Remembrance “I remember the day the world ended.” The fire crackled vigorously, as if to emphasize the gravity of those words. The quiet flames were broken by a derisive snort. “I was there too, you know. Trust me. The apocalypse is not all it cracked up to be,” growled another speaker, leaning in. Unliked the cloaked first speaker, this hulking figure wore a brutish suit of ruby battle armor. He idly ejected then resheathed a pair of immense claws weapons built into his gauntlets. “I know, Malum. I know,” replied the first. Malum grunted dismissively. “Show some respect,” scolded a lanky warrior in a darker shade of red. “Raanu is our village elder.” When Malum made no response, he narrowed his eyes. “If you do not remember your place, perhaps I can remind you in my role as Second Glatorian?” This got a rise out of Malum, who snarled at the Second Glatorian before exhaling and nodding an apology to the elder. “Thank you, Perditus. Malum - indeed you may remember, as do you, Perditus - but not all of them do.” He gestured to the other Agori surrounding the fire pit. “But…” the elder pulled off his cloak as he drew closer to the fire, revealing a small grin, “maybe you would like to hear a tale from before your time?” Perditus cocked a scorched eyebrow. “I hear your question even before you speak it, Second Glatorian. I speak of the time before the Shattering, the time before the Core War, the time before the Great Beings…” He trailed off and stared blankly into the night. Raanu regained his composure, shaking off the memories. “I know you worked for the Great Beings. I want to hear about those effete know-it-alls who ruined our home,” hissed Malum, ejecting and sheathing his claws. “Fine words coming from one of the most notorious warlords of the Core War,” retorted Raanu, “I would not tell you even if I could.” He softened his tone. “No. I think I will tell you of the mundane. The way things were. In the time before time…” “Boy! Boy? Boy!” came the shout. “Here!” Raanu called back. His father stomped around the corner of the shed, a middle-aged Agori of similar build and coloration. “Where have you been?” “Cleaning this,” replied the youth, holding up a newly polished Fire Blade. Fire Blades were popular in the Fire Tribe for many reasons. They were useful tools, potent weapons, and a symbol for the tribe as a whole. Warriors used much larger versions called Flame Swords, but Raanu had never gotten ahold of one yet. Given that he was a villager and not a warrior, it might never happen. “Ah.” His father’s choler disappeared as soon as it had arrived, like kindling burning itself out. “Good work,” he murmured, inspecting the tool. Such praise was a rare treat. The older Agori straightened up and set the item aside. He exited the shed and motioned for Raanu to follow. “Come now. See what I have been doing.” Raanu shaded his eyes as they took a moment to adjust in the bright sunlight of Spherus Magna. When they settled, he observed the family cart had been repaired and packed for immediate departure. He glanced at the cart and then his father, his confused look asking the question as well as any words. His father smiled, “You’ve seen this before - it is time to head to Lein’s Drift to trade.” “But isn’t it far too soon? We only went-” “I know when we last went,” was the interruption, “but times have been hard lately.” His tone softened. “Since your mother died.” The Agori stared at his hands and sighed heavily. “You will go alone.” Raanu started and began to object, but his father cut him off again. “I must maintain the forge this time. I must admit that my choice of words was poor; you will join a protected caravan. Several warriors have been contracted by the village to jointly escort everybody, but I have also managed to get you your own guardian.” Raanu was confused - they could barely make ends meet, so how in the world could they afford their own mercenary? Ever prescient, the elder villager continued speaking: “I forged a sword for a novice of the Ice Tribe who somehow wound up here. He brought me the raw materials, but also agreed to offer his services as further payment.” “When do I leave - when is this next caravan?” asked Raanu, narrowing his eyes. “Tomorrow.” Raanu awoke at the crack of the dawn - caravans always left early in order to make as much progress during the day as possible. Desert nights were hostile to the unwary. His father had packed him food and other supplies, along with the Fire Blade and a squarish shield. He hitched the cart to one of their last Spikit beasts. There were at least a dozen carts and wagons arrayed outside the village, each with a rider or two. The handful of warriors were instantly recognizable for their height and impressive armor; he knew a couple of them. Gladio was the most renowned warrior from their village, one of the best of the entire Fire Tribe, and allegedly world-famous. Standing next to him was what could only be a warrior of the Ice Tribe, unmistakable in spiked white warplate. He could see his father’s craftsmanship in the hand-and-a-half sword dangling at the fighter’s waist. Gladio ordered everyone to move out almost as soon as Raanu arrived. The warrior in white barely gave Raanu a nod before hopping up on the cart without a single word. When the rackety wagon in front started to roll, Raanu cracked his whip and the Spikit burst into motion. As they rode out of the village, the Agori turned to look back at his village, back towards the family forge. A thin ribbon of smoke rolled lazily out of the chimney. He knew that if not for the squeaking of ill-maintained wheels and clattering hooves, the sound of hammering could have been heard. He turned back to the Spikit and focused his attention on the road ahead. They rode hard until Gladio called a halt at midday. The caravan entered Sand Tribe territory the next day. Gladio stopped the travelers to issue a brief warning. “We are in Sand Tribe lands now. Keep your eyes peeled. They may make an appearance when we least expect it. Oh, and no sudden movements. They can be a bit skittish.” They journeyed perhaps another hour until first contact. The first sign was an infinitesimally small movement in the sand only noticed by the ice warrior. “I see something! Over there!” he cried, his hand tightening on the sword across his lap. Raanu craned his neck to try and get a glimpse. The youth saw nothing at first, but this changed quickly. Gangly, tan-armored figures were pulling themselves from out of the dunes all around the fire villagers. Sand and dust poured off of them in gentle clouds. Raanu had heard that the Rock Tribe from the north was savage, but he could not imagine anyone to be more bestial than the monsters crouching around him. Each warrior was hunched over in a fighter’s crouch and boasted a bewildering array of nasty looking blades. Each also wore a fanged facemask which only added to the feral appearance. They hissed and grunted to one another in their guttural tongue, watching keenly as Gladio dismounted and marched out to meet them. Raanu had seen this ritual play out a few times before, yet the Sand Tribe always made him nervous. Gladio spoke first. “Greetings, brothers! We are the scions of the Fire Tribe. We wish you no harm and humbly request safe passage through your realm,” he proclaimed. At his words, the sand tribesmen suddenly ceased their whispering and it seemed as though even the desert wind died down. Raanu swallowed audibly and glanced at his protector - the ice warrior did not seem any less nervous than the Agori was, judging by the increasing pallor of his already pale skin and the death grip with which he hung on to his sword. The silence drew on unbearably until a particularly large specimen bullied his way forward. Unlike his brethren, both of his weapons were sheathed on his back. They were nothing like the straight swords favored by the Fire Tribe; rather, they were curved with long handles. Raanu thought that they vaguely gave the appearance of a tail when poking from behind the warriors back. “What is your name, warrior of fire?” rasped the leader, folding his arms. “Gladio,” came the reply, “and yours?” “You may call me Duamutef. Where are you going and what do you bear?” “We are headed to Lein’s Drift to trade,” answered Gladio. He waved a hand at the motley caravan behind him: “these villagers bear resources and supplies from their homes.” His tan-colored counterpart sniffed, then nodded. “As it has been, so it shall be,” Duamutef agreed. The leader motioned towards a nearby tribesman. “Hathor will be your guide. Safe travels.” The Sand Tribe disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Raanu and the still-nameless ice warrior gave simultaneous sighs of relief. The one called Haathor beckoned and pointed his spear in a direction. Gladio rallied the travelers and they continued on their journey. As usual, the caravan halted at nightfall. As the villagers secured their caravans, Haathor made an announcement. “It is mating season for the Sand Bats. This region harbors currently many more of the beasts than it usually does.” Raanu’s eyes widened with surprise; Haathor’s voice betrayed that the masked warrior was actually female. He glanced towards his companion and observed the same surprise written on the ice tribesman’s features. Haathor climbed to the crest of a sand dune to keep watch. As Raanu settled down for the night, he overheard low voices. “Easy there, lad. Loosen up your grip, it’s a sword, not your sweetheart. Okay, perhaps not that loose. Now do it again.” That was Gladio. An unintelligible murmur was the response. “Such language,” tutted Gladio, “but do it again.” Raanu concluded that Gladio was teaching someone, perhaps one of the younger fire warriors. While some might have found the soft swish of blades and labored breathing to be an irritant, they made a sort of soothing rhythm that lulled him swiftly to sleep. A loud clang and a bellowed “Get up!” ripped the Agori from his slumber. He reluctantly cracked open one eye. It was still dark. “What the he-” he managed before a strong arm yanked him to his feet. Something burst out of the sand and snapped its jaws towards where he’d been sleeping before diving out of sight on the other side of the family cart. Raanu noticed a pain in his right shoulder. He turned his head to search for the cause and was rewarded with the sight of an armored alabaster fist clutching his shoulder. “You can let go of me,” he told his guardian. Raanu’s eyes widened as he looked past the protector. “Behind you!” he began, but even as the ivory warrior turned, it was too late. A serpentine shape sprang out of the dark, jaws outstretched. Raanu gaze was drawn to a pair of slitted red eyes perched atop a bestial face. The eyes disappeared from sight as another shape cannoned into the creature with a clatter of armor plating. The Agori lit his Fire Blade as a torch just in time to see Haathor finish the animal off with a spear thrust. Haathor turned over the corpse to show him the Sand Bat. “Juveniles. There must be a nest nearby,” she said as an explanation. She loped off to the other end of the caravan, where more shouts could be heard. “If these are juveniles, then where are the adults?” murmured the ice fighter, scratching his chin. Raanu cleared his throat, eyes not moving from the dead winged serpent. “My father says that Sand Bats are highly territorial and try to avoid one another. If this is a fresh brood of juveniles, I honestly doubt there are more than a few juveniles, let alone any adults,” he reasoned. As though the universe was determined to snub him, a massive shape uncoiled from the sand. The adult Sand Bat was a full fifteen feet long, with slender wings sprouting from a lithe serpent’s body. It rose to its full height and flapped into the air, leering down with its fanged maw. “Why did I say that?” he grumbled. “Get behind me!” managed the ice warrior, pulling Raanu back. The novice’s voice wavered with fear, but he nonetheless brought his sword into a guard position. The beast seemed to pause for a moment, sizing up an adversary less than half its size. Then it struck. Raanu could barely keep track of its movements as it fell upon the ice warrior. The Sand Bat whipped at him with its tail, battered at him with its wings, and snapped at him with its gleaming fangs. “Get… help!” his protector breathed through clenched teeth. The Agori wanted to move, but found himself inexplicably frozen in place. He watched as the fighter danced his way through flailing limbs and gnashing teeth, sword flickering in the moonlight. Once again, Raanu found himself examining his father’s craftsmanship. The weapon as a whole was a full meter long, with most of length manifestly concentrated in the double-edged blade. The inner edge had serrations carved into it. Such a modification was not helpful for fighting, but added to the blade’s utility - Raanu’s father forged tools, not murder weapons. The blue-steel hilt was long, as hand-and-a-half swords were supposed to be used with either one or both hands. Much like most weapons of Spherus Magnus’ warriors, it had been coated in unbreakable exisdian quarried by the Ice Tribe. Another shout snapped him out of his revere. “Go!” cried his guardian breathlessly. As soon as the word left the warrior’s lip, the Sand Bat somehow caught the blade in its teeth and wrenched it from his hands. It spun end over end until it embedded itself vertically in the ground. The Sand Bat knocked its opponent to the ground and reared up in triumph. “Hey, ugly! Leave him alone!” yelled Raanu, darting forward and waving his blazing Fire Blade. The creature was fast - too fast, as it swept his legs out from under him. As he crashed to the ground, Raanu had a few moments to regret his sudden and altogether unexpected bravado as the Sand Bat loomed over him. It opened its maw, then recoiled as a flash of silver embedded itself in its vulnerable wing. The animal pawed at the wing, trying to remove Haathor’s throwing knife. Haathor stomped forwards to yank Raanu out of harm’s way. “Stupid boy,” she snarled. Meanwhile, Gladio and a trio of fire warriors formed a protective circle around the fallen ice fighter. They had evidently driven off the rest of the juveniles. Gladio stepped forward and leveled his Flame Sword. “We do not want to hurt you - begone, beast!” he ordered. As though it somehow understood speech, the beast hesitated and began to back away. Haathor had other ideas. She hurled her barbed spear with a growl of effort. For the first and last time in its life, the Sand Bat was too slow. The spear flew true right into the creature’s fleshy mouth, cutting its thread nearly instantly. Gladio lowered his weapon, which burned eye-wateringly bright. “Why did you have to do that?” Haathor stalked over to the corpse and drew a wicked-looking skinning knife. “I am hungry.” The next couple days passed without incident and soon jungle trees poked out from behind the horizon. They were approaching the edge of the Jungle Tribe’s domains. Lein’s Drift could be found at the ford of two rivers that flowed from the far north. When plants other than cacti and desert shrubs started to peek out of the hot sands, Haathor brought the caravan to an abrupt halt. “I have done my duty,” she stated, before loping off with the remains of the Sand Bat lashed to her back. Gladio knew the way from here, though it was fairly self-evident. The ground here was carpeted in vegetation that steadily increased in greenness. Raanu noticed that his companion had somehow fallen asleep despite all the creaking and squeaking of the wagon. He elbowed the warrior awake. “We’re almost here,” the Agori announced. The grumbled response was incoherent and possibly profane. Raanu opened his mouth again, but the warrior pulled his helmet down further over his eyes. “Whatever,” he muttered. Lein’s Drift never failed to impress Raanu. The two main attractions were the trees and the trading post itself. The Jungle Tribe took great pride in its trees for good reason - even at the outskirts of their territory, the trees were wider and taller than any of the structures from back home. He’d heard rumors that the trees in the central canopies at the heart of the Jungle Tribe made these ones look like houseplants. The ride grew bumpier as smooth sand and gravel gave way to carpets of roots. Lein’s Drift itself soon came into view. Lein’s Drift was named after the trader who first established it, though he had passed away shortly before Raanu was born. While it had originally been a humble trading post, it could really no longer be encapsulated in such small words. Dozens upon dozens of small structures had amalgamated together over the years into a sprawling pile of hustle and bustle. The noise of hundreds of voices, the calls of unseen tree-dwelling animals, and the two rushing rivers meant that you had to raise your voice in order to be heard. All of the tribes were represented here: blue figures of the Water Tribe maintained the various docks that stuck out into the rivers, greenish shadows of the Jungle Tribes bounded between the trees, and Raanu could even make out a pair of strange black warriors sparring outside the complex. Their dark armor was festooned in all manner of blades, which meant they probably did not hail from the Earth Tribe. He wondered where they had come from, but shook off the thought. There were too many curiosities in Lein’s Drift that could distract him from his mission. A handful of lanky jungle tribesmen directed wagon traffic just outside the drift. They also collected fees; nothing was free here. On the flipside, nearly anything could be purchased here for a certain price. Raanu had certainly seen some strange things in the past. As the wagons pulled up, the ice warrior gathered himself and vaulted off of the cart. “Hey!” yelled Raanu. The taciturn fighter spun around and raised an eyebrow. “What was your name?” asked the Agori. “Certavus,” answered the now-named warrior, before he disappeared into the rest of the crowd. Raanu shook his head at Certavus’ antics. What a strange fellow, he thought to himself, I wonder what he will amount to. Raanu trailed off, once again only leaving the sounds of the desert night and the dwindling campfire. “Why did you tell us this?” Malum asked bluntly. “Was there a lesson in there or something?” The elder shook his head and chuckled softly. “You met Certavus when he was a youth?” asked Perditus, eyes wide. Every Agori in attendance leaned in at a name they recognized. The name was known from Iconox to Vulcanus, for Certavus was the former Prime Glatorian of the Ice Tribe. He had won thousands of arena matches, won the Great Tournament multiple times, and had invented many of the techniques used by younger Glatorian. In his old age, he retired recently, allegedly to write a book. “Yes, indeed. He was not always as old and wise and skilled as he once was. Just like all of us,” Raanu answered with a soft smile. “Come on, old man. Was there a lesson buried in all that needless old-time reminiscing?” pressed Malum. “Perhaps there was a lesson. Perhaps not. It is for you to decide.” Raanu rubbed his eyes. “The hour is late. We should rest.” This statement was met with some mumbling from the Agori, but Perditus brooked no argument. “You heard Raanu! Malum - you will take first watch,” he ordered. “I can’t wait until Ackar is back,” grumbled the other Glatorian ill-naturedly, getting to his feet and flexing his massive arms. Malum scooped up a Thornax launcher and began marching away. “Sleep tight, sweethearts,” he sneered over his shoulder. “We will,” promised Raanu, “yet you should lighten up. Tomorrow will be exciting.” “And why is that?” questioned Malum, half-turning. “Because it will be a brand new day.” Author’s NoteFirst of all, I hope you enjoyed this. My experience with writing fan-fiction, let alone Bionicle fan-fiction, is highly limited at best. When I received the prompt about writing about life on Spherus Magna before the Great Beings, I was first a little flummoxed - there was no Bionicle lore about what predated the activities of the Great Beings. After a bit of panic, I settled on the path of least resistance: write about daily life. Obviously, going on a desert-spanning journey was not exactly the usual day for most people, but I just thought about focusing on the relatively mundane. There are no big consequences, no story threads, nothing of the sort, as the world of Spherus Magna is effectively static before the Great Beings start fooling around. Hence, I attempted to convey that in this short story. I admit that there are some flaws. I definitely bit off more than I could chew (this should have been either a much longer short story or a serial) and then promptly ran out of willpower for substantive revisions due to life, resulting in inconsistent pacing and perhaps a little less polish than this story deserves. However, I would obviously not offer a product that I am not pleased with at some level; I think this is a broadly solid entry-level foray for my fan-fiction attempts and hope you think so too.