The Last Guardian
Written by, Grant-SudWalking on the barren desert sands, the three Matoran trekked onward in complete darkness. There wasn’t a light to be found in the land and the sky held no stars or moon. The sun hadn’t set on the world in the last five hundred years, and the rivers had long ago dried up. Despite that, the air was damp and warm.Toreck stopped, and glanced over his shoulder with a worried expression on his face as he casted his gaze upon the far sands behind him. His two friends came to a halt, their backpacks clanging with equipment. The Onu-Matoran, Retra, spoke first after a short moment of stillness.“Do you see them?” she asked. In these surroundings her black armor made her appear almost invisible to the naked eye. Only her green eyes were noticeable.“No.”Toreck continued to watch in silence, his Ruru activated to reveal what was in the darkness around him.“Do you think they are still following us?”“Yes.”They watched the lifeless sands below, riding the wind in waves, fluid in motion and colorless, as their Ruru’s didn’t allow color while in use of its power. They could see no other movement. But that didn’t mean they were alone, and that’s why the light feature of their masks were being unused.Retra slipped the pack from her shoulders and placed it on to the ground. Toreck intensified his own mask of night vision’s power to full, trying to get a better view of things. Shifting through her gear, she checked the rations they had left. About a week’s worth, more than enough time to reach their destination and head home. Inside she also found three lightstones covered in cloth and a Hau. Sighing, she zipped up the pack.“You didn’t bring weapons either, did you Moru?” she asked the quiet Le-Matoran who carried the lightest bags.“Besides a few disks, no,” he replied simply. “I felt that if we encountered Rahkshi threats out here, no weapon at our disposal would be efficient enough.”He sounded cold, but was only naturally so in speech. His face was also filled with slight disappointment at what Toreck had told them.“I … I think we should just continue on,” Toreck decided. He was a Ta-Matoran, the leader of this small group. And though Retra and Moru could always detect a small amount of nervousness in his voice, which was his nature, they knew the Ta-Matoran’s loyalty and determination always overcame his frightfulness. “If we find what we’re looking for, we’ll make it through no problem.” He finished that last statement with a reassuring smile.“If we find him,” Moru added quietly.Then Toreck shouted in sudden surprise as his sight was filled with a harsh light. He yanked his mask off and threw it to the ground. His vision blurred as he took in the brightness surrounding him. Moru and Retra, who had their masks set on a lower level, squinted and deactivated their masks entirely.On normal vision, the three Matoran looked upward to the sky above where one large square of light shined on the land. Toreck rubbed his eyes and looked out over the expanse. He could see everything, and his heart sank at the sight of the endless wasteland. Only sand and rocks.The light above flickered.“I don’t know why …” Retra started, but hesitated as she sought the right choice of words. “I wish I could have seen this place when it was worth fighting over. I can’t understand why no one minded living and fighting for a cage.”“It was a place meant for us, they used to say. It was a home.” Toreck explained to her, though he himself couldn’t truly understand the sentimentality of this world.“We should keep moving,” Moru interrupted, unsympathetic to what he saw. “Our home means much more to me and I want to see it again. I don’t ever want to come back to this empty shell of Mata Nui.”With that the Le-Matoran turned and continued down the lit way, not bothering see if his friends were following. He knew they were. It was only a good minute later that the giant lantern in the sky short-circuited, a sharp pop echoing across the land. Glowing sparks rained from the once again darkened sky, falling as mixture of ash and sand around them. And though they couldn’t fully understand why, their equipment and hearts, felt much heavier.***The tent flapped as the wind blew against it, shuddering and threatening to blow away at a given moment. Retra was confident though that the spikes she had placed into the tent would hold despite the softer surface.A small heatstone was placed in the center of the three Matoran. Moru was wide awake and staring into it, as was Toreck who took in the warmth like a long lost friend. Retra rested in her sleeping bag, eyes half closed. There hadn’t been much discussion, which was rare for them, but not necessarily unexpected. It had been a long journey into the old Matoran Universe. The three of them had been close at their Koro and knew each other well. And talking about their falling conditions and predicament was just… something they didn’t want to spend their last conversation on, if it happened to be so.Not only that, but the Matoran Universe was such a quiet world, so unlike Spherus Magna.Moru however, was not a Matoran to let difficult subjects get in the way of his questions and answers.“What do you think they are doing here?” Moru asked Toreck. The Le-Matoran then winced at his question but couldn’t help but slightly smile. Why was it that people, including him, were so drawn to his Ta-Matoran friend? They looked to him for confidence even though he seemed to have no real sustenance for his faith.“I’m not sure. Rahkshi are rare… and to be honest I wasn’t expecting any to be around here.”“They were sent after us,” Moru explained, already knowing the answer, just wondering what Toreck thought of it.Toreck raised his hands up to the heatstone, and rubbed them together after a minute. He struggled with his words for a second, but only muttered one.“Yeah.”“Maybe they know about it,” Retra said quietly. She was a strong Onu-Matoran, an excellent miner and construction expert. But though she had these skills, she was the youngest out of the three of them and often expressed either high confidence or worry. “We just need to find him before they do, that’s all,” she added with a smile, shutting her eyes again.“I agree,” Toreck told her as he fell on to his back, ready for sleep himself.Moru stayed in his sitting position.“And once we find the Toa, all our problems will be over.”The Le-Matoran glanced over at his friend, who spoke too joyfully.“What makes you so sure? Why do you think that this Toa will solve everything? That he’ll even be here, all the way out in the middle of nowhere?”Frowning in response, Toreck didn’t meet his gaze and shifted against his makeshift bed.“I don’t know for sure if the Toa will be here. But I hope he is. And if he is, I know he’ll start something, he’ll prove that we stand a chance.” Toreck shifted upward then, somewhat excited as he finally met his friend’s eyes. “Haven’t you ever thought about that? It’s what we all dream to be one day, a guardian. And this person might make that dream come true. It’s worth this journey, because it’s the only way our people are going to make it. And we will.”Moru didn’t say anything in response, but considered. Retra’s eyes were wide open once again, and she took in Toreck’s words like a revelation she hadn’t acknowledged before. “And tomorrow, we’re going to find him,” she finished, a smile on her face.Snuggling back into her covers, she tried falling asleep again, as did Toreck who felt safer and didn’t worry about the Rahkshi for now.Moru was the only one who couldn’t sleep so easily.***“Are we close?” Toreck asked, turning to Moru. The Le-Matoran’s vision was limited to what he saw ahead, but his own Ruru could make out the lines and notes in his stone map. He placed a finger to the tablet and scrolled it slowly upward, murmuring to himself before looking upward and giving a definite nod.“Very. Just a few more miles and we’ll reach the fortress.”Step after the step the group took in the darkness, occasionally glancing over their shoulder for the Rahkshi they could only assume weren’t around. Perhaps they had given up days ago, which would explain their absence for so long. Retra had commented that from the stories she had been told, Rahkshi rarely gave up a hunt, which worried the three even more. If they were still looking, wouldn’t they have caught up by now?The sheer cliff appeared abruptly in their path, a giant wall of rock upward miles high. They had had plenty of time to notice it through their masks, but still the magnitude of such an obstacle surprised them. They hadn’t seen much of anything besides desert since they had begun their journey into the robot’s shell.“It’s somewhere along this wall,” Moru said disappointingly. “I’m not sure which direction for sure.”“Just estimate the best you can, my friend,” Toreck encouraged. “And what are we looking for exactly?”Moru smiled and laughed halfheartedly. “You know what we’re looking for, the entrance into this Dark Hunter Fortress. It should be marked by a large black stone...” Scratching the back of his head in thought, he pointed to the left. “I’m going to say it’s in this direction, if my calculations are correct. But there’s no way of knowing which part of the wall we’re at, and it goes on for miles.”“I’ll try to pick up anything that’s hallow in the rock,” Retra added, walking close to the cliff-face and pressing a hand against the stone, a natural ability granted to Onu-Matoran.Making their way along the wall, Toreck and Moru kept a sharp eye for any color difference in the stone, which was difficult while seeing through night vision. Retra kept her eyes closed, feeling out for any abnormalities.“I feel it!” Retra opened her eyes and pressed both hands to the rock. It had only been a good ten minutes, much better time in locating the entrance than they had expected. “It’s nearby, there’s an opening inside, no doubt.”Toreck quickly ran ahead searching for any kind of col-And then a large boulder in the cliff, volcanic black in color was before him.It took a few minutes for Retra to locate the secret hatch buried in the sand underneath it. With a sharp pull, she removed the latch and the bolder slowly slid out from the cliff, revealing a square opening that reached far into the mountain’s side. The entire opening was built of steel with sand spreading across the floor. Toreck took a quick look inside, and slowly entered, followed by his friends.The stone closed shut behind them, leaving them in perpetual darkness. Assured of being alone now, the three Matoran removed their masks and retrieved their lightstones. Toreck placed on his Mask of Flight, Moru his Mask of Accuracy and Retra her Mask of Strength.Now immersed in regular light, they made their way through the long and abandon corridor.***“If Lariska was right about everything…” Moru started.“It’s here?” Toreck asked, awed by what could be beyond the steel hatch. The door was hexagon shaped and glowing at the edges was a white light. His excitement was evident by the way his fingers twitched at his sides. This was it.“Yes. Trapped in the Shadowed One’s Throne Room, is where we’ll find the Toa. This should be the chamber. Now when the Toa wakes up, we’ll need to be easy with him. He’s not going to understand a lot right away.”“Retra,” Toreck turned to her. “Do your stuff.”“On it,” she said, grinning from the edge of her mask to the other. Quickly, she slid down to her knees on the right side of the steel hatch. There, she began to study the code construct, riddled with an old Matoran Language and other odd symbols.“Set up the lightstones around me?” she requested, and the two did as they were told. Placing one right beside her, she quickly located another stone tablet from her own pack. Notes and sketches were written across it. Lariska had theorized at the code word when she had told the legend years back, so they had a good idea of what it was. But the translation from the Spherus Magna Language to the Matoran Language was a difficult one. If anyone could do it, Retra could, having studied up on the history of the Matoran Universe as much as Moru.“Okay…” she pressed a button and then another on the panel. “Yes! This is it!”With a sudden lurch, the door’s hinges unhooked and a dust cloud formed around them. The door slowly rose upward, descending-And then it stopped.“Hold on,” Retra said, activating her mask. “I think it’s just caught.”She moved to the hatch and held on to the underside of it. She started to lift with a heavy grunt.“Toreck,” Moru tapped on his friend’s shoulder. He had a distant look in his eye, the Ta-Matoran. It was as though he was in a dream and wanting to live it. “Toreck… listen.”Blinking, his friend concentrated on Moru.“I know what you think, that this Toa will be the start of something great, and yes I think it will change everything too…” he looked a little saddened. “But don’t ever think that we’re not worth-”“Got it!”Another roar of the steel grinding against stone, and the door automatically lifted, with Retra standing in its opening. She didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything at the sight before her.Inside was a large dark room of polished stone, to the far left a massive throne and around the room along the walls were shelves and shelves of masks and weapons. The weapons looked personal, not powerful but having significant value to them. All the masks were scarred, as though their owners had all perished at the marks long ago. But it was how she was seeing these things, from the light source at the far end of the room right across from the doorway that had stopped her in her tracks. There was a large container, cylinder shaped, transparent with a tall figure standing upward and frozen inside. The cylinder emitted a light like one from the heavens, light blue and pure, which revealed the features of the being. There was no room for doubt in the Matoran’s heart. And though she had never seen one before, she still knew what she saw.It was a Toa.And then abruptly, the placed lightstone beside her shattered into pieces. Retra, half dazed and half surprised by the sudden disruption, slowly turned to look over her shoulder.The heat from the laser as it made its way across the ground before them seemed to come in slow motion to her. She could only watch it frame by frame, unable to move in a sudden fear that had taken hold of her. Only one word came to mind as the beam swiftly moved upward and cut into her armor, body and mask.‘Rahkshi.’Struck down without mercy, Retra fell to her knees, her body smoking from the new scar that was etched into her. Her eyes seemed dead and she collapsed on her side.“Retra!” Toreck cried out in devastation, not fully taken in by what had happened. The next beam cut across the wall and toward the two Matoran left standing.“Move!” Moru grabbed a hold of Toreck’s arm and pulled him into the chamber the laser slicing above their heads.Moru glanced upward, seeing the attack barely miss striking the Statis Tube where the Toa was held.Quickly, he reached behind his back, activating his mask on full power and swung out with his acquired disk. A level three teleport disk, which soared directly at the body of the orange colored Rahkshi. The creature fired another stream of heat which missed the disk and instead struck the right arm of Moru. The Le-Matoran cried out in pain as the Rahkshi immediately disappeared by the disk’s effects.“They’re…” Moru sucked in his air. “Trying to kill the Toa.”Toreck’s eyes widened as he turned to find two more Rahkshi right outside the hatch. A red and brown one, evil looks to their eyes which were said to be that of a dreaded Makuta’s. He lost track of his breathing as the events unfolded far too quickly for him. Moru rushed forward, shoving Toreck out of the way and outstretched his arms as a wave of power erupted from the brown Rahkshi’s staff. Uplifting dirt in its wake, the Le-Matoran took the energy in full, stopping it from reaching the Toa.A saddened look to his face, the Le-Matoran fell backward, armor scarred and marked and ripped apart. His mask had been half disintegrated from the attack. Toreck shouted out his name but Moru couldn’t even hear it and only witnessed his friend by fading vision as he took him in his arms and leaned over him.“I… I… I protected … for you… make sure, they… they can’t be allowed … the last…” he didn’t have any more control of his lungs after that, but he strangely felt no pain, and just watched his friend as he screamed deafly. He gave a prayer that’d Toreck could make it through this. That he wouldn’t see his friend on the other side so soon.And then he passed away.Toreck cried, unable to fight back and unprepared for the sudden loss of his companions. He was supposed to be stronger than this. He was supposed to fight, like Tahu had taught the Matoran long ago. A reason to exist was what they needed to live, as the Great Toa had said. But Toreck couldn’t remember why he was living right then, not when everything had been taken from him.On the outside, as the Rahkshi of Fear began to move into the chamber with its brother, Retra slowly reached upward with her arm, and retyped in the code she had punched in. She didn’t think about what was next, only the present. After she was done, the Onu-Matoran fell back into the ground, eyes dimming as the hatch began to seal shut. The Rahkshi hissed in anger and turned to her, seeing the smirk on her face.“Tell the Toa, I said hi … okay Toreck?”Then she died before the sons of Makuta could kill her.***Erratic breaths were pitifully drawn from Toreck as he watched the hatch close and seal. Tears in his eyes, he realized he had been given a chance. There was still an opportunity to finish the mission and retrieve the prize. And he was wasting it.Moving slowly past the corpse of Moru, not barring to watch his friend any longer, Toreck approached the Statis Tube. He placed a hand against the glass, and slowly slid it across the container until it reached the smooth stone wall. There, a single lever waited.He pulled on it, and the prison’s glow faded away. The glass opened, steam filling out across the room. When it cleared, there the Toa of Psionics stood leaning slightly against the wall with unlit eyes.***…Norik…She inhaled, gasping as though life had always been across the street, waving and smiling but never rushing to meet her. Her eyes started to glow and her legs unbuckled from beneath her as she fell.Then she felt hands desperately catch her torso and hold her up for a moment before being laid to the cold ground. She couldn’t make out anyone before her, though she knew someone was there and she only couldn’t hear.Dizziness struck, her vision blurred and as her body received the air it needed she immediately felt as though she needed to sleep again.But she refused that call. Somehow, she knew she had been asleep for a long time.Movement against her side for too long, she slowly started to make out the muddled noise reaching her ears. Opening her eyes again, she noticed the small red being beside her. It looked familiar, but she couldn’t recall its name, though it was in the back of her mind, somewhere. He shook her body, pressed his mask down toward hers and started to speak.“You…” she could make out.Grudgingly, she moved her arms up and pressed her palms to the floor slowly lifting herself up. She fell, and tried again as the ringing in her ears stopped.“Who…where am I?” she asked, her voice not her own. Though she couldn’t remember exactly what she sounded like before. The room was very dark, and besides a noticeable throne at the end of the room which looked all too familiar, she couldn’t recall where she was.“You’re female!” the red being responded in surprise. “I- I’m sorry, we had just assumed, because of the legend.”For some reason that answer confused her all the more and before she could think about what she was saying, she spoke.“Of course I’m female, I’m a Toa of Psionics.”And then with that word, Toa, memories started to burst free from the dam of her mind. Too many memories; fighting … for something, living in unnamed lands, working with unnamed teammates.Except for the name, Norik. She could remember that one.“What was I thinking… you were around before the time of Spherus Magna,” the little one started to ramble on. “But that’s fine! You just said it! You’re a Toa! I … Toa I …” and then he started to tear up a little and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m glad …” he half finished, too emotional to end his statement correctly.“Where am I? Why can’t I remember …” she moved his hand away and pressed both her palms to her forehead as she sat up. Immediately her attention was drawn to the other side of the room. There a large door with smoke spewing out the sides, started to rumble.The red one looked frightened as he looked over as well.Matoran! He’s a Matoran! Her mind screamed.“Listen to me! I don’t have much time to explain… Toa of Psionics, you’ve been imprisoned for years, hundreds of years. You’re still suffering from the effects of Statis, but it should wear off soon. My name is Toreck, and, uh and I’ve, I mean we, have been looking for you, for a long time.”His words were jumbled together, as though he was unsure what he himself was doing there.Some of it made sense, she was a Toa, and she could remember sleeping. She didn’t remember having dreams though.“Varian…” she finally responded. “That’s my name.”“Toa Varian,” he said, firmly in a tone of kindness that made her meet his eyes. “There’s a prophecy that says you are our salvation, you’re a Toa who’s supposed to be able to defend us, and save what we lost. This is going to be hard for you to understand, and I promise I’ll explain everything soon…” he was interrupted by another rumble that struck the hatch. “You are the only Toa left, Varian. For four hundred years, they’ve been missing. That means,” he continued slowly. “You are the Toa in the prophecy. And I need your help. The Makuta’s sons are right outside.”Toa from a prophecy… she couldn’t remember ever being associated with things like that. She only remembered bits and pieces of her life before. Like how she and Norik had been betrayed by a Dark Hunter, how she had been able to negotiate her imprisonment for his life. She remembered roaming the universe, wanting to be able to grow into an accomplished Toa who lead the team, instead of the scout her powers allowed her to be. Day after day, running around in the large universe taking down the bad guys with her friends by her side had become tiring and she grew exhausted. She hadn’t been strong enough to handle the constant blows, and that had gotten her captured.She couldn’t break the hope of this Matoran, but how could she lie to him? If there were no Toa left, then experience was telling her that the world had changed for the worst.With a slight cough in her sigh, still not having fully recovered from the Statis effects, Varian answered.“And if, that prophecy was wrong and I’m not who you say I am? What if I’m not this Toa you need me to be?”Varian watched Toreck’s expression lower and his eyes dim. He looked as though he didn’t have an answer for that question.But when she looked down the floor and started to stand upright fully, he spoke.“Legends say that a Toa is someone who protects and strengthens others. They’re loyal, as strong as they need to be and put others needs ahead of their own. They choose a path,” a rumble from the door and it started to glow bright orange as the metal melted. “And stick with it, no matter what obstacles fall their way. Is that true Varian?”She laughed a little at and shook her head.“Yes. It’s never that easy, but for the most part it’s true.”Toreck smiled.“Then you’re everything I’ve been searching for. For me, you can’t be anyone else.”With a hiss and the bending of metal, the hatch door blew off the wall, clanging unto the ground before the Toa and Matoran. Three Rahkshi made their way into the chamber, watching for movement and the thirst for death on their minds. Their armor reeked of it. The red one, a Turahk, roared ferociously as it caught sight of the Matoran they were searching for. With a moment of hesitation it noticed a new creature standing beside it. Taller, lean and gold and blue in color. It had never seen anything like it before, and it felt no sense of fear from the being. That was fine though, because a Rahkshi of Fear was also never afraid. What could match its power, what could terrify fear itself?At least, that’s what it had believed, until the being before them opened its glowing, furious, light blue eyes.***The first blast of energy that struck the Rahkshi was so abrupt and forceful, that the dark creatures were pushed off their feet and into the stone behind them. The attack was transparent, but the air was noticeably pulsing as it flowed forward, tinted with blue. Dust leaped off the walls in a cloud, moving in an upward formation like a spiraling wave from the ocean.The orange colored Rahkshi pushed itself up, anger screeching from the Kraata. Its eyes started to burn like fire, a charge of heat building up.The Toa raised her hand and the head of the Rahkshi was pulled toward the left directly at its brother, Panrahk. With no way to expel its power, it fired the laser at its brother’s armor melting and cutting through to the Kraata inside.The Toa released its grip on the Rahkshi of Heat Vision, as the Turahk charged forward. Immediately it halted, seeing three of the same Toa standing before it. Growling, the creature released its negative power of fear to the Toa, watching as its essence spread to each one.“You think you can scare me? A Toa of Psionics always has her mind on the defensive,” it heard a voice say.All three Toa vanished as two strong arms reached around the body of the red Rahkshi, filling its thoughts with tiredness. The Rahkshi slowly stopped struggling and fell into sleep. But she made it start to fall deeper, until the Kraata itself wouldn’t awake for years. The Turahk fell to the floor with its armor clanging against the ground. She took a momentary look at her enemy, before turning to the last one.The Rahkshi of Heat Vision faltered in its stance as it watched the Toa, meeting her eyes. Charging its energy once more, it took a desperate shot.The beam passed through the Toa, striking her like a mirage.Two small holes were seared into the smooth wall, and a silence followed. The Rahkshi turned, and now couldn’t find the Matoran, who had been backing away since the fight began. It was alone.It could only find the dead like Turahk and sliced open Panrahk.With a whistling sound ringing in the creature’s ears, the last Rahkshi spun around at the noise. But it never caught sight of the Kanoka disk which froze it on the spot.***Varian held Retra upright in her arms while Toreck carried Moru. She had tried to take both Matoran, since she knew such a task was probably difficult for him, but he had remained stubborn. He felt partly responsible, he had said.The rest of the blame, Varian knew, was hers.Their loads included the two Matoran, three bags containing supplies such as food and masks, and one newly acquired Rahkshi staff picked up by Varian. They reached the outside of the fortress, greeted by a gust of sand which surprised the Toa. She took in her barren world, which was covered by night and dust. A lowly feeling came over her. What in Mata Nui’s name had happened to the Universe? Reaching out with telepathy, she found no source of life for miles. Everything was gone. She couldn’t even locate a Rahi.With a small push of her power, she created a proper grave large enough for both Matoran. Sand rushed around them as they moved into it, placing their friends gently down. Toreck had been the only one who knew them, and he spoke a few words. The Ta-Matoran spoke about how faithful they had been, and that their sacrifice wasn’t in vain. He said they were greatest friends he had ever had, and he’d take care of Moru’s pet ussal crab, Puki, when they returned home, and find a good place to keep Retra’s journals in the library.Varian gave a heartfelt thank you, and wished she had gotten to know the Matoran.With a wave of her hand, sand began to fill the hole and cover the bodies slowly.“Here,” Toreck said, passing her a Ruru. “You’ll need this to traverse the desert. It’s more efficient than a lightstone and less noticeable.”She took it and replaced it for her Mask of Fate. “Not that anyone is out here to watch us,” she replied.Toreck laughed a little. “Yeah, there isn’t really much here. But I guess to you, this place was home.”“What happened?” she asked suddenly, eyes stern and concern abundant. “You need to start telling me everything.”“I agree,” he replied, nodding. “Um… where to start? Well, let’s head out. Once we leave this Universe, things will get clearer.”“L-leave the Universe?” ***When she found herself outside the robot of Mata Nui, disbelief struck her.She was supposed to be prepared for it. Toreck had explained everything, starting from the Brotherhood rebellion which a lot of she had no idea about. He had explained Spherus Magna, Mata Nui’s purpose, the war between the Great Spirit and Teridax.Varian shaded her eyes with her hand, taking in the abundant plant life, the jungle that awaited them. She looked behind her, seeing the giant … which wasn’t the right word. Taking in the enormous metal shell they had walked out of and finding the sharp contrast between the two worlds. They continued their journey three days into the desert only to abruptly find life, and too much of it for her telepathic abilities to take. She reduced her elemental powers, lowering the mental radar she had activated.Walking through the jungle, she couldn’t help but be amazed at how large their Universe was. That after five hundred years, many parts of the robot hadn’t been used for supplies. That miles and miles of the complex universe remained untouched, rotting away. Karzahni, that it fit, barely took up any space on the planet of Spherus Magna at all!With the migration of Matoran, following Teridax’s fall, came a new dark age. The evil that had begun through the Matoran Universe spread to the same on Spherus Magna. Skakdi, Dark Hunters, the Brotherhood, Skrall … they all had a common enemy. Their enemy was still a new born, unsure of who to trust and how to function.In time, the Order of Mata Nui was reduced to nothing, and the Agori and Glatorian were forced to join into the society of the powers that be. Matoran and Toa were refugees, hidden and smuggled throughout the planet. With constant rebellions, power struggles, the Matoran race began to dwindle into a hand full and Toa, less than that. Years after when beings finally saw the corruption for what it was, and fought for a new peaceful world, Matoran had been long left alone.The lush bushes around them, dew dripping from the palm branches above their heads, looked too peaceful for a planet of war. But then again, there weren’t many to fight against one another any longer.The Toa had lost.Toreck had explained how a Great Toa, Tahu, had led an army against the most corrupt part of the new society. Toa had been being killed for over a hundred years since arrival, planned and assassinated by a new being who had appeared from nowhere it seemed, Marendar. The Toa had led a battle to kill this … machine, a final fight to the death.Varian still had a hard time believing that the Toa would sacrifice themselves in a fight they couldn’t win.“It wasn’t so much that the Toa wanted things the way they used to be,” Toreck explained while they walked. “Things were too far gone for that. Tahu put it best, and his words are in writing still, which we’ll see when we get home. He said that, “We all have a reason to live. We just need to find it ourselves. And though Spherus Magna has no place for us, I refuse to be treated so unjustly. If Spherus Magna won’t remove the evil of Marendar and the Kings who now rule with darkness over the planet, then we Toa should stand against it. Because that’s what Toa do, believe and put faith in what’s right, even to the point of surrendering our own lives.”Toreck stopped at the end of a steep cliff where the tree line ended and an open expanse was revealed to them. Varian looked out to the world and gasped at its sight. There were tall mountains that were covered by light fog and jungles, reaching far into the clouds. Rivers poured out from its cliffs and throughout the land. She saw giant bird Rahi, soaring above them in clear skies. It was nothing like she had ever seen before; the world fascinated and terrified her.Her Ta-Matoran companion didn’t even give it a second glance, and leaped off the slope, gliding down with his mask power. She stared at him, still slightly dumbfounded by the Matoran ability to use masks, and followed.Marendar was killed in Tahu’s final assault. They said that a Legendary Toa, one of no name, but with a destiny that was meant for no other, struck the final blow to the monster. The battle field was said to have been lit by a bright light, so intense that some said the stars in the sky now burned twice as brightly in admiration.However, from then after, no Toa had ever returned and none had ever been found again.That battle held great significance. Beings began to view Toa as a lost race, and held respect for them. The long disbanded members of the Order of Mata Nui, was reorganized with beings of all kinds. The few Matoran populations that were in hiding and slowly reducing in number were contacted and joined together by the New Order of Light. It was run by a former Dark Hunter known as Lariska. Her organization was sponsored from her old ties to the Shadowed One’s disbanded crime syndicate. Lariska and her people found the Matoran; smuggled supplies from their universe so that construction of new Matoran could be made. It was a rough process, and the calculations that were made by the Great Spirit no longer were placed into the formula. It resulted with new born Matoran having no connection with the old universe. Genders were random for every element type. Mental inhibitors were unlocked which allowed mask use. And destinies were no longer obtained.While the Matoran population grew, Toa were extinct. There wasn’t a source of Toa power left to be found.“That is, until she remembered you,” Toreck continued. Varian swiftly cut through a thick vine with her staff, allowing them to pass through the foliage.“Are we almost there?” Varian asked. She wasn’t sure how to ask, ‘Why am I so important?’ It sounded pompous. Though it was important she got an answer.“We’re almost there. We’re living inside a mountain based fortress. No one suspects that we’re so close to the body of the Great Spirit and no one has found us yet. Only a few of the Order members know where we are. But that’s all about to change.”“How?” she asked.“Lariska prophesied before her death, that it would take a Toa to lead the people back into civilization. She died about two hundred years ago, and at the time not all of Spherus Magna was ready for Matoran to reappear. Our existence is well known, now. They don’t know where we are, we have numerous hidden cities. But they do know we are still alive. Some don’t want us to return, as you could see by the Rahkshi. But many do want us around. That’s why I’ve been searching for you. I believe a Toa is the final piece that truly will bring the Matoran back to what we once were.”“You placed a lot of faith in me.”“Lariska believed in it. It’s taken time to find your location, and there have been so many pressing matters to attend to… but I was able to get a small team and approval for a search. Once you meet everyone, I’m sure it’ll be the final push we need for our return.”Toreck looked excited as he turned around.“And won’t it be amazing! Finally, being able to work with the people on the planet and not living in a cage! I’ve never been anywhere else but these mountains. I hear the cities are amazing now, skyscrapers that reach up into space! Transport vehicles that fly at the speed of light!”Varian smiled, thinking of how similar this world might be to Metru Nui. But inside, her thoughts started to plague her. Matoran were exiled now, shunned from society. Did Toreck really believe that a return of Toa would change everything? She hadn’t lived here long, and didn’t understand all of what was going on… but things were rarely so simple.And being the last Toa… Was that a sign from Mata Nui? What if that meant, they shouldn’t return or that they were unneeded now? If the entire world seemed at peace, but only Matoran weren’t fitting into the mold, should they force themselves into it?She didn’t have an answer. And not only that, there was too much responsibility on her shoulders. Varian was the last of her kind. How could she protect them all or lead them, if she had no idea who they truly were or what they had gone through? What encouragement could she give?She couldn’t.“Would I make a good Toa, Varian?” Toreck suddenly asked, stopping. Dirt picked up from under his feet and the sun lit down on his body, slightly covered by the shade of the lush trees above. “They say only Toa can choose the next Toa. Do you think I can be one? Maybe someday?”Varian smiled, she could answer this one easy.“Well, let take a look at you,” she walked around him, studying his body, though that didn’t mean anything. “You have the right posture … I know you’re loyal, a friend. I think you can be, one day. You have the potential.”Toreck laughed, beside himself. “Don’t tease me now, you give me the chance and I’ll take being a Toa in a heartflash.”“It’ll probably have to happen,” Varian replied, a little more seriously. “We’ll need more Toa around to unsure they don’t disappear again.” Toreck nodded at that. “But it’s not the greatest thing, to be one of the last…”The Ta-Matoran looked her square in the eye, no longer cheerful.“Varian, you aren’t one of the last. You’re the…”And then with a sudden snap-hiss a projectile soared in their direction. Varian immediately leaped forward and shoved Toreck to the ground. The small green sphere hit a near tree, exploding an acid substance across it which burned through the wood in seconds. The tree sizzled and started to crack before tumbling down. Leaves and branches fell around them as Varian covered herself and Toreck in a telekinetic shield.Slowly picking herself up, Varian focused her eyes toward the direction of the projectile, finding a tall brutish and black Skakdi standing before them in plain sight. His grin was full of malice and tinted with insanity, as most Skakdi were portrayed. He reloaded the Zamor Launcher and with a smile aimed it to her chest. His head gear was distinctly unique but Varian felt like there was a hint of familiarity to it.“I haven’t seen a Toa in a long time,” the Skakdi stated, a look of excitement in his eyes. “And I honestly didn’t believe the rumors. Who knew we had missed one?”“He sent the Rakhshi after us,” Toreck whispered to her. “It makes sense, considering he knew you were out here.”Varian nodded. She had dealt with this type of monster before. Skakdi had a greater mindset and harshness to them than most villains. But they all had weaknesses with a personality like animals.“So you were around during my time?” Varian called out.The Skakdi’s grin deepened.“Oh, I was there. You remember it all, right? The constant wars, struggles, all that death; I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”“Again?” Varian asked, raising her staff to the level his gun.“That Toa don’t return, of course. They were the cause of all of all our troubles.”She hesitated, just as he charged forward, firing a shot from his Zamor launcher. Varian acted on instinct, reaching out with her powers and redirecting the sphere back at the Skakdi. But he was already on the move to the right, firing a laser beam from his eyes. Varian shouted in surprise and felt the beam cut into her left arm.Varian grasped her arm which throbbed in pain, the metal of her armor having melted against her flesh. Quickly she gave a sharp look to Toreck and sent him a message.‘I need you to get going. I’ll catch up with you, and take your pack. We’ll need it for later.’Toreck looked conflicted, as if unwilling to leave her.She fired a blast of telekinesis at him, shoving him to near foliage. Scrambling upward, he ran into the jungle.Varian smiled and then turned to the Skakdi with a frown. She concentrated fully, confident that Toreck was gone. Suddenly there were four of her on the battle field, all with a healed arm and staff’s raised.The black Skakdi snarled.“You think I’m wrong, do you?” he asked, as he stepped right into the center of Toa illusions. “Well, I can’t be wrong. You see this mask on my face?” he directed a sharp talon like finger toward his headgear. “Years ago, a Skakdi had found a way to fuse masks to our faces. We implemented the same idea. I wear the Mask of Truth.”All the Toa suddenly showed surprise in their eyes.“You’ve been asleep for too long!” He thundered in a confident voice as he lashed out to the right, grabbing the real Varian by the throat. “And your people are long dead. Did you know that’s what we discovered? Not the dead part, but the peacefulness?”The Toa struggled against her bounds, losing air as his grip tightened and he lifted her up from the ground, feet dangling.“Years and years after the absence of Toa, things started to get better. There was no one to fight against, no one to rebel against our rulers. Everyone just obeyed, and you know what? Now, there are no struggles. We make it work.”With a swift toss, the Toa was thrown to the ground with force. Varian cried out as she gasped for air.“Why would I lie? It’s not in me.” That grin, that grin he had on his face, filled Varian with discontentment. She tried to push herself up from the soft grass and dirt. It was too beautiful of a day for violence.It’s not true. I know it’s not true. She reasoned with herself.But was it? Toa had been a part of every battle in her day. There weren’t fights they could stop, only ones they could end. If the people were truly happy, why should she interfere?Mata Nui, you aren’t around anymore are you? She asked the heavens, though she had recently learned that he wasn’t up there somewhere, just living behind a curtain. She had never asked Toreck what had happened to the Great Spirit. Was that something you understood, that Toa weren’t needed anymore? That there shouldn’t be protectors, because there’s no need to protect?Unable to push herself up with her bad arm, she huffed in agitation as she blasted the ground with a telekinetic force, launching herself in the air. She back flipped and landed on a high branch reaching out for another to stable herself. Breathing quickly, she leaped from one tree to the next. A beam of energy shot from under her, cleaving the large branch in two.“Agh!” she shouted, leaping upward to the next tree, missing the laser.It started to follow her, and she leapt down into multiple palms which covered her for a moment. She hit the ground, rolled, and moved behind a large tree which reached upward in a vine like shape, erratic. She took a deep breath, trying to get a mental lock on the Skakdi’s location, while figuring out a course of action. As long as the Skakdi had that mask on, all of her mental illusions wouldn’t work. And Skakdi won’t go down with simple energy blasts. She needed something powerful.A vision of alarm struck her mind, and she instantly dropped to the ground as a laser cut horizontally through the tree’s trunk. She didn’t hesitate this time. Activating her mask of Fate, she leaped high into the air spinning around with her staff in hand. She landed far behind the Skakdi and rushed forward, attempting a strike on the right side. He had armored spikes along his arms and caught the staff’s bladed edge with them, grinning. He pushed forward and kept pushing, driving Varian back with his strength until she pushed him back with a mental blast.He shook his head at the attack, the effects weakened by his Mask’s power. Varian backed up into another tree.“You keep fighting, but you have nothing to live for. Do you see my point?”Varian hesitated, but not at his words. Of others, spoken long ago.“We all have a reason to live. We just need to find it ourselves… I refuse to be treated so unjustly … we should stand against it… putting faith in what’s right, even surrendering our own lives for it.”Norik had been there, listening, when Tahu had said those words. He had placed his trust in the Toa, and agreed with it.“You’re scared of us,” she answered back. The Skakdi didn’t say anything, but narrowed his eyes slightly. “Terrified, that if the Toa ever return, we’ll start the fighting again.” Varian took a step forward, staring the mask of truth square in the eyes.“But we fought and struggled because of the evil we lived in. No one would make the change, and so we would be the ones to take the first steps. And you’re afraid that once the Toa return, that’ll we’ll start speaking for the ones who can’t.” Her voice grew in confidence and assurance as she spoke. “That I’ll come into your Empire, look at your messy and dirt ridden hands right before all your people and say…”She paused, before giving a small smirk.“’Clean them.’ ”The grin turned into a frown, a deep one that was filled with hatred at the one before him.“It’s why you don’t want me back, right?” Varian grinned, finally, starting to feel like her old self. “Come on, you have the mask of truth. What’s the point of pretending to lie to you?”He lunged forward in fury, firing another laser in her direction. This time Varian jumped to the left and hurled her staff at the Skakdi, slipping right passed the beam. Repulsing it with a wave of kinetic energy, the blade cut against her enemy’s mask leaving a large mark.Varian suddenly tripped in surprise and just before hitting the ground, the Skakdi caught her. He lifted her up under the arms and slammed her into a thick tree, his arms outstretched.“You’ll die and rot in death forever! Just like all the ones before you…” he seemed conflicted, as though he wasn’t sure of his own reasoning. And the Toa’s smile just made it all the worse. There was something she knew and wasn’t pretending to hide… what was it!?“Mata Nui says it’s time to return. I’m already here, you failed to stop my awakening and my power is going to spread.” Her grin just grew. “You’ll see. It’s all started, and it’ll start with that Matoran you let loose.”He ignored all of it. “You’re nothing! Just an ancient piece of metal that’s been unburied from a tomb. You hear me Toa!” His eyes started to glow, dangerously. They aimed for her mask. “You’re just a memory. A defender of the dead. The last guardian!”“No…” And the Toa closed her eyes, her voice dropping like she was ready to sleep. “I’m the first of many.”And then a light flickered around her form, and her body vanished from the grasp of the Skakdi, leaving that smile of hers implanted on his mind to haunt him for a while.He looked around, searching… searching… it wasn’t possible. How did she…The Skakdi reached up and felt the mark on his mask. It was cut… and that would dampen its power. Maybe even cause it to dysfunction entirely. Was that true for fused masks?When he finally realized he didn’t know the answer, he received it. His mask was broken. He had been fighting an illusion since the strike.Despite it all, the Skakdi smiled. That little spawn of Mata Nui had done it, she’d come back from the dead. The Toa were on their way.It was all starting now, the beginning of their end. The people were going to see things differently, and would have to choose all over again. Resistance to their way of things, just what the Makuta had tried to stop for so long.He could try to catch up with her… but somehow he realized this was a rockslide he couldn’t stop right now. The mountain was too large for just one person.***Toreck sat at the entrance of BZ-Koro, waiting. The one of many fortresses had been his home for as long as he could remember. Out of them all, it was the most prominent and important. It held the largest remnant of lost Matoran. He stared out over the long expanse in silence. He just took in the world. All the promises it seemed to make and the future it could have, but just hadn’t arrived yet.He shouldn’t have left her.Even after finding what he assumed was a Toa Stone in his pack, and making his way through the jungle until he reached one of the many passages in the mountain side, he had had no urgency to walk through the opening and meet his people.What was he supposed to say? That his friends were murdered on his quest? That he found their hope, and let her die out there? That he came back with a source of her power, and they could all start from that?That last one was technically true. But … Toreck wasn’t feeling grateful for it. He felt cheated.He had relied so heavily on a dream, and it had been torn to pieces. Varian was dead, and he couldn’t show the last generation that they were strong too. But he supposed that was the problem. He never believed Matoran alone they were good enough, without a Toa around. He needed something to prove it, he needed Varian.And even after this Toa Power was used, it wouldn’t be the same. He’d feel like a Matoran in a Toa’s body.He thought about how much importance Varian had found in him, that even though he was just a Matoran, that he existed too. Why couldn’t he lead his people into the world? Why did they have to have a Toa? She seemed to think they could have done it themselves.Was he that afraid to stand up and say, “No, this is wrong.”?Those last words that Moru was going to say, he’d never hear them. But he could guess, and it was what Varian showed him. She fought for their freedom. He had too as well.Standing he made his way into the cave. All the while he silently gathered the courage he didn’t completely feel, to face the others and tell them the truth. For Varian, Retra and Moru. For himself.“And you’re going to tell them all that, alone?”Toreck stopped. He couldn’t move at first, disbelief overcoming any hope he had.But his relief and excitement overcame that disbelief.He turned. He saw her at a distance, walking out the jungle. She was injured, but he could tell she was happy.“I - I can do it,” he called back. “You can come along if you’d like, but I … I don’t need you.”“I know,” she replied. Her smile remained, and her eyes were filled with pride in her friend.“You don’t have to join us. But, I,” he paused, not letting his determination slip. “Regardless, I do want you to be there.”They stared at each other for a long a moment, both unsure of what was going to happen next. What events would occur in their future? Could they repair what they had lost in this world and how long would it take?In the end, as Varian started to step toward him, Toreck decided he didn’t care.They would start to rebuild their pieces, regardless if they could only for a thousand years or a hundred, or even just a day. For now, at the very least for right now, the Toa had returned. His friend was here to watch him.Varian had come home._____This is my longest short story to date. I do hope you enjoyed it, but I feel like the story lasted for a little too long and the ending was rushed. =/ My idea was that BZ-Koro, or the Matoran population represented what we are since Bionicle ended. Likewise, Toa Varian making her reappearance represented having it return. Hopefully this fits within the borders of the contest rules and I had a blast writing it! =DFor all those who don't make it through this story, I understand. For all those who did, wow you guy are great. Please leave any comments you'd like below!