* * *"Are you quite ready, great leader?" called Toa Hain from outside in the courtyard."Be patient brother," called back Toa Dume, slightly annoyed at the Toa of air’s flippant tone of voice. "I'm almost ready." He shuffled through the weapons rack, vowing to give Zima a stern lecture when she came back from patrol. The Toa of Lightning simply did not know how to clean up after herself, no doubt trying to escape the chore of tidying the armory by feigning incompetence.Today was weapons practice day for the Toa Sudak who weren't on patrol at the moment, and that meant, after a brief widget flip, that Dume had their resident Toa of air as a sparring partner. The being was a noble and valiant warrior, skilled in many types of weapons. But Hain was also, as many of the tribe of Le were, a jester by nature, and thus was found by some serious types such as Dume to be annoying.But, thought the Toa of Fire, and recently elected leader of the Sudak, I shall be able to learn to better myself in the art of swordsmanship from my practice with him. With that thought, Dume finally found his favorite sword and shield, and ran to the courtyard.In the courtyard, Hain and Dume were standing with their weapons on one side, with some posts and fence pieces mounted in the ground should they need them. On the other side were Naiphak, the Toa of iron, and Apher, the Toa of water, who were practicing with staves among similar equipment.“There you are!” Hain said to Dume cheerfully. He did a forward flip in the Toa of fire’s direction, drawing his sword and landing in a fighting stance as he finished. “What took you so long?” Hain said. “You were in the armory for almost ten minutes.”“Remember how Zima ‘cleaned’ the armory last night?” said Dume.“Oh, right,” Hain replied, knowing that nothing more needed to be said. “Zimmy really needs to, heh heh, clean up her act.” Hain then burst into a fit of cackling at his own joke, but soon realized that Dume was only looking at him strangely. “Um, very well then,” said Hain, quickly adding “great leader. We’ll start by reviewing Gukko Form, before moving on to Muaka.”“Alright,” said Dume, trying to keep his patience. Even after two weeks, his election as team leader was still a source of mockery for Hain, as well as Tolek, the Toa of Stone. “Let’s start then.”For the rest of the morning, Dume and Hain practiced various methods and forms, and sparred a few times. Dume was stronger and tougher than his opponent, but Hain had the advantage of speed, agility, and experience. There was no danger of either of them harming each other. The weapons being used at the moment had been crafted by Naiphak to be blunted, and therefore of little practical use than as bludgeons, and not very good bludgeons at that. But they were just fine for practice.After Dume had been slammed into the ground for the third time, Hain glanced at the sundial and noted that it was now a half hour past noon. “Break time, Dume,” he said, helping his partner off the ground. Dume, for his part, thanked the Toa of air for his patience, stretched out his joints, and then stumbled over to the fountain for drink of water. Naiphak and Apher were there as well.Hain took his marked cup form a shelf engraved into the side of the fountain. He took a deep, refreshing drink. Nothing like cold water on a hot day after training, he thought. Noting that Apher was standing next to him, he said to her, “Everything good on your end of the court?”The sapphire armored Toa glanced up from her cup, and gave a smile. Apher, like most of the other Toa on the eight member team, was a stranger to the Fe-Koro area. She wore a Kanohi Pakari, the mask of Strength. “Fine enough for Naiphak,” she said, “bad for my sides. I’m still having trouble getting my head around staff fighting.”“You could try something else then,” said Hain good-naturedly. “Some weapons just come easier to certain beings than others. Like say, oh, I don’t know… sword?”“No, no,” said Apher, holding up a flattened palm. “I chose this weapon to work on, and I’m going to stick with it-”“Ha! Stick!” exclaimed Hain, snickering behind his Kanohi Kakama. “Get it? Staff? Stick?”“And- and I’m going to practice with it for more than four days before trying something new,” finished Apher, before letting a “heh heh” escape her mouth. No matter how dumb Hain’s jokes got, there was still cause for laughter; Hain’s determination to not stop telling them. And some of them were actually pretty funny.Dume and Naiphak, meanwhile, had wandered over to the gates leading to the outside of the courtyard. This courtyard, when not being used as a training area for the Sudak, was actually a weathered sports arena, as evidenced by the several seats built around it. The Sudak each had individual homes throughout the town, and the fountain could be lowered into the ground when not needed. The rest of the practice equipment was portable.Naiphak climbed up into the bleachers, and peered over the upper guard rails. He saw the Matoran going about their work, trading, crafting, repairing, moving, guarding in the case of the local patrol, resting, healing, talking, arguing, and, in general, living.“How is it in the town?” called Dume from below the seats.Naiphak looked over his shoulder and called back, “Everything seems to be normal.” Naiphak looked again. He spotted Tyothis, the team’s other Toa of fire, standing watch at the west gate, making sure that incoming and outgoing carts had everything in order, chosen for that task because he wore the Kanohi Akaku, the mask of x-ray vision. He saw Zima, the Toa of Lightning, lazily strolling along the top of the town wall, before disappearing behind a building which obscured the Toa of Iron’s vision. He witnessed Tolek, the Toa of Stone, accidently bump over a fruit stand in the market place, and then hastily apologize to the infuriated owner while trying to help fix the stand. And he observed Juin, the Toa of Ice, talking with Turaga Settu, the village leader and former Toa of Iron, as well as Naiphak’s mentor.By this time, Dume had climbed up into the bleachers and was now standing next to Naiphak, looking over his adopted home. Upon seeing Tolek’s predicament, he was prompted to wonder aloud, “The Matoran have yet to get used to our presence, I see.”“How did it take you to get used to having a Toa around your village?” said Naiphak, narrowing his eyes at the Toa of fire.“We had no Toa in my village,” replied Dume icily, now regretting starting a conversation with Naiphak. The two had been opponents for the position of leader of the Toa Sudak, and there was still some sore wounds over the election. “We only had a worn out Turaga of Water, a handful of hot-headed Ta-Matoran, and the late Barraki Mantax who occasionally visited our village to hunt in our forest.”“You actually saw Mantax?” said Naiphak incredulously. Only Tyothis had been at the battle where Brotherhood of Makuta forces had soundly defeated the armies of the League of Six Kingdoms, and even he only got quick look at the Barraki, before they vanished out of the plane of existence. Rumors quickly flared up that Mata Nui had exacted punishment on them, but the Brotherhood of Makuta had recently rejected that possibility in a public announcement.“Once,” said Dume. “On that particular day, he took two of our villagers and used them as bait for the Muaka he was hunting in the forest. They both survived, but neither of them ever went into the forest again after that, and one of them has only one arm.”There was silence for a moment. Naiphak shook his head, still confounded after all these years on how Mata Nui could have appointed such depraved beings as rulers. Tolek had opined in past discussions that the Barraki were once good and just beings, but had become corrupted by power and greed, while Tyothis vehemently argued that the Barraki had always had souls of rot, and that they just became more inept at concealing that rot.After a few minutes, Dume said, “I’m going to send out Apher to check in with the others.” He went from his spot in the bleachers and hopped over the bottom wall into the courtyard. “Apher!” he called to his teammate, “Go check in on the others! Report any suspicious activity.”“Yes sir!” came her reply. The Toa of water took her staff, running over to the side entrance, before disappearing into the darkness of the indoors section of the arena.Naiphak came from behind Dume to stand beside him. “It looks like we have a quiet afternoon ahead of us, Dume.”“As a wise being once said,” said the Toa of fire, “’never assume.’”
* * *Apher had a pretty clear view in marketplace. After all, she, like the majority of Toa, stood about the same size as one Matoran standing on another’s shoulders. Thus, even though the crowd swarmed around her like ocean waves, she had no trouble wading about in it. At least I could swim in the ocean, thought Apher. She missed her hometown, a little fishing village about thirty kio southwest of Fe-Koro. But when the call came for local Toa to band together in order to protect the Southern Continent from rouge Barraki soldiers, she knew that she had to go.In her three months as a member of the Toa Sudak, she had wrestled ash bears, vanquished bandits, and mediated every argument among the team from who should be leader to who had to clean the armory. Apher understood the need for a peacemaker, but often tired of her unofficial role. At least things have been mostly peaceful this month.Out of the corner of her eye, Apher spotted Tolek stacking some crates. “There,” he said, rubbing his hands together, “good as new.”“Thank you, Toa Tolek,” said a Fe-Matoran standing next to a pile of smashed bula berries. “Now, go to Karzahni.”Tolek sighed, rumbling along in a different direction, but brightened when he saw Apher. “Sister!” he said, moving quickly toward her. Tolek stood about a head taller than Apher, and wore a bronze Kanohi Hau, the mask of shielding. “What’s the word?”“Dume just told me to check in on all of you,” replied Apher. “Any suspicious activity?”“None,” said Tolek, patting the horn he carried around his neck. “We all know what to do in case of an emergency, though.” He noted a dented portion of her torso armor. “How’s stave practice going?”“Better than wrestling last week,” said Apher, glancing down at her own horn. “Thanks for asking.”Apher continued over to Juin, the Toa of Ice, currently in deep conversation with Turaga Settu.“…and furthermore, Turaga, it would be irresponsible to leave the surrounding villages perpetually unattended," said Juin.“But,” said the Turaga from behind his Kanohi Miru, “this village’s mines are more important to the larger economy than any other in the region.”“Yes, I understand that,” came Juin’s reply, “but if the other municipalities fall prey to bandits and the like, there won’t be any ‘larger economy’ to worry about!”Perfect, thought Apher, another quarrel for me to squelch. Taking a deep breath, she approached the two debaters and addressed them both, saying, “Turaga, Juin, what in Mata Nui’s name are you two arguing about?”“We, dear sister,” said Juin in his dulcet tones, “have been discussing the merits of having all the Toa bottled up in Fe-Koro, or else spreading out to patrol our own sections of the countryside.”“Which is my decision, Toa,” interjected Turaga Seetu. A grizzled veteran with a pitted gray Miru, he and the Toa, including Dume, were often at odds on how to best run the southwestern region of the Southern Continent.“There hasn’t been an attack on the village in over a month!” cried Juin. The Toa of ice was so agitated that his Great Komau began to shake. “And besides, the cost alone to house all of us-”“Juin,” said Apher, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but aren’t you supposed to be on patrol at the mines?”“The mi-?” said Juin, completely forgetting the argument. “Er, truly, I have neglected my duty. I shall go at once.” The Toa of ice turned towards the gate, but not before leaving a final word for the Turaga. “We aren’t yet finished, Turaga. Dume agrees with me, and he said you both would discuss this matter in detail at another ti-”“Get to your post!” yelled the aged Turaga. “Remember the three virtues! Unity, duty, destiny! In the interest of unity, do you duty, or your destiny will be to polish my staff with your tongue!”Apher eyed Seetu’s worn walking staff as Juin went on his way out. It was made out of the finest iron, with a large green gem embedded in the top.“Thank you, by the way,” said Seetu to Apher. “I thought I’d never get rid of him. Rookies, think they know everything because they went to some fancy school.”“You’re welcome sir,” said Apher, “but I didn’t do it for you. I’m interested in the unity of this team, but I’ll leave the management to our leaders.”“Yeah, yeah, sure,” said Seetu, walking away to his shelter. "Turaga Jovan, he'd like you." He glanced over his shoulder before going in out of the bright sunlight.Apher continued over to the bottom of the wall near Zima, the Toa of electricity. “Anything to report?” she called.Zima looked down and made chopping motion with her hand, and then walked along.“Alright then,” shouted Apher. “Thanks, I guess.”Apher’s last stop to make to was at Tyothis’ post. The old fellow sat in the shade, allowing two Fe-Koro guardsmen to do most of the work. His spear was stuck in the ground next to him, but his shield remained strapped to his front arm.“Toa Tyothis!” she called, walking up to the aged Toa. “How are things at the front gate?”“Just fine and dandy,” said Tyothis. He got up, stretched his muscles, and adjusted the shield mounted to his arm. He then took his spear and walked over to Apher. The gate was empty now, but was generally busier in the morning and evening.“How’s staff practice going?” said the Toa of fire.“Good, good,” said Apher. “Any suspicious activity to report?”“Well,” said Tyothis, “we had one wagon with a load of something metal in a box, but it turned out to just be a bunch of iron nails. We had another feller’ with a small herd of Mahi, but they were all right, though one of them-”“Caravan!” shouted the lookout in the tower next to the gate. An ussel cart pulling a cage on wheels, containing a snorting Kane-Ra bull, came towards the gate. A Le-Matoran drove the cart, a Ga-Matoran and a Po-Matoran sitting alongside him.“Well, what have we got here?” said Tyothis. He went over to the cart as the two Fe-Matoran guards ordered it to come to a stop. “You got a license for this here Kane-Ra bull?” said the Toa of fire to the Le-Matoran.“I beg your pardon,” said the Le-Matoran from behind a teal Noble Komau, “but the great Janbar does not have a license! He is wild, untamed, the greatest of his kind, and I, Boroval, am the only one who can tame-”“Do you or do you not have a license?” interrupted Tyothis. Tyothis had little patience for pomp of any kind, and was at this moment not liking this Boroval one bit.“We have a license,” said one the Po-Matoran, pulling a stone tablet from his pack. “Here, sir Toa.”Tyothis examined the license. It was worn and a little crumbled, but it was valid. “See about renewing the thing soon,” he said, handing the tablet back to the Po-Matoran.Meanwhile, Apher noticed that the bull was becoming more and more agitated. It moved crazily about in the cage, eyeing its surroundings with venom.“Rahi like the Kane-Ra bull need open fields and pasture land,” opined Apher. “It’s going mad in that cage.”“Fear not, fair water maiden,” said Boroval majestically. “In the arena, before me, this beast is a gentle as our ussel crab. Come, see our show tomorrow night and-”“Move along,” said Tyothis, waving his spear. The cart moved along, but the bull continued to stare at Tyothis. It snorted, and charged against the bars, the impact shaking the cart and nearly sending the Ga-Matoran over the side.“Sirs!” shouted Apher. “Your bull seems to be extremely agitated. I would advise that you leave the village and-”It was too late. The Kane-Ra bull slammed its head against the bars of its cage a second and final time before they were broken loose from the wooden frame. The bars clattered onto the ground as the bull jumped from the cart, moving around, looking for something to charge at. It spotted Tyothis, standing in his dusty red armor, shield and spear at the ready. The Kane-Ra bull let out a bellow, and began to summon its strength for a charge.Apher was glued to her spot in abject horror at the situation. But training took over, and she reached for her horn, put it to her lips, and blew.
* * *Dume looked up from his sparring match with Hain, the distinct sound of the alarm horn echoing throughout the village. “Go!” he shouted. “It’s the alarm!”The three Toa, Dume, Naiphak, and Hain, raced to the armory to retrieve their Toa tools. Dume took his Ember Blade from its spot, Naiphak his mace, and Hain his sword and shield.“Hain!” said Dume. “Scout the situation!”Hain nodded, knowing that now was not the time for wisecracks. In a blur of green, he rushed from the armory with the power of his mask of speed, and was back again in an instant.“Kane-Ra bull in the market place,” he said, catching his breath as he did. “Tolek, Apher, and Tyothis are trying to keep it in one place, but their efforts aren’t going to hold up for long.”“We’ll settle that!” declared Dume. “Here’s the plan. I and Naiphak will distract the Rahi. Kane-Ra bulls are agitated by the color red, so it will naturally charge at me. Hain, you get Zima, she has the mask of Rahi control. Now go!”“Yes sir!” said Hain, before departing once more.“We’ll distract the beast?” said Naiphak to Dume, trying to keep pace with his leader’s stride.“Yes,” said Dume, igniting his sword. “Your Kanohi Calix might just come in handy.”The two came out of the stadium, finding a largely deserted market place. Most of the Matoran had bolted themselves into their homes, only a few cowering in the shadows while a despairing opera played out before them.Apher was attempting to use her mask of strength to wrestle the Kane-Ra bull to the ground. Tolek was apparently trying to wall the bull in, his lack of success betrayed by several broken stone slabs jutting out of the ground. Tyothis was standing his ground across from Tolek, with Apher and the Kane-Ra between them, but limping. He had his spear couched beneath his arm, his shield over his torso. An overturned cart lay off to the side, on Tyothis’ right.Dume waved his sword at the bull, prancing about on his toes. “Rahi, come forth!” he yelled, swishing his blazing sword back and forth. Naiphak for his part slammed his mace into the ground.Apher looked at Dume, her eyes screaming, Are you insane?“Let go, Apher! I have a plan!” shouted Dume. “Trust me!”Apher nodded, and then let go.The charging Kane-Ra bull galloped in Dume’s direction, snorting, growling even, its eyes full of hate and rage. Dume looked it right in the eye, fully intending to leap out of the way at the last possible second, to play a game of cat and mouse with the bull- when it suddenly stopped.Naiphak looked to the right, and saw Zima coming forward with her hand outstretched, her mask glowing from use. The Kane-Ra bull stopped as though on a leash, digging its hooves into the ground to stop its charge. It then proceeded to turn around, slowly rumbling towards Zima, before collapsing into a sitting position.“Sleep,” commanded Zima. The bull lowered its head and closed its eyes.Dume hadn’t been happier to see his fellow Toa any day before now. “Perfect, Zima!” he called. “Tolek! Make a pit for the beast.”As Tolek did as he was ordered, Dume spotted Juin arriving from the direction of the gate. Tyothis, meanwhile, had dropped his spear, and was leaning on Apher. “Juin!” called Dume, “Help Apher move Tyothis to his shelter! He is injured!”“Yes sir!” came the reply from the Toa of ice. Discarding his blade-staffs, Juin took Tyothis’ shield arm, and walked off with him towards Tyothis’ hut, not far from their current location.While all of this was going on, Matoran began to stream out of their homes, slowly filling up the area. Naiphak quickly created an iron fence to surround the bull pit, while Tolek and Zima directed curious Matoran away from it.Turaga Seetu came through the crowd, led by Hain, and approached Dume and Naiphak. The four beings stood, starring at each other in an awkward silence. Then, Seetu shouted, “Three cheers for the Toa Sudak, who have saved our village on this day!”The crowd of Matoran burst into applause, cheering and clapping in an excited manner which Dume had never before seen in the village’s populace.“Sudak! Sudak! Sudak!” they cried with all of their might. Dume could only stand and wave approvingly, Naiphak and Hain doing the same.“Turaga!” said a voice next to Dume. “Turaga Dume! Turaga Dume!”
* * *Suddenly, Turaga Dume woke up.He looked around, seeing a red face against the dark ceiling. He looked up towards his window. It was night out.“Turaga, sir,” said the Agori attendant. “The banquet is in one hour, and I was told to come and let you know.”“Eh… yes, of course,” said Dume, righting himself into a sitting position on the bed. How long was I asleep? he thought. “I’m sorry, what is your name?” he said to the Agori.“Kyry, sir,” said the fire Agori.Dume adjusted his mask. It had gone crooked as he lay asleep. “Kyry,” he said, “please send for my aide, Aft.”“Yes sir,” said Kyry. He gave a slight nod, and then turned and left the room.Perhaps there is more for me to do yet, thought Dume. What else are old duffers like me for anyway?About ten minutes later, Aft came into Dume’s room. “You sent for me, Turaga?”“Yes, Aft. I want you to prepare a message for Kopeke the chronicler while I go to Raanu’s banquet.” Dume stood up to stretch his legs. He took his cane from its position leaning next to the wall.“In this message,” said Dume, looking Aft in the eye, which was hard because Aft wore a Kanohi Akaku, “tell the chronicler that I wish to share with him my years as a Matoran and Toa, for the sake of posterity. I wish to begin as soon as possible.”“Yes sir,” said Aft, nodding. The fire Matoran bowed, and then left the room.Dume then sat back down on the bed, ready for Kyry to come back to escort him to the banquet. Yes, perhaps there is still a duty for me yet.
Edited by X-Ray, Aug 26 2012 - 12:41 AM.