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End Of Yrenta


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#41 Offline The Iron Toa

The Iron Toa
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Posted Jul 31 2012 - 04:53 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-one==Northeastern Part of the Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

“Wow! Where did you get all these?” exclaimed Imlen.“I told you, I haven't spent the last few centuries waiting for people to sign up,” said Iskanemo. “My allies and I have been scavenging, making deals with designers... even reproducing some of this tech for ourselves – and improving upon it, even.”The Toa were speaking of the impressive fleet of aerial vehicles Iskanemo's forces had assembled. Hidden under a cover of foliage at the bottom of the valley, waiting to be ridden into battle: craft ranging in size from skyfighters suitable for use by one Toa-sized being to a trio of Metru Nui airships that could carry most of the army between them. The variety of sources from which Iskanemo had obtained these vehicles was clear: some were cutting-edge technology, others relics from a more glorious age, and others were scavenged, rusted machines that looked like they were barely functional. Most of the aircraft appeared to have been modified or built from scratch in an approximation of the original.“Most of the Toa will be in these smaller aircraft. Some will travel by jetpack, and a few will be in the command ship over there,” said Iskanemo, pointing to one of the great airships. “Velitel, Waskita, and I will be in there. I'd like to say you're welcome to join us, but we might need you elsewhere.”“I'm curious as to how you obtained three Metru Nui airships,” said Vilam. “But a more important concern is the issue Imlen brought up. These aren't known for being fast, and they're as big a target as any sea vessel.”“Ah, but we've made some modifications,” said Iskanemo proudly. “You know how these airships are powered by Kanoka? Well, we've hoarded disks, and figured out a way to bolster the system of Levitation and Increase Weight disks with Speed, Flight, and – here's something impressive – Concealment disks. So our ships will not only be faster, they will hopefully be able to turn invisible on command!”“That must take a lot of disks,” said Imlen.“It will, which is why we must only use such systems in emergencies. In fact, until we come up with a different means of propulsion and levitation, we must only use the airships when we have no other method of deploying the army,” said Iskanemo.“But if the speed of these craft can be increased in such a way, why did the Matoran of Metru Nui not design them that way?” asked Mozmana.“Well, they used jets of magnetized Protodermis, the same technology as their chute system uses. It's reliable and efficient, but slow. Our method is faster, but, well... the propulsion system is very complex and delicately balanced, you see, so... our modifications might not prove stable in the long term,” admitted Iskanemo. “Don't worry – we've tested it, and we've made sure it's safe enough for our purposes. It also drains power from more Kanoka, of course. For hauling cargo, you'd want something more reliable and less expensive, even if it was slower. We tried adding propellers and our own jet thrusters, but they were too heavy, so we're going with the disks. If something does go wrong, or if they are shot down without being torn apart, the airships can also float on water by their own buoyancy. Again, not very reliably, but it's better than sinking right away.”“Seems risky, but you've prepared much for this day, so I will trust you know what you're doing,” said Mozmana.“Thank you, sister,” said Iskanemo, smiling under his Kanohi Crast. “Now, let's find you a tent. It's getting dark, and we'll be rising early tomorrow.”The Toa trekked back to the army camp headquarters, where they had met Velitel and Waskita, and there they slept. A horn woke them, and they got up to see the sky was just barely beginning to brighten. As all the Toa gathered around a campfire, Iskanemo came forth to address them. He had just been in Waskita's tent, and Mozmana noticed he seemed worried about something, but was doing his best not to show it. She didn't need to speak to Imlen and Vilam to know that they had also noticed Iskanemo's concern. A meaningful glance from Imlen told her that though he too had misgivings, he was still determined to go through with this. The three Toa Muktirhith had formed a bond over the centuries, and so such slight gestures were often all they needed to communicate. In turn, Mozmana looked him in the eyes and gave a subtle nod that said she was with him to the end. Vilam, too, nodded to her companions: if they were in, so was she. In less than half an hour, all of Iskanemo's Toa had assembled, along with non-Toa commanders and other important beings. Beyond the circle of tents, the rest of the army had gathered, each warrior endeavoring to get a spot at the front.“Heroes of the universe, fellow enemies of tyranny!” Iskanemo addressed the crowd, with the Toa of Sonics at his side amplifying his voice. “It has been eight hundred years since our rightful master, our protector, the Great Spirit Mata Nui, was forced into sleep by the treacherous Makuta. I think most of you, if not all of you, remember that day. When the entirety of our universe trembled, and lights that once shone bright went dim, and fresh winds turned stale. And without Mata Nui protecting us, the Brotherhood has been free to conquer and murder, and to ravage our world in their battles against the Dark Hunters. I do not know how to awaken Mata Nui – they say that is a job other heroes are destined to do – but I do know that since we are on our own, and we have allowed the Makuta to get this far in their evil schemes, and the Dark Hunters to spread their corruption across all lands, it is our duty to put an end to it. We will overthrow the Brotherhood of Makuta, and then we will eradicate the Dark Hunters, and then the two most vile factions to still plague our universe will have been ended. Are you ready to bring these villains to justice?”There were cries of 'yes' and other excited affirmations.“Are you willing and able to liberate the oppressed?”The word 'yes' was cheered yet again.“When Mata Nui awakens, he will look upon the universe and see that we have righted the wrongs that have troubled his sleep. Am I right?”Iskanemo's voice had reached a climax, and, knowing that this was the end of his rallying speech, the Toa and other warriors all cheered the loudest this time.“And now, our commander Velitel will go over the battle plan,” finished Iskanemo, and he stepped aside to let the Toa of Fire take his place beside the Toa of Sonics.“Right. The target island is approximately one hundred and twenty kio from the coast,” said Velitel. “We estimate the journey will take two to two and a half hours. All of you that are flying on your own, remember: stay with the airships until the designated time. I know the airships are much slower than some of the aircraft, but we can't get too spread out. Let's keep those airships intact. I want us to get our whole army to the landing zone and be able to use the ships later. You know where you're meant to be – which of you are boarding the airships and which are taking smaller craft or jetpacks. Mata Nui's Gaze will be the command ship, piloted and captained by Iskanemo and I. Krasati will be telepathically relaying orders, so if you hear her voice in your head, obey it. The Dragon will be piloted by Ebanus* and captained by Launeta. Geistig will also be aboard to provide backup telepathic communications. Finally, Meyit's Legacy will be piloted by Jufeng, captained by Brulado, and telepathically linked by Tsushin.”There was a definite pattern here: all three airships were piloted by Toa of Air and captained by Toa of Fire. Of course, all three of the Toa in charge of telepathic communications either wore Kanohi Suletu or were Toa of Psionics. Mozmana had offered to fulfill that role on one of the ships, but Iskanemo had insisted that she and the others stay by his side. Still, in the unlikely event Krasati was incapacitated without the whole ship going down, Mozmana could take over from her. Velitel continued his briefing, going on to assign each commander's division into one of the three airships.“And lastly, Talapati's soldiers will also board the Dragon. The rest of you will be in the smaller craft or flying jetpacks. You know who you are and what equipment has been reserved just for you,” the Toa of Fire went on. “Now, as I said, the island is about one hundred and twenty kio offshore. The coastline is almost entirely steep, rocky slopes topped by a wall that circles the island. We know little of the layout of the fortress, but we know that there is a central keep surrounded by a fortified ring in the middle of the island. If all goes well, they will be unprepared for our assault, but expect to face strong defenses. If our timing is correct, many enemies will be gathered there for an operation on Stelt. That is why we are bringing the entire army – the island is small, but we wish to catch as many of their warriors in this attack as possible. The fortifications are also considerable. Of course, with the equipment we have, the walls aren't a problem, but their weaponry will be. That's why I want some of the more nimble aircraft to fly ahead to destroy any anti-air emplacements that threaten the airships. I'll give further orders once we're all aboard, and once we've reached the island we'll see where to go from there. I'm confident we have the firepower to reduce their keep to rubble. Now, let's head out. I want us in the air in an hour.”With that, the briefing was over, and the warriors began to head down to the bottom of the valley where the aerial vehicles waited. A pile of weapons, jetpacks, and other special equipment was unveiled, and Toa and other elite fighters took what had been set aside for them. The Toa Muktirhith were about to follow the rest of the army straight to the aircraft when they spotted Iskanemo beckoning to them by the stockpile.“I want all Toa to have a projectile weapon,” he said, pressing a Zamor launcher into Mozmana's arms. “I also reserved a couple of protosteel weapons for you. Imlen, I know you won't want to put your staff aside, but at least take this dagger just in case.”“Thank you, Iskanemo,” said Imlen, taking the dagger and storing it at his hip as Mozmana discarded her sword for a protosteel one. “What sort of weapon is that?”“Ah, this, this is something special,” said Iskanemo, patting the cannon resting on his shoulder. “It's a prototype light launcher – based on Artakha technology, in fact. But the Nynrah Ghosts haven't worked out all the problems – it'll be years until they can perfectly replicate the tech. It has the side effect of dimming the area around you with each shot, and it doesn't always work, but when it does go off... it's amazing. Spheres of concentrated light that can blow a hole in just about anything – and they're especially strong against creatures of Shadow.”“Sounds like something we could really use,” said Vilam. “How many more of these are there?”“They didn't say, but I got the impression there were no more than a handful in existence. The Ghosts were very kind to let me purchase this from them, though the price was high. In fact, much of our success obtaining all these vehicles and weapons is thanks to our covert dealings with the crafters and technicians of Nynrah,” said Iskanemo, and then he saw Velitel striding over to the pile of weapons. “Ah, Velitel! Here's your Blaster.”“Thank you, Iskanemo,” said Velitel, bowing slightly as he took the offered Cordak Blaster. “And congratulations on your speech. I think you really inspired them.”“But such fervor would be of little effect without a strategy to guide it,” said Iskanemo. “Very good briefing, but... a whole hour to take the skies? Surely we could be ready in nearly half that time.”“Only if we run. And we'd best save our energy for the battle, right?” said Velitel.“Good point,” said Iskanemo. “I suppose just itching to finally get to it. Centuries of dreaming and planning, and now, the day has come. Today, we'll make history!”“May future historical records tell of a great victory for our side,” said Imlen.“Indeed! Now, let's get going – it won't do to have the glorious leaders of this army be the last ones to go forth,” said Velitel.The five Toa chuckled as Waskita joined them, and together they made for the launch site at the bottom of the valley. Despite the merry banter, Mozmana could still sense underlying anxiety without needing to call upon her element. But no one said anything about it, and she convinced herself it was merely the apprehension anyone would feel before a battle. She had surely had her concerns even before noticing the hidden worries of others. And so she said nothing of the matter on the short trek to the airships. If the other Toa Muktirhith noticed, they did not mention it either. Regardless, their spirits were soon lifted when they came to the liftoff zone. The collection of vehicles had been impressive the first time they had seen it, but the sight of over a thousand armed beings scrambling into the three colossal vessels and scores of smaller craft was no less than breathtaking. While nearly a third of the army marched into the cargo hold of the Mata Nui's Gaze, Iskanemo ushered the Toa Muktirhith into the cockpit at the front of the vessel.Two other Toa of Psionics were already aboard: Waskita, who seemed to be meditating in a storage closet at the back of the cabin, and Krasati, who was standing alert a few paces behind the pilot's station. Iskanemo got into position at these controls and privately reviewed each lever and gage. The complexity of the system boggled Imlen, but Iskanemo seemed confident and comfortable as he placed his mismatched hands on a pair of large, brightly marked levers at the center of the apparatus. It took years of training and practice to attain a functional proficiency with the controls, and more to master them. Clearly, Iskanemo had had the time to teach himself the basics, but the Toa Muktirhith could only hope he and the others were capable of maneuvering the lumbering craft through a battle. As he turned away from the controls to instruct the others to take their seats, Velitel reached over and activated the communications link to the cargo hold. It was a device the Toa Muktirhith rarely saw – one that could record a voice and play it back at a connected location. The intercom did not allow communication between ships, however, which was why they were relying on telepathy for that.“I can hear you lot getting restless in there,” he said into the intercom, speaking over a lot of chatter coming from the hold's end of the communicator. “Settle down and get into position. You'll want to be holding on tight when we're in the air. I don't want you bouncing around in there like Kharakhara nuts.”“My warriors are ready, General Velitel,” Brenkonin's voice came from the device only a moment later.“Excellent discipline as always, Commander Brenkonin. We're starting up the launch systems now,” said Velitel as Iskanemo began manipulating the controls in a complex series of motions. “I want the rest of you to be ready when we are.”Prepare for takeoff, a telepathic message sounded in the heads of the Toa Muktirhith.The message had come from Krasati, broadcast indiscriminately to every mind in the location. The Toa looked out through the windshield and saw vehicles on all sides starting their engines. In the airships and several smaller craft, Levitation disks were moved into position, readied for discharging their power into the vehicles' hulls. The roar of turbines, buzz of propellers, and several other sounds from different forms of propulsion melded into a deep rumble that could be felt in the cockpit of the Mata Nui's Gaze as a tingling vibration in the floor and walls. Iskanemo took a few minutes to test the control surfaces while the other pilots did the same for their craft, then he gestured to Velitel and the Toa General activated the intercom again.“Sounds much better now,” he said, and indeed there was no background noise competing with his voice this time. “Commanders, report in.”“Brenkonin report – ”“Dhiokitis re – um...”“One at a time,” said Velitel firmly. “You know the drill.”“Brenkonin reporting. My warriors are still ready and waiting.”“Dhiokitis reporting. My division is ready.”“Ceanassi reporting. We are ready, General.”“Shireikan reporting. My soldiers are ready.”Several other commanders reported in this manner, with only one discipline problem in the ranks that was rectified by the death of the soldier. The Toa did not approve of such harsh punishment, but their allies came from many cultures, and they all needed to overlook their differences to work together. That warrior had come from a strict martial society in which disobedience was punished by death, and the Toa would not risk alienating his kinsfolk by denouncing their tenets. The diversity of the warriors also resulted in a disparity in the number each commander led – for instance, Brenkonin led about a hundred, while Shireikan had over twice that amount. Velitel and Iskanemo would have liked to have organized the divisions more evenly, but each commander's unit was mostly comprised of members of their own species or culture that they had brought into the service of the Toa. It would not do to redistribute these warriors and separate them from the fellow fighters they had experience fighting alongside, and commanders that represented one culture were loath to be made subordinate to another. And so, each airship carried up to a dozen or so culturally distinct divisions, though there were also many freelance warriors that had joined on their own and been distributed evenly.“Well, Krasati?” Velitel turned to ask a few minutes after the last of the commanders on the Mata Nui's Gaze reported in. “Is everyone else ready?”“No,” responded the telepathic communications officer, a concerned and somewhat annoyed expression noticeable through her Mask of Emulation. “No, one of the smaller craft is having problems. It's that four-seater craft over there – the blue one. I'm not very familiar with that type of vehicle, and didn't understand the technical details they told me. Should I relay them to you?”“No, you know I'm no engineer,” said the Toa of Fire. “Have Velvirki take a look at it. This had better not take long, or we'll need to leave without them.”Krasati nodded and closed her eyes as she resumed her telepathic communication. A moment later, a Toa of Earth with a custom eyepiece in his mask and a toolbox – Velvirki – got down from his skyfighter and went to repair the defecting aircraft. The hour of preparation time Velitel had designated in his briefing was nearly up when Velvirki diagnosed the problem as something that could not be easily repaired. With an exasperated sigh, Velitel ordered the vehicle's crew to abandon it and board the Meyit's Legacy. When that was done, everyone was finally ready. Engines that had been turned off or left idling powered up again, and the cockpit of the command ship trembled from the resulting throb. After Krasati performed one last check on Velitel's behalf, the time for launch was signaled. Had the Toa been standing when the Mata Nui's Gaze shot into the sky, they would have been knocked off their feet. The Meyit's Legacy had a frightening moment of instability, but Toa Jufeng managed to regain control. When he was satisfied all was going smoothly, Velitel ordered the aircraft to form up, and then they began their cruise.Imlen had sailed from island to island several times in his life, but he had never flown hundreds of bio over it. The view of the silver ocean below was astounding, but the wonder it filled him with was compounded by anxiety. He wasn't sure he was suited to flying. Again, he hoped the airships were safe, and that Iskanemo knew what he was doing. In the midst of the voyage, there was a sudden lurch that made Imlen shout in surprise and nearly knocked him over. Iskanemo apologized and assured him everything was alright, but the vessel continued to rock and vibrate for what felt like hours. Imlen tried closing his eyes, but he found that made his discomfort even worse. He considered starting a conversation to pass the time, but he could not think of anything to say to his teammates, and the other Toa were all busy. In their centuries of traveling together, the Toa Muktirhith had shared all their stories with each other, and now there was little more to tell.It had been years since Mozmana had told Imlen that she had come from a reclusive, almost monastic community of Ce-Matoran in a remote corner of the Southern Continent. Imlen still remembered the story of how she had become a Toa: a few decades after the Great Cataclysm, a mortally injured Toa of Stone had taken refuge in her homeland. She and her people had been unable to save the Toa, but he had recognized Mozmana's potential and transferred his Toa energy to her before he died. Her home was in a place threatened by many natural dangers, but her people had learned to defend themselves, and it was decided that Mozmana was meant to be their gift to the rest of the universe. And so Mozmana had been exiled in a sense – not as punishment, but because she was needed more elsewhere. After wandering alone for a few years, she had saved Vayrag from villagers that had thought he was a dangerous beast. That was not far from the truth, but she realized that her power could prevent his savage side from overcoming him completely, and so they had begun to travel together.About a year after that, they had met Iskanemo a little north of the Tren Krom Peninsula when – a sudden jolt interrupted Imlen's thoughts of Mozmana's tales.“What the – ” he exclaimed as he stumbled across the shifting floor and tripped over an unoccupied seat.“A storm. Look up ahead,” explained Iskanemo, pointing to a mass of swirling black clouds dead ahead. “Better strap yourselves in.”“We're not flying through that, are we?” said Mozmana as Velitel and Krasati sent out the order for the soldiers to strap themselves down or hold on tight.“Well, not as much as we can help, but these airships can't exactly turn on a widget,” said Iskanemo, and Velitel and Krasati also gave the order to follow the Mata Nui's Gaze as it turned to avoid the storm. “And this storm... it's... well, you saw – it seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, the skies weren't perfectly clear, but... well, I'm a Toa of Air, and I know when there's something... something unnatural about the weather.”“What? You think someone's manipulating it?” asked Vilam. “Makuta? Rahkshi?”“I'll send a couple of skyfighters down to take a look at the surface, but I doubt they'll find anything – nothing but water for kio around here,” said Velitel, and he nodded to Krasati in confirmation. “Well, Iskanemo? I know these things are lumbering, but they don't turn this slowly.”“I'm trying!” said the Toa of Air, straining to pull the controls as far as they would go in one direction, then another. “Have the more... maneuverable craft get out of here! We'll get... through this, don't worry.”Imlen had been dizzy and unhappy while the cruise was going smoothly, and now his experience was nearly torturous. Warning signals flashed and beeped, frantic messages flooded in, both from over the intercom and telepathic reports that Krasati dictated, and all the while the airship rocked and tumbled as Iskanemo struggled to regain control. The hull creaked as the flying vessel was forced into maneuvers it surely was not meant to perform, and the seat straps did nothing to prevent the limbs and heads of the Toa from flailing and bobbing from the inertia. After a length of time that could not have been an hour, yet felt like half the day to Imlen, the sky calmed and the aircraft leveled out. The Toa righted their loose Kanohi, took a deep breath, and checked what damage had been done. The reports were surprisingly good: though everyone was shaken, and many of the warriors suffered minor injuries, no one had been killed or even badly injured. One aircraft's magazine had come open and its ammunition had spilled into the sea, but all craft appeared to still be in decent condition after all that turbulence.Imlen took another deep breath, and felt he had to stand up, so he unstrapped himself and got to his feet. Walking up against the canopy, he saw the dark clouds parting, and the bright sky reflected off the open sea in a thousand dazzling sparkles below. A gap in the glimmer, barely noticeable at first, grew as they continued their voyage. Soon it was certain: there was an island down there, straight ahead.“That's not the island, is it?” he asked Iskanemo, pointing the little landmass out. “The target island?”“I... I don't think so,” said Iskanemo hesitantly. “But it's not any other place I recognize, either.”“It's too large to be the target island,” said Velitel. “But after that storm, I think we had better make an unscheduled stop to make sure everything is still in good shape. That place will do.”“And if it's inhabited by hostiles?” postulated Mozmana.“Well, we do have an army traveling with us,” said Velitel, smiling mischievously.The aerial fleet continued their journey to the island. The trip took longer than the Toa Muktirhith had expected, for it turned out the island was farther away than they had thought. It was also proportionately larger – perhaps even rivaling Stelt in size, they could see as they came closer. It was soon clear that this was no little uncharted island. And upon seeing the great walls and towering fortress, Mozmana had no doubt about the location's identity.“That's no empty island nor Brotherhood outpost,” she said with fear in her voice. “That... that must be Destral!”*Ebanus is rahkshi guurahk's character. Credit for the character and thanks for permission to use him goes to him.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Sep 21 2012 - 03:06 PM.

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#42 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Sep 01 2012 - 01:27 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-two==Off the Coast of Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

Iskanemo and Velitel stared straight ahead as the airship continued its course straight towards the Makuta headquarters. As they approached the island, the Toa could begin to see the details: jagged crags topped by enormous walls that surrounded a barren plain dominated by a colossal round central keep and dotted with rows of smaller structures. The appearance actually came close to matching Velitel's description of the island outpost, but on a far greater scale. Imlen had never seen such a large fortress – it encompassed nearly the entire island, which was bigger than Yrenta.“Iskanemo, turn us around,” he said after nothing changed for a minute. “Iskanemo!”“Wait. This may be destiny at work,” said the Toa of Air without turning his head.“Probably a Makuta trap,” said Vilam. “That storm led us right here.”“That does seem likely. But I'd expect to see more of their minions,” said Velitel. “The island doesn't look that occupied to me. Krasati, what can our lookouts see?”“About four hundred soldiers and Visorak, and a few scattered squads of Rahkshi,” said the telepath after taking a moment to communicate with the fleet's most keen-eyed members. “We can't tell how many Makuta are present, but I expect nearly all of them are in their own domains or conducting business elsewhere.”“Only four hundred? The rest must be hiding, waiting to ambush us,” said Imlen anxiously. “Vilam's right – this must be a trap.”“Actually, perhaps it is not the Makuta doing the scheming in this case,” said Vilam, a strange suspicion detectable in her voice and expression as she scrutinized Iskanemo and his command crew.“Indeed, perhaps Mata Nui has stirred in his sleep to influence our course, for I can think of no other reason for such luck,” said Iskanemo, though his speech faltered very slightly – a barely perceptible hesitancy. “The heart of the Brotherhood made vulnerable to us, just at the right time.”“I've seen enough bizarre coincidences to believe such a thing is possible. But I believe this time the cause is something more... tangible,” said Vilam, and her hand twitched in the direction of the sword hilt on her back. “If this isn't a Makuta trap... you planned this, this 'chance' storm that just happened to put us on a course to Destral, didn't you?”“What?” exclaimed Imlen, his shock and disbelief mixed with a dawning astonished realization. “You don't think they could have...”“Iskanemo? Is this true?” asked Mozmana, but the Toa of Air gave no reply. “Don't make me search for the truth myself.”To her distress, her old friend continued to ignore the accusation. To confirm or deny Vilam's suspicions, Mozmana would need to root through the mind of one of the four present Toa officers. Iskanemo certainly could have spared the concentration to reply, but she did not dare to take such a hold on his psyche when he was responsible for maintaining the delicate system that kept them aloft and level. No disaster would result from briefly incapacitating Velitel to perform a search, however, and he would make an easier target than the two other Toa of Psionics. And so, as her teammates put their hands on their weapons, Mozmana reached out with her elemental power and plunged into the thoughts and memories of the Toa of Fire. The red and silver-armored general grunted, staggered, and put a hand to his head as his mind was invaded and ransacked. Mozmana was impressed by how well he concealed the secret in the deepest reaches of his mind even when the allegation had been spoken allowed, but after digging for it like a Hapaka digging for a hidden treat, she found the truth.“You lied to us, brother,” she said with great hurt in her voice. “You and your... inner circle... you've betrayed this entire army.”“How could you do this?” demanded Imlen, unlimbering his staff, though he did not put it to use.“Yes, how?” said Vilam, but her anger was mingled with curiosity – she was literally asking how this gambit could be executed. “To deceive over a thousand of your own warriors, including dozens of fellow Toa, and to stage a mishap that puts us directly on course to Destral just when it is vulnerable to our attack?”“I'm sorry, Mozmana,” said Iskanemo, glancing back from the pilot's seat. “I... we're doing what we must.”“I don't know what sort of 'Toa' you have aligned yourself with, Iskanemo, but I will uncover the details of your duplicitous plot,” said the Toa Muktirhith of Psionics.With that, she prepared to search Velitel's mind again. But something stopped her – an invisible blast of a power that was very familiar to her, and yet was not her own. Reeling from being on the receiving end of a psychic assault for once, she looked up to see Waskita holding up her hand in a gesture that both channeled her power and was a clear signal to halt. The other Toa of Psionics was still wearing her opaque visor over her eyes, and she held no weapon, but she radiated power and determination.Stop, commanded Waskita, this time as a painless telepathic message to all three Toa Muktirhith rather than an overpowering mental blast against Mozmana. Velitel, Iskanemo, and Krasati must be allowed to do their jobs uninterrupted for this operation to be a success, but no visions have come to me this journey, and I can spare the time to inform you.“The time? We have no time for explanations now, we need to stop and turn around!” said Imlen, his indignant tone touched by a growing panic with the realization that they were still approaching the great island fortress. “Iskanemo, turn us – ”Waskita released another psychic blast, against Imlen this time, cutting the Toa of Plasma off mid-sentence. The pain caused Imlen to clutch his head with his free hand, and the other hand involuntarily loosened and dropped his staff.“I'm sorry, Toa Imlen, but please cooperate,” said the Toa of Psionics as she picked up Imlen's staff and handed it back. “We can do this, trust me. Trust us.”“I don't want to have to fight you,” said Imlen, and he snatched his staff back. “How... how can... we possibly succeed? What is your battle plan?”“Look ahead, Imlen. Destral is quite similar to the island fortress you were told we would be assaulting,” Velitel pointed out, gesturing to the island ahead and below. “It's larger, and more complex of course, but the basic layout is the same. And more importantly, we're attacking while most of their forces are away. There aren't many more enemies than our warriors were already prepared to face.”“How did you know the island would be so deserted?” asked Vilam.“We have agents, people that spy on – and when they can, even manipulate – both the Brotherhood and the Dark Hunters,” explained Waskita while Velitel stared at Krasati, who was no doubt engaged in a telepathic conversation with her leader. “It took years of planning, but we finally managed to get the Makuta to crush a Dark Hunter operation on Stelt. You see, the Hunters – as far as we know – are 'merely' involved in their usual activities on Stelt: racketeering, espionage, slavery, and other such crimes. But we made the Brotherhood believe that under the surface, they're making deals with the warlords in a grand plot to build a Steltian army.”“But the ruling class has ties to the Brotherhood. I even heard that one of them was made commander of the entire Visorak Horde, until he died in the Cataclysm,” said Mozmana. “Wouldn't the Brotherhood try diplomacy before sending in so many legions? They could quickly find out that the Dark Hunter threat is exaggerated.”“Perhaps. But we know that the leader of the Brotherhood isn't around,” said Waskita. “He's alive, but occupied elsewhere. And the Makuta that seems to be in charge in his absence – either his second-in-command, or perhaps an ambitious one overstepping his authority – is... not a subtle one. His name is Icarax, and he'd probably sooner sink Stelt into the ocean than attempt delicate negotiations. And sure enough, it looks like he's taken the bait.”“You mean he just took, what, half of Destral's garrison to – wait, what's that? That's not part of the island,” said Imlen, pointing to a large landmass that was separated from Brotherhood's island base by a narrow strait. “That... it looks like Stelt, but it can't...”“That is Stelt, and the Makuta have brought their island right alongside it,” confirmed Iskanemo as he pulled a lever that caused the airship's hull to rumble. “The entire island of Destral can teleport, you see.”“That means the Brotherhood warriors you expended all this effort to divert are just a short swim away!” said Imlen.“Not if we seize control of whatever gives the island the ability to teleport,” said Vilam.“Exactly. And if things go poorly for us, we can try to make it across the strait to Stelt,” said Waskita. “Once there, hopefully we can either fight our way free or scatter and escape in the chaos.”“I know what you're checking my head for, sister,” Iskanemo suddenly addressed Mozmana. “If you inform the soldiers, and they mutiny, I could lose control of the ship. I'm the only one that can fly it, too, so if something happens to me...”“I can't force you to stop, Iskanemo. But you know this isn't right,” said Mozmana. “You've always been driven, and devoted to put an end to the evil that plagues the universe, but this... this isn't like you. Such deception – it isn't what a Toa should do.”“You're still as... orthodox as ever, Mozmana. I'm not proud about having to fool these brave beings, but it's for the best,” said Iskanemo. “Maybe you will not judge us so harshly when you see what we have seen. Waskita, show them.”Iskanemo's clairvoyant ally raised her hand, and the Toa Muktirhith were plunged into a vision of the future, transferred directly from her memories. The first detail Imlen and his companions noticed was the bodies. They were in a misty dreamland, and it was impossible to see where they were – where this would happen – but the dead bodies were clearly perceptible. They were the corpses of Iskanemo and Velitel's soldiers, and there were hundreds of them. Imlen thought he caught a glimpse of scattered Toa corpses, but before he could be sure, the vision changed. In the dark, three figures battled an unending horde of enemies. At first, all was silent, then the silence was broken by the hiss of Rahkshi and the screeching and chattering of Visorak, punctuated by the clanging of metal. The broken forms of fallen Brotherhood minions piled high, but it was clear that the three beings could not hold out much longer. One went down, followed shortly by another. The third warrior lasted what felt like a few more minutes, but he or she also succumbed, caught by a Rahkshi's energy beam followed by a volley of Rhotuka. A dim light – torchlight, Imlen thought, but he could not be sure – fell upon the vanquished trio, and their identity was revealed. As the realization struck the Toa Muktirhith, the vision ended abruptly.“You saw your own deaths,” said Imlen incredulously. “You know you're going to die, and your soldiers are going to be slaughtered. Why are you going through with this?”“What my mask shows me is destined to happen. There is no way to change it,” said Waskita. “The deaths of our soldiers weigh heavily on my conscience, but we only know that many of them will die. We don't know that this operation will fail. It will be at the cost of many lives, but there is still hope the Brotherhood will fall this day.”“You're saying no matter what we do, you three and all those warriors will die?” said Mozmana, and Waskita nodded sadly.“I recognized Ceanassi and his warriors among the dead,” Vilam realized. “So they, at least, are destined to die on the ground.”“And if they make it to the ground, I expect we will too, no matter what – ”Just as he began to tighten his grip on his staff, Imlen fell to the ground, unconscious. The psionic energy emanating from Waskita could almost be felt as a tingle in the air, but she had barely raised a hand. Instinctively, Vilam and Mozmana drew their weapons. Iskanemo's allies did not strike them down as they had Imlen, but rather stared intensely at the two female Toa Muktirhith. Vilam and Mozmana met the gaze of Waskita, then Velitel, then Krasati. Iskanemo was still deep in concentration keeping the vessel aloft and on course. After a moment of tension, the two defiant Toa backed down.“Fighting over this will do no good,” said Velitel. “Save it for the enemy.”Mozmana nodded reluctantly and attempted to rouse Imlen. It took several minutes to wake the Toa of Plasma, and when he did finally regain consciousness, he had a terrible headache that prevented him from standing. By then, it was time to activate the system of Concealment disks that would keep the three airships hidden, and already something was about to go wrong. The Toa looked outside to see the Meyit's Legacy vanish from sight, just as planned. A few of the smaller craft activated cloaking devices of their own, and the rest increased their altitude to hide in a nearby mass of clouds. But the other airship, the Dragon, did not turn invisible when Krasati sent the signal. To the dismay of the command crew aboard Mata Nui's Gaze, the unresponsive vessel instead began to turn, changing course as quickly as it could.“What's going on?” demanded Velitel. “Is this Ebanus's doing, or was there a mutiny?”“I... I don't know,” Krasati said aloud. “I've lost contact. My power is being blocked out.”“Cowards! They pledged to follow me through – wait... no!” Velitel's anger turned to fear as he realized the direction the rogue airship was heading. “The fools! They're going right to Stelt! If the Brotherhood hasn't already seen them, they soon will.”“How much time does that give us?” said Mozmana, worriedly looking up from her work on soothing Imlen's sore head.“Between no time at all and an hour, I'd guess,” said Velitel. “No, that's a poor estimate. Let's see, if they land far from any settlements...”“We might have... time to turn around,” said Imlen, still grimacing and clutching his head. “Do it... before it's too late.”“We're going to die today anyway – me, Iskanemo, Waskita, and probably the rest of you,” said Velitel as he shook his head. “We may as well hit Destral as hard as we can.”Imlen did not reply. He wondered if Velitel and the others were making Waskita's vision come true because of their faith in it, and if they had never seen it, the future would be different. But he already had a terrible headache, and did not wish to dwell on that subject. This was not the time for philosophy or speculation on causality. Struggling to focus through the unpleasant sensation that was the aftermath of having his mind scrambled, he reviewed the situation and his options. In a fraction of a second, Waskita had picked up on his intention to attack and rendered him unconscious before he could act. Though clarity and order was returning to his mind, he still felt an unusual sensation. The feeling was familiar, and he realized that the skilled Toa of Psionics was still reading his mind. She was waiting for him to make another move, and as soon as he decided to try anything, she would subdue him again. Perhaps Vilam and Mozmana would have time to take her down, but Krasati and Velitel were also watching them, and there was a good chance a battle would interfere with Iskanemo's piloting.And the Toa of Air was right: distracting the pilot or damaging the controls could be catastrophic. Imlen intended to save these soldiers, but they would have a poorer chance of surviving in a plummeting airship than on a battlefield. With an exasperated sigh mixed with a frustrated growl, he submitted to the authority of Iskanemo's crew. His companions, it seemed, had already come to the same conclusion. Mozmana and Vilam disapproved of this deception as much as he did, he was sure, but Mozmana was more cautious than he was, while Vilam was more quick-witted. The former would have decided not to take the risk out of principle, and the latter had already analyzed the situation. So they waited. A short while passed, the silence broken only by Iskanemo and Velitel muttering to each other occasionally. Waskita and Krasati seemed to be trying again to contact the Dragon telepathically, but with no success. Still, everything else was going smoothly. Nothing had come to intercept the deserting airship, and the rest of the fleet was still hidden.Then the swarm came. A dark cloud rose up from several nearby locations on the war-torn island and moved to intercept the lone vessel. The Dragon finally activated its concealment system, but it could not move fast enough to evade the aerial war Rahi the Brotherhood had scrambled. The flying creatures were kio away, but closing the distance quickly. In minutes, they would be close enough to the Dragon to find it despite its invisibility. Velitel presented a calm facade, but Mozmana could keenly feel his indecision. His years of self-training to make difficult choices under pressure were being put to the test. If he ordered the smaller aircraft to emerge from the clouds to defend the errant ship, there was a chance it would make it to the ground, but then the rest of the fleet would be revealed. Destral was still about a twenty minute flight away at the airships' speed, and everything could be ruined if the Brotherhood had that much time to prepare. Mozmana considered using her power to subtly influence him, but before she could, the Toa of Fire made his decision on his own.“Have them move to defend the Dragon, Krasati,” he said, to the relief of the Toa Muktirhith. “The beings aboard that vessel may have betrayed us and messed everything up, but we can't abandon them to die.”Krasati nodded without hesitation, and seconds later the armada of smaller craft broke out of the clouds and moved to the location of the invisible Dragon. The decision was made just in time, for before the escorting craft were halfway there, the Brotherhood air force let out a barrage of Rhotuka and other ranged attacks in an attempt to locate and expose the airship. Soon, the ship had been pinpointed and the Kanoka energies concealing it dispelled. Before they could fire a second barrage focused on their target, the Brotherhood beasts were assailed by a hail of Zamor, Rhotuka, and other projectiles from the vehicles that had come to the Dragon's rescue. The skyfighters of Iskanemo's military cut into the enemy force, and with that a massive dogfight began in the sky over the strait between Stelt and Destral. Imlen felt helpless. The battle had begun, and he and the other passengers of the Mata Nui's Gaze were invisibly flying away, still on their original course.Review

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#43 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Sep 11 2012 - 05:13 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-three==Off the Coast of Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

“Is there some way we can help?” the Toa of Plasma asked desperately. “Any spare jetpacks, or – or compact air sleds aboard this thing?”“A few of our soldiers can fly,” said Velitel with a shake of his head. “But we can't send them. We can't risk the Brotherhood's flyers finding – ”The general was interrupted by sudden lurch. The Toa stumbled as the airship plummeted. Iskanemo shouted a word the Toa Muktirhith did not know, but it was certainly a foul obscenity in a harsh language, perhaps the Skakdi tongue.“The Zamor! Discharge those yellow Zamor into the ship until we stop falling!” he barked as he pulled uselessly on the controls.Of the Toa that had not fallen over, Mozmana was nearest to the crate of energy-dispersing Zamor, and so she complied. Immediately, she grabbed a couple of the crystalline spheres and dropped them onto the deck, allowing the energy contained within them to permeate the ship. Iskanemo sighed with relief as the aircraft leveled out, still more than a hundred bio above the water. A few seconds later, a flying Rahi buzzed past the cockpit from the left, followed by one that passed above the ship. They looked rather like winged Visorak, and after searching his memory for a moment, Imlen recognized them. They were Venom Flyers, Rahi created by the Makuta to provide air support for the Visorak Horde. The Rhotuka launched by Venom Flyers negated flight, whether it was by natural or artificial means. Fortunately, Iskanemo's crew had come prepared with Zamor spheres that could counteract the effect of the spinners. But Zamor would run out, while Rhotuka could be recharged, and surely the Brotherhood force had other means of shooting them down. The airship was a lumbering target, and it possessed no weapons that were of any use against the nimble Rahi.“Seems they've already found us,” Vilam stated the obvious. “I think you had better send out those flying warriors.”“You're right,” said Velitel, and just as he activated the intercom the ship trembled violently. “Damage report! Velitel here, give me a damage report!”“The hull has been dented, but not breached,” came the slightly distorted reply. “It was a series of physical impacts, I'd guess from Nui-Rama or Nui-Kopen.”“Alright, we need everyone who can fly outside and in the air before those bugs are all over us,” said Velitel. “Hear me? That is an order: every soldier capable of flight is to leave by the ramp – which Iskanemo is lowering now – and defend the ship from the outside.”“I will relay your command, sir,” said the being on the other end of the intercom.“Krasati, what are we up against here?” Velitel asked as he turned the intercom's voice input off.“I estimate about six or seven hundred Rahi,” said the Toa of Psionics. “I can't be sure, but I think about half of them are Venom Flyers and the rest are mostly Nui-Rama. There are also a handful of warriors in skyfighters.”“And what's the status of the Meyit's Legacy?”“The Brotherhood's creatures have not yet found it, but their guess of its location is near the mark,” said Krasati after concentrating for a moment. “It will be discovered any moment.”“Have Jufeng bring the Meyit's Legacy closer to us, and send two squadrons to intercept the enemy before it's found,” said Velitel. “Send another three –”“Pardon me, General, but it's already too late for that,” interrupted Krasati. “The Meyit's Legacy has been revealed.”“Summon three squadrons to defend it, then, and three for us,” Velitel tensely amended his order. “Have another three stay with the Dragon, and have the rest go where they are needed.”Minutes passed – ten, twenty, thirty, Imlen could not tell. His feeling of helplessness did not improve as his allies fought and died in the air around him. He could not even see much of what was going on, much less participate. He was not sure if the command crew ever got a response from the Dragon, but he did not find anything out. From what he heard, Ebanus and Launeta's vessel was continuing towards Stelt, descending as it went, striving to endure the attacks of the Brotherhood's creatures. The other two airships were moving as fast as they could towards the nearest part of the Destral fortress. Though he was tense, Velitel seemed to remain relatively calm, and still radiated authority. But it was obvious the fleet was no match for the Brotherhood's air force. Already ten Toa had fallen, and over twice that number of their aircraft had been destroyed. There were surely yet more flying enemies on Destral itself that had not yet joined the battle, and the Makuta had not even sent any Rahkshi in yet, as far as Imlen could tell. He was becoming more and more certain that he and his companions had made a terrible mistake coming here.“It's gone!” the voice of one of the lookouts watching from ports in the ship's hull crackled from the intercom. “The... the Dragon is destroyed. Shredded in midair!”“No...” Velitel gasped, then he collected himself and responded brusquely. “Are there any survivors?”“Yes, General. Most of the flying warriors had already exited the ship, and more are escaping the wreckage now,” said the lookout. “I believe I saw Toa Ebanus gliding out.”“I can't let them all die,” said the Toa of Fire, turning to his communications officer. “Krasati, have our craft draw the bugs away from the wreckage, to give the survivors a chance.”“There are too many Rahi, General,” said Krasati, her normally matter-of-fact tone expressing fear and sadness for the first time. “The Dragon was torn apart like... like flesh in a Kavinika pit. Our fighters don't stand a chance.”“Just... just have them do what they can to distract the enemy,” said Velitel, who was also starting to lose his cool. “Iskanemo, bring us down just above the water. More of us can swim than can fly, and we're nearly out of dispelling Zamor.”“Got it,” responded the green-armored pilot. “Brace yourselves, everyone.”Velitel activated the intercom's voice input and repeated Iskanemo's warning into it, then the Toa of Air sent the Mata Nui's Gaze into a rapid plunge. He cut off as much of the vehicle's lift as he dared, enough to make it descend as fast as it could without the sudden stop injuring its passengers. It was still enough to make the Toa feel like their feet were falling out from beneath them, only for them to suddenly slam into their seats and the deck. Looking out the windshield, Imlen could see the airship was only a few bio above the water, and he felt a little safer. It was true – everyone who could fly had already left the ship, but many of those remaining could swim. At this altitude, they no longer had to fear falling to their deaths if their ability to fly was negated. There was less room to maneuver, but that did not matter much for the lumbering vessel, and now there were fewer sides left vulnerable to the flying Rahi. The Meyit's Legacy soon followed the command ship down, though Nui-Rama still swarmed over it. Some of the bugs were also tenaciously following the Mata Nui's Gaze, causing the hull to rattle periodically as they assailed it.Judging by the reports the Toa Muktirhith heard over the next minutes, the Brotherhood forces were mostly ignoring the survivors from the Dragon, as Velitel's skyfighters were inflicting too much damage for them to stay still and endure. The Rahi had their enemy terribly outnumbered, but the Toa had managed to recruit skilled pilots and put them at the controls of formidable vehicles. For every aircraft destroyed, a dozen Rahi had fallen out of the sky. But it was only a matter of time – a short span of time – before the superiority of the skyfighters was made irrelevant by the overwhelming numbers of the Brotherhood's beasts. A two-seater craft darted ahead of the Mata Nui's Gaze in time for Imlen to see it overtaken and demolished by its insect pursuers. He ducked involuntarily as the debris rushed past the windshield, some of it bouncing off the airship's exterior. Several times, the airship fell into the sea with a splash, and each time the Toa used another of the orange Zamor to cancel the effect of the Venom Flyers' Rhotuka and allow the vessel to take off again.Imlen felt rather less safe upon seeing the water below churning with vicious sea Rahi, fish that had been designed to tear the flesh from the bones of anyone bold enough to swim near the headquarters of the Makuta. And while their flying warriors and aircraft were barely managing to keep the Brotherhood's aerial forces at bay, the armada was quickly approaching another danger. There was a good reason to assault the fortress from a high altitude: the outer wall was lined with defensive emplacements that were vulnerable from above, but a threat to anything approaching by sea. Cannons, disk launchers, and more opened fire upon the approaching airships. The plan had been to send the agile skyfighters ahead of the airships to neutralize these defenses, but the swarm of Venom Flyers and Nui-Rama was keeping the airships' escort too busy to take the emplacements out fast enough. Iskanemo's airship was rocked by blasts from the shore, and damage reports streamed in from the intercom. Before the last dispelling Zamor was used, the flight systems were crippled, turning the airship into a sea ship.“Tell them to ignore the bugs for now – we need those cannons taken out now!” ordered Velitel, nearly shouting the command to Krasati, who Mozmana could sense was struggling to coordinate her telepathic communication under such stress.The skyfighters complied, leaving the airships and unmounted flying warriors to the Rahi as they zoomed off to punch a hole in the fortress's defenses. The Meyit's Legacy was immediately forced down into the sea, and the bug Rahi crawled nearly unhindered over both ships. The bugs' claws and stingers and projectiles from the coastline punched holes and dents in the vessels' surfaces, and yet the transports were not so easily stopped. The sea creatures defending Destral could not penetrate their hulls, and their propulsion systems stayed intact enough to keep them advancing slowly but steadily. The shore was less than half a kio away... then four hundred bio... three hundred bio... two hundred bio – then there was a sudden lurch aboard the Mata Nui's Gaze accompanied by a terrible grinding noise.“General, they've torn the hold open!” one of the commanders reported over the intercom, and there were shouts in the background. “They're forcing their way in!”“They'll try to tear the ship apart from the inside. Don't let that happen!” Velitel replied, then he turned to the Toa Muktirhith. “Time for you to join the battle. Go help – ”Before Velitel could finish his sentence, a Nui-Rama burst through the windshield, showering the Toa with transparent shards. The Rahi had charged the cockpit head-on without regard to its own health. Now mortally wounded, it thrashed about, damaging equipment and knocking the startled Toa down before expiring.“Is everyone alright?” asked Waskita as the Toa picked themselves up off the deck.“I think so,” Vilam was the first to reply, and the other Toa also responded affirmatively, with the exception of Krasati.“My mask...” she said groggily. “Where's my mask?”“There,” said Velitel, pointing to a crushed Kanohi Hau next to the carcass of the Nui-Rama. “It's broken.”“I... I can't think – can't focus... without a mask,” Krasati said, staggering as she put her hand to her head. “Feel so weak...”“Here. Take mine,” offered Waskita.As Waskita removed her Mask of Psychometry and blinked from the light now shining in her eyes, a strange feeling crossed Vilam's mind. She was not completely certain, but she believed that in the vision of the future Waskita had shown the Toa Muktirhith, the seer had been wearing a different mask in the moment of her death. It had seemed insignificant at the time, and Vilam had barely noted it, but now this evidence of the vision starting to come true gave her chills. Waskita was now lifting the visor of her mask and handing it over to Krasati. Time would tell if she would find another to replace it – perhaps she would scavenge one from a fallen soldier.“Thank you, sister,” said Krasati once the mask was on her face.“Iskanemo, any damage to the controls?” asked Velitel as the Toa of Air got back into the pilot's seat.“Yes, but nothing that matters now,” said Iskanemo. “But look – the intercom is smashed.”“Get back there,” Velitel said to the Toa Muktirhith. “We'll have to communicate telepathically.”The Toa Muktirhith complied, running down the corridor to the cargo hold as the ship rocked and lurched from the rolling waves and the attacks battering it. Upon reaching the hold, they saw that nearly the entire roof had been taken off, exposing the army. Nui-Rama, Venom Flyers, and other Rahi swooped down and crawled over the broken edge of the hull, savaging the warriors with claws, stingers, and mandibles. A quick use of elemental power gave the soldiers some respite, but they were not as happy to see the Toa as Imlen had hoped.“What in Karzahni is going on?” demanded one of Dhiokitis's lieutenants. “We were supposed to capture a 'small island outpost' and end up attacking Destral?”“Explain yourselves, Toa,” said another soldier. “This was no accident, was it?”“We've been tricked just as you have,” said Mozmana. “This is not the time to fight amongst ourselves.”“She's right,” boomed a familiar, commanding voice, and soldiers stepped aside to make room for King Brenkonin. “Most of us have a greater chance of surviving on dry land than in these infested waters, so let us ensure this vessel reaches the shore.”“Thank you, King Brenkonin,” said Imlen. “Now, where are the airborne warriors escorting us?”“It's just Commander Brenkonin now,” corrected the former warlord. “And I fear that they have all been slain, for they were already gone when the hull was breached.”“We should assume those defending the Meyit's Legacy have their hands full, if they're not already dead,” said Vilam. “With the skyfighters off attacking the fortifications, it looks like we're on our own.”“Indeed, but your aid will be of considerable worth,” said Brenkonin. “Now we fight together – here they come again!”The Rahi were indeed returning in another wave. Again, some attacked directly from the air, diving down into the wide breach in the cargo hold's roof, while others landed on the outside of the ship and crawled down into the gap. The warriors defended themselves, and with the aid of the Toa they inflicted heavy losses on the Brotherhood's swarm. In the air, the creatures had been able to outmaneuver and surround their enemies, but now they could only attack from above. Arrows, Zamor, and other projectiles created a screen of defensive fire, and most Rahi that broke through were quickly cut down upon coming into melee range. But while Velitel's forces were suffering few casualties this time, the open wound in the ship was worsening. The Rahi tore at the metal shell and the framework that supported it, widening the rupture, and even the impacts of falling carcasses were inflicting damage. If this continued, either the entire top of the ship would be removed, or the Rahi would penetrate the lower half of the hull and let water flood in.The Toa and their allies would have to bring the fight somewhere else. Without waiting for a lull in the combat, Imlen led his companions to a piece of scaffold that was hanging low enough for them to pull themselves up onto. Meant to provide access to the upper part of the ship for maintenance, the network of platforms and walkways connected to the ship's frame had been severely damaged, but if they were careful the Toa would be able to use it to reach the top surface of the hull. They called for the soldiers below to cover them as they ascended, and as the warriors kept the Brotherhood's creatures from interfering, the Toa scrambled up twisted metal poles, hanging cables, and broken platforms. The climb was dangerous, for some parts collapsed under the weight of the Toa, and the height brought back some of the dizziness Imlen had suffered from Waskita's psychic attack, which he thought had worn off. Twice he fell, the first time he managed to catch himself and pull himself back up and the second time Vilam grabbed his hand just in time. Vilam also lost her footing once, and even agile Mozmana moved uncertainly.But without suffering any injuries worse than slightly strained arms, the Toa made it to the top and climbed up onto the hull. Though they had made it, they were still not on a flat, steady surface – the hull was curved, and structurally compromised in many places, and the ship continued to shudder and wobble. As she carefully stood up, Vilam was immediately knocked down by a Venom Flyer. Mozmana used her element to render the Rahi unconscious before it could come at them again, and as Imlen helped Vilam up, he saw more of the flying creatures leaving the Meyit's Legacy to attack the Mata Nui's Gaze. It looked like the other ship was not as badly damaged, though it was too far for the Toa to be sure. Apparently, the Brotherhood swarm was giving up on that target for now to finish off the weakened vessel. A thud sounded, causing the ship to vibrate slightly, and the Toa looked down to see that some of the warriors had attempted to follow them up, but what was left of the scaffolding had collapsed.“We'll find another way up,” called an officer while his subordinates tended to those of their comrades that had survived the fall. “Hang in there.”“Please hurry – I think the entire swarm is converging on us now!” said Mozmana.“I hope you can hold them off for a few minutes,” said the officer, and he began to direct everyone to another part of the ship.The order was quickly agreed on and spread, but the hold could not be emptied so easily. The commanders did their best to maintain order as they led their warriors into the corridors. Above, the Toa finished off the last of this wave and prepared for the arrival of the rest of the swarm. Nearly half of the Rahi had been defeated, but hundreds remained, and all of them had gathered into one cloud that was racing to the command ship. Skilled Toa learned to conserve their elemental energy, but a wise Toa – a Toa that could survive – also knew when a great release of power was necessary. This was one such time. The Toa waited for the Rahi to come a little closer, then Vilam channeled her power into the launcher built into her sword and fired the electric Rhotuka into the approaching flock. When the spinner was in the midst of the bugs, it exploded into a web of lightning bolts that bounced from one target to another. Vilam did not often face so many foes at once, but she had enough practice with chain lightning to take out a few dozen with this attack.The rest of the Rahi were unfazed, continuing to their target with single-minded determination. The Venom Flyers were trained to be this fanatically loyal to the Brotherhood, but this was not the case for most of the other creatures. As Vilam began to pick them off one by one or in small groups, Mozmana readied her launcher and opened a pouch of special Zamor Iskanemo had given her. With careful aim, she fired the first sphere at the nearest Nui-Rama. It hit, and the released energy disrupted the magnetic force holding the infected masks to the insect's face. Freed from the control of its masters, the Rahi hesitated, confused by the sight of its hive-mates flying alongside strange other creatures. Before it could make a decision, the nearby Venom Flyers noticed its mental unshackling and mercilessly eliminated the aberrant insect. That was one less Rahi to worry about, but Mozmana's attack had not been effective enough. She had a limited number of Zamor, and the Rahi were still too far away for her to count on every shot hitting its target.A strategy quickly formed in her mind. Once the swarm was close enough, she fired a series of shots as quickly as she could. This attempt failed – too many shots missed. She tried again, and this time most of the salvo hit, causing several Nui-Rama to lose their infected Kanohi in quick succession. Now, before the Venom Flyers could react, Mozmana reached out with her elemental power. She implanted a piece of information and a suggested course of action into the liberated creatures' simple minds:Your brother and sister Rama are enslaved to an outsider's will. Remove their Kanohi!The message was actually more of an empathic signal than a statement, and the Rahi understood. The small group of emancipated Nui-Rama grew as those Mozmana had freed ripped the Kanohi off of their fellow Rahi. The Venom Flyers rushed to quash this this rebellion, and while confusion spread through the swarm, Vilam continued to pick off targets. Imlen remained still through all this, but he was not completely idle. When he was less experienced, he would have thought a direct spray of plasma into the swarm to be the best course of action. However, mentoring from beings he had met in his travels along with personal experience had taught him some more thoughtful tactics. Though he appeared to be leaving the fight to his sisters, he was in fact reaching out with his consciousness, focusing on where he intended to release his power. He waited until the Rahi were close enough – less than ten bio away from the ship – then he channeled his element into the area he was concentrating on. Great jets of superheated steam erupted from the surface of the ocean under the Rahi, scalding many of the them and furthering the chaos that Vilam and Mozmana had started.The combined efforts of the three Toa had taken over a hundred of the Brotherhood's Rahi out of the fight, and demoralized and confused the rest, but the creatures were not about to give up. The Venom Flyers were more infuriated than afraid, and did not dare to disobey their masters. The other Rahi that still bore infected Kanohi had no choice but to continue the attack, for any free will of their own was suppressed by the control of the Makuta. Just as the foremost of these minions of the Brotherhood reached the ship and came down upon the Toa, a hatch opened. Soldiers streamed out and immediately joined the battle, allowing the Toa to use their elemental powers sparingly. Most of the creatures had no ranged attacks that were of any use in this situation, and any foolish enough to come close to the Toa and the more skilled warriors were quickly cut down. However, there was nowhere to take cover in this place, and several of the warriors were knocked off the curved surface of the ship and fell into the water, where they were devoured by the carnivorous fish. Worse, the Rahi were continuing to damage the ship, though they could do less damage from the outside.Then, only about a minute after the soldiers joined the battle, the Rahi suddenly halted their attack. The warriors caught their breath and expressed their relief as the insects and other beasts withdrew, flying up and away as quickly as they had descended. The Toa and their allies were so relieved by this reversal and the chance to rest that they lowered their guard for a fatal moment. When the more alert members of the army saw the large projectile hurtling towards the ship, it was already too late. There was an overpowering burst of energy and noise, and the Toa felt themselves falling even as they lost consciousness.Review

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#44 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Sep 17 2012 - 12:12 AM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-four==Off the Coast of Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

Mozmana woke, and though she was dazed for a brief moment, she knew she was in danger, and this immediately returned her to her senses. She could not have been unconscious for more than half a minute, but already she was in the water.. and being gripped tight by tentacles. The memory of the ferocious sea creatures she had seen in the sea flashed through her mind, and she struggled desperately. But as soon as she tightened her muscles in an attempt to pull herself free, she felt pain in the right and rear side of her body. She recalled the blast that had knocked her out – she had been partly facing away from it, so that side of her had been exposed to the explosion. But the pain had not occurred until she stressed herself, and it was not terrible. She was probably not too badly injured, then. But it wouldn't matter if she lacked the strength to escape from this squid, or whatever it was that held her.“Toa Mozmana? Are you alright?” a deep, slightly gargling voice interrupted her thoughts.She turned her head – in the process confirming her neck was unharmed – and saw a sturdy four-armed amphibian warrior. He had a concerned expression on his faintly luminescent face, and the tentacles wrapped around her were his.“I... I think so. I'm a little sore, but not hurt badly,” she said. “Thank you, um...”“Crepuscul,” the blue and green soldier gurgled.“Well, I'm in your debt, Soldier Crepuscul,” said Mozmana, as she looked around.To her relief, she immediately saw that the Mata Nui's Gaze had not yet been sunken or blown to bits. Warriors that had also been thrown overboard by the blast ringed the vessel, some alive and some dead or unconscious. But though the vessel still floated in the water nearby, it had clearly been severely damaged. The shot that had struck the top side of the ship must have been followed by several additional hits, for the hull was riddled with holes of various sizes. Water was leaking in, and she saw a section where the outer layer of armor had been peeled away, exposing a badly damaged rack of Kanoka that struck the inner hull. The disks were keeping the vessel afloat and slowly moving towards the shore, at least for the moment. For now, Mozmana had more immediate concerns. It was likely her companions were dead, and the aquatic Rahi guarding the waters around Destral were converging on the survivors.“I think I can swim,” she said, and upon being released by Crepuscul she found she could, but then a realization struck her. “My sword – I've lost my sword.”“Just a moment,” said the amphibious being, and with that he moved closer to a corpse floating in the water nearby and retrieved the fallen warrior's sword with an outstretched tentacle. “May this poor being be comforted that his weapon is still of some use to his cause.”“I hope so. Thank you again, Crepuscul,” said Mozmana, taking the sword as a school of Takea encircled the pair.Mozmana felt even more indebted to Crepuscul when she compared his prowess in the fight against the sharks to hers. She was sore, worried, and not accustomed to battling in the water. He, on the other hand, was suited to this environment, and he fought with skill and confidence. He did most of the fighting, and she was sure she would have been killed without his assistance. And yet the sea beasts were numerous, and the amphibian was not as slender and agile as her. The last Takea, an especially large specimen, managed to outmaneuver him and bite off one of his arms at the elbow. He cried out in pain, and Mozmana barely managed to knock it out with a psychic attack before it charged her.“Are you alright?” she said, though she knew the question could have been worded better for a situation such as this. “If there's flesh damage, I can heal – ”“No, no,” the warrior said tightly, grimacing from the pain. “It... it will grow back... on its own... eventually. Most of it. For now, I still have more arms than you.”“I can still help ease the pain,” she said, interlocking her arms with a pair of his so the two warriors could help each other swim. “It will take only a trivial amount of my elemental power.”“Thank you,” gurgled Crepuscul, gasping with relief as she did what she could to diminish his suffering.Together, they swam towards the Mata Nui's Gaze, which was not far off, but was moving slowly away. Before they reached it, more surviving soldiers came to their side. The warriors joined hands so as to support their weaker members and to prevent the group from drifting apart. Mozmana was relieved to see Vilam and Imlen on the other side of the vessel's wake, but was again fearful when she noticed that Vilam was not moving. With help from more survivors, Imlen brought himself and his motionless sister over to Mozmana's group. The survivors were all together now, and they caught up to the ship they had been knocked off of and grabbed onto the hull where they could find handholds.“Imlen!” Mozmana called, carefully pulling herself closer to her companions along the vessel's smooth stern.“Mozmana! You're alive,” said Imlen, and he reached out to take his comrade's hand as soon as she was close enough.Mozmana simply nodded with relief as she allowed Imlen to draw her in closer. A quick mental scan showed that Vilam still had a mind to scan – meaning she was alive. But she was clearly badly hurt, and Imlen was also in worse shape than Mozmana was. He bore scorch marks all down the left side of his body, and the armor on that side was deformed from the heat and cracked in places. Both of Vilam's arms were bent at unnatural angles, though the left arm was bent little enough so that it could have merely been a muscular injury, which Mozmana's Kanohi had the power to heal. Several of the pistons helping to support her legs were also smashed. There was little visible damage to her head, but Mozmana imagined she must have suffered a worse concussion than the rest of them, since she was still unconscious. Mozmana knew of little that she could do, and it would be difficult for her to focus on the use of her mask while floating in dangerous waters, but she did her best. The Mask of Healing mended Vilam's sprained left arm and what other injuries to her organic tissue Mozmana could find. Then the Toa of Psionics used her elemental power to soothe her sister's rattled brain.With Vilam still unconscious, it was hard for Mozmana to tell how much her mental aid had helped, but she did not dare risk more damage by waking the injured Toa prematurely. She soon had to halt her efforts – but not before ensuring Vilam was stable enough – for a greater force of sea Rahi had assembled and was attacking the floating soldiers. Larger and more fearsome things than Takea had come, as well as smaller but more numerous fish. And yet these were not trained and bred to obey the Brotherhood, as the Venom Flyers were, nor did they bear infected Kanohi. They were simply looking for a meal, or to defend their territory, and were just as likely to attack other fish. It took a small effort for Mozmana to convince many of the Rahi to ignore the soldiers. Several warriors wore Masks of Rahi Control, and they used these to take control of the larger creatures. Under their influence, these great sea beasts devoured the rest of the Rahi that were still attacking before being ordered away. Imlen endeavored to find a way back into the ship before the Rahi could break free of their enthrallment and decide to attack again.After searching for a hatch or a breach through which they could climb, Imlen gave up and simply used his element to melt a hole, high enough above the waterline to not risk a leak and low enough to climb up into. He kept watch for the others while they entered, then followed. He found himself in a maintenance corridor, through which the soldiers filed one at a time. It seemed the corridor had once granted access to the airship's engine, but Iskanemo's modifications had replaced the Protodermis jet method of propulsion with additional Kanoka, and the engine room was mostly empty. There were a few crates of emergency supplies back here, and room for the wounded to be set down. The warriors had suffered a minimal loss of life to the sea Rahi, but the attack of the Brotherhood's air force along with the explosion had inflicted heavy casualties. Imlen estimated that of the three hundred or so soldiers that had boarded, about a hundred were still standing. He hoped the division aboard the Meyit's Legacy was faring better.Mozmana had already set Vilam down and begun tending to her again. Imlen rushed to his sisters' side. Vilam's right arm had been put in a brace, and Mozmana was now doing what she could to mend a shrapnel wound in her back. Imlen moved towards the supply crates, intending to look for something he could use to help.“Wait, Imlen,” Mozmana said, and he stopped and turned in acknowledgment. “Take over from me for a moment. I need to contact Iskanemo.”“Right,” said Imlen, striding back over and taking Mozmana's place at their wounded companion's side. “Stay strong, Vilam.”“I will relay it all to you,” said Mozmana, referring to the telepathic conversation that she began. Iskanemo. Iskanemo, can you hear me? Are you alright?I've been better, came the reply, which Mozmana transferred into Imlen's mind. Sorry – just trying to relieve tension. The cockpit is damaged, and Krasati is dead. The rest of us are conscious and more or less in fighting condition. I have almost no control over the ship, but as long as we keep going in a straight line we should be good. There's worse news, too: Rahkshi have arrived and engaged the skyfighters in battle. That's why it's taking so long to destroy their heavy weapons, though I think they're almost done. How are things back there?You know we took a bad hit out there, right? projected Mozmana.More than one bad hit, but I know what you're referring to, responded Iskanemo. The big one that hit the top of the ship, right?Yes, we were up there fighting off the swarm when it hit. A third of us were wiped out in that one blast. We're in the engine room right now, and tending to the wounded, projected Mozmana. Vilam is badly hurt, though I have hope she will be alright. Several others are in very bad shape, and I don't think there's a single one of us that hasn't taken some damage. I know we can't all back out, but is there some way we can evacuate those that can't fight?Not while our aircraft are occupied, thought Iskanemo. And I think we'll have to help them, not the other way around.We can't fight the Rahkshi aboard the airships! thought Imlen, and Mozmana forwarded this thought to Iskanemo.I know. They will just have to endure until we get ashore, responded Iskanemo. But once our wounded are all stabilized, come back to the cockpit.Got it. Over, finished Mozmana.With that, she returned her focus to her immediate surroundings. Imlen had just finished patching up Vilam to the best of his ability, and now he cradled her head in his hand. She stirred and went still again, then she coughed and slowly opened her eyes. To the concern of her companions, the patterns of light in her bright yellow visual sensors shifted erratically, a sign of traumatic head injury. Vilam grunted and attempted to speak.“H-head... feels funny,” she stuttered.“Just relax, my sister,” said Mozmana, reaching out gently with her elemental power.The Toa Muktirhith of Psionics caused her sister to fall back asleep, then did what she could to heal her mind. But there was little she could do. She could restore order and function to a damaged psyche, given time, but Vilam's injury was physical. The ability to mend a brain was beyond most beings, Mozmana included. Still, there was hope she would recover once the shock had worn off. In any case, Mozmana could sense the core of her sister's mind was intact. For now she was stable, and so the Toa Muktirhith next tended to the rest of the injured warriors that had been left in the engine room. Unfortunately, they were unable to save most of those that had dire injuries, and of the rest there was not a single being in fighting condition. With the exception of a few medics, all of the soldiers that were still hale enough for combat had left and presumably returned to the cargo hold, if that room was intact enough to hold them. When their work was done, Imlen and Mozmana went to join them. They considered bringing Vilam, but decided it would be best to not disturb her.After following winding corridors and maintenance shafts, the two Toa made it back to the cargo hold. The hold had more holes in it, but still had most of its walls and floor. The remainder of the Mata Nui's Gaze's contingent had indeed reassembled in it, though they were less orderly, and some of the warriors strayed into nearby hallways. While walking to the cockpit, Imlen and Vilam encountered a particular one of these soldiers, a being they recognized. They had spoken with Marchog along with his king before the battle began, and they had found him to be a sadder person than he was when they had first met him, for Rohi had since been killed. But the blue and yellow-armored being had still retained his magnificence, until now. Now the once stately royal guardian was hunched over and limping. At the sound of their approach, he turned his head, and they saw his grief-stricken face was badly burned. One eye was covered with metal that had melted and resolidified, and his jaw was askew. They did not need to ask to know what new tragedy grieved him, but he told them anyway.“It is a... very sad... day, friends,” he struggled to say out of his damaged mouth. “My liege, King... Brenkonin... the Atoner, is slain.”“In death, he completed his redemption,” said Imlen, after taking a moment to think of the kindest response.“Indeed... and it seems we... will all... atone for our misdeeds... today.”The Toa Muktirhith knew what Marchog meant, and he was right. Their chances of survival were very small. They had lost over half of their warriors and an unknown number of aircraft before even reaching Destral. If the estimate made earlier was correct, that left about as many of them as there were Brotherhood warriors on the island – but that did not include the Rahkshi, nor the swarm of Venom Flyers, nor – most importantly – any Makuta that were present. Imlen wondered if the disobedience of the Dragon had really caused everything to go so wrong, or if Iskanemo's force had never been strong enough for this operation. He decided it did not matter. He could not blame whoever had turned the Dragon away from the battle to save themselves and their comrades from a suicide mission, and there was no point censuring Iskanemo at this point. But with so many dead and wounded, including his oldest surviving companion, Imlen was very angry at the Toa of Air. With effort, he resolved to channel this anger at his enemies rather than his allies, and not give into despair.Marchog told the Toa that he had just wandered off alone to compose himself. After making sure his injuries had already been treated, Imlen and Mozmana continued to the cockpit. They arrived in time to see the shore just ahead, no more than a few bio away. The damage the cockpit had sustained when they were away was immediately apparent. The complex array of controls was smashed, leaving only a few levers and a simple directional yoke that seemed to be half broken. What had been left of the windshield after the Nui-Rama rammed it was gone, along with part of the floor directly below. A glimpse of gold and blue in the corner probably marked the location of Krasati's body, but the Toa had no wish to take a closer look. They said nothing to each other, but took deep breaths as the ship slowly covered the last of the distance to the rocky gray beach. After a length of time that was far longer than it should have been and felt even longer, the vessel made it to the shore with a slight lurch. At the same moment, a crash sounded in the corridor. Imlen and Mozmana immediately back ran down the hall in search of the sound's origin. To their surprise, Vilam was there, pushing herself up with the aid of a metal rod she had scavenged to use as a cane.“Vilam, you're hurt. You need rest,” said Mozmana, helping the Toa of Lightning up and supporting her.“I k-know I'm hurt. My... head must've been... injured,” the Toa of Lightning said, some clarity returning to her facial expression. “And my arms and... l-legs. But can't... I... can't stay... nothing to do... but fight.”“Hopefully we can get flown out of here,” said Imlen. “Until then, you stay somewhere safe.”“No, no. I'll... not abandon... army... die to protect them,” said Vilam.“But you can barely walk!” protested Imlen. “Not to mention your weapons are gone.”“I still have control... control of my... element,” said Vilam, slurring the last word.“What is going on back there?” Iskanemo called, poking his head into the corridor from the cockpit.Vilam is up, and wants to fight, but cannot, replied Mozmana, using telepathy to prevent the Toa of Lightning from arguing. I fear her brain is injured, and she is nearly crippled.I am not sure she would be safe aboard the ship, thought Iskanemo. If you find a safe place for her, restrain her if you can. But I think we will not have time to devote much attention to her. I'm sorry, my sister, about all of this. I really am.Iskanemo, I know you have always done what you thought was right. Even if it hurt people, it was always for the greater good, projected Mozmana, and she displayed a small, sad smile that nobody saw. And I cannot call a being that would go to his assured death in such a way selfish.Thank you, Mozmana. Now, come join us as soon as you can. I will die today, and we have already lost many of our comrades and had our initial plan ruined, but I still have hope we can achieve victory.Mozmana was not sure if the last thing she had told Iskanemo was completely true. Perhaps he was selfish – greedy for glory. But then, who would desire the 'glory' of being someone who had deceived his army, resulting in the deaths of many of his warriors? She did not know what to think of her old friend. And though he would die today, if she survived, she would question her own and others' opinions of him for the rest of her life. But for now, she and Imlen had to decide what to do with Vilam. Ordinarily, the proper psychic technique would render her asleep without doing any permanent damage. But Vilam was an unusual case – Mozmana did not know how fragile her mind was in this state. After a brief telepathic conversation between the two of them, Imlen and Mozmana decided to help their sister to the shore, then look for a hiding spot there. The risk that the Brotherhood would endeavor to destroy what was left of the Mata Nui's Gaze was too great for anyone to be left aboard.Velitel was the first ashore. As Iskanemo got up out of the pilot's seat, the Toa Muktirhith noticed he was limping, but he managed to climb down out of the broken cockpit after the general. Waskita came next. She did not seem to have any particularly bad injury, but she was covered in scrapes, and was clearly feeling faint from the lack of a Kanohi. The pain of Imlen's wounds had mostly subsided, and he felt healthy enough to jump down. But he knew it was foolish to underestimate the damage he had suffered – he could hurt himself even more that way – and so he also descended carefully. Vilam allowed Mozmana to pick her up and lower her into Imlen's waiting grasp, then Mozmana herself climbed down the front of the beached vessel. With the ship on its belly, there was no room to lower the main boarding ramp, and so the soldiers streamed out of auxiliary exits and holes the enemy had torn in the hull. Once everyone was outside, the remaining contingent of the Mata Nui's Gaze assembled.The Toa Muktirhith weren't sure what side of the island they were on. It wasn't the southern end, where there was a range of barren hills between the coast and the fortress wall. Here, the wall was much closer, leaving only a narrow stretch of beach in the shadow of a steep, jagged slope. The Brotherhood headquarters was even more imposing up close, though a gloomy haze had formed, making some details harder to see now than they had been from kio away in the air. This vapor was cold, and yet somehow did nothing to alleviate the aridity of the desolate isle. The craggy slope and the vast wall of dark stone and iron perched atop it surrounded the island, stretching as far as the eye could see – except for one relatively narrow gap, almost directly ahead, where the skyfighters had blasted through the fortifications. These aircraft were still engaged in a battle with flying Rahkshi above the breach, though other than that everything was eerily still and quiet. Through the mist, the Toa could see an immense tower beyond the wall, as well as two of the four lesser towers that ringed it.“Well... here we are: Destral,” said Iskanemo, trying and failing to sound undaunted. “Let's... let's make ourselves at home.”Review

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#45 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Sep 19 2012 - 11:53 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-five==Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

The beach was rocky, but there were no boulders large enough for the army's wounded to hide behind while the rest went forth to battle. The grounded airship looked like it would soon collapse, if the Brotherhood didn't destroy it first, so leaving the victims in there was not an option. The island's garrison had not yet shown itself, with the exception of the fifty or so Rahkshi locked in aerial combat with the rebel force's aircraft. Velitel wished to go to the aid of the skyfighters as soon as possible, but first he needed to contact them and the Meyit's Legacy. A warrior had just given Waskita a replacement Kanohi taken from a fallen brother, and she now felt well enough to replace Krasati as the telepathic coordinator of the separate divisions. With that job filled, Mozmana, as one of the most capable healers, was directed to take another look at the casualties. Once all of the ship's medical supplies had been recovered, she was able to patch up some of the victims further. First the supply of blankets for the wounded to lie on was unpacked and laid out on the ground in rows, then she got to work. A short while later, after conferring with the remaining officers, Velitel came to check on her.“Well?” he said as he walked into the midst of the makeshift medical camp.“I've done all I can for this brave one,” she said, standing up to leave the sleeping warrior she spoke of in peace. “I still have two more to attend to, then I can see to those with less serious injuries.”“I meant, how much success have you had overall?” clarified Velitel, following the Toa of Psionics as she went to tend to another casualty. “Give me the statistics.”“I've eased their pain, and saved many of them from potentially fatal wounds. But those that were unable to fight when we landed will still be unable to fight,” said Mozmana. “That means we have approximately eighty that can fight, twenty that can walk but not fight, and thirty that can't walk on their own.”“Eighty... plus the three hundred or so from the Meyit's Legacy...” the Toa of Fire mused aloud. “If we get our act together before the Rahkshi kill too many of us, we should – ”“Never mind that yet!” snapped Mozmana. “We have at least fifty people that need to be evacuated.”“We can find a place for them to hide until the battle is over,” Velitel quickly argued.“And if we lose, and the Brotherhood finds them?” said Mozmana.“Then we all die, or worse. But if you're so sure we will lose, then why not suggest we all evacuate?” said Velitel bitterly.“You know we don't have the means to do that. Get yourself together, General,” said Mozmana, struggling to calm her own mind so she could use her powers to calm Velitel. “We win here or we die here, as you said. But isn't there some way...?”“Perhaps. It depends on how many of our aircraft are left when this is over,” conceded the Toa general, and he relaxed slightly on his own. “Listen: our skyfighters are already on their way. A short distance from here – hopefully a safe distance from our wounded warriors – we will rendezvous with them and the division from the Meyit's Legacy. Together, we will make a stand against the Rahkshi. As soon as we've unloaded all the equipment we'll need, we'll set forth.”“I will remain with the wounded,” said Mozmana, and Velitel nodded in agreement. “But let me say goodbye to Imlen and Iskanemo before we part. I have the feeling I will never see either of them again.”“I doubt you will see Iskanemo again, but as for Imlen... well, now that Waskita's Mask of Clairvoyance is lost, none of us can know what will happen until it happens,” said Velitel, and he turned back to where the other Toa waited.“Velitel, wait,” said Mozmana when the Toa of Fire took his first step back. “I... we're all anxious, and angry at the Makuta, but... I sense something else in you. Bitterness and regret – you're angry at yourself, and it's not just because of today's events.”“Mozmana, please, just...” Velitel protested, looking from her to the gathered army and back.“I barely know you, but I know if you tell me what troubles you, you will feel better,” said the Toa of Psionics, using a slight touch of her element to relax Velitel.“Well, I'm going to my death, so I might as well tell someone while I can,” he said with a sigh. “You and your teammates, and Iskanemo – you all became Toa after the Cataclysm – eight centuries at the most. I've been a Toa for thousands of years... over ten thousand. During that time, I saw life grow more and more dangerous for Toa – for everyone, actually – as corruption and darkness spread. I should have realized the Brotherhood was behind it – should have raised this army to overthrow the Makuta millennia ago. I could have ended this before it truly began... before it was too late.”“The Makuta deceived the entire universe,” Mozmana attempted to comfort him. “They deceived Mata Nui himself!”“They overthrew Mata Nui because we were unable to protect him. But there's more,” he continued. “My old team... we found an island that had been devastated by 'wild' Rahkshi. The inhabitants had been slaughtered, and when we tried to investigate... my team was wiped out too. Well, one other survived, but she was later killed by Dark Hunters. Anyway, I reported the incident to the Brotherhood, and of course they denied any ill intent. But those Rahkshi fought with too much discipline and focus to be wild, and now I know the Makuta set their spawn loose on innocents to hone their skills. I should have known it was no accident. I should... well anyway, I expect our allies are almost done preparing, so I must delay no longer. I will send Iskanemo and Imlen to you, but you must be quick.”“I've already telepathically summoned them,” said Mozmana. “I wanted time to hear you speak.”“Oh,” said Velitel, and indeed, the two Toa were already approaching. “I'm sorry, but you three still must hurry – we must rejoin the battle as soon as possible. Please, take good care of these wounded soldiers. Goodbye, Mozmana.”“I will protect them with my life. Goodbye, Velitel.”Velitel returned to overseeing the preparations, only slowing to remind Iskanemo and Imlen to hurry back as he passed them. Mozmana helped Vilam up, and the two female Toa stepped forward to greet their brothers.“How are you feeling, Vilam?” asked Imlen.“Not good, but... better,” said the injured Toa of Lightning slowly. “You can... tell speech is still bad, and I feel... f-feel dizzy. But... less aching.”“I know you have the strength to recover, my sister, given time,” said Imlen. “But for now, you've done your duty. We must part here... may we meet again.”“Imlen, Iskanemo – I'm staying, too,” said Mozmana. “These wounded warriors need someone to protect them.”“You, too? B-but...” Imlen spluttered in protest.“Good thinking, Mozmana,” said Iskanemo, but he was clearly trying to suppress his personal bias against the decision. “I guess this is goodbye, then. I won't be seeing you again.”“You're right – these soldiers do need you,” admitted Imlen reluctantly, though he greatly wished at least one of his teammates would go to battle with him. “Well, we've been separated before and always managed to find each other. Perhaps this time will be no different.”“We... might meet again y-yet,” said Vilam. “But I'm too... too weak to protect... these casualties alone. Need Mozmana's help... thank you, Mozmana.”“I'm grateful to have met both of you,” said Mozmana, using all her discipline to keep her voice calm and even.“You two stay safe,” said Iskanemo. “I go to my death, but I will do my best to ensure Imlen is returned to you. I promise.”“Promise?” said Mozmana, with sudden realization. “Oh, Imlen – I had forgotten my oath: to remain with you until your destiny is complete!”“When was the last time that was brought up? Mozmana, I wish I could have you and Vilam at my side through this battle,” said Imlen. “But I never intended for your promise to keep you from doing what you thought was right. You are a free being, and you have made your choice.”“Thank you, brother,” said Mozmana. “Fight well, and Iskanemo: may your death be worthy of you.”“Death is death, but I have a guess as to how it will happen,” said the Toa of Air thoughtfully.The four Toa joined hands and held them together for a moment. Then, the two groups bid each other farewell. While Mozmana devised a way to move the injured soldiers to a safer location, Imlen and Iskanemo hurried back to the army. Velitel had already given the order to head to the rendezvous point, but the warriors were not marching too quickly for the two Toa to catch up. The meeting place was only a few minutes' walk away, and the warriors from the Meyit's Legacy were already there, bringing all the rebel force's remaining infantry together. The two divisions were still merging ranks and Velitel was in the midst of conversation with Toa Brulado when the aircraft arrived. The Rahkshi were right behind them, and seemed unconcerned by the four hundred or so warriors on the beach below. As the army opened fire, the Makuta-spawn continued the attack on the skyfighters, deftly weaving through the flying projectiles. But the aircraft were faster, and though the Rahkshi were difficult targets, they were being picked off slowly.The Kraata piloting the machines decided they could do more damage on the ground, and so they broke off, looped around, and dove into the midst of the army. The Rahkshi tore through the ranks, threatening to slaughter the less mighty members of the legion. But the Toa were capable of standing against them, and many of these Toa were in the aircraft. A moment ago, the unyielding attack of the Rahkshi had prevented them landing, but now they had the freedom to abandon their vehicles and join the battle on the ground. Iskanemo and Velitel had known the Toa they had assigned to the skyfighters were capable pilots, but a disadvantage to using the vehicles was that it was difficult to focus on elemental powers while flying at speeds of hundreds of kio per hour. On the ground, the Toa were capable of adding their energies to the battle. Iskanemo and Velitel created a great tornado of flame, which was suddenly joined by another. Imlen looked up to see Stuhi on a skyboard, working in conjunction with a jetpack-wearing Toa of Fire named Tignioni* to form the second fire cyclone. He was glad to see the two of them alive, and waved as they descended.“Stuhi, Tignioni!” he called as he charged to save a group of warriors that were losing a fight against five Rahkshi. “Over here!”“Good to see you're still in one piece, Imlen,” said Stuhi as he jumped off his skyboard into the midst of the fight.Another flaming cyclone, this one superheated by the addition of Imlen's power, made short work of that group of Rahkshi. The Toa pressed forward, hoping to surround the Rahkshi while the soldiers retreated. Toa Jufeng was soon at their side, followed by a team of six Toa, each wielding a pair of matching weapons.** But as even more Toa continued to join them, the Rahkshi also began to work together as one large group. Tempests of deadly energies collided, turning the gray beach under them to glass. Then these initial attacks dispersed, and the assembled Toa, numbering about thirty, stood face to face with the forty remaining Rahkshi. The Toa were more formidable than most of the Makuta-Sons, but this fight would not be easy. Toa Jufeng was the first to fall, killed by the stone shrapnel resulting from a Panrahk's explosion. Several others followed, including Tsushin and brave Stuhi, who was fried by a Rahkshi of Electricity. The Toa retaliated simultaneously. Imlen combined his element with a Toa of Water to scald and blind several Rahkshi while a Toa of Iron wielding two clubs used his power over metal to tear them apart.Imlen next targeted a Kurahk while the Toa of Psionics worked hard to counter its power and prevent their allies from turning against each other. Meanwhile, a dozen other confrontations were occurring all around him. A Toa of Gravity from the Toa of Iron's team matched his power against a trio of Rahkshi of Gravity. It was a deadlock until a Toa of Sonics interfered. The two of them bested the blue and silver Rahkshi, but the Sonics user left himself vulnerable to a Rahkshi of Sleep. He was immediately incapacitated and impaled by the Rahkshi's staff, while a Toa of Ice attempted too slowly and too late to save him. The white-armored Toa in turn failed to defend himself from a Rahkshi of Laser Vision, and fell as his leg was perforated by the searing beams. Imlen finished off the Kurahk in time to defend the Toa of Ice for a moment, but anyone incapable of moving quickly did not last long in this fight. A cloud of tiny but highly venomous insects swarmed the injured Toa at the behest of an orange Rahkshi, and Imlen was too busy fending off a Lerahk to stop them.Once the Rahkshi of Poison was scrap, he had the opportunity to pull out his Nynrah Ghost Blaster and give it a try. With so many Rahkshi available to target, it was easy for him to hit one. He happened to hit a Rahkshi of Illusion, and he felt himself gain control of the Makuta-spawn as the Blaster's energy coursed through its mechanical body. Imlen managed to keep the Rahkshi still long enough for a Toa of the Green to slice it apart, but he realized that it was a poor choice of weapon to use in this situation. It could bring a lone target to its knees with one shot, but the mental effort required to exert that much control could be a fatal distraction while surrounded by enemies. Indeed, as he put the weapon away, he was tackled by a Vorahk. Before he could struggle, the Rahkshi of Hunger was on top of him and sapping his strength. He heard the heavy footsteps of another Rahkshi behind him, and managed to crane his neck enough to catch a glimpse of a Rahkshi of Fire Resistance coming to finish him off. Just then, he saw a flash of light and heard the sound of something shattering.He looked back to the Vorahk, and it appeared the black Rahkshi had been momentarily dazed by some projectile. It paused its draining of Imlen's strength to look in the direction the attack had come from, only to be hit again in the face. The exploding lightstone caused it to stagger, and Imlen wasted no time in grabbing the protosteel dagger Iskanemo had given him and slicing through its legs. The Fire Resistance Rahkshi brought its staff down at that moment, and Imlen twisted out of the way. The Rahkshi's forceful jab left its staff stuck in the ground, and Imlen jumped to his feet and sundered the weapon before it could pull it out. With one disarmed and the other crippled, the two Rahkshi were quickly finished off. Imlen looked over to see Waskita waving at him, still holding her Lightstone Rifle. By now, there was only a handful of Rahkshi remaining. Velitel brought his Cordak Blaster to bear and made short work of them. His forces had won, and he had spared most of his soldiers, but there were now only twenty-two Toa remaining. Among these were Imlen, Tignioni, and Brulado, as well as the three leaders that were destined to die in the dark, of course.“What will we do with the wounded from here on?” asked one of the surviving Toa. “My brother has lost a leg, and at least six of our soldiers cannot go on.”“We cannot delay, but I will not abandon them,” Velitel reassured her. “I will arrange to have them escorted back to Mozmana. Waskita, contact her and ask where she is.”As Waskita complied, two healthy soldiers were assigned to bring the casualties back. They were asked to return if possible, but the rest of the army would not wait. The remaining vehicles took to the air once again, and the rebel force was quickly on the move again. Speed was essential, for the operation depended on the seizure of Destral's means of teleportation before the forces deployed nearby on Stelt returned. Velitel reasoned that as long as the main force of Rahkshi had been destroyed, the approximately four hundred enemy soldiers and Visorak would not be much of a problem. But he failed to realize how much of a tactical advantage the slope to the fortress gave the defenders. It was nearly sheer rock in this place, and they had to rely on the hard work of Toa of Earth and Stone to carve out a path. The aircraft flew ahead to scout the top of the slope and cover their ascent. But despite that precaution, no one saw the hidden defenders until they struck. Velitel's army was halfway up when streams of molten rock suddenly cascaded down from the the top, followed by a rain of boulders, Rhotuka, and other projectiles.The skyfighters and aerial warriors retaliated immediately, destroying any Brotherhood servants that revealed themselves, but not before two Toa and almost thirty warriors were killed in this sudden attack. As quickly as they had struck, the defenders disappeared behind rocks and the rubble of the wall. This shelter thwarted attempts to blast them from the sky, so a few flying Toa came closer to attempt to flush them out with elemental powers. However, slowing down and descending made them vulnerable, and they were immediately shot down. Imlen looked up to see a skyfighter explode, killing the Toa piloting it, while a Toa on an air sled was incapacitated by a Visorak's Rhotuka. Unable to control his vehicle, he crashed fatally into the ground. Tignioni was also shot down, his jetpack destroyed by a Brotherhood soldier's energy blast, but an allied warrior wearing a Kanohi Matatu managed to catch him in a telekinetic grip just in time.Imlen joined several of his brothers in projecting a defensive screen to allow the soldiers to take cover or retreat out of the line of fire, but there was little room to maneuver. Several rebel warriors lost their footing and plummeted to their deaths. On the narrow path, the attackers were forced to spread out into a line that made an easy target. Under Waskita's coordination, the aircraft passed over the defenders in a pattern calculated to keep them pinned down, and Velitel directed his forces to carve out shelter where they could. The result was a deadlock, which was better than a massacre of the attackers, but time was not on their side. If something did not tip the balance in their favor soon, all would be lost.

-----

Mozmana watched from just within the mouth of the cave. She had been lucky enough to find this natural shelter. Of course, it had not been unoccupied, but she had been able to defeat the large, nasty beast lurking within without too much trouble. Deeper inside, the wounded warriors were hidden and safe, if slightly cramped, and she had recently received word that more were on the way, including a maimed Toa. She was waiting for them to arrive, and as she did so, she began to feel very uneasy. Of course she feared for her friends, but she no longer regretted her choice to remain with those that needed her protection. She was now troubled by something else. The Toa of Stone that had made her a Toa had not had time to explain much about the energy that had transformed her. The main concept was simple enough: a Toa had a finite amount of a unique energy he or she could use to turn Matoran destined to transform into fellow Toa, and when a Toa expended all of this energy, he or she would become a Turaga.But Imlen and Vilam had related stories of how Turaga from their homeland had, on more than one occasion, channeled the same energy into an almost miraculous healing ability. She had not given it much thought at the time, indeed she had forgotten all about it until now, but now she could not stop thinking about it. If it had a chance of curing the crippled soldiers she guarded, she had to try it. But one important concern was holding her back: she had no desire to become a Turaga, not yet. She wasn't ready to settle down from adventuring, and she certainly didn't want to be left behind by Imlen and Vilam, assuming they survived all this. More importantly, there were too few Toa in the universe. She felt terrible for even posing the question to herself, but could it be that the world needed one Toa more than it needed thirty other beings? And what of her injured Toa brothers and sisters – could they use their own Toa Energy to heal themselves?She knew what Iskanemo would have done, but she chose to ignore that. She wondered how easy the power was to control – perhaps she could only release a portion of her energy, if that would be enough. It was possible Vilam knew more. If the Toa of Lightning was awake, Mozmana decided, she would ask her. But first she had to wait until the seven new casualties arrived at the cave. It was a difficult wait, and she had to resist the urge to leave her post. In such a distracted state, she never noticed the being sneaking up on her until she was suddenly struck in the back. She had a split second to think, just enough time to realize what sort of attack it was – stasis – before it took effect, freezing both her body and her mind.*Tignioni is Maganar's character. Credit for the character and thanks for permission to use him goes to him.**The team of dual-wielding Toa is boston100's creation. Credit for the characters and thanks for permission to use them goes to him.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa, Sep 21 2012 - 03:06 PM.

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#46 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 04 2012 - 10:22 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-six==Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

“What is taking so long?” demanded a green-armored warrior as projectiles and energies rained down over the depression in the black slope. “They should have found something by now.”“We only have a few remaining Kanohi Iden wearers,” explained Velitel, clearly struggling to maintain a calm tone. “It will take time for those few to find the defenders' hiding places.”Imlen understood the soldier's frustration. It had only been a few minutes since the order had been given for everyone in the army that wore the Mask of Spirit to use their mask powers to scout the defensive positions above, but it felt like an hour. Free of their bodies, invisible, intangible spirits could move quickly and unhindered by physical barriers – one would expect them to be able to find anything quickly. And yet Velitel had a good point. The gap blasted in the wall had left a huge pile of rubble for the Brotherhood garrison to hide behind, and it was likely that there was a system of trenches or even tunnels extending beneath the enormous fortifications. Indeed, the Brotherhood warriors were able to sustain a nearly constant bombardment even while remaining unseen, and some of the attacks seemed to come from within the slope itself. Whatever the extent to which the enemy forces were entrenched, it was clear they would not be flushed out and driven back until the most vital points in their defenses were revealed. Until then, the Toa and their allies would just need to find the best shelter they could and hope the barrage missed them.Finally something changed. Imlen wasn't privy to the reports and orders that went from scout to commander to pilot, but the results were plainly seen. A concentrated bombardment made the ground tremble, and great chunks of rubble shattered. The Brotherhood soldiers hiding underneath were uncovered like bugs under a rock – in fact, as the defending force included Visorak, some of them were exactly that. The lethal shower from above did not completely cease, but it let up enough for the rebel army to advance. The Toa of Stone and Earth resumed using their powers to carve out a path, and Imlen sighed with relief as he resumed the trek up the slope.“Very good, but we must proceed with great caution,” said Velitel. “We may have seen only a few hundred visible enemies, but Destral's most deadly defenses are hidden. Traps play as large a role as Visorak in keeping the island secure.”As if to prove Velitel's point, a stream of lava suddenly cascaded from an unseen opening a few bio above and to the right. Seven warriors were killed immediately, and several more were burned before Toa Velvirki was able to block the hole long enough for the army to pass. The attackers hadn't gotten much farther when a vertical rock face that had looked smooth and firm crumbled, threatening to bury a great part of the army. This time, the quick thinking of Toa of Stone and telekinesis users saved most of those caught beneath the avalanche. When the debris settled, some kind of mechanism could be seen under where the rock had been. By now, Velitel's flyers had forced the defenders back from the outer fortifications, but these traps were still a threat. They made the climb even more slow and difficult. Waskita soon reported that the aircraft had pursued about a hundred enemy warriors back to the central keep, only to encounter the swarm of Nui-Rama and Venom Flyers. At Velitel's command, the aircraft turned around and returned to the wall before they suffered any casualties.The enemy Rahi did not pursue them, and it seemed the defenders were still gathering their strength. Destral was a big island, and so it would take time for the several hundred Visorak, soldiers, and Rahi to gather in the attackers' path. This was fortunate for the attackers, for it took over an hour to reach the top of the slope. They suffered great losses during the climb, both from traps and from the defenders before they had been driven away, and numbered about three hundred when they reached the breach in the wall at the top. And yet this was only a hundred less than the enemy force, a difference that was more than made up for by the twenty remaining Toa. After all the difficulties they had encountered so far, after all that had gone wrong, they had endured and still had a chance at victory. They were eager to finally meet their enemies on the plain, but Velitel insisted they not move too quickly. The climb had tired everyone, and the ground ahead certainly concealed many hidden dangers. The Toa general ordered most of his army to rest for a short while, while a few brave beings went forth to search for traps.Several calm, quiet minutes passed, and the mist thinned enough for Imlen to see the enemy garrison converging in front of the nearest of the secondary towers, while the airborne swarm circled it. Distant rumbling and jets of flame from the ground marked where the scouts stumbled upon traps. Not all of these beings survived to return, but those that did provided enough information on where it was safe to tread to satisfy Velitel. Once a route across the grayish-brown expanse had been planned, the army resumed its march. The path they would take was mostly straight, as most of the traps could be safely triggered by Toa of Earth, but some had to be avoided. Many squads of Visorak and soldiers were still hurrying to reinforce the keep, and at this quick but cautious pace, the attackers had a good chance of reaching the tower before they got there. The Toa and their army burned empty Brotherhood camps as they passed, and easily broke through the lightly-defended lesser gates and towers that blocked the path to the main fortress. Seventeen unfortunate soldiers fell victim to various traps on the way, but this was negligible compared to the damage the army would have suffered had the commanders not taken care to avoid them.When the two armies were in range of each other, each side released a volley of Rhotuka, Kanoka, and other missiles. Vanguards on both sides raised their shields to protect their comrades from this hail, though many still fell. The Toa of Earth let out one last tremor to clear the way across this last stretch of ground. The shockwave created a visible wave of earth that safely triggered mines and other mechanisms as it passed. Explosions that would have devastated a heedless army flashed harmlessly across the empty field, and Velitel waited until he was confident everything had gone off. Then he led his army into a full charge, and their battles cries sounded across the barren plain. It was a fell sight for the the Brotherhood warriors to behold, but they stood their ground, the discipline instilled in them by their dark masters banishing any thought of surrender or desertion. With the clash of hundreds of weapons, the armies finally met. Overhead, the two air forces engaged each other once again.The Toa stayed together to cut a path to the tower's gate while the soldiers protected their flanks and widened the wedge between the defenders. The huge black stone and iron gate showed a resistance to elemental powers, and the combined efforts of the Toa cracked it slowly. The resilience of the gate gave the defenders time to surround the attacking army, but Velitel's force still had the advantage. Dozens of Brotherhood minions had been slain in the initial charge, and the rebels' ferocity had not lessened. For every soldier or Visorak that arrived on the battlefield, three more had already been vanquished. The aircraft were outnumbered, but several Toa turned their elemental energies against the aerial swarm, and in seconds over a hundred Venom Flyers fell out of the sky. Imlen had at first been channeling his power to help break the gate down, but upon seeing a captain and her soldiers being overwhelmed by Oohnorak, he redirected his efforts to fend off the soldier Rahi. The scorching cloud he conjured caught the black Visorak off guard, allowing the beleaguered platoon to recover.With that side of the battle under control, Imlen took out his Nynrah Ghost Blaster and carefully aimed at one of a group of Exo-Toa approaching from the south. His first two shots missed, but the third energy bolt hit his target, granting him control of the towering robot. Seeing the Visorak marching in the shadow of the Exo-Toa, Imlen had an idea. While he allowed the robot he had gained control of to continue to advance as if nothing had happened, he hit an additional four of the machines. Controlling more than one target at a time took a strong mental effort, but the result was worth it: when the five robots began to blast and stomp on their allies, the Visorak panicked and that part of the Brotherhood army fell into chaos. The rogue Exo-Toa were quickly destroyed, but when they toppled many more Visorak were crushed, and the survivors regarded the remaining robots warily. Imlen knew a demoralized enemy was a weakened enemy, and so with a few shots he had done much to hinder the Brotherhood forces on that side. But the cry of a mortally wounded Toa sharply reminded him of the danger he and his allies were still in. The true battle had just begun.He moved to protect his brothers and sisters as they continued to assail the great gate. Finally it began to crack, and a hail of Cordak missiles finished fragmenting the stone and sundering the iron frame. The rubble collapsed and the smoke cleared to reveal a wide foyer that led into the tower and the colossal fortress beyond. This should have filled the Toa with hope, but the sight of the dark, empty interior was unnaturally disquieting. Imlen and a few others used their powers to illuminate the hall, banishing much of the darkness – which was nothing more than natural shadow, it seemed – and yet the feeling of dread did not lift, and no one dared to cross the threshold. The same sensation could be felt in the Wastelands north of Imlen's home, and throughout Destral, but here, at the heart of the Brotherhood of Makuta, it was stronger than anywhere else. It dawned on Imlen that this feeling was more than just a lingering aura of evil. A malevolent presence was waiting within. As soon as the realization came to him, he heard something competing with the sounds of the battle behind him.The noise, barely audible at first, increased in volume until there was no question as to what it was. Sinister laughter was coming from somewhere within the tower, but it was impossible to tell exactly where. It was the laughter of a Makuta, and when he spoke, Imlen recognized the voice.“Congratulations on coming this far, brave warriors,” boomed Makuta Teskor. “You have passed many trials, and proven yourselves to be more formidable than I expected.”“Show yourself, Makuta!” demanded a Toa of Gravity.“Why should I? But I will tell you I am deeper within the fortress,” said the Makuta. “You've made yourself a way in, so are you going to continue, or wait on the doorstep while your allies die?”“We've beaten you once, Teskor,” Imlen spoke up. “We can do it again.”“Let us find out, Toa Imlen,” said Teskor.Imlen was unsettled by the use of his name. He hadn't felt Teskor reading his mind, so the Makuta had either done so with such subtlety as to be undetectable or remembered enough about the Toa of Plasma to recognize him by voice. Neither possibility was pleasant, and Imlen hesitated. He lost himself in his worries and doubts until he realized Velitel was addressing him.“Imlen! Imlen, listen!” the Toa of Fire was saying.“Sorry,” said Imlen, shaking his head quickly to rouse himself. “I – I know this Makuta.”“Yes, Teskor – Iskanemo told me about him. It sounds like he remembers you, too. But don't lose focus. His presence has shaken our soldiers,” said Velitel, gesturing to the rebel warriors, who were beginning to falter. “I must rally them – some of you press onward.”“Yes, but – ” Imlen began to say, but the Toa of Fire had already gone back to aid his subordinates, followed by Waskita, Tignioni, and several other Toa.“You're with me, then,” said Iskanemo, addressing the group of seven other Toa that had remained, which included Imlen, Velvirki, and Brulado.“We'll need more than eight Toa. It's a big fortress,” said the captain of the Meyit's Legacy, and he got the attention of two nearby officers. “Gather your soldiers and come with us.”The officers complied, summoning about thirty warriors to accompany Iskanemo's group into the fortress. By now the other Toa had spread out across the battlefield, endeavoring to counter the effect Teskor's presence was having on their army. Imlen took one more look at the battle raging at the base of the tower, then he and his comrades stepped over the threshold.

-----

As a Matoran, Mozmana had been taught a strict code that was central to the community of Ce-Matoran she was from. She still adhered to the code, as it was quite compatible with the Code of the Toa, praising such virtues as mercy and generosity. One of the principles of her community was to be patient and control one's anger, and it was this tenet that was most difficult for her at this time. A few minutes ago, the stasis field imprisoning her had worn off. To her surprise, she had found herself surrounded by the wounded beings she was meant to be protecting. They were quite alright, though they had been unable to dispel the field, but they had some distressing news for her: Vilam had wandered off. It was quickly apparent that Mozmana had been frozen by a Zamor sphere taken from one of the soldiers' launchers, and she immediately figured out what had happened. Her own sister had incapacitated her to escape. Vilam had put her allies at risk, and for what? She was in no condition to fight.The ones Mozmana protected told her that she should go and find Vilam, but she wasn't going to abandon them when they couldn't defend themselves. And yet they were right – she couldn't let her companion limp off to her death, no matter how angry she was at her foolishness. Taking a deep breath, she realized there was but one thing to do. She called the three least seriously injured soldiers to her side, and as they stood patiently, she called upon energy reserves she hadn't expected to tap into for centuries. To her relief, it worked. The wounds of the three warriors disappeared, and she was still a Toa. She could still feel plenty of the strange energy within her, and her elemental powers were unaffected, but she knew the energy she had just expended would never come back. After quickly explaining what she had just done, she ran off after Vilam, leaving the wounded in the care of the soldiers she had just healed. Finding her would not be difficult, for Mozmana could sense her familiar mind if she reached out with her element. She did so, and was surprised to find Vilam was more than halfway up the slope. Her progress would be slow, but Mozmana would still have to hurry to catch her.

-----

Imlen raised his hand and created an illuminating globe of plasma, for the interior of the tower was too dark for him to see where he was going. The glow emanating from his palm revealed unlit braziers along the wall, which Brulado quickly ignited. The flames released an unpleasant smell and illuminated the foyer poorly, but when Imlen ceased channeling his power several passages were still visible in the dim light. Most noticeable was a wide staircase that branched off in multiple directions as it climbed the tower. The building was enormous, and yet it was still dwarfed by the structure in the center of the island, which was still quite far off. It looked to be possible to reach the fortress's center from this secondary tower, but it would take a long trek through dark stone passages.“You could lose yourself in here for weeks,” Makuta Teskor spoke up, again as if he had read their thoughts from afar. “Time is not on your side, and if you do not know the horrors that you will find if you take a wrong turn.”No one had to explain that. Everyone had heard of the terrible dungeons and laboratories – and dungeon-laboratories – hidden in the depths of the Destral fortress. Savage experimental beasts or gruesomely tormented prisoners could be behind any door. The thought made Imlen shudder, but this time he resolved to not falter. Summoning his courage, he broke the silence.“So, which way, then?”“We must seize control of the island's teleportation mechanism. That is likely somewhere in the depths of the central keep,” said Brulado. “But I think this Makuta is closer – likely higher up in this tower – and we should confront him before he decides to join the battle outside.”“But he hasn't joined the battle yet,” pointed out another Toa of Air. “Maybe his goal is to delay us until his brothers return.”“Perhaps,” said Imlen as the answer suddenly dawned on him. “But this Makuta is the very same one whose shadow loomed over my homeland for thousands of years. He enslaved my people centuries ago. He killed the Toa that wielded this staff before me. I have fought him once, and I know it is my destiny to fight him again. That is clear to me, and if Brulado thinks he is up these stairs, then I say we go up the stairs.”“Well said, brother,” said Iskanemo. “But we cannot let Teskor keep us from our other goals. So: Brulado, you should lead the soldiers farther into the fortress.”“Agreed. One of the soldiers is a telepath, I will try to keep him safe and use him to contact you if we find anything,” said the Toa of Fire.Iskanemo nodded, and with that, the group split. Brulado and the soldiers disappeared into a passage at ground level, while the seven other Toa began to ascend the winding staircase. There was no sign of any living defenders, and they encountered no traps. The sounds of the battle outside were soon muffled, leaving the Toa in silence broken only by their footsteps on the dark stone steps. As they ascended, Imlen had to continue to kindle braziers and lanterns to reveal the way. He lost all sense of time, and the emptiness was unnerving, for he expected something nasty – such as a Rahkshi or spike trap – to be hiding in every shadow, waiting to leap into the inadequate flickering orange light. The stairs were steep and had no railing, and he feared any surprise would send him tumbling back down or plummeting over the edge. He wished they had a Mask of Night Vision among them, but it was too late to turn back.“Brulado's group has contacted me,” said Iskanemo without halting the group. “They've encountered some Rahkshi. Not too many for them to handle, but it seems this fortress isn't as empty as it looks.”“That's comforting,” quipped one of the Toa.“What about the others?” asked another. “Has Waskita, um, projected anything?”“Not yet,” said Iskanemo, shaking his head. “She doesn't have the skill with long-distance telepathy Krasati did, and I doubt she'll be able to stop to focus on it in the midst of battle.”At the next landing, where the stairs turned to coil around a pillar, Imlen stopped to briefly illuminate the area again. He knew he had to conserve his elemental power, but he could no longer bear only being able to see a bio ahead of him. This time, the plasma he channeled between his hands was blindingly radiant, and yet when he peeked around the pillar and looked down, he could still not see the bottom. He looked up and saw that there was a ceiling not far above that stretched across almost the entire tower. That, at least, was some comfort. He allowed the plasma to disperse and the Toa continued their climb. Soon they came through a stairwell and onto the upper level, and Iskanemo asked Imlen to provide light once again. Judging by how the outer walls were beginning to taper inwards, the Toa were nearing the top, but the steps continued to wind upwards and out of sight. The stairwell opened into a large chamber that was surrounded by walls that divided this level up into smaller chambers and passages, but one wide hall led directly to a double door that appeared to be at the edge of the tower. The Toa decided to go that way in hopes of finding a view of the outside.“Time's up, Toa,” the voice of Teskor suddenly echoed, startling Imlen.“What... what do you mean?” demanded Iskanemo, his voice quaking.“You know exactly what I mean. But see for yourself,” said the Makuta, and the distant doors opened, letting in a shaft of daylight.The Toa sprinted down the hall and through the doorway. They found themselves on an incredibly high balcony looking over the battlefield. Bodies littered the plain, most of them belonging to the Brotherhood garrison. Velitel's army had stood strong, but they were now beset by hundreds more Visorak and Rahkshi. The Brotherhood reinforcements were coming from the coast, in the direction of Stelt. It seemed Teskor was right – the ploy to misdirect the Brotherhood had granted the attackers some time, but that time had passed.“H – how?” whispered Iskanemo with a stutter. “We planned this... it should have taken them hours more to...”“How?” echoed Teskor mockingly. “Iskanemo, I have been watching you for two hundred and fifty-nine years, ever since you and your companions defeated me. You did not truly believe you could outwit the Makuta, did you? I noticed you building your 'secret' army, and I knew your ambition would lead you to target Destral. You would never aim for a lesser target.”Far below, a column of swirling black and red smoke materialized in the center of the battleground, in the midst of the rebel army.“You know of my brother Icarax,” Teskor continued as the smoke coalesced into the form of a crimson-armored titan. “You arranged to have him visit Stelt on a pointless errand. You had us move our entire island in a vain attempt to wipe out a nonexistent threat. It nearly worked, too. Icarax fell for it, and our brothers are scattered across the universe. Your army had the strength to overcome Destral's meager garrison and conquer the island. But there was one thing you did not count on, Toa: you gained my ire.”Review

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#47 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 16 2012 - 12:32 AM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-seven==Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

Imlen looked on in horror as the great red warrior began to single-handedly carve into Velitel's army, while the surge of Brotherhood reinforcements fell upon the outermost ranks. He had never seen this lone ravager before, but he immediately knew this was the Makuta Icarax that Teskor had just spoken of. This realization was corroborated by the Power Scream the crimson being let out – a terrible roar that felled an entire regiment and caused the tower to tremble. His Kanohi glowed as energy streamed into him from the corpses of his victims, reminding Imlen of another red warrior that had also worn the Mask of Scavenging, a Dark Hunter he had encountered long ago. But as hardy as Bulwark had been – hence his code name – Imlen knew that the Dark Hunter would have been lucky to last a minute against Icarax, who seemed utterly unstoppable.Iskanemo looked ready to jump down into the battle, but the balcony was at least half a kio up. It was unlikely he would be able to extend the reach of his Mask of Repulsion that far, even against as broad a target as the ground itself. After a moment of hesitation, he turned and bolted back into the tower, brushing his allies aside in his haste. Imlen glanced back to the ground to see the rebels scattering, then he followed after Iskanemo and the other Toa. When the group reached the stairwell, the lanterns suddenly went out. Again, Imlen conjured a small globe of plasma to provide illumination, only to find that the incandescent matter barely pierced the darkness. This time, the shadow was unnatural.“Seven mighty heroes, so easily lost in the dark,” Teskor's voice reverberated. “Perhaps if this fortress truly had been empty, you would have survived it, even if the traps were activated –”The Makuta paused, and Imlen heard a quiet grinding coming from the floor right next to him, quickly followed by a sickening stabbing noise. The shadow parted just enough to reveal the body of one of their group's Toa, perforated by a row of spikes that had sprung out of the floor.“That's right, the traps. You came this far unmolested because I allowed it. By activating the right mechanism, I could cause the floor to melt away from under your feet,” the Makuta explained. “But don't worry, I won't. Oh, most of you will die, one by one, but I want to leave Imlen and Iskanemo alive for the time being, so they can see their plans and hopes fall to ruin.”“I know few beings as despicable as you,” one of the Toa spoke back to the darkness. “But I am not afraid.”“Not afraid?” chuckled Teskor. “Then go on, take a step. A Toa can't abandon her allies in need, can she?”With one heavy step, the one that had spoken left Imlen's tiny sphere of illumination. Another footstep sounded, and another, and a fourth. Imlen and the others dared to follow, clasping each others' hands so they did not get separated. The Toa in the lead allowed them to catch up, then they carefully began to descend. Climbing down a colossal staircase in nearly absolute darkness was frightening enough without the possibility of falling into a lethal trap with every step – and yet Teskor had just said he wanted Imlen and Iskanemo alive. This made Imlen feel guilty, as the Makuta no doubt intended, but he managed to gain courage from it. As long as he was careful enough not to fall, no harm would come to him yet. Or so he thought until the step beneath his feet suddenly became molten-hot. He yelped and jumped instinctively, accidentally breaking free of his companion's grasp and tumbling down the stairs. His fall was stopped by the next landing, which was near enough for him to not be seriously injured, but he still ached all over. The very nasty shock he had just suffered felt even worse.“Imlen!” the worried voice of Iskanemo sounded down the stairs. “Imlen, are you alive?”“I'm...” Imlen croaked, then he managed to shout back up. “I am. I'm not hurt too badly.”“That step melted into a liquid in seconds,” called one of the other Toa. “And yet the shadow was so complete the glow of molten rock could not pierce it. And now it's cooled and reformed, just as quickly.”“Be careful,” said Imlen. “I'll wait right here.”Imlen waited until his companions reached him, and just as he was about to resume providing light, the darkness lessened enough on its own for them to just barely see where they were going. When they were halfway down the next flight, Iskanemo suddenly put his hand to his head and reeled. Imlen reached out to catch the Toa of Air, afraid he was going to topple over, but Iskanemo managed to regain his balance.“Brulado and his soldiers are in trouble,” he said, breathing heavily as if frightened.“What? What's happening?” asked Velvirki.“I don't know,” said Iskanemo. “It – it was more of a telepathic scream than a status report.”“For an instinctive, wordless utterance, such a message was quite descriptive of the situation, Iskanemo,” the voice of Makuta Teskor boomed. “But not as vivid as I would prefer, so allow me to elaborate.”For a few seconds, all was still and silent, and Imlen was confused by Teskor's words. Then a vision flashed before his eyes – the telepathic soldier being butchered by a Rahkshi. As he cried out in shock, the empty blackness next to the stairs turned to a horrific scene. It was an apparition of the slaughter of Brulado's group. In some far-off chamber, he and his soldiers had stumbled into a cruel trap. Some of them were dismembered by jagged blades from the walls and floor, while Rahkshi surrounded and exterminated the rest. Brulado himself was the last one left alive, but his valiant fight was ended when he stepped on a pressure plate while backing away from the Rahkshi. Triggered by his misstep, a chute in the ceiling opened to dump a torrent of molten metal on his head. If the Toa of Fire's natural resistance to heat had any effect, it seemed to do nothing but prolong his suffering, and Teskor made sure to provide the sound of his death scream in the illusion. And though it was just that – an illusion – Imlen knew this was no deception. The fortress somehow amplified the reach of Teskor's powers and perception, and the Makuta had shown the six Toa exactly what had happened.“We shouldn't have sent them ahead on their own,” said one of the Toa, after they had recovered from the worst of the ordeal.“No. I sent them to their deaths,” Iskanemo agreed, though he maintained his composure. “But such is the burden of a commander. And perhaps there is hope for the others, if we manage to capture the teleportation device...”“It sounds like the best course of action,” said Imlen. “But I am still certain I will face Teskor once again before this is over.”

-----

Vilam wasn't sure she was doing the right thing. Though her injuries troubled her less, her thoughts were still somewhat muddled. As soon as she saw the Brotherhood reinforcements streaming in from the opposite shore, and the column of reddish smoke that heralded the arrival of Makuta Icarax, she knew she had been right to be anxious, but she didn't know what she could do about it. Though her limp no longer slowed her walking pace by much, she couldn't move fast enough to spar, and her reflexes were impaired. She doubted she even had the strength to wield her sword for long. And yet her elemental energy had recharged, and she had retained the mental acuity to channel it. She realized that was what she could do. She preferred to use physical combat in conjunction with her elemental powers, but that was not an option this time. This time, she would put all her effort into unleashing lightning. It was one of the flashier elements, and hopefully it would draw the attention of Icarax away from her allies.She was not one to throw her life away, but she knew the wounds she had suffered would soon put an end to her time as a Toa. In other circumstances, she would have been willing to retire to existence as a Turaga, but she wasn't one yet, and that meant she still had to fight to save her comrades. When a fleeing platoon stampeded past her, pursued by Visorak, she took a deep breath and prepared for what would be the last – and likely the most taxing – use of her element. The crack of thunder rolled across the misty plain as a bolt of electricity shot from her hands and forked to intercept each of the approaching Visorak. Heads turned across the battlefield, but she couldn't see if Icarax had taken notice. She ran forward as quickly as she could, and when she was in range of the next group of Brotherhood minions, she let out an even greater surge. Rebel warriors looked up in surprise and relief as the enemies that had been about to slaughter them were fried by the bluish bolts. No longer restrained by the encircling ranks of the Brotherhood army, they ran to join Vilam.“Go! Flee!” she yelled. “Get out of here!”Most of the soldiers happily complied, for which she could not blame them, but a few brave individuals insisted in staying at her side as she moved towards the midst of the battle. More rallied to them as they advanced, while they continued to clear a path for those who could no longer fight. The shape of the battle quickly changed, and though it was still a certain defeat for Velitel's forces, it was no longer such a disastrous rout. Inspired by Vilam's interference, scattered, fleeing soldiers reformed ranks to retreat neatly or make another stand. But Icarax still had yet to react. Vilam soon saw why: the red Makuta had just finished cleaving and blasting his way to Velitel and several other Toa, and now loomed over them. He was still quite a distance away, but when he spoke, his voice boomed loud enough for the Toa of Lightning to hear his words clearly over the noise of battle.“Toa. Of course,” he said. “Only Toa could be so foolhardy as to attack Destral itself. And yet you did not have the courage to confront me. You misled me, in an attempt to avoid me. I have spent all day pointlessly leveling villages on Stelt, and while such destruction was entertaining, I dislike being made a fool of. For this insult, I will kill you myself.”“I am not afraid,” said Velitel as Icarax stepped forward. “I have foreseen my death, and it is not to be here and now.”“You are foolish to trust in visions, Toa,” said Icarax. “You cannot be sure of what you see.”“I have visions of remarkable clarity,” said Waskita. “I know that my friends and I will die very soon – perhaps within the hour – but it will not happen here.”“Toa, I am about to magnetize your heads to your feet so strongly your spines break in half,” growled the Makuta. “But if you will not give me the satisfaction of savoring your terror, so be i –”Vilam struck at that instant. With a great, focused bolt of electricity, she did a deed few beings could ever boast of doing: she brought Makuta Icarax to his knees, though only for a moment. He let out a sound that was as much an annoyed growl as a pained yell, and before he could pick himself off the ground, the Toa were upon him. Streams of elemental energy converged on him, keeping him pinned down until he summoned his strength and struck back. With one sweep of his sword, he slew one Toa and sent the rest stumbling back. As he kept them at bay a little longer with a blast of chain lightning, he turned to Vilam, who was still approaching as quickly as she could.“You dare attack me from behind, Toa?” he bellowed, then he lowered his voice to a menacing growl. “You have resorted to deception and trickery, and for that, you will not be granted the mercy of a quick death.”Icarax sent a focused blast of sonic energy from his upraised hand. Vilam threw herself to the side, dodging the attack, but lost her balance. Her impact with the ground jarred her injuries, and she gasped in pain. As she struggled to push herself up, Icarax darted to her with supernatural speed. She found herself on the receiving end of her element as he cast electricity from his sword, and she was too muddled to absorb or deflect the lightning. As soon as she stopped spasming, Icarax cackled and used his power over gravity to lift her off the ground, then slam her down. This aggravated her wounds much worse, and with her face buried, she let out a muffled scream. She tried and failed to raise her head, and suddenly heard shouts and the clash of blades nearby, followed by screams and the sounds of falling bodies. A group of warriors had come to aid her, but by the time she managed to look up, they were all dead. She looked past Icarax to see the Brotherhood army had surrounded Velitel and the other Toa, but were not attacking them. The Makuta paused while she attempted to stand.“Come on, get up!” he said. “I have barely begun to hurt you.”He seemed to not notice that Vilam had already been nearly crippled, and she felt he had hurt her quite enough, but she was thankful he was distracted for the moment. She would just need to endure as long as she could. He began to torment her with his sword, making great strokes that he redirected just in time to leave little gashes in her armor. He continued to inflict these stinging wounds for a full minute, then swung low and effortlessly cut through her ankles. The mouthpiece of Icarax's mask warped into an evil grin as she fell onto her back. With a great effort, she managed to maintain her mental focus and not scream, but she would not be able to bear the pain for much longer. It was time to act while she still could. As Icarax's blade swung for her right wrist, she channeled a blast of electricity from that hand and into the weapon. This time, Icarax barely faltered, but she had enough time to continue to channel lightning from the whole of her body. Nearby warriors ran for cover as tendrils of electricity shot from her supine form. Several Brotherhood minions were not fast enough and were caught in the storm.Icarax stood his ground throughout the tempest of energy, but he was clearly in great discomfort. When Vilam could sustain it no longer, he was finished toying with her. He was ready to end it – and so was she. As he drew his sword back to drive it through her chest, she triggered her Kanohi for the final time. As the blade rushed towards her, the Mask of Fusion embraced the two of them, merging them into one being. Vilam immediately felt the brute force of his will crushing hers. He would win this mental battle, and when he did, they would not separate as was the case in most uses of the mask. Her mind would be annihilated, and her physical form would remain a part of him – such was the consequence of fusing with a Makuta. In fact, they used this as a method of attack in the form of their absorbing Shadow Hand. But she expected a being as selfish and evil as a Makuta would not expect any 'victim' to do such a thing willingly, and that gave her enough of an edge to consolidate her will. The longer she held onto her identity, the longer Icarax would be occupied. Inside the fusion of their bodies, her consciousness made one last stand.

-----

Mozmana had been delayed by the Brotherhood reinforcements, and when she found Vilam, she was too late to save her. All she could do was watch as the Toa of Lightning activated her mask and sacrificed herself. Mozmana mourned her, but could not help but feel a tiny bit jealous of Vilam's selflessness and wish for such a chance to prove herself. But that had been Vilam's duty, Mozmana's required her to stay alive. It was time for the survivors of Velitel's army to evacuate, while Icarax was incapacitated. While the red titan staggered, locked in an internal struggle, Mozmana charged the ring of Rahkshi and Visorak that surrounded the surviving Toa. These Brotherhood minions had paused their attack, for Icarax had expressed his wish to deal with the Toa personally, and they were waiting tentatively when she fell upon them. Velitel and the others had taken the opportunity to rest, but now they struck again. Their enemies had no choice but to retaliate, whatever their master's wishes. Having recovered some of their strength and elemental power, the Toa swiftly shredded the nearest Brotherhood ranks. When they came near to each other, Velitel beckoned to Mozmana.“Mozmana! The wounded – what happened?” he said worriedly as he smashed in a Visorak's carapace.“They're safe,” she explained quickly. “I – I gave up some of my Toa power to heal some of them. Vilam ran off, and I followed her.”“I still don't think it was a good idea to leave them, but I'm glad you two came,” said the Toa of Fire. “Vilam's sacrifice might save us, and I need all the brothers and sisters I can muster to lead the remnants of our army to safety.”“You're not coming with us,” Mozmana realized. “You're going into the fortress.”“Correct,” said Waskita. “And don't worry – if we encounter Imlen and the others in there, we'll send them back out.”“Right. Iskanemo, Waskita, and I go to face our final destiny. No others are fated to accompany us,” said Velitel, then he turned to address the small group of remaining Toa. “Now is the time for us to part, brothers and sisters. You and the brave soldiers that fight by our side must live to strike the Brotherhood another day. I trust you to make this happen. Now escape! Retreat! Flee! Make for the shore!”The Toa were still fighting while Velitel gave his last command. Using the last of his Cordak missiles to clear a path, the Toa general darted for the tower's gaping entrance, with Waskita by his side. Meanwhile, the rest of the Toa moved to aid their warriors and rally them to retreat. By now, Icarax had recovered, but he was still noticeably slowed by the ordeal of subduing Vilam's will. A few Toa and squads of courageous warriors managed to hold him off, bravely forfeiting their own chance to escape. The rest of Velitel's air force had been wiped out or fled by now, and Venom Flyers swooped down on the retreating remnant of the army. Mozmana and the other Toa let out a surge of elemental power to dissipate the swarm, while the warriors made one last charge to break through the ranks of the Brotherhood army. This desperate clash was very quick and violent, and less than one hundred of Velitel's soldiers made it through. In the chaos, Mozmana lost track of how many Toa were left, but she believed there were seven or eight, not including those that had gone into the tower.The Toa turned to release one more elemental barrage to slow the pursuing minions of the Makuta, then they and their surviving soldiers fled as fast as they could. Perhaps in a different time, such flight could have been considered against a Toa's nature, but not in these days. In this era, a Toa that did not know when to run didn't last for a year. But though Mozmana was wiser than that, the retreat was still difficult on her conscience. Many of the wounded had to be left behind, and on a more personal level, she had left Imlen in the depths of the Destral fortress. He had released her from the oath she had sworn, but that did little to lessen her guilt. All she could do was trust in his abilities – a trust that was quite substantial – and hope for the best. Velitel was right: she and the others had a duty to survive to continue the fight in another time and place. Saving Imlen should also have been her duty, but that was beyond her now, and so she resolved to fulfill the option that was left to her. Though they could not yet see the coast through the fog, she and the others kept running, for they knew the way. When the sea was in sight, they were exhausted, and the Brotherhood army was right behind them.Review

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#48 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 16 2012 - 06:12 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-eight==Destral, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~

Imlen moved through the darkness as quickly as he could without risking a fall off the towering staircase. But though the subconscious senses he had honed kept him from plummeting to his doom, his conscious mind was distracted. Iskanemo had just related a telepathic message from Waskita. The Toa of Psionics had quickly told of the events that had happened outside, and the news of Vilam's sacrifice had shaken Imlen. He was not the only one in his group to have lost a teammate this day, but he now lagged behind the others, distracted. He and the other Toa that had accompanied Iskanemo were to escape if they could, while the Toa of Air joined Velitel and Waskita in one desperate attempt to seize Destral's teleportation device. It was not yet time for Iskanemo to part from the group – not until they were closer to the base of the tower – and so they were still traveling together down the stairs in nearly utter darkness.“Imlen, come on!” Kehottaa, a Toa of Stone, called from a few bio down.“Yes – uh, sorry,” the Toa of Plasma said, and he quickened his pace to catch up.“I'm sorry I brought you upon this, brother,” Iskanemo whispered to Imlen when the two Toa were side by side. “I've... I'm responsible for the deaths of both your old friends now.”Imlen didn't answer. He just stared down the stairs, trying to see through the darkness in front of him.“I don't deserve or wish for your help,” the Toa of Air continued. “But for your own sake, and for these other Toa, please focus. Don't let your anger with me... don't let it doom those who still have a chance to survive this.”“I'm not sure if I'm angry with you,” Imlen replied this time. “I suppose I am – but I feel more numb – but there is nothing I can or should do about it. If Waskita's vision will come true, you will receive your punishment by the end of the day, and it's out of my hands.”This time, it was Iskanemo's turn to look shocked, though to a far lesser degree. Imlen noticed, and realized the strangeness of his own words – he did not usually speak so ominously.“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound as if I was convicting you, like a judge,” he said quickly. “You've lost more than I have today... and you're going to lose more. As for myself, well, I should be honored that my sister found such a noble end. And one of us three – Paqyar, Vilam, and I, I mean – one of us was bound to outlive the other two. I would not wish that burden on either of – ”At that moment, the section of staircase the two Toa stood upon abruptly swiveled to drop them into the empty air. Before he fell far enough to be badly injured, Imlen slammed into a floor, twisting just in time to avoid shattering his Kanohi against the hard stone. Iskanemo whistled past, and though the Toa of Air was quickly out of sight, Imlen soon heard his voice from below.“Imlen!” the voice echoed from unseen walls and pillars. “Imlen?”“Uh,” grunted Imlen, getting up achingly, then he replied. “Iskanemo? I'm alright, I suppose. And you?”“Well, I can still walk,” Iskanemo called from below. “And hopefully fight. Listen: find the others if you think you can, but don't abandon your own chance to escape. It seems Teskor doesn't want you dead yet, but he'll kill off the others on a whim. Get out of here before he changes his mind.”“I'll try. You're right, and I'm in no state to face him,” agreed Imlen, then he muttered to himself. “I hope my premonitions of a second confrontation here are wrong.”“We won't see each other again,” said Iskanemo. “Goodbye, Imlen.”“Goodbye, Iskanemo,” said Imlen, and he could think of nothing else to say.The sound of Iskanemo's footsteps below slowly faded away as Imlen started in a different direction. The lanterns illuminated the area just enough for him to see where he was going, and he pried one of these loose from the wall to carry with him. Holding the lamp up to where he had fallen, he could see no way to get back onto the staircase from there. He directed the light down, and was surprised that he could not see the level below. Iskanemo had fallen farther than he thought, and Imlen could not determine by what stunt the Toa of Air had survived. In any case, Imlen was in no hurry to try dropping down to follow him. It was true, then – they had parted for the last time. A quick search revealed several doors, all unlocked. Behind each of them was a passageway, though it was impossible to tell which led where. Imlen picked one at random and entered it. To his dismay, it eventually started to wind upward. He attempted to return the way he came, but the passage branched confusingly. After several winding turns, he was lost.Desperately, he melted a hole in the floor, only to find the level below was still much too far for him to safely drop down to. Alone, he realized just how vulnerable he was. He had been frightened when in the company of his brothers and sisters, and now the aches that he had forgotten about began to trouble him again. He had payed no attention to his limp, for most of the other Toa had also suffered wounds, but now the realization that he was alone, wounded, and likely at the mercy of his archenemy frightened him terribly.“I could hear you and Iskanemo talking, you know,” Teskor said, again as if he had read Imlen's mind, and Imlen jumped. “Go ahead and try to escape. I told you earlier: you could lose yourself in here for weeks. Hopefully none of your injuries are too serious. I would hate for you to expire during that time. I would much rather watch you wander for a while, then end you. But how to do it? I admit I am not as creative as our leader when it comes to killing – I cannot name a thousand ways to do it in any particular situation. But I have a few ideas. I could absorb you with my Shadow Hand, giving you a fate much like that of your sister, but no... I want to do it with my own claws. But what part should I target? Perhaps first I will –”“Shut up!” Imlen screamed, dropping his lantern and staff and putting his hands to his ears. “Tear me apart, rip my armor from my flesh and my flesh from my bones, but spare me your taunts! You will drive me mad before we meet, and I was under the impression you wish to confront me while I... while I... am still... sane...”Imlen trailed off in awe, for as he spoke, the passage suddenly brightened. Teskor had apparently ceased to maintain the unnatural darkness. Of course, Imlen still needed some light source to see, and so he retrieved the lamp, but with it he could now see all the way to the next turn in the corridor. He reached that turn and the next, peeking into side passages as he went. Finally, he found one that slowly spiraled downward, and he went that way. Still Makuta Teskor did not harass him with his disembodied voice, nor did Imlen encounter any active traps. He limped on more quickly now, and soon he came to where the passage leveled out and opened onto another wide chamber. Mercifully for Imlen, the dreadful prisons and laboratories of the Makuta were apparently in the fortress's lowest levels. So far, he had passed what looked to be meeting chambers and mustering halls. Other than a few weapon storage rooms, and a workshop filled with damaged and deactivated Exo-Toa, it was in fact oddly empty. Either the Makuta had far more space than they needed, or Teskor had emptied much of the fortress in anticipation of the assault.Another door in this chamber led to another downward-winding passage, and at the end of that was a locked door. Imlen easily melted through it and found himself on a wide balcony. There, he could see daylight once again, and though it was from a dim and gray sky, it was bright compared to the darkness of the fortress. The light came from the tower's shattered main gate – the balcony overlooked the foyer he and the others had entered by, though it was filled with many Visorak carcasses and other remains that had not been there last time. Imlen remembered Iskanemo mentioning that Waskita and Velitel had made a brief stand just within the tower's entrance before running into the depths of the fortress. Imlen now looked upon the results of that skirmish, and he saw no living Brotherhood minion. Apparently, they had all gone to chase after the retreating survivors, and some of them were possibly still after Velitel and Waskita. Now was his chance. Imlen just needed to find a way down, and...Imlen shivered. He felt a dreadful presence behind him. Immediately, he turned and saw Makuta Teskor standing next to the door through which he had come. The Makuta had used his camouflage ability to blend in with the wall, and now his armor was returning to its usual blue and gray. Imlen suppressed the desire to shudder again. Had Teskor been watching him since he stepped onto the balcony? It had probably not even been a minute yet, but the thought was still eerie. Imlen had expected them to begin battling the second they were in the same room. Teskor did not make a move, and in a different situation, Imlen would have attacked, but he knew he had no chance. Even were he not battered and weary, the chances of him prevailing alone against a Makuta were slim. Imlen took a step back, and then Teskor acted. The Toa of Plasma gasped as a powerful magnetic force lifted him into the air and began to manipulate his armor, opening his wounds while crushing other parts of him. With great effort, he was able to summon his elemental power, but it was useless. The magnetic field generated by Makuta Teskor would redirect Imlen's own plasma back to him.Teskor was oddly silent now. Imlen had expected a drawn-out showdown with many taunts and retorts, but it seemed the Makuta wanted to end this quickly, with no fooling around. Of course, that explained why the shadow darkening the halls had been lifted. It had let Imlen find his way much faster, just to come to where Teskor was waiting for him. Imlen was grateful. He was sure that the Makuta had hurried things because of his own impatience, but it was still a mercy to Imlen to not leave him wandering in the fortress for days before killing him. Now he was sure his life was going to end – not pleasantly, but at least swiftly and quietly. But he had to make it last as long as he could, after all, the longer Teskor spent dealing with him, the longer the other Toa would be safe from the blue Makuta. And so he fought to remain conscious, and he made a show of struggling, though he knew it was in vain. His limbs were going numb, and his chest cavity was being crushed inward.Then, just as Imlen's lungs had no room to breathe, there was a sudden rumbling noise. Imlen's vision blurred, and he could not see what was going on, but he felt the magnetic grip disappear and drop him. He gasped and took a deep breath, managing to push his squashed chest outward. He heard indistinct shouts, one of which clearly belonged to Teskor, but before he could focus on what he was hearing, the floor under him crumbled. He fell, lying on a stone slab that disintegrated in midair. Someone's arms caught him, arms that were not the Makuta's. With some effort, he turned his head to see the brown Kanohi Akaku of Toa Kehottaa. The Toa of Stone let him down gently, and Imlen noticed two other Toa from his group battling Teskor. Like Imlen, they were far from in prime condition, but so far they held their own against the Makuta.“Kehottaa...” Imlen wheezed. “Thank you.”“Glad we arrived in time,” said Kehottaa. “Now take it easy.”“No! I... I think I can stand,” protested Imlen.Teskor launched a pair of Heat Vision beams that narrowly missed Kehottaa, forcing him to rejoin the fight before he could respond. While his brothers' backs were turned to him, Imlen attempted to stand. Several times, his legs failed him, but finally he managed. His armor was distorted, the muscles beneath were bruised and lacerated, and his metal bones were battered, but his legs could still support him – if just barely. Standing unsteadily, he let out a stream of plasma just in time to save the Toa of Water named Kurtulan from a deadly blast of shadow energy. Teskor snarled and stepped forward towards Imlen, but the Toa of Plasma maintained his attack. Using his ability to become resistant to heat, Teskor pushed through the scorching stream, only to be assailed from several directions by the other Toa in a concentrated elemental attack. Still channeling their elements, the Toa gathered in front of the Makuta, on either side of Imlen, and supported their wounded brother. Teskor took an unsteady step backwards, and then the Toa ran, carrying Imlen.“Where is Velvirki?” he said, noticing that one of the four Toa was missing.“Dead,” said Kurtulan. “He was the last one of us to fall to the traps. Shortly after that, the shadow lifted somewhat and we – ”She was cut off when Teskor regained his balance and let out a Power Scream. The brunt of his attack missed the fleeing Toa and instead demolished a great pillar, but the sound was still terrible. The entire chamber – perhaps the entire tower – trembled, and large fragments of stone fell from above where the pillar no longer supported the ceiling. Kurtulan still appeared to be trying to speak, but they were all deaf for a few minutes. They ran out the shattered gate, and made some distance before Rahkshi began to spill out of the tower. They were out of range for now, but if the tired and aching Toa did not quicken their pace, the Makuta-Sons would soon catch up. A small swarm of Nui-Rama and other flying Rahi emerged from the tower and descended upon them, and though there were not enough of the creatures to defeat the Toa, they could not move through the swarm quickly enough to escape the Rahkshi. They would need to stop to drive the creatures off, then resume their retreat. Imlen felt some of his strength had returned, and so he insisted on being let down to fight. At that moment, Waskita contacted him telepathically.Imlen! she projected. We have reached the teleportation chamber, and we think we can use the device, but the minions of the Makuta are breaking in! We can wait no longer!What of the rest of the army? Imlen thought in response, as he fended off flying Rahi. Where is Mozmana?She is with the others. They should have reached the sea by now, projected Waskita. We are sorry we cannot wait for you to escape, Imlen, especially Iskanemo. Thankfully, he will not live much longer to regret it. It will take us a few minutes to start the system. Prepare yourself.This announcement of impending doom struck Imlen harder than the prospect of his seemingly certain death by Makuta Teskor had. For a brief while, hope of escape had returned to him. But his hope of survival depended on the island of Destral disappearing once he had left its shores. He was not sure where the island was going to end up, but if it did not leave him and the others behind, they would quickly be hunted down. In addition, he didn't know if there were any hazards to being on the surface of the island when it teleported. Perhaps everyone needed to take shelter when it happened, but there was no available shelter around. His hopes had risen only to be smashed, and he struggled to bring himself to inform his companions.“It's t-too... late,” he stuttered. “We... we won't escape.”“Why do you say that, Imlen?” asked Kurtulan. “This is a tight spot, but we can – ”“Oh no,” interrupted Kehottaa, for a flock of great flying Rahi, similar to Kahu but far more savage-looking, swooped down upon them from high above.“Oh, yes,” said the third Toa with strange confidence, and he stopped right in the birds' path.“Gazda, what are you doing?” demanded Kurtulan.“If you ever visit my village, be sure to thank the Matoran for taking care of my Suva,” said the Toa of Sonics.Before anyone could ask for an explanation, Gazda's Kanohi glowed for a split second, then with a flash it was replaced by another: the Mask of Rahi Control. Just as the birds were upon him, he let out a sonic blast that stopped the birds in their dive and knocked off their infected Kanohi. Still angered, the birds attempted to resume their attack, only to be mesmerized by the power of Gazda's mask. They circled around the Toa peacefully, and Gazda gradually coaxed them to land. The other Toa had managed to drive the rest of the swarm back, and the Rahkshi had not yet caught up to them. Imlen urged them to hurry, and quickly managed to finally explain what was about to happen. Now, however, the hope of escape had returned yet again. As soon as possible, the Toa mounted the birds.“Now climb, climb!” Imlen urged. “We have no time to spare.”“Yes, we must fly now,” agreed Gazda. “Hold on tight!”The Toa did as he said. The avian Rahi faltered for a moment, unaccustomed to the burdens they now carried, then they summoned their strength and launched themselves into the sky. The enemy swarm reformed and pursued them, and the Rahkshi also took to the sky. The communication between Gazda and the birds was empathic, and yet his desperation for them to go as fast as they could was so apparent, the other Toa might as well have heard him urge them aloud. The Toa gained altitude, followed by the flying minions of the Brotherhood, and far below an aura of energy enveloped Destral. A portal opened in space, the sea churned, and in a flash, the island was gone. The Toa on their enthralled aerial steeds remained, as did the other Rahi and the flying Rahkshi. The birds were fast, but they would not be able to evade the Rahkshi forever. The Toa of Sonics sent the creatures into a dive to shake off their pursuers, granting the Toa a little more time. Kehottaa scanned the sea with his telescopic eyepiece, and called out when he saw the swimming remnants of Velitel's army.The Toa swooped low above their allies. The Brotherhood minions still followed, and as soon as they were in range, the warriors in the sea let out a ferocious salvo. Many of the Rahkshi and hostile Rahi were destroyed in this initial pass, and the four Toa stopped fleeing and swept around to finish off the rest.“Now what?” asked Gazda. “We're, what, fifty kio off the coast of Stelt? I don't think all of us could make the swim.”“Look!” said Kehottaa, looking to the horizon this time.The Toa of Stone pointed out an unexpected but welcome sight: Steltian boats were quickly approaching. No doubt they were scavengers aiming to do nothing more but make money from the battle's aftermath, but if they had any decency they would help. The four flying Toa descended on the fleet. The defenders aboard the boats braced themselves for battle, but each of the Toa prominently displayed a peaceful gesture, and the Steltians allowed them to come closer. As soon as they were near enough, the Toa had the birds drop them off on the foremost vessel, and with one final command, Gazda dismissed the Rahi. After quickly explaining their situation, the Toa were taken before the boat's captain. To Imlen's surprise, the ship's commander was a Matoran of Magnetism. He looked familiar, somehow, but Imlen could not quite remember why. The Matoran, however, appeared to recognize Imlen. In fact, he looked quite shocked and uncomfortable.“Toa Imlen?” he said nervously, not at all in a manner befitting a captain addressing uninvited guests aboard his vessel.“Yes, that is me,” said Imlen. “Have we met before?”“So you don't remember,” said the Matoran of Magnetism. “I wish I could keep it that way, but I had better tell you... does the name Kyulget mean anything to you?”That brought back memories. Years ago, Kyulget, a seller of boats, had taken Imlen and his companions to Nynrah, only to betray them to Brotherhood agents.“You!” snapped Imlen, to the bemusement of the other Toa. “I remember now. You treacherous little...”“Yes, yes, but hold on a moment,” said Kyulget rapidly, and he took a step backwards. “That was a long time ago, and I'm sorry about that, and... I can help you.”“You? Why should I trust you?” said Imlen.“I said, I'm sorry I sold you out,” said the Matoran. “The Brotherhood screwed me out of my reward... at least they left me alive – but still, they screwed me out of my reward! I'm never doing business with them again.”“So which Steltian warlord or gangster is going to receive your services, then?” said Imlen scornfully. “Or is it the Dark Hunters this time?”“No! Listen,” insisted Kyulget. “You should trust me because I'm the one that led all these ships out here.”“Oh? I'm afraid most of the spoils of war have disappeared along with Destral, looter,” said Kehottaa.“Believe it or not, that's not why I came. You see, a mysterious informant tipped me off – of course, we all knew a battle of some sort was going on, but I was going to ignore it until this guy talked to me,” explained the Matoran.“This informant: who was he, and what did he say?” asked Kurtulan, saying what Imlen was about to say.“I said he was mysterious,” said Kyulget in an exasperated tone. “He was tall, slender, scary-looking – I think he was a Vortixx, but he didn't look like a factory worker. He told me that an army was attacking Destral, but the spooky thing was that he knew of our shared past, Toa Imlen. He told me that if I wished to make amends for my betrayal of you, I should search the site of the battle when it was over.”“Vortixx?” Imlen mused to himself, while the other Toa exchanged clueless glances. “I wonder... no, it couldn't be...”“What is it? You know something?” asked Kyulget eagerly.“Never mind,” said Imlen firmly. “Now you listen: we may be few in number and battered, but if you try anything, we can sink your boat before you can say 'sorry I betrayed you again'.”“Point taken,” said Kyulget with a gulp. “Now lead the way. I might be doing this for free, but you see all those other sailors in the other boats? They aren't, so let's hurry this along before they get too impatient.”“Right,” said Imlen, relaxing a little. “Turn just a little to port... that's good, they're straight ahead. Let's get the sailors ready...”

-----

Mozmana sighed with relief as she saw Imlen standing on the bow of the nearest boat. The battle was over, and he had survived. Minutes ago, her other old companion, Iskanemo, had perished. She had been unable to converse with him telepathically in his final moments, but she could still sense his passing. She had, however, briefly communicated with Waskita shortly before that, and it had seemed their situation was about to turn out just as Waskita had foreseen. After activating the teleporter, the three Toa had made one last stand in the dark passages beneath the Destral fortress. Thanks to their sacrifice, the survivors of Velitel's army – including the wounded warriors that had taken shelter in the cave – had been just off the coast when the island vanished, and most of the pursuing Brotherhood soldiers and beasts had still been on the island and had gone with it. The few that were left were defeated without much trouble, along with the vicious sea Rahi that had also been left behind. If all went well, the approximately one hundred and fifty surviving warriors would make it, as would the several remaining Toa.Tignioni, Geistig, Jibana... the list of surviving Toa was short, and the list of fallen was much, much longer: Velitel, Iskanemo, Waskita, Vilam, Jufeng, Brulado, Stuhi... and many more, over forty in total. In addition to Toa, many other heroes had died that day, in a crushing defeat. Mozmana could only hope that the day's events would not discourage others from resisting tyranny and corruption. She wondered when any army – not counting the mercenaries of the Dark Hunters – would dare to oppose the Brotherhood openly again.Review

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#49 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 22 2012 - 06:56 PM

End of YrentaChapter Forty-nine==Leokhtlich Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~1,000 AGC~

Like many other communities, the town of Kotleef was going through hard times. The once pristine and peaceful settlement, located a few dozen kio northwest of Yrenta, had been becoming more and more dilapidated and crime-ridden lately. And so when Imlen and Mozmana arrived to find commotion in the streets and a crowd gathering around what looked to be a tavern, they prepared for trouble. But there was no riot or gang fight in progress this time. The Toa soon discovered that the source of the excitement was astonishing news that apparently had been reported in a message carried by courier Rahi, and recently confirmed by travelers from neighboring lands.“Metru Nui is reoccupied! Dume's people have returned!” they said, and everyone celebrated – enforcers and criminals, laborers and chieftains alike.“The very same Matoran that disappeared in the Cataclysm?” Mozmana asked one of the travelers inside the tavern, and he nodded. “But... how? Where were they this past millennium?”“Now that part I don't understand,” said the blue and red being. “Allegedly they found an island – a magical island beyond the sky, or some such thing. It's bigger than any uncharted island should be, and the sky and sea there are strange, or so I've heard.”“I heard the Makuta o' Metru Nui was spending all his time up there tormenting 'em,” another being spoke up. “But then he was killed – by a Toa of Light no less! Could it be? The boss o' the Brotherhood, dead?”“Wait a minute,” someone else joined in. “Could there even be a Toa of Light? I've never heard of any Matoran of Light...”“Of course there are Matoran of Light!” said the blue and red traveler. “They're just hiding, that's all. Living in secretive isolation – and who could blame them? If the Brotherhood were to find them...”“Hiding? An entire race of Matoran? That seems perfectly likely,” replied the other sarcastically. “But if this Toa of Light really does exist, what can I say?”“Forget that – if the Makuta of Metru Nui is dead, what does that mean for the Brotherhood?” yet another being joined the conversation.“A power struggle, most certainly,” said the second patron to have spoken. “I expect Icarax would win, an' the end result would all be the same t' us.”“No real change? I doubt that,” someone else said. “Icarax doesn't have the cunning to lead the Brotherhood as the Makuta of Metru Nui did. He's a lout – but that's not to say I'm not worried by the thought of him taking over. Sure, he'll probably run the Brotherhood into the ground, but he'd burn the whole universe doing it.”“I wonder what the Dark Hunters are going to do about it,” said the third being. “They could really take advantage of this, and I bet the Shadowed One knows how to do it best.”Imlen and Mozmana attempted to change the topic back to the matter of Metru Nui, but it was in vain. These beings were clearly intent on discussing the larger factions. One of them was kind enough to purchase each of the Toa one of the less noxious drinks on the menu, and after graciously accepting, they left the tavern. The news they had heard was joyous, and they felt better about the state of the universe than they had since before the Great Cataclysm, back when they were Matoran. Imlen took a drink, allowing the murky blue liquid blend to invigorate him and push his worries aside. Mozmana held up her cup and was beginning to take a tentative sip when someone called out to them. The Toa turned to see a Ta-Matoran running towards them.“Toa!” he said again.“Is there trouble, friend?” asked Imlen, though he was still cheerful.“I fear there is, Toa... um, Imlen, is it?” said the Ta-Matoran.“That's right. I haven't been this way for decades, though. I'm surprised I'm still remembered around here,” said Imlen. “But anyway, what trouble threatens to darken this glorious day?”“I do not know. My Turaga has not told me, but whatever it is, it has dismayed him greatly,” said the Matoran gloomily. “He wishes to speak to you in private.”“Very well,” said Mozmana immediately. “Lead the way.”“He's not in town. He is back at the village – about eleven kio from here,” said the Matoran of Fire. “Do you have steeds?”“No. We lost our Hypaka weeks ago, and haven't found any for sale since,” said Imlen.“Ooh, that's a costly loss,” winced the Matoran. “I am sorry, Toa, but in that case you will have to make the journey on foot. My Ussal is far too small to carry either of you.”Imlen and Mozmana had only just arrived in town, and would have liked to rest for a while, but the Matoran – who introduced himself as Yeblaawan – would not have approached them had his need not been urgent. It was their duty to help, and the mystery of what concerned his Turaga was intriguing. They could not refuse, and so they were soon hiking again. The Ta-Matoran rode just in front of them on his Ussal, for his own short legs could not match their great strides. The scurrying of the crab kicked up great clouds of dust, for the Leokhtlich region was slowly turning into a desert. The one who ruled it, Frithozib, took the title of Thane in memory of the chieftains of the long-lost kingdom the realm had once belonged to, and under his rule it had remained a place of farms and green wilderness for centuries after the cataclysm. Troubles had finally taken their toll on the region several years ago, however, when war between the Brotherhood, the Dark Hunters, and several lesser factions had ruined much of the farmland, and bandits inhabited the homesteads and villages that were abandoned. One such group of brigands was waiting down the road, but they wisely fled without a fight upon recognizing the Toa.The sight of the spreading lawlessness and desolation reminded Imlen that whatever was happening in Metru Nui, the rest of the universe had not become any less dangerous and desperate. This year marked the thousandth anniversary of the Great Cataclysm, and the optimistic had predicted that the milestone would be significant. Today they had been proven correct, but it would take much work to end and undo the decay – both societal and environmental – brought on by the millennium of darkness. Whatever was happening in Metru Nui, this mission would be no less dangerous and important than the last one. While he shielded his eyes from the dust with one hand, Imlen reached over and adjusted his pack with the other, then he paused for a moment to stretch. After the disastrous attack on Destral, his body had required extensive repair. The injuries he received that day had ceased to pain him long ago, but the parts of him that had been thoroughly rebuilt or replaced altogether still felt awkward sometimes. He was still recognizable as the Toa he had been before that day, but he almost felt as if he had an entirely new body.“Toa Imlen?” Yeblaawan turned to say. “Please, let's continue. We are almost there. See?”To the confusion of the Toa, the Matoran pointed at a large pond or small lake a short distance ahead. But they continued without question, and soon noticed jets of steam erupting from the surface of the water. On the other side of the water were two villages, or perhaps two distinct neighborhoods of one village. Huts built in the Ga-Matoran style lined part of the shore that seemed to be devoid of geysers, while nearby a cluster of Ta-Matoran structures surrounded a little stream of lava that flowed out of the ground and then back under it before reaching the lake. It was an interesting habitat for Matoran of Fire – not quite a volcano, but a place where the magma that heated the springs was exposed. Upon coming closer, the Toa noticed that this was not a completely natural part of the environment. The Ta-Matoran had made an excavation, too shallow to notice at a distance, to uncover the lava. The Toa and their guide entered the village just as the sun began to darken to make way for night.“Clever,” said Mozmana. “I usually picture Ta-Matoran as living on the ashy slopes of a dangerous volcano, but you were able to find igneous rock to build your homes in a place like Leokhtlich.”“Yes. It allowed us to use traditional building materials, but it is far more important than that,” said Yeblaawan with a smile. “The Ga-Matoran fishers provide us with most of our food, but for other necessities we rely on the money the lava provides us with. As you alluded to, Leokhtlich is not a volcanic region, and so we have a valuable resource here. We sell rare ores we harvest from it, as well as obsidian weaponry and trinkets carved from the rock. Some of us used to sell such baubles as good luck charms, for this type of stone is exotic to most people in the region, but our Turaga Alled thankfully put an end to that sham long ago.”“If you have such a rare and valuable resource here, I'm surprised you haven't been driven out,” said Imlen as the Ta-Matoran led them to a large structure at one end of the village. “No offense to your fighting capabilities, of course, but there are many malicious beings roaming these lands – beings that are bigger than your people.”“Oh, brigands and raiders have given us trouble once in a while, but Thane Frithozib is a good ruler. He knows to take good care of us. At least as good care as he can manage, which has been less and less these days... but even if those thugs did get their hands on our lava stream, what would they do with it? Burn themselves, that's all,” laughed Yeblaawan. “We are the only ones around who know how to extract its treasures.”“But still, do you think it's likely that your Turaga's worries revolve around it?” asked Mozmana, walking up the path to the building's door flap. “Maybe he knows of an impending attack, or the lava is going to run out – could that happen?”“Probably not, unless there were some sort of geological disturbance underground... anyway, I do not doubt that it's on the Turaga's mind, but I cannot tell for sure. But you can ask him yourself,” said the Matoran of Fire, and with that he opened the door flap. “Presenting Turaga Alled.”“Thank you, Yeblaawan,” said the Turaga, standing up from a seat in front of a fire pit. “You have done well. I see it is getting dark – you certainly have worked long today. Get some rest, and you can take some time off tomorrow.”“Thank you, Turaga, but it was my Ussal that did most of the work. He deserves the thanks, and I am not yet tired,” said Yeblaawan, and he remained in the room, watching the Toa and his Turaga expectantly.“I insist, Yeblaawan,” said the Turaga of Fire kindly yet firmly. “You are dismissed. These noble Toa and I must converse in private.”The Matoran of Fire bowed his head in submission and obeyed, though he was clearly disappointed. He neglected to close the door flap as he left, and so Alled gestured for Imlen to do it.“Why such secrecy?” asked the Toa of Plasma as he complied, then he joined the Turaga and Mozmana at the center of the room. “What can you not tell your own people?”“Something I cannot bear to tell them, and something they might be better off not knowing,” said Turaga Alled quietly, with a heavy sigh.“What is it? Is it something we can help with?” said Mozmana.“I do not know. But you must be told regardless,” said the Turaga, and he took a deep breath. “Toa, I... I fear Mata Nui is dying.”That was just about the worst news the Toa could ever hear. Where – and what – Mata Nui was, exactly, was a mystery, but it was well-known that if he died, his universe would die with him. His sleep had damaged his world and affected the natural order, and his death would cause it all to plunge into darkness and crumble. For over a minute, the Toa were speechless. Then the questions came to them.“How do you know this?” asked Mozmana.“And what could we possibly do about it?” said Imlen.“As to how I know, I read signs in the natural world that can hint at such things,” said Alled, sitting back down in his chair. “I am also a member of a small association that includes several other local Turaga, scholars, and mystics. All are well-versed in this art, and one even has the gift of precognition. All of them... all of them have come to the same conclusion.”“Well, you wouldn't have brought us all the way here if...” Imlen trailed off, unable to make light of the situation.“If I were not reasonably certain,” the Turaga finished for him anyway. “But there may be hope. Legends tell of a unique mask that is capable of saving Mata Nui's life. This mask, the Kanohi Ignika, was hidden by the Great Beings for just such a contingency.”“And you mean for us to retrieve this Kanohi,” said Mozmana in sudden understanding.“Actually, no,” said Alled, to the surprise of the Toa. “Even the friend I mentioned that is capable of foresight cannot tell your destinies for certain, but we believe that another team of Toa is fated to recover the Mask of Life – or at least to attempt to. If the legends are true, only two of you would not get far anyway. No, I have summoned you to help us prepare for the possibility – the likely possibility – that Mata Nui will die.”“Help prepare? How so? Are we to help you spiritually, so that you will be at rest when the universe becomes our grave?” demanded Imlen with frustration. “I cannot imagine what else we can do. If Mata Nui dies, everything in existence will die with him!”“Shh! I do not want the Matoran to overhear us,” Alled shushed the Toa of Plasma. “And you may be wrong about that. Consider the possibility of a world outside our own, to which we could evacuate.”“A universe... beyond our own universe?” said Mozmana, and Alled nodded.“Surely you have heard of the return of the population of Metru Nui,” said the Turaga, and he used his limited elemental power to morph the flames from the fire pit into the shape of the island city. “But do you know where they dwelt this past millennium?”“We have heard rumors... rumors of a fantastic island,” said Imlen, and now it was his turn to feel realization dawn on him. “But surely that is only a strange, previously unknown part of our own world... isn't it?”“Part of our world where the water is not any sort of water we have ever known, where there are birds and fish with characteristics unlike any known Rahi, and where the sun – ” Alled paused to shape the fire into a great blazing sphere, “ – the sun is a ball of flame? I think not.”“Lost Artakha's treasures,” Imlen exclaimed breathlessly. “Could it be? A whole other universe?”“Well, one large island surrounded by endless ocean, as far as anyone can tell,” clarified Alled, letting the fire return to its natural shape. “But if that place survives Mata Nui's death, we could build upon it. We could build additional land, to make room for as many people as possible.”“It would be better than waiting, hoping for a few other beings to save us all,” said Mozmana. “So what would you have us do?”“You must help to mobilize the people. Meet with leaders and make sure they are prepared to lead their people to safety, but only reveal the whole truth to those you can trust,” said the Turaga. “This knowledge must be shared, so that others can aid us, but I do not wish for it to become common yet. It is too early and too sudden. There would be panic. Only once we are ready to evacuate our universe can the secret be let out.”“Does Thane Frithozib know?” asked Mozmana.“No, but he is one I would trust with the knowledge,” said Alled. “He is wise and noble.”“Then we will inform him at once,” said the Toa of Psionics. “His influence is widespread. He can give the information to what subordinates and allies he trusts, and soon we will have many leaders in this part of the continent working with us.”“Mozmana... that sounds like the wisest course of action,” said Imlen, and Alled nodded in agreement. “But... I cannot do it. I must continue home to Yrenta. I must tell Turaga Morok, and see to the safety of my own people first.”“Yrenta? That region has long been isolated,” said the Turaga. “I sympathize with your concern for your homeland, but it would be folly to go to the Turaga of a such a remote place before informing such an influential leader as Frithozib.”“You are right,” said Imlen. “But I must return home at once regardless. Mozmana, we can each survive on our own if we are careful. I will be careful, please be careful as well.”“I will be,” promised Mozmana. “I will consult with Frithozib, and send word to Yrenta once I have his advice.”“If nothing else comes up, I will head directly to Turaga Morok's village,” said Imlen. “Have your message delivered to there.”Despite his urgency, Imlen was tired, and did not dare to travel alone in this unfamiliar land at night. He and Mozmana spent the night in the village, and the next morning they prepared to part. Before they left, Turaga Alled assured the Toa that he would summon others to join in the evacuation plan, and send messengers to meet in secret with the Turaga of Metru Nui. Then Imlen walked south, while Mozmana made for the capital city of Hayafod, to the west. It would be a few days' journey to the capital on foot, and by that night Mozmana expected Imlen had reached the border of Yrenta, assuming nothing had waylaid him. As for herself, she had been accosted by bandits twice already, but the thugs had barely slowed her down. The brigands that haunted Leokhtlich were unskilled ruffians that usually relied on their victims being far weaker than them, but Mozmana knew she would be in great danger if she was targeted by any elite Brotherhood of Makuta or Dark Hunter agents. After the disaster at Destral tore a chunk out of the dwindling number of Toa, she had encountered such assassins less often – it seemed the two evil organizations were focusing on other matters for now.Still, Mozmana took great care to hide herself when she slept, and she was relieved when she caught sight of the gates of Hayafod around noon of the third day. This town was much larger and rather more urbanized than Kotleef, but the architecture was much the same. The buildings were larger and more numerous, but for the most part were constructed of the same wood and gray stone. The same decay that affected the surrounding villages was noticeable here to some degree, but the center of the Leokhtlich region was still thriving and mostly beautiful. Colorful crests and banners adorned the walls, roads, and watchtowers. A pair of standards, each bearing a symbol of what appeared to be a white eight-legged Hypaka on a dark blue background, marked the path up the hill upon which the Great Hall of Hayafod sat. When Mozmana reached the ornately-carved double doors, the guards on duty bowed before her and escorted her into the presence of their Thane.Review

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#50 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 26 2012 - 09:57 AM

End of YrentaChapter Fifty==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~1,000 AGC~

Imlen had recently passed through the volcanic region that had once been part of Yrenta before the Ta-Matoran living there went into isolation. Now he traveled eastward south of Yrenta's mountains, through the lands he had lived in as a Matoran. He took care to avoid being seen, however. He had been away from his homeland for months, and did not know where Brotherhood agents were watching these days. It was better to be safe, and not reveal himself until he reached the jungle village, which was hopefully still the haven it had always been. Soon his path turned to the southeast, but Mount Tasle was still visible when he passed several kio south of it. Imlen gazed across the rocky wilderness to the peak of the great mountain, and was shocked by what he saw. The sky above Mount Tasle was clear. The presence of storm clouds was usually troubling, but in this case it was their absence that worried Imlen. For as long as anyone could remember, a thunderstorm had constantly lingered over the mountain. He did not know what link it had to Mata Nui's health, but he was certain its absence was a sign that something was very wrong.He was tempted to find a Matoran and ask how long the storm had been gone for, but knew it would be best to find Turaga Morok as soon as possible. He quickened his pace and reached the river at dusk. He crossed over and prepared to enter the jungle – which was already nearly dark as night – when a bolt of energy shot through the treetops and into the sky. From the shape and color of the projectile, he immediately recognized its origin: a Rahkshi. He sprinted into the jungle, and though his passage was at first hindered by the tangle of plants, he quickly came upon the barren scar in the jungle the Rahkshi had left. Dead and dying plants and Rahi marked the passage of the Makuta-spawn, and Imlen followed this trail to find six of them leading a host of Visorak and a pack of various Rahi enslaved by infected Kanohi. Occasionally a Lerahk stabbed the ground with its staff, releasing a poison that killed all plant life in a wide radius, and a Rahkshi of Heat Vision set groves ablaze, but fortunately the environment was too moist for the fire to spread far.There were too many for Imlen to defeat alone, so he followed at a safe distance. When the invaders intruded upon the territory of a large nest of Fikou, Imlen saw his chance. While the small spider Rahi dropped down from their webs and attacked the Visorak, he leaned out from his hiding place behind a tree and melted the Rahkshi of Heat Vision with one intense jet. The other five Rahkshi immediately turned, and a Guurahk caused the tree to crumble. Imlen had already moved, however, and he struck again from a growth of large ferns. He aimed for the Guurahk this time, but failed to destroy it with one hit, and he was revealed. He created a cloud of plasma to obscure himself and ran behind another tree, then another, then another. He moved farther away each time, and as he had hoped, the Rahkshi split up to look for him. As a Rahkshi of Gravity drew near, he threw a small stone at a nearby tree, disturbing the branches. The blue and silver machine noticed the rustling but not the rock, and began to use its power to bring down the branches and everything hiding in them.The sound of snapping wood muffled Imlen's footsteps as he crept up on the Rahkshi and buried his protosteel dagger in its back. It immediately turned around, but he managed to withdraw the blade and skewer its head before it could retaliate. The Kraata within screeched loudly as it died, alerting the nearest of its brothers. Before Imlen could take cover, this Rahkshi – the Lerahk – caught sight of him and charged. He quickly let out a burst of plasma, but the Rahkshi of Poison shrugged it off and was quickly on top of him. Imlen twisted out of the way as its staff came down, and coughed as poisonous fumes sprung from the ground where it struck. He attempted to balance himself and move away from the foul vapors, only to find his feet were entangled. As he tripped, he realized that of course a Rahkshi of Plant Control had been sent with this group. The fumes continued to choke him as vines wound around his prone body, and both Rahkshi loomed over him. Fortunately, the Rahkshi of Plant Control was unable to strengthen plants as much as a Toa of the Green could, and with some effort Imlen broke free.He was still on the ground at the feet of his enemies, however, and feeling dizzy and nauseated by the toxic vapors. He tried and failed to call upon his element as the Lerahk brought its staff down again. As it did a roar sounded from behind the Rahkshi, and it faltered long enough for Imlen to dodge again. Holding his breath, he rolled away, out of the poisonous cloud rising from the ground, and when he got up he saw a Muaka emerge from the trees. With one swift extension of its neck, it took a great bite out of the Rahkshi of Plant Control, destroying it and devouring most of its metal body. While the Lerahk turned to face the newcomer, Imlen drew his Nynrah Ghost Blaster and used it to immobilize the green Rahkshi. The Muaka smashed its head with a mighty paw, and Imlen retreated to let the Rahi feast. He expected the other Rahkshi would have found him by now, but when more hisses and roars echoed through the jungle, he realized that they had already fallen afoul of the wildlife. He rushed to the site of the Fikou webs to find the Visorak had prevailed against the lesser spiders, but were now under attack by another Muaka, a swarm of Draka, and several other beasts.Several of the enthralled Rahi had been killed by their free brethren, and so Imlen used his Nynrah Ghost Blaster to make them tear off their own infected masks before this went on any longer. When that was done, he helped defeat the last of the Visorak. Soon the invaders were all destroyed, and the night was peaceful again. The creatures that had gathered to defend their home went their separate ways, and Imlen continued. The battle had surely been noticed throughout much of the jungle, and so he was not surprised when he came upon a Matoran scout some distance from the village. He greeted the villager, and as they walked to the village together they exchanged news. The Matoran of Yrenta had just learned of Metru Nui's reoccupation the day before, and were celebrating. The jungle-dwellers, however, could not relax. The attack that night was only the most recent of a series of raids that had been going on for weeks. Brotherhood activity had increased in all of Yrenta, though no other settlements had been attacked outright.By the sound of things, Turaga Morok and his people already had a lot to worry about. As he looked upon the jungle village, a sanctuary protected and provided for by nature itself, he knew it would be difficult to tell the Turaga that they might soon need to leave it all behind. But it had to be done. Imlen followed his Matoran guide through the living defensive wall. Morok was waiting for them in the upper levels, illuminated by softly glowing leaves sprouting from the head of his staff. As Imlen came near, the Turaga waved and jumped out of the tree, using his Noble Kanohi Miru to glide down to the ground. He did indeed look troubled, but he smiled as he shuffled forward.“Welcome back, Toa Imlen!” he said cheerfully, but his tone also betrayed a hint of worry. “Have you heard the news?”“Metru Nui? I have, Turaga. We have... much to discuss,” said Imlen hesitantly.“Of course,” said Morok, his concerned frown visible through the mouthpiece of his light green Kanohi. “I would offer to take you on a refreshing walk while we speak, but that would be unwise. The jungle is not safe these days, as you've discovered this evening. So let us discuss matters in the safety of my hut.”The Turaga led Imlen to a ladder of vines in the center of the village. While Imlen climbed, he activated his Mask of Levitation again and floated alongside. At the top of the ladder, they stepped onto a platform made of interwoven leaves and branches. From there, they crossed two hanging bridges to reach the Turaga's hut. Like everything else in the village, the hut was made of living plants, and at this late hour the interior was lit by lightvines woven into the walls. Imlen and Morok entered, and plants unfurled to close the entrance behind them. The lightvines cast strange patterns of greenish light.“Has something happened to Mozmana?" asked the Turaga.“Not that I know of,” said Imlen. “She went to speak with the Thane of Leokhtlich.”“To speak of the same matter you came here to discuss?” said Morok, and the Toa of Plasma nodded. “Well, tell me.”“We were summoned – summoned by another Turaga... he gave us... terrible news,” Imlen said hesitantly. “Turaga Morok... he said – he thinks Mata Nui is dying.”“And so the harm the Makuta did to Mata Nui will be the undoing of us all,” said Morok grimly, and with only a trace of surprise. “Blindly ambitious, treacherous fools. Surely they knew their actions might have led to this, but they did not care.”“But all may not be lost, Turaga,” consoled Imlen. “The Matoran of Metru Nui – ”“Yes... I know the rumors,” Turaga Morok looked up hopefully and smiled a little. “They found that refuge, that otherworldly island.”“Exactly. This Turaga – Turaga Alled – thinks we could make a home for everyone there. But we cannot tell everyone yet, or there would be disaster as everyone rushed to evacuate,” said Imlen. “He wishes for us to create a network of leaders we can trust to discreetly arrange for an orderly evacuation of their people.”“That seems wise to me,” agreed Morok. “But they must know when the time is right. It would be no better to not give enough notice.”“I will keep that in mind. But what can we do here?” said Imlen. “Even if we put the entire population to work making boats, we might not have time, and that would be quite conspicuous.”“Perhaps not. We may be in luck,” said Morok. “A few Matoran adventurers recently reported Brotherhood construction along the shore south of the former De-Wahi. They seem to be setting up a new supply line.”“That explains why the Ga-Matoran have been left alone. Had they attacked the Water village again, it would have been noticed,” said Imlen. “But a few kio to the west, in that scarcely-traveled region, their activities could have gone unnoticed for years.”“Indeed. We are fortunate that the wanderers happened to be exploring the area,” said the Turaga.“If there are boats there we can seize, that presents an opportunity,” said Imlen. “However, it will take time to gather allies for the attack, and we will not be able to hold the coast for long. Without knowing the day we must evacuate in advance, I suppose we must capture it when the time comes for us to flee, but that would waste time.”“If it comes to that, I hope we can avoid a battle, actually,” said Morok. “The servants of the Makuta are our enemies, but we must give them a chance to renounce their dark masters and join us. Hopefully they will be reasonable.”“No one will want to stay and fight while the universe dies,” said Imlen. “But I do not think I can trust such villains to change their ways and share a new home in peace.”“We will worry about that when the time comes. For now, expect us to need to put aside our old enmities and work together,” said the Turaga. “All factions and peoples, even the Dark Hunters and the Skakdi clans of Zakaz, must be informed before the end.”“I'm in no hurry to arrange a meeting with them! But I will do what I must, Turaga,” said Imlen.“Soon, I will call for a convocation of village leaders, and I will reveal the truth to those of them I trust,” said Turaga Morok. “First, I need you to make sure none of our villages are facing troubles that will interfere with our exodus. Do not tell them anything yet, I will handle it.”“Yes, Turaga. What about here? I hear Rahkshi and Visorak have been attacking the jungle regularly,” said Imlen. “The jungle fights back, but it will not hold out forever.”“It will not,” agreed Morok with a sad nod. “But we cannot put an end to it. Any such attempt would merely provoke Makuta Teskor into sending all the forces at his disposal to raze the jungle in one night. We are fortunate that, for now, he is content to spread his destructive influence gradually. We must endure. And we can do that, for now. You are needed more elsewhere. Get some rest, and begin your investigation of the other villages tomorrow.”“I will, Turaga,” said Imlen, and he stretched. “I will visit the Ga-Koro first, to make sure the Matoran of Water are free to build boats. Then I will report back to you before visiting the northern settlements.”

-----

Mozmana had encountered an unexpected problem. Communities in this part of the continent were usually linked by a well-maintained network of courier Rahi and local postal services, and so she and Imlen had taken the ability to contact each other from many kio away for granted. But as they should have expected, the lines of communication were cut. Messenger birds were not kept in Hayafod, and no one who usually delivered mail to the outlying villages was willing to, for fear of the bandits. Mozmana wished she could communicate with Imlen, even if she had to seek him out in Yrenta, but Thane Frithozib had given her a task she could not set aside. An influential member of the nobility in a neighboring region had long been hostile to the Thane, and though the two of them were no longer at war, there was still tension between the Leokhtlich region and that aristocrat's city. Frithozib respected his former enemy, and wished to warn him of the impending disaster, but the other being would surely dismiss it as a trick if the news came from the throne of Hayafod. And so he had asked Mozmana to serve as an emissary and mediator – a neutral third party that could be trusted.The Thane had granted her a magnificent new Hypaka to bear her to her destination, the city of Balkhder, but even on this swift steed the city was several days' ride away. As she traveled west, deteriorating farmland gave way to grassy hills and marshes watered by winding streams branching off from a river flowing down from somewhere to the north. The terrain changed yet again long before she reached her destination, and at noon of the second day she was guiding her steed across the passes of a rocky ridge. Once on the other side of this small mountain range, she looked down upon forests and plains, and spotted the settlement that must have been Balkhder far off on the horizon. Days like this reminded her how vast the universe was, and it usually filled her spirit with wonder, but now she could only mourn at the thought of losing it all. One island would never be able to replace their entire world, no matter how hard they worked to enlarge it.But she had not come into existence during easy times – or perhaps she had, but if so she had forgotten the peaceful days of her early life. In any case, she lived in a time of strife and catastrophes, and she had been chosen to do whatever she could to set things right, even if only in small ways. Whether or not Mata Nui and the universe died, encouraging peace and trust between old rivals was one such helpful action. It was not the time to mourn. Mozmana rested briefly, then found a way to the mostly flat expanse below. Two days later, her road took her through one of the forests she had seen. Closely-spaced trees and protruding roots made riding impossible, and so she dismounted and led her Hypaka by the halter. She and the Rahi continued in such a way for about three hours, then suddenly the Hypaka became anxious. A flock of birds crowed and made the canopy rustle as they took off, and several woodland creatures bolted. Mozmana knew something was wrong, and she reached out with her elemental power to sense a great many minds approaching from the south.“Hide,” she whispered to her steed, using a touch of her power to ensure her message was clear.The intelligent and well-trained beast joined the Rahi of the forest in fleeing to a safe distance. Mozmana crawled into a fallen hollow log and watched as a column of Brotherhood soldiers and Visorak marched past. The enemy warriors passed without noticing her, but she was still concerned. She had felt safe in the lands under Frithozib's watch, but it was likely there were unseen Brotherhood agents in the vicinity of Balkhder. She waited, and a short while after the army had left her Hypaka returned. After scanning to make sure no hostile minds were still in the area, she got out of the log and reached into her pack. Toa did not usually wear fabric, as it provided little protection and often got in the way, but she and Imlen made sure to carry concealing cloaks for when disguise was needed. Unfortunately, such clothing was conspicuous, but being marked as a suspicious vagrant could sometimes be better than being immediately recognizable as a Toa. Mozmana donned the dark blue cloak, raised the hood, and resumed her journey. She finally reached the gates of Balkhder early in the morning of the day after the next.“Halt!” said one of the sentinels on duty, holding out a halberd to bar her way. “Who are you, and what business have you in Balkhder?”“I am... um, Alneev,” she said in a poor attempt to make up an alias on the spot in case the name Mozmana was known in these parts. “I must meet with your Earl.”“Who are you to demand to see Earl Drahais, traveler 'Alneev'?” asked the guard defiantly.“I am an emissary from another land, and I bear urgent news for his ears only,” said Mozmana, deciding it would be unwise at this point to reveal she had been sent by their old enemy.“Hmm,” grunted the sentinel. “Uilriaduris here will take you to see Gardrus, the door-warden of the Earl's keep. He will know what to make of you.”Mozmana could have attempted to use her element to influence the guard's decision, but she decided it was not worth the risk. If she had tried and her mental intrusion had been felt, he would have a reason to be more suspicious of her, or even hostile, and he might have guessed she was a Toa of Psionics. And so she decided she had been offered her best option and graciously accepted. The one she had spoken to called for the gates to be opened, and his subordinate Uilriaduris led her into the city. Though Balkhder was not the capital of this land, it was more populous than the capital of Leokhtlich. Its magnificent, towering buildings were impressive, but it lacked the simple artistic beauty of Hayafod. A few banners – less brightly colored than the ones in Hayafod – marked many winding streets paved with gray stone and lined by metal and stone buildings. Mozmana quickly saw this town was more diverse than the communities of Leokhtlich. The neighboring region was home to several species, but the great majority of the population in that land was of the yellow-armored prime species, followed by Matoran.Balkhder, on the other hand, seemed to have nearly equal numbers of a variety of species, including many Matoran. It seemed the majority were of a race of black-armored beings, but Mozmana saw nothing to make her think that particular group ran the city. Indeed, the guards at the gate were all different species, and when she was brought before Gardrus the door-warden she saw he was of the tall blue and red species. Her attention was more drawn to another detail, however – he wore the Great Mask of Truth. There would be no deceiving this sentinel.Review

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#51 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Nov 27 2012 - 02:49 AM

End of YrentaChapter Fifty-one==City of Balkhder, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~1,000 AGC~

“Who is this?” the door-warden asked Mozmana's escort.“She says her name is Alneev – but I think she made it up – and that she must speak with the Earl in private,” said Uilriaduris.“Very well. Return to your post,” Gardrus ordered the sentinel, and as Uilriaduris complied, he addressed Mozmana. “So, is that true? Is Alneev your right name?”“No,” admitted Mozmana, for lying against a Kanohi Rode wearer would be pointless.“And what is?”“Mozmana.”“Remove your hood, Mozmana,” said Gardrus, and the Toa of Psionics complied. “Ah, I see: you are a Toa. That explains the attempt to conceal your identity. That is wise, though you need not fear revealing it to me. I have no malice for Toa. Still, though I am inclined to trust you, I must ask you the same questions I ask everyone who seeks an audience. What is your business with Earl Drahais?”“It is a secret matter.”“Who sent you?”“Someone from another region.”“That's enough, Toa. Do not turn this into a game,” said Gardrus sternly. “Answer my questions to my satisfaction, or I will not grant you entry.”“Very well. I was sent by Thane Frithozib of Leokhtlich,” said Mozmana. “As I said, I have news for the Earl only. The Thane wishes to set aside the hostility between his people and yours, for this is not the time to dwell on old enmities.”“And that explains your reluctance to reveal your business here,” said Gardrus. “I will not ask that you divulge our rulers' secrets to me, but I have one final, most important question for you. Do you intend to do harm to Earl Drahais, or to aid or convince others to harm him?”“No,” said Mozmana calmly.“You may enter, then,” said the guard, but he did not yet open the door. “But I suggest you first hear some advice I have to offer. Drahais is a fair and benevolent ruler, but the members of his court are of lesser quality. His advisers and councilors are greedy, ambitious beings, and if you ask me, they are to blame for the wars between us and Thane Frithozib. I know they will try to subvert your efforts, and they may even alert the Makuta to your presence.”“Are they in there now?” said Mozmana.“Yes, but if you are attempting to keep out of their sight, don't bother,” said Gardrus. “I am sure they already know of you from their agents in the city. So you may as well enter now. Just do what you need to and leave before Brotherhood assassins knock on the door.”“Well, that makes me feel safe and welcome here,” quipped the Toa of Psionics.“Well then, how about this: if any do attempt to gain entry while you are in there, I will not let them in,” said Gardrus.“Thank you, door-warden, but do not risk your life for me,” said Mozmana gratefully.Gardrus nodded in agreement, and with that he opened the metal door to the stone and steel keep. Inside was a foyer with several doors on either side and one wide corridor at the end. Mozmana went straight ahead down this hall. Beyond a short flight of ascending stairs, it led directly to the central chamber, where the Earl and his councilors sat at a long table. The scene was representative of the rest of the city: the room was grand, but not ornately decorated, and its inhabitants were diverse. Of the court of seventeen, Drahais himself and one of his councilors were of the blue-armored prime species with hypnotic red eyes, three were of the white-armored prime species, four were of the black-armored prime species, one was the same species as Gardrus, another four were Matoran of various elements, two were of Frithozib's species – the yellow prime species – and one was of the red-armored prime species.“Who is this?” demanded the Earl, standing up from his seat at the end of the table.“This must be the one my aide said was coming,” said one of the white-armored beings, confirming Gardrus's suspicion that Mozmana's arrival had been noticed. “I was not told she was a Toa, but I should have expected such.”“Bold of her to show herself,” one councilor murmured to another, underestimating the acuity of Mozmana's hearing.“Yes, I am Toa Mozmana,” she introduced herself. “I was admitted by your door-warden.”“I would like to trust in a Toa's integrity, and I certainly trust in Gardrus's competence,” said Earl Drahais. “So, why have you come, Toa Mozmana?”“I come bearing urgent news for your ears only,” said the Toa of Psionics, deciding not to mention Frithozib in front of the councilors.“Ha! Do you really think we would grant a stranger a private audience with the Earl?” scoffed the red-armored adviser sitting to his left.“Silence, Usgarlad,” barked the Earl, turning to face the one who had spoken out of turn. “Toa, I – ”He never finished the sentence, for at that moment the Ga-Matoran sitting to his right jumped up onto the table, and as he turned to face her she extended a blade that had been concealed in her forearm and stabbed him in the side of his chest. The other councilors were frozen with shock, but Mozmana immediately drew her sword, and the guards that had stood silently on either side of the room sprung into action. As the Earl fell backwards, one of his guards rushed to steady him – though it was clearly too late to save his life – while the rest fell upon the little blue assassin. The Matoran looked to the door as if she was about to flee, then she suddenly fell down and rolled onto the floor.“My... mind...” she cried, seizing her head in her hands. “Get out... stop... controlling me!”“Wait!” yelled Mozmana, but she was too late to stop a zealous guard from slaying the Matoran.“Sounds like she was under mind control,” said another guard, and he looked at Mozmana accusingly. “You!”“What?” protested Mozmana. “No... I didn't...”As the guards surrounded her, weapons raised, one of the advisers broke out of his stupor and rushed to ring a bell at the back of the room. It echoed through the keep, and soon more guards arrived. The captain of these stepped forward.“What happened here?” he asked.“The Earl has been murdered,” said one of the councilors.“I can see that,” snapped the captain. “Who did it?”“It was this Ga-Matoran,” said one of the guards that had already been in the room, and he indicated the corpse of the killer. “But judging by her last words, she was not acting under her own will.”“And here we have this Toa of Psionics, who arrived not two minutes before,” said a black-armored adviser.“Now wait, I had no part in this,” said Mozmana. “Ask Gardrus the door-warden – he questioned me and – ”“Enough,” said the captain, raising a hand. “All of you who were in the room at the time are witnesses to this crime, and right now, you are all suspects. For the purpose of bringing the killer and any conspirators to justice, you must all be detained.”Mozmana knew that though she had a chance to escape if she fought her way out, the potential repercussions made such an act foolish. As she allowed the guards to confiscate her weapon, shackle her, and march her out of the room along with the other suspects, she wished she could have accompanied Imlen. She was sure his homeland was free of such treachery and intrigue.

-----

Although Imlen knew he had done the right thing by returning to Yrenta right away, he wished he had been free to go with Mozmana. Things in Yrenta were not especially bad, but he was vulnerable alone, and she had not messaged him since they had parted over a week ago. During that time, he had been working on the task he and Morok had spoken of. First he had made sure the Ga-Matoran had a surplus of boats and would be able to build more in the near future. Then, he had helped the citizens of the northern settlements with issues such as Rahi infestations. His quest to help the Matoran of Ba-Naja with an outbreak of beasts enslaved by infected Kanohi had led him to a nest of Kraata in a cave at the base of the cliffs. He had destroyed the Kraata, for he could not allow them to continue to spread their corruption, but he knew Kraata remained bound in some way to their originator. He could only hope that the deed had not alerted the Makuta. Fortunately, that had been five days ago, and so far, though he had spotted Brotherhood patrols, he had not been found.With their most pressing issues resolved, the Matoran of Yrenta were able to relax. Imlen told them to not get too comfortable, and though he did not tell them exactly why, they agreed. Life was easier than it had been for the past few months, but their troubles were not gone forever. Satisfied that the Matoran of Yrenta would be able to leave their homes quickly enough when the time for the exodus came, Imlen returned to the jungle village. He had originally planned on either scouting the Brotherhood ports to the south for himself – from a safe distance, of course – or traveling west to find Turaga Vibrak. But when he arrived at the village, still no message had come from Mozmana, and so he decided on another course of action.“I must return to Leokhtlich and look for Mozmana,” he said to Morok in the Turaga's hut that morning. “She should have sent a message almost a week ago.”“Hmm... I do not mean to be harsh, Imlen, but it is likely too late,” said the Turaga grimly. “Do not do anything brash, or you will meet an untimely end, whatever fate has befallen her.”“Are you saying I should just give up, or hope that she will return on her own?” said Imlen angrily. “Never! She is my last companion. While her fate remains unknown, I will seek her. I will not give up – ”“Of course I would not keep you. I only meant that you should be cautious and be prepared for the worst," Morok calmly interrupted Imlen's rant. “Have you forgotten that I lost my last companion and never learned what happened to him? Has Turaga Siok really been gone for so long?”“No... I have not forgotten,” said Imlen. “I am sorry, Turaga.”“And I'm sorry I implied that you should stay,” apologized Morok. “But heed my words: to not go too far to find her, or you will – ”Morok stopped suddenly and sniffed the air. Imlen did too, and he smelled it: the smoke of burning jungle. A clamor began in the village below, and as he darted out of the hut, he collided with a Matoran that had been running to alert the Turaga. The Matoran did not need to say anything, however, for it was clear what was happening. A blaze stretched from the northwest to just outside the village, and Matoran were frantically trying to extinguish the fire as it approached the living barrier encircling the village. With pitchers of water they held it off for half a minute, but then many Rahkshi, Visorak, and soldiers bearing torches came forth from the surrounding foliage. Imlen hurled a ball of plasma to delay the Brotherhood minions while the Matoran retreated into the village, but five of Morok's people were quickly killed.“You stay here, Turaga,” said Imlen as Morok stared in shock from the threshold of his hut. “I will... well, I will do what I can.”With that, Imlen ran off to look for a way down to the battle. Quickly, he found a vine and slid down it as fast as he could without injuring himself at the bottom. The situation looked very bad. He saw a dozen Rahkshi, about a hundred Visorak, and fifty soldiers. Some of the soldiers dropped their torches carelessly, others threw them with all their strength at distant targets, and others seemed to carefully ignite the points where the fire would spread most. The Matoran were unable to prevent their living wall from catching fire, but it proved to be remarkably resistant, and flames did not spread far across its surface. Still, it was no match for the powers of the Rahkshi and the overwhelming number of Visorak. The Makuta-Sons blasted at it from several directions while the warrior Rahi began to tear other parts of it down with their mandibles. One Rahkshi of Plant Control out of the three he had seen simply used its power to part the plants, only to catch a blast of plasma from Imlen, who had been behind the wall. Imlen jumped through that gap, continuing to channel a stream of his element at the Rahkshi as he moved.That Rahkshi was quickly destroyed, but another one was right beside it, and that one was joined by three more. Imlen rolled to dodge a blast from a Panrahk and the resulting debris, then leaped to the side to narrowly avoid a Sleep ray. He pushed himself up and found himself face to face with a Rahkshi of Hunger. A jet of plasma to the face prevented the Vorahk from striking Imlen with its energy-draining staff. It faltered, and Imlen was about to follow up with a more intense burst when he caught a glimmer of green in his peripheral vision. He leaned backwards just in time for a Rhotuka to zoom overhead. Several Visorak had come to support the Rahkshi. With his bare finger, he flicked a glob of plasma into the midst of the Visorak. It hit the ground harmlessly, but distracted the Rahi for the split second he needed to get away from the Rahkshi of Hunger. As he ran for the trees surrounding the village, he lifted his staff backward over his head, pointing the head of it at the Rahkshi. The machines faltered, expecting him to channel his element behind him, but it was a feint. Just before ducking behind a wide tree, however, he redirected the staff at the group of Visorak and let out a large blast.Seven Visorak were incapacitated, but more than twice that number rushed to replace them, followed by many of the soldiers. Imlen was surprised that not all the Brotherhood forces were focusing on him, but then he heard the battle cries of the Matoran. Many of the villagers were attacking from the treetops of their village, and a group of bold defenders was actually charging the Visorak. This kept half the spider-like Rahi occupied, but it couldn't last long. Imlen would need to go to the aid of the Matoran warriors, or they would all be killed. He leaned out from behind the tree in time to see the Rahkshi of Fragmentation aiming its staff. A flare of plasma dazzled it so that it missed and only damaged the tree, and Imlen got an idea. Hoping Turaga Morok would not be too upset, he unsheathed his protosteel dagger and swung at the injured trunk. The incredibly strong and sharp metal easily cut through the wood, and Imlen shoved the falling tree forward onto the Rahkshi. The Makuta-spawn were too quick to be crushed, of course, but as they dodged they were left vulnerable to his attack, and he managed to destroy the Rahkshi of Sleep.An excellent shot from a Matoran archer struck a Lerahk in the head, and though the arrow failed to pierce its armor, it looked up in surprise. With a precise jet, Imlen melted through its knee, and as it fell he incapacitated it with another blast. He looked around, hoping to spot an opening in the assault through which he could run to the Matoran, but he was still pinned down by too many enemies. Just then, roars and other wild sounds echoed through the surrounding jungle. Many beasts came forth and fell upon the Brotherhood forces. Several Visorak and soldiers were killed before they could react, and the rest of the Rahkshi stopped pummeling the wall to face the newcomers. A great volley of arrows finished off the Visorak the Matoran had been fighting at the wall, and the survivors on the ground were joined by a surge of another twenty Matoran. As Imlen battled a Rahkshi of Heat Vision and a Rahkshi of Sonics, he saw a splash of acid catch the Panrahk in the face. The brown Rahkshi's armor dissolved and the Kraata inside fell forward and lay limp on the ground.Disconcerted by this, the Rahkshi of Sonics faltered for a fatal instant. While he wielded his staff in the other hand, Imlen lunged forward and performed a swift uppercut with his dagger. That Rahkshi collapsed in a heap of junk, but the Rahkshi of Heat Vision scored a hit, searing Imlen in the leg. As he staggered, a Rahkshi of Cyclone lifted him off the ground with a vortex of wind. Calling upon centuries of practice, Imlen managed to summon his element even as he spun uncontrollably. Channeling plasma out of the whole of his body, he sent the supercharged matter spiraling down the cyclone and into the black and white Rahkshi's staff. The Rahkshi hissed and dropped the staff as it began to glow orange and melt, and Imlen fell to the ground. He landed neatly and twirled to toss his dagger at the disarmed Rahkshi. The blade did not bury itself far enough to destroy the Rahkshi of Cyclone, but the stream of plasma Imlen released as it staggered did the job. With that Rahkshi's Kraata incinerated, he looked over his shoulder, wondering why the Rahkshi of Heat Vision had not attacked again.He saw that the yellow Rahkshi had been destroyed by the Jivri Nui, who must have also defeated the Rahkshi of Fragmentation. The King of Snakes raised its head from the dense foliage through which it slithered to hiss at Imlen in greeting. Imlen waved back and ran to the Rahi's side as the remaining Rahkshi fell upon the two of them. Several lesser snakes and other creatures came to aid them, however, and the Rahkshi were quickly outmatched. When the last of the Makuta-spawn fell, Imlen looked around to see the beasts of the jungle feasting on Visorak carcasses and fallen Brotherhood soldiers. The last of the Brotherhood minions were scattering and being hunted down by the territorial and hungry Rahi. The fire was still raging, but it had been contained, and all available Matoran were already streaming out of the village to extinguish it. Soon, it was over, but too late to prevent the blackened scar that ran from the northwestern eaves of the jungle to the village.“Amazing,” Imlen let out a breath of relief as Turaga Morok shuffled to his side. “I knew the creatures of the jungle would defend their homes, but for them to defend the village... and to turn the tide in such a way... I had thought we were doomed.”“They remember who their friends are,” said the Turaga, putting a hand on his chest. “They would have come sooner, but only just managed to defeat another attack from the opposite direction.”“It seems Makuta Teskor is finally getting serious,” said Imlen grimly.“Indeed. We will not stand for long against his full strength,” said Morok. “But I do not think we will need to anyway.”“You're right. If Mata Nui dies or if he does not, this jungle is lost either way,” said Imlen.“I would defend my home to the end, but the safety of my people comes first,” said Morok, nodding sadly. “We can lead them to new shelter... but I will not be able to remain with them. Teskor is doing this to harm me, and you, for he remembers the Toa that humiliated him. I can no longer lead my people... perhaps it would be best if I give myself up. Perhaps then, the Makuta's wrath will be sated.”“Don't say that, Turaga,” said Imlen, and he put his hand on the village elder's shoulder. “You know is not what you should do.”“I know... I just... I cannot hide again,” stammered Turaga Morok, then his expression of despair turned to one of resolve. “So I will defend this place to the end, after all. The Matoran can evacuate, but the rest of my friends – the plants and Rahi – cannot leave so easily. I will rally them, and we will fight back until we are all dead.”“Do what you must while Teskor's assaults last, Turaga, but do not stay behind while the rest of us evacuate this world,” said Imlen. “If it comes to that, gather all the seeds and sprouts you can, and guide the creatures of the jungle to the new land. You can hinder and harm the minions of the Makuta, but you will not be able to fight back against the death of the universe itself.”“Imlen, when did you start speaking like a Turaga?” Morok suddenly chuckled. “I am a confused, rambling fool, and you are level-headed and offering your wisdom! You have only been a Toa for a few hundred years, and you seem to have learned as much as I did in thirty millennia.”“You flatter me, Turaga. I still look to you for guidance – you were just counseling me before the battle. I think it will still be long before I can retire, regardless” said Imlen, smiling a little under his orange Kanohi. “Toa are needed more than ever... and besides, I have not yet found my destiny.”Review

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#52 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Dec 08 2012 - 01:06 PM

End of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fifty-two

 

==City of Balkhder, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,000 AGC~

 

Mozmana had been fortunate enough to not have been executed yet, but during the weeks of her imprisonment the situation in Balkhder had spiraled out of control in ways she had never imagined. She was not sure how a successor to Earl Drahais would normally be chosen, but if the ruler of the region had the authority to appoint one, he had not yet done so. Of course, as all members of the Earl's court were under arrest, they were not candidates, though they still had political influence. The Captain of the Guard, Guvreith, managed to gain power and seemed to have been accepted by the general populace, but most of the councilors had done all they could to hinder him via their allies and agents. As a result, what could have been a straightforward trial was bogged down by scheming and corruption. Gardrus had been nominated to interrogate the suspects, but thanks to the councilors' machinations he was rejected. After all, they argued, while it was futile to lie to him, there was nothing to stop him from lying to everyone else.

 

While she had the chance, Mozmana had probed the minds of her fellow prisoners and uncovered the plot for herself. Of course, no one had heeded her accusations – in fact, with all the power the councilors still had to interfere with justice, she was surprised none of them had been let free yet. As it turned out, six of the imprisoned councilors had been part of a plot to assassinate the Earl, as had been the Ga-Matoran that did the deed. Another four knew of the plan but had decided to neither take part in it nor warn the Earl. The seven traitors had been waiting for months for the right opportunity, and Mozmana had inadvertently granted it to them. In fact, spies in Leokhtlich had informed them of her coming days before her arrival, and they had used that short period of time to prepare. Just the traitors had planned, their red-armored confederate, Usgarlad, had distracted Drahais, allowing the Ga-Matoran sitting across from him to carry out her part. She had feigned the mind control, of course, so that she would be absolved of the crime she had so blatantly committed.

 

The assassin had not been intended to get away with it, however, for her own allies had betrayed her by bribing one of the guards to kill her. And so the conspirators had two scapegoats – one of which was dead, and the other, an untrusted stranger – and they seemed to have left no physical evidence of the plot. They had been confident they would be released soon, but they had not counted on Captain Guvreith's stubbornness. They had expected Mozmana to receive a quick trial, but Guvreith had insisted on a careful investigation. That distressed the six traitorous councilors, causing them to make further blunders. They stepped up attempts to undermine the captain's influence, which succeeded in slowing the process, but made him even more stubborn. Worried by the prospect of Mozmana being acquitted, they had committed yet another blunder, one which proved to have the greatest consequences. Through their agents, they had alerted the Brotherhood, and urged for the enforcers of the Makuta to take the criminal Toa.

 

In a remarkable act of audacity, Captain Guvreith had refused to cooperate. Mozmana couldn't tell if he personally sympathized with her, or if he was that dedicated to due process, or if he was opposing the Brotherhood for his own reasons. The result was as clear as it was terrible, and downright astounding: the city was now at war with the Brotherhood itself. And it was because Mozmana had arrived in town at a bad time. Yet again, she wished she had not agreed to serve as an emissary to a city in which nearly half of the ruler's advisers would do anything to usurp him. Done reflecting on the past for the moment, she sighed, stood up, and looked around. She had not been able to gather so much information subtly – all the other prisoners and everyone who passed by her cell had felt her mental intrusion, and so most of them stared at her warily. This had gone on for over a week, and some of them seemed to watch her whenever they were awake. Several gazes turned toward the door, however, when it opened and Guvreith entered, followed by a squad of his guards.

 

“What is it now, you churls?” barked the slender blue-armored councilor.

“You had better be carrying the keys to our release,” said a Matoran of Plasma. “This nonsense has gone on for too long.”

“I am, in fact. Your time in these cells is ended,” said Captain Guvreith, and the prisoners looked up hopefully. “You're being transferred to a more secure location.”

“What?” roared one of the yellow councilors, but Guvreith just smiled slyly. “You will regret taunting us, wretch!”

“You're transferring us again? We were already moved from the courthouse jail to the dungeons,” said Mozmana. “Where else is there to go?”

“Why don't you just take a look for yourself, Toa?” said the captain, tapping his head meaningfully.

“I am trying to be polite,” Mozmana said patiently.

“Well, thank you for not rooting around inside my head, then,” said Guvreith. “Below us, in the catacombs, are some storage vaults. We've emptied them to accommodate you.”

“Locked in a storeroom! A fine way to treat an innocent bystander,” said a black-armored adviser, one of the five that Mozmana knew to be blameless.

“In case you haven't noticed, the city is under attack,” said Guvreith. “You will be well hidden and secure – ”

“While we suffocate,” interrupted Usgarlad. “Those vaults are sealed.”

“We've altered them to make sure the interiors are sufficiently ventilated,” said the guard captain. “Come on now, time to go.”

 

With that, he and his subordinates began to open the cells one at a time and chain the prisoners securely. Most of the councilors and a few of the imprisoned keep guards glared and cursed at their captors as they were herded out. As Mozmana awaited her turn, the ground trembled slightly – nearly imperceptibly. The origin of the tremor was far away, but it was surely from the battle raging outside. No one else seemed to notice it, but Mozmana did, and it bolstered her determination. When Guvreith and three other guards came forth to take her, she made a decision she had been struggling with for days.

 

“Captain, your city does not need to suffer for my sake,” she said. “Please, let the Brotherhood take me.”

 

The captain stopped and stared at her in shock for a moment, then lowered his head and sighed.

 

“Of course... you Toa always think you're at the center of everything,” he said. “Well, this isn't just about you. It's true, they have no business trying to take an imprisoned suspect from us – and I am sure those vile aristocrats had something to do with their meddling – but if I hadn't thought it was time to stand up to them, I wouldn't have.”

“But what chance do you have?” protested Mozmana. “You are just one city...”

“One strong city. We have seen war before. Earl Drahais has raised a powerful army, and now it is my army,” said Guvreith. “And we are petitioning the nearby towns for aid. I am quite certain some of them will join us. Many of us agree that the Makuta have interfered and imposed their will on us for too long.”

“Then let me help you,” said Mozmana. “Toa clearly are not invincible, but we are still rare and valuable allies. I will fight to defend your city, if you let me.”

“Perhaps it will come to that,” conceded Guvreith thoughtfully. “But not today. I am beginning to doubt your guilt, but I cannot be sure. For all I know, you are a Brotherhood agent and this is all part of your masters' plans.”

“You have only my word that I am not,” said Mozmana, offering her wrists to the guard with the manacles. “I hope you will soon see reason.”

“I hope I will not need to risk asking for your help,” said Guvreith, and his subordinates shackled Mozmana.

“Which Makuta are these lands in the domain of?” asked Mozmana as she allowed the guards to escort her to her new prison.

“He has not made his name known to us. He has not overseen these lands for long, in fact,” said the captain. “I heard that the Makuta that used to watch over these lands was killed somewhat recently, and so this new one's territories in the east were expanded to include us.”“This new Makuta's original territories were to the east?” said Mozmana.

“Beyond Leokhtlich, I think,” Guvreith said, nodding. “But I do not know what there is to rule over there. There is nothing there but deserts and little communities of backward, isolationist Matoran.”

 

-----

 

Many kio to the east, Imlen reentered Leokhtlich. Brotherhood forces were marching west through the region, trampling carelessly through fields while the farmers locked themselves indoors. Weeks ago, Mozmana had headed to the capital to pass Turaga Alled's warning on to the Thane, but Imlen did not know if she had ever made it. And so once he had done all he could to help the Matoran of Yrenta, he had set out to find his companion and ensure the news she meant to deliver reached its recipient. When he left his homeland, the jungle had been burning for over a week. He could not know if Turaga Morok was still alive, but the Turaga and his wild friends had certainly put up an impressive resistance. Had they been easily overcome, their home would have been razed in a day. Many Matoran had volunteered to fight back against the jungle's destruction, but Imlen had forbidden it. He knew it would be suicidal, though he himself wished he could have aided the Turaga.

 

After leaving Morok, Imlen had informed the leaders of each village of Mata Nui's impending death. He trusted them to release the word when the time was right, and he expected that time would be soon. Each day it became more clear that something was going very wrong in the world. The storm over Mount Tasle had not returned, and though he wasn't certain, Imlen suspected night was coming earlier, as if Mata Nui no longer had the energy to keep the sky alight as long. The Rahi were also restless, as they often were before disasters. The spooked creatures had not actually threatened the Matoran villages, but they did make it harder to prepare for the exodus. The region's few Hypaka and pack animals were uncooperative, and so it looked like the Matoran would only be able to bring what they could carry. There would not be extra space in the boats for more than vital supplies anyway, and even then only if they had access to the boats the Brotherhood had been building along the coast. Of course, that was assuming the dock overseers would have the wisdom to cooperate.

 

From an escaped slave working at the docks, the village leaders had learned that the leader of the shipyard was a Steltian named Lanfarak. Imlen had offered to attempt to meet him, but they convinced him not to. They had said it was best that he not make his presence known, and that he should continue the mission Turaga Alled had set him on while at the same time searching for Mozmana. And so, after spending a few days traveling north, he came upon the capital city of Hayafod. As he approached the town from the south, someone zoomed up to the open gates from the west on a small, speedy vehicle. The rider dismounted and spoke to the sentries on duty, and though Imlen was too far away to hear their conversation, he could tell the rider was distressed. The guards let him pass, and hailed Imlen politely when he walked up to them.

 

“Hello, noble Toa,” greeted one of them. “Why have you come to our beautiful town?”

“I'm looking for a friend,” said Imlen. “Has a Toa of Psionics come to the town recently?”

“Not that I know of,” said the guard.

“Ah, but one did, weeks ago,” interjected another. “We were not on duty when she arrived, but I did hear about her visit.”

“Was she granted an audience with the Thane?” asked Imlen, and the second sentinel nodded. “Where is she now?”

“I do not know, but she left not long after she arrived,” he said. “You could try to ask the Thane. I expect he will be quite busy with the news that messenger has just brought, but he should be willing to speak with a Toa any time.”

“What did the messenger say?” asked Imlen. “He seemed quite anxious.”

“The lands to the west are under attack from the Brotherhood. He's come on their behalf to petition Thane Frithozib for help.”

“I have come with my own concerns, but perhaps I can be of assistance,” said Imlen.

“I had hoped you would say that,” said the first sentry. “I'll make sure his door-wardens let you in. Follow me.”

 

The guard led Imlen to the Great Hall on the hill in the center of the town. Because Frithozib was already speaking with someone, it took some persuasion to get the guards at the doors to let Imlen in. The sentry that had escorted him to the hall returned to his post, and one of the door-wardens accompanied Imlen inside. The wooden building was all one room, with a high ceiling supported by elaborately-carved pillars. Large tapestries hung from the rafters, and in the center of the room there was a large open fireplace flanked by long tables. The fire kept the entire hall warm and well-lit, and its sweet-smelling smoke drifted up and out of a vent in the ceiling. At the end of the room Frithozib's throne overlooked another, perpendicularly placed table. The Thane sat in the throne now, and before him the red-armored messenger stood in front of the table, pleading his case. The guard had Imlen wait a respectful distance from the conversation until Thane Frithozib beckoned to him.

 

“Hail, Toa of Plasma,” he said, gesturing the messenger to step to the side to make room for Imlen.

“Greetings, Thane Frithozib,” Imlen said, and bowed.

“Please, introduce yourself and state your business quickly,” said the Thane. “As you can see, I already have a visitor.”

“My name is Imlen. I am looking for Toa Mozmana,” said Imlen. “I am her companion, and I have not heard from her since she parted from me to seek an audience with you.”

“Toa Mozmana came, and she delivered her message,” said Frithozib, looking Imlen in the eyes meaningfully. “Then I sent her to Earl Drahais of Balkhder, which is troubling, because this messenger tells me the Earl has been assassinated and his regent is waging war against the Brotherhood of Makuta.”

“What?” exclaimed Imlen.

“And your sister Toa is being held as a suspect in the case of Drahais's murder,” said the messenger. “Although so is the Earl's entire court.”

“Your city is keeping Mozmana captive?” said Imlen, and the messenger nodded. “You must release her! I am sure she is innocent.”

“You will need to convince our regent, Captain Guvreith,” said the emissary from Balkhder. “Perhaps if you help us in our fight against the Brotherhood, he will listen to your pleas.”

“Any other day I would say 'yes', but I think it would be best to make peace with the Brotherhood,” said Imlen, and the messenger looked shocked. “I will accompany you, however.”

“You think we should surrender to the Makuta? What sort of Toa are you?” said the messenger incredulously.

“Maybe not the Makuta, but their servants,” clarified Imlen. “We need to convince them to leave their dark masters before their evil leads to the undoing of us all.”

“Oh. You're idealistic, then – thinking you can stop bad guys by asking nicely. That sounds more like a Toa. But that doesn't matter. The Brotherhood will not stop until we are crushed, and I doubt Guvreith will ask for mercy. However, if we can find allies to help us in this war, we might achieve victory against the local Brotherhood forces,” said the emissary, turning to the Thane. “What say you, Thane Frithozib?”

“Actually, Toa Imlen does speak wisely. The plots of the Makuta may lead to the ruin of all if they are not stopped,” said Frithozib. “This is not the time for war. This is the time for everyone to work together for survival.”

“You know something I don't,” said the emissary suspiciously, and he looked at Imlen. “And you do, too.”

“Yes, there is more happening than you know, messenger – or should know – but your Captain Guvreith must know,” said Thane Frithozib. “And it means I must see to the safety of my people first. I cannot send my army to your city. It would take at least a week to reach your city on foot, anyway. I can, however, send a small group of my best warriors, and spare enough Hypaka to carry them and Toa Imlen.”

“Thank you, Thane,” said the messenger, bowing low.

“I wish to cultivate good relations with your people. Though he was once an enemy, I am grieved to hear of Earl Drahais's death. You must understand that my ability to help is limited, for I must put my own people first, but I will do all I can for yours,” said the Thane. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I must speak with Toa Imlen alone.”

“Of course, Thane Frithozib,” said the emissary slightly hesitantly, and he left the hall.

“Why did you send Toa Mozmana to this city – Balkhder, was it?” asked Imlen when he and Frithozib were alone.

“I sent her to Balkhder to warn Earl Drahais of the impending death of the universe, and to extend an offer of friendship on my behalf,” said Frithozib. “Clearly, I underestimated the volatility of the political situation there – not just with the Earl and his court, but in regards to the Brotherhood as well.”

“Well, the arrival of a Toa does send to set things off, for good or ill,” said Imlen. “I do hope she is alright.”

“From what the emissary had to say about this Captain Guvreith, he will not have her put to death without a thorough trial and investigation. Of course, he has no time for such things now. Perhaps Guvreith will come to his senses and release her. But regardless, you are needed there, not only to save your friend but to help the people of that region prepare to evacuate. I am placing you in command of the squad I am sending, and their Hypaka plus your own. I am entrusting them to you, is that clear, Toa Imlen?”

“Yes, Thane Frithozib,” said Imlen. “Thank you.”

 

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#53 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Dec 12 2012 - 12:07 AM

End of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fifty-three

 

==Wilderness West of Leokhtlich, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,000 AGC~

 

The world was glowing – not blindingly brightly, but with a soft yet omnipresent lambency. Imlen felt his steed vibrate with a force transferred into its hooves by the luminescent ground. This was more of a gentle resonating quiver than an earthquake, however. In this strange light, he could see unnaturally far into the distance, and he saw the landscape changing in several places. A dry riverbed was suddenly flooded, some abandoned ruins reformed into a majestic empty city, and broken mountain peaks were restored. When the glow and the vibration ended, the world looked to be in better condition than it had been for centuries. The emissary from Balkhder – Shlusgenad was his name – stopped his vehicle, and so Imlen and the seven warriors Frithozib had sent brought their Hypaka to a halt alongside him.

 

“What has happened?” he said worriedly.

“I'm not sure, but it looks like a good thing to me,” said Imlen. “It looks like the land is being... healed.”

“Yes. That ridge there was toppled in the Great Cataclysm,” said the captain of the warriors, an orange-armored being named Yeraan, pointing to the repaired mountains.

 

Imlen was even more relieved than the others, for he realized this must have been the work of the Mask of Life Turaga Alled had spoken of. If Mata Nui was dying because of the damage the Makuta had done to the world, it must have been used to undo the damage before it was too late. He had been planning to tell his companions of the doom they faced, for he felt they were trustworthy, but now there was no need. This did nothing to end their troubles with the Brotherhood army – in fact, it almost guaranteed the war would go on – but the nine travelers were still in relatively good spirits as they continued their ride west.

 

-----

 

A mighty impact struck the keep, rattling the storage vault in which Mozmana was incarcerated. That one was just the latest and strongest part of a barrage that had been hammering the building intermittently throughout the day. Rock dust fell from the ceiling. A short while later, the catacombs trembled again, and this time there was a crash and a scream from one of the vaults. The scream trailed off into silence and was followed by a commotion among the other prisoners. Mozmana could guess what had happened: the attack had broken the ceiling above an unfortunate prisoner. She didn't feel like reaching out with her power to sense which of them were still alive, but judging from the sound of the scream the victim had been a white-armored councilor named Deyashlus. In about a minute, she heard the door to the cellar above open. The hurrying footsteps and chatter of the guards echoed as they investigated what had happened and cleaned up the mess. Mozmana heard the chief of them – not Guvreith, for he was busy fighting, but one of his subordinates – mention her name while giving orders, and the footsteps came closer. A moment later, the heavy door of her makeshift cell opened.

 

“Come on, Toa Mozmana,” said the guard officer. “We need you.”

“I would have helped you from the start, had you let me,” said Mozmana, smiling apologetically. “Listen: the battle must stop. Everyone here – everyone on the continent – may be in danger.”“What are you talking about?” said the officer as she led Mozmana out of the catacombs and back into the keep above.

“We need to stop fighting and prepare to evacuate the entire region,” said Mozmana. “We may have hours or we may have weeks, but we cannot waste time fighting.”

“You're serious,” the guard realized. “The civilians of this city would have already fled, but the Brotherhood has the city surrounded. It will be difficult to persuade them into an armistice.”

“Take me to the battlefield, and will see what I can do,” said Mozmana. “Even if I cannot get the enemy warriors to listen to reason, I will at least do all I can to save your people.”

 

Well-sheltered as they were, the catacombs had suffered little in the assault compared to the rest of the building, and as Mozmana soon saw, the rest of the city. The Brotherhood army had not yet breached the walls, but it looked like their bombardment would make such an invasion unnecessary. The tops of the tallest buildings had been cut off and lay in ruins in the streets among craters and bodies, and some buildings both large and small had been completely demolished. The corpses in the streets were of civilians and the city guard, for the soldiers were all either out on the battlefield or up on the battlements. As the guards escorted her to the eastern side of the city, a ball of plasma seared a hole in the fortifications ahead, slaying many of the warriors. The plasma was a blast from a siege weapon, but it reminded Mozmana of Imlen. She wondered where he was, and if she would ever see him again. She had seen the glow permeating the walls of her vault, and heard the news that the damage done in the Cataclysm had been undone, but she wasn't so sure that meant Mata Nui's life was saved.

 

“Your sword, Toa Mozmana,” said the officer, offering the weapon when they were near the walls.

“Thank you,” she said, and she took it. “It is good that you kept this. I have a habit of losing my weapons, it seems.”

“We'll have none of that in this war, Toa,” said the guard leader in friendly mock sternness, then she sighed wearily and spoke seriously. “As you can see, we're taking a beating. Our forces were keeping most of their artillery far enough away, but today they were pushed back. Many Brotherhood reinforcements have come from the east. It looks like this Makuta has gathered all his strength to break us.”

“How have Guvreith's efforts to secure aid fared?” asked Mozmana as they quickened their pace.

“Quite well, but it's not enough,” said the officer. “The Brotherhood force is just too strong. He has even gone so far as to send an emissary to Leokhtlich, and that was days before we even knew enemy reinforcements were coming. At this point, even if Frithozib responds, it will be too late.”

“Could we break through the blockade so that the people can evacuate?” said Mozmana.

“I doubt it. They are concentrated in the east, from where the main assault is coming, but their ring around the city is too thick to break. There is no escape, and they will show us no mercy. We dared to oppose them, and now they will slaughter us all for our insolence. Now, it is time for us to part, Toa Mozmana,” said the officer, stopping a short distance from the eastern gates. “I will do what I can to ensure everyone is ready to leave as soon as the opportunity comes. Report to Sergeant Klaydhev in the gate tower to the right, he'll tell you what to do.”

 

The Toa of Psionics nodded, and as the guards returned to their posts at the keep she entered the tower on the right side – the southern side – of the eastern gate. A soldier just inside the base of the tower informed her the Sergeant was at the top. Mozmana began to ascend the spiraling staircase, only to be nearly knocked over by a rush of panicked soldiers coming down. An instant later, the half of the tower facing out of the city shattered. After a moment of stillness, she emerged from the rubble, battered but not seriously hurt. Most of the soldiers in the tower were not so fortunate.

 

“Sergeant Klaydhev?” she addressed the survivors questioningly.

“No. He didn't make it out,” said one of them.

“Where is Guvreith?” she asked.

“He's out on the battlefield,” said the soldier. “With the Sergeant dead, I don't know whose direct command we're under. One of the Lieutenants, I suppose, but I don't know if he or she hasn't fallen.”

“I see most of you have lost your projectile weapons, so you'll do no good on the walls,” said Mozmana, quickly considering the tactical situation. “Come with me. We'll assist the Captain.”

“I was about to suggest the same thing,” said the soldier, nodding. “We'll accompany you, Toa – except for you, Hanaviu. You do what you can to treat your wounds.”

 

The wounded soldier agreed and went off to find succor while the rest of the survivors from the tower collapse opened the gate just wide enough for them to slip through. They shut the gate behind them, and Mozmana saw the battlefield for the first time. Just as it had been described, the Brotherhood army was pushing the defenders back to make room for the siege weapons. The defenders had dug new trenches each time they were forced to retreat, leaving the field marked with many deep furrows. The trenches stopped some of the siege weapons, but in many places Rahkshi and soldiers used various powers and techniques to cut a path or plug the gap, allowing the machines to advance. Some of the infantry jumped across these trenches, while bridges were set down for the others. Guvreith's army and their allies were only outnumbered by a small margin, but they had much fewer advanced weapons, and most of their soldiers were no match for Rahkshi and Exo-Toa. They needed to form organized ranks to ward off the assault, but such groups were vulnerable to the Brotherhood's heavy weapons.

 

Mozmana looked around, but could not tell where Guvreith was, if he was even still alive. She reached out with her element to contact soldiers across the battlefield – but only those who were not so deep in combat that a slight distraction would be fatal – and soon learned his position. He had managed to rally some nearby soldiers to push the attackers back at one point and break a few cannons and catapults, but now the Brotherhood line was reforming with them behind it. Mozmana and her comrades rushed to his aid, but it looked as if it would be too late until a hail of crossbow bolts from the wall gave him a slight reprieve. As she charged the ring of Visorak and enemy soldiers that surrounded the beleaguered Captain and his men, she held her sword at the ready, but she knew from experience that physical combat was not always the most effective use of her power in battle. She cleaved through a Vohtarak that was about to hit one of the soldiers with a Rhotuka and used her momentum to strike a Brotherhood warrior in the mask with enough force to knock him out, then she slowed to call upon her element.

 

A slight psionic touch had a far greater effect when she projected confusion and doubt into the minds of the enemy combatants. Together, the warriors that had accompanied her along with those that had charged with Guvreith cut down the enemies that surrounded them. They were still forced to retreat, for more foes were coming, but not before Mozmana telekinetically redirected a large flying projectile into a nearby trebuchet. The siege engine disintegrated in a great flash of light that confounded nearby attackers, giving the defenders in that area further time to regroup. Meanwhile, a few platoons just to the south managed to demolish a catapult that had been bombarding the walls with Zamor. They scattered the remains and churned up the ground in such a way to seriously hinder the advance of more siege weapons, then they moved to join Mozmana and Guvreith's group. The Visorak and soldiers paused for a moment, then stepped aside to make room for a squad of Exo-Toa that quickly forced Mozmana and her companions to take cover in the trenches and behind bulwarks of raised earth.

 

“I see I made the right decision in setting you free,” said the Captain to Mozmana. “Though this is a lost cause. I will go down fighting, but you don't have to. If you see the opportunity, run.”

“I'm with you to the end,” said Mozmana with a shake of her head. “But – this will sound crazy, but – what are the chances they'd accept a truce?”

“If you mean we should surrender, they would certainly agree. They would much longer massacre us without any more of a fight,” said Guvreith. “Have you seen the blockade around the city? We win, or we die... and I do not foresee the former coming to pass.”

We would be better off with each others' help to survive what is to come, Mozmana switched to telepathic communication for privacy. Guvreith... Mata Nui – and his universe – may be dying.

“Mozmana? Where those your thoughts in my head?” the Captain said aloud. “Or was that some Makuta trick?”

“It was my message,” whispered Mozmana as several warriors looked at Guvreith curiously. “But be quiet about it – we must remain calm.”

“If the entire universe is going to die, why should my men not know, when they are certainly going to die in battle anyway?” said Guvreith, and he lifted his head and addressed his warriors. “Soldiers of Balkhder – ”

“Wait!” Mozmana interrupted with a sharp whisper. There is another world beyond our own to which we can evacuate. We must not waste any more time in wars over this universe.

Why did you not tell me of this earlier? Captain Guvreith thought in response.

I was going to, when the time was right – when I knew I could trust you – but then when you went off to battle, I did not have the chance. projected Mozmana as the Exo-Toa came upon their position and engaged them. This needs to be handled carefully.

That's no excuse to keep the information to yourself for so long, thought Guvreith as he and four of his warriors took down one of the robots.

You are right, admitted Mozmana while she nimbly darted between an Exo-Toa's legs and cut them to shreds. I... I don't know what I was thinking. But it may not come to pass – his life may have been saved when the damage done by the Cataclysm was undone. In any case, let's take this one step at a time: first, we need to end this battle.

You'd be the best one to arrange that. Find the leader and contact him with your mind-powers.

 

Mozmana agreed. Guvreith's censure stung her, for he was correct. She had been too careful to keep the information secret, when withholding it too long would doom thousands. He hoped the others that Turaga Alled had recruited had done a better job at coordinating the evacuation effort – she had allowed herself to get distracted by the unexpected troubles she faced in Balkhder. She supposed it was just so hard to believe that the whole world she had known was dying, she had just subconsciously made herself ignore the thought. Now she resolved to salvage the situation before it was too late. Just as she used her power to locate Guvreith, she did the same for the enemy commander. The enemy warriors were not as inclined to answer her, of course, but when she informed them she and Captain Guvreith wished to make peace with the Brotherhood, she achieved results. A moment later, the fighting paused. Guvreith stood up from behind a bulwark, and the ranks of Visorak parted to make room for a tall black-armored officer. Mozmana scanned his mind to make sure he wasn't planning any treachery. He wasn't – after all, he knew she would sense it.

 

The Brotherhood commander walked forward to meet Mozmana and Guvreith as they did the same. They were ten bio apart... then nine... then eight... then seven – then a sudden turmoil broke out. Mozmana could not tell which side resumed fighting first, but in seconds Guvreith was on the ground with his leg blown off from an Exo-Toa's rocket. Mozmana dropped to the ground to heal him, but it was too late. His vengeful warriors cut the Brotherhood commander down with a hail of crossbow bolts. Each side cut into the other with horrible fury, for everyone was sure their enemy had deceived them. Mozmana could do nothing to calm anyone, for she was forced to dodge and weave between a barrage of Rhotuka. She retreated as the Visorak leaped over the trench she had recently taken shelter in. One Rhotuka caught her in the leg, but with an effort of will and constitution she resisted its effects. A moment later, the enraged soldiers of Balkhder reversed their reckless charge, but not before many of them had fallen. In the disorderly retreat, many more were slain. The group made for the gate, but of course the Brotherhood army anticipated this.

 

The gates and the ground in front of them were struck by a concentrated barrage that turned the gates to rubble and killed all nearby. The retreating soldiers began to climb over the rubble, but the obstruction slowed them too much. Mozmana picked up a fallen shield and used it to defend a spot behind her, allowing a few platoons to make it over the debris and into the city. Her arm tired as projectiles pounded the shield, and the feat of dodging what she could not block was more difficult while she held the unfamiliar piece of equipment. Just as could endure no more, she saw a great orange flare in the Brotherhood ranks. Another Rhotuka struck the shield, and though its energy dispersed uselessly, the force of it caused her to fall backwards. Stunned and sprawled across the chunk of rubble behind her, she was helpless for what could have been a fatal moment, but the bombardment had diminished enough to give her time to come to her senses and drop to the ground. Lying prone, she reached out with her elemental power in a search for a familiar mind. She quickly found it.

 

Imlen, you came! she projected. But how? And what have you done? We were about to make peace with them!

Thane Frithozib sent me along with seven of his riders. We noticed the cease-fire, and approached in peace, but the Brotherhood attacked us anyway, thought Imlen.

They thought it was a trick – that you were flanking them, projected Mozmana with frustration. Imlen, you really messed things up!

It's just as well, isn't it? Imlen replied, and Mozmana could now clearly see him battling a group of Rahkshi midway through the enemy ranks. The whole idea of making peace with the Brotherhood isn't so urgent anymore. I mean, the universe was healed. Mata Nui is saved.

 

Imlen should not have been so confident of that, for at that moment the sky went black – completely black, without a single star. An instant later, the sun of lightstones was lit again, but not as brightly, and the air was ominously still. Even the least intelligent, most mentally repressed of the Brotherhood army's enslaved Rahi could tell something terrible had happened. Nearly everyone else knew just what had happened, even without having been told, for they had heard the stories – nightmarish stories they had never expected to come true. But this day they had, for Mata Nui had died.

 

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#54 Offline The Iron Toa

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Posted Dec 13 2012 - 10:39 PM

End of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fifty-four

 

==Outside the City of Balkhder, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,000 AGC~

 

For nearly half a minute, the battlefield was still. Then the Exo-Toa, Rahkshi, and enslaved Rahi resumed their attack – the Exo-Toa because they had registered the phenomenon that had just occurred and deemed it irrelevant, the Rahkshi because they were creatures of destruction that would continue to wage war even as the world crumbled around them, and the Rahi because the Makuta that controlled them chose to force them to continue the assault. Most of the soldiers on both sides and the Visorak stood stupefied, though some of the warriors of Balkhder had the presence of mind to continue to retreat, while some of the Brotherhood warriors attempted to get their heedless comrades to stop their senseless attack. Imlen stood still for a long moment, during which the enemy soldiers could have killed him, but they didn't. Instead, one of them shoved him, snapping him out of his stupor just as a trio of Rahkshi attacked him.

 

“Stop! Down, I command you!” demanded the Brotherhood soldier, but the Rahkshi did not obey. “Toa, I do not think any of us has the authority to stop these beasts.”

“Just stay out of the way,” said Imlen, who had already dodged their initial attack and was preparing to retaliate.

“I would help you, but I fear the Rahkshi would turn on us,” said the warrior.

“What happened to your patriotism for the Brotherhood cause?” said Imlen scathingly as he melted one Rahkshi with a brute-force stream of plasma. “Died along with the universe your masters killed?”

“We were bringing order and justice to the universe. Before today, I never doubted that. But now, anyone with the ability to think for oneself can see they've gone too far,” another soldier spoke up while Imlen plunged his dagger into the head of a second Rahkshi. “Their are rumors that there may be hope for us, Toa. Are they true, or are we all doomed to die with this world?”

“There is a place we can go,” said Imlen a moment later, once he had destroyed the third Rahkshi. “But we will need to work together to have any hope of reaching it.”

“I have been an enemy of the Toa for thousands of years,” said the first soldier. “But some among the Brotherhood army respect you, and your allies look up to you... you must have some wisdom and cunning. My masters have forsaken me, and I do not wish to die pointlessly, so I will follow you.”

“As will I and all my warriors,” an officer spoke up, followed by several other affirmations.

“Then stop the attack!” said Imlen as another, larger group of Rahkshi advanced on him. “Destroy the Rahkshi and Exo-Toa before any more death is dealt, and free the Rahi from your dark masters' dominion.”

 

The Brotherhood warriors were reluctant – some were uncomfortable destroying the machines they had fought alongside for so long, while others were wary, having seen the destructive abilities of the Rahkshi and Exo-Toa firsthand many times – but they quickly realized they had little choice. They could either obey Imlen, and in doing so side with everyone who wanted to evacuate the universe peacefully, or let the oblivious machines spread senseless carnage. Several of the warriors refused to do the deed, but enough of them did what had to be done, and quickly enough that their former allies had no time to retaliate. Kraata were squashed, Exo-Toa were toppled, and wild Rahi were set free to save themselves in whatever way their instincts instructed. Even the Visorak complied with Imlen's directives, for though they were bred and trained to be loyal to the Makuta and cruel, they were intelligent beasts, and not creatures of pure darkness as Kraata were. When the battle was over, Imlen instructed most of the Brotherhood army to make for Metru Nui. Others he sent to spread the message of peace and instructions to evacuate across the continent.

 

The rest he led into the city to aid the people of Balkhder. Mozmana was waiting for him near the east gate, standing over the remains of several Rahkshi and an Exo-Toa. The two Toa bumped fists affectionately, then each quickly explained to the other what had transpired while they were apart. Mozmana was saddened to hear of Morok's fate, and did what she could to console Imlen. The Toa were not idle while they conversed, for there were many who needed medical attention, and the citizens had to prepare for the long journey to Metru Nui as quickly as possible, before the dimmed lightstones in the sky went out forever. Understandably, they were reluctant to accept aid from the army that had just been trying to exterminate them. The Toa were in the midst of clarifying what had to be done and why when a breeze swept through the broken plaza in which they stood. Overhead, the sky returned to its usual brightness.

 

“Can... can it be?” one of the citizens said after a moment of awed silence.

“He died... but now he is alive again?” said another uncertainly.

“Yes!” said one of the Brotherhood warriors with joy that surprised Imlen, considering his allegiance. “Mata Nui lives!”

“Rejoice! We are saved!” said Imlen and Mozmana together, and there was much cheering throughout the city.

“I am relieved, do not doubt that,” one of Guvreith's officers interjected among the cheering. “But we are mortal enemies that were just in the middle of a battle.”

“Yes, and my side was winning, I believe,” said a devious-looking Brotherhood warrior. “Seems you'll need to give us a good reason not to finish razing this wretched town, Toa.”

“The Makuta nearly doomed us all,” said Mozmana incredulously. “How could you ever follow them again?”

“Maybe I won't, but this city is ripe for plunder, I say,” said another, and a few of his comrades murmured in agreement.

“Have you learned nothing?” demanded Imlen, climbing up onto a piece of rubble for emphasis. “Even if it doesn't actually kill our world, you must realize that sort of behavior leads only to ruin. Only by living in harmony can... can...”

 

Imlen stuttered and trailed off in shock, for a column of swirling black and red smoke materialized in the midst of the gathered warriors and citizens. Seconds later, Makuta Teskor stood before him, shapeshifted into a great, bestial, winged form. The Makuta looked around casually, but when his gaze fell upon Imlen, he seemed just as surprised to see him as Imlen was.

 

“You!” he bellowed, and he immediately reached out with his gravity powers to make the Toa of Plasma lose his balance and fall face-first onto the pavement. “What a surprise. Hmm... judging from where you were standing, and the mingling of my warriors with the local vermin... let me guess: I just interrupted a sweet appeal to peace among all beings.”

“Whatever he says, don't heed him,” said Mozmana as she moved to help Imlen up.

“'Don't heed' me? I am a Makuta, and so a member of the Brotherhood of Makuta. These are warriors of the Brotherhood army,” he said, gesturing to the soldiers and Visorak around him. “Therefore, they are my subjects, and I am their master.”

“You lost the right to have any subjects, and you will no longer be anyone's master,” said Imlen as he wiped dirt off his Kanohi and straightened it. “Today, everyone has learned just what your kind's reckless ambition leads to.”

“Oh, you speak of the brief scare we just all had,” the Makuta said almost nonchalantly. “Yes, I was distressed as well. I assure you that was not our doing.”

“Liar,” said one of the soldiers of Balkhder. “Who else – what else – could have caused it?”

“Surely you noticed the world being healed not too long ago. There is no point in denying that that damage had been done in the first place by my brothers and I in taking our rightful place in the universe, but now, as you can see, we have undone those regrettable side effects,” said Teskor. “Mata Nui does not deserve to rule this universe, but we have no wish for him to die, if it would mean the world would die with him. Why would we? So who nearly killed him, then? I imagine it was frenzied insurgents that would rather see the universe destroyed than under the lawful rule of the Makuta.”

“You're a bad liar, Makuta. Even without this mask, I could have seen through your weak deceptions,” said a voice it took Mozmana a moment to recognize – it was Gardrus the door-warden. “The Toa are right. Do not listen to him, citizens of Balkhder, and warriors of the Brotherhood. He and his brothers have brought nothing but destruction to the world, and it was this destruction that nearly killed Mata – ”

 

The door-warden was interrupted by a bolt of lightning from the irate Makuta's claw that disintegrated him in a flash. Teskor followed up with a small cyclone that scattered his ashes. Several guards and warriors of Balkhder stepped forward menacingly at this affront, but Imlen and Mozmana motioned for them to stand down.

 

“Pest,” muttered the Makuta.

“You're outnumbered, Teskor,” said Imlen. “You are surrounded by beings that would rather die than live under your rule, and many of your own allies have – ”

 

Imlen stopped mid-sentence to erect a barrier of plasma, just barely managing to block the bolt Teskor hurled at him a split second later. With his electric attack foiled, he assailed Imlen with tendrils of shadow that whipped him and squeezed him like living tentacles, except their touch stung with a burning cold. To save her friend, Mozmana let out a furious psychic attack that broke Makuta Teskor's concentration. Imlen fell to his knees, but Mozmana persisted, using all her willpower to keep Teskor incapacitated with pain until Imlen recovered. With a roar, Teskor broke free of the Toa of Psionics's agonizing assault and turned to smite her. But Imlen was right – the Makuta was surrounded. The warriors of Balkhder had their weapons readied and directed at him, so that even if all the Brotherhood servants remained loyal to him, he would still be in danger if combat began. Realizing this, he froze, then he took a step backwards. Imlen smiled a little at this. With a subtle gesture, he summoned the first of the Brotherhood warriors to ally with him to his side. Many other warriors and Visorak followed, though more than half of them still stood by Makuta Teskor.

 

“Today you have lost, Makuta,” said Imlen. “Now leave.”

“You... you may have won today. But do you think the Brotherhood's power is waning?” Teskor said, nervously at first, then with growing conviction. “Our true conquest has only just begun. Even now, my brothers imbue the heart of the world with shadow. Soon we will have complete dominance of the universe. Those who stand with us will be richly rewarded... and those who oppose us will regret it for the rest of their lives.”

 

The Makuta's words chilled the Toa, for they hinted ominously at things beyond their understanding. His words also had an effect on the Brotherhood warriors – those who had already rejoined him looked more resolute, and some that had been undecided moved to his side. He said no more, but he gave Imlen a hateful look and held it for a long moment, then he turned and led those who would follow him out of the city. The remaining Visorak looked around awkwardly and chattered amongst themselves, then they too scurried off. Whether it was to rejoin the horde or to flee to the wild, the Toa could not say. After some quick diplomacy on the part of the Toa, the Brotherhood deserters and the Balkhder survivors put aside their weapons, and the town was peaceful. It was a sort of time Imlen and Mozmana had experienced before – the period after a costly victory during which the carnage and ruin remained, but all was quiet and calm. All was not still, however, for the people of the city and the deserters quickly began working together to clear rubble and help any injured beings that had not yet been accounted for.

 

“They'll be back soon, you know,” said one of Guvreith's officers. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“We will help you again, then,” said Imlen.

“No. We cannot withstand another such assault, even with two Toa on our side,” said the officer. “I regret that it has come to this, for I have lived here all my life, but the city is lost. We must leave while we can.”

“Where will you go?” asked Mozmana. “Is there another city that could take you in?”

“With Drahais and now Guvreith both dead, we are leaderless,” said the officer. “I expect we will scatter. It would be better that way, for were we to all move into one community, the Makuta's wrath would follow us to our new home. Better for us to split up and fade away.”

“That does sound wise,” said Imlen. “What of your aristocrats? I hear that the councilors still wield power despite being imprisoned.”

“They aren't imprisoned any longer. There's no ruler to say they should still be locked up, so their allies have already released them,” said the officer. “As for myself, I was pledged to the service of Deyashlus, before he was killed in his cell by the bombardment. I care not for the others, it was their fault that he died. It was their scheming that got him arrested, and that led to this battle.”

“Not all of them are guilty,” said Mozmana. “I've read their minds. If your people trust me enough, I can determine which of the councilors should be punished and which should be acquitted.”

“I do not know you, but you have proven yourself in battle, and you have done nothing to earn my mistrust, unlike the councilors,” said the officer. “If you could let us know which of them are still worthy of staying in office, I would be grateful.”

“I will on one condition: if my revelations cause any strife, do not fight each other,” said Mozmana. “If you disagree with who is fit to lead and who is not, go your separate ways peacefully.”

 

The officer agreed and left to relay what she had said. The warriors of the city tried to gather the councilors, but most of them did not come so eagerly, and two in fact seemed to have fled. Eventually they were convinced to gather to address the citizens. Meanwhile Imlen and Mozmana had been making sure all the wounded had been treated. When all was ready, they stood before the twelve remaining members of the court and the guards that had been arrested with them. As they had been told they would have a chance to speak for themselves, Mozmana allowed this. When they were finished, she gave her verdict for each of them. The law dictated harsh penalties for those who betrayed the Earl, but the followers of those who were to be punished protested vehemently. The Toa decided not to press the issue, so as to avoid violence, so in the end all of them went free. The few guards that had collaborated with them did not have the political influence to get away with their crimes, but Mozmana thought it unfair that for them to be punished while the actual plotters escaped justice, and so she pardoned them as well.

 

But though in the end no one was sentenced for the conspiracy, the disclosure of their crimes had its effects. Altogether, the traitorous councilors lost well over half of their followers. Once the tribunal was over, the citizens went to finish packing all they could bring with them. The deserters that had lingered until now departed, and many of them swore to forsake the Makuta forever. One by one the surviving members of the other armies that had come to the city's defence also left, with the exception of Yeraan and his riders, who remained to accompany the largest band of refugees to the nearest neighboring city. A few hours after the battle, all preparations had been completed and the former inhabitants of Balkhder went their separate ways. It was sad to see people forced to abandon their homes, and Imlen and Mozmana were grateful that the entire population of the universe had not been forced into such a situation. Still, though the universe had not died, they were worried by Teskor's cryptic threats.

 

“What do you think he meant?” Imlen asked Mozmana as the Toa watched the last of the refugees go.

“I'm not sure... I think I have heard tales of a 'core of the universe' hidden somewhere deep underground,” said Mozmana. “Imbuing it with shadow can only mean some dark ritual is being performed, but I have no idea what the nature of it all is.”

“Whatever it is, it sounds bad. Like it would make the Makuta more powerful than ever, and somehow even worse than we think,” said Imlen grimly. “If only Turaga Morok were still around – he would have known something about it. I'm sure this will not be the first time his wisdom and experience is missed.”

“He will be remembered,” said Mozmana, putting a hand on her comrade's shoulder. “And you made sure his people lived on.”

“You're right,” said Imlen, but he remained morose. “But I wish I could have been with the people of Yrenta to comfort them in that short while during which we thought this world was lost. They told me to go find you, but I can only hope that was the right choice.”

“From what you said earlier, it seems you did much to help them during your last visit,” said Mozmana.

“I did, but I have spent too much time away from them. And now we cannot ignore what Makuta Teskor has said,” said Imlen, then he suddenly thought of something. “Turaga Vibrak – we should speak with him. He may know something about this 'heart of the world', and we should convince him to return to Yrenta and take Morok's place as Turaga of the region. Remember, his new village isn't far off the route back to Yrenta.”

“I agree. And if he cannot explain Teskor's threat, perhaps Turaga Alled in Leokhtlich can. But let's spend the rest of the day here, to make sure Teskor's minions don't return to hunt down the refugees of Balkhder,” said Mozmana. “Tomorrow morning, we will travel.”

 

While they waited, the Toa took the opportunity to search the city's library for information on the 'heart of the world' Teskor had mentioned. But the library had been hit by the bombardment, and if any of its tablets had told of such a place, they had been destroyed. One band of warriors looking for adventure arrived later that day, only to be informed they had missed the battle. That night the Toa slept in shifts, as usual. During his shift Imlen thought he noticed someone sneaking around in the night, likely a Brotherhood agent or a Dark Hunter, but there was no sign of the Brotherhood army. The next morning they rode west. The Hypaka the Thane had given to Mozmana had been kept in the stables during her imprisonment and had luckily survived the day. Imlen's steed had fallen in battle, but a rider from Leokhtlich named Yrthling had also been killed, and so Yeraan allowed Imlen to keep Yrthling's Hypaka when the riders departed. On a few occasions during their journey they observed Brotherhood forces scattering throughout that part of the continent. It seemed the forces gathered at Balkhder were returning to their usual territories.

 

Several days later, they came to the forested land to which Vibrak had led his people in the wake of the Great Cataclysm. But while last time the Toa had visited the forest had been divided by many ravines and crevices, now the ground was seamless. As they searched for Vibrak's village, a terrible thought came to them. The crevices must have been formed by the Cataclysm, when the quake sundered the ground, and the De-Matoran had settled in one such chasm. When the damage done to the land was reversed, had they been buried? After searching for hours, the Toa found an area ringed by the hidden traps that had been made to defend the village. They were certain it was the right location, but as they had feared, there was no sign that a chasm had ever existed there. Other than the traps, the De-Matoran had left nothing behind.

 

“Who would have thought such a wondrous happening could have had such horrible side effects?” said Imlen solemnly. “May their poor spirits rest.”

 

Mozmana could not think of anything to say, so she simply extended her elemental power in a gentle empathetic touch. The Toa stayed for a brief time to pay their respects. Imlen gathered some earth and melted it into glass, with which he and Mozmana made a simple improvised memorial marker. The Toa dismantled the traps, then they resumed their trek.

 

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#55 Offline The Iron Toa

The Iron Toa
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Posted Jan 12 2013 - 12:22 AM

End of Yrenta

 

Chapter Fifty-five

 

==Wilderness West of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==

~1,000 AGC~

 

The Toa turned somewhat to the northeast, and they passed north of the Ga-Matoran village at the pond Imlen had visited nearly five hundred years ago. Soon they entered the northwestern hills of Yrenta from which Imlen hailed. The sky was beginning to dim when they ascended to the peak of a relatively tall hill. From there, they caught a glint of the river far to the east. Imlen realized the flames of the jungle no longer lit the darkening horizon. It was over, then – Makuta Teskor's forces had finished razing the jungle. As the Toa climbed down the other side of the hill, they thought they glimpsed a flash of light from somewhere in the hills to the east. They decided to head to the main village of the Matoran of Plasma. The sad fate of the De-Matoran had to be told to the people of Yrenta, and the Toa wished to learn from Imlen's folk what had happened during their absence. The village was not far, and they arrived a short while after full night came. Iretsa, the Matoran of Plasma that had led the village for the past few decades, welcomed the Toa into his hut, and they squeezed inside the little building.

 

“It is good to see you, Toa Imlen, and Toa Mozmana,” he said as he switched on a fluorescent lantern and sat down.

“Same to you, friend Iretsa,” said Imlen, and he and Mozmana squatted on the floor. “I regret being absent during Mata Nui's brief death. Our duty led us to distant lands, but I wish I could have remained here.”

“I'm sure you did what you had to. And you had already prepared us sufficiently for us to evacuate, had it come to that,” said the village leader. “And we are Matoran of Yrenta – we can handle ourselves. Or have you been a Toa for so long that you've forgotten you've been a hero as a Matoran for just as long?”

“Maybe so, but there are things Toa can do that Matoran can't,” Imlen pointed out. “And now that Turaga Morok is gone –”

“Actually, Turaga Morok has survived,” interrupted Iretsa. “And the jungle is saved – barely.”

“What?” exclaimed Imlen incredulously. “How?”

“I could hardly believe the news myself. He and his wild allies held out until one day the Brotherhood forces just gave up their attack and traveled west,” said the Matoran with a shrug. “I don't know why.”

“We do. They were summoned for the attack on Balkhder, a city far to the west,” said Mozmana. “Imlen and I were there.”

“That is joyous news, but it is mixed with tragedy, and dire happenings in distant places,” said Imlen. “Turaga Vibrak and the De-Matoran are gone... dead, most likely.”

“What?” it was Iretsa's turn to exclaim. “What happened?”

“Do you remember that moment days ago when the world glowed and the ground shifted?” said Imlen.

“Of course, how could I forget that?” said the Matoran. “The Turaga told us it was the work of a fabled artifact of Artakha that can repair anything.”

“Well, in repairing the world, it sealed the chasm in which Vibrak's people had made their new home,” said the Toa of Plasma. “It all happened so fast, there's no way they could have escaped.”

“Are you sure? Maybe they had forewarning,” Iretsa suggested.

“There was no sign any of them escaped, but it is possible,” said Imlen. “Please, if you can find anyone to do it, have the site of the village investigated. We would, but we have more to be concerned with. Two issues, in fact – possibly three.”

“What issues?”

“Firstly – though it may be nothing – we saw a distant flash of light from the hills to the east,” said Mozmana. “Do you know what the source of it was?”

“No,” said the Matoran leader with a concerned look. “Tell me more about it.”

“It was a bright, somewhat greenish flash,” said Mozmana.

“I thought it was more blue than green, but it was too fleeting to notice much of anything,” said Imlen, shrugging a little. “It wasn't an ubiquitous glow like when the universe was repaired, but rather a glimmer at a certain point. I expect we were only able to see it because we were up in the hills looking down on the land. I would like to investigate, but there is more to discuss. What is the status of Morok's realm?”

“Most of the jungle was destroyed, as was the village. The Turaga says it will take years to fully recover,” said Iretsa. “But many Matoran have gone to help him plant. Already, sprouts grow among the ashes. He hopes the village will be inhabitable again in a matter of months.”

“And that brings us to the second issue. Now that the Battle of Balkhder is over, the local Brotherhood forces will be returning,” said Imlen grimly. “They'll probably be sent to finish the job. Many Matoran are gathered, and the jungle's natural defenses are too badly damaged to protect them. They're in danger. I will do all I can to protect them, but I do not think we will be able to defend the remnants of the jungle against another full assault. And there is a third issue that Mozmana and I cannot ignore.”

“What is it? And I know you Toa bear the heaviest burdens in these times, but if I may say so, you look even more troubled than usual, Toa Imlen,” said Iretsa. “Mata Nui is saved, the land is restored... isn't the worst of it over?”

“We hope so, but we cannot be certain,” said Mozmana. “We encountered Makuta Teskor at Balkhder, and he spoke ominously. He warned us of a Makuta operation to 'imbue the heart of the world with shadow'.”

“You remember more of the old legends than I do, Iretsa,” said Imlen. “Does that mean anything to you?”

“'The heart of the world'...” echoed the Matoran thoughtfully. “Sounds like another way of saying 'the core of the universe' – that's a term I must have heard before.”

“That's what I thought of, too,” said Mozmana. “But what is it? And how can we stop the Brotherhood from corrupting it?”

“Where have I heard that term before?” Iretsa pondered aloud. “It must have been from one of our Turaga.”

“We will go to Morok,” said Imlen. “He will need our help, and he will know how we should react to – ”

 

Imlen was interrupted by a knock on the door of Iretsa's hut. Iretsa got up and squeezed past the pair of Toa to answer the door. Imlen recognized one of the visitors as Iretsa's aide Yoma, but the other being was a stranger. She was a member of the white-armored prime species, and she carried a shield and a spear on her back.

 

“Hello Yoma, who is this?” asked Iretsa, leaning out through the doorway.

“This, my chieftain, is Spyot of Leokhtlich,” said Yoma. “She bears news, and wishes to speak with our Toa.”

“Very well. Welcome to Yrenta and my humble village, warrior Spyot,” said Iretsa, and he bowed. “Unfortunately, there is not enough room for all of us in my little Matoran hut, so allow us join you outside.”

“Of course,” said the warrior, and she and Yoma stepped aside to allow Iretsa and the Toa to exit the building.

“So, has your Thane sent you?” asked Mozmana once they had all gathered in front of Iretsa's home.

“Indeed,” said Spyot with a nod. “I am told that you are Toa Imlen and Toa Mozmana, brave allies of my Thane. But I am not the only one of his subjects in Yrenta. He has sent me to inform you that he has sent a legion to attack the Brotherhood in Yrenta.”

“Really?” said Imlen. “He has declared open war on the Brotherhood, then?”

“Even now, my comrades assault the fortress known as Aki-Naja,” said Spyot, nodding again. “The garrison in Yrenta is relatively small. With a quick onslaught, we should be able to achieve victory with few casualties.”

“Your people have my gratitude for this, for you have come just when we needed aid,” said Imlen. “Has your Thane come to lead the army?”

“No. He wishes he could have, but he must attend to his realm,” said Spyot. “Attacking the Brotherhood is no small matter. I cannot say what has influenced the Thane to choose this course of action, but anyone can see that great events are being set in motion.”

“So Balkhder was just the beginning,” mused Mozmana. “And I would guess that flash we saw was a weapon discharge from the attack on Aki-Naja. The fortress is in that general direction, isn't it, Imlen?”

“It is, and I agree. I hope Thane Frithozib and his lieutenants are well informed of the situation in Yrenta. There are docks to the south that are host to only a small Brotherhood garrison, but reinforcements could easily come by sea,” said Imlen. “Also, the jungle was recently razed, and many Matoran have gathered to help our Turaga restore it. Turaga Morok is a personal enemy of Makuta Teskor, and I fear he and the Matoran are vulnerable to his wrath.”

“We know of this,” said Spyot, to the surprise of the Toa. “I also wonder how. I suppose he had scouts sent in secret, but it does not seem... well, it's no concern of mine anyway.”

“Hmm, well, in any case I trust Frithozib and am glad he took the initiative to help us,” said Imlen. “We would join you in capturing Aki-Naja, but we are weary from travel, and in the morning we must go to our Turaga.”

“I understand. You deserve rest, and it would do no good to go to the battlefield when you are too tired to fight well,” said the warrior from Leokhtlich.

“Exactly. Judging by your words, I trust your Thane has sent enough warriors to easily take the fort,” said Mozmana, and Spyot nodded. “Then, goodnight and thank you for bringing this message to us. Send our regards to your commander, and tell him to take care not to harm any Matoran slaves that may be in the enemy fortress.”

“I am confident he has thought of that already, Toa Mozmana,” said Spyot with a smile, and she bowed. “Once we have victory at Aki-Naja, we will advance southward. Let us hope to meet again soon!”

 

Spyot departed, and the Toa soon went to bed in Iretsa's hut, taking what comfort they could in the incommodious building. Shortly after dawn, they began to ride southeast on their way to the remnants of the jungle. Frithozib's forces had not yet come down from the hills, for they were likely still resting in the wake of the nocturnal battle. Small groups of Brotherhood warriors were moving north across the plains to meet them, and the Toa encountered and defeated several of these bands. In another time, this would have brought a great many of Teskor's minions down upon the Toa, but the enemy soldiers and Rahi were disconcerted by the unexpected attack from Leokhtlich, and they were unable to direct their efforts to stop the Toa. Even if most of Frithozib's warriors were still resting, the few Brotherhood warriors that made it north would not be a significant threat. The swift steeds of the Toa brought them to the river by that afternoon, and from there they could see that the jungle had indeed been badly burned. But even seen from across the river, it was clearly not all just ash and char.

 

The Toa and their steeds forded the river well before dusk, and soon they came upon Matoran of all kinds planting and tending to seedlings, sprouts, and saplings, as well as clearing the blackened foliage and scattering it to fertilize the soil. Many of the charred trees remained, but there were also patches of old growth, some of which were larger than the Toa had expected. The Matoran did not lead the Toa into these surviving thickets, for Turaga Morok was tending to the most devastated parts of the jungle, where he was needed most. The Toa found him in a barren clearing tending to a lone tree, or so they thought at first. As they approached, they noticed that Morok was not tending to the tree but talking to it, and that it was actually not a tree but rather the floral-mechanical shapeshifter known as Tanaman. Imlen hailed the two of them, and they paused their conversation to greet the Toa.

 

“Good to see you again, Toa Imlen and Toa Mozmana,” said Tanaman, raising a branch-like arm in greeting. “We have been waiting for you.”

“Yes, welcome back to Yrenta... and what is left of my home,” said Turaga Morok. “Tanaman and I have indeed been expecting you, and we have taken the past few days to get acquainted with one another. He has been most helpful in the restoration effort.”

“Really? Thank you, then,” Imlen said to Tanaman. “But you came here for another purpose, didn't you?”

“I did,” confirmed Tanaman. “I have an important matter to discuss with you, and then I must leave.”

“Does it have something to do with a Makuta attack on the universe core?” guessed Mozmana.

“How did you know about that?” said Tanaman, and his emerald eyes flashed with surprise.

“We encountered Makuta Teskor at Balkhder – surely you've heard of the battle that happened there,” said Imlen, and Tanaman nodded. “He mentioned it, to cow us and rally his soldiers. How did you find out about it?”

“What do you mean? I can look like a tree,” Tanaman stated the obvious, and he looked at Imlen quizzically. “And I know how to be hiding in the right place at the right time to overhear secrets.”

“Yes, but where and when was that this time?” said Imlen.

“If you must know, I actually learned this from a... network of spies,” the tree-like being said with a sigh. “But no more questions! We stay secret for a reason.”

“Alright, I understand,” said Imlen. “So what have you come to tell us?”

“War is brewing, and if all goes well, the Brotherhood of Makuta's days are numbered,” said Tanaman. “People are standing up to the masters of Shadow and their minions, in greater numbers than any have dared for centuries.”

“Is this because of Balkhder?” said Mozmana. “Was that a spark that ignited something?”

“Do you mean 'were you the spark that ignited something? I know the role you played at Balkhder, Toa Mozmana, but don't delude yourself,” said Tanaman with a quick, throaty laugh. “No, it wasn't one spark that ignited something by itself. One spark would be extinguished before its fire spread. But across the universe, many small flames have been kindled – to continue the metaphor – and together they may form a raging blaze.”

“And so a thousand years after the Great Cataclysm, many momentous events have occurred and continue to be set in motion,” said Imlen quietly.

“But even if their hold on the universe has been shaken, the Brotherhood is still powerful. Even the Dark Hunters cannot dislodge them from power, only harass them,” Mozmana pointed out. “And even if many realms rebel, the Brotherhood military is far more unified. Many of those who have no love for the Makuta have no more love for their neighbors, and infighting will allow the Brotherhood to put the scattered rebellious states down.”

“And what of this attack on the core of the universe?” said Imlen. “I cannot ignore that.”

“To both those issues, I can say only this: trust me that it will be dealt with. You are not the only heroes I have discussed this with, and we will all have our own roles to play,” said Tanaman. “As for you, you should assist Thane Frithozib. Help him secure Yrenta and the neighboring regions, and spread the flame of rebellion throughout the continent.”

“Of course. Oh, Turaga, we did not tell you of Thane Frithozib's – ” said Imlen, but Morok raised a hand to cut him off.

“One of the Thane's messengers came to us this morning,” he said. “Tanaman seemed to be expecting him, too.”

“Even for such a skilled spy, you know a lot,” Mozmana said to Tanaman suspiciously. “What is going on?”

“Your questions will be answered soon,” said Tanaman. “For now, you must only know this: these uprisings must be allowed to confound the Brotherhood. If we can keep the enemy off balance and distracted, we can prepare to strike a blow that will actually hurt them. Now, I must go. It was good to meet you, Turaga Morok.”

“Same to you,” said the Turaga, and he turned to the Toa as Tanaman departed. “The messenger said a division will arrive here by nightfall. Until then... well, I wish you could help with the planting, but you had better stand guard in case the enemy gets here first.”

“If only Paqyar was here, or Toa Lidon. They would restore this jungle in no time,” said Imlen. “I will plant one seed in memory of them.”

 

Imlen did so, and then they went to patrol the fringes of the burnt jungle. For a while all was calm, but as the sun began to dim the Toa heard the hum of incoming Rahkshi. A great many were approaching, and so the Toa took cover behind a large boulder that had probably been covered in moss before the fire rendered its surfaces lifeless. In this way they managed to avoid detection until the Rahkshi landed. Springing from their hiding spot, they immediately demolished three of the Makuta-spawn, but that was not even a quarter of the enemy's number. The Toa could only evade the many energy bolts for a few seconds out in the open, and they were quickly forced to retreat. Mozmana projected an aura of confusion, confounding the Rahkshi for the moment it took the Toa to dash out of the barrage. They ran away from the jungle, so as not to put the Matoran workers and young plants in danger, and as they led the Rahkshi in the direction of the desert they saw riders approaching from the river.

 

While Imlen conjured a swirling mass of plasma to shield himself and his sister while Mozmana instilled illusions in the minds of the Kraata. Between the illusions and the dazzling radiance of the plasma, their accuracy was much reduced, but one of the Rahkshi managed to score a hit with its power. Mozmana was instantly frozen in a stasis field, and as Imlen quickly moved to protect her he released his control over the plasma. The Makuta-Sons charged through the dispersing cloud, and he threw his dagger just in time to incapacitate a Rahkshi of Electricity as it charged its attack. That, however, left him vulnerable to a Rahkshi of Heat Vision. It focused its gaze on him, but just before it launched its searing beams a javelin pierced its head. Two more Rahkshi attacked, but they faltered for the split second it took for Imlen to drop to the ground. As he rolled and used his staff to push himself to his feet, the charging riders came upon the Rahkshi. Several were pierced by the warriors' lances, and a few of the riders tossed small stones that exploded into cages of an adhesive substance that immobilized their targets.

 

One member of this cavalry was slain in the charge, blasted off his Hypaka by a Rahkshi of Sonics, and his comrades circled around to finish off the remaining Rahkshi before they suffered any more casualties. A minute or two later, the battle was over. The leader of the riders came forth and dismounted before Imlen and the immobilized Mozmana.

 

“Greetings, Toa Imlen,” he said, then he turned to one of his subordinates. “Matawinne, come and help Toa Mozmana.”

“Right away, sir,” said the rider.

 

Matawinne dismounted, came forward, and placed a hand on Mozmana. Energy flowed from his palm, shattering the stasis field and freeing her. She thanked him, and as Matawinne returned to his steed the captain of the company introduced himself. He was named Liegbrand, and he explained that the commander of the legion, Marshall Heleth, had sent him to speak with the Toa and their Turaga. A short while later, the four of them stood in conference in the midst of a grove of recently-planted saplings under the darkening sky. The Matoran continued to work around them, and Captain Liegbrand had sent his warriors to patrol the area.

 

“Marshall Heleth wishes you to know that he has divided his forces. The main part of the legion has remained to fortify the northern border while a division has been sent south to seize the docks,” he said to Imlen, Mozmana, and Morok. “He knows of the situation here in the jungle, and would defend this place if he could spare the warriors, but you understand we must arrange our forces wisely. The jungle is not under attack right now, and were it to fall under attack it would be difficult to defend in this state.”

“I do understand. This was once as mighty a stronghold as any fortress of stone and iron, but the jungle cannot protect us now,” said Turaga Morok. “I will advise the Matoran to seek shelter behind walls once again.”

“Something does not seem right to me, Captain,” said Mozmana. “Imlen and I visited your homeland only weeks ago, and... well, the realm was beset by many troubles, it seemed. How can your Thane afford to not only send many warriors across the border, but wage war on the Brotherhood itself?”

“Sadly, it is clear that the glory of Leokhtlich has faded, and its beauty has been tarnished. I knew you had seen this for yourself, and so I am surprised you did not mention this earlier,” said Liegbrand. “However, our Thane has consorted with allies new and old. Together, we will stand firm against the Brotherhood.”

“And the brigands that plague the land?” said Imlen.

“Actually, that threat has lessened in the past week or so. There are rumors that many brigand chiefs and other infamous figures have been slain. I suspect Thane Frithozib has received assistance in that matter,” said Liegbrand thoughtfully. “In any case, the morale of the brigands has suffered, and the Thane has taken the opportunity to offer many of them a pardon in exchange for military service. As a result, many of those bandits have become warriors of Leokhtlich. Not the most trustworthy of comrades, but I am sure the Thane is dealing with them cautiously.”

“A clever plan, as long as he takes care to not rely too much on them – or worse, leave the realm vulnerable to a second betrayal,” said Imlen. “But I know all too well that sometimes one must ally with some villains to fight ones that are even worse.”

“Indeed. And they are our kinsfolk, ruffians though they be,” said the Captain. “If you ask me, it is good that they have a chance to redeem themselves. Now, to continue my report: the southern division will capture the shipyard and docks, and destroy them if necessary. We expect the Brotherhood will send reinforcements by sea, but we have been promised the allegiance of a community of sea-dwellers. They will do all they can to sink any Brotherhood ships that approach the coast.”

“Of course, them!” said Turaga Morok. “I had quite forgotten about the people of the sea. They are fierce and brave fighters, their assistance will be a great boon.”

“I do not think the Makuta will seek to reclaim their strongholds in Yrenta soon – not when realms they see as more significant are also rebelling. They will focus their efforts elsewhere, in regions and cities of economic and political importance,” Liegbrand went on. “But thanks to the local geography, we can hinder them greatly with only a few warriors should they seek to pass through Yrenta. We can hold the river, the mountain passes, and set a watch upon the hills in the west and in the east. Yrenta will be only one small front out of many in this war, but it is something.”

“It is, and every small part can be vital,” said Mozmana, and she addressed Turaga Morok. “We'll escort the Matoran here to safety.”

“I will go with them,” said the Turaga with a nod. “I am reluctant to leave my home jungle when it needs my help, but my people also need me. Hopefully this war will keep Makuta Teskor too occupied to attempt to burn it again. So then, let us go north and occupy the fortresses in the hills once more. The Matoran of Yrenta have been warriors in the past, we can fight to defend our homeland again.”

 

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Edited by The Iron Toa, Jan 12 2013 - 12:30 AM.

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Story Currently in Progress:

End of Yrenta (Review Topic) (Currently at 55 Chapters)

I realize I haven't updated my stories or posted much for quite a while. I will get back it it sometime, and I am still checking the site daily for any interesting topics.

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