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About Takuta-Nui

Year 17
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    Former Senior Staff
  • Birthday 10/20/1991

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  1. Chapter 16. A rather expository chapter, but it answers a couple of big questions. Thanks for the elaboration on how sound works. Always something to learn in this area for me. Lance, I haven't seen Maze Runner yet. Almost watched it last week! I'll admit this plot twist uses a certain trope, but as with all things, it has a further purpose.
  2. Chapter 16 He stood in a desert that met all edges of the horizon. For a dreadful moment, he did not comprehend what had just happened. What had just passed burned bright in his memory, and yet it faded rapidly as if pulled away from his mind’s eye by some inexorable law. Now he began to feel the flow of time in this place, and it was alien. Some instinct buried deep awoke. An instinct that stirs only when a deep wrongness has come about, when the body has been transported out and far away from any place remotely similar to home. This instinct sniffed the air. It passed on its findings to the brain, which slowly found words, ideas to express what had been determined. This was when he started to scream. He screamed and screamed. For he had lost everything - beyond everything. Alone he screamed in a desert that had not existed for a hundred thousand years. *** “Stop!” Nela said loudly. The soldiers continued to advance through the shallow sea, but she knew they had heard. Nela drew up a wall of rushing water to separate her group from the strangers. She and the others stood in the shallows with their backs to the blackened ruin that was their island. In front of them, an entire coastline had materialized out of nowhere. It looked like a city covered most of this part of the coast, so the soldiers had to be coming from there. “Who are they?” Jehui was watching the visored beings. Nobody had an answer for him, but he hadn’t expected one. “Look,” Tahtorak pointed through the blurred wall. “They have no weapons.” “Maybe not, but they might have powers,” Nehara said. The beings looked like uniform agents, all wearing the same dull grey armour and helmets. These helmets did not look like masks, but the entire front was covered by a silver visor. It was possible those concealed masks of power like the ones Nela and Vyroko wore. And Jehui, although he was not a Toa. The soldiers were almost at the wall. Nela hesitated, unsure if she should bring it down on their heads. It wouldn’t do much, and she didn’t want to try drowning anyone. Behind this row of strangers, Nela caught a detail that had previously escaped her in the disorienting sight of steel towers and glass structures. A single figure stood on a surface that seemed to be in front of the city, ahead of the coastline. Probably a dock. This figure held a strangely shaped sword aloft and was looking toward them. The commander, no doubt. Nela had seconds to think as the first soldier stepped through the water wall. A sudden upswell knocked the advancing line back. Some fell down and splashed around. A simultaneous upswell swept Nela and her four companions to the side, then changed direction and carried them past the invaders. She saw the commanding figure take a step backward, as if surprised. Then it lowered its sword, pointing at the soldiers, and then moved to point at Nela. Nela jerked her hands to the left and narrowly avoided colliding the two groups. The soldiers had appeared right in front of her, out of thin air. Teleportation? The figure in front of the city repeated the same motions, but this time she was ready. The soldiers reappeared, and she noted how they were in exactly the same positions as where they had been before. Definitely being teleported. It was a big group, and this time she didn’t try to dodge. Instead, she raised the sea on either side of her group, creating a little canyon that they surfed through. The sides of this liquid canyon expanded outward, pushing the soldiers away. Now the soldiers were split into two, and even though the commander repeated the gesture a third time, only five of the soldiers reappeared. So the power couldn’t work over a large area. Nela smiled to herself. These five were easier to dodge now, but she missed the fourth sword motion right after the third. The direction that she dodged into already had the second group waiting, and Nela felt Jehui get yanked out of the swell that they were riding. “Tahtorak, get Jehui!” Nela shouted. Then she gave Tahtorak a separate swell of his own, and sent him zooming back toward the agent that was trying to restrain Jehui. Tahtorak stretched his claws out and raked them along the agent’s back. The soldier cried out and dropped Jehui, who was picked up by Tahtorak’s swell. Nela directed the water to rejoin hers, and raised it higher so that their feet floated above their opponents’ heads. Now she roared toward the coast with abandon, letting the soldiers tumble into the wave and be left behind in its wake. The commanding figure was closer now, and she saw the expression on his stout face. Deep contempt. His eyes were directed to Nela's side. She glanced. Vyroko was in the water next to her. The commander raised his strange sword and brought it straight down to the ground. All twelve soldiers reappeared around him, still wet. “Please stop!” His voice boomed across the short expanse of water that now separated them. Nela slowed but drew the swell even higher, towering over the metal and stone dock that their foes stood on. The commander was a little larger than Nela, but not quite as big as Vyroko was now that he had the bulk of two Toa. Their opponent wore white and dark blue armour. His face did not appear to bear a mask, but was made of strips of metal that flexed like skin. His face metal rested in such a way that it looked like he was constantly grimacing. But then he smiled broadly and spoke again. “I am sorry. I wanted to take you under my protection as quickly as possible, but clearly that will not be possible. Will you join a dialogue?” “For what purpose?” Nela asked coldly. “And what shall be offered to make amends for attempting to harm us moments after we lost our home?” “No harm was intended,” he answered, looking serious. “But we have seen many of the events on your island. We all may have awoken with nothing but our faces and names, but there needs to be law now.” He pointed his sword at Vyroko. All the soldiers around him tensed. Now Nela looked more closely at the weapon and understood why it had such a strange appearance. Instead of a simple handle and blade, this one had a handle, then a gear above the hilt connecting it to the blade. The gear was positioned so that the blade ran through its length, rather than its centre as one might expect. The flat side of the gear was parallel to the edge. At the end of the blade was another gear parallel to the first one. Even though the blade looked sharp, it obviously couldn’t be used as such very well since the edges of the gears reached beyond either edge of the blade. The entire tool was coloured plain grey. Vyroko scowled at the sight of the commander pointing his sword at him. "I will not answer to you," the Toa retorted. "I did what I had the right to in order to be free. I do not need to be bound to another's will." "Even resorting to murder?" The commander demanded. "Just as he did," Vyroko hissed. “And yet Deschyny did not try to kill you,” he shot back. “You chose that.” Vyroko swam out of Nela's swell and dropped onto the dock. The soldiers all took a step forward. Vyroko’s new body of red, orange, and gold with white patterns began to glow. Tongues of flame ran along his limbs. “If you want to fight me, let’s do it. I will destroy you.” The commander’s eyes narrowed. Some of the soldiers seemed uncertain. “But if you choose not to, I will keep the peace,” Vyroko finished. Fire and light grew hotter and brighter, and Nela had to squint. “No!” The commander raised his sword, but instead of an attack, all the soldiers disappeared. Nela didn’t expect that, and it seemed Vyroko didn’t either. His elements grew in power as if anticipating a trick. But then he glanced up at Tahtorak in the water swell. “The soldiers are gone,” Tahtorak said quickly. His eyes did not lie. “My name is Aniz,” the lone leader said carefully. “I will not challenge you, but I will continue to hold you in contempt until the day you can face justice.” “Establish a court first before you say that,” Vyroko sneered. But his flames and light faded. Nela lowered her water swell to level with the dock. Nehara swam out first, followed by Jehui. Nela brought herself and Tahtorak onto the dock and let the water drain away. Her hands continued to glow blue. She felt like she had two potential foes now, not one. Aniz held his sword loosely toward the ground. “These people are my agents, and I lead the city. We woke up a week ago, like you must have, with no personal memories. We have watched your island for that week, since it appears there was a wall of illusion that allowed us to see inside but not you to see outside.” Jehui blinked. “So you’ve been here the entire time?” “Waiting and learning.” Aniz’s expression darkened. “I wish there had been another way to meet… but based on the prophecy and what we discovered with our instruments, the only way to reach you was to allow that beast to awaken.” “What was that thing?” Nehara asked. Aniz shrugged. “A dragon is the best word to describe its physical form.” “It’s an engine,” Vyroko said suddenly. Everyone looked at him. “Deschyny knew this - he woke up with this knowledge. That knowledge is part of me now and I’m just starting to understand it. That’s why he was so intent on protecting the glass egg. If it came in contact with the shard-key, the stored energy would be passed on and trigger the hatching. Before that, it was just sleeping. It was close enough to the flow of energy in the black metal that it could grow, but couldn’t wake until it got a big shock. That was the purpose of the shard-key.” Vyroko looked away from the group, hiding his eyes. “He knew about what slept beneath the island. That’s why he was willing to kill just to keep it there.” Nehara remembered the sudden terror of being pushed off the cliff. Aniz nodded slowly. “We surmised as much in our observations.” “Slow down,” Nehara said, putting up a hand. “How do you know the prophecy? You just said you couldn’t pass the wall of illusion.” “The prophecy was not written in just one place,” the commander explained. “I would show you, but… I’m told that as the island was destroyed, so was our prophecy. It was written on a strange machine. Sixteen interlocking rings.” They all looked at each other. The machine had been underground. How could he have known about it, and the prophecy, unless they did have a copy too? “You tell much truth,” Tahtorak said. “But there are so many things that you wonder about, and many ideas flooding each other in your mind. It is difficult to discern in your voice what is real and what is not. You say a wall of illusion fell, but why did I not see it in the first place?” Aniz nodded, looking slightly alarmed at Tahtorak’s clairvoyance. “I'm not certain, but I can tell you that the illusion surrounding the island was far beyond anything else. It drew power directly from the same flow that allowed the dragon to grow." Nela couldn't be sure, but she was inclined to agree with that. She'd just seen an entire island shaken off the shoulders of a creature. If it was that powerful, then so could a wall of illusion. Aniz looked around the group. "It might be best if I talked less and showed you more. But first, we should eat. As far as we could tell, there was no food on the island for you. It’s incredible that none of you have collapsed yet.” This was met with bemused silence. Eat? Nela hadn’t thought about that concept until now. Aniz had turned around to lead them into the city, but now he stopped. “Is something wrong?” “Not really,” Jehui replied. “Just… we haven’t had to eat.” Aniz looked blank. “But you’re not hungry?” “No.” “You don’t get tired?” Jehui looked at the others. “Yes, but a few hours of sleep has always fixed that.” Aniz closed his eyes and frowned for a moment before turning toward the city. “Then you must be immortal. Come, follow me.” Nobody knew what to think. A short walk down the length of the dock brought the group to the edge of the city. A long road ran parallel to the coast, turning inward and out with the natural shape of land meeting sea. They stood on this road, which was made of densely packed silt and small pieces of coloured glass. Nela admired this. She had never seen such an artificial and beautiful thing before. The others seemed to be having a similar reaction as Aniz led them along the coastal road. Now that they were up close to the city, all the details began to emerge as they passed each building. These weren't simply tall buildings of metal and glass. Panes of glass were not mere glass. Beams and frames of steel were not simple steel. One building's windows all had flecks of gold in them, making the entire tower glitter subtly. Another did the same, but with blue and silver flecks. Yet another had bubbles in the glass. And then another one had bubbles that contained coloured water, making it look like an actual column of bubbles. The metal itself had a hundred variations as well. Some were as simple as being brushed in different directions, making light scatter off them in patterns. Some did this but more complexly with curved brushing, creating fractal reflections that shone onto the streets that passed between the buildings. And yet some others had properties that seemed downright impossible. One building's four corners appeared to be columns of molten metal, glowing white with streaks of deep orange moving slowly through the column. Nela felt like her eyes were expanding beyond her head as she took in more of this city that must have taken a thousand years to build with such variety, beauty, and precision. And yet, if the rest of the world was like their island, it must have emerged in a matter of seconds when the jungle was still being coloured in and the sea being laid down. The group stopped, and Nela's attention was brought back to Aniz. A single agent, plainly armoured like before, had arrived and was speaking to him. Nela didn't hear what they said. The agent went away down one of the city streets. Aniz turned to face the group. “This city was born in the same instant that your island was,” he said. “But how is that possible?” Vyroko asked, looking around. Aniz shrugged. “We’ve only had a week. I woke up here - I mean myself and the ones living in this city.” “Just like us - we woke up on the island,” Jehui said. “Did this happen everywhere?” “We’re not sure.” Aniz frowned. “We discovered your island shortly, so we have been more or less fixated on that. But on the other side of the city, there is land. Much land, and likely many others out there.” Nela was quiet. She had wondered about there being others, but the impossible and dangerous events on the island had kept those thoughts at bay. “How many of you live in this city?” She spoke so softly that Aniz didn’t hear her, but Jehui looked up at her. The group was starting to move again, so she didn’t repeat the question. She would see soon enough. They turned off the coastal road and traveled down one of the city streets. These lanes were immaculate, and everybody noticed. So there couldn’t be that many people - in fact, they had seen none except for his agents. Now Nela started to notice more than just architecture. The city itself was quiet. As they passed through each intersection, she looked every way and saw nobody. Between buildings, she peered into the rooms within and also saw nobody. An unhappy feeling began to well up inside her. But she was together with everyone else, and Tahtorak’s eyes continued to shine as he listened to Aniz. If anything went wrong, they would stick together. They passed a few more blocks before reaching a large open space. It looked like a park, but it looked just like what had happened to the island. Nela winced at the raw memory. Black stuff was spread out across the round clearing lined by shorter buildings. There was a mound at the centre, as if something large had been buried underneath. “This used to be all grass,” Aniz said. “And at the centre was a dome with a black door, like the one on your mountain. It only opened when you opened that one with the—” “Shard-key,” the Vortixx filled in for him. Jehui gasped. “Wait! Did you see who took it the first night?” Aniz frowned. “No. I didn’t know that happened.” Vyroko didn’t say anything. “When we did get inside, there was a machine, although it didn’t really seem to do anything. It was sixteen rings, each slightly larger than the inner one, and a central ring that floated of its own accord,” Aniz continued. “But it didn’t float or turn until the second day.” “That’s the same day Vyroko discovered the one on the island,” Tahtorak said. “They must have been connected in some way.” Aniz looked at Vyroko carefully. “The flow of energy reaches all black metal, it seems. It must have reacted to you when it wouldn’t have with anyone else. You are the only person to murder with good intent, for one thing.” Everyone was quiet. Even Nela’s throat went dry. Were they going to get into this again? Vyroko ignored the jab. “Tell us how you can know so much about what happened on the island? The wall of illusion kept you out, and the city isn’t that close.” Aniz smiled again and turned toward the black ruins. “We deciphered the prophecy written on the rings, but weren’t able to do much with those words. And then today happened. The dragon hatched, and at the same time, my agents report that our machine began to spew black stuff that melted everything in its way. It’s not dangerous once it’s hardened, though.” Nehara stepped up to the edge of the black stuff. She crouched and carefully tapped it. A metallic sound rang. Solid and dense. “It’s likely some kind of molten metal that acts like acid until it cools. I believe that dragon is our most dangerous foe right now. Other threats shall be dealt with later.” Aniz looked at Vyroko again as he said this. “So, my question?” Vyroko repeated icily. Aniz gestured for them to walk around the destroyed park. Then they turned back into the empty city, toward the coast again but at a different angle. They stopped after just one block in front of a building that was mostly metal and white-veined grey stone. Nela looked up and realized this one was much taller than the others. They entered through glass doors that slid to the side without any buttons or switches. It was dim inside, but Nela could see strange circles of light floating in the room. They each had different colours in different shapes, some ovals and some rectangles. Her eyes adjusted further as they approached one of the spectral things. Now she saw they were circles - of glass, with light within. Along the edges of the circle they stood in front of were several thick cables that ran from the glass disc up to the ceiling. These cables were what kept the glass suspended. Aniz stepped forward and touched something on the disc. The lights changed. Now one rectangle remained, but it was too small for Nela to see what it showed. Aniz performed another gesture with his fingers, and the rectangle grew beyond the edges of the disc. The black colour made it almost unrecognizable, but Nela’s Mask of Possibilities still held the map of the island that she had developed. She knew every turn and contour of the island. This shining instrument showed the island as it was now, as if they were seeing it through the eyes of a bird. “This is how you knew everything that was happening,” Vyroko said in satisfaction. “So what are your eyes in the sky?” Aniz shrugged. “I haven’t been able to figure that out. I can learn anything I want about whatever the cameras are focused on, but there’s nothing about what those cameras are. Or if they even are cameras. There’s a telescope on the roof and I haven’t been able to see anything in the sky that would be housing them.” Jehui stepped forward and studied one of the terminals. “I’m sure you’ll admit it’s odd that this city has everything you need for spying on the island, and a twin ring machine.” Aniz spread out his hands in helplessness. “I cannot know the greater mysteries of how this all came to be. Until now, my mission was to make contact with you and your group. Now that we have connected, we can begin to look at these other riddles, and perhaps discover who we are and where we come from.” Nehara sighed heavily. “This is a lot to deal with.” Aniz nodded. "The day is nearly over. We should rest and reconvene tomorrow." "I'd like that," Jehui said. "Where shall we sleep?" "There are rooms in another building. Let me take you there. And..." Aniz paused as he led them outside. "Are you sure you don't need to eat?" Everyone nodded. "Well then. Let me know if you need anything." Their day ended. Review
  3. Wow, faux pas much? >_< I thought it was a fourth-wall trope joke. The "healer can't do anything and just watches them die" pattern just got busted, and our narrator feels the need to point it out. Unfortunately, that just highlights how bad things are in the MU. I didn't mean farcical in the way that it was not serious at all. Maybe that was the wrong term to use, but my expanded interpretation is that the narrator intended to portray this as a tragic consequence that never needed to happen. It was implied that many other Matoran also felt the same way and yet were obliged to participate in the war, which led to the odd contrast between furious clashes and then resting up at home for the next clash. Of course it got worse as time went on due to destruction and more rule violations, so that did make the conflict veer toward actual seriousness. I hope that makes sense now. The trope joke... it can be both, I think. Chapter 40 - Glad to have another update! No worries that there will be a semi-hiatus. Maybe I'm disappointed only because it means the next Paracosmos episode is even further off, but I imagine you could start posting it once you've finished formatting this story so all you need to do is actually post the chapters. I believe you said the next episode is more or less already written? This chapter covered a few pivotal moments. I don't have much to comment only because you wrote them very well. Finally Koronga realizes Teridax is a master manipulator, plus we see Jovan's sacrifice. I never actually thought about whether his team had figured out more about the MU due to their journey. I predict Hagahu will live to the days when the Mata Nui island forms, and begins to pass on Red Star messages to the Matoran there based on Koronga's instructions. Or they're directed at Koronga because he hasn't been able to figure out a way to communicate back to Hagahu by then, and Koronga is able to help the Toa Mata while they're on the island.
  4. Chapter 15 is up late - I got busy yesterday. I'm honestly not sure why nobody caught that sound error in the year that I've had friends and family revising this for me. I guess it just slipped past everyone except you two. In this case, as it would change too much story to edit now, let's just say that the "normal" physics of this world means sound cannot be heard underwater. This comes as a surprising fact because it seems like in every scene on TV where swimming underwater is involved, sound just isn't really there. If a big pillar of stone crumbled underwater, there's certainly a rumble or something, but I've always had the impression that it could only be heard because it was so big and it would be more like the person feels the reverberation than acutely hearing it. Smaller sounds like speech or ticking didn't seem like things that would carry through water. It's actually counter-intuitive to me as a Deaf person! I know that thick materials block sound, and water is thicker than air so that's an assumption I've been following. Learned something here.
  5. Chapter 15 Nehara sat on a tall stone seat next to the black door. Her eyes were closed, but she had sat here long enough to know exactly what she would be seeing. Mid-day light, hazy grey skies. Silence up here but for the occasional wind. No ticking as long as she made sure the shard-key touched the door. The black shard-key balanced on her shoulder as she leaned slightly against the door. Narrow end of the shard touching the hole on the door. She had perfected this position, and now used it as her meditation. The plateau spread before her, then gave way to a distant band of green canopy, and then the wider sea beyond. In that sea, a beam of light shone. Bizarrely sourceless as they now knew from Nela’s exploration the day before. According to her, the beam of light had merely emerged from a certain point in the middle of the water. She had not dared get close for fear of harm. Nehara preferred to keep her eyes closed to sacrifice seeing all those beautiful things so that she did not need to see the remnants of Deschyny. Even as her thoughts touched on that, she shivered slightly. The shard-key wobbled. She had gladly volunteered to stay up here and guard the glass egg, and prevent it from continuing what sounded like a long ticking countdown. Three times in the past two days Nela or Jehui, or both had come up here to check on her during the day. At the last light she would stand up and stretch, then descend the mountain to the waterfall and sleep with them. Once Tahtorak had visited, but had said nothing. He had only walked around Deschyny and examined the egg, the room, Nehara herself. Nehara also had said nothing and Tahtorak left. Time passed like a dream. Really, the last two days had felt like a complete dream. Even the five days, from waking up and being attacked by a Vortixx’s nightmare swarm of Bibaka wasps, to the horrible fate Vyroko had thrust on Deschyny. Watching the Toa of Fire struggle with Tahtorak through the air until they crashed on the beach, out of sight. Nehara heaved a sigh, eyes still closed. Everything became very quiet. As if another person had slowed their step, held their breath at the sound of hers. In straining to be unnoticed, they only made their presence known by absorbing the quiet murmur of the world’s turning. Nehara knew it was foolish to try and attack him. Not if she wanted to burn like Deschyny. Vyroko was surely not evil, nobody in their group believed that, but… “You had to return eventually,” she said. He didn’t respond right away. Perhaps expecting a trick, but realizing Nehara wasn’t the kind of person to gamble on talking to thin air. “Things have changed.” His voice came from above. This surprised Nehara, and she opened her eyes and looked up. He must have climbed the stairs partway, then climbed out of the crevice and made his way over the tip of the mountain to arrive just above the doorway. She could see his orange mask peering over the edge, looking down at her. He looked peaceful. So Nehara cautioned a step off the stone stool, which he did not move to oppose. She held the shard-key to the door, paused, and then removed it. The egg’s ticking resumed. It was like a little whip in the air. A machine, an automaton. Something real and solid and unstoppable. The ticking seemed to wind up inside Nehara’s stomach, tightening her guts with every turn. She almost put the shard-key into her chest-hatch, but realized this would probably make her even more of a target for Vyroko. So she left it on the stool and walked away from the doorway to face him. He crouched on a lip of rock and watched her. His eyes flickered as they looked past, still getting used to the sight. “Awful, isn’t it?” Nehara asked, filling her voice with as much recrimination as she could. Worse than murder - a living death! She turned to lay eyes upon the molten shape that stood in the centre of the plateau. Heard Vyroko drop down behind her and take slow steps until they stood side by side. The shape was mostly gold in colour, and a few places had melted partway to reveal a hotter red interior. One arm was outstretched and bent to shield himself. The other hung helplessly by his side. The final pose Deschyny had taken before being consumed by the inferno. His legs stood molten as well. His shape was held together by some unknown force. Heat radiated from him so strongly that he had to collapse into a pool of slag, and yet he didn’t. The worst part, the reason Nehara and the others knew it was a living death, were the eyes. His mask and face were unrecognizable, mostly a smooth sheen of golden metal. But where his eyes were - the light of life remained in them like two lanterns held behind a thickly woven cloth. They cast around over and over, searching in the limited frame of vision they had. Did he see, did he know? Who knew. Nehara turned back toward Vyroko, feeling real desire for violence now. What had that fog done for him? He had returned and was clearly bent on some new goal. Probably to do with the glass egg - he had glanced at the interior, and held his gaze just a moment too long for it to be mere investigation. His face showed no remorse, only contented resignation. It was as if he couldn’t possibly see Nehara as a threat. Now all she could hope for was one of the others to be looking at the right place in the sky right now and realize that the light wasn’t shining anymore, and come to her rescue. Maybe stop Vyroko too. Nela would be the best counter with her element, and then Jehui with his handtalking power if he could think fast enough. Tahtorak had been lucky not to get burnt in their hand-to-hand combat last time. Vyroko stepped past her and past the curtain of intense heat that kept the others away. He walked through the shimmering air and reached out, touching Deschyny’s protective hand. Light shone at the point of contact, and Nehara saw rivulets of gold and white run across the distorted body toward that point. The lines didn’t stop when they reached Vyroko’s hand - they kept going, running across his arm and body. Drawing patterns just like those that had adorned Deschyny’s armour. Then the entire molten frame of Deschyny shifted, and melted toward Vyroko’s hand. Vyroko stepped forward again, mashing himself into Deschyny. Nehara flinched. It was a grotesque sight, burying himself in the corpse of another. But there was a haunting beauty to it, for light burst forth from every point of contact. Vyroko disappeared within the flowing gold and searing light. The heat grew, so Nehara backed up to the doorway. Instinctively grabbed the shard-key. A loud noise like an explosion muffled by a heavy weight. Nehara jumped. Some dust had been sent up by the explosion, and now it settled to reveal Vyroko. Except - Nehara had somewhat expected this as soon as she saw them merging, since it fit with what they knew so far. But it was no less strange to see his new form. Vyroko’s blood red and orange armour remained, but was now heavily overlain with gold. Thin white lines spiralled along the surface of his body like a long tattoo. He was now slightly larger than Nehara. Vyroko’s mask had changed radically. It was… featureless. A simple dome of reddish gold from forehead to chin, with two eyeholes and a mouth cutout at the bottom. It was frightening, for it showed even less emotion than Vyroko had before his transformation. The Toa of Fire looked at her and smiled. Nehara shivered at the strange mind betrayed by that smile. Then he disproved his title by raising both hands and issuing a column of fire from one and a beam of light from the other. No longer a Toa of Fire, Nehara realized. Now a Toa of Fire and Light. The new Toa seemed to reel, and took half a step back. His elemental beams fizzled out. He closed his eyes and appeared thoughtful. “…much more than he ever shared…” His voice had changed as well. No longer like a real voice coming out of a mouth, but more like a sound echoing from another place. Deschyny’s memories - he was processing them now. Nehara wasn’t sure what else would explain Vyroko’s trance. Vyroko still did not move, so Nehara cautioned a look behind her. Quickly confirmed the glass egg was still there. Looked back. Eyes were still closed. Whatever was going on, Nehara thought, one thing was certain: Vyroko had just achieved the first of his goals. Next was surely the glass egg. She felt the shard-key in her hand. Ran a finger along its edges. Should she…? If she could, she should end it all now. Vyroko had just become far more dangerous than anything else she could imagine right now. She took a quiet, deep breath. There was no other way. Whatever the risks… he had to be stopped before he went too far - as if he hadn’t already. She pushed herself away from the door, gripping the shard-key. Leapt into the chamber. Arm raised. Nela had tried this exact same move days ago. This time, Deschyny wasn’t there to stop it. With her powerful limb, she brought down the shard-key and struck the tip of the glass egg. CRACK “NO!” Vyroko screamed, eyes wide. Nehara tried to twist away as she saw him lunge. He leapt across the plateau in one smooth motion and came up next to her. Wrist flicked. Nehara smashed into the side of the chamber. Gasped for air. Vyroko clawed at the air around the black shard-key now partially embedded in the tip of the cracked glass egg. Some force seemed to repel him. He stopped and his shoulders slumped. “Oh, Nehara,” he said quietly. “I never intended to do anything with the glass egg. And now that I know what Deschyny knew…” Nehara looked at the egg. A single crack had splintered its way through the egg’s centre. She backed away, but kept her eyes fixed on the scene. Whatever happened now, she was the only other witness. Slowly the egg began to glow with a light that bloomed from its centre. Despite the crack, the light was flawless and filled the room. A humming sound started, getting stronger with every passing second. Now she saw that the tip of the shard-key buried in the egg was shining with a small ray of light pointed toward the interior. Brighter and brighter. The humming intensified, then stopped. Egg shone like a small sun. Black. Nehara shook her head abruptly at the sudden change. The egg was now pitch-black like it was filled with ink. Black vanished, but not so quickly that Nehara didn’t see it flow back up into the shard-key. Like a dream, the shard-key floated up above the egg. Gone. Nehara didn’t understand even after a chunk of glass hit her shoulder. She winced. Then she saw the hole in the stone pedestal where the egg had once sat. The shard-key had shot down and drilled down through the stone, shattering the now-unneeded egg in the process. She and Vyroko looked at each other. He seemed just as bewildered as her. Then they felt the gentle shaking. Like the mountain itself was shifting. Vyroko had been holding his head in shock. Now his hands slid down the sides of his mask in despair. He looked at her. “Deschyny never told us the full truth. The real truth… is nothing like what I thought it would be.” The mountain shifted again. It wasn’t bad, but enough for Nehara to place a hand against the wall. “We had it all backwards,” he continued with wide eyes. “The shard-key wasn’t blocking off the flow of energy. It was absorbing it. The beam of light was just leftover waste.” Nehara stared at him. “You mean all this time, I’ve been helping the process?” “Deschyny stopped us from breaking the glass egg… but he specifically stopped the shard-key. As long as the two stayed apart, we would be safe. The world would be safe.” “What do you mean?” Nehara shouted as the shaking intensified. The floor of the chamber cracked in three places, all radiating out from the stone pedestal. Vyroko grabbed her arm before she could ward him off, and dragged her outside. Then she ran of her own accord. Whatever this shaking was, it was bad enough that they had to get off the mountain. They had just reached the stairs when something slammed into Nehara and sent her sprawling. The object was strangely soft and flowed around her. She choked on water. Nela! Her voice rang out. “Face me, Vyroko.” “Not now!” Nehara shouted, flailing for a grip. The flash flood was already draining off the cliff, and she doubted she would survive a second fall. Felt a strong current grip her body. Got her head above water long enough to see Nela next to her, hands glowing blue. Her face was transformed - instead of the mild and thoughtful Toa she had come to know, this one’s eyes displayed the quiet fury of a swelling tsunami. Vyroko was up ahead, and now Nehara saw they were flowing down the stairs like a water slide. Quick way to get down, after all. It was harder to tell in the water, but the mountain was shaking so much that the walls holding in the water were cracking. “We need to get out of here right now,” Nehara shouted at Nela. She only met her eyes and nodded. They raced down the mountain as it trembled. Rocks were coming loose and sliding into the water with them, so Nehara concentrated on deflecting any that came her way. Then they reached the waterfall and stopped, feet finding solid ground again. Even so, all three stumbled. The shaking was getting worse, a series of tremors piling up on each other. To Nehara, it felt more like a series of spasms. One powerful shudder followed by the aftershocks, and then another shudder. Nehara managed a glance upward and saw the top of the mountain splitting apart. But it wasn’t merely falling to pieces. It was opening up, like… Like an egg hatching. Before she could say anything about this, a sky-shaking roar blasted out. Both Nela and Vyroko were thrown to the ground; Nehara only stumbled. This let her keep watching. Any and all information was valuable even as their world fell apart, if Vyroko really meant what he said. For a second, there was silence and stillness. Then the strongest tremor yet hit, and Nehara fell onto her back. From the open tip of the mountain erupted what looked like pitch-black lava. It was hot and the air around it shimmered, but the black stuff held no shine. Like darkness turned into molten form. A column of this blacker-than-tar stuff was thrown high into the sky and began to fall over the island. “Jehui! Tahtorak!” Nehara shouted. Where were they now? “RUN!” Vyroko screamed. That was all they could do as the black lava started falling around them. They leapt off the edge of the waterfall and plunged into the creek, then scrambled to shore. Trees were falling. Fissures were appearing in the ground as they ran, some widening so rapidly that they had to jump. Not just the mountain, but the island itself was cracking into pieces. A glob of black lava crashed down just a short distance away in the woods, taking down several trees with it. All three of them got sprayed with dirt and twigs. They were in the thick of the woods now, which was probably even more dangerous than the clearing by the creek. They couldn’t see falling debris from far off now. More projectiles fell around them. One was so close that Nehara was blown aside by the impact. She managed to tumble and then spring back up and run again, arcing back to the others. Branches cracked overhead. Nehara knew what was about to happen and tried to throw herself out of the way, but something hit her from the side and sent her flying instead. Not black stuff - a green beast. “Tahtorak!” “Keep going,” he bellowed. Nehara spied with enormous relief Jehui riding on his back. Together all five ran. A rolling rumble started to sound underneath the crunching cracks of the island and the muffled crashes of the black eruption. Nehara looked back, and through the now-sparse canopy saw the remains of the mountain crumbling down in a massive landslide. The black stuff didn’t fall as often now, but the ground continued to buckle. In her head, a dark image built itself as she finally pieced things together. A massive egg sleeping in the centre of the island, sheltered by the mountain acting like a protective outer shell. A flow of energy that passed through black metal, and could be absorbed by it. The door. The shard-key. The ring machine. A conduit to convert the energy. The glass egg. The locus that tapped into the hibernating egg, listening to it grow. Listening to it tick. It was too big, too strange, too terrible for Nehara’s mind to fully comprehend. What was the purpose to all of this? What had they done? No, what had Vyroko done? She refused to take blame for this, even though part of her deep inside clenched with guilt. They reached the beach and stopped just short of the water. Everyone turned back to the mountain, or the space where the mountain had once been. Nehara didn’t see anything. Where was it, the huge thing that took an entire mountain to contain? The mountain had finished falling, so the landslide had ended. The island was no longer shaking actively, but seemed to be shrugging off the leftover shockwaves. From amongst the ruins of the forest, molten black metal came rolling out toward the beach. Trees shuddered and fell over, melting into the hot flow. “Into the water!” Tahtorak instructed. Everyone splashed accordingly. Not even Vyroko winced. They moved into the shallow ocean and would have kept going, but then it became apparent the black stuff was stopping in the water, freezing solid. It had covered the entire island. Completely. Not a single tree was left. Now the island was a mound of black from horizon to horizon. There was silence, and the sound of ticking. The stark black mound of leftover island shifted again, but there was no rumble. The mound grew in the middle, and then more lines resolved and broke away from the island. Black against black, then black against the sky. Rippling folds and junctions of metal. Sleek razor-tipped plates flashed in the sunlight. A long spiny neck uncurled from underneath this body, raising a head into the sky. At the same time, four sheet-metal sails flared out from either side of its body. Parades of obsidian daggers slid past each other as a wide maw opened. Four round pearly white eyes opened on its forehead. The roar was not powerful or muscular. It was not gnashing or even violent. It was a tinny noise that blasted across the land and sent waves away from the island. It sounded like the ticking that had mystified the group for days, amplified a hundred times. Then Nehara heard it differently, as if a switch had flipped in her head. She still heard it as ticking, but now she heard the meaning. It was laughter, harsh and ringing. The eight sails flexed and pushed down, lifting the black dragon into the sky. They continued pumping, sending it further upward. Then it glided away over the ocean, its ticking laughter gone. Nehara couldn’t prevent a mournful cry escaping her throat. All this time, she had wondered where her home was. Now she realized she had just lost her home. She felt Jehui treading water by her, and numbly reached out and held him close. They were all quiet. Nehara wondered where it had gone, the thing that had hatched. “Look,” Jehui said, pointing up. Nehara looked. The sky was blue. *** Aniz watched the group standing in the shallows. They hadn’t noticed him yet, but he was sure that as soon as they turned around, they would see everything. The grey wall of illusion surrounding the island had fallen. The island, or what remained of it, was no longer locked off from the rest of the world. The five long days of waiting that he and his city had endured had come to an end, but Aniz had seen the cost of that with his own eyes. No more illusions. Now they could finally seek justice against the Foe of the World. But first, the islanders needed to be protected. “Take them now,” he said, raising his Gearsword. Review
  6. Chapter 14: back to the regular folks. 14 and 15 really are a two-parter since putting them together would have been too much to ask. Nick Silverpen: Conveyor belt theory - well, it was revealed later by Jehui that the ice tower was some kind of accidental metaphor created by his hands. Since he was with Nela at the time, a lot of it naturally revolved around her even though Jehui was the key to solving it. Deschyny and ticking egg - no, the egg continues to tick when the shard isn't in the door. I thought there was a line mentioning that - either you missed it or I'm wrong and I'll edit it in. Shall look later. Vyroko's odd armour - no comment here. I'll let the story proceed and give you more to consider. There's definitely a theme with each person having a role/function/theme, etc. To be honest, that's a natural aspect of writing this story, but it does gain more significance later on. The next paragraph about this being such a compelling mystery - I'm glad you feel that way, and that my new writing style feels right for you as a reader. Thanks for the positive feedback! Good interpretation of the poem, but not saying if it's correct. About the chain rotation bit... I'm not saying anything specific in what you've said is accurate, but you actually have begun to glimpse a very deep and important pattern. That's all. Questions about who is who and the fog will be answered in time. On Tahtorak, I'm not sure how you interpreted him as actually taking up a grudge against Vyroko. I carefully avoided creating that impression because of exactly what you said - it wouldn't make sense. The only reason he knocked Vyroko unconscious was very much the same reason any of us might have done it - the fear of not doing anything and creating worse consequences. His truth-seeing eyes had already seen the truth of the words even if he didn't fully understand them or make all the connections. It was enough for him to suspect, but not to fully believe it since he still feels much doubt as the following chapter explained. Maybe that wasn't unclear and got lost in the muddle of the moment, but maybe you can re-read those parts to see if your initial interpretation still feels right. I'd rather not reveal how many chapters there are since I wouldn't want the ending to start spoiling itself that way... I want you to discover where the story goes and see your reactions once we do reach the end. Long reply to a long review, oh my... onto the next! Thank you for all the great comments, Nick. fishers: I definitely have been testing my readers so much for this part of the story. I know it's getting frustrating. In the next two chapters after 14, quite a few things get cleared up - I can promise you that. Thank you for staying with me! Hmm.
  7. Chapter 14 Let these trees fall-- Jehui paused in the middle of the phrase. Frowned uncertainly. He wanted to sign fall, but the sign he had just produced seemed to mean something more like a fall from grace or leadership. That wasn’t the right meaning when he wanted to produce some timber. Vyroko was on his mind. Jehui heaved a sigh and sat down against one of the trees that no doubt counted itself as lucky to be still standing. It had been two days since the Toa of Fire had vanished into the peninsula. The great column of fog still stood when Jehui glanced through the treetops to the southwest. The Matoran of Iron pondered. Nobody was upset when Tahtorak had returned and explained what he had done. After witnessing Deschyny disappear in a pillar of fire, none of them were feeling very partial toward Vyroko. But it wasn’t like they had begun to vilify him. What he had said about his relationship with the Toa of Light made enough sense for them to believe and sympathize with him. Everyone only wished he hadn't made such a rash decision so quickly. But deliberation still didn’t make murder right. Now the fog had him, and if the fog wanted to heal, they could only hope for a good outcome. Would Vyroko make atonement to them? Or would the fog demand other deeds within the peninsula to heal over his crime? They had debated those questions but shortly Tahtorak had left the group, saying he wished to be by himself. Nehara had chosen to remain on the mountain guarding the black door and the glass egg… and the remains of Deschyny. For he had not burned away entirely. Jehui shuddered and thought of how strong Nehara had to be to willingly stay near it. It. What could they do? For the past two days, they had waited. For Jehui’s part, he had focused on the strange power of his hands. Nela had tried to learn with him, but her hands seemed to not carry any of this power. They all wondered if it was due to Jehui’s ring, but probably not because he had continued to handtalk after planting it within the glass egg. It was now back on his finger and the egg was whole. Briefly, Jehui twisted the ring and darted his spirit a short distance away to confirm Nela was still where he had left her. The Toa of Water continued to meditate on the south shore. The island felt somehow safer after all those events. And it was, really - Deschyny’s sonic illusions were no more and the fog, while strange, was generally accepted by everyone to be a friendly entity. So they all had begun to find their own ways and habits on the island while they waited. Nela had begun exploring the waters around the island, and curiously discovered that the sea was much shallower than it seemed. The sea bottom stopped descending just a short distance from the island and remained flat as far as Nela was willing to swim. Even Jehui could wade with his shoulders above water for a long way from the island, although he hadn’t tried. Not that he was afraid of water, but being of the Iron element, Jehui felt a tiny bit of trepidation as the vision of rusting metal reared up in his mind. Nela’s exploration had not only taken place physically, but spiritually. As she swept through the sea, she had fallen into deep trances that sometimes lasted hours. Whenever that happened, Jehui would let her be and wander around. After two days, they had gotten a good handle on the layout of the island. The mad rush of the first three days had only given them a bare knowledge of where important things were. Now they knew, at least, there was nothing else of any great interest elsewhere. Each night, Nehara would descend and meet them at the top of the waterfall. Beds of moss grew here that were comfortable to sleep on, and the rising mist always kept them cool. Tahtorak was the only one who had chosen to stay by himself. He did not explicitly avoid them, but seemed to walk endlessly around the island. Jehui had bumped into him twice, and both times Tahtorak had acknowledged him quietly before continuing through the woods. Mourning? Jehui wasn’t sure. His red eyes seemed dull. Jehui sighed. The day was drawing on and they would need more wood for the night’s fire. So he stood up again and faced the trees. Falling was never a good thing, he had decided. Falling meant something would be hurt or broken, and he didn’t want to be the cause of pain. So instead, the trees would move. More precisely, the part of the tree aboveground would move several feet to the side while the roots remained where they had grown. Jehui threaded this idea into his fingers and signed it to the trees. They obliged with muffled crashes. He set to work with the more tedious phrases of stripping leaves, and shaping the main trunk into logs that could be carried. The idleness of this task allowed a quiet rhythm of phrases and handshapes to begin spinning in his mind. *** Whispers of currents passed by Nela’s closed eyes. They opened to see a sculpture of water hovering above the beach. It had sixteen rings and a central circle. Each current was one ring, and moved on its own path. It hovered for a second before crashing back into the shallows. Nela watched that spot settle. Now she was certain. That shape, which Vyroko had originally discovered underground in the form of metal rings, was important. Not in the obvious sense of the past few days, but in the world. Nela beckoned the water toward her. The small wave that was about to spread itself over the sand paused mid-froth, then raised itself up. Drew more from behind, growing itself. Then it glided over the sand toward its master and slipped under her crossed legs. Lifted her up. The Toa of Water moved away from the shore and over the shallow sea. Changed direction, now moving parallel to the contours of the island. Those contours. The way the water hugged them. The way the shallows shifted with the sand that it stirred up. The way the mist floated up in the first rays of the day. The way all of these things were… Somehow, Nela felt absolutely certain that the sixteen-ringed shape of the machine was imprinted onto all of those things. It was in no way obvious. Only through two days of meditation had Nela begun to sense some trace of pattern. And her latest meditation, the deepest one she had experienced thus far, had produced that sculpture. She was a channel, a messenger. But channelling what, passing on what message? Water conformed to any shape, thus to any meaning. So it made sense to her that she would be the most receptive to hidden… ideas? truths? warnings? She didn’t know what it was. Yet, water could be otherwise. It could be unyielding, uncontainable… The cool rushing around her turned to watery roars as the sea rose to match her vision. She could decide the message. She could establish truths. But that was not her way. The sea calmed again. Nela continued to coast on her perpetual swell around the island. She had started near the south side and moved along the east shores now. This was the same path where she had met Vyroko, and later Nehara and Jehui. All those days ago, they had walked together to the north shore where they slept on the high cliffs. There, they had witnessed the strange column of light shooting up from the waters. Nela had gone to explore this area yesterday, but found nothing. The light seemed to have no specific source. It simply began mid-way in the water, and shot up into the sky from there. She hadn’t gotten any closer as she wasn’t sure how harmful the energy was. The glass egg had revealed nothing further about itself either. It continued to tick slowly unless the shard-key was connected to the door, which these days was Nehara’s duty to ensure. She drew near the northern area and heard the water beating against the cliffs. The sound was soothing. Water, alive and moving. Nela frowned. Within this sound, though… something had changed. The wet claps reverberated more. The waves were higher, so the cliff was being hit with bigger waves, hence the louder sound. No storm was approaching. The wind was quiet. So why were the waves higher? Nela stopped. The fountain that held her aloft slowed. She sent her senses down through it and into the sea… spreading tendrils of feeling along the sea bottom. It dropped into a deeper underwater pit. Nela gasped. That had not been there before. The waves were higher because they had more depth to build before falling against the cliffs. This was new - within the past day. The pit felt very large. But as she soon discovered, it was not extremely deep. Perhaps ten Toa-heights down. The bottom of this pit was also smooth, but an irregularity made Nela pause and focus her senses on one spot. In the centre of the pit… something stuck out. She could not tell what it was solely by her water-sense, but it was definitely solid. A rock? Its perfectly central placement was suspicious, though. Nela let the fountain fall, and dropped into the sea. She took a deep breath and then dove. She came down at the edge of the pit and looked around. Its edges were smooth, and the sand darkened as it slipped over into the lightless depth. A few pulls of her arms, aided by a current from behind, brought Nela above the pit. It was dark but not pitch-black. The sun was still overhead. Gave her eyes a minute to adjust, and then dove further. Dark waters swallowed her, but she was not afraid. It was still water, and it obeyed her. She reached the bottom. It was dark, but she could see that it was a black stone surface partially covered by sand. Realized she had lost direction, and looked around for a sign of where the centre was. The sand layer seemed to get thicker ahead of her, so she pulled herself along the ground. Her fingers dug into the wet sand, and she paused. She heard something. A quiet tap-tap-tap of metal clockwork. Ticking. Nela didn’t believe it for a second. But as she swam further, the sound grew clearer and insistent. She was so anxious she almost didn’t notice when she passed over it. It was smaller than she had expected, and almost completely buried by a mound of sand. She swept some of it away and stopped. Even in the darkness, it glinted with a translucent sheen. A second glass egg. Her air was almost gone, so she had to return to the surface. She shot up and within a few strokes was breathing again. She was dizzy, but not from holding her breath. Looked at the cliffs and the peak of the mountain beyond. This was the same location where they had seen the beam of light shine, and later they had figured out it was connected to the black door on the mountain. Nehara’s shard-key seemed to block off a flow of energy that caused the glass egg in the mountain to tick like a bomb. Then instead of ticking, the egg’s energy would be burned off in the form of a beam of light here. It made sense that a second glass egg would be the source of that light, like two ends of a power line. So why had Nela not found it the first time she had passed by here yesterday in her explorations? And why was it not shining like expected if the energy was being blocked off from the mountain end? She needed to know more, so she dove again. As she descended, she paid more attention to the surroundings. The seabed was rippled from the moulding power of the waves. No water plants or seashells littered it - it was pure sand all around the island. The pit’s edges were smooth too, like they had been softened over time. Someone could have dug it out recently and done a good job of making it look natural, though. Nela scooped up some sand - and discovered that what she had thought was dark sand due to the lack of light in the pit was literally dark sand. She brought the mound close to her eyes. The particles looked like they had been burnt. Her fingers inadvertently pinched and crushed some grains. A cloud of black dust floated up into her face and she backed away. Her thoughts immediately turned to Vyroko and his fire. Was it possible for him to burn sand underwater? Perhaps a method of digging out a pit without having to go into the water himself? Worried, she returned to the surface again and peered at the island. Searched for any hint of disturbance. If Vyroko had returned and done this, he had to be up to something. Deeper breath this time. Dove. Back at the glass egg, she pushed away the sand until it was completely exposed. Its round bottom was nestled in the hard ground beneath the seabed. Nela tapped and scratched for a while, looking for any clues. While she did this, she remembered another mystery the team had discussed. If Nehara’s shard-key worked to shut off the energy flow to the mountain’s glass egg so that it got released here as light instead, then who had done that the first night on the island when they had slept on the cliffs? Nehara had already found her shard-key and stored it in her chest-hatch, and they knew it wasn't Deschyny unless he had lied. Maybe Deschyny wasn’t the last person on this island. Maybe there was someone else. Or the fog? Nela frowned. It didn’t fit in this situation. But who knew. The underwater egg continued to tick, and Nela listened to it. Then the blindingly stupid realization dawned on her. She was underwater, and so was the egg. How could she be hearing it tick? A sick sensation surged through her body. With several powerful strokes, Nela took herself away from the egg and the pit. Surfaced. She was shivering, and it wasn’t from the cold water. She felt like she was back in the ice tower, where everything felt alien. Her core felt frosted over, like she was solid and icy inside, and her limbs struggled to obey her mental commands. A wave washed over her face and she half-choked. Why couldn’t she stay afloat? She was a Toa of Water. Her teeth chattered. Yet as her body failed, her mind grew sharper. It had been invaded by the ticking, and now she felt the absence of a strange presence that had entered her mind along with the sound. Now in the wake of that breach, her mind bristled and refocused. It was as if all those invisible crystals of ice invading her joints happened to align, magnifying the light of her thoughts. The fact was that the egg was ticking and not releasing energy. If it was connected to the mountain egg, then this meant the shard-key was no longer being held to the door. Nehara was in trouble. The webs of frost broke and Nela rose out of the water on a powerful geyser. This geyser pushed her up beyond the cliffs, and arced toward the island. Higher and further. Nela just kept pulling more and more water from the ocean, pushing herself further. Now only one ice crystal remained in her mind, and it was positioned just so that yet another thought, shining even more brightly than anything before, emerged. Of course it was impossible to hear sound underwater. The only person who might ever realize such a thing would be Nela herself. That could only mean one thing. Trickery. Nela was headed straight into a trap. Amidst the spray of her chariot, she smiled. She was a Toa of Water. With the might and subtlety of the ocean she stood upon, she would flood this trap and fool its machinations with her deceiving currents. With the relentless flow of rivers, she would erode its snares. And with the brunt force of a hundred sky-high waterfalls, she would break it. Review
  8. Chapter 13 Vyroko awoke slowly. Blinked in panic, wondering if he had gone blind. No - it was just dark. Nighttime. He got up and stopped in surprise at the leaves brushing along his torso. He last remembered tumbling through the air while Tahtorak choked him. He must have lost consciousness, crashed, and been taken by Tahtorak and the others back into the forest. Something wasn't right, though. Well, a lot of things weren’t. But something about the trees was unfamiliar. They were not the jungle or forest trees of the island. Where had he seen those strangely slender trees before? They didn't grow straight up, but leaned this way and that as if a dozen storms had come from all directions for years. The peninsula. He had briefly taken note of the odd trees when watching the fog emerge from the peninsula. How had he gotten here? He was sure they had still been above the forest, perhaps the beach, when they crashed. Regardless of how he came to be here, he was alone. After what he had done, with little choice as he had felt, he didn't expect to be welcomed back to the group. Right now he had little desire to reflect on what had just happened. Vyroko took a few steps past a bush. Stopped. Had to look twice to make sure he wasn't imagining it. He had just walked through a very large ring. It was partly stuck in the ground, so it stood straight up like an arc. Although it wasn't a ring like that underground device, but rather a simple hoop with no flat surfaces. How had he not noticed it when he was looking around? It must have been positioned just inside the shadow of a tree... But even as Vyroko accepted that explanation, he couldn't help but notice the bright moonlight shining off the hoop. Gingerly reached out and touched it. Felt and looked like a solid bar of metal with a thick ribbon of brown fabric wrapped loosely around the entire circumference. Decided to leave it and move on. Peering carefully, Vyroko saw hints of a small clearing up ahead. Started walking again-- How?! Just as if it had always been there, a second hoop stood right behind him. It was no mistake - he looked through it and saw the first. This hoop had definitely just appeared out of thin air, but so silently, so instantaneously, he now struggled to imagine it having not been there before. Vyroko bent down and looked at the ground where the hoop was embedded. The dirt was slightly raised, but packed well and bore no fresh marks. It was plausible a Toa of Earth could have done this to achieve such a natural look. Deep down, though, Vyroko felt something else was at play. Stood up again and took a deep breath. This time, he stepped forward slowly and deliberately while looking to his side and behind. Watching. Shine of reflected moonlight. Whirled back around. Now that was impossible. A third hoop stood as if he had just stepped through it. But he had seen nothing on one side, and yet this was something that had to appear on both sides... Unless it wasn't a hoop at all. Fuming now, Vyroko grabbed the third hoop and studied it closely. Struck the metal sharply, listening for any hollowness that might indicate technology inside. Tugged at the fabric but felt no give. Vyroko wondered if the hoop had simply begun as a little rod waiting in the ground, and then shooting itself up both ways to form a circle faster than the eye could see. He looked at every part of the metal for a seam that would suggest this. But there was nothing. It was a properly joined circle, and the fabric binding looked like it had aged a century. A baffling and silly mystery. Hoops appearing out of nowhere, seemingly tormenting him. Vyroko had no time for this. He wanted to rest, to find some quiet clearing where he could think. But these hoops played with him. They didn’t threaten or tantalize… they played. It was like some emotion emanated from them that wasn’t anything but a wondering, a curiosity. An inquiring sensation that went both ways, as if the hoops were just as curious about Vyroko as he was them. There were three. Was there a fourth? Vyroko knew that hours ago, he would have destroyed those hoops just in case. The unknown was frightening to him, and he’d had enough of unknowns now. But here, in this moment, Vyroko was okay with the unknown. So he took another step toward the clearing. Hoop. Even with his heightened watchfulness, it was so breathtakingly present. It had always been there. Some part of Vyroko began to suspect that was the strange truth. These hoops already stood where they did, inhabiting some greater space. It was merely Vyroko’s own defect to not be able to perceive this space. He didn’t have time to wonder any further. Something small shot past him, almost glancing his elbow. Its path didn’t seem like a missed aim, but more like something had narrowly managed to dodge him in its speedy journey. It disappeared up ahead, beyond the clearing. Vyroko ran across the clearing to a gap in the bent trees and saw that he was at the other end of the peninsula. He hadn’t seen the sea because it was so dark and calm here. A thin strip of pale stones separated the trees from the water. Then Vyroko saw the thing that had shot past. It stood atop a tree stump that stuck out of the shallows. Right now it looked like a little folded stick figure. As he looked, it began to unfold. Two sides spread out from the middle stick and broadened. Those sides then split along the lower edge. They looked like feathers. Wings? The middle stick turned on the spot, and revealed two shorter stubs at the base that stood upon the stump. Legs. A tiny head raised up, with an upraised flare of plumage on the forehead. It was a bird. The bird spread its wings further, as if embracing the entire sea and dark sky before it. Then it bobbed several times, flexing its wings as if in time to some unheard music. Then in addition to the bobbing, it started whirling around. One leg swung outward and back in toward the body with each spin. The wings joined at the feather tips each time. Now Vyroko was almost certain he could hear music, but it was a sound far beneath a whisper. Orange light burst upon the pale rocks and tree trunks around Vyroko. It came from behind. He snapped his head around to see the the source in the middle of the clearing. Fire roared in a shallow sand pit. There seemed to be no wood that bore this fire. He couldn’t sense it in his elemental control either. The four silver hoops stood at the edges of the clearing like equilateral markers. Vyroko saw that the thick fabric wrapped around them was now colourful, and each hoop had a different combination of colours. The bird was there as well. It had moved without him noticing. Vyroko flinched. It was huge. Easily as large as him now. The bird continued to spin like a rhythmic top, but at this scale it was almost disturbing. The firelight revealed the mad colours of the bird’s plumage - black and deep dark green with rust red and gold flecks. The pompadour on its forehead was not feathers as he had thought. It was a headdress of sorts: a golden mask covering the upper beak and face and rising above the forehead in a flat half-circle like a crown. The flat part had a pattern of straight radiating lines like a sun’s beams. Its legs were just like a bird’s, scrawny and three-taloned. The bird stopped spinning, and began lumbering around the fire. Took each step as if it were a heavy one, and folded its wings along its body like a person placing their hands on their hips. Oh-h-h-h, though dangerous places you have tra-a-a-aveled! The singing shout was entirely unexpected. Vyroko took a moment to make sure it was the Toa-sized bird that had made the noise. The bird’s steps became lighter, and it began a more fluid dance, turning and twisting. Oh-h-h-h, the darkened lines you have tou-u-u-uched! Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah! The bird’s chant bludgeoned Vyroko like he had just slammed into a wall. He was paralyzed by prickling chills that coursed through his body. A calling, an invitation, so hidden and so sacred he had to listen. Took a step toward the circle of firelight. One of the four hoops was in front of him. This time, he passed through it willingly and felt the fire’s warmth wash over him. The bird passed in front of him. It had arms hidden underneath its wings - Vyroko saw them now only because the bird darted one taloned hand out toward the fire. A half-open pouch released a cloud of what looked like spores. Sa-a-a-ay, what gliding thoughts you ha-a-a-ave, Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah! It was nothing. Words, sounds, a chant… Yet Vyroko’s entire body, his very soul, bent under an immense force. The bird danced around the fire, danced and danced around and around. Vyroko was transfixed by the movements of its legs, its wings, the way its head bobbed this way and that. He didn’t study these things, he felt them. Felt the rhythm in his own limbs. He-e-e-e-ere, in our circle of secret fi-i-ire, Whe-e-e-ere’s your li-i-i-ight? Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah! Vyroko was taken aback when he realized he was dancing with the bird, following it around the fire. Even though he had never danced before, his mask enabled him to trace invisible patterns over the sand like on ice. The bird danced opposite him with the fire in between. Then the bird stood in front of him. Vyroko stopped in his tracks, almost bumping his mask with the tip of the bird’s yellow beak. The golden mask shone. This close, Vyroko could see in the eyeholes the dazzling mosaic of tiny feathers that covered the bird’s face underneath. Mostly dark green, but with luminous flecks of soft gold and rust red. The eyes stared into Vyroko’s. They were like none he had ever seen. They did not glow softly with a single colour behind a covering of hard glass like the ordinary biomechanical beings he knew of. These were eyes with a thin ring of white on the outside, a wide band of copper red, and black centres that seemed to glisten with a piercing gaze. Vyroko faintly registered his own reflection. Then the bird opened its hooked beak and asked, “Are you the Foe?” Vyroko instinctively wanted to make a retort, but his voice stuck in his throat. In his peripheral vision, he saw the upright hoops on either side of the circle of firelight rise up out of the ground. Behind the bird, the third hoop rose up as well. Vyroko didn’t have to look to know what the fourth one was doing. With a start, Vyroko felt his feet leave the ground. But something about the perspective of what he was seeing… No, the hoops weren’t levitating. And he wasn’t either. He felt no motion of his body. The land was dropping away. As if the bird had been waiting for him to understand this, it let loose a loud and joyous shout, then continued dancing around the fire that grew smaller with distance. Vyroko watched as this scene descended so that he stood above the trees. Here he saw the peninsula, and the dark island. One side of the mountain was lit by the moon. Everything continued falling except him and the four hoops, which remained in their upright stations around him. Then some unseen influence turned Vyroko around until he was facing out toward the black sea. He saw the hoops on either side shift, the left one down and the right one up… And the world followed. He gasped as the sea, island, everything slid up and to the right. Was it him that was moving? He had the distinct sensation that he was standing absolutely still. Madness. The world continued sliding until it was completely sideways. Vyroko now stood in midair with the peninsula to his right and the sea to his left. The horizon, almost invisible in this darkness, was now a line arcing up and over, behind and below, rejoining itself. The horizon opened. Sky and land left each other. The hoops collected themselves in front of him, aligning so it looked like there was just one hoop. Now Vyroko felt motion. He rushed forth through the air. The horizon split to either side. What had been dark before was now utter black. He shot through the four hoops. The world around him folded backward like a paper fan snapped shut. Into black. Motion ceased. Silence. A rhythm. Not sound, not motion. A way of this place. Out of nowhere, the bird came dancing. It was spinning and making little elegant hops and sweeps as it did so. Slowed, almost stopped just above eye-level… then stepped quickly a few times with its skinny legs. Head jerked back and forth. Peck-peck-peck. The bird vanished. Vyroko started, and looked around. He was caught off guard by a taloned hand holding the pouch under his face. Before he could react, the talons squeezed. A puff of spores floated up into Vyroko’s face. The bird was spinning again, this time across a surface that was water that was ice that was water. Ripples spread out from wherever the bird touched. Oh-h-h-h, it's the e-e-eternal tu-u-u-urniiing The ripples seemed to switch between planes as Vyroko’s own eyes looked around. Upwards along an invisible wall in front of him - then, no, they were spreading like on a pond before him. Sometimes it felt like the ripples were in his own eyes, blurry lines caused by sheer sleepiness. But they weren’t even ripples. They were breathing leaves. They were drying wings of a diving bird. They were wind-swept plains of grass. They were hidden lakes. They were cascades of frost upon oceans that washed against glaciers that rested atop rivers that drew ice in their own currents. Oh-h-h-h, it's the e-e-eternal tu-u-u-urniiing! The ripples were marking something in the space before Vyroko. He watched. Held the patterns in his mind even as they faded. Like a layer hiding something within empty air… the ripples warned of something hidden here. Finally he saw enough of it. The bird was dancing along the rings of the underground machine, except here it was huge. Vyroko recognized the concentric rings and as the ripples played over this, he saw that it was oscillating like the real one. OH! The eternal tu-u-u-urniiing! Vyroko lost perspective - seemed like the bird was an immense artifice moving along a distant circle marked by luminous swells of light. Its voice beat like a drum. OH! The eternal tu-u-u-urniiiiiing! Faster. Wings and talons lashing out this way and that. OH! The eternal tu-u-u-rniiiing! Sound crashed. Ripples froze. The bird now stood in front of him. Ceased spinning. The ring faded into darkness. Spread its wings wide toward Vyroko. Tapped its taloned foot once. These new ripples were different - more like bands with some thickness. They expanded outward at different angles, then froze completely. Vyroko counted… Sixteen bands, each one slightly larger than the next inner band. The bird stood above this, upside-down. It sang in a sharp staccato. I found it first Found the rings You woke You didn't know So I read the words The rings talked They talked and talked And I wrote it down Wrote the words on the rings So the rings wouldn't forget They stopped talking You found them They started spinning You didn't know So I came back I broke the rings The rings stopped talking Started reading themselves You found them again Your fire showed light The words were read Now talk. The bird stopped suddenly as if interrupted. Vyroko knew the last line wasn't a narrative. It was a command. "No commands!" the bird screeched. Vyroko jerked backwards. "You can read my mind." "Only what needs to be read." Vyroko looked at the bird for a while longer. Then: "You're the fog. You broke the rings. You wrote those lines to turn the others against me." The bird nodded twice, than shook its head. "I only wrote what was already read.” More silence. “If you found the machine, then you must have also found the glass egg.” The bird bobbed again. “I took the shard-key away from Nehara the first night so I could understand the mountain.” “How? We were sleeping together when that light started. That would have been when you opened the door. How did you take the shard-key from Nehara’s chest-hatch?” “You say ‘take,’ but your mind thinks a person sneaking up and snatching it with their hands. No. I did not do that. I took the shard-key and then left it.” Vyroko shook his head slowly. “And why all of that?” The bird frowned - that was, frowned as much as a bird wearing a golden faceplate could. “There are gaps. I must bridge them. What I see... is a deadly choice—" Vyroko drew in breath sharply. Remembered one of the lines that Tahtorak had read off the spinning rings. Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices... “—a series of choices that, while made with freedom, are deeply difficult to not choose." Vyroko felt like he saw a shadow of what the bird meant. Had he not just argued to himself and the others that he had so little choice in what he did to Deschyny? Yet he had said those things while knowing he could choose to leave things as they were. It had only been the deeply troublesome future of living with another being's thoughts and actions so deeply intertwined with his own that had pushed Vyroko to choose what he did. But even now, Vyroko was resolute that Deschyny would have had to pay an equal price for trying to kill Nehara. Vyroko and the bird looked at each other. Then the bird abruptly hung its head. Its wings drooped. "The ceremony is not working," it murmured to itself. "What ceremony?" The bird gestured around with its wings. "Tahtorak gave you to me so I could heal you. Healing a broken thing like a body or a mountain is simple. But I am young still, just as young as you. To heal a spirit, especially one that is incomplete..." "Incomplete!" Vyroko repeated angrily. The bird met his eyes with its copper-reds. "You burned Deschyny." "I did." "So you burned yourself." "If I understood the nature of our relationship correctly," Vyroko said carefully, "then in a way, I did." "Do you want to be whole?" Vyroko blinked. "I suppose so. I don't want to be anybody's enemy despite what I did." The bird looked forlorn. "Then you need Deschyny. Do you wish to return now?" Vyroko nodded. The bird's sadness was so stark, he felt an unexpected sympathy for the creature. The bird raised its wings again and started spinning, this time ascending straight up. Vyroko watched until the motion faded into the black. With a sharp sound, the four hoops flew toward him and he passed through them again. Stood in the forest again. The clearing was still there, but the fire was gone and the sand glassy smooth. Pale morning light streamed through the leaves and branches. A single hoop floated over the clearing, turning lazily. A voice whispered from it. "You know not yet your terrible choices. I am sorry... so sorry." The hoop arced upward and passed through the canopy with a rustle. Then it was gone. Review
  9. Chapter 12 is up a day late. I'm flying out to Seattle today for a week so I've been a bit busy packing! fishers - I'm nodding at your comments and will let you develop your theories as time goes on. But yes, signing powers is a quite personal aspect of the story to me. Jehui will give it a more proper name later on so stay tuned for that. Edit - Chapter 13 today. It's also my last day in Seattle. I've had a lovely time here and got a lot of writing done in the second book. I'm not going to pretend I'm not nervous about the last two chapters. The lack of responses just makes me think it's a busy week for everyone, but this is probably the most pivotal character development since it has consequences until the ending. Hope my readers approve of how I handled it.
  10. Chapter 12 Tahtorak looked down at the Toa’s limp body. Nela stood across from him. She leaned against the wall of the tunnel in shock. Behind them, the fog partly filled the chamber with the spinning rings that shone white. “Is it really him?” Nela asked after a moment. “Is he really our enemy? I was starting to think there wasn’t an enemy at all, that we were all just stuck on this island…” Tahtorak shook his head slowly. He felt such doubt. None of this felt right. Closed his eyes. Breathed. Opened them. Saw the same thing he had been seeing ever since Deschyny had appeared. Vyroko’s body, same as it was with the Mask of Gliding now that Nela had taken her Mask of Possibilities back, and the blood-red armour… but even as Tahtorak gazed at it, his sight shifted and showed him parts of Deschyny. A piece of orange armour replaced by white for an instant. Red overlay on the arm suddenly gaining gold pattern, then losing them just as quickly. It didn’t make sense because Tahtorak had seen nothing like this when he saw Deschyny. And Vyroko seemed completely unaware of this, so it had to be his own eyes. Some kind of hidden truth was straining to reach his eyes, and just barely connecting before faltering. “Nela, can you read what the rings say?” He asked. Nela looked up, surprised, but looked around. The fog lifted away so it didn’t obscure the rings. The golden lettering on their outsides still glowed, but they moved too quickly. She shook her head. “What you said… was all of it right?” Her voice sounded like she was afraid of offending him, but Tahtorak understood. Nela was essentially confronting the possibility that her fellow Toa was evil. Looking again, he saw the rings through a veil. The rings didn’t slow down, but the golden letters glowed brighter and floated into the air like a script. Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices… Was that Vyroko? The different lines could be talking about different people. Possibly. It didn’t seem that way at all, though. From his hands flow treason, highest of the high… Vyroko had been a good ally as they found each other and explored the island. When Tahtorak had watched them from the shadows of the forest, he had seen no sign of any secret plotting. He will rule with fire and light, and he has glided for three days… That was where it became strange. Tahtorak felt the same intractable terror as when he had first read it. That message, and the following line, had been meant for this moment. It would have made no sense if they had read it a day later or earlier. But it had been three days now on the island. This was the fog at work, again. They had been directed and timed so that they would arrive back here and mend the machine once three days had passed. But was the fog tricking them, or trying to show them the truth? So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning. Something tightened in Tahtorak’s chest. That definitely had been meant for him. It made no sense for any other person. All of this - this chamber, this congregation of rings, and all the events that had led him and Vyroko and Nela here - all of it had been precisely contrived so it would make sense to him. The fog. Tahtorak snapped his head up from his reverie. The fog waited behind Nela. It was no longer as menacing as it had always seemed. Could fog do all of this? What force lived within? To his eyes, it was nothing but fog. Nela shifted uneasily. “This could be a trick.” “You’re not holding it back anymore, are you?” Tahtorak asked. Nela shook her head. “It seems to be just waiting for us to decide.” “We need to get out of here first,” Tahtorak decided. “The only way out is through that skylight.” “And we need Vyroko to pass through the barrier,” Nela reminded him. Tahtorak frowned. He had forgotten that. It was obvious to him now that Vyroko had been lucky to make it out the first time by stepping on the rings as they spun. If they needed him to go through the barrier, they would have to revive him… and right now, neither of them were prepared to do that until they had more answers. As if the fog could read his thoughts, some of it left the chamber, showing the skylight more clearly. It took Tahtorak a minute to notice. The rings were slowing down. They came to a stop in a pattern that, thanks to their concentric arrangement, formed steps leading up to the skylight. “Does the fog control the rings?” Nela wondered. “What if it made that message too?” “We will find out,” Tahtorak said decisively. Nela looked at him curiously, but he didn’t reveal his intention out loud with the fog present. Nela had her mask back, and held onto Vyroko’s. They climbed the ring-formed steps, Tahtorak going up first and holding Vyroko’s shoulders and Nela carrying his feet and mask. Tahtorak tested the skylight and felt a solid barrier like at the other entrance. So he hoisted Vyroko over his shoulder and leaped up. He kept a hold on Vyroko as he climbed out of the hole, and left the unconscious Toa’s legs dangling down so Nela could stay connected and climb up as well. Once she did, the invisible skylight was just a patch of grass. The fog surrounded them but left space enough for them to stand apart from each other. “Two ways?” Nela said in confusion. Before them were two fog-corridors, each leading slightly to either side. Tahtorak didn’t know any more than her why there were two, and where they led. Their confusion was answered when faint footsteps became audible. They were quick and light. A small person. His gut tightened. Jehui? There could be no good reason for the Matoran to be running toward them. He was supposed to stay with Nehara and Deschyny. The grey-armoured Matoran emerged in the distance in the left-hand corridor. He looked frightened, but also determined about something. Nela rushed up to meet him. “Are you okay? Why aren’t you with the others?” Jehui had to double over and catch his breath. While he did, he glanced behind and down the corridor. Nela noticed this. “Were you being chased?” “Don’t think so - he stayed,” Jehui gasped. “He?” Nela repeated. “You mean Deschyny? Where’s Nehara?” It sounded like Jehui’s harsh breathing was abruptly stopped up by a cork in his throat. A high-pitched sob, as if he had just realized something. “Dead,” he said with wide eyes. Nela and Tahtorak exchanged glances. Tahtorak saw Nela’s thoughts - not with his truth-seeing eyes, but with his own heart - and knew they shared the same feeling. Once again, the decision to venture apart no matter how safe they tried to be had resulted in horrible consequences. Jehui gasped again, and Tahtorak realized they had been standing around with Vyroko’s maskless body at their feet. “He’s only unconscious. There’s a reason for this,” Nela hurried to reassure him. “But - Nehara?” Nela knelt down next to Jehui as he explained. Jehui’s story was bewildering and tragic. Deschyny had experienced some sort of possession, and then as soon as he had recovered he had pushed Nehara off the mountain. Tahtorak did feel a minor thrill when Jehui described his handtalking technique that had allowed him to escape. Concealing his ring, then placing it within the glass egg to threaten Deschyny… this Matoran really was brilliant. Invoking events merely with one’s hand expressions… That was a riddle in itself they didn’t have time to address. Jehui finished and caught his breath again. Tahtorak thought about everything for a moment, even as he felt a deep aching sadness at having lost a good and strong companion. His desire was one with Jehui’s - Deschyny would answer for Nehara’s death. But it was clear they needed to tread carefully. And much about Jehui’s story had thrown Vyroko’s situation into even deeper mystery. “Deschyny attacked you and Nehara without wearing his mask?” Jehui nodded at Nela’s question. “I was surprised too. He seemed to be at full strength.” “This matches up with what Tahtorak’s been seeing, I think,” she said. Tahtorak agreed. “Deschyny is no ordinary Toa. But Jehui, what exactly did it look like when Deschyny was possessed?” The Matoran showed them, and Tahtorak watched the several demonstrations of the Toa of Light’s strange postures and miming actions. After a minute of this, Nela gasped softly. Looked up at Tahtorak, who met her gaze significantly. Jehui’s physical demonstrations were just like what Vyroko had been doing in the underground chamber. Bending over, picking up pieces of the rings and moving them around. This was a tantalizing clue for Tahtorak. Even now, he looked at Vyroko’s limp body and saw the jarring shift between Vyroko’s features and Deschyny’s. The two Toa were linked in some way, and it affected Deschyny far more deeply. Why? What made them different, why did it seem like Deschyny was on the ‘victim’ side of the relationship? “Thank you, Jehui,” Tahtorak said. “I am sorry that you had to see Nehara die. We all are. Deschyny will answer for that. But Nela and I are afraid we have uncovered another traitor in our company.” Jehui looked unhappily at Vyroko’s limp form. Tahtorak started to explain what had happened. But even though the Toa of Water had been there to support the details, it was surprisingly difficult to explain to someone who hadn’t been present. The reason itself was so tenuous, so in clash with everything else they knew about Vyroko. Even Jehui’s expression showed this disbelief. Foe of the World? Once the ring’s lines had been recited in full to Jehui, the Matoran held up a hand. “Fire and light?” He looked at them both questioningly. The second-last line had caught his attention, and just now Tahtorak’s mind turned to it. He glimpsed the trickery of language at the same time that Jehui said it. “Fire and light! It’s not an allegory, it’s talking about the elements!” “You’re right,” Tahtorak said. He drew in a deep breath. Things were making more sense - slowly, a painstaking crawl toward the answer. Vyroko and Deschyny - connected. The rings spoke of fire and light - their individual elements. But they were two different people, and the rings spoke of one person. The conclusion was too strange, too terrible, to fully reveal itself in Tahtorak’s mind. “One thing is clear here, though,” Nela said. “We need to protect each other more than ever before.” “I agree,” said another voice. Everyone spun around in alarm toward the other forgotten fog-corridor. Nehara was standing there, strong and sad. Everyone was speechless for a moment. Tahtorak momentarily forgot his truth-seeing eyes and wondered if he was really seeing her. Then he remembered - yes - he could see. It was no illusion. Jehui broke the trance first and ran up to her. They embraced each other. The black-armoured Vortixx sighed happily and murmured, “You most of all. I regret that I could not have protected you.” “I did learn something,” Jehui replied. “I’m not a powerless Matoran, and I’m not reliant on that ring. I can change the way the world is just by expressing it on my hands. I wasn’t wearing the ring when I did it.” Nehara drew back and looked at him with a curious but impressed face. Then she stood up and greeted Tahtorak and Nela. “I arrived while you were talking about what happened in the underground chamber. I didn’t want to interrupt.” “How did you survive the fall?” Tahtorak asked. No scrutiny of her body revealed any damage. Nehara smiled. “My broken body laid on the ground, and it was healed.” “By who? What?” Nehara raised her hands around her, looking at the heavy mist that surrounded them and rose to engulf all but the tallest of trees. Daylight itself was softened by the foggy blanket overhead, so that it felt almost like night. She said simply, “The fog is our friend.” “I knew it!” Jehui declared. “I was thinking that too. I think all this time we’ve been misunderstanding the fog.” Nela nodded. “I’m beginning to agree. One thing is obvious: Deschyny is a threat, and we must deal with him now.” Tahtorak nodded in agreement. “We’re all together again, and we have Vyroko in our custody. So we will go to confront Deschyny.” “What if he attacks?” Jehui asked. “We attack back,” Tahtorak said. It was an unfortunate thing to say, but nobody offered any alternative. “I came from the mountain, which is this way,” Jehui pointed. A moment passed. Then Tahtorak and Nehara picked up Vyroko and everyone started walking. The journey back to the mountain was brief since the fog had woven a path through the forest where it was the least dense, and led them directly up to the waterfall steps. They ascended, and once drier rock had been reached, stopped to rest. Nela brought up a concern about carrying Vyroko’s body. “It doesn’t seem like a good idea to have him unable to defend himself if we confront Deschyny. Could we simply leave him somewhere safe?” “This mountainside is pretty safe,” Nehara agreed. “It’s above the forest, and although we haven’t seen any wildlife, you never know.” “Let’s ask the fog,” Jehui said abruptly. Everyone looked at him strangely. The Matoran stood up and made several gestures into the air. The fog surrounded them, but it was thinner up here. For a minute nothing happened. “What did you say?” Nela asked. “Just, Will you keep Vyroko safe?” “I don’t know how I feel about leaving him alone here,” Nela protested. Tahtorak raised a claw gently. “Yes, but it saved Nehara’s life. It ensured Jehui was not harmed when he returned from the realm of the ice tower. It timed our ascents up the mountain so that we met at just the right time, as Nehara and Vyroko may have attacked me if I came up from behind. It has served our needs so well, so skilfully, we haven’t recognized it until now. I think it is clear the fog is honest.” Nela nodded slowly at this. In response, the fog by the cliff edge shifted and a Toa-sized wisp separated itself, forming a rough shape with arms and legs. This apparition glided over to the group, and although it was clearly unthreatening, Tahtorak still tensed slightly. It arrived at Vyroko’s body and pointed at it, then at them, and then up over their heads at the mountain. “That answers that,” Jehui said. “I think we’re supposed to take him with us.” Tahtorak nodded. It was time to trust the fog. After a moment of bracing themselves, they moved on. When they drew near the summit, they went slowly. It was quietly decided that Tahtorak would lead, since laying his truth-seeing eyes upon Deschyny could reveal more vital information. Nela walked next to him, prepared to defend and attack with her element. Jehui and Nehara walked behind them. They arrived at the top and laid Vyroko’s body against the wall, then stepped out cautiously onto the plateau. The fog was gone here and it was late afternoon. The Toa of Light was nowhere to be seen on the plateau. If he had been serious about protecting the glass egg, everybody knew where he would be then. They fanned out carefully, keeping eyes on the plateau edge, the forest beneath, and the half-open black door. Jehui noticed that the Mask of Sonics was gone from where it had been left on the plateau. “Leave,” Deschyny’s voice came suddenly from behind the door. “I do not want to fight. Leave, and we never need to see each other again. I only need my glass egg.” Everyone exchanged looks. Tahtorak answered. “You must answer for trying to killing Nehara. Come out here, and explain yourself.” “If Jehui told you everything, then you already know why I did that,” Deschyny replied with a tone of exasperation. “I needed to protect the egg!” “By acting the way you did, almost killing someone when your egg was under no threat, you only made it worse for yourself!” Jehui said angrily. “My ring’s still stuck in there, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be if you had just cooperated and stuck to the agreement.” There was a bitter silence that seemed to spill out from behind the black door. Then: “Almost? Don’t tell me it didn’t work. She can’t be that strong.” “I wasn’t,” Nehara replied with a smile. “We discovered a new friend.” “Well, I’m glad.” The voice was suddenly cheerful, and the door swung fully open. Deschyny stepped out onto the plateau, smiling. Everyone else stepped back in surprise. He was wearing his Mask of Sonics again. “I regretted it as soon as it was done,” he said. “I know I went very far… too far. I’m relieved I didn’t actually hurt anyone in the end.” “You did hurt me,” Nehara said, insulted. “That fall was the worst thing I’ve felt, and I laid there with a broken body until I was healed.” Deschyny smiled his strained smile again. “Yes, I understand. But you didn’t die. That’s good. It’s a great relief.” Disgusted, Nehara looked sideways at Tahtorak. He was watching Deschyny with a grim expression. “You still have to make amends for that,” Jehui said hotly. Deschyny lost some of his false humour then, and turned toward the Matoran with narrowed eyes. “You’re right, but not about that. That ring of yours is still in my glass egg. What will it take to get that out?” “There’s two ways,” Jehui smiled. “Like before, I can have it jiggle around a bit in there. Crack and splinter that egg. You don’t like that? No. The other way is to let us in that room again, so we can keep on studying the egg and find answers to everything we’ve been facing on this island.” “I do not care for your issues—” Deschyny began to retort, but Jehui cut him off with a violent motion of his hand. Nothing happened, but the Toa still jerked his head fearfully toward the interior. “You forfeited your right to any authority here,” Tahtorak said in a reasonable voice. “And we have already learned some things that could answer some of your issues. Like what caused you to be possessed? We understand that you and Vyroko have some strange connection that affects you more. You just took advantage of that as soon as you were released from it, but we can forgive that. Even you must realize that a Toa of Light driven to murder is completely unnatural.” Deschyny nodded glumly. Jehui added to Tahtorak’s plead. “Ultimately, we could figure out why you’re so attached to that egg. If we can unlock its secrets, we could make it so that you never feel like you have to do something so terrible just to protect it. Maybe. What do you say? Just…” Jehui sighed and lowered his hands symbolically. “You have two options,” Nela said. “Take us on all together and causing Jehui to break your egg, or make peace.” Deschyny was silent. Then he opened his mouth, and Vyroko’s voice came out, piercing and cold. “The third option is punishment for my crime.” The Toa of Light clapped his hands over his mouth, horror in his eyes. Everyone whirled toward the top of the stairs. The Toa of Fire stood there, maskless. His bare face looked like a contorted mass of grey muscles and woven metal ribbons. “Vyroko!” Nela gasped. “How did you—?” Tahtorak knew the answer already. Deschyny was conscious, which had brought Vyroko back to consciousness at some point as well. Maybe because they had been brought close together. Vyroko said it for him. “His strength is my strength.” The Toa walked past Tahtorak toward the Toa of Light. “My words are his words.” He walked past Deschyny and continued toward Nela, stopping in front of her. Held out his hand. Nela returned his mask with a visible twinge of reluctance. Vyroko put his Mask of Gliding back on. Then he looked at the others, and Tahtorak was relieved to see the familiar gaze of righteous sincerity. “His power is my power.” What did he mean—? “BUT HIS CRIME IS NOT MY CRIME!” Vyroko screamed, turning to Deschyny again. The Toa of Light froze. “Calm down,” Nela warned. “I know you’re upset about all of this, but—” “There can be no negotiation in this matter,” Vyroko snapped. “In any other, yes. But not this one. Not when two are bound by bonds stranger than anything we know of. This is our issue and nobody else’s.” He looked at Deschyny and tilted his head in thought. “Yet, it is different still. If we were properly equal, we could resolve this as equals. But we cannot because you tried to kill.” “I was possessed!” Deschyny tried to protest. “Your actions were mine, and I could do nothing to stop it!” “You know that isn’t true,” Vyroko spat. “You confirmed what they thought - that you did that after you were released from my will. I feel the tugs of your will against mine…” he leaned in close, “but you feel the tugs of my will too, don’t you?” Deschyny looked like he was struggling not to run and jump off the plateau right then and there. “I didn’t kill her! She’s still alive!” His protests fell weaker and weaker. “That doesn’t matter. You may as well have killed her - that was your intent.” For all his rage, Vyroko had returned to a chillingly calm demeanour. He retreated almost all the way to Tahtorak, then stopped. “I see no way toward peace as long as Deschyny stands,” he declared. “Due to our two-as-one existence, no others can decide our fate. And due to his crime, it falls to me to decide his fate.” Vyroko raised his hand. “NO!” Tahtorak roared, leaping onto Vyroko’s back. At the same time, Nela swept her arm and summoned a great wave of water to envelop Deschyny. All of it was to no avail. Even as Vyroko struggled to dislodge Tahtorak’s grip from his shoulders, his element made itself known with a whisper of hot wind. Air blasted outward as a blazing inferno spun up from the ground where Deschyny stood, engulfing the Toa in a column of fire. Nela’s water leapt back and turned to vapour. “No!” Tahtorak wailed again, trying to strike Vyroko unconscious again. But deep down, he knew it was already too late. The intensity with which that flame burned could not be survived after a matter of seconds. Deschyny - gone. But Vyroko was still in Tahtorak’s grip, and he would ensure this Toa paid. That fleeting thought was dashed away when a dreamlike weightlessness overtook Tahtorak. The ground bent and slid away from underneath the pair, and then was replaced by green. They had fallen off the side of the plateau, and were falling. No - gliding, thanks to Vyroko’s mask power. But chaotically, as Vyroko couldn’t focus on where they were going. Tahtorak wrapped himself around Vyroko as tightly as he could, feeling the smaller but still strong Toa still struggle. They spun through the air, and Tahtorak completely lost track of where they were. “How could you do that?” he shouted into the wind. It was an irreversible breach. Something had broken that could never be recovered. Tahtorak felt like they had just collectively given up their right to a happy future. There must have been something they could have done to prevent this. Dark thoughts soared up into his mind and clouded his sight. He closed them. Felt softness under his right hand’s claws. In their mad scrabble against each other, he had happened to land upon Vyroko’s throat. The darkest thought of them all surged into his heart, but he remembered his truth-seeing eyes. He turned this gaze inward. Shone it ruthlessly upon that darkest thought. Yes, it was probably true that if he killed Vyroko here, that would be the end of the conflict. Nobody else in the group was bold enough to kill Tahtorak. He would end up leading, and he could ensure this never happened again. It was true. But it was wrong. Vyroko went limp. Tahtorak had been squeezing his throat. Now they plummeted like rocks. Tahtorak’s truth-gaze dissolved the darkest thought just as he felt the hard impact of ground. It felt like hours had passed. Tahtorak drew himself up sorely from the sand, spitting some out and blinking away streams that fell from his crown of horns. Vyroko’s body lay next to him, as they had landed together and evidently both had been knocked out. Tahtorak was the first to come to. He drew deep breaths and looked behind him. The mountain was there, but he couldn’t see well enough to tell whether anyone stood on the plateau. If it had only been minutes, they probably were still up there. If hours, then he could expect them at any moment. Looked ahead. Breath stopped short. He understood what he saw, but had to look back toward the island again. The mountain was fully visible, as were the trees. The entire island was bare under the early evening sunlight. The fog was gone. Now it had all collected into one great mass ahead of Tahtorak. He saw enough of the beach to recognize this as the southwest corner, where the small peninsula was. The source of the fog when he, Vyroko, and Nehara had seen it rolling toward Nela and Jehui. The fog stood like a mighty grey-white column, so concentrated that it looked nearly solid. This column stood on the peninsula and was so wide it seemed almost like the outcropping of land had been crushed under a stone pillar from the sky. The edge of the fog column was just ahead of Tahtorak. He watched it swirl from left to right, circling to maintain the pillar formation. He looked at Vyroko again. So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning. The turning of…? He looked again. The fog was swirling - slowly and ponderously. Turning. He thought he could hear it whispering. There was nothing else for Tahtorak to do. It was time to give him up along with the tragedy that had just taken place. It was out of Tahtorak’s hands or anyone else’s. The fog was something else - not a higher authority, but it had a capacity none of the others had. It was capable of just the thing that was so badly needed here. Healing. So Tahtorak took Vyroko’s body and dragged it through the sand to the edge of the fog. Then he knelt and pushed, rolling the Toa away from him. Vyroko came to a stop after one turn, his body half-obscured by the thick fog. Then the body continued, sliding across the sand and rapidly out of sight. Review
  11. Chapter 11 Vyroko and his two companions had almost finished reassembling the rings when Nela sensed something frightening. The fog had returned. According to the Toa of Water, the entire island was covered in a shroud of fog. Vyroko believed her, and when he looked up through the skylight, he saw nothing but milky grey mist. “It’s returned to prevent us,” Vyroko hissed in frustration. Nobody had to be told to work faster, and for several minutes the clatter and skittering of the remaining fragments were the only noises in the chamber. Vyroko saw Nela suddenly raise her hands upward, as if holding something above her head. He looked at her strained face with concern. Looked up again. Tendrils of fog were snaking their way down through the skylight. Vyroko almost jumped up, but then he noticed the fog was bending sideways and creeping along the ceiling, then stopping about halfway to the wall. It started to coalesce as more poured in. Nela’s upraised hands… she was holding it back with her power over water. Fog was only vapour, after all, even if it had a consciousness within. Back to the fragmented rings. Except now, Tahtorak had just located the gap for the last piece. He looked at Vyroko, who nodded hastily, before placing it in. It fit perfectly. Vyroko was almost expecting the entire thing to magically repair itself and rise up like it had before, but nothing happened. What now? Time was short. Nela only had so much strength. “I think you need to re-fuse the parts together,” Tahtorak suggested. “How? That would take ages.” “Not if you warm all of the rings at the same time. Use the floor itself as your anvil. Heat it enough that all the rings become soft enough for the fragments to re-join at the same time.” “Are you sure—?” Tahtorak stood up and retreated into the tunnel, where the heat would be milder underfoot. But Nela… She had to stay where she was, but the floor would burn her. It would break her concentration too. How would she stay off the floor while staying in the same place? Vyroko grabbed his own mask in sudden realization. Running over to her, he searched her distant eyes for consent. A tiny nod. In one smooth movement, he switched masks with her. Put on her Mask of Possibilities, and gave her his Mask of Gliding. Nela immediately rose up off the floor, levitating in place. Vyroko returned to the centre of the room, but in his haste his foot caught and sent several pieces flying from one of the ring grooves. “Ugh—!” Quickly reassembled them. His hands were shaking. Fire. Stood in the centre and called upon his element. Took a moment to focus so that it did not come out of his hands as instinct would have it. Redirected it down his legs into his feet, and out. The stone underneath glowed orange. The little heat spot spread outward and reached the second inner ring, Vyroko didn’t worry about the intact one between his feet. At first, the broken metal didn’t glow, just the rock of the groove itself. The heat continued beyond, and for a second Vyroko feared the rings themselves were heat-resistant. But then the first ring started to glow red too. He realized he could help this process along using Nela’s mask. Called on it in his mind and instructed it to adjust the possibility that the rings would grow just warm enough to meld together but not so hot they would distort. Several rapid pops startled him. An equal number of tiny jets of steam shot up and dissipated. Looking closer, he saw that the ring had healed itself along its fractured lines. The pops and steam must have been from the water droplets Nela had detected suddenly vaporizing as the fragments joined. The same happened to each ring, and Vyroko continued sending the heat outward. Soon the entire chamber was sweltering hot. Vyroko noticed a lucky consequence of this - the fog seemed to be retreating a little. Each cycle of pops and steam jets got bigger as the larger rings re-fused. Vyroko tapered down the heat as it reached the final ring, and when that one was mended, he re-absorbed the heat. The floor steamed and the walls swayed in the hot air. Looked over at Nela - she was still levitating and holding the fog back, but the ceiling was covered by the fog, which had progressed about a third of the way down toward the floor. If Vyroko jumped high, his head would enter the fog. He shuddered at the thought. Tahtorak returned from the tunnel and nodded approvingly. All the rings seemed to be healed, and as Vyroko looked, they had the same pristine sheen as before. There must have been some self-restoring power his heat had triggered, because they surely would have been misshapen. He blinked. Something was odd. All the heat in the room was gone, but the rings were still glowing. And as he watched, they went from warm orange to brilliant white. The small black metal circle that lay at the middle rose up into the air. Vyroko knew what was going to happen next, and grabbed Nela. She gasped, and the fog surged, then stopped again. Maintaining her barrier, she walked with him to join Tahtorak at the tunnel entrance. One by one, each ring from the inner to the outer rose up to their positions. It was even more spectacular this time because they glowed white. Not a hot sort of white, but luminous as though they were lit from inside. For a moment Vyroko forgot about the fog and revelled in the beautiful result of his success. Then they slowly began spinning and gyrating. The black circle at its heart turned round and round along its edge. “Did you notice the writing before?” Tahtorak asked. “Yes,” Vyroko replied. This time, the engraved symbols were shining golden. Vyroko tried to find some pattern in them, but the rings’ movements were too fast, and he couldn’t finish reading one ring before it turned away. The inner rings were nearly impossible since they were hidden half the time by the outer ones. “Tahtorak, can you—?” He looked at the half-beast, who nodded. “My eyes show me their meaning without needing to see them.” The Tahtorak then spoke in a long recitation, almost singing… The eternal turning returns one of the six Their circle is cursed and must not be broken Stay with the bulwark, his is the safest circle Trust the protector, hers is the strongest circle Support the beast, his is the noblest circle Follow the advisor, hers is the wisest circle Accept the healer, theirs is the purest circle Tahtorak’s voice changed… Burning gold Broken black Threads of water Spinning silver These are the instruments of calamity …frightened… Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices From his hands flow treason, highest of the high He will rule with fire and light, and he has glided for three days So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning. Vyroko wanted to believe that Tahtorak had just made up the last part as some sort of badly timed joke. But he looked around at his companion, and the ruby eyes did not lie. On his other side, Nela slowly lowered her arms. The fog wafted nearer them. “So it’s been you this entire time,” she whispered. Vyroko had no words. He wanted to protest to defend to accuse to point out the absurdity of him leading them to a message that pointed at him… Fire, yes, but Light - that was Deschyny, not him! Awake for three days? His mask - gliding? But the words wouldn't come out. He had nothing. And then, up through his mind a treasonous thought floated. Just like everyone else on this island, Vyroko didn’t truly know himself. Just like the others, he had awoken with no memories of himself. To him, it was entirely conceivable that he, in the past, had constructed such machinations as to set himself against the others, for reasons now unknown to him. Everything else in his heart and mind told him this wasn’t true. He knew it wasn’t true. Yet, that mote of doubt floated up and fixed itself in his thoughts. This was the only thing that stopped Vyroko from raising his arms when Tahtorak struck him across the face. His mask was knocked off. He slumped down to the ground. Unconsciousness followed. *** Jehui tried to move backwards, away from the doorway and the advancing maskless Toa, but his foot caught on the stone pedestal. He tumbled onto his back and scrambled on all fours until he pressed up against the wall. Deschyny entered the room. His amber eyes glowed ruthlessly. “I could never agree to anything less than complete security for the glass egg,” he snarled at the Matoran. “Once I’ve gotten rid of you, I’ll go down to her body and get that shard-key, and make it work for me.” Jehui tried to talk quickly. “Deschyny, everybody agreed to try everything first. If we find the answers we want, we might not need to do anything to it. Who knows what Vyroko and the others will find?” Deschyny didn’t answer. He only scowled and lunged. Jehui threw himself to the side, dodging the Toa’s hands. Got up and ran around the room. Then he raised his hand. Time to try something. He pinched his ring finger. The ring resonated in reply from its hiding place, in a space smaller than a fragment of a grain of sand. Jehui made a second sign. One hand with fingers together as if holding something. Moved this forward and down, as if placing that something somewhere. He was making this up as he went along. The faintest of patterns from his time in the ice tower had hinted to him a secret way of the world. A way for things to be done. Deschyny pursued him, but Jehui deftly dodged toward the pedestal and hid behind it so that the Toa could only stand on the other side near the door. The Toa grunted in frustration. “I’ll throw you off the mountain to join Nehara too. No fancy signs are going to save you from gravity.” Jehui ignored him. Focused on his instinct instead. The third sign - what made the most sense for what he wanted to express, to make real? Simple. He wanted to express an object: the glass egg. But it was in the room already. So all he had to do was point at it to complete his signed phrase. He did just that. Deschyny blinked in irritation at this and snapped, “What are you doing?” Jehui smiled. “Nothing. It’s already done.” This made the Toa pause. Then, with one suspicious glance at the Matoran, he leaned closer to the glass egg. Peered into its depths. Mouth slowly dropped open. “HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!” he bellowed. Jehui jumped back, then stood firmly. “If you try to harm me, or anyone else further, I will make the ring move. Guess what will happen then?” Deschyny looked speechless. He stared back into the egg, seeing the impossible. Jehui’s very own ring that he had worn on his finger until just a few hours ago was now embedded in the very heart of the glass egg. The Toa was no doubt cursing himself for having missed that detail. The command to make the iron band move would be very simple. Just repeat the sign for ring - the two fingers wrapped around his ring finger - and then a gesture to move. The glass egg would surely shatter instantly. Deschyny understood this. After a furious moment, the Toa looked back at the Matoran. “What now, then?” Jehui knew this next part was a gamble, but at the very least, he would get away. “I’m going to walk out of that door,” the Matoran said. “I’m going to bring everyone back here. And don’t think my power ends when I leave. You saw me standing in the sky with Nela before. If I think anything is wrong at all, I’ll make the ring move and break the egg.” Deschyny said nothing, but stepped aside. His rage-filled eyes did not leave Jehui as the Matoran sidled along the wall until he reached the door. Jehui slipped out, backed away across the plateau, and then turned and ran down the mountain stairs. A gamble. Jehui had no idea if this power of his could travel far since the ice tower had been some kind of connected spirit realm that didn’t behave like a physical location. Plus, Deschyny might find some way to extract the ring from the egg without breaking anything… if it could be put in, it could be taken out. He raced down the steps and glanced at his hands. They held some inexplicable ability. He had only begun to understand it when he had felt that awful gap in the ice tower, and healed it in that way he didn’t even know. When he and Nela had realized they were standing in the ocean with the actual island, the two of them having become world giants, Jehui had felt a tingle. As if an instinct inside him had travelled down to his fingers and guided them, showing him a small example of the many shapes and ideas that could be wrought with them. Jehui stopped running. Below him, the stairs continued through the narrow canyon. Just a few steps further, they entered a sea of fog. He had forgotten about this problem. So far - so far - the fog had not actually hurt anyone. It had only crept, scared, disrupted. Could fog hurt a physical person like Jehui? He didn’t care to find out. Before he could start thinking of a way through this, the fog abruptly parted. It did not leave the stairs altogether, but formed a corridor within the canyon so that the walls were still covered in the mist. From one side of this mist-wall, a large mass of fog separated and took the vague shape of a Matoran. Jehui stepped back. The fog-Matoran turned its head as if looking at him, and pointed down the corridor. This was just like Vyroko’s encounter that the Toa had described. An flicker of realization. What if…? Jehui hadn’t thought about it until now, but when the fog had suddenly filled the ice tower he and Nela were trapped in, it had somehow shown Jehui how to escape the tower. That strange motion of fog had called his hands to follow, to copy the movements... and then to create his own. Fog. When it rolled across the beach when he and Nela returned to the island, it hadn’t felt like a threat. Instead, being surrounded by the fog after that ordeal had felt… comforting. All this time, Jehui had thought that feeling came from being reunited with Vyroko and Nehara. Knowing they were together again. It was only now that Jehui realized his feeling of comfort had come before he knew Vyroko and Nehara were even there. Fog. Physically obscuring sight, but mentally revealing so much more. Fog. Rather than making one lose their way, it led them where they needed to be. What if the fog was not their foe, but their friend? Jehui started, remembering where he was. Deschyny was still nearby and that definitely wasn’t safe. The fog-Matoran continued pointing down the corridor. So Jehui decided to take its advice and ran down past it. After a few minutes of almost flying down the stairs, Jehui reached the waterfall. It was wet here, so he took more care until he landed on the soil by the creek. He could only hear the creek, though, not see it. The fog was that thick. It maintained a corridor for Jehui to follow. The corridor turned to the left, meaning he would be going east. Jehui allowed himself a small smile of relief. The fog was taking him to the others. *** Nehara groaned in pain. She should be dead. She hadn’t hit the side of the mountain at all. It had been a clean, seconds-long drop from the cliff to the forest floor. She had missed all branches, so nothing had slowed her fall. The ground she had hit wasn’t mossy or even grassy, but hard rock. She knew she should be dead. She had landed on her front, so she had felt her entire chest buckle in. Shards of splintered armour either flew away or cut into her. With the way her armour was fused with her organic parts like the others, it meant her muscle and organs were deeply mangled as well. Having landed slightly on her left side, her left shoulder had shattered. Probably her neck was broken too. Her head felt oddly disjointed. The only reason she wasn’t dead, she thought, was because of the fog. For as she had fallen and reached the sea of fog, it had not blown away. Rather, it had rushed up and toward her. Although it did nothing to soften the impact, she had felt the fog immediately seep into every crack, crevice, and fissure in her body. It flooded into her wounds and absorbed the worst of the shock, carrying the trauma away into the air. Now she felt the fog dance along and inside her body, touching upon every nerve gently. As it left each filament, Nehara felt… better. The fog was healing her. Then, before she had even realized it, she could see again. She had been blind until now. Both her eyesight… and her understanding. The fog had never been their foe. It had directed them, herded them. Into a long-woven trap? Perhaps. Yet, Nehara couldn’t help the feeling of relief that flooded through her. If not for the healing fog, she would be dead. Regardless of its other intents… she owed it her life now. A dull crunching made Nehara jerk in surprise. Sensation returned in her left arm, and now she felt it straightening out. It was painless, which made it all the more bizarre. Now her arm lay properly on the ground. She rolled her shoulder, and everything felt right. Her neck did not have that awful disjointed feeling anymore. Now she lifted her head and looked around. The fog enveloped her so completely that she couldn’t see beyond a few pebbles laying by her face. The fog seemed to thin out as she watched. Then it abruptly split. She blinked before sitting up to understand what she saw now. It was creating a corridor, like a subterranean path with fog overhead and on either side rather than stone. Shrubs and trees peered through the fog occasionally as the corridor passed by. Nehara inhaled deeply. This didn’t hurt either, and she looked down to see that her chest was also repaired. Even the chest-hatch was intact, and a quick check confirmed her shard-key was still inside. She looked down the corridor again. Judging by where she had fallen and where this path was leading… she was pretty sure it went in the direction that Vyroko, Nela, and Tahtorak had gone. But Jehui was up on the mountain alone with Deschyny. Fury flooded through her as if it had been waiting behind a dam all this time. Nehara curled her hands into fists. Deschyny had been lucky that time, tricking them both right after his episode of possession. But one well-placed swing from Nehara would cure him of all episodes forever. But he was a Toa of Light. And possessed a Mask of Sonics, apparently. It was a formidable combination of powers, and indeed he had fooled them all for two days while concealing himself completely. Nehara had no powers… as hotly as her desire for revenge burned, she still knew he could easily overpower her. Jehui… If Deschyny had wanted to get rid of him, he would have thrown him off the mountain as well. But as far as she could tell, that hadn’t happened. So he was still up there, she hoped. Perhaps that ring of his gave him a way out somehow. This fog had healed her, saved her life, and now pointed the way she was supposed to go next. It tore Nehara inside to not immediately climb up the mountain and throw herself at Deschyny, rage unbridled… it would be satisfying, but she knew it was more likely to get her killed in a place where the fog couldn’t reach her. Accept the fog’s direction. That was her decision. She took off down the fog-path toward the others. Review
  12. How did the Mask of Creation look unfinished? To me it looks like the mould was constructed to mimic a textured look of a really ancient mask (and it looks awesome IMO). Not sure what you meant about Lewa's mask either - you might have to be more specific. I think it's expected that almost everyone will want to buy the set with the MoC. I feel like I will too since I get two sets in one. They all look fairly decent but that one stands out to me most. Again, it's interesting how they're not following a pattern of sixes. I like it - mixes it up and lets them refocus on what they would really like to bring to the shelves rather than setting themselves up for a cloning pattern. Still, it does seem like a couple of these sets could do with more pieces or features.
  13. Chapter 39 - Couple things I really liked about this chapter. First was the farcical portrayal of the civil war. It's as if we saw it through the Makuta's eyes - little Matoran running at each other and then going back home that evening. Good analogy for a lot of conflicts in real life. I feel this was a much better way to write the war than trying to make it as real and serious as possible. That would probably have only felt forced. Second was the explanation of Kapura's teleportation ability. Looks like that's a hit with some other readers. Great when little details like that click into place. Wow, faux pas much? >_< I'd forgotten about Mutran testing Rahi during the war too - good to see that. "Good" for the sake of historical accuracy anyway. And now we're onto Jovan's team's story, which should be cool to see.
  14. I think it's important to understand that G2 isn't simply the BIONICLE universe - it is a new universe that shares much in common with the original universe we're acquainted with. Plus, you might be forgetting that it was only the Matoran Universe that was all protodermis (and there were even exceptions such as Tren Krom and the Glatorian found in the Core Processor). It's still quite possible that G2 takes place in the same universe but with a huge separation of space and time. Even so, protodermis became such a central part of G1, it makes more sense to me to make it not at all central to G2. We ultimately want a new story, don't we? We would be more disappointed if LEGO was just repeating the same storyline with minor tweaks. So if they confirmed that protodermis still has the same role here as it did before, that would result in us being able to predict parts of the story and start racing ahead with theories. That'd take away the mystery for me. I'm honestly fine if they come up with a protodermis equivalent as long as it's sufficiently different. That way we can't rely on our current vast knowledge to spoil the surprises.
  15. I feel similarly that the broad and powerful concept of protodermis is something that belongs more in G1 BIONICLE. It was, as others have said, essentially a catch-all deux-ex-machina even if it did provoke a deeper and richer story of the Great Beings, the Core War, and the Shattering later on in the canon storyline. It became ubiquitous to the point of (for myself at least) getting old and eliciting more "of course it was" than "I didn't see that coming!" reactions. In G2 if they feel the need to do something like that again, I suspect they'll restrict it to objects of power such as the masks. That would set limits and consistency - normal villagers and Toa don't have their own powers, but when they wear masks made of x or use tools made of the same x stuff, they can tap into its power. That would create a clear boundary between the ordinary and the extraordinary in this universe. It still will leave room for twists - maybe finding out that subjecting that material to some kind of energy will do something new. That'd be the equivalent of energized protodermis. Okay to use for one or two plot points, but hopefully not as overdone as it was in the latter years of the storyline. Then again, they may simply not do this at all and only go with the simpler idea that when something is forged or created by a sufficiently skilled or powerful being, it simply becomes special and has unique powers. Go with that on a case by case basis, only watching out for plot conflicts the longer the story goes on.
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