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Truth At The Fingertips The battle was over. The Mangaia was quiet once more, only the sound of dripping water coming from the remote corners of the cave. Makuta’s voice still echoed in the minds of the Toa Mata, but he was gradually fading, more a memory now than a threat. The darkness seemed to fade with his disappearance, the shadows no longer carrying fear and dread; yet the six figures in the center of the lair remained still, anticipating Makuta to come from where they least expected. Tahu was the first to let down his guard, his firesword dying to a flicker so he could look around the chamber. Each of his partners followed suit, and the Toa of Fire could feel the sense of contentment emitting from the group. Tahu, however, kept his eye on the dark chamber ahead- their job was only half accomplished. “The Makuta... is he really gone?” Pohatu asked, voicing the group’s thoughts. “Back to the nothing from which he came,” Tahu confirmed, quoting their enemy from moments before. Makuta was merely a guard, protecting the Mangaia until it was the proper time to be used. He had taken his job too far, however; he had used his Rahi as attack hounds, instead of cautions to the wandering villager. Makuta acting out, the Toa attempting to be heroes... everyone was trying to be more than what they were, the Toa of Fire realized, as he lead his team farther through the lair. In the green light that came from the cracked walls, the Toa found a door, battered and damaged from Onua’s shockwaves in the battle. Formerly a grand gate, it now buckled, wobbling under its own weight. With a nod from Tahu, the Toa of Stone and Earth pushed forward, set to demolish the wall. The others stood back, cautious lest the fragments fell on them. The six clambered into a long, lofty chamber, seemingly uncorrupted by the taint of Makuta, Kopaka noticed. As misguided of a guard he may have been, he still must have realized whatever significance it had. The hall glowed an eerie purple, as a luminous liquid sludged through an etching on the floor. It was a map, they understood, but of what they could not fathom; circles crossed with lines into a complex cross, almost like the Toa of Ice’s double edged sword, engraved into the nadir. Scooping a sample from the minuscule moat into a vial from his pack, Kopaka’s eyepiece scanned the liquid. It bubbled slowly in the tube, and with a glance at the floor he found the connection. The Turaga had claimed the Makuta had struck down Mata Nui with a spell-this had to be the “spell” he had used, some sort of virus. So the master of shadows did know what this chamber meant, Kopaka thought grimly as he capped the vial. How much more here has he corrupted? “Brothers,” came a call from Gali. The five turned to see their sister in the center of the map, hand running through a niche. From her pack she pulled her Makoki stone; the six pieces had granted the Toa access to the lair, but maybe their task went beyond that. Gali’s portion fit into the bottom part of the hemisphere, and with the donation of the pieces from the other five, the fragments clicked cleanly into the niche. With the click of the final fragment, the floor began to shake, something far below rumbling. Backs to each other, the Toa Mata readied themselves for a cave in. This was the threat they had least anticipated. Under their feet, the Makoki stone flashed, a green light shooting through the stone floor like a fast blooming flower. Where it travelled, a new liquid pushed away Makuta’s virus; It flowed from the Makoki through one side of the hilt... and stopped. Quivering for a few moments, it fought against the Makuta’s liquid, but was halted, unable to combat the virus any further. As it ceased progress, so did the quake; it kept the Toa on their toes as they looked to the ceiling, as they felt that moment of anticipation hanging in the air. Somewhere in the universe, in places far south of Metru Nui, the quakes could be felt by all those present. They felt something they’d never encountered before; more violent than a bioquake, but not as terrible as the Great Cataclysm, the Matoran knew something was happening as glanced from their work. Looking at their neighbors with blank expressions, they all subscribed to the same thought: Could this be it? A small voice in their heads asked. Something told them no, but a stronger, deeper voice resounded in the opposition they hoped for, that the Great Spirit was rising. Blank stares became smiles as the quakes grew, and then-- Nothing. The quakes abruptly vanished, as if it were an illusion dispelled. Faces fell and shoulders sagged, workers cursing themselves for holding their breaths. Mata Nui remained asleep, and would not awaken, not for all the faith in the universe; the quake had been nothing but a tease. Overwhelmed with disappointment, Matoran bowed their heads to their forlorn work once more. “Down!” Pohatu shouted as rubble fell like rain. The ruined gate was crushed as a wall of stone fell upon it, boulders and slabs of protodermic rock followed the pull of gravity. Soon a barrier was established, splitting the Toa from the Mangaia; the ceiling would have followed, if not for the Toa of Stone’s intervention. “So we’re trapped,” Lewa spat, looking mournfully at the mountain that stood before them. “Not if this isn’t fixed,” Onua spoke up, as he listened to Kopaka’s observations about the conflicting liquids. “We’re only trapped if we can’t get to where we need to go. This is a puzzle, and the Makoki is the key. Once it changes colors, and we have somewhere to be while the wall stands in our way, will we be trapped.” Lewa crossed his arms and turned away, muttering about how these five would not be his five ideal cell mates in a psychotic ward. “But what about the Matoran?” Gali asked, backed by a nod from Tahu. “What if the Koro were damaged by that quake, and they, or the Turaga, needed us?” “I don’t know, sister,” was the Toa of Earth’s reply. “I don’t know.” *** “Ahkmou is gone.” The words came from Nokama, surprisingly. The other five elder’s eyes were drawn to her over the Amaja Nui circle, curiosity plain on their masks. The was news enough to pull Vakama from his memories of that spit of land erupting off the coast of Ta-Wahi a few days past. A vision of the opening of the stone gate had enticed him to the site, in hopes of greeting the Toa Mata as they emerged from Mangaia following their fight with the Makuta; the Turaga had instead found himself thrown to the sand in the earthquake, the only thing emerging happening to be that island from the water. Speculation overcame him as he worried- he needed to know what was out there. But the Toa remained missing in the day following the quake, and while their absence prolonged, that distant island remained a mystery. Now speculation was escalating to panic, with the news of the Po-Matoran’s disappearance. “I was alerted last night by one of my guards that a boat had been taken from our docks, a Po-Koro throwing disk abandoned by the sailor, presumably a joke for a collateral.” “What does he hope-expect, the Makuta to have scurry-fled there?” Matau wondered, throwing his hand towards the new land in the east. “Maybe he does,” Vakama scoffed. “The signs of the peaceful times have reappeared here, the Rahi free of infected masks. But we cannot afford to sell ourselves to the Po-Matoran’s delusions, despite the proof there might be. Makuta would not move out of that lair until the Matoran are right where he wants them.” The other Turaga nodded, but they still looked to him for more. “No, my visions have not given me a glimpse of what is out there, nor what has happened to the Toa. If we cannot send them to bring Ahkmou back from whatever he is headed into, what are we to do?” Some of them exchanged blank looks in reply, themselves unsure of the answer to that. A series of whistles and shrugs came from Nuju, which the Ko-Matoran Matoro stepped forward to translate. “Turaga Nuju says... why should we send six strangers, instead of our former brothers and sisters whom we’ve known all our lives?” This brought a wave of mutters from the other Turaga, but Vakama stood stoic. Maybe he was putting too much faith in the Toa, but he still felt uneasy in trusting anyone else with the task. “I am same-sided with our ice brother,” Matau spoke. “The story-legends say-speak of great things from these six, but I yet to see that from him. Lewa swings from trees all day, and sweeps our stray Kanohi from branches. What have they done to hard-prove themselves?” “Our quest for the Great Disks was the same,” Nokama reminded him. “Six novice Toa, on a quest for objects of power. And they have proved themselves countless times- I would not be in attendance here if it weren’t for the actions of Gali; I am sure that without the actions of her brother somewhere along the line, you as well would not be here today.” “It seems that with the Toa’s arrival, we have stepped down from a certain level of competence,” Whenua contended. “We managed on our own for close to a thousand years, and as soon as they arrived, we have begun to think that they are the answer to our every salvation.” “Well, the legends speak of them as far more than novice Toa,” the Turaga of Air grumbled, with a supporting nod from Whenua. “We did not need a few dozen Kanohi to imprison him! And if all we needed were comforting figures around the villages, we should have stay-remained Toa and found some other way to woke-risen the Matoran.” When his fuming was met with shocked silence, Matau frowned. “I’ve always believed that was what he drained the Coliseum for-why would that Rahi scum ever use his own powers to wide-wake those he thought lesser of?” “These Toa are heroes in the making,” Vakama answered. He sighed; they’d always been an argumentative group as a Toa, and their Turaga stature did not change matters. “Have some faith in them.” “But they are not here, at the moment, so we will have to improvise,” Whenua reminded them. “Why can we not send our fellow Matoran, as Nuju suggested?” “He does not trust them,” Onewa cut the Turaga Fire off. “That Matoran knows of Metru Nui, and a version of what happened there. Vakama thinks that on the island out there is another entrance to Metru Nui, and if a party sent out there finds it...” “No,” Vakama rose to his own defense, slashing fiercer than Nuju would in a whistling fit of rage. “That would mean that all of our secrecy we vowed for would be for nothing, It is not the right time to return, Onewa, and you know it!” “These Toa were supposed to signal that time though, brother,” Nokama suggested. Vakama shot a glare at her, and Matoro backed away, recognizing the heat of the Turaga’s anger, as he slowly saw he was on the losing side of the argument. “I haven’t had visions of returning, but that time is soon,” Vakama replied. “Just because the Toa arrived does not mean they have to follow them into the tunnels. The time is soon, but not too soon. This is our home for now, brothers. Fine, take these Toa out of the equation. Say we won’t wait to send them out to this island. How else do you propose we bring Ahkmou back?” “He is afraid enough to run from his fellow villagers,” Onewa said menacingly. “But he is no fool to run from us when he knows we have him in our sight.” The Turaga of Stone was not implying the use of his Komau as he cracked a knuckle. “By the Great Beings, Vakama,” Matau proclaimed. “just admit Onewa is right. We are old-worn, not cripple-bound. Why don’t we just go ourselves?” *** If Jaller found anything comical with the care that the Turaga climbed into the boat, he did not show it. No one ever saw the elders squawking like a family of Brakas, and he would not be seen like that either. He remained on the Ta-Wahi hill that looked toward the bay, watching the six Turaga and Matoro soon become a dot in the distance, before he headed back to Ta-Koro. Though there was no danger on the road ahead, he kept his hand on his disk, half anticipating a Nui-Jaga to leap from the cliff side. The days of sudden peace following centuries of fighting the Makuta left the Captain of the Guard uneasy; without some strategy to conjure against some enemy, he felt restless, and almost hoped for an attack to arrive. The silence of the island was unnerving; he listened around him on his way back, almost hoping for something, anything to be lurking in the trees. Jaller wanted to pounce, and despite the dozens of Matoran who sang of the long awaited peace finally arriving, he found he could not join them. That Takua may enjoy this, the Captain of the Guard thought, but I’m not well when I’m idle. Jaller entered the warmth of Ta-Koro, nodding to the masks that lined the top of the fortress’s walls. Passing under the arch at the end of the gate, his Hau breaking from the gaze that each Kanohi above met him with. Each guard’s eyes bore a look of determination that any Captain would be proud of, but Jaller was perturbed by the robotic, almost estranged way they were all synchronized. The walls have eyes, he realized darkly. As he made his way under the arch, he felt the shadow of their vigil fall upon his mask, wondering with a shiver if that wall to his mind was being peered into. Walking briskly through the courtyard, a silence surrounded him. Though the Ta-Matoran carried on with their duties, each cast him an eye, out of respect. His mask whirled to meet each one of them, and he sense they awaited a public word from him- he was the leader of Ta-Koro in Vakama’s absence, and must have something to say. But Jaller was the sole actor under a spotlight, and with no script he found himself incredibly anxious, with nothing to say. The other Matoran watched him quizzically as nearly sprinted to his hut. *** “We may no longer be in our youth-prime, but now you finally get to see the Toa Metru in action,” Matau joked to Matoro. The Ko-Matoran managed a brief smile as he and Onewa stroked the boat away from Mata Nui, briefly chuckling at the Turaga’s nostalgia. As they paddled, each passenger could be heard caught up in their own thoughts, their words expressed in the trickle of the water along the hull of the boat. Wondering what lingered in each elder’s mind, Matoro looked from the fading shoreline of Mata Nui to the imposing mountain that lay ahead, watching the artificial channel between islands funnel water from one part of the rest of the world to the next. A gate to...Mata Nui knows how many places, Matoro thought as he glanced the horizon with his eyepiece, the endless blue bending beyond the curve of the earth. And we’re concerned only with what lay on the other hinge. Glancing beyond the bow where Nokama sat, Matoro regarded the approaching island with wary. Seven heads jerked as the boat rode up onto the shoreline, the travelers caught unawares by the unexpected arrival. Wading to the sand with the boat in tow, they stretched their limbs as they viewed the new island. The mist that had obscured its details from a distance had been pulled back like a curtain; the sand seemingly bare in comparison to the beaches that lined Ga-Wahi; nothing was here except for the cliffside that poked its way through the seawater that still trickled down from its emergence. The islands on this ocean, Whenua thought with the shake of his head, remembering back to when they first glimpsed Mata Nui. This place had simply popped up, a perfectly constructed landmass, if not a little barren, with no signs of millennia of formation, just like their island paradise. Casting a glance along the cliffside, he wondered if--- “Over there,” Onewa pointed, gesturing just beyond the bend of the shoreline. A boat was nestled alongside the rock wall, poorly hidden by its sailor. The paddle was stowed under the seat amongst a clutter of objects that could have come from nowhere other than the island of Mata Nui; a kohlii fishing net, some sea shells, a Po-Matoran walking staff akin to Onewa’s... and a triangular stone engraved with a symbol the Turaga wished they weren’t familiar with. “Maybe he went looking for bait,” Matau said nervously, hoping to turn a blind eye as he looked at his fellows. The seven left the canoe as it was, following the tracks that strolled away from it. The footprints scattered, as if the one who made it were in a stupor while wandering the beach. Soon they not even resembled a Matoran’s footprints, the shapes contorted until it looked like there were several trails leading down the beach. “All of this effort to hide, when we are a day behind in the chase?” Onewa implored, as they followed what they hoped was the Po-Matoran’s vestige. One of the trails strayed closer to the rock, until they disappeared under a ledge an arm’s reach above the beach. A pathway wound from it toward whatever lay at the top, and the Turaga looked at each other; each of them was physically incapable of climbing that gap. A gesture from Nuju however, was the answer around their roadblock, as his Matatu glowed. One by one he telekinetically raised each of the party to the path, until Matoro pulled the Turaga of Ice up to the ledge A wave of gratitude came from the Turaga of Ice in form of a nod as his assistant pulled him up to the ledge. As they started upward, Vakama cocked his ear to the sky, as if hearing something in the silence above. It was hard to believe that his comrade was... gone, the exile thought in a state of breathless disbelief. It was almost as though he had never existed, no remainder of his presence left on the island to hint that he was anything but a bad dream that all of the Matoran of Mata Nui had encountered. But to Ahkmou, the Makuta was more than an inhabitant of the island; the manifestation of his darkness had seemed almost physical, as if it were part of the island itself, and his disappearance was as powerful a blow as if a village had been wiped clean off the map. He had told Ahkmou that he would not be easily defeated, that the Toa were no match for him... but the Po-Matoran could have sworn to have felt the blow that Tahu and the others had dealt. The spirit of shadow had lied to Ahkmou, and just from that betrayal he felt that more alone in the universe. Staring out at the unhampered ocean, anger coursed through him as he refused to believe the reality of it. So the Makuta had not fled to this spit that had risen from his downfall; the Po-Matoran had fled out here as a place of protection, hoping his partner would be here. But he was not, and now the Turaga surely would know that Ahkmou was working with the Makuta. He briefly wondered why he was staring out at the ocean, and not at the island he had come from. Maybe it was because he wanted to see the same sight they saw. But their was an unfairness to it, he fumed as he glared out at the sea, furious at his own folly. He was an outcast, but an outcast one would ever consider valuable. The company at the battle of Kini Nui had supposedly been a collection of misfits from all over the island, and from that they had gained some credibility with the rest of the Matoran. Him? He would never be listened to, no matter what he did. The masks of those Matoran burned in his mind, an animosity at the smiles they wore nowadays on the island... then those masks were of the elders, the six that would always believe he was under their thumb. Yet the masks he envisioned were not those of the six Turaga- they were different, bolder, however at the same time there was a striking resemblance. The Po-Matoran was certain these masks were not worn on Mata Nui, that they were products of his mind, but he was certain he knew from somewhere. Surrounded by nothing but the quiet wind, he listened for an answer in the silence. But the only reply was the gentle lap of the waves carrying up from far, far below. It was not fair, but he felt like he could not help it. He had been warned by Onewa for the lucky Ghekula stunt, but he felt that the Turaga had more to say then... the Kohlii balls would be sure to bring everything else out, confirm any suspicion the elder had for him to be associated with the Makuta, that his cover was blown. Ahkmou was certain that he had been here before, that there were many more times he had been atop some peak, pondering the weight of his crimes, but those times he could not recall. No matter what the Makuta told him, all those memories of anything he might have done in his life in Po-Metru were blocked off. There was no confirmation, but definitely a suspicion that something similar had happened there. Down on the shore, he could hear the waves crash, collapsing on themselves, and then the slosh of the tide retreating back to its larger body. There was that renewed rumble forward, followed by the moment’s pause where the wave hung in midair, a silence that kept the Po-Matoran on his toes. One word relieved him of the tension as the waves crashed again, as the cycle restarted. Standstill. He grinned as he felt the breeze buffet around the edges of his mask, the tickle of air brushing across the Kanohi only to pause for a moment, leaving his impatient face itching for the caressing touch to finish its stroke. But he understood what had happened to the Makuta. He’s only keeping us on our toes, Ahkmou smiled grimly. A crunch of a footstep on the path made him turn around, wiping the smile off of his face. The Turaga were there, calling his name, but his mind could see the other bolder masks, their true masks staring at him as though he were an exotic new Rahi. A Ko-Matoran was with them in their rear, staring at the Po-Matoran as if he and Ahkmou were two completely different species. “He fell, this place rose. I had to come out here.” “What did the Makuta tell you?” Onewa asked. “Everything. All the truths of Metru Nui, and how you left me, in that river, to die.” “It was a mistake,” Vakama croaked. “Something took you from us. We didn’t--” “You, Vakama, he told me you were willing to kill us all,” Ahkmou sneered. “There were circumstances!” the Turaga of Fire exclaimed. “Ahkmou, all we want is just... we don’t want you to tell the others of Metru Nui. They’ll know, when the time is right, but they cannot know... not yet.” “And if I do?” “Brother, please, just cooperate,” Matoro insisted. “If you tell everyone, then there will be chaos. Not the Great Spirit’s plan, not even Makuta’s plan. Everything would go to chaos, and if something happens to the Turaga, not even I would know how to get back there.” Ahkmou turned away from them towards the ocean once more. He glanced down into the blue... and could see shapes in the waves, shadows of large beings. A few of them had crawled out onto the beach, with wicked looking talons and claws, and probably many more grotesque features that could not be seen from this distance. They were making their way onto the shoreline, and the Po-Matoran had second thoughts. He probably could not outrun whatever was down there. But maybe the Toa could. The seven did not see what he had seen, standing further back along the trail. Vakama, Onewa and Matau looked pleadingly at him, while the other four had been attracted to the writing on the side of the walls. Ahkmou had not known what they read, or even if all of the seaweed and mud seeping through them that they could be read. Nokama’s Rau glowed as she translated it, but shook her head at them, signaling she was unable to read it. If we spend any more time up here, whatever’s down there might make their way to the other side. And they see they’re not alone... “I...I will come with you,” he surrendered, his shoulders sagging as he trudged toward the surprised group. *** The bobbing of the boat on the waves jerked Garan awake once more, and the Onu-Matoran cursed himself for falling asleep once again. He held his eyes closed tightly for a brief moment before opening them to see Velika at the rudder, keeping the boat set straight for the island ahead. Casting a grateful nod toward the Po-Matoran’s way, he let his eyes drift back to the ocean. The shores were in sight now, that he was glad for. There had been too many days out in this rocking canoe, and Garan needed his land legs back. He needed answers as well, to questions that burnt deep in his dehydrated mind. The island of Voya Nui had seen the emergence of this mammoth island- only a distant dot from there-, and Garan was one of the few willing to explore what lay out there. It was another time when water and food were scarce, and this might be the perfect opportunity to replenish the village. Velika had come along because of his unique view on the world might spot the Onu-Matoran something they may have needed that he overlooked. But could this mysterious island be the answer to their recent famine? A brown dot appeared between the boat and the island. They’d pass through enough piles of driftwood on their voyage to get Garan wondering where they came from; the island ahead did not appear to be forested, and the debris was not coming from their land. He watched the wood float closer to them, but it did not follow the currents that flowed towards Voya Nui. As it floated away from their destination, the Onu-Matoran wondered if his dehydration was getting to him, or if he had fallen asleep again. He could see bursts of blue and brown in the driftwood, but red and white and green and black? He was definitely seeing things, unless... “Velika,” he called, breaking a silence between the odd pair. The eyes under the powerless Great Komau flicked his way. “We’re the only boat that left Voya Nui, right?” “A single drop of water can herald a rainstorm to meet a dry ground’s ache for water,” was his riddled reply. “Are we the single drop, or part of the storm though?” Garan asked, pointing ahead. The boat had distinguished itself on the water now- definitely not driftwood. He could not make out definitive forms of those in the boat, but he could see that they were not of the build the rest of the Matoran of Voya Nui were. Who were they? The single thought raced through his mind. Where did they come from? Was Voya Nui the only island that went “up”, or were we merely the first? Standing up, he begun to wave his arms and shout, to indicate their presence. But they could not see him for all the noise he was making. The boat across the water kept rowing onwards, oblivious to him. Garan prepared to fire a pulse bolt with his tools as a flare, but he stopped upon realizing the speed they had suddenly picked up. His gaze dropped from the boat to shorter sights... only to see the boat cruising towards a whirlpool, right in their path. “Velika!” he barked. “Steer us out of here!” The Po-Matoran nodded, pulling hard on the rudder. The currents were tenacious, countering the villager’s strength, and the boat was approaching that whirlpool fast. Garan joined his brother Matoran, closing his eyes as he pulled with all his might on the rudder.... And he found himself cruising smoothly onto a beach when he opened his eyes again, feeling the boat wedge itself in the sand as small waves pushed it forward. He and the Po-Matoran looked at each other, surprise even in Velika’s eyes. “Perhaps the Great Spirit decided to give us passage,” Velika wondered aloud. “Or maybe we got lucky,” Garan replied abruptly, brushing himself off. Ahead on the cliffside looked like a ledge they could climb. Would there be freshwater higher up? *** Whenua lay sprawled out on the bed in the Ga-Matoran hut, exhausted from the return trip. So tired was he that he could not make it back to Onu-Koro; his time as a Turaga was taking a toll on his body, and here he and the others were, adventuring as though they were still Toa. He felt his thighs ache from the slopes they had scaled; his arm had become sore as he leaned on his staff, fingers cramping as they clenched the shaft. They were getting too old for this, the Turaga of Earth was realizing. He closed his eyes, the inscriptions they had found floating in front of him. They were older than Metru Nui itself, as he and Nokama had discovered, indecipherable by either expert. Whenua stowed them in his memory for future reference, his mind slipping as it gave in to his body’s fatigue... ...and suddenly he was dreaming of a time that almost seemed ancient, where he had felt the same weariness. His earthshock drills hung at his sides as the Vahki transport burst through the street, as Matau pushed it to the limit to reach the Coliseum. He slid to the floor of the vehicle, content with his job accomplished. In almost the blink of an eye he and the others were jumping to the Coliseum floor, facing a hideous impostor atop Turaga Dume’s podium. He did not catch the speech the masquerader gave to the Toa, for his attention was on the twin suns that were becoming slivers on the skyline; but he could hear the chilling proclamation, as the podium reached for the sky. “And even now, the Great Spirit will soon sleep...” “Ah!” Whenua screamed, jolting awake on the bed. The rumbling voice of the Makuta echoed in his mind; even as a memory, the master of shadows was still haunting. Taking a deep breath, his head tilted to the window, the three vertical strata of rock protruding from the ocean. His arm was reaching out toward the structure, three of his fingers matching the cliffside. Three finger island, the Turaga thought. A fitting name. He closed his eyes once more, attempting to fall back asleep- but all he could see were the twin suns, closing like eyelids... “No,” he whispered, jolting up in bed. Shaking his head, he stared across the sea in disbelief. The twin suns, three finger island, it had to be a coincidence... but as Whenua imagined himself laying on the bed, he could not deny this truth. “It cannot be.” *** Someone had left a canteen, and Garan drank gratefully from it, thanking the Great Spirit for the small gift. He and Velika had not found much so far besides dried seaweed laying along muddy trails leading to the peak up at the top. Some carvings were etched into the sides, writings that the Onu-Matoran could not read, having been faded long ago. The strangest thing of all was that Velika had taken the lead throughout the hike, muttering to himself excitedly. For one who had always taken a step back in the village, he was certainly engaged in this task. Garan often wondered where his traveling companion pulled much of his wisdom from, seeing things so simple that the other villagers overlooked or never considered. Where had the Matoran been in his time before Voya Nui, and what had he learned there? Shrugging the thought off, he paced behind the Po-Matoran, wondering what else could be on this island. They emerged on a cliffside, overlooking a blank ocean. There was still much distance until the peak- they would have to backtrack, but for now, Garan sat. He wondered... charging up his pulse bolt generators, he sent them forward, seeing if beneath the ground they yielded freshwater. He was a fool for thinking so, he knew, but it was worth a shot; obviously any pools of freshwater here would have mixed with the ocean, but there could be more underneath. The ground rejected his bolt, ricocheting it back toward him. He dove as it sped at him, and went wild into the ocean. As he recovered, Garan looked up to see Velika in the wall, the sounds of his tinkering muffled. “What did you find?” he asked the engineer. What Garan saw took him aback. Velika had opened some sort of hatch, where a panel of complicated technology flashed. Covered in mud, a little bit damaged in places, but it looked like it operated. What did it operate? Garan watched his brother Matoran operate. Velika had been an extremely talented engineer, but the speed that he moved in going through the buttons was frightening. “Velika, do you know how to operate this?” “When in a drought, you do not go building a pyramid,” was his only reply, his mask buried in his work. “Instead, you mine.” The tone almost did not sound like Velika, but Garan was so puzzled by the meaning of that riddle that he did not notice. A tremor. All was still, and he was caught up in the confusing Matoran’s words, but he felt a tremor. The cliffside begun to rumble, and Velika stood back, hands on his hips. “What did you do?” Garan asked, slightly panicked. “I believe it is time to leave,” the Po-Matoran, throwing the latch shut. Worry was in his voice too, and Garan threw away all of his questions as he followed the Matoran back to the boat. The entire mountain quaked violently by the time they had made it to the beach. The sands were shifting as well, and the two hopped into the boat. Even Velika pushed off with a sense of urgency to leave this place. They would take their chances with the whirlpool our there, but they had to get off of this island. They did not look back until they were far away, and what they saw astounded them both. The island was sinking, falling into the ocean, shaking even the water. Waves formed that carried them away from the place, but Garan stared long and hard at the place as it sank. The excursion had been worthless, he thought as he tossed the canteen into the bottom of the shell, grabbing a pair of oars in its place. Or was it? *** They had given up as a team on trying to batter through the ruined gate, and instead each wandered the chamber, alone with their thoughts as they sought an alternate exit. The pile of rubble was a puzzle that had been rendered unsolvable- it was too thick, too many other aspects that thwarted their elemental powers. If they even tried to bust through the rubble, it would have brought them into an even tighter trap, so the only solution was to think it out. Tahu watched the others while he boiled with frustration, itching to be in action again. Lewa was the same way off in another corner, maddened with claustrophobia as he quietly babbled nonsensically; the chamber still retained an aura of silence about it, as the other Toa solemly wandered. Onua and Pohatu sat on the pile of rubble, feeling the vibrations of the underground, while Kopaka strolled alongside the walls, using his Mask of Vision to find anything they’d overlooked. While he did not find any hidden passages, he did seem to find many symbols that required deciphering. The Toa of Water, however, still tinkered with the puzzle on the floor. She’d made some progress, but in the end what did it matter? Tahu had utmost faith in his sister Toa,but if she triggered another reaction, what would it do besides rain more rubble until the suns from Kini Nui shined this deep? Gali, on the other hand, moved with a patience that would have tried a dermis turtle as she deciphered the paths of the liquids. The Makoki was an extremely sensitive remote, tender movements pushing the virus this way and that. A slight touch the wrong way could let the Makuta virus take over the entire system, and then there would be no telling what could happen to the six of them in here. Their enemy had certainly concocted a complex “spell”, as Kopaka had proposed to the rest of the team. Not even a combination of their elements could counter it; it could not be siphoned, diluted, or evaporated to let the natural liquid have its way. There was almost a higher voodoo protecting it, to show the Makuta had not concocted a feeble plain. The mastermind behind this would not easily let his efforts be overturned, even if they lasted long after he had been defeated. If the rule over the Matoran was not on his terms, then it would be on no terms. Perhaps she was tiring from days of looking at it, but she’d sworn that the Makoki moved on it’s own. The liquid coursed one way, and she blinked with surprise, as progress seemed to revert. “No!” she cried, as the standstill had moved again. The others were about to come to her aid, but a new earthquake interrupted. The liquid flashed in response, branching off towards one wall of the chamber. Signs carved into it glowed, except that this wasn’t the glow of the virus, but of the natural liquid from the puzzle. “What did you do Tahu shouted over the rumbles, as they watched the walls tremble. “I did nothing! It acted on its own!” the Toa of Water responded, doubt coursing through her mind. Had Gali been tricked into working on the wrong formula? And eerily, the quake stopped. The chamber was still again, and the flash cut off. The symbol on wall shone for a moment, and then went dark again, but the six Toa stood wary, elementals wisping around their tools. With a hiss, the symbol lifted up, revealing a new chamber. They could not see because of the mists that came from the room, but there was something new glowing, from deep in there. Tahu, eager to get out of this forsaken puzzle room, took the first step forward, but a voice from inside brought him hesitation. Clean it all. It must be cleaned. ------------------------------------------ Last Year when Faber Files published the idea of Three Finger Island, I was fascinated on what the story direction could have taken. My goal was to remain as canon as possible, and to see if I could set the story back onto its course while still having the characters adventure out to "Three Finger Island" I went through a lot of rewriting stuff, trying to figure a truth that each character would realize, and in doing so, I found a few truths about myself. Anyways, hope you enjoyed this. NS.