa. “Look at the roots. And the leaf arrangement – it's not like the others'.”“What do you think it means?” asked Imlen, looking at the plant cautiously.“I don't sense anyone,” said Mozmana. “If you think someone's hiding – ”Her speech turned into a yelp of surprise, for the surface of the tree began to move. The bark parted to reveal the features of a biomechanical being: a face that was part metal and part wood with dark green eyes, and limbs consisting of pistons and other machinery built into the roots and branches. The limbs and trunk took on a more or less Toa-shaped form, and the tree being stepped forward.“Hiding? Not so much as testing you,” it said in a deep yet soft voice. “The Toa of Air must have lived in the trees in his home village, for Le-Matoran of that sort know more about plants than anyone save the Matoran of the Green.”“What... what are you?” asked Imlen with wonder and shock.“My name is Tanaman,” said the being. “I'm an independent... spy, I suppose you can call me.”“A spy? For whom?” said Vilam.“Myself. But I give information to those I feel should have it,” explained Tanaman. “Such as Toa.”“And you have information for us?” said Imlen.“I do. A few days ago, the Brotherhood of Makuta attempted to marshal the Ukzokth for wars in other lands. But a rogue Makuta disrupted the operation, slaughtering the creatures by the hundreds for use in his undead army,” said Tanaman. “As a result, the remaining Ukzokth are broken and scattered. They will be a minor threat across the continent, perhaps across the entire universe someday, but as long as you are vigilant, I do not expect them to ever regain much of a foothold in Yrenta.”“Are these Brotherhood forces still in the area?” asked Iskanemo.“The Makuta devastated the task force that his brothers had sent to bring the Ukzokth in line. The survivors from that mission have been recalled, but there are still Rahkshi and other agents hunting you.”“Thank you for the warning. This same Makuta – Anecrax – was killed by the Makuta of this region, Makuta Teskor, whom we then defeated,” said Mozmana. “We do not know if he is alive or dead, but he is weakened and bereft of his body, at least. What do you expect of this?”“I'm not sure, exactly. The Brotherhood agents will be uncoordinated for a short time, I expect, but if the Makuta know where to find you, they will attempt to have their revenge. But how much effort they put into bringing you to 'justice' depends on how important this Teskor was.”“So we're still fugitives,” sighed Imlen. “I was hoping to be able to settle down in my homeland after all this.”“Such is our fate in this era,” said Mozmana. “Toa are an endangered sort of being, with many enemies.”“Indeed. But your people, at least, are safe for now. Go to them, and let them rejoice, for Ukzokth are crippled, and the shadow of Makuta Anecrax has lifted. Just be vigilant, and you will survive,” said the tree being.“Will you warn us of any developments we should know about?” asked Vilam.“If I can. A being with my talents is needed in many places, and in some places – places devoid of trees to hide among – I am not much use at all,” said Tanaman. “But if I am in the area, I will inform you if I notice anything important.”The Toa thanked Tanaman and left. They soon emerged from the valley and came to the foothills south of the mountains, which were home to most of the Matoran of Plasma and Lightning. The nearest major settlement was Aki-Naja, which was still occupied by the Brotherhood, and so the Toa avoided it. Perhaps someday they would retake the fortress for Yrenta, but right now no Matoran were enslaved within it, and it would be unwise to provoke the Makuta further. The Toa instead turned to a small village that was out of sight of the fortress's towers. They informed the Matoran of the events of the past few days, though they neglected to mention Tanaman. After resting for a short time, the Toa moved on, telling the Matoran to spread the news as they left. They traveled east, passing through several more villages and spreading the news of their victory. They spent the night in a farmer's homestead they had recently liberated from Ukzokth, and the next morning they came to the entrance of the underground realm.Since the tunnels had been cleared of danger and fortified, the Onu-Matoran had sentries posted at the entrance, ready to welcome visitors and deter enemies. The Toa shared their story with these guards, and a messenger was sent into the tunnel to relay the news. The Toa then traveled up the mountains. After two days of searching, they found the place where they had begun to follow the undead horde into the Wastelands. From there, it took another day for them to find the Ko-Koro. The village was hidden in a cleft in the mountain that was only safely accessible by a narrow tunnel. The Toa hiked down to where they expected the entrance to be, and it was not there. After searching for hours, they found it. After squeezing through a passage that was just barely wide enough for them, they emerged in the gorge they had seen from the slopes high above. From their vantage point above the village, they had seen no movement. Now that they were closer, they could confirm that all was still.They noticed there were no sentries to greet them, and as they scanned the buildings ahead, they saw no Matoran, living or dead. They walked to the midst of the ice structures, which each had a small entrance with no door. The Toa peeked inside and found every one of the buildings to be deserted. There was no sign of a fight, but some items had been dropped or knocked over. Just as the Toa feared, it seemed as though the Ko-Matoran had indeed died suddenly, to later rise from the dead and march to the Wastelands under Anecrax's command. Imlen did not wish to observe what had happened, but he knew it was foolish to rely on the physical clues that had been left behind when he had such an ability. Reluctantly, he picked up the nearest object in the hut he was in – a fragment of a fallen writing tablet – and activated his mask.He looked upon the broken stone's past, and sensed what he was seeing had occurred elsewhere in the mountains. Apparently, the Ko-Matoran had brought the tablet with them from the old village. That was mildly interesting, but not important at the moment. Imlen tried again to see for himself what had become of the Ko-Matoran. Again, he was shown a vision of a far different time than the one he was looking for. He continued to try for a few minutes, then Iskanemo, who had been searching outside, entered the hut and interrupted him.“Find anything?” the Toa of Air said as Imlen looked up at him.“No, not yet. You?” replied Imlen.“Yes – footprints. There's been some snow, but the village is sheltered enough to preserve some traces.”“And? What did you notice about them?”“It seems to confirm what we suspected,” Iskanemo said dourly. “From what we've seen, the tracks all lead out of the buildings and converge into a double-file line that points in the direction of the tunnel.”“That does fit with the scenario we imagined,” Imlen conceded, though he displayed a tiny spark of hope in his mood. “Though that just indicates they left – they could have been alive.”“I doubt it. Look – I just noticed this, but you can see here where the Matoran who held that tablet fell to the ground, dead,” Iskanemo pointed out. “I'm sorry Imlen... I... especially since these Ko-Matoran were also your people.”“Don't apologize – for that,” Imlen said. “You're not to blame for this, and I too doubt that they are alive. But before I give up looking for them, I must be sure of their fate.”For a moment, Iskanemo looked hurt by Imlen's subtle reminder of what the Toa of Plasma did blame him for, but then he composed himself. He nodded in understanding at Imlen's decision to continue to search the past for proof, and left him to do so. Imlen didn't notice Iskanemo's initial reaction. He had too much on his mind. He spent hours scanning various objects in the village, long after the other Toa stopped searching for clues. Finally, while holding an astronomer's telescope, he saw it. The wave of darkness the Toa themselves had barely survived had descended upon the village less than two weeks ago. It had swept through every hut, and the Ko-Matoran had dropped dead as it surged through them. He saw the astronomer die at his desk while the telescope rested on the nearby shelf Imlen had found it on. Imlen sighed. He felt a surge of grief, but he had merely confirmed what he he had strongly suspected, and so this revelation did not bring him much fresh pain. Taking a deep breath, he called the other Toa to him, and told them what he had seen.“It is so, then,” said Vilam solemnly. “At least we can take comfort in knowing that the death-monger Anecrax has been destroyed.”“Indeed,” said Imlen. “And let us hope that no one else ever unlocks the secret to spreading such destruction.”“We can cause even more damage, if we used our powers in such a way,” Iskanemo reminded them.“You're right. Then let's hope that no more Toa turn from the path of good, as Zima did,” said Imlen. “And that no more Toa are turned into mindless monsters like Anecrax's enforcers.”“There are too few of us already,” Vilam said, nodding. “Now, on the topic at hand: the Ko-Matoran were legendary scholars. Their knowledge and wisdom has been recorded and left behind here. The other Matoran should recover these records.”“Of course,” said Imlen. “There is much the Matoran should see – fabled knowledge they could once only dream of.”“But if the Ko-Matoran kept their knowledge secret, should we really reveal it to others?” asked Mozmana.“The Ko-Matoran were secretive because they were reclusive,” Imlen assured. “But they were practical, and not selfish. This is what they would have wanted.”“He's right. It would shame them to have their millennia of research and contemplation to go waste,” said Vilam. “And they were always kind to any fellow intellectuals that braved the mountains to visit them. They would be happy to allow any interested beings to read their works.”“Alright, I understand,” said Mozmana. “Well, it will soon be night. We'd best spend the night here, and tomorrow we can depart.”Review

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#34 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jun 05 2012 - 01:32 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-four==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

“Well done. I'm proud to call you my successors, and the successors of Vibrak and his team that came after my team and before yours,” said Turaga Morok, bowing before the Toa. “But it saddens me that this victory is tainted by the death of our Ko-Matoran brothers, and the brave Vayrag, who kept the spirit of a Toa even when our enemies robbed him of a Toa's form. And though Anecrax is dead, Teskor may yet live... and whether he is alive or also dead, our troubles with the Makuta are not over. And yet, we have survived the shadow of Anecrax and the Ukzokth hordes, and four of our Toa have returned to us triumphant. The Matoran deserve a celebration – as long as we remain watchful for the next threat.”“That's just what Tanaman said,” said Vilam. “We've achieved a victory, but the Makuta will seek revenge.”“And they'd want us dead just for being Toa,” said Imlen. “Toa that have made it clear that they will not ally with the Brotherhood, I might add.”“That's why we must soon leave,” said Iskanemo. “I suppose we've earned some time to rest, and we should make sure your people are safe now, but we can't stay for long. We'll need to travel the universe, keeping a step ahead of those that seek to hunt us down.”“Travel the universe? I'm done with that,” declared Imlen. “I agree that we cannot settle in Yrenta. We could travel across this side of the continent – perhaps the entire continent – but I have no intention to spend the rest of my life on distant islands.”“Well, I... we'll discuss this later,” said Iskanemo, and he glanced at Morok, who nodded.“Yes, now is not the time for debate,” agreed the Turaga. “Today we celebrate our victory and mourn our dead.”It was quite an event. The entire jungle village was participating in the celebration and memorial service, and the Toa were sure that the other people of Yrenta were doing the same in their own homes. The Matoran had wanted to gather together for one large festival, but the Toa had decreed that it was too dangerous. The Brotherhood or Dark Hunters could attack them at any moment, and so a highly publicized party would put many lives at risk. When it was deemed safe, however, Turaga Morok would travel to the other villages and fortresses and reestablish the political bonds that had once linked the scattered settlements together. For now, the Turaga used his elemental powers to cause flowers to bloom, and he told stories of the past. He told histories that the Matoran had forgotten, and he told of his personal experiences, including the hundreds of years he lived in exile only a few kio from the village. The Matoran listened with delight to the tale of how he befriended the Jivri Nui, although they had heard the story before.When that was done, Morok and the Toa reminded the Matoran of the brothers and sisters that had died recently: the casualties of the Battle of Ba-Naja, the Ko-Matoran that were wiped out in an instant, and Toa Vayrag. Unfortunately, the Toa had been unable to retrieve the bodies of Vayrag and the Ko-Matoran from the Wastelands, but they did their best to make up for that. Honorary graves were given to them in the village cemetery, and marked by the traditional sepulchral plants. After a solemn service, Morok declared that those who had died would not have wanted them to mourn all day after such a victory. And so, the festivities began again. There was much revelry, though the Toa were not much in the mood to join in. They had gotten the feeling they could have saved the Ko-Matoran if they had confronted Anecrax sooner. And they were saddened by the loss of Vayrag. Every one of them mourned him, even Vilam and Imlen, who had only known him for a few weeks, but Mozmana of course was especially grieved.“We could have found a way to cure him, someday,” she lamented. “We never told you this, but... when they saw what he had become, his... his own people rejected him. If only we could have restored him, and brought him home...”“He didn't need a cure, sister. I traveled with him for years, too, remember,” said Iskanemo comfortingly. “He was not perfectly happy with what he had become, but he accepted it. And if his people rejected him, they didn't deserve to have him.”“And you already gave him what he really wanted,” Vilam reminded her. “You helped him continue to be a Toa. You prevented the venom from destroying his mind. That's more than most victims of Hordika venom can hope for.”“Thank you. I'm lucky to know you all,” said Mozmana. “We're a good team.”She flashed an anxious look at Iskanemo, but the other Toa took no notice. The Toa spent the rest of the day resting in the jungle village, then they traveled back north. Since the shattering of the Ukzokth tribes and hordes, Po-Matoran had already attempted to resettle their old home. Upon arriving, they had felt a sense of unease just as the Toa had felt in the blighted region in the Southern Continent, and they found the desert to be devoid of all life. Turaga Morok had advised them to wait a few years for Anecrax's corruption to fade away, but there were rumors that a few brave Matoran had gone ahead to the former site of their village. The Toa went to investigate, and found that the rumors were true. Upon conquering the Po-Koro, the goblins had quickly turned it into a fortress that had been dubbed Cordak-Naja. But as they approached the ugly Fortress of Desolation, they saw it was being converted into a fine Matoran-style walled settlement.A Po-Matoran builder hailed the Toa from the top of the gateway he was redesigning. He bid them enter, and the settlement's small new population came forth to greet the Toa. There were eight Po-Matoran, and to the surprise of the Toa, there was also a Matoran of the Green. He explained that he had come to bring life back to the desert.“We've brought a small herd of Mahi,” he said, and his Po-Matoran friends showed the Toa. “We're hoping to bring more Rahi, and that this will encourage wild Rahi to return, restarting the ecosystem.”“An admirable project. But fauna is only half of an ecosystem, and not the half your kind is known for,” said Imlen.“Of course. I – oh, my name is Ayser, by the way – I have something else to show you. Something I'm quite proud of,” said the Green Matoran.Ayser led the Toa to a plot behind his hut. It was a patch of sandy ground that looked no different than the rest of the village, but it was isolated by a perimeter of little marker stones. And in one corner a small piece of green was showing. The Toa looked closer, and saw it was a very young cactus.“This, my friends, is the first plant to grow in this rejuvenated environment,” said Ayser proudly. “If all goes well, its brothers should sprout over the next few days. And if they remain healthy, I will soon travel the desert, spreading seeds all around.”“If you have such success so soon, you should inform the Turaga,” said Vilam. “His initial judgment might be wrong, and he'd like to know.”“Oh, I will. Even if all goes well, we'll need lots of help if we're to revitalize this region before we eat all the Mahi we've brought,” said Ayser. “But don't worry too much about that – if we start to starve, we'll go back to the other villages.”The Toa congratulated Ayser and the other settlers. Before leaving, they reminded the settlers to alert the other Matoran if Ukzokth or other enemies were seen in the area. Then the Toa traveled south around the canyon and north again to Ba-Naja. The Ba-Matoran and their neighbors had worked quickly to restore their home after the battle, and when the Toa arrived, the fortress was in pristine condition. It seemed that there had been some celebration, but as usual, Netun and his people had focused on the more grim things. A mausoleum for those who had died in the siege had been excavated in the back of the cavern, and there was another memorial to the Ko-Matoran nearby. After paying their respects there and ensuring that all else was well in that community, the Toa traveled west and entered Bwatana's domain. The Onu-Matoran happily reported that they were once again prospering, as they uncovered riches from mines that had been abandoned for millennia. There was a high proportion of Ukzokth remaining underground, as the tunnels were extensive, with many hiding places. But the realm of the Matoran was well-protected, and the goblins had been forced to retreat into distant lairs.The Fe-Matoran had forged the lower half of Anecrax's sword into a fine weapon for Vilam, though at first they had had trouble working the protosteel. They regretted that Metaku was gone, for he would have done a far better job than any of them. But Vilam took the sword with much gratitude and pronounced it the best work she had ever wielded. Soon, the Toa headed to the surface again. They cautiously passed a wide distance around Aki-Naja, and they came to Kara-Naja, where they addressed a crowd of Matoran. There, they promised to help the Matoran recover the knowledge the Ko-Matoran had left behind, and to reclaim Mount Tasle for the Matoran of Lightning. But in the midst of their speech, a Matoran sentry interrupted them. A force of Visorak and Brotherhood soldiers was advancing on the fortress. The gates of Aki-Naja had been opened and its garrison released.“Disperse! Don't resist,” Imlen ordered, to the shocked protestations of the Matoran. “Listen! They're after us, not you. If we leave, they'll follow.”“We won't have you die needlessly,” said Vilam.The Matoran reluctantly obeyed, evacuating through the main gate as the Toa left through a smaller exit and moved to face the oncoming legion. The local Brotherhood force that had been left behind after the Dark Hunter invasion had recently been further diminished by Anecrax's rebellion, but it was still more than the Toa could expect to defeat alone. And so they fled. They turned south, and as they expected, the enemy legion followed, ignoring the Matoran of Kara-Naja. The Toa moved through the hills quickly, and the Visorak and soldiers lagged behind. About a dozen Rahkshi flew ahead of the group and landed in front of the Toa. The Toa attempted to clear a path with their elemental powers, obliterating three of the Rahkshi immediately, but the others closed in to block their escape. Two Rahkshi of Chain Lightning and a Rahkshi of Electricity attacked together. Vilam deflected their attacks before the Toa were hit, but that left her vulnerable to a Rahkshi of Sleep. Rays of sleep-inducing energy surged through her, and she was forced to try hard to stay awake. She tottered, and Imlen shielded her with a barrier of plasma. The nearest few Rahkshi took a step back as he conjured more plasma.While Mozmana cured Vilam of her drowsiness, he and Iskanemo turned the plasma into a storm that engulfed all of the Rahkshi, blinding them. Vilam's mind cleared before the plasma dispersed, and she sent her own element coursing through it. The Rahkshi spasmed, and Mozmana rushed into melee combat. She nimbly maneuvered among the hostile machines and quickly sliced four of them into pieces. These Rahkshi were clearly not Teskor's elite, but they were delaying the Toa long enough for the pursuing legion to nearly catch up. Mozmana retreated as the remaining Rahkshi recovered, only to be struck by a Rhotuka from the army's Vohtarak vanguard. The paralysis took effect before she could attempt to resist. The red Visorak charged, firing their spinners, and the other Toa ducked. Imlen pulled Mozmana out of the path of the soldier Rahi while Vilam and Iskanemo held off the Rahkshi. Calling upon a great amount of elemental energy, Iskanemo created a tempest that gathered the clouds overhead, and Vilam coaxed lightning from the storm.The thunderbolts targeted the Rahkshi with guided precision, stunning them long enough for the Toa to take out all but four of them. By then, the foremost Visorak were upon them, and the rest of the legion was not far behind. Imlen was caught in a stasis field as he bent over to lift Mozmana. Iskanemo sent the Rahkshi of Stasis Field hurtling back into the advancing horde while Vilam freed Imlen, and together the three of them created a cyclone of electrified plasma that briefly incapacitated the nearest Visorak and the Rahkshi. Imlen hefted Mozmana's paralyzed body over his shoulder, and the Toa ran. Iskanemo helped to carry her, and when the Toa had a moment to rest, the Toa of Air borrowed Mozmana's mask to restore her mobility. The Rahkshi flew after them and soon caught up at the edge of a small forest. The Toa ducked under the cover of the trees, but Imlen was too slow. Rings of pale energy struck him, and he fell. Iskanemo turned and reached out a hand to help him out, then recoiled suddenly.“Ouch! What was that for?” he demanded, glancing at his red-hot fingers.“For Paqyar. It's your fault he died,” snarled Imlen as he got up on his own.“Now's not the – whoa,” Iskanemo said, narrowly dodging a blast of plasma. “What's gotten into you?”“Brothers, help!” called Mozmana, and Iskanemo glanced over to see the two female Toa surrounded by the four Rahkshi.“The Kurahk's afflicted Imlen,” said Iskanemo, having noticed the white Rahkshi.Iskanemo rushed to aid his sisters just as Imlen released another surge of plasma. The tree he had been standing in front of was struck, and it burst into flames. In that short time, Iskanemo could not be sure if it would trigger a forest fire, but he would not take the risk. He paused for a moment to deprive the blaze of air. Behind him, Mozmana and Vilam fell to their knees, gasping for breath at the feet of an orange and black Rahkshi. Iskanemo turned and released the air he had absorbed, counteracting the Rahkshi of Vacuum's attack. He then charged into melee combat, and the Toa quickly destroyed the Rahkshi of Stasis Field, which had already been damaged when the Brotherhood legion trampled it. As Vilam struck it with a final blow, the combatants were blinded by a sudden brilliant light. The globe of plasma that had appeared in their midst exploded outward, and Imlen began to beat the dazed Toa and Rahkshi with wild rage.A brutal strike of his staff knocked the Kanohi off of Iskanemo, and he released the last of his elemental energy as a scorching cloud of plasma that turned a circle of the forest floor to glass. His allies' armor glowed orange, and they passed out. The Rahkshi fared just as badly, and two of them collapsed, their Kraata dead or unconscious. Only one remained: a black and purple Rahkshi of Adaptation that had altered itself to resist his element. Imlen advanced on it, then faltered as he realized he had nearly killed Vilam. The Kurahk had amplified his bitterness at Paqyar's death and the blame he placed on Iskanemo and Mozmana, but he could think of no reason to be angry at Vilam. He hesitated, and the Rahkshi of Adaptation took the opportunity to knock the staff out of his hands. Imlen took a step back, and the Rahkshi pressed its advantage. It stabbed at him with the bladed ends of its staff, and he grabbed the thrusting weapon before it impaled him. Using the Rahkshi's own momentum against it, he wrenched the staff out of its hands and tossed it away.The Rahkshi hissed and tackled Imlen, pinning him to the ground as its hands turned into claws. The Rahkshi of Anger's power still affected Imlen, and with the Rahkshi of Adaptation in his face, all his rage was focused on it. He struggled, and though he cut himself on the Rahkshi's claws and the spines that sprouted from its armor, he forced it to release him. As he stood up, he glanced at his wounds, then he looked at the Rahkshi and snarled. He advanced on it again – then was struck from behind by another paralyzing Rhotuka. The Vohtarak had caught up, and Imlen could only roar with helpless fury as they surrounded the Toa Muktirhith. Additional Visorak came, and it was clear they were restraining themselves only with great reluctance. Some soldiers joined the Visorak, and there seemed to be some indecision amongst them. Imlen's artificially induced anger finally faded, and he overhead the Brotherhood soldiers saying that they would secure the Toa and wait for their commanding officer.Imlen felt great shame as he and his companions were disarmed and deprived of their Kanohi, bound with durable chains, and dragged to their feet. The three other Toa stirred, but Imlen did not dare to speak. They were separated, each surrounded by a group of soldiers and Visorak with readied weapons. Imlen was kept waiting for what felt like a long time, and he felt his elemental energy slowly returning. But he was still paralyzed, chained, and missing his mask, and there were a dozen different launchers and blades focused on him, all ready to strike if he acted. He risked a glance in the direction of the other Toa, but he could only see Vilam. She was on the other side of the glade, with many Brotherhood minions between the two Toa, and yet Imlen could tell she was wounded and barely conscious. He flinched. She had not been hurt in the battle; Imlen had done this to her. A Visorak chattered menacingly and leaned forward, adjusting its Rhotuka launcher in warning, and Imlen looked straight ahead submissively. A few minutes later, he heard voices. It seemed the commander had arrived at last.“These must be the Toa Makuta Teskor was looking for,” the commander said triumphantly and yet rather impatiently. “He wants them dead... at least those were his standing orders... but we don't know...”“Sir?” a subordinate interjected questioningly.“I was just thinking these Toa could inform us what happened to the Makuta. Bring them to me!”The pair of burly beings holding Imlen upright dragged him roughly into the presence of the commander. As he was moved, he felt a little slack in the chains binding him, but he did not dare to act yet. The leader of the legion was a being of a yellow-armored species Imlen recognized. The other three Toa were also held in place before him. It was hard to tell for sure because of the paralysis, but they appeared to barely be conscious. Again, Imlen felt guilt upon seeing the armor that had been deformed by the heat of his crazed attack. One of the soldiers tried to slap Iskanemo awake, but his attempt had the opposite effect. Iskanemo's bare face went still and he stared ahead blankly. In part of his mind, Imlen still held a grudge against the Toa of Air, but the sight of his flickering heartlight banished all animosity. Imlen couldn't let his fellow Toa die, especially since it was his fault they were in this predicament.“Please, Commander!” he spoke up. “My friends are badly hurt – your Rahkshi, they... they turned me against them. But – but the Toa of Psionics – she has a Mask of Healing...”“Ah, but I only need one Toa to tell me what I need to know,” said the Brotherhood officer with a cruel smile. “Or are you dying too?”“No, but suppose... suppose I don't know the whole story?” postulated Imlen.“Do you?” said the commander, and he held a dagger under Imlen's chin.“Well no, there was some of it I wasn't present or conscious for,” Imlen lied.“Start talking,” said the yellow being, and he nicked the armor just below Imlen's neck for emphasis.“But they could die anytime now,” protested Imlen. “And if they die, I'll tell you nothing.”“You're willing to die with them, aren't you?” said the commander, but he didn't wait for an answer. “Alright then. Medics, get over here!”The healers of the legion came forth, and one of them was given Mozmana's Kanohi. Imlen clarified the nature of his friends' wounds, and the medics began to treat them. Imlen looked away as their armor was opened and their flesh treated. The medics said the operation would take a while, and so the legion set up a camp there in the forest. Hours passed, and Imlen felt his power returning while the paralysis wore off. They were still in a dire situation, but Imlen felt a spark of hope. For now, he kept the commander occupied with false information. He claimed that Teskor was trapped in a hidden cave in the Wastelands that only the Toa could locate and unseal. The commander accepted his story and let him live, for now. No one seemed to notice that Imlen's chains were not as tight as they could have been, but still he waited. Then he felt a familiar mental signal coming from the medical tent.Hello, Imlen. Pay attention, and we can escape, projected Mozmana. I've tricked the healers into giving us our Kanohi back, and we're feigning weakness. I trust they didn't restrain you as well as they should have, right?How did you know about that? You were unconscious, responded Imlen.Perhaps some of the time, but I've been awake enough to subtly manipulate our captors, explained the Toa of Psionics. I'm sorry I couldn't inform you earlier, but I needed your performance to be, well, at least a little sincere.You knew what I would say, and what would happen? Imlen wondered.No, I just trusted you, projected Mozmana. I trusted you to request to have us healed if you thought we were dying – and we were dying, actually – and I trusted you to convince the commander of the importance of keeping us alive.And the looseness of the chains? asked Imlen.A subtle mix of telekinesis and induced negligence, Mozmana explained. Just make the soldiers tying you up a little less patient and a little more apathetic, and they won't do a thorough job.I didn't know you could be so... manipulative, thought Imlen.It's not the first time I've been in a situation like this, projected Mozmana. Though it wasn't easy this time. And you're the only one of us who isn't securely chained. So we'll need you to free us.I'm surrounded by Visorak that are waiting impatiently for me to make a move, thought Imlen. But my elemental power has returned to me. How about you?We're recharged and rested, and we'll be ready to fight when we're unbound. These chains restrict elemental energy, but yours might be loose enough already to be ineffective, projected Mozmana.I think you're right. Ready?Mozmana sent a telepathic affirmation, and Imlen acted.Review

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#35 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jun 19 2012 - 02:04 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-five==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

A quick wrench of Imlen's wrists freed his hands. His Visorak guards noticed immediately, but as they reacted, he released an intense wave of plasma. Their Rhotuka missed him, and they were incapacitated. With his hands unbound, it was easy for him to melt through the rest of his chains. Everyone else in the camp had noticed him, and dozens of Visorak and soldiers attacked. Without a weapon and a mask, he was weak and vulnerable, so he singled out the nearest soldier that was wearing a Kanohi. A short, intense elemental blast knocked the warrior out, and Imlen took his sword and his Kanohi. As he put on the mask, Imlen could feel it was only a Noble Mask, but it had the power to replenish the strength that had been halved when his Mask of Psychometry had been removed. Now armed and revitalized, he darted to the healers' tent, dodging Rhotuka on the way. The medics had heard the commotion and went outside to see what was going on just before Imlen sliced a hole into the fabric of the back of the tent and entered.“Thanks,” said Vilam as Imlen unshackled her, then the other Toa. “Good job.”“Let's get out of here,” said the Toa of Plasma, and he led them outside just as something ignited the tent.“We can't fight our way through the whole legion,” said Iskanemo as a ring of soldiers and Visorak advanced from all sides.“The commander's tent is over there,” Imlen indicated, narrowly ducking under the flight path of a Rhotuka an instant later. “If we can get to him...”“Good thinking,” said Iskanemo.In the rush to apprehend the escaping Toa, the Brotherhood warriors amassed into a dense mob. This gave the Toa an advantage, for projectiles could not hit them through the crowd, and the soldiers nearly trampled each other in their eagerness. But it was not an easy fight for the Toa. Many Visorak and soldiers attempted to cut them off, and they cut these down as quickly as they could. From their first three victims, Vilam, Iskanemo, and Mozmana took new weapons. They used their elemental power liberally, creating storms of electrified plasma and other such effects to clear the way, but they reserved some energy in case this plan did not work out. Up ahead, the commander emerged, and under his direction, the troops began to take ordered positions. But it was too late to stop the Toa. A psychic attack caused the lieutenant at his side to fall unconscious, and a moment later a lightning bolt struck his sword. His arm spasmed and he dropped the weapon, and he took a step backwards as the Toa bore down on him. The entire legion went still as the Toa cornered the commander and leveled their weapons.“That's right, halt,” Imlen called out, then he addressed the commander. “Now order them to disperse, and let us go.”“Or what?” said the commander mockingly. “You're taking me hostage – that's not very Toa-like behavior. Surely you're above such barbaric methods, correct? Why should I fear you more than I fear my masters?”“Because we're here, right in front of you,” said Imlen, taking a step forward. “Toa are dying out, and the universe needs us. We'll do what we must to survive.”With that, Imlen held the tip of his borrowed sword just below the face of the commander, just as the Brotherhood officer had done to him not long ago. The commander stared at Imlen intensely, his deep red eyes locking onto Imlen's bright orange ones. There was a moment of silent tension, then the yellow-armored being made his decision.“You're bluffing,” he hissed smugly, then he barked the order to his soldiers. “Kill them!”With his sword at his enemy's throat, Imlen could have killed the commander right then. But he hesitated, pulling the blade back involuntarily. Then a Rhotuka shot by, barely missing him, and struck the nearby tent. Imlen heard the sizzle of acid as he glanced at the source of the spinner. It had come from a Keelerak, one of the legion's many Visorak. He estimated there were about seventy Visorak and thirty soldiers and around the camp, and knew there were many more elsewhere in the forest. He turned back to the legion's leader just in time to see Iskanemo plunge his borrowed spear into him. The Toa of Air pinned the commander to his tent, right beside the hole the Keelerak's spinner had made, then he withdrew the spear. The Brotherhood warriors paused in surprise as their leader fell, mortally wounded, then they resumed their attack. The Toa ducked inside the tent as more Rhotuka splattered against the canvas. There, they found their own weapons and Imlen's mask. Just as they finished equipping themselves, the tent burst into flames.Iskanemo created a wind that lifted the burning tent off of them and blew it onto a group of charging Visorak. The Rahi panicked, and the Toa took the opportunity to cut their way through them and to the outer ring of advancing soldiers. Mozmana used her elemental powers to spread confusion and disorder while the other Toa created a thunderstorm with lightning that burst into jets of plasma. Despite the efforts of the legion's remaining officers, the bold attack of the Toa caused the ranks to collapse into chaos again. One leader among Visorak rallied its lesser brethren, and when the Toa noticed this, they swiftly targeted it. With its death, the servile Oohnorak were overcome with indecision, and the undisciplined Keelerak rampaged, cutting down their own allies for a chance to reach the Toa. The Toa fought their way through the mob, making for the side of the encampment that led to the depths of the forest. They used the last of their elemental energy, and their weapons clashed against their enemies'. They had almost made it out of the camp when some sort of missile struck the ground nearby and exploded.The shockwave threw Imlen forward and he landed on his front. Aching all over, he pushed himself up and looked around. It looked as if Iskanemo and Mozmana had been knocked down too, but they were already on their feet. Vilam was still on the ground. For a moment, Imlen feared she was dead, but then she twitched and attempted to rise. Imlen saw incoming spinners in his peripheral vision and dropped. The Rhotuka zoomed overhead, then he stood as quickly as he could. He was sore and rattled, and his armor was dented, but he was not badly injured. Several Visorak had not been so fortunate, and their carcasses were scattered around the small crater the missile had left. To Imlen's dismay, Vilam was still lying a few bio away, and she seemed unable to get herself up. He and the other Toa rushed to her side.“Vilam!” Imlen called as he reached down to help her.“I don't think I can walk,” she groaned, raising one arm to take Imlen's hand but failing to lift the other.“Take it easy, we'll carry – look out!” said Iskanemo.The other Toa ducked. Iskanemo activated his mask a split second after the Brotherhood warrior fired his launcher again. Repulsed by the Kanohi Crast, the projectile reversed direction and struck the one that had fired it. The soldier and many of his allies were blown to pieces in the explosion, and Iskanemo turned to help lift Vilam. But when he reached his hand under her and attempted to pull her up, the ache in his right arm turned into a sharp, intense pain. He cried out and cursed. Mozmana took his place, and together she and Imlen carried Vilam. The Toa made it out of the camp and continued to a large tree that was about seven bio away. There, they stopped to catch their breath and examine their wounds. Imlen and Mozmana let Vilam down, and a quick inspection showed that one of her legs and one of her arms were badly injured. Iskanemo's arms were also almost useless, as his right arm – the one that wasn't truncated – was broken internally.Mozmana could not heal their wounds completely with only her mask, but she decided to do what she could. She began to focus on restoring the lacerated flesh in Vilam's leg, but her concentration was broken suddenly when the tree wilted and crumbled. A Boggarak's Rhotuka had struck the plant, instantaneously dehydrating it. Desiccated wood and leaves rained down upon then, and they quickly lifted Vilam and continued. The entire main part of the legion left the camp to pursue, and there were squads that the commander had already sent out into the forest. Out of elemental energy again and with two of them unable to fight, the Toa knew that they would stand no chance against more than a few enemies. Fortunately, it was getting dark, and they managed to evade the Brotherhood force and make it out of the forest. They made for the hills to the east, crawling over the tops so their silhouettes would not be visible against the night sky. Just as they made it over the peak of the second hill, an orange glow touched the short, coarse grass. They looked back to see the forest on fire.“Catching your quarry in flames,” said Iskanemo with disgust. “It's often an effective tactic, but needlessly destructive.”“It's not the first time they've tried to burn us out,” said Imlen, and Vilam nodded.The Toa continued for about an hour, until they were confident they had left the legion behind. By then it was full night, and they soon stopped to rest in a hollow. There was no shelter from the sky above, but they were hidden from the horizon, and Mozmana did not sense the mind of anything dangerous nearby. They lowered Vilam gently and used the medical equipment they carried in conjunction with Mozmana's mask to treat her wounds. When that was done, they treated Iskanemo's arm. The operations lasted late into the night, and even when they had done all they could, they estimated it would be days before the two injured Toa would have full use of their limbs. Until then, Vilam could not walk on her own and only had the use of one arm, and Iskanemo would be unable to wield a weapon. Imlen and Mozmana took turns watching while the others slept. They were undisturbed throughout the night, but Mozmana sensed Brotherhood scouts coming uncomfortably close. They quickly prepared to go at the first light of dawn.“We had better get to the jungle. Turaga Morok will provide shelter while we recuperate,” said Vilam, and the other Toa nodded.“I just hope they don't burn the jungle next,” said Imlen.“If they find out – or suspect – we're hiding there, they will, but hopefully we'll be strong enough to stop them by then,” said Iskanemo. “Now, Imlen, I must bring up your hesitancy in killing the commander...”“Sorry... I guess his words got to me,” said Imlen. “Just for a moment, though.”“Sometimes a moment is all it takes. It didn't make much difference this time, but entire Toa teams have been wiped out by a second of indecision,” Iskanemo reminded Imlen. “Remember, it's not a crime to kill an enemy to keep yourself alive. His words were empty, only meant to delay you.”“I know that. He just seemed so... convincing somehow,” said Imlen.“I'm not surprised that such a leader would be charismatic. A legion like that needs a strong presence and a compelling voice to keep it in order. But don't let it happen again – don't lower your guard, don't let your enemies make you pause,” warned the Toa of Air.Imlen vowed to keep that in mind. With Vilam leaning on them for support, the trek to the jungle was long and difficult. Fortunately, they did not encounter more Brotherhood forces than one small Visorak patrol, and Turaga Morok received them not long after they set foot in the jungle. They told him what had happened, and he led them to his village. Like all true veteran Toa, Morok had learned to treat injuries, and he diagnosed Iskanemo and Vilam's wounds as too complicated to be healed quickly. It would take at least a week of recovery, he told them, before they would have proper use of their limbs. The Toa were reluctant to split the team, but Imlen and Mozmana did not wish to waste time waiting while others need their help, and so the Turaga tasked them with sending a message to Turaga Vibrak. They traveled carefully, avoiding settlements so as to not alert the Brotherhood to their presence, and the journey took five days. Imlen led Mozmana past the little Ga-Koro by the pond several kio west of Yrenta's border, and beyond to the forest that was intersected by many gorges and gashes in the ground.This time, Imlen did not fall into the traps the De-Matoran had set to defend their village. Of course, though he and Mozmana had been quiet out of respect, Vibrak's people had heard them coming long before they stepped down into the sheltered chasm that housed the hidden community. The Turaga stood alone at the bottom, and he greeted them.“Toa Imlen?” he said, and Imlen nodded. “Welcome back to my village. You have been away for a long time. Where are your old companions, and who is this new one?”“Thank you, Turaga Vibrak,” whispered Imlen politely. “This is Mozmana. Vilam and another new ally are recovering from their wounds in Turaga Morok's village. Paqyar... Paqyar is dead.”“And you have not even been Toa for eight years yet,” said Vibrak sadly. “Never before has there been a more dangerous era to be one. Well, why have you come now, and why have you been away for so long?”“I'm sorry we haven't visited... after we returned to Yrenta from here, we were chased out. Makuta Teskor's forces were too strong for the three of us, and so we spent seven years traveling the universe, attempting to recruit more Toa. I suppose I was afraid to return to this part of the continent before... before we were ready,” said Imlen. “Now we have defeated Teskor – though he might still be alive – and the Ukzokth are scattered, their strength broken forever. Turaga Morok has sent us to tell you that Yrenta is safer than it once was, and he invites you and your people to return to your old homeland.”“To return to Yrenta... to rebuild De-Naja and dwell on the plain again,” considered the Turaga. “I do miss that place sometimes. But we are safe and hidden here – safer than we were in Yrenta – and the journey could be dangerous. I think we should remain here, but I will consult with the others. This is something we must all have a say in.”Imlen and Vilam spent the night in the village while the De-Matoran debated. By the next day, a consensus had been reached. Though they missed their brothers and sisters in Yrenta, and the fortified village on the plain where they had lived for countless years, it was judged to be wiser to stay where they were. The forest was peaceful, quiet and bountiful, and they were hidden and sheltered in the gorge. And so it was decided they would not return to Yrenta, but some of them pledged to visit someday. Vibrak apologized, and expressed a wish to speak to Turaga Morok when a safe journey could be arranged. The Toa left in the morning and began their eastward trek back to Yrenta. Just as they were almost out of the forest in which the De-Matoran dwelt, an unmistakable voice hailed them. Startled, the Toa turned to see Tanaman striding towards them. The shape and color of his bark and leaves had changed to blend with the trees native to the area, and Imlen knew they could have passed him a hundred times in these woods and never noticed him, had he not revealed himself.“Hello, Tanaman. You surprised me,” said Imlen pleasantly, then he suddenly became worried. “Is there... bad news?”“Just a warning. Brotherhood assassins have been sent to Yrenta,” said the floral-mechanical being. “The Makuta don't want to burn the whole region to the ground, but they don't want to let Toa that vanquished one of their own to run free, so they're using some finesse. Be careful – I'm not the only one that can sneak up on you. If you don't want to end up dying before you know what hit you, I suggest you be more vigilant.”“Is Teskor dead, then?” asked Mozmana.“I haven't found out yet. It sounds like he's still missing, or at least the local Brotherhood forces still don't know what happened to him. The assassins might know, but they don't have much to say,” said Tanaman, and he looked at Mozmana thoughtfully. “A Psionics user might be able to search their minds for the information, actually.”“I'll keep it in mind,” said Mozmana. “Can you tell us anything more about these hunters?”“I saw a group of seven of them. Now, I know of all the Brotherhood's top enforcers and assassins, and I haven't recognized any of these,” said Tanaman. “This means either that they're new, or they're not the best... or they're some top-secret minions no one's ever seen before. If the Makuta have sent second-rate hunters after you, there is still a chance for you to escape before they dispatch their most lethal enforcers. So go, find your friends, and leave Yrenta while you can.”“I agree we had better get back to Vilam and Iskanemo. But I don't want to run from my home again,” said Imlen. “Thank you for the warning.”Tanaman started to speak as if to argue with Imlen, but he stopped and disappeared into the forest without saying another word. The two Toa continued their journey, and the next day they crossed the border a few kio north of the southern hills Imlen and his friends had failed to cross years ago. From there, they made their way across the grasslands near Vibrak's old home. The plains were wide, but the terrain was easily traveled. By night, they were almost to the river. They wished to continue, but they were weary, and so they stopped to camp half a kio from the western bank. They rested under a tree with a large crown, and as usual they took turns sleeping. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Imlen glanced over at the hourglass they had set on the ground and saw that his shift was nearly over. He sighed with relief, and decided to spend the final minute watching the last grains pour through the neck of the glass. As he knelt down, he realized it was not right to lower his guard, though the night had been quiet and he was tired.He stood up, mentally scolding himself for considering something so reckless. But he was so looking forward to his turn to sleep and – his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a flash of light in his peripheral vision. He twitched to the side just in time to avoid being hit in the chest, though the energy blast grazed his arm, melting the armor it touched and scorching the flesh under it. Imlen shouted in pain and surprise, waking Mozmana. The Toa of Psionics got up as quickly as she could, but not before a second attacker emerged from behind the tree. Imlen caught a glimpse of the silhouette of a raised dagger behind his companion's back, and he hastily hurled a blob of plasma in that direction. He missed the assassin, but his attack caused the sneaky being to hesitate while alerting Mozmana. Realizing something was behind her, she took a step forward as she spun to look. Her attacker was a winged being with horns or large ears on his head. Without delay, she released a psychic attack. The winged assassin barely flinched, and she sensed her opponent had a strong mind. His dagger shot towards her face, and she barely managed to telekinetically divert it so that the blade only scratched her mask.Behind her, Imlen had dodged a second energy blast from the first attacker. The brilliant bolt had illuminated the assassin, revealing he was a kind of being Imlen had seen before, one that was about the height of a Toa, but heavier, with thick limbs and oversized hands and feet. This particular one had claws attached to his great fingers, from which crackling white energy converged into his third attack. Imlen jumped back just before the blast turned the ground in front of him to glass. Having found the position of his opponent, Imlen retaliated with an intense stream of plasma. The energized matter lit the area around it like daylight, and Imlen was not pleased by what he saw. Not only was the clawed being easily enduring his attack, but Imlen had seen at least two others advancing on him. He turned to see the winged assassin overwhelming Mozmana, and flung plasma at him, blinding him momentarily to allow Mozmana to recover. The light also revealed the last three assassins coming at them from the direction of the river.Review

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#36 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jun 28 2012 - 02:26 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-six==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Imlen did not need to say anything. Mozmana sensed his apprehension, and a split second later she distinctly felt the minds of four additional beings. That left one unaccounted for. The winged assassin retreated as a being of a sort Mozmana did not recognize launched lightning bolts at her. The electricity struck her, causing her to spasm and fall. Imlen heard the crackle and turned to assist her, and as soon as he moved a four-armed hunter with two projectile launchers fired a Zamor filled with iridescent purple liquid at him. He saw the projectile coming just in time to vaporize it with an unfocused wave of plasma sent out in all directions. The plasma singed Mozmana, but also caused her attackers to hesitate, and she quickly got up. Determination and years of training banished the tingling sensation from her muscles, and she rejoined the fight. A quick telepathic signal to Imlen confirmed their strategy: she would handle melee combat while he blasted the distant enemies. But first, to delay the four assassins charging into close combat, he melted the ground in a large ring around him and Mozmana.The molten earth only stopped one of the charging hunters. The winged being flew over it and dropped knives on the heads of the Toa from high above, while one of his comrades folded his legs and hovered over it. The fourth of the melee combatants backed up and made a running leap, tackling Imlen as he landed. Imlen fell onto his back with his enemy pinning him down, and he only had time to twitch to the side so that the assassin's blade didn't stab into a vital area. He grunted as the jagged knife cut into his side: a painful wound, but not a lethal one. Before his opponent could make another attempt, Imlen tried to push the red and blue being off of him. It was no use, the assassin was too strong and heavy, but he did manage to push the assassin's weapon away. Before the assassin could bring his blade to bear, Imlen grabbed his arm with one hand while he called upon his elemental power in the other. This would be a fight to the death – Imlen did not hold back. If the jet of plasma that melted a hole in his torso did not kill him, the energy blast meant for Imlen that the assassin suffered surely did.Imlen got up, shoving off the half-disintegrated remains, and saw the four-armed being scolding his clawed comrade. A few bio behind Imlen, Mozmana was forced into a desperate defensive. The winged assassin had landed and swapped his dagger for a sword, which he did not seem to be particularly adept with, but his companion was at least a match for Mozmana. He was naturally quick, and his Kanohi Pakari put more power behind his blows than she could manage. Thanks to Imlen, there was little room for Mozmana to retreat, and Imlen was occupied exchanging ranged attacks with the four enemies outside the ring of lava. After nearly a minute of clashing blades, she was pushed to the edge. As she could not prevail in a two-on-one sword fight against these opponents, she called upon her elemental power. She hoped that the more skilled duelist had a less resilient mind than his winged partner, and a quick mental touch showed that this was a case. She was forced to interrupt her brief scan as he swung low, but she jumped in time to avoid having her legs severed at the knee.As she landed, the winged assassin made an obvious feint, which she ignored. After easily parrying his true attack, she touched his masked comrade's mind again before that one could make another move. This time, instead of a gentle feel, the manipulation of her element took the form of a debilitating surge. The assassin had felt her brief psychic intrusion seconds before, and so was expecting this elemental attack, but his anticipation was not enough to save him. Mozmana inflicted chaos and agony upon his mind for only a couple seconds – all the time the winged assassin allowed her – and when it was over, he still cowered and clutched his head long enough for her to stab him in the abdomen. The masked being crumpled to the ground, and though Mozmana doubted his wound was fatal, she was satisfied that he was out of the fight. Before she could defeat the winged one, he jumped back and took to the air again. The knives he dropped from above were more of a nuisance than a threat, but Mozmana realized that they were merely meant to distract her in time to dodge the incoming Rhotuka.She looked in the direction the spinner had come from and saw the being that had fired it recharging the launcher built into his axe. She dodged his next attack, just barely – he had good aim. She resolved not to let him get another aimed shot off, and called upon her elemental power once again. As he charged up for a third shot, she reached out with her mind and seized his. She was unable to prevent him from triggering the launcher, but he was prevented from concentrating on his aim. The wheel of energy shot by, missing her by almost three bio, and she did not flinch. She tightened her psychic hold, attempting to force her foe into unconsciousness, when she felt a surge of alarm from Imlen. A split second later, she was on the ground, face down. She heard a projectile zoom over her, and looked up in time to see it hit the ground a safe distance away and instantly erupt into an oddly green-colored explosion. Imlen rolled off of her and erected a barrier of plasma as he got up. The plasma vaporized any incoming missiles and dispersed energy attacks, keeping the Toa safe for the moment, but Imlen could not maintain it for long.Squinting to see among the bright clouds, Mozmana noticed that Imlen was already quite battered. The armor of his left shoulder was warped by the heat of a grazing energy blast, and his right side was caked with dirt that had been thrown up from a nearby explosion. She too was weary and worn, winded from her intense sword fight and covered in superficial wounds. It was unlikely they would survive without assistance. Iskanemo and Vilam were likely fully healed by now, but it would take them over an hour – perhaps two hours – to arrive from across the river, even if they hurried. Unless, Mozmana realized, Iskanemo flew to their rescue. After a moment of consideration, she sent out a telepathic distress signal. It wasn't focused on a particular target or perfectly lucid, rather it was a vague but noticeable empathic beacon transmitting a sense of their location and predicament to all beings in a radius of several kio. If there were any other hostiles in the area, they would also be alerted, but Mozmana decided it was worth the risk. She thought it unlikely that there was another group of these assassins in the region, and though she had not had time to mentally scan the area thoroughly, she had not sensed any other beings approaching.As the one standing next to Mozmana, Imlen felt the mental signal most strongly. He was startled, and in his surprise he allowed the clouds of plasma shielding them to begin to disperse. Before he could reestablish control of his element, two of the assassins broke through. The seconds it took for them to penetrate the swirling masses of energized matter were enough to make their armor glow a dull orange, but they showed no signs of being bothered by the heat. Mozmana was distressed, and feared she had made a major error: one of the assassins was not one of the seven they had seen earlier. But it had not even been a minute since she had sent the signal. Unless this one had teleported, there was no way for it to have arrived so soon. Of course, teleportation was a possibility. Or perhaps this one had been hiding all along. Imlen released a stream of plasma at the two attackers, giving her time to reach out with a mental scan. Still, she sensed only six beings. That left out one – the other one that had breached the clouds of plasma. It was the unrecognizable being that had shocked her near the beginning of the fight, she noticed. For a moment, she was confused, but after observing that assassin's movements for a moment, the explanation was clear: it was a not a living being at all, but a robot.Imlen noticed too, and with a glance and a simple psychic signal, Mozmana confirmed she was thinking the same thing he was. Her powers of mental intrusion were useless against constructs, so she would take on the newly-arrived assassin while Imlen focused on the artificial one. But that still left the other four outside the clouds of plasma. For now, they could not see through the luminous vapor, and it seemed they would not risk launching attacks into it blindly, but it would soon disperse. Imlen decided it was best to go fully on the offensive to destroy their mechanical ally before they had the chance to aid it, but that was not so easy. Its movements were not as smooth and graceful as a biomechanical being's, but it was unnaturally fast and agile. It was adorned with an abundance of razor-sharp blades, and it opened a cavity in its chest to release a blast of metal shards. Imlen raised his arm instinctively to shield himself, and with that brief distraction, the robotic assassin was nearly on top of him. He had expended much elemental energy to create the barrier, and wished to use the rest sparingly, so he restrained himself from simply melting the machine into a puddle.Instead, he stepped backwards, dodging its thrusting blades, until he found the opportunity to send a precise jet of his element into his opponent's chest. For most beings, this would inflict a lethal injury, or at least a cripplingly painful one. The robot was only slowed, but that gave Imlen time to swing at its legs with a sheath of superheated air around the end of his staff. His weapon went through the automaton's left thigh like a stick through mud. Without making any sound except mechanical whirring, it leaned back, controlling its fall, and landed on its hands. It remained in this three-legged stance, with its melted stump still glowing, and rotated the blades on its surface to point at Imlen. The Toa of Plasma paused for a moment, trying to guess its next move, but the next attack did not come from the damaged robot. The unseen Rhotuka surged through him, and though he felt no more than a tingling sensation, he expected something very nasty was about to happen. Mozmana noticed her opponent glance at Imlen and quickly retreat, and while she pondered that, bolts of red lightning erupted from her ally. Imlen screamed as the surge of energy lifted him off the ground.The bolts shot out in all directions, and Mozmana was struck by one. She spasmed as the energy flowed through her and fell to her knees. Imlen cried out in protest. He had no doubt that if they had the chance, their enemies would kill them. These assassins knew how to do their job, they would make sure the Toa were completely and absolutely dead. But Imlen would not let it end this way. As he fell to the ground, the clawed being fired an energy blast at him, but he threw himself forward, avoiding the attack. Mozmana was just as tenacious. As the assassins in front of her advanced, she jumped to Imlen's side, doing a flip in the air and neatly slicing the robot in half as she landed. They stood back-to-back and counted their remaining opponents. There was the heavy clawed assassin, the one with the Rhotuka launcher, the winged being, which had swooped down to join his allies, and the one that had seemed to come from out of nowhere. The four-armed being was nowhere to be seen, then Mozmana noticed that what she had thought to be the eighth assassin actually had the two projectile launchers stored on his back.In close combat within the blinding, sweltering envelope of plasma, she had not noticed that detail, but now that the plasma had dispersed and there was a pause in the battle, the explanation was clear to her. The being with the two launchers was a shapeshifter. That left only four of seven enemies. Nearly beaten already, the Toa could not hope to defeat the rest, but now they had a chance to escape. As they fled, missiles and Rhotuka converged on where they had been standing, and the winged assassin took off, intending to intercept them. Imlen created a brilliant globe of plasma at the tip of his staff, blinding the flying being as he came in for a landing in front of the Toa. The assassin managed to land on his feet, but unsteadily, and before he could recover Imlen launched another intense plasma stream that crippled one of his wings. The Toa kept running, dodging projectiles, and Mozmana swung at the legs of the winged assassin as she passed him. Still cringing from the pain of his melted wing, the hunter failed to defend himself. He wailed and fell to the ground, the pistons and muscles in his legs too damaged to support him.Glancing back, the Toa saw that the shapeshifting assassin had returned to his four-armed form and was firing explosive missiles from one launcher and Zamor from the other. The clawed being seemed to be out of power for his hand blasts, but he was running after the Toa with surprising speed. The two of his allies that were still standing joined him as the Toa ran out of the effective range of their weapons. The Toa had a head start, but they were tired, and their enemies were experienced hunters. The river was close, but even if the Toa made it there, what then? That depended on a variety of factors: who the better swimmers were, how strong and fast the current was where they reached it, and if either side had friends waiting for them ahead. Using the last of his elemental energy, Imlen heated a patch of ground he passed over. It was not as effective a barrier as he would have liked, but the best he could do to delay the assassins. He looked back one more time to see a Zamor flying towards him, launched by the shapeshifter at the edge of the half-melted ground. There was no time to dodge the sphere. He felt a great pain as the intangible projectile deposited its liquid payload within him, and he lost consciousness.Mozmana saw him go down, and hesitated. Minutes ago, they had nearly both been defeated in one strike last time Imlen was struck by a mysterious projectile. But she didn't know of any Zamor that could do anything like that – in fact, she didn't know much about Zamor at all. She glanced at the assassins to see they were running over the faintly glowing earth and burnt grass. Unsurprisingly, they were willing to risk burnt feet to prevent their quarry from escaping. They would be upon Imlen in moments. Only their haste to cross the heated ground prevent them from aiming a shot and blasting him into pieces before they reached him. Mozmana took a deep breath and pushed aside her doubts. She scolded herself for even considering abandoning one to whom she had sworn an oath. It was true, perhaps he was as good as dead, but there was still a chance – especially as long as she wore the Mask of Healing. As she approached, nothing unexpected happened. While skilled fighters and killers used tricks like the assassin with the Rhotuka launcher had, they would also use lethal directness. It was likely that the Zamor was filled with nothing more sophisticated than a deadly toxin.As she knelt down beside him, she could tell that his life was indeed fading. She looked up to see the assassins coming uncomfortably close, then down again at Imlen to focus her mask power on him. Her concentration was broken by an explosion of green energy. The visible edge of the blast was two bio away, and the shockwave was mercifully small, but it left a glazed crater nearly three bio across. She blinked displaced dirt out of her eyes and saw the shapeshifting assassin lining up for another shot, while his allies split up to surround the Toa in the unlikely event he missed. Either way, impending death seemed certain. It was too late to run, and Mozmana alone could not defeat the three assassins. She knew Iskanemo would consider her last act foolish – in attempting to save one who was already doomed, she had doomed herself as well. His cannon aimed, the shapeshifter paused for a split second – something Mozmana would not have noticed had she not been so focused on the details of her last moments – then he fired.But just as Mozmana was thinking of Iskanemo, there was a sudden mighty roar of wind. The missile was blown off course, and it exploded far from her mostly harmlessly. The assassin with the Rhotuka launcher staggered as he was struck by the shockwave and bits of earth that had instantly been turned to glass, though the blast did not fell him. Hope swelled in Mozmana as she looked up to see her old ally had indeed come to their rescue. Then she remembered Imlen, and banished all concerns about the battle from her mind so she could save him. She trusted Iskanemo would defend her while she was concentrating on her mask power. And so she was unable to observe Iskanemo as he dodged Rhotuka in midair and sent a cyclone to deal with that assassin. The assassins, in fact, had seen him coming, and the two that had gone in front had not done so to surround his friends, but rather to intercept him. Spotting a boulder protruding from the gently sloping ground, Iskanemo landed a short distance from the clawed killer. The thick-armored being charged, brandishing the blades on his big fingers. Iskanemo raised his sickle as if to ward off his opponent's eight blades. But it was a feint: once the heavy hunter came close, Iskanemo's mask power sent him flying into the nearby boulder.The shapeshifter was wise enough to not launch missiles at a Kanohi Crast wearer, so he put his launchers away and readied his melee weapons. Changing to a form more suited to close combat, he advanced on Iskanemo carefully as the Toa of Air moved to protect the other two Toa. As Iskanemo sparred with the shapeshifter, the other two assassins got up and rejoined the fight. They had been surprised by the third Toa's skill and ferocity, but they would not be defeated so easily. Iskanemo fended off the three for nearly a minute, but just as he doubted he would last any longer, Mozmana turned off her mask and got up. She didn't need to speak, a glance backed by an empathic signal told Iskanemo that Imlen was stable, but still incapacitated. Together, the two veteran Toa forced their foes back enough to lift their unconscious ally and flee. They reached the river, and Iskanemo flew over it, carrying Imlen, while Mozmana swam across below him. Nearly as battered as Imlen and Mozmana, and faced with a fresh third Toa, the hunters gave up the chase there. Before they came to the jungle, the Toa were met by Vilam and a group of Morok's Matoran.Imlen was woken up when they reached the village. He was told what had happened, and that Mozmana had successfully counteracted the Zamor's poison. Morok had woken him to give him medicine to purge the remaining toxins from his body. After consuming the antidote, Imlen slept for a while longer, then got up and tended his lesser wounds and damaged armor. Mozmana did the same while they related their meeting with Turaga Vibrak and subsequent second encounter with Tanaman. The sending of Brotherhood assassins after the Toa was troubling, as was the fact that they had seen the Toa flee towards the jungle. If the Makuta had known that Morok's home was a haven for the Toa, they had not done much about it. The Toa and their Turaga expected that to soon change. And so the Toa came to a sad conclusion.“It hurts me, too. But we will not bring the wrath of the Makuta upon you,” said Imlen about the matter. “We must stay away from the jungle – for years at least, perhaps forever.”“You're wiser and more selfless than I was at that point in my life as a Toa,” said the Turaga, nodding with regretful agreement. “You're also quickly becoming as skilled as I ever was. I think you'll... you'll have a good chance out there.”“And we'll still be in Yrenta sometimes. Just as long as we keep moving and don't let anyone know who's sheltering us, and where,” said Vilam.“Right. When we leave Yrenta, we won't leave the continent, except maybe in very special cases,” said Imlen. “Do you think we can survive that way, Mozmana, and continue to do some good?”“What? Oh, I'm sorry, Imlen,” said the Toa of Psionics distractedly. “I was just thinking... Iskanemo has something to say. Come now, Iskanemo, please tell them. I've already guessed what it is.”“Um, yes, well... I...” began Iskanemo, uncharacteristically awkwardly. “Now, don't take this the wrong way but... I'm quitting the team.”“You're leaving us?” exclaimed Imlen, with a variety of feelings, but mostly plain surprise.“But why?” asked Vilam.“Several reasons. Mainly, our ideologies are different: you want to protect the Matoran of your homeland, as your predecessors did,” explained Iskanemo. “I see the bigger picture. There are too few of us in this world to only watch over one little region, and while agreeing to travel the entire continent is a step in the right direction, it's not enough for me. I need to be where it's important – where I can do the most good.”“And you plan on doing it alone?” said Imlen. “Traveling in a group is conspicuous, but it's much harder to stay alive with no one to watch your back. And Mozmana... you swore that you would stay with me. You're still holding to that, right?”“Of course I am, Imlen, and Iskanemo knows what I told you. We've traveled for many years and know each other very well, we don't keep such things hidden from each other. I hoped the mutual trust between us combined with my vow to you would keep us together as a team of four. But Iskanemo must go his own way.”“Well said, sister... I will miss you,” said the Toa of Air, briefly showing more emotion than Imlen had ever seen him display. “But as for me being alone, I don't plan to be for long. We Toa and our allies must band together. I need to go off and start gathering us. And so, I expect to see you again sometime, and hopefully then you will see the wisdom of my plans and join me in uniting our allies to overthrow our enemies.”“Iskanemo, before you go, join us in one more thing,” said Vilam. “Oh, Mozmana, Imlen, the Turaga forgot to tell you this, but he has decided to invite the Ga-Matoran back to Yrenta. So Iskanemo, while we travel to their refuge, please accompany us. You can part from us there.”“I suppose,” said Iskanemo after considering for a moment.The Toa had done well in choosing a sanctuary for the Ga-Matoran, and so the journey was uneventful. Imlen was more worried about what was going on back home. He remembered what he had said about staying out of the jungle, and Morok was mobilizing scouts and warriors to defend their home if the need arose, but he was eager to return to Yrenta just the same. Fortunately, it did not take long for the Ga-Matoran to decide to come back with the Toa. Their temporary home was livable, but too small for them to thrive, and they missed their old home and their neighbors. When the Toa had finished helping the Matoran pack their belongings and ready their boats, Iskanemo took his former teammates aside to say goodbye.“Now, there's... another reason I want to leave,” he said, suddenly awkward again. “Don't get the wrong idea – I like you all. But I just have the sense that we... Imlen and I haven't gotten along as well as we should.”“We do things differently, and Paqyar's death still pains me,” said Imlen solemnly, though Iskanemo's words affected him more than he showed.“I know you blame me for his death, Imlen, and you seem to forget that Mozmana had an equal part in it, perhaps because she's been kind to you,” said Iskanemo. “I'm sorry I let him die, and I don't return the ill feeling... but I can't stay with you while you still resent me for it.”“It's true. I think you're not sorry enough, and that you shouldn't drag people into things like that,” said Imlen, with more emotion this time. “Which sounds like what you are trying to do – you want to gather more Toa for your suicidal stand against the Brotherhood. Well, how many more will you get killed? I'm sorry... I just... you're right. I still blame you for it, I can't help it... and I too am sorry that we need to go separate ways, but you're right, we can't be on a team together like this.”“Imlen, I've lost old friends too – Vayrag, and others you don't know about,” said Iskanemo gently. “I don't blame you for being angry at me. Don't blame yourself for feeling that way, just don't let the anger and sadness conquer you.”“I think you've known me long enough to know I won't let that happen,” said Imlen, and he managed a small smile.“You might struggle with your feelings for years, and you'll never forget Paqyar. I know I'll always miss Vayrag,” said Iskanemo. “But someday, I hope, we will fight side by side again, at least for a little while.”“I hope so too. Iskanemo, if I didn't already know you'd decline, I'd ask you to stay with us,” said Imlen. “The only good reason for you to leave is that you have your own plans in mind.”“Isn't that reason enough? And though you are repressing it now, I don't need psychic powers to know you have lingering resentment... I cannot be on your team until you have banished such feelings and accepted what happened. Until then, goodbye.”“Goodbye, Iskanemo,” said Imlen after a brief pause, and his sister Toa joined him in saying farewell.The Toa of Air left then, heading towards the opposite beach where he boarded a little boat the Ga-Matoran had set aside for him. As the other three Toa followed the Ga-Matoran onto the vessels that would carry them back to Yrenta, Imlen considered Iskanemo's words. He decided that a new chapter in his life was beginning. He had lost a brother, met three new companions, lost two – one perhaps only temporarily – and he was returning home with the remaining two companions. He and the others had defeated Makuta Teskor, and though it was possible Teskor was still alive, he and Vilam had at least completed the first stage of their quest to liberate Yrenta from the tyranny of the Makuta. Their problems with the Brotherhood of Makuta were far from over, indeed, there was great danger ahead, but Imlen had hope he and his sisters would eventually prevail.

-----

Makuta Teskor paced the hall in the Destral fortress. He was impatient, and unhappy about being kept waiting, but he reflected that he was lucky to be there at all. By the force of his will, he had survived – barely – as a shred of essence after the battle in the Wastelands, and made it to the Brotherhood's island headquarters. He had since had his armor recovered and repaired, and debriefed his brothers on the events of that fateful day. Their reaction had been mixed: they had commended him for stopping the insane Anecrax, but belittled him for allowing a team of Toa to survive the battle and nearly destroy him. If they had known that this was the second time he had been so defeated, he surely would have been strongly censured at the very least. As it was, his dealings with Anecrax were not as secret as he would have liked. Several of the other Makuta questioned just how much he was to blame for the necromancer's rebellion. Overall, he had a sense that his brothers realized that they had underestimated him. He knew they were thinking that he was more able than they had given him credit for, but reckless, which had resulted in his accomplice's betrayal and his near-death at the hands of the Toa.After the debriefing, his superiors – Icarax, Antroz, and some others – had assured him to not concern himself with the Toa team that had defeated him. The Toa were nearly extinct, they had said, and soon the servants of the Makuta would hunt down the rest of the self-righteous overgrown villagers. Teskor noted that Antroz in particular had not been so certain the Toa would be vanquished so easily, but the Makuta of Xia had agreed with the consensus: Teskor's talents would be wasted if he continued dwelling in a cave in the middle of a backwards, insignificant region. Instead, he had been assigned something he had longed for in ages past: special missions to advance the Brotherhood cause. He had no illusions about his importance. If his brothers considered him reckless, surely he would only be given non-vital assignments, and considered somewhat expendable. But he was pleased that he had received a little recognition. Finally, the Makuta that was accompanying him on this mission – a search for some artifact, which, if it existed, would help them crush their enemies a little faster – arrived with their complement of Rahkshi.“You'd better be ready,” said the other Makuta gruffly.“Of course, brother,” said Teskor with a wicked grin. “I've been ready for hours.”Review

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#37 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jul 02 2012 - 08:57 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-seven==Domain of Makuta Krika, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~609 AGC~

The years passed quickly for the Toa as they traveled the land, hiding from the Brotherhood of Makuta and doing what they could to improve the lives of the continent's inhabitants. Though they had since learned that Makuta Teskor was still alive, he usually left the Matoran of Yrenta in peace, and the villagers were happier than they had been for a long time. But that did not mean the Makuta were idle. Throughout the Northern Continent and, if the rumors were to be believed, the rest of the universe, Brotherhood and Dark Hunter activity was increasing. It seemed both sides had their plans, and they were not the only ones: the Toa Muktirhith had heard from Iskanemo on several occasions, and learned their old companion was busy recruiting fellow Toa and other allies to his side. His progress was frustratingly slow, he had told them, but he had found a small group of new friends and was hoping to soon make important connections that would accelerate his plans. Imlen wished him luck and said he would consider rejoining Iskanemo later, but for now he had other concerns.For instance, the impending Brotherhood attack on a major port that had been seized by the Dark Hunters. It was the same town the Toa had arrived in upon returning to the Northern Continent all those years ago. The Hunters had seized it, hindering the Brotherhood and empowering themselves, and the Makuta were planning to take it back. To keep the port functioning for them, the Dark Hunters had ruled it with an iron fist, and prevented any of the locals from leaving. Even with battle looming, they kept the citizens of the port pressed into service, and the casualties were sure to be high. And so Turaga Xhaliki of the nearby Po-Koro had asked the Toa Muktirhith to evacuate the city. He had also recruited a Toa of Earth named Baw, but even the four Toa together would stand little chance against the strong Dark Hunter presence. There was no choice but to take advantage of the incoming Brotherhood army one way or the other. If the Hunters were reasonable, the Matoran would be safe before the battle began. If not, the mission would be chaotic and difficult.With the Brotherhood force expected to arrive the very same day, the Toa hoped for the former. Riding Hypaka, they reached the coastal settlement in a few hours. As they approached the southern entrance, Mozmana sent out a telepathic request for a parley to the Dark Hunters guarding the gate. To the relief of the Toa, the sentinels agreed, though they insisted the Toa come forth and speak to them face to face. Imlen and the others complied, and met the trio of heavily-armed and thuggish-looking beings under the archway leading into the city. Many more Dark Hunters were visible within. Most of them remained supervising the port's laborers, but some came to back up their comrades at the gate.“What're you doing here, Toa?” grunted one of the sentinels.“They're the Toa Muktirhith!” exclaimed another. “That's right, I know who you are. I've heard of your deeds – you're quite well-known around here. Very impressive, but surely you don't think you four alone could possibly reclaim – ”“We're not here to force you out of town,” interrupted Baw. “We're here to rescue the inhabitants.”“And we're not completely alone in this,” Imlen added. “You know as well as I do that our common enemy, the Brotherhood of Makuta, will soon be here. Now, I offer you miscreants a choice: release the citizens of this city, and we will leave you to defend yourselves against the Brotherhood... or we will be forced to break in during the battle, causing chaos and damage that will severely impair your defenses.”“The locals are keeping this port running for us,” said one of the Dark Hunters that had come forth from within the city. “Why should we let you take them away?”“Well, provided you win the coming battle, you'll still have the infrastructure intact,” said Vilam. “You could do the work yourselves... no, you'd just bring in more slaves.”“You make some good points,” said the second Dark Hunter. “But you're in no position to argue. Get them!”The Toa nimbly dodged backwards, avoiding the barrage of projectiles and energy blasts. Imlen looked at what they were up against. In addition to the uncounted mercenaries within the city, there were the three sentinels, each of them armed with a launcher of some kind and a melee weapon, and six or seven others of various sizes and weaponry. He was confident they could take out this first group, but without the Makuta army keeping the Dark Hunters occupied, the Toa would surely be overwhelmed by the rest of them. They could probably retreat safely, without being pursued, yet Imlen was not quite ready to give up on the negotiations. After leaning to the side to evade a Rhotuka, he hurled a globe of plasma into the enemy mob. While the Hunters were distracted or blinded by the glowing ball, Vilam released a forked lightning bolt that knocked out two of the criminals and stunned another three. A Zamor struck Baw, and while he struggled internally to resist its effects, Mozmana bought the Toa a few seconds with a mental assault. The Toa of Earth prevailed and struck the ground with his hammer. The earth shook violently, and while the Dark Hunters stumbled the gateway trembled, then collapsed on them.“Now, we can keep doing this, weakening you, lowering your chance to prevail against the Brotherhood,” said Imlen to the last Dark Hunter left standing at the city entrance, on the other side of the pile of rubble. “Or you can reconsider my offer.”“I guess I ought to ask my boss about this,” said the gray-armored gangster, clearly impressed by the brief show of power. “Wait... wait here.”He whispered something to a quintet of his allies that had rushed to the collapsed gate. While they stood guard, he darted off to the midst of the city. A short but awkward while passed, each group watching the other carefully without speaking, before the gray Dark Hunter returned with another: one of the slender blue beings with hypnotic red eyes.“Are you the leader of... of the occupation here?” Imlen asked the blue Dark Hunter, careful to not meet his gaze.“What? No. The one in charge here isn't stupid enough to come out in front of a group of Toa,” said the thug with hypnosis powers. “However, he has reluctantly accepted your offer. Since it seems we don't have any choice, we'll march all the inhabitants out of the city and into your care.”“It's not easy to lie to a Toa of Psionics,” said Mozmana, and she probed deeper into the minds of the Dark Hunters.“What is it? What are they planning?” asked Baw.“To only let out half the population,” said Mozmana, her eyes still closed in concentration. “As if we wouldn't notice.”“Look, the Brotherhood might be here three hours from now or three minutes,” said Imlen. “Are you going to keep wasting time or – ”“Actually – ” the gray Dark Hunter interrupted, only to be interrupted himself.“Actually, they're going to try to kill us,” said Mozmana. “Again.”Before Mozmana had finished speaking, the Toa prepared for combat. As before, they easily dodged the first attack. But this time, instead of retaliating to knock the Hunters out, they struck back with just enough force to gain a moment to flee. When the Dark Hunters recovered, they chased the Toa, crawling over the remains of the archway or smashing through the rubble to reach them. The Toa jumped onto their Hypaka and spurred the beasts forward. Looking back, they saw about fifteen Dark Hunter mercenaries pursuing them. They headed southwest to travel along the coast, and as they left the port city behind, most of the Dark Hunters broke off from the chase and returned to prepare for the battle against the Brotherhood. The remaining Hunters were able to match pace with the Hypaka, by natural ability or artificial enhancements. The Toa zigzagged to avoid incoming projectiles and evaded any Hunters that briefly caught up to them. They managed to keep away from their pursuers for nearly half an hour before their mounts tired and they were forced to come to a stop. They dismounted, sent the Hypaka to graze and rest a safe distance away, and faced the small group of mercenaries.“We're kio away from where the battle's going to be,” said Vilam to an orange Dark Hunter with a jetpack as they sparred. “You think you have a better chance against us than the Brotherhood, is that it?”“A few Toa or an entire Brotherhood legion? I'll choose to fight the Toa,” replied the Dark Hunter, going on the offensive. “I get paid either way, and I'm looking forward to killing another Toa.”“You killed one of us? I'm surprised,” said Vilam, easily parrying the gangster's attacks. “Seems beyond your ability.”“Oh, it was thousands of years ago,” admitted the Hunter, and he took a step back to adopt a different stance. “Perhaps I'm not as quick as I used to be, but I think I can make you the second on my list.”“That wouldn't be much of a list,” taunted Vilam. “Anyway... good luck doing that... with just one hand!”With that, she stabbed at his leg. The verbal feint worked: her opponent was expected her to aim for his hand, and instead he received a protosteel blade through his thigh. He was more persistent than she had expected, however, and swung at her despite his injury. Vilam leaned back just in time and was forced to let go of the hilt, leaving the weapon imbedded in the Hunter's leg. She was forced to retreat backwards, step by step, before his savage swings, but he couldn't go far in that state. After several paces, his leg gave out and he fell. A small electric spark aimed at his weapon caused him to drop it, and Vilam reached over and retrieved hers. While the orange mercenary fainted, she went to aid her companions. The rest of the Dark Hunters were more formidable, and though the Toa prevailed without being injured, they were winded when it was over. After resting for a little while, they turned around and rode back towards the port, leaving the unconscious Dark Hunters where they lay. As they approached the town, it seemed they were just in time.The Brotherhood army was visible on the horizon, coming from the east just as expected, and the two factions' ships could already be seen battling in the harbor. There was a small perimeter of Dark Hunters defending the western boundary of the settlement; most of them had gone to the other side to meet the oncoming army. As usual, the Hunters were outnumbered, but they had an impressive assortment of high-tech weapons and defensive emplacements placed strategically around the city and within it. The Toa had to beware of these cannons, for a hit from one of them could turn a being into a big mess, but when the defenders opened fire it was clear they were for use against easily targeted rows of enemies rather than a handful of nimble targets. Some of the Hunters had poor enough judgment to fire plasma cannons at the group. Imlen took control of the incoming bolts and streams of supercharged matter and redirected them at their source with explosive results. To his distress, several of the city's huts were set on fire by the exploding weapons.Fortunately, the inhabitants were not helpless, and in the turmoil the Dark Hunters could not prevent the Matoran from leaving their burning dwellings and fleeing towards the Toa. Mozmana stayed behind to protect these and direct them to find shelter while the other Toa pressed on into the middle of the city to save the others. The Dark Hunters put up some resistance, but most of them were busy fending off the two-pronged Brotherhood assault. The fire Imlen accidentally started soon burned out, leaving several ruined buildings but no casualties, but incoming artillery reignited parts of the city and smashed many structures to pieces. The Toa used the rubble and flames to their advantage to create defensive barriers, behind which they pulled the Matoran out of danger and directed them to where Mozmana was waiting. They had just evacuated the second to last building on the street they were on when they saw a large, dark shape at the waterfront. A sleek, nimble Dark Hunter vessel had made it through the Makuta armada and was releasing its passengers onto the docks.The handful of beings that came out of the ship were all large, heavily-armed, and very dangerous-looking – no doubt elite operatives dispatched specially for this important battle. The Toa darted into the next building, hoping that the operatives would go directly to fight the Brotherhood army. They found themselves in a warehouse, full of munitions. The laborers were hiding behind the crates, halting their work while there were no Dark Hunters to oversee them, but afraid to leave the building. Their attitude changed when the structure suddenly shuddered and began to collapse. Baw used his Mask of Telekinesis to hold up as much of the cracked roof as he could while Vilam and Imlen aided the Matoran that had been buried in rubble. A few of them were killed, but Matoran were hardy, and most of the buried workers burst out of the debris on their own. With a firm punch, Imlen knocked a hole in the buckling western wall and guided the Matoran through it. Vilam was helping a Matoran that had been injured by a falling crate when another section of the wall crumbled, revealing the Dark Hunter operatives.“Hurry, Imlen! We'll hold them off,” she said, and Baw broke out of his mask-focused trance to hurl the debris he was supporting at the incoming Hunters.Imlen hesitated. The last one to tell him that in such a situation – a non-Toa friend they had met in their travels a decade ago – had never returned. But Vilam could handle herself, and what Imlen had seen of Baw indicated he could too. Regardless, they had a job to do. The Matoran needed to be led to safety. He ignored his misgivings and made sure the laborers all made it out of the warehouse. They evacuated as quickly as they could, which was slower than Imlen would have liked due to the injuries some of them had sustained. In the first moment of combat against the elite agents, it was clear to Vilam that she and Baw only had a chance to survive because their enemies were holding back. That didn't surprise her – this place was full of valuable and volatile equipment, and there was no telling how big the explosion would be if the whole building blew. There was a good chance the operatives themselves would be killed in such a catastrophe, and even if that wasn't the case, it would still be a great waste of armaments.But just as the Dark Hunters were forced to resort to melee combat, she did not dare to call upon her element here. That left her to rely on her sword and her Mask of Fusion. She usually used her Kanohi only to facilitate the transformation into Kaita, as she did not like to forcibly merge with her enemies, but sometimes such a technique was her best hope. After narrowly dodging the rapid attacks of a massive gray and black Steltian with an abundance of claws, she realized that if Imlen wasn't finished soon, she would have to resort to using her mask against her opponent. But before she could attempt to activate her Kanohi, she would need just a moment to concentrate on it. The warrior she faced was not giving her the chance, and Baw was too busy to assist her. After some desperate dodging and parrying, she managed to strike the claws of the Dark Hunter's left hand with enough strength to damage them. The Hunter recoiled, and she took that second to tackle him as she activated her mask. Vilam successfully merged with him, but the fusion would be hard to maintain. She had never before fused with anything so big and ugly, though that was not what would make this difficult: the Steltian had a surprisingly stubborn mind.Struggling against his strong will, she managed to keep him out of the fight long enough for Imlen to return and give the staggering fusion a hard shove. It fell over onto its allies just as the wall of earth Baw had erected was breached. The shock of the fall forced Vilam to release her mental hold, and she was immediately separated from the Dark Hunter. She nearly fainted, but the danger of the moment along with years of practice kept her awake. The black and gray Dark Hunter was also conscious, barely, though one of the assassins he had fallen onto had been knocked out. As he unsteadily got to his feet, an artillery strike from the battle outside penetrated the roof and detonated a barely safe distance from a rack of missiles. The Toa wouldn't wait for the next shot to land in the warehouse: the Matoran had been evacuated, and the building was sure to be blown to bits any moment. They fled through the hole they had left for the workers, and the Hunters, seeing the wisdom of immediately abandoning the place, left the way they had come in. Outside, the Toa were relieved to see some of the locals were evacuating on their own. They recognized one of them as Kyhudh, Ta-Matoran leader of the local city guard.“Keep away from that building!” warned Imlen as the Toa approached the Matoran leader. “It's full of explosives – one good hit and it'll be a big fireball.”“Ah, Toa! There you are, thank goodness. Thanks for the warning, but we already knew what the Hunters were using that place for,” said Kyhudh. “Now, I'm hearing that one of you is waiting at the western end of town...”“Right. Get there as quick as you can,” said Baw. “Where are we needed most?”“I'm, uh, not sure,” said the guard captain as an explosion rumbled in the background. “Ask around, see if anyone's friends haven't been accounted for. Once you got things started and the Dark Hunters all went to fight, most of us got moving, but some might have been hurt in the confusion or be afraid to leave their homes.”“Thanks. We'll get right to it – now you get to safety,” said Vilam.“This is my city. I have a duty to do just as much as you do – I'll be right back,” said Kyhudh.There was no time to argue. The Toa left him to do as he would and did as he instructed. As random buildings were flattened by collateral damage, they hoped no one had been left behind in them. Several times they did find Matoran cowering in their dwellings and workplaces that had to be escorted to where their friends were streaming out of the town. One Ga-Matoran reported something strange: her friend, a Le-Matoran named Stuhi, had run off in a different direction. The Toa were not sure if they had time to save such a fool, but the Ga-Matoran insisted that Stuhi must have had a good reason for his recklessness. He couldn't have gone far yet, she told them, and they decided to see if they could find him. After the Toa had run past a few buildings in the direction she indicated, the green-armored local emerged from an alley and approached them. Like the other Matoran, he looked relieved to see them, though it seemed to Vilam he had something important to tell them.“Stuhi?” questioned Imlen, and the Le-Matoran nodded. “We were sent to find you. What are you doing out here? Get with the others right away!”“But-but there's something you should know,” protested Stuhi.“Well, out with it then, we're in a hurry, if you haven't noticed,” said Baw.“Of course. The Dark Hunters are keeping some special prisoners here,” said the Matoran quickly. “No one else knows, but I caught a peek. I can show you, come on!”“Just one of us,” said the Toa of Earth. “We still need to make sure the rest of you are safe. I'll come with you; Imlen, Vilam, you get back to evacuating the Matoran.”“They'll be guarded. One Toa might not be enough,” said Stuhi uncertainly. “Please, I think it's important.”“Fine, Vilam and I will go, then,” said Imlen rather impatiently, and Baw nodded and left. “Go on, lead the way. This had better be worth it.”Stuhi led them towards the docks. The streets they passed through were empty and quiet. The emptiness was not surprising, as most of the population had left by now, but the silence struck Imlen as disturbing. Until recently, the sound of battle had steadily intensified. Stray shots had torn through the once neat rows of buildings, but none were landing now. Surely the battle was not over already. Looking briefly through one such gap in the buildings, the Toa glimpsed many of the surviving Dark Hunters abandoning their line of defense to head to the center of the port settlement, towards the Toa. As the thunder of thousands of marching feet came to Imlen's ears from the opposite direction, he realized what was going on. With their heavy firepower, Hunters had put up a strong resistance where the Brotherhood army had arrived, and now, learning of the damage the Toa had caused to the western defenses, the Makuta forces had withdrawn and circled around to assault that weak point. Though it was possible Mozmana and some of the Matoran had escaped before the Brotherhood army cut them off, it was most likely too late for Baw and the rest of the locals to do so. As for Imlen and Vilam, they were certainly trapped between the two armies now.Review

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#38 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jul 05 2012 - 06:13 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-eight==Domain of Makuta Krika, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~609 AGC~

“No turning back now,” said Vilam as they ducked out of sight. “I hope Mozmana and Baw will be alright.”“Us, too. Wherever you're taking us, I hope we'll be able to get out again,” said Imlen.“Well, it is near the docks,” said Stuhi. “And the prisoners I saw are pretty big and tough-looking. Maybe they can help us.”The two Toa and the Matoran continued towards a shipbuilding facility at the waterfront, and as the Dark Hunter defenders came near from the east, they did their best to stay out of sight. Generally, Toa were not stealthy beings, but Imlen and his companions had had the good fortune to be trained in the art by a Turaga from the Tren Krom Peninsula. It was uncertain if any Toa from that dangerous region were still active, and when they had been, they had been forced to hide from their enemies to survive. Imlen and Vilam put what they had learned to good use, moving along behind buildings and staying in the shadows as they approached their destination. Stuhi didn't have the training they did, but his stature helped him stay hidden well enough. The Toa were still several blocks from the shore when the sound of battle resumed, louder than before. They glanced back to see Dark Hunters and Brotherhood forces battling down the street where they had passed minutes ago. The clamor was momentarily covered up by a tremendous boom accompanied by a column of flame and smoke in the south.“The munitions storehouse,” said Stuhi anxiously.“Don't worry, we got everyone out,” Imlen assured him. “I'm surprised it lasted this long.”“Incoming! Move!” Vilam yelled suddenly.The Toa threw themselves forward as the leafy green hut they had been using for cover was struck by a Rhotuka. The spinner instantly removed all moisture from the woven plants that made up the structure, causing the dwelling to whither and crumble. The same happened to the other Ga-Matoran huts on the street, and several others were blown to bits by incoming artillery, revealing the Dark Hunters that had been hiding behind them. Now exposed, the outnumbered mercenaries were slaughtered by the wave of Visorak and other Makuta servants that washed over the devastated street. The Toa also had no time to find shelter, and a Brotherhood platoon went after them, led by a trio of Rahkshi. Imlen picked up Stuhi and the Toa ran, dodging incoming energy bolts and Rhotuka. They outpaced the Visorak and soldiers, but the Rahkshi flew after them. The Makuta-spawn were just about to catch up to them when the Toa stopped suddenly before a crossfire between the two factions tearing through the city block just ahead.The Toa had surely been seen by the warriors on either side, but for now the two enemies were occupied exchanging shots with each other, leaving the Toa to face the Rahkshi. Imlen let Stuhi down, instructing the Le-Matoran to find shelter, and he and Vilam turned to confront the reptilian machines. They did not wish to remain out in the open any longer than they could help, and so they did not hold back with their elemental powers. Imlen quickly melted the head of the Rahkshi of Laser Vision, incinerating the Kraata within. His next attack, however, was blown away by the second Rahkshi, a Rahkshi of Cyclone, and the Rahkshi of Plant Control Vilam faced proved to be tenacious as well. As Vilam's lightning could not be blown away and plants could not survive the heat of Imlen's plasma, the Toa moved to switch opponents, but the Rahkshi countered, moving between the Toa to keep them apart, then forcing each of them to retreat away from each other. Imlen wasn't much afraid of the Rahkshi – they were frustratingly elusive, but so far Imlen and Vilam had in turn managed to easily evade their attacks – but the time this confrontation was taking worried him.The rest of the Brotherhood platoon was still advancing down the street towards them, and soon the fight on the other side would be over. Indeed, just as Vilam fried the Rahkshi of Plant Control, Imlen's opponent was suddenly disintegrated by a ray of orange light. He turned to see that on this block, the Dark Hunters had prevailed, for now at least. The Hunters' next target was the Toa, and the one that had fired the disintegration beam aimed his weapon at Imlen. The Toa of Plasma dodged, avoiding the deadly shaft, and Vilam channeled a lightning bolt at the mercenary's weapon before he could get another shot off. The high-tech device exploded in its wielder's hands, taking that one out of the fight, but there were many more of the gangsters remaining on this street. As some of them opened fire with ranged weapons and the rest charged, the Toa ran to the street to the west, in the direction they had seen Stuhi take. With the Toa out of the way, the Brotherhood platoon and the group of Dark Hunters had a clear path to each other. Forgotten for the present, the Toa had a moment of peace, but more Brotherhood warriors were approaching.“Stuhi! Where are you?” called Imlen. There was no response, and he cursed.“Stuhi!” Vilam called, also to no effect, and she turned to Imlen. “We need to keep moving, Imlen.”“I know,” said Imlen, bowing his head with reluctant acceptance. “I hope he's alright.”Vilam didn't have anything worthwhile to say in response. This row of streets had become the front line, and there was little room to hide. And yet it was possible that a Matoran would be overlooked or ignored by the two armies. The Toa did not have time to worry about it now: they were surrounded. Another struggle between the Makuta and Dark Hunter forces was occurring to the north, and the Toa had no choice but to navigate through the midst of the battle. Though the combatants of either side were mostly concerned with battling each other, some of them blocked the progress of the Toa and had to be taken down. The fight reached all the way through the streets to the building Stuhi had told the Toa about, and when it was in sight the Dark Hunters guarding it were still holding their own against the Brotherhood assault, though Visorak and enemy soldiers were beginning to surround them. Battered from their trip through the battle, the Toa took shelter in the blasted remains of a stone building nearby. There, they waited for the best opportunity to break into the shipyards.In a few minutes, the time came – or perhaps it was already too late. There was a rumble as a hole was knocked in the seaward wall of the great workshop, and Dark Hunters on either side of the building rushed to defend the breach. The Toa got up and bolted towards the eastern entrance, catching the Brotherhood warriors on that side by surprise. With a precise application of elemental energy, Imlen melted the locks securing the wide wooden doors, only to find that the doors were barred from the other side. While Vilam kept watch, he conjured a larger stream of plasma that turned the doors into molten ashes. The Toa ducked inside to find a pair of Dark Hunter guards with their backs turned. They were shooting their launchers at the Brotherhood minions forcing their way in from the opposite wall, across several boats that were being outfitted with weaponry before the battle started. The Toa knocked out the two Dark Hunters before they were seen, and hoped the warriors on the other side of the room would remain in a deadlock.The building was bisected by a wide, deep depression in which a larger vessel was under construction, and upon scanning the room the Toa saw the head of a large warrior poking out from it. Dropping down into it, they saw that this work pit reached out of the building to a drydock that was closed off by a gate. For now, their movement seemed to have gone unnoticed, and they took cover behind a stack of building materials before they were seen. From there, they risked a quick peek in the direction of the tall Hunter, opposite from the drydock. Vilam spotted a trapdoor at the feet of a group of the gangsters, and it seemed the Dark Hunters in turn had caught a glimpse of her, for the Toa heard curious muttering. Seconds later, the stack of supplies they hid behind was blasted into pieces – only to reveal nothing, for the Toa had already moved. Surprised by that, but still quite sure there were intruders, the Hunters split up. Two of them remained behind to guard the trapdoor, while the remaining four searched down each side of the unfinished ship, two on each side. The Hunters on the port side of the ship caught the smell of melting metal and ashes a second before the vessel tipped over and fell on them.The Toa jumped out from under the ship just before it fell, plasma still wafting from Imlen's hand. Still startled by the crash that heralded the loss of two of their allies, the mercenaries on that side were quickly knocked out with a twin elemental blast. As Imlen and Vilam charged the last two Dark Hunters in the work area, dozens of Visorak dropped down. The Brotherhood forces had prevailed at the breach in the wall above, and were now eliminating all resistance in the shipyard. The Toa filled the work pit with a storm of scorching ionized matter, clearing a path to the trapdoor, but more Brotherhood warriors kept dropping down. There was little room to maneuver, and Rhotuka spinners were everywhere. A barrage of spinners from all directions felled the two remaining Dark Hunters, and they were lost under the swarm of soldier Rahi. The Toa made it a little farther, then Vilam was struck. It was a Boggarak's spinner, and she let out an inaudible gasp as she felt the moisture being drained from her body. She was not dehydrated to the point of death, but her muscles whithered, and Imlen barely managed to grab onto her to keep her from falling.He half dragged, half pushed her to the trapdoor. Somehow, they made it, though when Imlen began to melt his way through a paralysis spinner hit him. The Toa fell, breaking through the damaged hatch and landing with a thud on the level below. Sore and immobilized, they could only watch helplessly as two Visorak climbed down to finish them off... then there was a bellow from across the room, a flash of movement, and the screech of the Visorak as they were thrown against the wall. Imlen's vision blurred and refocused to reveal a proud-looking being with yellow and blue armor standing over him, visible by torchlight.“Hmm... traitorous Toa working for the Makuta or the Dark Hunters, or has help arrived after all?” the vaguely reptilian being pondered aloud. “Friend or foe, you've arrived in sorry shape.”“We're here to help, I think,” Imlen croaked. “But please, she needs water, and I've been paralyzed by a Visorak.”“So, I must rescue those who meant to rescue us,” chuckled the blue and yellow being. “But you deserve thanks for the effort, and though I managed to free myself, it sounds like we'll need help getting out of here.”“'We'?” asked Imlen. “I can't look around – who else is...”“One thing at a time, Toa friend,” said the prisoner as he gently lifted Vilam. “Your companion here is nearly dead. But there's a pipe here that must supply drinking water to the workers above...”The blue and yellow being dragged Vilam out of Imlen's field of vision, and a moment later Imlen heard a crash and the sound of rushing water. The mysterious prisoner of the Dark Hunters returned, and before Imlen could protest he was propped up facing a row of cells. It was too dark to be certain, but Imlen thought he saw two more beings of the same species as the one that was holding him up, each in a different cell.“She'll live. Rohi has some healing ability, he might be able to speed her recovery and cure your paralysis. I hope so, because we don't have time to wait around. Rohi is him,” said the prisoner that had broken out of his cell, pointing to the one in black and orange armor. “I am Marchog, and we two are sworn protectors of our king, King Brenkonin.”“A king?” said Imlen with disbelief.“Indeed. Though sadly there is not much left to rule,” admitted King Brenkonin, a purple and brown-armored individual who retained a somewhat regal manner despite being chained up in a cell in a workshop basement. “I would tell you more, but now is not the time. Marchog, we must escape immediately.”“Yes, my liege,” said Marchog, and with a mighty pull he tore the lock from Rohi's cell, then he rushed inside and freed his ally from the chains that bound him.More Visorak dropped down from above, but the trapdoor only let in two or three at a time, so Marchog was able to hold them off with Vilam's sword while his ally tended to the Toa. The black and orange being first cured Imlen using the artificial Rhotuka launcher that had been implanted into his arm, and next he treated Vilam. His power accelerated the rejuvenating effect the water had on her dry organic tissue, and soon she was able to sit up. By then, Imlen had freed Brenkonin, and the two of them had joined the fight against the Visorak. Vilam recovered just in time, for at that moment part of the ceiling collapsed, and many more soldiers and Visorak dropped down. Though the freed prisoners were skilled warriors, and they soon rearmed themselves with weapons taken from fallen Brotherhood soldiers, they and the Toa were soon forced to retreat. The subterranean level was spacious, but in the dim light no exit was visible. Rohi shouted a warning as more cracks formed in the ceiling, and with a great crash the unfinished vessel fell through, crushing several Visorak.“Is there another way out down here?” asked Imlen as he scanned the room, using his plasma for illumination.“Not that we've seen. Our captors always used the trapdoor,” said Brenkonin, squinting from the glare of the plasma. “Though of course, the sea is in that direction. If you think flooding the building would work to our advantage...”“It would put most of our enemies off balance. Can you three swim?” said Vilam as she fried a group of Visorak.“I wouldn't be much of an elite protector if I wasn't trained for such situations,” said Marchog, and the other two nodded in affirmation.“Right then. Here we go,” said Imlen, and he turned his elemental light source into a superheated orb that he launched at the seaward wall.Water rushed through the hole Imlen created, and the damage to the wall caused the water to create a wider opening for itself. Much of the wall collapsed, and the Visorak and soldiers were caught by surprise and submerged by the sudden flood, though the Boggarak and some of the soldiers recovered. The Toa and their new allies had also been surprised by how quickly the water flooded in, but they too recovered. Water continued to rush through the gap, preventing them from escaping that way until the water in the building reached sea level. The water filled the entire basement, and the Toa smashed through the ceiling to find that the drydock had broken away and the main level of the building was being flooded. Several boats in various states of completion were adrift, and the Toa and the three other beings climbed onto the most seaworthy of these that could fit them all. A few Keelerak had climbed up onto a pile of debris to avoid the water and were launching acid spinners that threatened to burn holes in the vessel's hull. Imlen was feeling low on elemental energy, but he decided this was a good time to use it. As he aimed his staff, however, King Brenkonin raised his hand in the direction of the Visorak. There was a strange sound, and the pile of debris suddenly toppled over, dropping the green Rahi into the water.“Implanted kinetic force launchers,” explained the king, showing Imlen the device imbedded in his palm. “The Shadowed One ruined our home, but the Dark Hunters have also showed us some intriguing advances in personal weaponry and artificial enhancements. And a king must be able to defend himself.”“I'd like to hear more about your people, when we have time,” said Imlen. “Right now we need to get out of here and find the other two Toa we came with, and make sure the Matoran are safe.”“There are plenty of Matoran in this universe,” said Marchog. “Our priority is to get my liege to – ”“Now, now, Marchog, I believe it is in our best interest to keep these brave Toa on our side,” chided Brenkonin. “And you must sympathize with these villagers – after all, does their fate not remind you of that of our people?”“Yes sir, I apologize, and I will do as you command,” said Marchog without hesitation. “Rohi, does this thing have an engine, or sails?”“It has a motor, but it hasn't been finished,” the other guardian called back from across the boat. “I think the Toa of Lightning and I can rig it to start, though. You and the Toa of Plasma defend us while we work.”“Better hurry – more enemies are coming,” warned Marchog.But it was not additional Brotherhood forces coming to secure the ruined shipyard, but a small squad of Dark Hunter operatives. One of them fired a cannon that wrecked the boat in one shot, and the rest jumped into the water, apparently determined to recapture the king and his two protectors alive. Immediately, the Toa and the other beings jumped out of the sinking vessel, landing on the deck of another one that was barely floating, and from there they swam the short distance to the flooded and crumbling building's western wall. Brenkonin blasted a hole in the damaged stone face, and the five companions were washed out onto the beach, ending up beneath a pier. They followed the shore westward for a while until the way was blocked by a wharf, and at that point they climbed back up to the embattled town. As they stealthily moved through the streets, they were surprised to find the fight was not yet over – it felt like they had been in the shipyard for a long time. As expected, the numerically superior Brotherhood forces had taken much of the city, but there were pockets of Dark Hunter resistance, and it appeared the Brotherhood had suffered disproportionately high casualties.“Who, if I may ask, are you looking for?” Rohi asked the Toa. “In fact, I do not believe you ever answered our introductions with your names.”“I'm sorry – we met in a tight spot, after all,” said Imlen. “We're not safe yet, of course, but I can tell you that my name is Imlen, and my companion is Vilam. We are the Toa Muktirhith, and we arrived with the last member of our team, the Toa of Psionics Mozmana, and an independent Toa of Earth named Baw that we allied with for this mission.”“I see now that your mission was not to rescue us, as I had hoped,” said Brenkonin. “But we are fortunate and thankful that in your efforts to help the inhabitants of this town you learned of our plight and came to our aid.”“For that, you can thank a Le-Matoran named Stuhi, if he's still alive,” said Vilam, and just then the earth rumbled.“It sounds like Baw is,” said Imlen, and the group ran towards the source of the vibrations.It felt as though the tremors had originated from nearby, but the five beings traveled for many blocks without finding the source. Along the way, they had to fight through several Brotherhood platoons, and with the Toa out of elemental energy their abilities paled in comparison to the king and his warriors. Just as they thought they had passed by Baw, there was a far mightier quake that nearly knocked them off their feet, and several buildings that had already been damaged collapsed. When the rumbling stopped, they heard sounds of intense battle ahead, and continued a short distance to find the source of the noise. There, battling off a horde of Visorak and Brotherhood soldiers was Baw, aided by at least a hundred Matoran. Corpses from both sides littered the cracked ground, and though Imlen and Vilam were relieved to see that Baw and many of the Matoran were still alive, the sight of so many dead Matoran stung them: each body signified a failure of the Toa to protect those that needed them. More Matoran were sure to fall before the day was over, but the Toa were determined to save as many as they could.“Baw!” Imlen called as he and his allies joined the battle. “Over here!”“Imlen, Vilam, you're just in time!” the battered and weary Toa of Earth called back. “Watch out – Dark Hunters behind you.”“Call us Dark Hunters again, Toa of Earth, and I will have you locked in a dungeon and see how you like it,” said Brenkonin as he took on a dozen Visorak.“So they're not Dark Hunters, I take it?” Baw said to Imlen while the Toa fought side by side. “But what does he mean by – ”“I'll explain later. Let's get out of here first,” said Imlen.Review

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#39 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jul 12 2012 - 06:55 PM

End of YrentaChapter Thirty-nine==Domain of Makuta Krika, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~609 AGC~

Mozmana moved stealthily through the streets, using her power to influence any enemies that caught a glimpse of her to overlook her. Conducting a wide-range, low detail mental scan of the area, she felt the familiar minds of her two teammates. Those mental signatures stood out among a crowd of fearful minds – the trapped civilians, no doubt – and many that were full of malice – the minds of Visorak and other enemies. She could sense that her friends, the Matoran, and the concentration of hostile minds she had felt were not far off, no more than a few blocks, but she feared the situation she was running into would be hopeless. Upon seeing the Brotherhood army circle around and cut off the evacuation route, she had infiltrated the city as soon as she could, and already her allies were surrounded. Mozmana looked around, and when the only Brotherhood patrol nearby marched out of sight of her, she abandoned stealth and ran towards where she had sensed the other Toa.The emptiness of the streets could only mean that all Brotherhood forces in the area had converged on the site of the confrontation. So worried by the thought of her friends surrounded by hundreds of Visorak and soldiers, Mozmana did not detect the group of Dark Hunters until they ambushed her. But her senses were sharp enough for her to hear the muffled sound of a Zamor launcher, and she dropped in time to let the four projectiles fly over her head. Each of them had come from different directions – which meant she was surrounded. As another salvo converged on where she lay, she got up halfway and jumped aside, narrowly avoiding the blast from an explosive rocket and the blue ooze that splattered from the Zamor spheres. Zigzagging down the street, she managed to evade the missiles launched after her, but three more Hunters emerged ahead to block her way before she reached the next intersection. One of these emitted a jet of flame from the device on his arm, and Mozmana nearly rushed right into the blaze.She stopped herself before she could suffer more than moderate discomfort from the heat, and released a psychic blast, hoping to clear a path quickly. One of the mercenaries was knocked out, but the other two resisted and struck back. Another jet of flame scorched her, and she narrowly dodged a projectile launched by the other Hunter from a weapon she didn't recognize. Jumping behind the Dark Hunter with the flame emitter, she managed to both force the black-armored being to engage her in melee combat and to shield herself from his partner's attacks. The second Dark Hunter circled around to surround Mozmana, but the Toa of Psionics anticipated this and wounded her with a backwards thrust. The red-armored female was not incapacitated, however, and Mozmana saw the other four Hunters running down the street after her. Perhaps she could have defeated them all, but this was not the time. While the red criminal was still off-balance, Mozmana lunged at her comrade with quick, intimidating swings of her sword. The incendiary Hunter took a few steps backward, only for Mozmana to draw back and flee.Flames licked her back as she escaped the Dark Hunter ambush, and soon the female Dark Hunter was firing her launcher after the running Toa. But Mozmana was quick and agile, avoiding each shot with little effort, and soon she was out of range. Not far ahead, the rows of buildings gave way to an open plaza where the rest of the Toa and Matoran were desperately fighting their way out. Mozmana circled around to the west to help clear a path from behind, only to find that the Brotherhood forces were far too concentrated on that side. Backtracking and realizing that there was no way for her to break through alone from any direction, she reached out to touch the minds of her allies on the other side of the thick ring of Visorak and soldiers. Their success depended on coordination. Contacting Imlen telepathically, she transmitted her location and told him to lead the group in that direction. A few seconds later there was a great flare of orange plasma that signaled it was time for Mozmana to attack. The Brotherhood minions had their backs turned to her, and she charged into close combat immediately, using the bodies of her nearest foes to shield herself from the Rhotuka of dozens of Visorak.She could now see that the battle was actually not taking place in a plaza. The rows of streets continued, but the buildings in this area had almost all been completely flattened, giving the appearance of an open square from a distance. She had no time to worry if Matoran had been crushed when those structures collapsed, however. As far as she knew, all surviving inhabitants that had not already evacuated were gathered on the other side of the merciless ranks of Visorak and Brotherhood soldiers. It would be a massacre, but with the intervention of the Toa, it could be prevented from becoming a complete massacre. Warriors fell before her, some vanquished by her blade, others by her elemental power, and a few by the Rhotuka of reckless Visorak. There were scores of the venomous Rahi around her, and though she had been able to get into their midst while they were focused on her allies in the center, more and more of them were bringing their dorsal Rhotuka launchers to bear on her. As she jumped to avoid a low-flying volley of spinners, fatigue overcame her for a tiny fraction of a second, and she landed awkwardly.The next shot would surely hit her – if she had not first been enveloped by a swirling mass of radiant orange. By instinct, her first reaction to this surprise was fear, but she almost immediately recognized it for what it was: Imlen's element was shielding her. The plasma was far enough away to not burn her, but the intense heat was still uncomfortable. Despite the heat, however, she took the opportunity to catch her breath, safe for the moment while the Rhotuka and other projectiles of her enemies dispersed harmlessly against the energized matter. When she was ready, she sent a telepathic signal to Imlen, and the plasma was sucked into Imlen's staff, converted into elemental energy that he released as a stream that cleared a path through more of the Brotherhood minions. Now Mozmana could see that in addition to Vilam, Baw was also with Imlen, as well as three fearsome and majestic-looking warriors she did not recognize. Behind this strange group followed the Matoran, though many of them had died along the way. Many of the locals had looted fallen enemies to arm themselves, but most of these weapons were too big for them.“Come on, keep pressing forward!” ordered Imlen, gesturing with a swing of his arm.“I know, I know,” said Mozmana, glancing over to the Matoran, then running to Imlen's side. “Who are your new friends?”“I am Rohi the Stalwart, Third Guardian, sworn protector of our King Brenkonin the Atoner,” said the black and orange warrior as he struck his partner with a healing Rhotuka. “This is my kinsman, Marchog the Strong, First Guardian: captain of his majesty's royal guard.“I didn't know you had such ranks and epithets,” Imlen found time to say as he blasted a few soldiers and knocked another unconscious with his staff.“Rohi always has time for the formalities,” said King Brenkonin, cleaving his way through a dozen Visorak as he spoke. “Now, let us please save further introductions for when we are safe.”“Vilam!” Imlen turned his head to yell. “Get up here! Mozmana, take her place by the Matoran.”“Got it, Imlen,” said Mozmana, falling back as Vilam came forward.There was not much Mozmana could do to shield all the Matoran, but at least she could help them mentally. While Baw did his best to keep the Makuta forces off-balance with tremors, she broadcast thoughts and feelings of courage and hope. She seemed to have underestimated either the strength of her own powers or the mettle of the Matoran, for her efforts had a greater and faster effect than she expected. Matoran that had been keeping their heads down stood tall and picked up the nearest weapons they could find. At first, she feared she had inspired the Matoran into foolhardiness that would lead to more deaths. Perhaps she had, but the Visorak and even callous-looking Brotherhood warriors were taken aback by their sudden ferocity. While his enemies suffered that moment of uncertainty, Baw triggered a stronger quake. Some Matoran were knocked down, but he managed to focus the force of the tremors against the Brotherhood army, and Mozmana complemented his physical attack with a psychic one. Just as the hopes of the Matoran were raised, the Makuta forces were dismayed.The Matoran surged forward, overtaking Imlen, Vilam, and King Brenkonin's guard. The Toa intensified their elemental powers, burning through the last of their energies in one final surge that cut through the enemy ranks. The Matoran emerged in the southwest of the devastated district and continued to flee while their protectors turned to slow the pursuit of the Brotherhood army. The Toa slowly retreated, giving the Matoran time to scatter to regroup at a safer location, and as the minions of the Makuta advanced, they became spread out and disorganized. Imlen and the others soon noticed there was another reason for the disarray: explosions and cannon blasts were tearing through the horde. They seemed to be coming from the west. Something struck the ground uncomfortably close to the Toa, leaving a crater in the pavement, and the Toa decided it was time to leave. More artillery rained down behind them as they ran after the Matoran.“What do you think – ” Baw began to say.“The Dark Hunters must have commandeered the Brotherhood's siege weapons,” said Vilam. “I'm surprised. I thought the Hunters were soundly defeated by now.”“Nope. I was delayed by a few Dark Hunters on the way here,” said Mozmana. “The Makuta won't have it easy – it would not surprise me if the Dark Hunters managed to maintain a small, undercover presence here for months or even years.”“The Mat – whoa!” Imlen was startled by a flaming boulder, thrown from a far-off catapult, that nearly crushed him. After catching his breath, he began again. “The... the Matoran might be heading right to them – to the Dark Hunters! Come on, we'd better catch up.”With their long strides, it did not take the Toa and their allies long to catch up with the Matoran. They found that the locals had noticed artillery fire from the west and southwest, and so had already altered their course to head more towards the southeast. Still, it was better for the Toa to be with them, for they would not be safe while they were still in the ravaged city, and they were in need of comfort.“So many dead... Matoran are workers, not warriors. They should not have had to fight for themselves,” lamented Mozmana as they marched to the southern gates of the city. “We should have been... I should have...”“Your kind is dying out, Toa,” said Brenkonin said sternly, though he put a claw on Mozmana's shoulder in consolation, and she did not recoil. “You cannot play the roles you once did. We, the people of this universe, have allowed villains to gain power, and we must all take responsibility for it. It is from personal experience that I – ”“Toa! Toa!” an eager voice interrupted the king. “I found you!”“Stuhi?” said Imlen uncertainly, looking at a battered but gutsy Le-Matoran that held an oversized axe proudly despite his limp. “How did you – are those acid wounds on you?”“Just a little splash damage,” said Stuhi, who now stood before the Toa and their foreign allies. “Those Keelerak aren't very good at aiming when you get them frustrated.”“I congratulate you on your prowess, villager, but you have interrupted my liege,” said Marchog. “For that, I demand an apology.”“Not so fast, Marchog,” said Brenkonin, smiling down at the awkward but still defiant Matoran. “Your name is Stuhi? Toa Vilam has told me that you are to thank for recruiting them to rescue me. Well done.”“Your... liege?” said Stuhi questioningly to Brenkonin's guardians, and the king nodded.“You may address me as King Brenkonin,” said the majestic brown and purple being, and the group fell into place along with the Matoran refugees and continued their trek. “These are my royal protectors, Marchog and Rohi.”“A King? Wow... so, does that mean...” Stuhi left his question unsaid.“You wish for a reward, do you not? Well... very well, though I am rather poor for a king, I can easily grant you something greater than anything a common Matoran would ever expect to have,” said Brenkonin. “Though of course I must come up with something suitable for the ones who actually carried out the rescue.”“Of course, King Brenkonin,” said Stuhi, and he bowed as much as his injuries and unsteady axe allowed without him falling over. “I was merely a messenger... well, more of a spy. And I was hoping that I had fought my way through Visorak to find something worthwhile... not that escaping alive isn't worthwhile, of course...”“A Matoran defeating Visorak alone? Such skill... and such spirit!” Baw whispered to his fellow Toa. “I admit, his pride and eagerness to accept rewards are not good Toa traits, but...”“It is not bad to accept rewards when they are deserved and needed,” said Imlen. “I mean, in this era, they really are needed. I hope Brenkonin gives us something useful.”“Wait a moment – do you suspect Stuhi is to become a Toa?” Mozmana whispered back. “Are you considering...”“I am not quite sure, not yet. But I do know I would like to get to know him before I leave... maybe even after we leave,” said the Toa of Earth.Baw said no more of the subject, and the walk out of the city was quiet. Upon reaching the smashed southern gateway, they found there were additional bodies left among the rubble, and craters marring the ground. Though the arch had been destroyed before the battle began, it seemed artillery had struck here too, killing off the warriors of whatever faction had been the last to hold the entrance. They continued in a straight line half a kio from the gate, then the Matoran stopped. Stuhi, whose exploit had rapidly boosted his reputation from 'reckless eccentric' to 'war hero', addressed the Toa as a sort of unofficial spokesman.“Here's where we part, Toa. Most of us are going to head west to meet with the others and then decide where to go. I'm leading the rest straight to Modos. It's another coastal settlement, more urbanized than what we're used to, but I'm up for a change.”“I'll come with you lot to Modos,” said Baw, and he nodded meaningfully at the other Toa.“We'd better stay with the others. With Kyhudh and most of his city guard dead, I don't want to leave until everything has been worked out,” said Imlen.“What about you, your majesty?” asked Vilam. “I do not wish to part from you until I have heard your story.”“Of course, and I owe both of you a reward... one which, naturally, I cannot grant at this time. I would have to return to my kingdom and work out some way to smuggle the bounty... Stuhi, if you take up residence in Modos, will my agents be able to locate you at a later date?”“I... suppose,” said the Le-Matoran, obviously disappointed.“Very well. Just as well, in fact, for I have not yet decided what your reward shall be,” said the king. “For now, I will accompany the Toa, and tell them what they wish to know.”The Matoran and Toa said farewell to each other as the population split and Baw left the company of the Toa Muktirhith. And so, as they rested and subsequently traveled to the west, Brenkonin and his protectors told their tale. Ages ago, Brenkonin had been an ambitious individual of minor authority in the regimented society of his homeland. The distant island from which he hailed was cold and bleak, but he reminisced that his people had had a happier life in those days than they had now, and that they should not have so greedily reached for more. For one day, a mighty specimen of his people had rebelled against the strict laws, becoming a mercenary that would do any job for whomever paid him the most. Would-be warlords – Brenkonin included – had competed for his services, leading to a war that shattered the ordered civilization, transforming it into a broken land of petty tyrants. The mercenary, now known only as Ancient, soon joined with a second native that took the name 'the Shadowed One' to spread his ideology with other individuals ruthless enough to follow it.The Toa could guess what that had led to. But a lesser-known story was that of the repentance of King Brenkonin. Though he gained a realm of his own through savagery and deceit, he eventually looked upon the devastation of his people and their island that he had taken part in, and the malevolent universe-spanning syndicate that had been the most profound result of the upheaval, and he did what too few absolute rulers did: he felt remorse and changed his ways. Some beings would have given up the throne then, Brenkonin admitted, but instead he chose to do his best to rule his realm benevolently and transform his home island into the place of peace it had been. Such a goal was not easily attained, however – as he regained his compassion, his warlord brothers built up their armies, and they saw his kindness as weakness. And so, Brenkonin's warriors were the fewest in number, but the most loyal, for they served their leader out of love, not fear, nor the desire of money or power. His subjects managed to defend the kingdom, but they were losing a long war, and the local despots were not the only ones to take notice of Brenkonin's behavior.Mere weeks ago, his small army had suffered a major defeat. He was now especially worried for the future of his kingdom, and his subjects were worried for him, and so he had left the island. Accompanied by his royal guardians, he had begun to travel the universe, intending to personally spread his story and recruit others to his side. He had not gotten far, however, for the Dark Hunters had set a trap for him off the coast of the Northern Continent. Sadly, a traitor or infiltrator in his court was the most likely explanation. All but two of his royal guards had been killed, and he and the remaining two had been captured. Abducting leaders was nothing new for the Dark Hunters – they often did so to hold them for ransom – but apparently, the co-founders of the organization knew who he was, and had something special in store for him. As for Marchog and Rohi, it was said that the Shadowed One had ways of forcing individuals into his service whether they were willing or not. Brenkonin's two protectors were grateful for having been spared the fate of being twisted into that evil being's minions.The story of Brenkonin's repentance was hard to believe, but as far as Mozmana could tell by reading his mind, he was telling the truth, though Marchog and Rohi occasionally interjected with exaggerated praise. Not long after the tale had been told, the Matoran and their escort came to the village that their brothers and sisters that had managed to evacuate earlier were taking refuge in. It was a simple little coastal village, consisting of wooden huts and a stone central hall. These few structures were engulfed by a great amount of tents and other temporary dwellings, yet there were not enough to account for all the Matoran that Mozmana had escorted to safety. While the newly-arriving Matoran scattered to find their friends and rest, the Toa approached one of the evacuees that had been waiting and asked her where the rest of the refugees were. She said that they had already left, most headed to various nearby settlements, and others setting sail for unknown destinations.“So, now what?” said Mozmana. “We cannot hope to retake your city. What will you do now?”“I, myself, will stay in this village with my fellow Water sisters that dwell here,” said the Ga-Matoran. “The rest of us... some will stay, some will go.”“But... well, I am sorry we cannot give you your homes back,” said Imlen with resignation.“As the people of a major port, we lived in prominence,” said the Matoran, and she shrugged. “In these times, we're better off with quiet lives in isolated homes.”The Toa understood. What was once desirable prosperity was now just an invitation to be invaded. After they had spoken to some other refugees, it seemed the Toa had done all they could here. By then it was well after dusk, and it had been a long, hard day, and so the Toa spent the night in the village. Brenkonin also slept, his protectors taking turns watching over him. In the morning, the three of them prepared to leave, though they had the courtesy to wait for the Toa to awaken.“You need help, and your cause sounds just,” said Imlen when the king had announced his intention to depart. “I would be honored to accompany you, your majesty, provided that my companions agree.”“Oh? That is a generous offer, Toa Imlen,” said Brenkonin.“More generous than you know, sir,” said Vilam. “Imlen has not wished to leave the continent for over sixty years, and now he's willing to follow you to an island we've never heard of.”“Really? How kind of you, Toa Imlen. But I need soldiers, and Toa are too rare and special to be wasted in such a role. I could, perhaps, use you as elite agents – special forces... but no, that sort of work would involve deeds that a Toa would be uncomfortable executing,” the king said, and he chuckled at the shocked reaction of the Toa. “I assure you that such unpleasant actions will only be carried out against those that are truly deserving. But that is no job for a Toa all the same.”“You mean you plan to have your rivals assassinated?” said Mozmana, still uncomfortable about the subject.“I may have the best interest of my people in mind, but I am not a being of such pure virtue as you Toa are,” said Brenkonin. “Be assured that I would choose a suitable alternative, if any existed, but my fellow rulers cannot be reasoned with, and they must be eliminated for the people of my homeland to be freed. And please do not refer to them as my 'rivals', for to do so is to say that their ambitions are similar to mine. That is certainly not the case. To be compared to them is an insult.”“What you have said has caused me to reconsider, though I still believe your cause is just. You are correct that we would never work for you as assassins, no matter how righteous. But...” Imlen paused to consider, then continued. "There is another Toa we know of, one who follows the Code less strictly. He has his own goals and priorities that he is very devoted to, and so I doubt he would serve under you, though I believe an alliance between the two of you would be highly beneficial...”Review

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#40 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Jul 19 2012 - 01:11 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty==Northern Coast of the Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

Though the Toa Muktirhith did not accompany Brenkonin when the king and his protectors left, and instead remained on the Northern Continent for many more years, eventually the time came for them to sail to distant shores. It had taken far longer than expected, but the recruiting stage of Iskanemo's grand plan was finally complete. The audacious Toa of Air had spent years forging new alliances and finding fellow Toa. Not every Toa he had asked had joined him, and realizing there were too few Toa to form the bulk of his group, Iskanemo had reached out to other potential friends. Few beings were willing to openly oppose the Brotherhood of Makuta, and so it had taken centuries for him to amass a force of suitable size. Upon receiving the message that told them to meet Iskanemo and his allies at the northeastern corner of the Southern Continent, the Toa Muktirhith had left the Northern Continent immediately. The message requested that they not sail directly to the rendezvous ground, so as not to attract attention, and so the Toa came ashore many kio to the west. They had decided to take the opportunity to fulfill an old promise.“Sorry we've arrived at this hour,” Imlen told the Matoran that had come running when their boat docked. “Is there a place here where we can spend the night?”“Hmm... one of you can stay at my place. How about you, Toa of my element?” the Matoran indicated Vilam. “As for you two, there should be plenty of room in the workshops, but if you want somewhere more cozy, you'll need to ask around. Try Amistosa's home and Yasashi's home, there and there. They're always friendly to visitors.”“Thank you,” said Imlen. “We are also looking for a Ga-Matoran named Sisretan, is she here?”“Ah, yes. We all know each other here,” said the Matoran of Lightning. “My name's Daranau. I can find Sisretan for you, but not until morning. I don't want to surprise her in the middle of the night.”“Just as well, I'm in the mood for nothing but sleep now. Long cruise,” said Imlen, then he muttered under his breath to himself. “And these next days will be eventful ones.”Amistosa and Yasashi were willing to accommodate their tall guests, and so allowed Imlen and Mozmana, respectively, to lodge with them. Even with one Toa to a hut, they were cramped, and had to sleep on the floor, but they were used to such conditions. In fact, it was a welcome change to be able to sleep in a village at all. The Brotherhood, of course, had a presence on the Southern Continent, and the land was full of many wild dangers, but this place was refreshingly rural and isolated, despite being a port settlement that saw a fair amount of traffic. The more inland villages were blissfully cut off from the troubles of the more centralized and populous lands. Lulled by the quiet of the night, broken only by crashing waves down at the shore, the Toa slept late into the morning. When Vilam awoke, she found a note from Daranau telling the Toa to meet her and Sisretan at the boat workshops. Vilam gathered her companions and, following the message's instructions, they found themselves in one of the very same buildings the villagers had used long ago in their efforts to convert the wooden shell Paqyar had conjured into a vessel functional enough to take the Toa to Xia.The workshop was much like a smaller, less sophisticated version of the shipyard under which Brenkonin had been imprisoned. This structure was only large enough to accommodate small boats and components – larger vessels were finished outside. Upon entering the building, the Toa quickly recognized Daranau, but they did not recognize any of the Ga-Matoran that were busily working, polishing wooden and metal panels and assembling rigging, engines, and other equipment. Daranau saw them and came forth, gesturing to one of the Ga-Matoran. The one she summoned wore the same mask as Sisretan, and had similar coloration, but the similarities ended there.“I recognize you,” said the Ga-Matoran before anyone else could speak. “Toa... Mozmana, I think?”“Sisretan? Is that you?” said Mozmana, and the Matoran of Water nodded.“Yes, I am Sisretan. They said you'd come back someday,” she said. “I've been told I have you to thank for my place in this village, and for my very sanity.”“It seems you have recovered as well as I could have hoped,” said Mozmana, smiling. “Of course, your new friends deserve thanks for their kindness and hospitality. And I see they have rebuilt you in their image.”“I... I guess so. They told me I was small and weak when I was found, but I don't remember that,” said Sisretan. “I don't remember much, in fact. But I remember you... and you two, also... I think.”“Toa Imlen, and Toa Vilam,” Imlen introduced himself and his sister. “We found you – ”“Wait, Imlen,” interrupted Mozmana. “It may hurt her to remind her of her past. It may uncover painful memories, causing a relapse in her condition. But if you're curious, Sisretan...”“No,” said Sisretan, after considering for a moment. “I have a new home, and that's enough for me. Whatever drove me mad, I don't want to find out what it was.”“I understand. Well, we're glad to see you've recovered,” said Imlen. “So, you help build boats? You like that?”“I wouldn't have it any other way,” said Sisretan. “We make the best vessels for kio around – well, the only ones for kio around, but what I mean is, we're some of the best boat makers this side of the continent.”“So, how are things around here? Are there any troubles?” asked Vilam. “Do you have Toa protectors?”“I haven't seen anywhere else to compare it to, but this place is peaceful, I guess. Sometimes we have Rahi problems, but nothing we can't handle,” said the Ga-Matoran. “Travelers come in and tell stories about war and lawlessness in other lands, like Stelt and the other continent. Sometimes Brotherhood warriors use the port – they're scary – but they usually leave us alone. There are a few Toa that patrol the area, we only see them every few years though. Yet a couple days ago a Toa we didn't recognize – I didn't get his name – arrived by sea and then traveled east.”“I'm thankful you have found a new life here. Now, we really should be going,” said Mozmana. “We'll let you get back to your work. It was good to see you again, Sisretan.”“You, too. Thanks for visiting!” said Sisretan, and she resumed burnishing boat components.It still didn't seem right to Imlen that Sisretan had forgotten her past life. But, he supposed, her original persona had been lost long ago, destroyed by whatever horrors she had suffered. He recalled the nightmare land he had caught a glimpse of upon viewing the past of her teleporter tools. He wondered what had become of that pair of strange devices, but more so he wondered if Karzahni existed, and if he had seen it. He decided he would rather not dwell on the subject, and besides he had more substantial concerns. After stocking up on supplies, the Toa left the village. The meeting place was hidden in wooded hills far to the east, and it took many days of walking for the Toa to get there. Before they could find Iskanemo and his allies on their own, a pair of scouts – a Vortixx and another black-armored being of a different species – emerged from the trees and escorted them to a pleasant valley with a river running down the middle.Imlen and his companions knew that Iskanemo had recruited many others, but the size of the camp below still surprised them. They had told the sentries escorting them who they were, and so they immediately taken to see their old friend. Upon seeing him, they immediately noticed he had gotten a prosthesis for his maimed left arm, though the mechanical replacement was crude and was a poor match for his natural arm. Now that he had two hands – though they were quite different in shape – he had also obtained an identical second sickle. As they came near, the Toa Muktirhith could see he had many scars he had not had the last time they saw him. Most veteran Toa accumulated such marks over the years, but Iskanemo appeared to have almost as many as Imlen, Vilam, and Mozmana combined. He had clearly taken an active approach to recruiting and equipping his warriors.“Well, well, seems you've waited until nearly the last minute, after all,” said Iskanemo, but he was cheerful. “It's been a long time... have you really been traveling with these two almost as long as you'd been with me, Mozmana?”“Technically, but still not much more than half the time that we were a team for,” said the Toa of Psionics. “Speaking of which, I'm happy to say we were finally able to find Vayrag's body and put him to rest.”“Good. I'm not sure I believe in ghosts, but Vayrag is one individual I want to stay on the good side of, whether he's alive or dead,” said Iskanemo, then he was serious for a moment. “I... I wish I could have been there. I've been so very busy, but know that I've never forgotten about you two.”“Thanks, old friend,” said Mozmana. “And congratulations. Your dedication is finally paying off.”“Yes, I'm impressed,” said Imlen. “I was expecting something like a large Toa team and a few others, but it turns out you have... well, it's a whole army.”“Indeed. After all the time it took, I ended up with a proportionate amount to show for it,” said Iskanemo. “Now, a few of my allies already know you. I'm sure you'd like to see them, and I'd like to introduce you to the rest.”Iskanemo had recruited about fifty or sixty Toa. It was a far smaller group than Lhikan's legendary army had been, but it was unlikely there were three hundred Toa left in the entire universe. Considering how rare they had become, that number was impressive, especially as many of the Toa Iskanemo contacted had been unwilling or at least reluctant to join him. Some said it was foolish to attempt to match the Brotherhood's martial strength with another army. Others said the time would come, but not until some prophesied heroes were ready to awaken Mata Nui. The Toa Muktirhith weren't sure if they believed that or not, but they certainly would not refuse to help an old friend fulfill his great ambition. As he escorted them, he introduced them to Toa and other notable beings as they passed. After many meetings and much wandering through the camp, Iskanemo spotted someone he was looking for: a fellow Toa of Air, this one wielding an ornate battleaxe.“There he is,” said Iskanemo, and he called to the other Toa. “Stuhi!”“Stuhi?” Imlen echoed questioningly, and the Toa Muktirhith exchanged surprised glances.“Iskanemo? What – hey, I know you three,” said Stuhi as he excitedly approached. “But I forgot your names.”“I'm Imlen, this is Vilam, and Mozmana,” Imlen reintroduced his team. “So... looks like Baw was right: you were destined to become a Toa. Is Baw here, too, then?”“No. He died... almost a century ago,” said Stuhi. “Toa killers got him – Dark Hunters, Brotherhood, I'm not sure which.”“Sorry to hear that,” said Vilam. “It was an honor to fight alongside him, if only for one day.”“I was lucky enough to have a hundred years of his company,” said Stuhi. “He was a good mentor... and a devoted friend. But the violent ending of a Toa's career is nothing rare. Anyway, speaking of the day we met, King Brenkonin is here. He's brought all the warriors he can spare.”“Brenkonin? Interesting,” said Imlen.“Yes,” said Stuhi. “Apparently, things are going badly for him back home – he and his army might have even been forced off the island completely, I'm not sure.”“That's bad news. But it's kind of him to lend his aid,” said Mozmana. “It seems you were right to inform him about this venture, Imlen.”“Yes, I'm told I have you to thank for referring him,” said Iskanemo. “I'll bring you to him before we go off to battle. I'm sure he'd like to speak to you again.”“Oh, I'd be embarrassed to see him after losing my sword, after he had that Rhotuka launcher added to it,” said Mozmana.“So that's where you got those new launchers, huh?” said Stuhi, indicating Imlen's Nynrah Ghost Blaster and the Rhotuka launcher that had been integrated into Vilam's protosteel sword – still the very same sword that had been taken from the hollow remains of Anecrax. “My reward from him was this fine axe that grew along with me when I became a Toa.”“Come on, Mozmana, it's not your fault,” said Vilam. “It was Imlen that got us into that – ”“Hey!” protested Imlen. “The way I remember it, it was that blind Turaga's fault, when he led us to the cave... ah, never mind.”“Old memories, eh?” said Stuhi, joining the Toa Muktirhith in a hearty chuckle.“Oh yes. Well, it's actually no big deal, I suppose,” said Mozmana. “We'd be happy to see King Brenkonin again.”“Good to hear, but first, there's someone else I'd like to introduce to you,” said Iskanemo.Iskanemo led them into the midst of a circle of tents, where a Toa of Fire was busy giving orders and answering questions. There was a line of beings waiting to see him, but Iskanemo and his friends walked right past the line with no complaints from anyone. He called the Fire Toa's name – Velitel – and Velitel turned. The Toa Muktirhith could now see he was clad in stately silver armor as certain elite Toa in the past had been, but in his case the armor pieces were mismatched, and clearly not as shiny as they had once been. As he came to greet Iskanemo and the others, the Toa Muktirhith could see there was a spiked club stored on his back. Though it was caked with grime – no doubt the stains left by hundreds of wounded enemies – Vilam noticed that the club looked like it was in nearly pristine condition. She guessed that Velitel, too, had managed to get his hands on a protosteel weapon. At first, the Toa of Fire looked annoyed at having been interrupted, but upon noticing the Toa Muktirhith he displayed a smile through a gap in his unfamiliar Kanohi.“Ah, new recruits, Iskanemo?” he inquired.“Not just any recruits – these are Mozmana, Imlen, and Vilam,” said Iskanemo, and he addressed the Toa he had named. “I've told Velitel here all about you.”“Hm, you never told him about us. Nice to meet you, Toa Velitel,” said Imlen.“Seems you're directing a lot of people. Are you second in command here?” asked Mozmana.“Not exactly. I'm the tactical commander,” said Velitel. “In most other matters, Iskanemo and I have equal say.”“Tactical commander?” said Imlen. “So Iskanemo's not going to lead us?”“I don't have the leadership experience Velitel has, so he will actually be leading us in battle,” said Iskanemo. “I'm still the primary coordinator and recruiter. We plan overall strategy together – with advice from the other Toa and military leaders, of course.”“Right,” said Velitel.“Ah, I understand,” said Imlen.“Good. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to consult our clairvoyant,” said the Toa of Fire.“Hey, I want to know if Waskita has seen anything, too,” said Iskanemo. “And these guys should meet her.”“Alright, but I'm telling you again, Iskanemo, she should not be distracted from her task,” said Velitel. “Come on.”Velitel and Iskanemo led the Toa Muktirhith into one of the tents in the circle. There was only a single occupant: a Toa of Psionics kneeling in the center. She appeared to be wearing a specially-crafted Mask of Clairvoyance that featured an opaque visor. The visor was down, completely cutting off its wearer's vision, and yet the tent was well lit, and large and spacious despite only housing one being. She said nothing, and her body language indicated she did not notice the entry of the other Toa, but each of them could feel her gently scanning their minds. When they had all gathered, she communicated with them telepathically.Hello. Thank you for visiting again, Iskanemo and Velitel, and welcome, Imlen, Vilam, and Mozmana, she mentally broadcast through the tent. I am Waskita. Iskanemo has told me of you. It's good of you to have come, and nice to meet another Toa of Psionics. We haven't found enough of my kind.Likewise. So, you prefer to communicate telepathically, replied Mozmana. Alright, then.“So, what do you do here?” asked Imlen.Well, obviously, I work as a seer, but I'm also a planner, projected Waskita. I sit in this tent and ponder and meditate while I wait for my mask to activate. It's not something I can control, you see. If I think of anything, or have any visions, I inform Velitel or Iskanemo, and we alter our plans accordingly.“Seems like a strong advantage,” said Vilam. “An invaluable asset for any sort of military operation, in fact. What have you seen of the future?”Nothing clear. The visions never are. I've foreseen great challenges in the near future, but of course that is to be expected, projected Waskita. Though conferring with Iskanemo and Velitel helps me to make some sense of what I see.“Indeed,” said Iskanemo. “Now, I would like to show my friends around some more. I'll return later tonight.”Thank you for stopping by, projected Waskita.Iskanemo introduced his friends to many more Toa and leaders. They had a brief chat with King Brenkonin, who had indeed been forced off of his home island. He had pledged his remaining hundred soldiers to Iskanemo's cause, and in exchange the leaders of the operation had promised to oppose the Dark Hunters as strongly as they opposed the Makuta. Of course, the Brotherhood would be their first target. The first strike was to be against a small but important fortified island off the coast of the continent. It was explained to the Toa Muktirhith that taking that island from the Brotherhood would disrupt their activity in the area, leaving them uncoordinated and vulnerable to further onslaught against nearby strongholds.“I'm not sure this is true, but I've also heard rumors that the Brotherhood doesn't just use the island as a staging ground for their forces – that they actually have a small lab for creating Rahi,” Iskanemo continued to explain. “It does make some sense, considering the variety of strange beasts that have been found around here.”“A test lab – that makes sense,” said Vilam. “There would not be room for mass-production facilities for maintaining their horde. But a small, remote location like that, with convenient access to wilderness on the mainland to set experiments loose in...”“Exactly,” said Iskanemo.“Now, back on the topic of our assault – I'm concerned about our ability to get ashore,” said Imlen. “With a force of this size, they're sure to see us coming, and even if we had the fastest boats they would have time to prepare. Even if the defending force is small, an island that fortified would be hard to breach.”“Ah, but who said anything about boats?” said Iskanemo. “Come on, I want to show you something else. You need to see this for yourself.”Review

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