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About Wordmeister

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Toa (12/293)

  1. Homeland --- The sulfurous fumes of the volcano smell of rotten eggs and melting solder, a thoroughly disgusting aroma the likes of which can be found nowhere else. The heat that radiated from the flows of lava that streamed away is equally unbearable. What little ground exists in this unforgiving wasteland is rough and hard on the feet, and few can traverse it without incident. It is here that the Fire Tribe call home. Their bodies are accustomed to the heat and the stench, and their feet are sure. Every day they wake and breath in the ash with their air, bathe in water on the edge of evaporation and blink the dust from their eyes. In this hellish place they live their lives, content with their lot in life. After all, when one has a home he guards it desperately. Narmoto knows this. The volcano is his home as well, though he spends little of his day there. His work requires him to be everywhere, a feat said to be accomplishable only by the gods. And Narmoto is most certainly not a god. Such a thought was laughable. Even so, as the Protector of Fire it is his duty to ensure the safety of the entire region. And thus he has no choice but to float between the villages that dotted the blackened landscape, attempting to do what could simply not be done. But for now he would seek respite from his tiring task. He had returned to Kenna, the village of his birth. The village the first Protector of Fire had settled with a few brave companions. The village his ancestors had called home ever since. He is not glorified for his position here. The people of Kenna were used to the Protectors, having lived beside them for uncountable generations. When they look at him they see only the loving father and husband who has the misfortune of being tasked with a duty that keeps him from his family. They treat him as any other. A neighbor. A friend. Narmoto appreciates such gestures more than he can say. It is always a relief to be treated as an equal rather than a god, even if it is only for a few days. A head appears in the window of the house above him. “Narmoto! Back so soon? I would’ve expected the lava wolves to have put up more of a fight!” Narmoto looks up at the face of his friend. “Nay Aodhan, there was no fighting. The wolves are peaceable creatures, if given proper care and the right amount of sedative!” Aodhan laughs. “It is good to see you, old friend. Mirilleen will be happy to know you have returned safely.” “Give my regards to her for me, will you? It’s been far too long since I have been graced by her presence.” “You should come for dinner tomorrow evening! Bring your whole family, we still have room.” “I shall see if they are interested. Even if they decline, I shall certainly stop by. Tomorrow evening, then.” “Tomorrow evening. Welcome home, friend.” Friend. That is what Narmoto is here. It was a wonderful feeling. He is only a minute or two from his home now. His wife should be nearly finished putting supper on the table by now. He can almost smell it from here. Her signature vegetable stew. His favorite. She always made it his first night home. As soon as he reaches his door he feels two short arms wrap around his leg. His young son Hotaru, barely three years old, looks up at him with wide-eyed excitement. “Fada! Fada! Yous home!” “Why, I am, aren’t I? I hadn’t noticed!” Narmoto smiles warmly down at his son. He drops his traveling pack just inside the entrance then scoops the giggling toddler up in his arms so they are mask to mask. “Look how big you’ve grown! You’ll be as tall as me soon!” The little boy is nearly in tears now, he is laughing so hard. “Fada, don’ be silwy. Yous so much bigga den me!” Narmoto chuckles. “Not for long, I would say. Where is your mother?” “Muda’s in deh kishen, Fada! She’s makin’ suppa!” “Of course she is. Now, up you go!” As he speaks, Narmoto swings his son onto his back. The boy squeals and wraps his arms and legs around his father’s neck and torso, respectively. Narmoto carries him through the house, rounding the half-set table and entering the kitchen. The aroma of fresh fruits overwhelms him, and Narmoto stops just beyond the threshold of the kitchen. He closes his eyes and takes in a deep, long breath. When he opens his eyes he sees his wife for the first time in months. She’s standing with her back to him, putting the finishing touches on the meal. Her movements are deft and purposeful, never too much nor too little. Her light tunic does little to compliment her curves, but the feminine elegance is obvious. Her hair flows down her back like smooth silk. She’s just as beautiful as she was they day they met. “Muda, Fada’s here!” Hotaru chirps happily. She stops mid-motion. Slowly, she places her blade on the counter beside her cutting board. She turns around. Narmoto sees her eyes light up at the sight of him. She smiles shyly, her cheeks dimpling like they had since they were children. Narmoto smiles back. It is good to see her face again after so long. “Hotaru, go feed that rock salamander of yours and then wash up for supper.” Her voice is music to his ears, soft and gentle, but strong as the three volcanoes of Okoto. “Otay.” The toddler jumps off his father’s back and scampers out of the kitchen. For a moment all is still and silent. Narmoto spreads his arms from his sides. “I really am here, Tana. I’m home.” For a moment she seems hesitant. Then she throws herself into his arms. He wraps her up in his embrace, stroking her hair as she sobs gently. He knows her well enough to know that they are tears of joy and not sadness. “You can’t stay away for so long,” she says at last. “Hotaru needs you.” “You’re doing fine, Tana,” he reassured her. “You’re the best mother he could possibly have.” “He needs his father, Narmoto.” Narmoto says nothing as they end their embrace. “You need to pay attention to him. Soon he’ll be old enough that he’ll start to seriously think about why you’re almost never home.” “You of all people should appreciate the sacrifices I must make to perform my duty.” “As Protector it is your duty to raise your son to be your successor. Surely those who created this system did not mean for you to ignore him!” “My father was always away from home. I learned to accept it and gained strength in independence.” “Agnimu was many things Narmoto, but a good father was not one of them. Learn from his mistakes. Be the better man.” Narmoto opens his mouth to speak. “Muda I weddy!” Narmoto turns to see Hotaru standing outside the doorway, holding his hands in the air and letting the water drip off. He beams up at his parents, waiting for their approval. Tana smiles back. “Silly little Hotaru, you forgot to dry your hands!” She grabs a towel and kneels in front of her son, wiping his little hands dry. He is lost in a fit of giggles before she is half finished. “Alrighty now, go to the table and wait for me to bring in the food, “ she orders. “Otay!” Hotaru obeys immediately as only a three year old can. “Narmoto, help me take the meal out to the table?” “Of course,” he answers, despite not needing too. They collect what has not already been taken out to the table. Narmoto half expects Tana to say something, but she remains silent as they carry the bowls of stew out to the table where Hotaru waits. The two adults take their places around the round stone table. Tana places Hotaru’s in front of him, then looks to Narmoto. “Shall we pray?” he asks. A formality, of course. Not to pray would be blasphemous. They lift their heads to the ceiling and rest the backs of their hands to the tabletop. Narmoto’s voice is the only thing that can be heard, even talkative little Hotaru remains silent. “Great Augalai of the Harvest, we thank you for this meal you have provided. Our household is blessed by your eternal grace. Join us as we celebrate you with this meal. May your glorious fields in the heavens never wither. Let the gods be appeased.” “Let the gods be appeased,” his wife and son echo after him. As soon as the prayer is complete, Hotaru snatches his spoon from the table and begins to frantically scoop the broth into his mouth with undisguised enthusiasm. Narmoto chuckles and begins his own meal, politely scooping just enough at a time and savoring each bite. It’s not often he gets the chance to enjoy his wife’s cooking. He glances across the table where Tana eats her own bowl with the same calm demeanor as he. She catches his eye and shoots him a look. He knows exactly what it means. Narmoto swallows his mouthful of stew and turns to his son. “Have you been behaving for your mother?” he asks idly. A pitiful attempt at conversation, but it is better than nothing. Hotaru, having just shoved another spoonful of broth into his mouth, nods vigorously. “He’s been a good boy,” Tana speaks in his stead. Hotaru continues to nod. “I trust you’re still friends with Borvo, Aodhan’s son?” Narmoto says before scooping up another mouthful. The toddler finally manages to swallow before answering. “Yes, Fada. Bovo’s fun! We friends.” “Good to hear. Speaking of Aodhan, he invited us over to his house for dinner tomorrow evening.” Tana looks up from her bowl at these words. Her frown speaks volumes. Narmoto suspects she thinks he started this conversation just to bring that up. Honestly, he simply had forgotten until he mentioned his friend’s name. “Oh?” As usual, her reply reveals nothing about her opinion. “Dinna wit Bovo?” Hotaru asks excitedly. “Pwease Muda?” Tana sighs as she looks at her son’s pleading face. “That sounds lovely. Tell him we will most certainly come next time you seem him.” The rest of supper is eaten in moderate silence. Occasionally questions are asked. Hotaru takes great interest in his father’s tales of the dangers of the region, and listens with rapt attention as he speaks. When supper is finished Tana clears the table and goes to clean the kitchen while Narmoto takes Hotaru to his room. Besides the bathroom, the young boy sleeps in the smallest room in the home. There’s barely enough room for his cot, a chest for clothes and armor, and a shelf for his few toys and and copy of the sacred book of the gods. Hotaru jumps onto his bed and pulls the sheet up to his chin. He smiles up at his father with wide eyes. “Fada, will you tuck me in? Pwease?” Narmoto smiled. “Of course.” He tucks the sheet in around his son, wrapping him up in the light coverage. The sheet was not terribly necessary given the heat, but the children tended to feel more secure with something covering them for whatever reason. No one questions it. Narmoto leans over the cot and plants a kiss on his son’s forehead. “Good night, Hotaru. I’ll see you tomorrow.” “An deh day afta dat?” his son asks. Narmoto pauses. “Yes, Hotaru. But I’m only here for a few days. Then I have to go back to work.” Hotaru thinks about this for a moment. “I don’ want you to go.” “I have to. It’s my duty. And one day, it’ll be yours.” “But Fada, I wan you to stay!” Narmoto takes a breath. “All right Hotaru. I’ll stay for now. But it’s time for sleep now, okay?” “Otay. Goo nigh Fada.” “Good night, Hotaru.” He exits the room as quietly as possible. “You lied to him.” Tana is standing just outside the doorway. Her arms are crossed in front of her chest, and her eyes piece Narmoto like daggers. “I said I would stay for now. That’s not a lie.” “But you made him think you wouldn't leave. You’ll break his little heart when you do.” “What was I supposed to tell him? That my duty is more important than he is? Than any of us?” “You were supposed to sound sorry about it! Tell him you want nothing more than to stay with him, but you can’t because you have to protect the region from danger! Gods, sometimes you are so stupid Narmoto.” Narmoto exhales slowly. “I must make sacrifices, Tana. The safety of the region must come first.” Tana stands there for a moment, staring intently at her husband. He waits uncertainly for her response, sure she will see the truth in his words. “Well if that’s how you feel, then get out of my home.” Narmoto feels as though she had slapped his across his face. “What?” “If you think protecting people you don’t even know from petty dangers is more important than raising your son, then you should do that. Don’t keep teasing him with these visits. Get out and let me raise him with the love he deserves.” He doesn’t know what to say. Tana is kicking him out. Sending him away. And for no reason other than he cares about doing what he has been tasked to do. Isn’t he supposed to set an example for his son? Shirking his duties would set a pretty poor one. He is perfectly justified in his decision. “Well?” Tana is still waiting for his answer. But what is he supposed to say? He hasn’t the slightest idea. “Tana, don’t do this. You of all people-” “No, stop. Don’t try and talk me out of it. Promise me you’ll stay and help me raise him or go. Now.” For a second neither moves. Then Narmoto turns and walks towards the exit. For a moment he expects Tana to break, to call for him to come back and stop this foolishness. But she did not. He pauses on the threshold, picking his traveling pack up from where he had left it when he arrived. He slings it onto his back and looks out over the barren terrain. The land that is his home. All of it. And it is his duty to protect it. He takes a step out the door. “Muda, where’s Fada goin?” He keeps walking, ignoring the growing ache in his chest. Part of him wants nothing more than to drop his pack and run back to his son. But he can not. He has a duty to his home, and the best he can do for his son is set an example of how a Protector must live. He pretends he doesn’t hear the young boy’s wailing as he vanishes into the fiery night.
  2. GUARDIAN ---- The Temple of Time stood on an island a day’s boat ride south of Okoto. The island had no name, for the only thing of interest on it was the Temple. Only a select few knew how to find it. Some speculated you couldn’t find it unless you were told where it was, but no evidence had been found to prove this theory. On the other hand, nothing had ever been found to disprove it either. The Temple itself was an odd structure. Two walls stood parallel to each other, towering over the rest of the island. A massive pendulum was swinging back and forth between the walls, an impressive bronze construct the likes of which Okoto had never seen. Impressive though this was, the important part of the Temple was nestled between the two walls underneath the pendulum, out of site from prying eyes. Tonight the Temple had guests. Six cloaked figures, each about four and a half feet tall, approached the Temple slowly and reverently. Their movements were calm and measured, but there was an urgency to their every step. The six reached the base of the structure, peering between the walls down into the Temple. A stone staircase led down to a floor that ran between the walls to another staircase on the opposite side. In the middle of the floor rose a circular dais, decorated with rings of ancient runes that ran along its side. Two more staircases rose up its the short sides, providing a way to ascend to the top. The six entered the Temple in silence. They approached the dais with a measured pace, stopping at the top of the stairs. In the middle of the circular platform stood a figure clad in gold and silver armor. He was no taller than any of the six visitors, and yet he radiated power and strength that dwarfed them. In his right had he held a sword, in his left, a scepter. The six swear he had not been there a moment before. For a moment no one spoke. The visitors stared at this mighty figure from under their hoods. He stared back at them, unmoving. Then the first of the six visitors stepped forward. He pushed back his hood to reveal a mask that burned with the fires from which it had been forged. His eyes blazed with a fiery determination as he began to speak. “Who are you?” he asked the golden armored being, his voice echoing between the walls. “I am Umbra, Protector of Time and Guardian of its Temple.” Umbra’s voice boomed like a thunderclap, and one of the visitors raised his hands to cover his ears. “The legends made no mention of any Guardian,” the fiery one said. “As I wished it to be,” Umbra said. The fiery one turned to his companions and conversed with them in hushed tones for several moments for addressing Umbra again. “We are the Protectors of Okoto, and we have come to-” Umbra cut him off. “I know who you are and why you have come. Your errand is an ignorant one. You have not considered the consequences your actions will bring.” A second of the visitors pulled back his hood and stepped forward. His mask was as solid and his resolve as steadfast as the bedrock upon which the Temple was constructed. “And what do you know of such things?” he asked. “If you guard the Temple then you have never been to Okoto! You know nothing of our plight!” “I see all that is past and that which might yet come,” Umbra boomed. “There are few possibilities that do not end in death.” The fiery visitor raised a hand to silence his companion. “We will do what we must, Guardian.” Umbra bowed his head in concession. “I cannot stop you,” he said. “Mine is not to interfere with what is to come. But one day, when you see what destruction has been wrought upon your land, you will remember this day and that I warned you that day would come.” Then he was gone, vanished into thin air. His words hung ominously in the air as the six Protectors removed their hoods and took their places along the edges of the dais. In unison they lifted their arms and released a stream of elemental energy. The six energies filled the crystal in the center of their circle, then blasted up into the sky as one beam. From atop the Temple’s walls Umbra watched in silence. The deed was done. Toa had been summoned from the beyond, and they would be the heralds of what would follow, be it victory or desolation. They would decide Okoto’s fate. As the night fell away to dawn, Umbra prayed history would not repeat itself.
  3. I return... but with a new name. How fancy.

    1. MetaStriker


      We had a very similar name until yesterday! Welcome back.

  4. A quick note: while the story does feature Vizuna, he is not referred to as such in the story as it was written before his name was announced. As always, enjoy! All constructive criticism and feedback is greatly appreciated. NEW ---- Drops of dew patter against my roof as they drip down from the leaves above. It sounds like the obsidian fields of the Region of Earth, alive with the sounds of a hundred chisels being hammered into the rock. I visited the fields once. The harsh landscape assaulted my senses with smells and sights the likes of which I have found nowhere else. I much prefer the lush greenery and fresh air of the jungle. The morning sky is clear as the crystal pools found in the lowest levels of the jungle. The sun is just a sliver on the horizon, painting the heavens with an indescribable blend of reds and yellows. The sunbeams stream through the web of leaves and branches, casting strange and beautiful shadows over everything as far as the eye can see. A single melodic note breaks the silence. A morning bird is awake and has dared to be the first the sing the song of its kind. As the bird begins the melody, another joins it. Then another. And another. Soon the jungle is alive with their symphony, the morning song that will rouse the villagers from their slumber as it has every day for as long as anyone can remember. I sit on the edge of the platform upon which my house is constructed, my legs dangling over the side. The height does not bother me, nor does that fact that the thousand foot drop would certainly end me if I were to fall. My kind does not fear. My kind does not fall. The village comes alive around me. Villagers emerge from their huts, breathing in the fresh morning air. They gather their tools, their hammers and spades and fishing poles, and proceed along the hanging bridges that connect the huts to one another as they go merrily off to their work. Hunters, farmers, builders, and too many others to name. The dew is still dripping from the trees when I finally rise to my feet and return to my hut. I must prepare for my trip to the great library in the Region of Ice today. It will be a long and cold journey, but well worth it. There are things I need to know, and they can only be found in the library. I take one last look up at the sky before I enter my humble home. The stars are going out, all but six bright ones have vanished into the lightening dawn. I frown for a moment, unfamiliar with these strange stars. It is not uncommon for the light of a new star to appear in our skies. But never before have six appeared in one night. As I watch the stars begin to move. It is barely noticeable at first, but soon becomes more pronounced. They are growing further apart before my eyes. They grow larger as well, as if they are getting nearer. What are they? Are they sky rocks like the ones that fell out of the heavens four summers past? Or perhaps they are stars that no longer wish to light the sky and are coming down to rest at the bottom of the sea? Comprehension dawns. There are six of them. Six. They are not sky rocks or stars. They are our salvation. The Toa are coming. All thoughts of the great library are pushed back into the recesses of my mind. Now that the Toa have arrived all our problems will be solved, and all our questions answered. There are more important things to attend to than my petty attempts to do another’s job for him. Toa Lewa will require a proper greeting, one fit for a Hero. The villagers must be rallied. A procession must be organized. A celebration must be planned. As I swing from my secluded tree to the rest of the village on a vine hanging from the treetop canopy, I feel invigorated. Alive like never before. I am met by my personal attendant when I arrive. Kongu looks at me oddly, sensing my mood and noting the lack of travel supplies. “Protector, are you not going to the library today?” he asks. “Nay, Kongu,” I say. “There is no longer a need. Something grand has happened. Now off with you, spread the word. The Toa have arrived.” The villager’s eyes widen as he takes in the joyous news. “Oh yes, Protector. I will tell every soul in the Jungle.” I chuckle to myself as the young one runs off. He is so full of spirit, so enthusiastic about his work. Perhaps too enthusiastic sometimes. But his devotion and intellect are admirable. I have no doubt he will make an excellent Protector after I am gone. As I follow Kongu to the center of the village I feel as though I am on the threshold of something great. I do not know what the future will bring, but I know today is the beginning. The beginning of something new.
  5. At at last, I've found the time to post the Epilogue. The story can be read in it's entirety here! As always, feedback is much appreciated.
  6. Epilogue Kyros has always fancied himself a loner. He had never needed the company of his inferiors, never desired friendship. He had been content to live in isolation. But in the shadows of his new home he had discovered the true meaning of loneliness. The Ko-Matoran stared emptily at the wall of the cave opposite him, trying to make sense of the last few hours. He had just killed a Matoran over a mask. An innocent Matoran who had done nothing to deserve it. Sure, he had known he would have to eliminate some people during his rise for power, but this was something else. He was a murderer. Mata Nui, he was a murderer. He reached into his pack and pulled out the strange, glowing Kanohi that was the source of all his troubles. Just by holding it he could feel its power, power enough to dwarf that of a Makuta. It called to him, inviting him to wield it. If he absorbed the mask’s power he would be unstoppable. Unstoppable. Think of what I could do with that power. But how would he ever use his newfound abilities? He was a murderer. If he ever set foot in Mahri Nui again they would lock him up, never to see the light of day again. And that was if he was lucky. They couldn’t stop me if they tried, though. I have the power now. Now there was an idea. Nobody could stop him while he had the mask. He could force them into submission. Mahri Nui would be his. Then he would move on to Voya Nui, and from there who knew? The world was his to take. The mask was the answer to everything. Its power was infinite. And it was his. He deserved it, didn’t he? After all he had done to get it, he had to deserve it. An unlimited supply of power with which he could do anything. I would be like a god! He focused on the mask, drawing its power into him. The mask flashed, the energy pulsed up his arms and into his heartlight. The Ko-Matoran sighed with ecstasy as power filled him again. That was better. But at the rate his powers depleted themselves would he be able to engage in combat? If he were to run out in the middle of a fight with a Makuta he would be destroyed on the spot. Perhaps if he put it on? Then he could draw on its power whenever he needed. He lifted the Kanohi to his face. NO! Kyros froze. Why had he just thought that? He wanted, no, he needed to wear the mask. Not yet. I must be patient. the time is not right. The Ko-Matoran frowned. There were most certainly not his thoughts. So what were they doing in his head? With that thought hanging ominously in the air silence fell. The only sound in the cave was the dripping water droplets splashing onto the stone. It’s always the smart ones, isn’t it? Why can’t I get a gullible person for once? Kyros started. The voice again, the thoughts in his head that were not his own. But something was different this time. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Pity you aren’t a stupid person. They’re so much easier to manipulate. Yes, that was it. The voice now had a feminine tone to it. It was no longer his own voice, but someone else’s. That Toa of Sonics on the surface was smart, too. He figured me out. That’s why I’m down here, you see? That rotten do-gooder threw me- But I digress. You don’t care about that, do you? Kyros’ voice shook as he spoke. “Who are you? Why are you in my head?” The voice laughed. It was an unnerving, coolly confident and omniscient sounding laugh. The kind of laugh that made you feel like you were back in school in Ga-Metru and had just answered a question wrong in front of the entire class. Like the laugher knew everything and you knew nothing. Kyros hated that kind of laugh. I’m not in your head. Why would anyone want to be in anyone else’s head? It would be so cramped and uncomfortable. The Ko-Matoran scowled indignantly for a few seconds before realizing the voice probably couldn’t see his face. But if she wasn’t in his head, where was she? Outside, in the ocean? Was she communicating with him telepathically? The Fa-Matoran figured it out less than a minute after he started thinking about. You’ve have five. He was just a simple guard, you’re an educated scholar! Think, before I grow bored of you. Lemiddus. What did she know about Lemiddus? The mask. That had to be it. The mask was alive. Well, sort of. It’s more like my current place of residence. Mata Nui. He was talking to a Kanohi. And inanimate object. Ok, that was uncall- The voice cut off abruptly as Kyros hurled the mask across the cave. As soon as it left his hands her voice disappeared. For a moment he sat there, basking in the silence. In the short time he had spent ‘talking’ to her he had forgotten what it was like to have his own thoughts. His own ideas. It was amazing how just a few minutes of having something inside your head made you value your privacy that much more. He stared at the glowing mask warily, as if expecting it to grow arms and try to strangle him. When it did nothing he frowned, then slowly crawled over to the Kanohi. Tentatively, he touched it. As soon as his fingers made contact a fury of harsh insults suddenly exploded inside his head. He yanked his hand away on instinct, abruptly cutting off the shouting. Obviously throwing the mask across the room had insulted it in some way, and it either didn’t know he couldn’t hear it or didn’t care. Cautiously, he picked it up off the cave floor, bracing himself for the tirade to come. -as if calling “inanimate” wasn’t enough, you had to THROW ME across the cave! Are all you Ko-Matoran so inconsiderate or is it just you. I swear, if I had a physical form I- “SHUT UP!” Kyros yelled. The voice fell silent. “Thank you. Now that I have your attention, I’d like you to tell me who you are and why I can hear you in my head.” The voice laughed again. Kyros flinched. Perhaps you aren’t as much like the Fa-Matoran as I thought. The second he found out he wanted to destroy the mask. But you don’t want that, do you? You want the power it can give you. The power I can give you. Kyros scowled again. It’d done some digging, hadn’t it. What else had it found? Don’t worry, I only skimmed your memories. It’s my standard procedure for new mask bearers. Besides, your secrets are safe with me. “What if I don’t believe you? What if I decided Lemiddus was right and that you need to be destroyed?” You won’t destroy the mask. Even if you knew how. You need it. Without its power you’re a dead Matoran. “What do you mean?” he asked, something twisting ominously in his gut. A bad feeling that he wouldn’t like what he was about to hear. The mask cursed Lemiddus. While it was in his possession, anyone who touched him would have had their internal organs fried to a crisp. But I saved you. I sent extra energy to reboot you, keep you alive. But if you ever run out of energy all that will be left is a lifeless husk. “Assuming I believe you, I can get energy from anything. I don’t need the mask or you. Sure, I won’t be as powerful, but it’s better than having to trust you.” Oh please. You saw how much energy you got from a single lightstone. You’d have to drain an entire city to live a month. Face it Kyros, you’re living on borrowed time. Time you borrowed from me. It’s time to pay up. Kyris felt a sinking feeling overcome him. Somehow he knew she was telling the truth. The mask was his only option. Without it he could neither rule nor remain alive for long. Yes, if he didn’t use his powers he might be able to last a while. But he would inevitably have to fight. And the mask would be his only chance then. The voice and and the mask were a package deal. He could not have one without the other. He needed the mask to survive, so by extension he needed her. “What do you suggest?” he asked begrudgingly. I’m stuck in this mask, and you need it to stay alive. Why not work together? Help me get a body, then we’ll part ways. You with the mask, and me with a body. Deal? Kyros considered her offer. On one hand, it would be nice to have someone to talk to. On the other, however, he knew nothing about her while she could peek into his mind whenever she pleased. That would make it hard to keep secrets, which he would undoubtedly need to do at some point. But he needed the mask more than secrets. Granted, he could keep her hidden away, keep the mask in his pack, not touching him so she couldn’t say anything to him. But he’d have to talk to her eventually. He sighed. Logically, he had no choice. That didn’t mean he had to like it, but it was his only reasonable course of action. “Fine,” he said aloud. “ We’ll stick together.” Took you long enough. Either she hadn’t been listening in or she pretending that she hadn’t. Whatever the case, it wasn’t important. She would’ve already known everything he had took into consideration anyways. She’d had plenty of time to look it up before. “But,” he added firmly, “I don’t want you looking through my thoughts and memories without permission. I get the slightest hint that you’ve been reading my mind without permission and I’ll toss you off the first cliff I find. Do I make myself clear?” Transparently. “Good,” Kyros said. He paused for a moment, then remember something. “You never told me your name.” My apologies. I had to be certain you weren't going to try and kill me or anything. Call me Iiliara. “Very well, Iiliara,” the Ko-Matoran said. “Where to first?” We require transport. The most readily available form would be in Mahri Nui. Kyros shook his head. “We can’t go there,” he said. “They’d kill me on sight and destroy you. The sub looked ruined when I saw it earlier anyways.” Then we wait. We’ll need to sneak back in after a week or so. Let them think everything’s fine so they'll let down their guard. You need practice with your powers anyways. I know a few tricks you could use. Learned them from a friend ages ago. Somehow he doubted Iiliara had ever had any friends, but he let the comment lie. His mind was elsewhere. Soon he would be able to return to Metru Nui. Only this time he would not be a lowly scholar. He would be a king. An emperor. A god. “Fine,” he said, dragging himself back to the present. “I’ve waited centuries for this chance. A week more won't make a difference.” *** Defilak knew something was wrong. The Hydruka weren’t back yet. They should’ve been back ages ago. So why weren’t they? He had already checked with Reysa. The Onu-Matoran had been ill all day. Gar had apparently volunteered to stand in for him during the hour-long harvest. Gar, the most rational, level-headed and punctual Matoran Defilak knew. Gar, who had once boasted that “only death could keep me from being on time.” Defilak feared that was the case. He was at the edge of the city now, looking out across the Fields of Air. There was definately movement; the Hydruka were still at work. Defilak’s eyes narrowed. He stepped out of the Dome and into the water. From his waterproof satchel he pulled the odd looking three-pronged metal for Reysa had given him. He gingerly plucked each of the thin, spindly prongs, in order. Each sent a specifically tuned vibration through the water, a message to the Hydruka that it was time to return to the city. That matter settled, Defilak began his search. He swam quickly over the field towards the Keeper’s customary place on the opposite side, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of his friend. There was nothing. Defilak descended to the sea floor, looking for a clue to Gar’s whereabouts. For a second he saw nothing. Then he noticed tracks in the mud, as if someone had been dragged away. The Le-Matoran followed the tracks away from the airweed and out into the vast emptiness of the sea, a feeling of despair growing in his gut. He knew what this meant. As far as the Matoran knew nothing lived in the open ocean, so there was only one thing that could’ve happened to his friend. His worst fears were confirmed as he reached the end of the tracks. He gazed down into the inky blackness that filled the massive u-shaped crafter that surrounded Mahri Nui. Gar had been taken into the Black Water. Defilak fell to his knees, staring blankly into the depths. If Gar had been taken down there then there was no hope for him. Between the Vampire Squid, the red monster and who knew what other monstrosities he would’ve been dead in minutes. And even if he managed to evade the predators, he would’ve drowned before he found his way out. Gar was gone. Something flashed on a ledge just a few bio below him. A dull, muted metallic flash. His gut clenching, Defilak slowly climbed down the inside of the crater, feeling uneasy as tendrils of murky darkness snaked around him. He reached the ledge. His breath caught in his throat as he identified the object. It was a familiar black Komau, scratched, battered, and covered in tooth marks. The red monster had gotten him. Devoured him like it had devoured Sarda. Defilak picked the mask up and stared into its empty eyeholes. It felt wrong not to see his friend’s eyes through them, not to hear him making some obnoxiously sarcastic comment about whatever his current pet peeve was. It was disconcerting to see a mask once so full of life so silent and empty. It felt wrong, unnatural. His fists clenched involuntarily. Dozens of pent up emotions pressed against their mental dams, against the chains that bound them and kept them locked away. The anger, the frustration, the loss. Fate had already stolen one life away from him, could it truly be so cruel as to destroy another? He slipped the Komau into his satchel and turned to climb his way out of the crater. In the corner of his eye he saw something, a faint glow. He threw a glance over his shoulder. Three luminous blue orbs floated in the darkness behind him, arranged in the shape of a triangle. The monster was watching him. Defilak stared back at the beast, hate filling every inch of his being. In this moment he made a decision. He would accept the position Dekar had offered him. He would lead Mahri Nui to victory over the evils that menaced it. He would save them. He would hunt this monster, and Kyros, to the ends of the world. For Sarda. For Lemiddus. For Gar. He knew the creature wouldn't be able to hear him. He didn’t care. “You can hide down there in your shadows. You can try and pick us off one by one. But you killed my best friend, and for that you will pay. Even if it takes me a lifetime, I’ll see you burn.” The eyes blinked. The Le-Matoran began his ascent But he had been wrong. The creature had adapted to live in the depths, and its ears were attuned to the vibrations speech made underwater. It understood every word he said, and it was amused. Defilak’s ears were not so attuned. So he did not understand the monster’s reply, if he even heard it at all. “I’d like to see you try, little meal.”
  7. For now. Well, he does. It's just a secondary mask, like the Toa Mata had. His main Kanohi is the Mask of Intangibility, which he switched back to before going into battle. There wasn't really a way to work that into the chapter, but that's what's up. If you have an idea on how to fit it in there I'd be greatly obliged.
  8. Well, this is just the start of the story, the first chapter. I've already begun writing the sequel and intend to start releasing sometime in early 2015. That, and there's still the Epilogue that I'll release next week, probably sometime Friday or Thursday as I'm leaving for vacation over the weekend. But I'm glad that the emotion was conveyed, I was worried the scene(s?) were too bland. It's good to know it worked.
  9. A day late, due to a lack of time yesterday, but the climactic conclusion of Rock Bottom has been posted! Read Chapter 6 today!
  10. Chapter 6 A small force of twenty Matoran had gathered at the edge of the city, staring out into the depths. All were silent, clutching their weapons nervously as they waited. The mood was dismal, ominous. Idris doubted anything could improve morale at this point. The primal screams of the monster outside didn’t help. Idris stood at the front of the formation, armed with her Disk Launcher and Electro-Blades. Her gaze swept back and forth across the ocean floor, searching for any sign of the blue monster she had seen earlier. In the short time it had taken her to rally the Sentinels it had vanished into the sands, hidden in some crevice or cave. It was raising karzahni, wherever it was. It was driving the Sentinels crazy, not being able to see it while it was roaring it’s head off. And they were on edge enough as it was. “Where’s Kaira,” she muttered to herself. The old Ce-Matoran had said she had had an idea on how to fight the creature and had waddled off towards the Hall of Gifts. No one had seen her since. “I’m here.” Idris turned towards the voice to find Kaira standing right beside her, holding a strange looking device in one hand and a translucent sphere in the other. “What took you so long?” Idris demanded, snatching the items out of Kaira’s hands and examining them skeptically. “Those were not where they belonged,” the Ce-Matoran said, indicating to the items she had delivered. “It seems our resident archivist is not as infallible as he would like us to believe.” “Navek’s organizational abilities are a matter to be discussed another time. What am I holding?” “A projectile weapon, used to launch spheres like that one,” Kaira explained. “They seem to be able to pass through their target, allowing them to deposit whatever they’re carrying directly inside their target.” “What do they carry?” “Without the benefit of a thorough examination, I’d have to assume some sort of venom or similar substance was the intended cargo. During the short time I had to test them, I discovered that once a sphere’s contents have been released into the target it creates a vacuum that will absorb the first substance it comes into contact with. In most cases, this would be air. Unless intentionally filled with another substance, it will stay in this ‘empty’ state.” “And this helps us how?” “When Lemiddus saved Kyrehx, he pulled a few squid into the air dome with him. They dissolved in seconds. I tested this on bits of the specimen Defilak brought me and got similar results.” “So the air is toxic to ocean-dwellers?” “Fatally so.” “How many of these launchers do we have?” “I’m not sure. Navek was looking for more when I left. We had at least five already, including this one.” “Take two Sentinels back and bring us everything and bring us everything you can carry.” Kaira muttered something irritably under her breath as the Ga-Matoran waved two of the Sentinels from the back of the formation. “Accompany this Matoran to the Hall of Gifts. Do exactly as she says, and return as soon as possible.” We’re going to need as much help as we can get. *** Dekar watched in horror as Lemiddus went down. The Fa-Matoran’s body was charred and blackened, fried by the energy blast Kyros had inexplicably fired from his fingers. His heartlight flickered sporadically as he collapsed, his eyes staring blankly ahead of him. The Po-Matoran was vaguely aware of Defilak rushing past him, shouting all manner of obscenities at Kyros. Behind him he could hear Feton shutting down the submersible’s surviving systems, seemingly oblivious to what was happening outside. But Dekar paid no attention to this. His eyes were locked on Lemiddus’ body. Sarda’s Kanohi Huna dropped to the floor as Dekar rushed forward, catching Lemiddus just before he hit the ground. To his surprise the Fa-Matoran’s body was warm. He was alive, for now. “Lemiddus,” he asked softly as he could manage. “Lemiddus, can you hear me?” For a second there was silence. “Y...ye...y...yes…” the half-dead Matoran rasped. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you help.” “Geh...get the m...mask. Destroy...it.” “What mask?” “Kyros h..has it. Can...can’t let him...keep it.”” “I...I think I understand,” Dekar replied. Lemiddus smiled weakly. “Tell…tell Kyrehx...what happened...to...to me.” “I will. You’ve done good soldier.” Lemiddus’ eyes rolled back into his head as his body went limp in Dekar’s arms. His heartlight flickered one last time, then blinked out forever. He was dead. Dekar knelt beside the corpse, staring emptily at it. Another Sentinel fallen, another disaster he could not have predicted. Kyrehx attacked. Sarda devoured. And now Lemiddus, murdered in cold blood by the leader of Mahri Nui. Three good Matoran selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way for the good of the city. All fallen in the line of duty. The duty he had given them. He knew he shouldn't, couldn't blame himself for their deaths. But it was so easy to. So simple to say it was his fault. But Lemiddus’ death wasn’t his fault, was it? Kyros had killed him. It was his fault, not Dekar’s. Kyros. Dekar lay Lemiddus down gently on the ground, then rose to his feet, grabbing Lemiddus’ odd looking projectile weapon as he did so. He spun in the direction he had last scene the Ko-Matoran. There he was, glowing mask in hand, backing a furious Defilak into a corner. Dekar moved in. Aiming the launcher at the back of Kyros’ head he approached the Ko-Matoran slowly. “Don’t move,” he growled, “or I’ll shoot your head off your shoulders.” Kyros froze where he stood. “Turn around and put your hands above your head.” Slowly, the Ko-Matoran obeyed, affording Dekar his first clear view of Kyros’ condition. For a second it was Dekar’s turn to freeze as his blood ran cold at the site before him, shocked by the eerie appearance of the Matoran who stood before him. He shook it off. “Now drop the mask and step away.” “Ok.” Kyros complied. The Kanohi fell to the floor with an ominous clatter. As soon as it was on the ground, energy blasted from Kyros’ fingertips, flying towards Dekar almost too quickly for the Po-Matoran to react. But centuries of life on the edge had sharpened his reflexes. As soon as his brain registered the threat he threw himself to the side, barely evading the blast. He used his momentum to roll into a crouch, bringing his weapon up to bear as he did so. But Kyros was already on the move. He scooped up the strange mask and bolted for the door. Dekar quickly readjusted his aim and squeezed off a shot. A strange, spiked sphere detached itself from the front of the launcher and flew after the Ko-Matoran. The projectile missed it’s mark by a hair, crashing instead into a pile of junk just ahead of Kyros. It exploded on contact. That was unexpected, Dekar thought just before the shockwave threw him off his feet. He lay there unmoving, listening to the whistle of the shrapnel flying through the air around him. He felt one piece dig into his thigh. Silence fell. Winicing, Dekar rose to his feet, clutching his injured leg. The smoke was dissipating, and surveyed the scene. The warehouse was intact, but the interior was a mess. Smouldering chunks of metal were scattered among toppled piles of scrap and tools. Several workbenches had toppled over, spilling their contents across the floor. In the midst of this stood Kyros, the air around him crackling with blue light. A force field, vaporizing anything that touched it. As Dekar watched he let the barrier disperse. The two stared at each other across the room. For a second, neither moved. Then Kyros turned to leave. “You’re a murderer Kyros!” Dekar called after him. “A cold-blooded murderer!” Kyros walked on. “I’ll find you! And I’ll finish what Lemiddus started! You have my word!” Kyros walked out of the warehouse. Dekar stared after him, seething. He knew he had to let him go, but he’d promised Lemiddus he’d destroy the mask. He would hunt Kyros down and make sure that the Fa-Matoran’s final wish was carried out. He swore it. “Sorry about the mess,” he said, turning back to face Defilak. The Le-Matoran scowled. “I can clean it up later. I just wish you’d given Kyros what he deserved in the process.” “Trust me, when I find him, I’ll make sure he gets exactly what he deserves.” “Only if you quick-beat me to him.” Dekar shook his head. “No. I’m declaring a state of emergency. You’re in charge of the city now.” “Me?” Defilak gaped. “Yes. I watched you in the submersible. What you did was crazy. Some might have called it suicidal. But you did it, and you got us out of there.” “Not all of us.” “That’s not the point. We need someone like that to take charge, someone who not afraid to do what others would call mad. Someone crazy enough to ram a sea monster with a battered submersible.” “I’ll think about it.” A rusty orange face poked out of the submersible. “Hey, I- What in blazes happened out here?” “Kyros happened,” Dekar said. “Mata Nui…” Feton replied. “But there’s something you need to see. Our Toa is awake.” *** Kaira had only been able to find five more launchers, bringing them to a grand total of ten. To be honest, Idris had expected there to be less. Why so many had been discarded by the residents of Voya Nui was beyond her, but she wasn’t complaining. The Ga-Matoran had already armed her best marksmen with them, complete with a set of five spheres apiece. They would have to make every shot count. The new weapons had done little for moral, however. Not with the monster still roaring out amongst the subaquatic dunes. The outer limits of the city had already been evacuated. This confrontation was bound to get messy, and Idris didn’t want anyone getting caught in the crossfire. There were barely a hundred Matoran left in Mahri Nui. Lives were precious. She didn’t want to lose any more than absolutely necessary. She turned to the assembled Sentinels, taking a moment to look them over. A mosaic of expressions met her gaze. Some were determined, ready to fight for their home. Others appeared grim, accepting their fate as they saw it. A few were unreadable, their masks giving no hint as to what they were feeling. But there was one thing true for every Matoran present. None looked afraid. That wasn’t to say they weren’t. Anyone who wasn’t afraid in such a situation was either a fool or a madman. But the Sentinels hid it well. They boldly went to face the dangers that awaited them. They would not cower in the face of death. “Sentinels!” she called. “The time of battle is almost upon us. Wwe will enter the ocean and surround the target, then open fire with our new weapons. Anyone not armed with a launcher will pair up with someone who does and keep the creature away from them at all costs. Once we have exhausted our ammunition, we will move in and finish it at close range. Understood?” The answer came in the form of several grunted “yes”es and a lot of nodding. “Good,” Idris paused for a moment, uncertain of what to say next. “I… I would like to say it’s been an honor serving with every one of you. -” “Idris!” a voice called from somewhere in the formation. “The roaring. It’s stopped.” Idris froze. The ocean was indeed silent. “Nobody move! And not a sound out of any of you!” Slowly, she turned to face the ocean. Peering through the bubble’s membrane, she scanned the sea floor for any sign of it. Not only was the bay silent, it was empty. Nothing moved. Then the sand exploded in front of her. The creature suddenly loomed in front of them, sand sliding off its scales and dispersing into the water as it regarded the Matoran. Its claws clacked together slowly as it flexed its fingers menacingly. Idris could’ve sworn she saw a forked tongue dart out between its teeth and slash across its upper jaw. Like it was licking its lips. “Out of the dome!” Idris ordered. “Lead it away from the city!” Twenty-one Matoran dove into the water. Idris led the charge, curving around the creature and reforming their formation behind it. Four rows of five, those with Air Launchers in the back, the other up front. Just to the right of the phalanx Idris tread water. Lifting her hand above her head, she signalled the marksmen to load. A moment massed. The creature had turned around to face them again and was charging. She swung her hand forward. A volley of ten spheres converged on the creature. Two missed, passing through the gaps between appendages and crashing harmlessly into the sand. The rest crashed into the creature, depositing their deadly load of oxygen inside its body. The monster froze as the spheres passed through it. For a fraction of a second nothing happened. Then the points of impact began to darken to a crisp black and crumbled into dust. The holes began to grow, rapidly devouring the creature’s body. The Matoran watching expectantly, daring to hope that the battle might be won so easily. Then it stopped. The edges of the holes sparked with blue and yellow energy, then they started to shrink. New flesh began to grow where seconds before it had been disintegrated. The creature was being healed. Idris has seen that energy before, back in Kyros’ hut. She had watched it dance across the Ko-Matoran’s body. It had come the mask Lemiddus found. The mask that had killed Kyros had made this monster. Before she could fully comprehend the implications of this line of thought the creature charged again. It would be on top of their position in seconds. She signaled frantically for them to scatter, her hands cutting through the water with swift precision. The marksmen rearranged themselves into a rough semicircle around the creature and opened fire. For the next minute spheres of air rained on the creature in four haphazard waves of nine, most making their mark and depositing their toxic cargo within. The idea was that all forty spheres would do too much damage too be repaired and they could finish the beast with their blades. Wait. Forty spheres should’ve been fired. She had counted four waves of nine. That made thirty six. Four were missing. One of the Sentinels hadn’t fired. Idris spun, looking for the missing Matoran. She found them a ways to her left, the Le-Matoran marksman struggling with his launcher as his Po-Matoran companion held her weapons in a ready position, ready to ward of the monster if it came near. They appeared to be fine, for the moment. Just a launcher malfunction. The last of the spheres cut through through the creature, leaving it looking somewhat akin to the exotic holed cheeses of Stelt. For a moment all was silent, or at least as silent as it could be with the waters so disturbed. Idris found herself daring to hope that they might have mortally wounded the beast, a hope ripped to shreds as neon blue sparks crackled along the edges of the wounds. The monster let out a feral roar, a sound eerily distorted by the water. Then it charged, its eyes ablaze with anger. There was no time to signal a retreat. The beast was too close. She had no choice but to watch as the Sentinels tossed the launchers aside and readied their Electro-Blades for combat. It reached them in seconds. Sparks flew as the Matoran fell upon the beast, cutting and slashing wherever they found an opening. But the wounds caused by the last volley of spheres had healed. There was no piercing its hard exoskeleton now. Idris swam in their direction kicking frantically through the water, knowing that she would make no difference. They were doomed. Already, three Sentinels had fallen at the creature’s hands. She couldn't tell if they were still alive. Mata Nui have mercy on our souls, she thought grimly. Let us die quickly and honorably. Just as she was about to join the fray a sphere shot through the water and carved a tunnel through the beast’s forehead. It screeched in pain and lashed out wildly, felling another Sentinel. For a second it looked as if the wound would miraculously do what the others had failed to do, but in seconds the healing energies were crackling around the edges. Taking advantage of the momentary blindness of the creature, Idris signalled for the Sentinels to withdraw. They saw and obeyed, swimming away as fast as they good. All but one made it out unscathed. The poor soul was smashed down to the ground by the beast’s flailing arm. He lay motionless in the sand. Idris turned in the direction the sphere had come from just in time to see two Matoran swimming towards the creature. Paka and Aescela, the pair whose launcher had malfunctioned. They must’ve gotten it working, and just in the nick of time. But why were they swimming towards the monster? It was distracted, they needed to use this time to regroup. She waved in their direction, hoping they would get her message. Aescela turned to look at Idris, a determined look on her Kanohi. She shook her head and swam onwards. Then Idris understood. They were going to keep the creature occupied for as long as they could, giving the rest of the Sentinels time to regroup and plan a second attack. Idris began to back away, signalling the rest of the group to retreat to the relative safety of the air dome. Paka and Aescela had made their choice, and there was nothing in Mahri Nui that could stop them. With grim anticipation she watched from the air dome as they engaged the creature. Paka launched another sphere, this one through it’s leg. As the beast yowled Aescela darted in, jamming one of her Electro-Blades into the rapidly closing hole. It continued to heal around the weapon, leaving the blade embedded in the limb. Aescela flicked the weapon’s power setting up to maximum and propelled herself back towards Paka. But the creature was quicker than she anticipated. Its hand slashed through the water, one its clawed fingers impaling her leg and dragging her down. Shaking the injured Po-Matoran from its hand, the creature glanced down at it’s leg, an expression reminiscent of a grimace on its face. An extremely pained grimace. The looks on its face could only been described as pitiful. Sad. Idris felt sick. This was just an innocent creature, unwilling transformed by Lemiddus’ mask into a regenerating monster. That was why it had come to the city. It was after the mask. And they had tried to kill it. She dove back into the ocean, taking a fresh air bubble with her. She had to find a way to get the creature to leave, or somehow understand they were just defending themselves. Maybe, just maybe, no one else had to die today. The creature was moving towards Paka now. In the absence of Aescela to distract it flew straight at its chest. But the creature intercepted it with its wrist, taking the toxic dose of air there and allowing the projectile to pass harmlessly through its torso. The hand floated to the ground, severed from the wrist by the sphere. Sand exploded upwards, creating a veil around the two combatants. Idris kicked harder, trying to reach the battle in time. She peered through the curtain, trying to make out what was happening. As the sand slowly began to settle back onto the ground, two silhouettes became visible through the veil. The massive shadow of the creature loomed over the Le-Matoran, who was backing away in a panic. But Paka wasn’t fast enough. The creature snatched him up in its good hand, staring intently at him. Paka appeared to stop struggling as the creature lifted him up to eye level. The two stared each other down, neither wavering. Paka did not cower under the enormity of the beast, he looked it in the face without fear. Then it bit his head off. Idris bit back a scream. It had bitten his head off. As if he were simply prey, food to be consumed. All thoughts of making peace with the creature vanished from her mind. It had just eaten a Matoran while she watched. Bitten the head off one of her fellow Sentinels. She was no longer on a mission of peace, she was going to send the monster to blazes. No holds barred. In that moment she had an epiphany. Here, at the bottom of the sea, cut off from civilization, the Matoran were nothing more than prey. The larger, more vicious creatures could hunt them whenever they pleased, kill them at their leisure. But it didn’t have to be that way. The Matoran didn’t have to just lie down and wait for the predators of the depths to kill them. They could choose not to be the prey, to fight back. They could become the predator. Drawing her weapons from their sheaths, she charged the creature as it discarded Paka’s decapitated corpse to the side. Her first objective was to draw the beast away from the city, get it somewhere where she could engage it without having to worry about endangering the city and anyone attempting to retrieve the fallen and any loose equipment. Quick as a Takea Shark she darted past the creature and scooped up Paka’s launcher and last remaining sphere from the sand. One shot left. She’d have to make it count, though she had no idea how. Glancing over her shoulder she confirmed the beast was on her tail. Mission accomplished. Now it was just it and her, alone at the bottom of the sea. Then the water grew cold and thick, making her movements slow and sluggish. She looked around in confusion, looking for an explanation for the sudden change of temperature. She soon found it. A towering figure, clad in white, standing between her and the creature. The water around him shimmered with thousands of tiny shards of ice, sparkling in the few rays of sunlight that had managed to filter down to this depth. He was unarmed, yet power seemed to radiate from him. It was a Toa. An honest-to-Mata Nui Toa. And he was in Mahri Nui. The creature skidded to a halt in front of the Toa, looking him up and down, sizing him up. The Toa simply watched it, arms hanging loosely at his sides, waiting. The beast took a step forwards. Instantly, the Toa lunged, a spike ice ice forming around his forearm and fist as he threw a vicious uppercut at the creature’s chin. The spike slammed into the creature’s shell with enough force to drive right through the exoskeleton, impaling the beast’s head. The Toa snapped the spike at the base and jumped back, leaving it imbedded in the creature. The creature thrashed wildly, clawing at its chin as it tried to pull the weapon out. As Idris watched, it slowly dragged the spike out, discarding it to the side and shaking itself like a Hydruka would shake the water from it’s body after returning to an Air Dome. Energy crackled around the wound, closing it in seconds. Scowling, the Toa created two short, sharp blades of ice in his hands and charged the creature. They clashed in a flurry of strikes, too fast for Idris’ eyes to follow. Ice glinted and energy crackled as the two Titans clashed beneath the waves. Idris stood rooted to the spot, her eyes seeing nothing but the fight. In comparison to other battles history had seen this one was nothing spectacular, but to a Matoran who has been cut off from society for centuries it was truly a sight to behold. As she watched, the Toa thrust his blade into the creature's chest and slashed his arm down, cutting a gaping hole across its torso. For a second Idris caught a glimpse of a small, fist-sized organ pulsing repeatedly, every pulse sending tiny sparks of energy across a web of dark lines to different parts of the body. The healing energy. Earlier the beast had sacrificed its hand to keep Paka’s sphere from going through its chest. Perhaps there was some importance to that small, insignificant looking muscle? Suddenly an idea popped into Idris’ head. One of those odd, very out there ideas when you have no other options. It was crazy, but if her theory was correct it would work. Now all she had to do was attract the Toa’s attention. As if to grant Idris’ request the creature’s fist slammed into the Toa’s abdomen, sending him flying backwards, landing roughly in the sand just to Idris’ right. The Ga-Matoran quickly propelled herself in his direction, waving her arms frantically to get his attention. He looked at her in confusion, uncertain of what she wanted. She began to tell him her plan, using large, exaggerated gestures to be certain he saw. Comprehension dawned on the Toa’s Mask of Intangibility. Rising to his feet he charged back towards the creature, this time a single razor sharp ice dagger in his hand. He fell upon the monster in seconds, and the titanic battle resumed. Idris scrambled as close as she dared to the fight, trying not to be noticed. Taking a second to make sure the sphere was properly loaded, she prepared to take the shot. She would only get one chance at this, she had to make it count. Then the Toa saw an opening. With a quick flick of his wrist he jabbed the dagger at the creature’s chest, somehow slicing through the exoskeleton like it wasn’t there. As he jumped out of the way Idris brought her launcher up to eye level, locking the pulsing organ in her sights. Her finger rested on the trigger, ready to fire the sphere and end it once and for all. But she found herself hesitating. This was just an innocent creature, twisted by that awful mask into a monster. Could she really end its life? Yes, it had killed Paka, but that had been in self-defense. Just like the Sentinels had defended themselves. Revenge was wrong, but she had a duty to protect Mahri Nui. But did that duty require cold-blooded murder on her part? Before she could make up her mind she felt her finger contract, pulling back on the trigger. Time seemed to slow as the sphere cut through the seawater towards the creature. Idris watched as it passed through the exposed tissue and muscle, carving a tunnel through the monster’s chest. The pulsing organ disintegrated in a puff of black dust. The creature froze, as if it were uncertain of what had just happened. Energy crackled along the edges of the wound, but noticeably less than before. It grew dimmer and dimmer, the healing slowing as it did so. Then it stopped, winking out for the last time. The creature wavered, then collapsed face first into the sand. Idris spun, finding the Toa just in time to see his Mask of Intangibility reappear on his face. She couldn’t be sure what he had just done, but she had her suspicions. She charged furiously in his direction, anger building inside her. She didn’t know what she would do when she reached him. Fortunately she didn't have to. Her next breath filled her mouth with seawater. Her air was gone. She grasped at her neck reflexively, reality crashing down on her like a tidal wave. She was still too far away from the city. She wouldn’t be able to swim there in time. She was dead. Black spots speckled her vision. Pain racked her body, as if every bit of her being was dying. She had inhaled some of the seawater, and now it was mutating her. Changing her into who knew what. She collapsed onto the seafloor, her thoughts a jumbled mess. It was hopeless. She had seen what happened to Matoran that had been mutated by the water. They lost themselves, became monsters, cannibalistic animals, to the extent that Dekar had been forced to order that any Matoran who started to mutate without a solid chance of finding air needed to be put down on the spot. Her hands grasped wildly around for her Electro-Blades. She refused to become a monster, she wouldn’t allow it. Lifting the weapon to her chest, she prepared to save herself from a fate worse than death. Something knocked the blade from her hands and grabbed her up off the sea floor. Idris felt herself being carried by two huge hands, hanging limply in her rescuers arms. Through her clouded vision she saw the Toa’s face, staring ahead with a grim look on his face. She tried to scowl at him, but she was too weak. Suddenly she was inside an Air Dome. She felt herself being laid down on a cot, felt the water being forced from her lungs. She coughed once, then twice. Water trickled down her cheek, and the pain seemed to recede. She gasped as air found its way back into her and she felt herself returning to normal. The back spots had vanished from her eyes, clearing her vision. She looked up to see two faces looking down at her. The Toa and Kaira. Kaira was busying herself looking Idris over, making sure she was fine. The Toa was just looking down at her, speaking softly. “My name is Glace. I’m from Metru Nui. I’m here to help.” Idris felt unconsciousness closing in. She didn’t care, she could use a nap. Looking up at the Toa, her eyes meet his. With her last waking breath she gave him the message she had wanted to back out in the ocean. “Curse you.” Sleep had never felt so good.
  11. Chapter 5 On the outskirts of Mahri Nui a creature waited. It did not know why it was there, it did not even know what it was. It was just there, and it was content to stay there. Except...except it wasn’t. There was something it needed to do, something it needed to find. A glowy thing. Yes, that was it. The glowy thing. The creature brightened, happy with itself. It needed to find the glowy thing. But what was the glowy thing? This puzzled the creature for a moment. What was the glowy thing? And why did it need it? The glowy thing had...it had...it had made him. But how? How could a glowy thing make him? It didn’t make sense. But he still needed the glowy thing. The creature concentrated, thinking really, really hard. Where had the glowy thing gone? The silly little silver thing had taken it. Where had it taken the glowy thing? The creature concentrated more. The domes. The big, see-through domes with all the little lights inside. That’s where the glowy thing was. The creature set off for the domes thinking happy thoughts. He’d find the glowy thing there, he was certain of it. *** Idris was starting to worry about Lemiddus. Apart from the fact that she had no idea what effect his unintentional murder of Kyros had done to him mentally, the mask had clearly had a negative effect on him. Combined with the fact that she still hadn’t found him yet after fifteen minutes of search, she had a right to be worried. And not just for the Fa-Matoran. She quickened her pace now, images of blazing huts and screaming Matoran flitting through her mind. She knew Lemiddus would never do something like that in his right mind, but she had serious doubts he was still in control of himself. Better to get to him before he went and did something he would regret. Then the earth beneath her feet shook. For a second the Ga-Matoran froze, unsure of what the sudden quake meant. Had Lemiddus done something to the tectonic plates? Somehow, she doubted that was the case. A feeling made even stronger when it happened again, within seconds of the first. Then another. And another. And another. Now she could hear something, too. The sound of thunder, echoing through the bay. The earth continued to shake in it’s eerie, rhythmic pattern, in sync with the thunderous sounds the resounded through the salty water. Like the footsteps of some unspeakable giant. Mata Nui. Footsteps. Idris spun, Lemiddus no longer the worst of her problems. Not when she had to deal with the monster lumbering towards Mahri Nui. The massive creature was the size of a small airship, its body covered in a natural blue exoskeleton like that of a crab's. It stood on two disproportionate, muscular legs that looked as if they could crush a Toa with ease. Two thinner appendages, probably arms, jutted out from what appeared to be shoulders and ended in three-clawed hands big enough to encase a Matoran in its fist. Its head was massive, a third of the size of the rest of it put together. The nasty-looking mouthful of needle-like teeth that looked sharp enough to shred through almost anything was particularly unsettling. This was a creature that could eat Rahkshi for lunch. To make matters worse, it looked hungry. Idris pulled a Kanoka Disk from her pack and loaded it into her launcher, quickly checking the code to see what it was. A level six weaken disk. Convenient. The Ga-Matoran lined up her shot and fired. The disk cut through the air like a circular saw before crashing through the wall of water created by the bubble, taking with it a small bubble of its own that allowed it to maintain its momentum. The disk soared towards the massive creature, heading straight for its chest. The monster barely flinched as the projectile made contact. Idris strapped her launcher to her back and ran. Whatever this thing was, she wasn’t going to stop it alone. She could only hope the combined might of the Mahri Nui Sentinels could. *** The stories of Echo Canyon had done great injustice to the actual formation. It was supposed to be impossible to navigate. Defilak disagreed. Impossible was an understatement. He could handle impossible. But what he was attempting right now was simply undoable. The Le-Matoran rolled them between two more pillars, wincing as he heard metal scrap against the stone on both sides. This was killing the submersible. They’d already lost the dorsal and left fins. If he lost the right they’d lose stability entirely and he doubted he’d be able to get them out alive. As far as he knew the creature was still somewhere behind them. He didn’t expect the stone columns to stop the creature, not when he could fit the sub through. But he didn’t need it to be stopped, he just needed to slow it down long enough to get away. Assuming he didn’t wreck them first. Feton was clinging tightly to his seat, mouth tightly sealed with an expression on his face that indicated he was struggling to not vomit. Dekar was somewhere behind him, hopefully still in his own seat. Otherwise he was in for a really nasty ride. And it was bad enough already without being tossed wildly around the cabin. Another column rose up in front of them, forcing him to swerve to the right. He felt his arms tiring, he had no idea how much more of this he could take. He needed to lose the thing behind them and get out, fast. Feton seemed to have come to a similar conclusion. “We can’t stay down here!” he announced. “Quick-tell me something I don’t already know,” the Le-Matoran snarled back. He had half a mind to dump the Fe-Matoran out the hatch and use the time it took the creature to devour him to make his escape. The fact that they’d never gotten along in the first place only served to fuel this idea. “Ok, fine” Feton said, “This was a stupid plan.” “It was a smart-plan until Dekar brought you into it,” Defilak retorted. “Now please quick-stop your loud-talk and let me concentrate! Do you want us to crash-wreck?” That seemed to shut the other inventor up. Silently thanking the Great Spirit for small favors, Defilak returned his complete attention to the task at hand. He had no idea when the next break in the ceiling would be, but he intended to make use of it. The sooner he got out into open water the sooner he could figure out where in Karzahni they were. And the sooner he did that, the sooner they could make a run for home. As if on cue, a crack started to form in the rock about him. His eyes followed it excitedly, praying it opened enough to let the submersible through. It did. Several dozen bio past where the break began, it split wide enough to let them out. It would be tight, the hotel wasn’t there for long. If he didn’t hit it with exact timing they’d be dashed to pieces on the ceiling. Feton saw the opening too. “You can’t be serious.” The Le-Matoran’s eyes narrowed. “You wanted out, so out we go.” He pulled back on the control stick, using what was left of his directional mechanisms to angle them upwards. They curved upwards, heading roughly towards the opening as their speed started to pick up. “Son of a-” Feton was cut off as metal scraped against jagged rock, filling the cabin with a deafening screech. Then they were out. Defilak let out a triumphant whoop, throwing his fists in the air. Feton let out a breath and slowly loosened his grip on his seat. They’d escaped the canyon more or less intact. Now all that stood in their way was the open sea. They leveled out about a bio above the sea floor, taking in their new surroundings. All around them was desolate, uninhabited ocean. But about a kio ahead of them rose a massive stone column, one that made the ones in Echo Canyon look small. The cord. And at it’s base, Mahri Nui. They couldn’t see it from their position, but it was there. They were almost home. Defilak slammed the throttle as far forward as it would go. *** I’m being unreasonable. I don’t want to destroy the mask! “Shut up,” Lemiddus growled, tossing what had to be the hundredth wrench over his shoulder. Who could possibly need all these wrenches? Defilak, obviously. But despite the abundance of tools in the warehouse, he had yet to find anything that he could use to destroy the mask he carried. No hammers, no blades, nothing. He had dropped his Electro-Blades back in Kyros’ hut, so that ruled them out. He was on the verge of grabbing the largest piece of debris and trying to smash the mask to pieces, which, in theory, should work. Then again, ‘in theory’ a mask shouldn’t be putting thought in his head. Don’t be ridiculous, a mask can’t put ideas into my head! But it was, there was no doubt. If not the mask exactly then something the mask carried with it. Some sort of toxin, a chemical that caused delusions? No way to tell. But the mask was clearly too dangerous to risk someone else finding it. He needed to destroy it. Now. He cleared the table in front of his with one arm, sweeping a pile of spare parts and loose tools noisily onto the floor. He placed the mask down gently, staring at it all the way. Suddenly he was overtaken by a strong urge to just take the mask and leave, run off where no one could take it from him. But he couldn’t. This needed to be done. Lemiddus plucked a jagged piece of scrap metal from the floor and lifted it above his head. With any luck, the force of the blow would shatter the Kanohi and end this madness for good. “Put it down Lemiddus,” called a voice from behind him, “and step away from the mask.” No. It couldn’t be. He was dead. Lemiddus had watched him die. “I’m warning you, step away.” Lemiddus lowered his arms but didn’t let the scrap metal drop. Slowly he turned around to look at Kyros, but what he saw barely resembled the Ko-Matoran. Kyros’ body was webbed in white-blue lines of energy, criss-crossing up and down his arms, legs and torso. His eyes and heartlight glowed with the same color, and seemed to be the source of the web. His armor had been scorched to an ashy gray, most likely the result of his electrocution not half an hour earlier. “Kyros,” Lemiddus called across the warehouse, “weren’t you…?” “Dead? I think so. But my body absorbed the energy, used it to reboot itself.” He indicate towards the mask sitting on the table beside the Fa-Matoran. “That is no ordinary mask. It has power. Power I now need to live.” He stepped through the doorway, slowly making his way over towards Lemiddus, his hand outstretched expectantly. “Give it to me Lemiddus. I need it.” “No,” Lemiddus said. “I’m going to destroy it. It’s too dangerous.” Kyros’ eyes widened in fear. “You wouldn’t.” “Watch me.” Driven by a conviction unlike anything he had ever felt before, Lemiddus lifted the scrap metal once again. His eyes fell on the mask, but this time he did not hesitate. He slammed the piece of scrap down towards the table. “NO!” Kyros’ hands suddenly crackled with energy, and he threw an arc of energy wildly at the Fa-Matoran. His aim was off, but the bolt slammed into the table an exploded forcefully. Lemiddus and the mask went flying in opposite directions, thrown backwards by the force of the blast. Lemiddus crashed painfully into a pile of junk Defilak had gathered, knocking the wind out of him. Wincing, he climbed to his feet, then reached back to pull a small, sharp object from his back. The tip of a non-functional Electro-Blade. Figured. Now he found one. Kyros had already started after the mask when Lemiddus found it with his eyes. It was sitting by the side of a pool near the back of the warehouse. Kyros was closer, he’d reach it first. He had to distract the Ko-Matoran. Praying for his Sentinel training to finally paid off, Lemiddus drew back his arm and sent the Electro-Blade spinning through the air. The weapon crashed into Kyros’ back, knocking him flat on his face. Thank Mata Nui, the Fa-Matoran thought, pleasantly revelling in the fact that it was his own as he took off towards the mask. He reached it just before Kyros did. He lashed out with a kick to the Ko-Matoran’s abdomen, stopping Kyros’ momentum and sent the Ko-Matoran reeling. The barest hint of a victorious smile began to form on his Kanohi as he reached for the, just in time for Kyros’ energy-enhanced fist to slam into the side of his face. This time it was Lemiddus that went stumbling backwards. The punch would normally have simply knocked his head to the side, but with the energy enhanced strength granted to the Ko-Matoran it forced him to step back or risk losing his head. Literally. Having regained his footing, Lemiddus saw Kyros plucking the mask from the ground. As soon as he touched it his energy seemed to replenish itself, brightening to new levels. A faint humming filled the air, growing in volume every second Kyros held the mask. He was siphoning energy for the mask, like the vampire squid sucked the life out of living things. The look of bliss on the Ko-Matoran’s mask mirrored that of the squid’s perfectly, completing the effect. “The power,” he breathed, his tone ecstatic, mystical, “it’s amazing. spectacular. I’ve never felt anything like it.” “Put the mask down Kyros,” Lemiddus ordered, leveling an ancient looking projectile launcher at the Ko-Matoran. “That mask is evil. I don’t know how, but it puts thoughts in your head. It needs to be destroyed.” “Destroyed?” Kyros laughed. “You’ll have to go through me first. It’s mine now.” “It was an accident when you died last time. Don’t make me kill you on purpose.” Kyros turned his gaze from the mask, his glowing eyes meeting Lemiddus’. For a second time seemed to freeze as the pair regarded each other, looking past the masks that hid their faces and into something deeper. Something neither of them were certain they could describe. It was as if they were staring into each other's souls. Then Kyros spoke. “Could you really kill another Matoran in cold blood?” Lemiddus didn’t know. Another minute passed. Neither of them moved. “Didn’t think so.” As Kyros returned his gaze to the Kanohi in his hand three things happened in rapid succession. The pool beside the pair began to bubble, then exploded as a large metal object surfaced far too quickly. Water rained down on Lemiddus, who instinctively threw up his arms to protect himself. Taking the brunt of the wave on his arms and hands, his weapon was knocked out of his hands and dropped to the ground beside him. Kyros saw an opening. As the last of the water splashed down on the stone floor he let energy surge down his arm and out his fingers, blasting a bright bolt at Lemiddus. It hit the Fa-Matoran in the chest, throwing him to the ground. Lemiddus writhed in pain as residue energy trickled across his body and into the air around him. His whole body felt roasted, burnt. Like he’d been near the Cord too long. Far too long. He tried to stand. Every movement sent waves of pain up his body, but he somehow found the strength to bear it. Kyros needed to be stopped. And right now, it seemed as though he was the only Matoran in the city with the chance to do so. Grasping the edge of a nearby workbench, Lemiddus agonizingly hauled himself to his feet. For a second he wasn’t sure if his legs could hold his weight, but by using the table to support himself he stayed upright. He lifted his head, staring Kyros in the face. “I may not be capable of taking another Matoran’s life,” he said. “But I don’t think you are either.” For a second Kyros’ neon gaze seemed to flicker, a millisecond of doubt. A flash of...was it regret? Fear? Whatever it was, it didn’t stay long. Replaced by a cold, unreadable stare. The face of a killer. The Ko-Matoran jumped forward, blasting the ground beneath him for a little extra boost. He landed just in front of Lemiddus, shoving his mask right up in front of the Fa-Matoran’s. “I’m not the Matoran you think I am. Not anymore.” He unleashed a blast from his hand, blasting the table supporting Lemiddus to atoms. The Fa-Matoran collapsed, sprawling out across the floor in front of Kyros. The Ko-Matoran stared down at him in disgust. “I’m different now. I’m no longer weak, like you. I’m not afraid to fight, to kill.” Another bolt slammed into Lemiddus’ limp body, sending convulsions up and down his prone form. Kyros smiled wickedly, then began to spew energy from his fingertips. Lemiddus shook violently, curling into a fetal position and screaming in pain. Armor charred, tissue burnt, filling the warehouse with the smell of smoke and burnt organic material. “Step away from him Kyros,” a voice called from somewhere behind the Ko-Matoran. Dekar’s voice. The stream of energy cut off, giving Lemiddus a momentary respite from the pain. He clawed weakly at the ground, trying to pull himself to his feet. But suddenly he felt himself being yanked into the air, held up but his scruff by an unnaturally vibrating hand. He could practically hear it buzzing behind him. “One step out of that vehicle and he dies,” Kyros spat. Lemiddus gathered his strength and lifted his head, peering through squinted eyes at the scene in front of him. Dekar was standing in the hatch of an odd looking vehicle, staring angrily just over the Fa-Matoran’s shoulder. A dark green Kualsi peered out from behind him, the expression on it unreadable. “Be reasonable,” Dekar said. “You need help.” “Help?” Kyros responded. “I don’t need your help. Now get back in that ship and let me leave in peace.” “What have you done to Lemiddus?” “Get back in the ship!” “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM?” “Only this.” Kyros pointed his free index finger at Lemiddus’ heartlight, the barest hint of a spark forming on it’s tip. Dekar’s eyes went wide. Kyros unleashed a quick, powerful blast of pure energy at the heartlight. For a second the Fa-Matoran’s body glowed a brilliant light blue and then collapsed, falling limp in Kyro’s grip. Lemiddus felt the strength begin to drain from his body. Kyros released him, and he fell to the ground into a crumpled heap. His breathing came in ragged, rasping gasps. His armor was charred to an unrecognizable black, his heartlight flickered sporadically. Through his weary haze he saw Dekar freeze, saw Defilak burst out from behind the Po-Matoran and charge Kyros, spewing all manner of foul curses at the Ko-Matoran. Kyros walked away from Lemiddus, moving to meet the Le-Matoran. Dekar just stood there, frozen in shock. Lemiddus reeled as another wave of pain swept over his body. He felt himself slipping from the realm of the living, slipping into unconsciousness. He had no idea if he would wake up. But he could see the darkness coming for him from the edges of his vision. And he could do nothing. Nothing but lie there as the cold embrace of death came to him.
  12. Yes, it was intentional. No worries. And Chapter 4 is posted! Right on time this week.
  13. Chapter 4 Lemiddus found that he rather liked having the glowing Kanohi around. Its aura of power made him feel better, stronger. He felt on top of the world, like he could take anything on. Nothing could get him down, he would always be positive about everything. He could look death in the face and not be afraid. Negativity was not possible, not when he had the mask by his side. If he had stopped to consider this sudden change he would have been rather unnerved. Before he had grabbed it out of the sea he had been miserable, worrying about Kyrehx, the village, the squid, everything. Now he could care less if they were all smited from existence. But the mask wouldn’t let him consider that. He was happy now, and nothing could take his happiness away. So when his replacement arrived he didn’t resist like he had planned. Quite the contrary. He greeted the Matoran with a cheerful “hello!” and asked where Idris was. The Bo-Matoran told him she was meeting with Kyros. Lemiddus thanked him excessively and marched off to Kyros’ hut, leaving behind a very confused Matoran. When Lemiddus arrived at the hut the two Matoran were engaged in a heated discussion. Rather than interrupt, the Fa-Matoran slipped in the door and placed himself just inside, waiting patiently beside the door frame. “What will it take to convince you that I don’t know?” Idris was saying, clearly on the verge of losing her temper. The Ga-Matoran was usually very reserved, calm and understanding like the majority of her fellow Matoran of Water. But years spent at the bottom of the sea had changed her like it had everyone else. She had become less patient with others, more hurried. And she had begun to lose her temper in displays like this one. Kyros, on the other hand, barely seemed to be affected, unless you count his opinion of the other Matoran worsening, his arrogance increasing and him becoming twice as insufferable as an effect of isolation depression. “You’re his second in command,” the Ko-Matoran complained. “Of course you know.” “Well I don’t. So you’re gonna have to wait for him to get back.” The two stared angrily at each other for a full minute before Lemiddus dared to speak. “I know where he is,” he said cheerily. The two Matoran spun to face him, their surprise evident from the looks on their faces. They both waited expectantly, as if they thought he was going to tell them. “What are you looking at me like that for?” he asked, looking at them oddly. “I’m not going to tell you, I don’t think he’d appreciate it very much if I did. Take your own advice and wait for him to get back.” Kyros’ anxious expression turned to a sneer. “Then why bother to tell us?” he snapped. Lemiddus shrugged, his lopsided smile never leaving his face. “Who knows?” He saw Idris take a deep breath, calming herself. “What do you want, Lemiddus?” “This,” he said, reaching into his pack and pulling the mask out, “sank down from the surface while I was on guard. I figured you would know if anyone needed one, or where it should go.” As soon as the mask was uncovered his ecstasy increased tenfold. Lemiddus suddenly found himself wondering why he had brought the mask to Idris in the first place. He should keep it for himself, there’d be no harm in that. It made him stronger, why should he let her have it. Both Matoran’s eyes widened as he showed them the Kanohi. Its energy filled the room, an intoxicating sensation of power that filled all three. Idris reached out to touch it, causing Lemiddus to snatch it away. “NO!” he snarled with a viciousness that surprised him. Idris backed away, holding his hands out in front of her. “Lemiddus, are you alright?” she asked. There was fear in her voice. All traces of anger disappeared from the Fa-Matoran. Another impossible mood swing. Again, Lemiddus paid it no mind, having almost forgotten about the outburst he had just made. “Of course I am, what made you think otherwise?” Idris and Kyros exchanged a glance. Something was wrong with Lemiddus, wrong enough that even Kyros noticed. “Lemiddus,” the Ga-Matoran said slowly, “can I see the mask? Please?” The Fa-Matoran cocked his head to the side as if he were deep in thought, considering her proposal. Then he righted himself and shook his head. “No. It’s my mask, I found it. Finders keepers.” “Lemiddus, you’re not well,” Idris pleaded. “Let me see the mask, I promise I’ll keep it safe for you.” “NO!!” Lemiddus jerked the mask away and turned to face the door. He was making a run for it. “Kyros,” Idris yelled, “stop him!” For once in his whole miserable existence since the accident the Ko-Matoran did what he was told without hesitation. He lunged at the fleeing sentry, his fingers closing around the arm the held the mask. As soon as his fingers made contact with Lemiddus’ arm a blast of pure, unrefined energy coursed up his arm and to the rest of his body, throwing him across the hut and into the opposite wall. He collapsed to a sitting position, staring emptily at his hands, dazed. Lemiddus barely glanced back at what he had inadvertently done before he fled the hut. He couldn’t let them take the mask from him, not even Idris. For a moment he hesitated, wondering why he couldn't trust Idris to take care of the mask for him. She had never done him wrong, never given him any reason not to trust her. So why was it so different now? Because the mask gives me power. The thought appeared in his mind unbidden, surprising him. Since when had he cared so strongly about power? He was just a simple Matoran, trying to make a life for himself in the world. How ridiculous. Everyone wants power, why shouldn’t I? At this Lemiddus stopped running. These were not his thoughts. Why were they in his head? He looked warily down at the mask in his hands. It couldn’t be, how could a mask be alive? It was absurdity. He was going crazy. Maybe Idris was right, and he should give her the mask. Maybe he hadn’t fully recovered yet and he needed to go back to Kaira’s hut. NO! I’m fine. Idris just wants to keep the power for herself. She doesn’t care about me. Now he was afraid. The mask was doing something to him, changing him. He didn’t want power, he trusted Idris. Why had he ever thought otherwise? Why had he hurt Kyros like that? Kyros. The Ko-Matoran had never been particularly likeable, but he didn’t deserve what had happened to him. That was Lemiddus’ fault, whatever happened to him. Two Matoran almost killed because of him in two days. He had sworn never to cause harm to another being again. And he had broken that promise. Why? The mask was why. The mask was evil, and needed to be destroyed before it made him doing anything worse. He would take it to Defilak’s workshop, the Le-Matoran would have to have something there he could use to break it. It was only a Kanohi, right? Somehow Lemiddus doubted there was anything ordinary about the mask in his hands. Somewhere behind him he heard Idris call after him. For a second he debating going back, then decided against it. If what happened to Kyros happened to anyone who touched him he couldn’t go near anyone. Not until the mask was destroyed. He took off running. *** Kyros stared into space, lightning bolts arcing across his vision. The blast had been a massive shock to his system, literally shutting down and restarting several vital organs. Through the veil of blue energy he saw his heartlight flicker out. He felt fried, burned out. Was this how it felt to be burned alive? He didn’t recommend it if it was. He saw Idris lean over him, coming as close to touching him as she dared. Blue energy still flickered all over his body, threatening to fry anything that came to close. The Ga-Matoran looked sadly at his emotionless, empty face, then shifted her gaze to his dead heartlight. The expression on her face told him everything. She though he was gone. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “This was my fault.” She rose to her full height and turned, pausing to look back only once before vanishing out the door. She was going after Lemiddus. Mata Nui help her if she found him. Then his entire body convulsed, and the room glowed blue. His heartlight flashed once, then glowed a vibrant electric blue. The curtain of energy lifted from his vision, his mind refocused. He could feel himself regaining control of his voluntary muscle, and the feeling of being fried began to dissipate. Kyros lifted his hand, the one he had grabbed Lemiddus with. Blue energy arced between his fingers, flowing up and down his arm to his heartlight. From there more threads extended to every part of his body, warping and changing shape at random. Then he felt it. The power that now flowed through him. Power he could use to finally control his own destiny, to affirm his position. He was truly superior to his fellow Matoran now. He reached up to grab the table beside him, intending to use it to pull him to his feet. Instead the table shattered into a thousand woodchips, each flying at impossible velocities. But any that came near him were vaporized. He stared at his hands in amazement. Had he really just done that? The Ko-Matoran jumped to his feet with agility far beyond that of a normal Matoran. He pointed at a vase across the room, silently willing the energy to obey him. His heartlight flashed and a strange tingling crept up his arm. Then a bolt of energy jumped from his fingertips to the vase, causing the ceramic to explode, just as the table had. Kyros let out a maniacal laugh. He was invincible. Nothing could touch him, and he could destroy anything with a flick of his hand, with a mere thought. Now it was time to show the others who ruled Mahri Nui. They would have no choice but to obey him. He was more powerful than a Toa. He blasted a chair, completely annihilating it. It was intoxicating, all this power. How he had ever managed to survive without it was beyond him. Pointing his finger at the ceiling he unleashed another blast, tearing a hole in the patchwork. He paid it no mind. I always wanted a skylight. Suddenly he froze. A new sensation was creeping over him, a very different one from his power high. Like his power was draining out of him with every use. No. It couldn’t be. Not even fate could be so cruel, not to him. He snarled with raged and aimed the glowstone holder on the wall, blasting it into oblivion. There. He felt a little of his power dissipation. So his supply was finite. There had to be a way to get more. His eyes locked on the lightstone, and he grabbed for it, sweeping it up into his grasp. Focusing, he began to draw it’s power into him. The lightstone went dark. A tiny bit of energy flowed into his system. Nothing close to the surge he had gotten when he had touched the mask. The mask. It had given him his first dose, why couldn’t it give him a second? Or a third? If he had it his power would be infinite. He would be unstoppable, his destiny his to control. The universe would bow before him. He would become a god. But only if he had the mask. Kyros smiled as energy sparked all over him. He needed more power, and the mask could give it to him. The the mask currently belong to Lemiddus. If he found the Fa-Matoran, he found the mask. The hunt was on. *** Defilak had had better days. The fact that he was currently piloting a previously-untested submersible built out of various scraps from the bottom of the ocean through pitch black water while being chased by a Matoran-eating deep-sea monster was only half of it. He also had to worry about a distraught Po-Matoran who had finally cracked under the stress of his job and an arrogant rival inventor who seemed to think he could pilot the craft better than the person who had built it. And to top it all off, he had a sneaking suspicion that the Toa they had just rescued wasn’t going to be much help. He was still comatose, and the bit of drool that was trailing down his battered white Kaukau indicated he was going to stay that way until someone did something about it. All in all, he personally couldn’t think of a way things could get any worse, which he knew from experience meant that that would be exactly what would happen next. With his luck, in the next few minutes he would be eaten alive and his insides would be strewn about the abyss as a warning to anyone else stupid enough to come down here. “We’re losing structural integrity!” Feton shouted over the creaking of the craft. “The hull can’t take much more this!” “Take more of what?” Defilak called back sarcastically. “The stress of going these speeds at this depth, or the pound-beating the monster-thing out there is giving us?” Feton chose not to reply. They both knew that either was enough to damage them beyond on the spot repairs, and if the hull gave out there’d be no way they’d be able to escape. Not if they tried to save the Toa too. And who knew how Dekar would act in his current state. The craft rocked violently again as the creature hit them again. A slimy orange tentacle slammed across the main viewport, slathering globs oh who knows what across it. Defilak jerked back on the control sticks, sending them spinning. He heard the sound of armor hitting metal somewhere behind him. “Sorry,” he muttered under his breath, struggling to right the craft. Suddenly the tentacle snapped loose, unable to hold onto to spinning ship. It flew downwards, or whatever way the bottom of the craft was facing, smashing through the two electronic lights fixed to the front of the craft. What little light they had had outside vanished. Everyone inside the submersible froze. For a second it felt like time had stopped. They floated there, unsure of what to do next. Then the creature struck again, swinging it’s tentacles at the front of the craft with renewed vigor, seemingly encouraged by the destruction of the headlights. Defilak wrestled with the controls, trying to get them away. Then a spark flew from the ruins of the lamps, and an idea flashed through the Le-Matoran’s head. It was crazy, but he had no better options. “Hold on!” he called back to whoever could hear him. Defilak slammed the left control stick forward, causing the craft to shoot forward. The submersible rammed straight into the monster, jabbing sharp bits of glass and electrified wire into it’s soft flesh. Outside the craft the world was filled with light as the electricity coursed all over their attacker’s body. For the first time, Defilak got a good look at the creature. He gasped. The thing was humanoid, or at least close to it. It had what appeared to be arms and legs, but tentacles sprouted from where the feet and hands should be. It’s entire body was scarred and battered, no doubt from battles with other nightmarish monsters. But the disturbingness of it’s body was nothing compared to the horror that was it’s face. Three empty blue eyes were arranged in a triangular fashion, staring at their submersible with an unblinking, unnatural gaze. Tentacles sprouted from the back of its head, feeling the water like they were looking for something. But it’s mouth was by far the worst. A circular hole of teeth, spirally down to the back of the throat, yellowed and covered in some sort of green substance Defilak thought might be blood. Tiny bits of flesh and red metal were littered between the teeth. Sarda, or what was left of him. Defilak wretched, nearly losing control of the craft as he did so. It was sick, so very sick. They had come down here to find what had driven the Squid up out of the Black Water. He had a sneaking suspicion they had found it. And now they were paying for it. He pulled them away from the stunned creature, plunging the sea back into darkness. Going on gut instinct, he aimed for what he hoped was up and opened up the throttle. They shot through the water, their craft creaking and clunking all the way. “Defilak, the gages are all going crazy,” Feton announced, reaffirming what the Le-Matoran already knew. The submersible was breaking up. They’d be lucky if it got them up to the edge of the drop off, let alone back to the warehouse. He could only hope that the monster wouldn’t follow them out. “Just shut up and look-see what you can do,” he called back. Something slammed into their rear. The monster had caught back up to them. Fortunately, the force from the impact only added to their momentum. What it did to the hull was a less pleasant thought, but Defilak chose not to dwell on that. Then suddenly light flooded in through the front viewport. Defilak was forced to take his hands off the controls to keep it out of his eyes. For a second he wondered what had happened. Where was all this light coming from? “Are we out?” Dekar said from the seat behind him. Defilak lowered his arms to be greeted by the sight of the sun high in the heavens, its shape distorted by the waves that roamed the sea’s surface. Mata Nui, he was right. They were out of the Black Water. Before the Le-Matoran could answer, something hit them from behind again. The monster. They might have escaped the Black Water, but they were not out of trouble. Not yet. “We can’t risk lead-guiding it back to Mahri Nui,” Defilak stated. “I’ll try and lose it in Echo Canyon.” Feton looked at him in disbelief. “Are you crazy? The kind of maneuvering you’d need to make it through there would tear the sub apart!” “That creature-thing back there would tear the village apart if we let it,” he snapped back. “I certainly don’t want-need that on my conscience, do you?” He wrenched the right control stick to the right and he shoved the other forwards. They shot away from the Black Water like a bullet from a gun, heading for the crack in the ground that was Echo Canyon. Defilak watched the sea floor carefully, waiting for the canyon to come into sight. As soon as he saw a crevice large enough to pilot through he would dive. Any minute now... The craft rocked again. The monster was still on them, still trying to get them. So much for it staying in the Black Water. Now he’d have to hope he could lose it in the canyon. There. The sandy floor split in a jagged line, expanding as it went. Soon it would be large enough for the submersible to fit. Then it all came down to him. Echo Canyon was less of a canyon then it was a tunnel system. A single large cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites and giant pillars of stone, it was named for the echoes it made at points where the water could not reach. Smaller side tunnels sprouted off from the main one, dead ending or merging back into the main one at times. The only points of access were randomly placed crevices in the mail tunnel’s ceiling, like the one they were above now. For this reason, the Matoran generally avoided the place to keep from getting lost and trapped in the maze of stone. What Defilak was planning to attempt was, by most standards, madness at best. Some would even go as far as to call it suicide. Not that the Le-Matoran have never cared much for the opinions of others; he generally tried to block them out. So as he drove them through the crack into the main tunnel of the canyon it could be said he did not fully understand the implications of what he was doing. But such a statement would not take into account the irrational nature of his race as a whole; as much as Defilak would deny sharing such tendencies, he was still a Le-Matoran. And what he was about to do was just about the most Le-Matoran thing he could possibly do at the present moment. They dove into the crevice.
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