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End Of Yrenta


The Iron Toa

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End of YrentaChapter One==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Imlen, get down!”Imlen ducked. A disk flew over his head and hit a wall, triggering a fireball that left a smoldering impression where it struck.“We're over here, run!”Imlen ran after Vilam. Around a corner, they came face to face with the rest of their team and some other Matoran. They paused there to catch their breath, but were soon interrupted. The building they were hiding behind disintegrated. Projectiles crossed the empty space where the building had stood. A Rahkshi backed away from the battle, seeking an escape. It had just knocked Najma out of the way in its retreat when it was struck by something and exploded. Najma, who had traveled with Imlen for four hundred years, was killed instantly from the resulting shrapnel. Dozens of other Matoran fell around him, killed or wounded by numerous ranged attacks. This was not collateral damage. After routing the Makuta forces, the Dark Hunters had begun to slaughter every laborer they saw. Imlen had been nearly too shocked to react. Such a massacre had never occurred during this war.But it was a war, and inevitably innocent Matoran would get caught in it. Imlen did not know what started it, but he had heard it had been raging across the universe for centuries – since soon after that terrible earthquake that was dubbed the Great Cataclysm. Whatever strife the aftermath of the Cataclysm had caused between the Makuta and the Dark Hunters, that disaster had had grave effects on the remote region of Yrenta. Buildings crumbled, the ocean swelled over the plains of De-Wahi, and the Toa were missing, presumed dead. They had been underground when it happened, gone off to put an end to some mysterious threat. Whatever the Matoran of the underground feared, it had not come back to them, but neither had the Toa. Without the Toa, the Matoran were overrun by the Ukzokth, twisted creatures often called 'goblins', in a matter of days.Makuta Teskor had saved them from that menace, revealing himself and the dominance he had attained over the Ukzokth before the Matoran were wiped out. Few remembered who he was, and those few had misgivings. Some had spoken out against him, claiming he had done horrible deeds in the past and was probably behind the Ukzokth all along. Those individuals did not last long, as Teskor, well-intentioned or not, quickly demonstrated that he had no tolerance for dissenters. The Turaga had quietly disappeared as well. In exchange for keeping the Ukzokth from getting carried away (he didn't seem to mind if they harassed the Matoran a little, killing and pillaging occasionally) he had requested that the Matoran honor him over Mata Nui. For the first few centuries, it seemed to be all about him. Statues honoring Mata Nui and the Toa were torn down and replaced with ones for him, old tombs and temples were buried, and every Matoran pitched in to pay him tribute.Then the war came to the borders of Yrenta, and he got serious. The people formerly ruled by Metaku (one of the dissidents who had disappeared) were put to work mining and crafting for the Brotherhood of Makuta army. The old fortresses that used to defend the Matoran from goblins were renovated in preparation for Dark Hunter attacks, and tribute was tripled to pay for the war. But although many of the older, wiser Matoran, as well as some of the bright and brave young ones, had spoken out and disappeared, a few others had more success at staying alive while doing nothing to help Teskor and his brothers. Among those rebels were Imlen and his companions. He had been opposed to Teskor since day one, remembering old stories about him slaying a Toa from his village, and he soon had a following. Over the years, he had lost companions and gained new ones.Today it seemed likely he would lose all his companions, and his own life too. The attempt to liberate the Matoran laboring in this fortress had gone all wrong. Imlen and his friends had joined the community of Matoran that kept the walls and weapons in order, hoping to lead the Matoran in deserting Teskor's forces when the Dark Hunters attacked. But the Rahkshi, Ukzokth, and other beings the Makuta commanded had kept the Matoran from leaving until the Dark Hunters had destroyed them. Now it was clear the Dark Hunters did not intend for them to leave alive either. It was a ruthless strategy: cripple the enemy's army by destroying the slaves that supported it. In Imlen's experience, the Dark Hunters were all corrupt and greedy beings that would do anything for money and power. But whoever was leading today's attack must have been especially heartless.Several Dark Hunter soldiers charged. A thick-armored warrior with enormous hands and feet picked up Vilam and tried to crush her. Grimacing with pain, she pressed a button on the hilt of her sword, and the blade became electrified. Neither the jolt nor the blade's sharpness were enough to hurt the Dark Hunter's hand much, but it was a nasty surprise. He cried out in shock and dropped his Matoran of Lightning prisoner, and cursed as she bolted out of reach. One of his companions threw a stack of deadly bladed disks at the fleeing Matoran, but the villagers took cover behind another building just in time. They kept running, and only after making a few random turns in an effort to evade the Hunters did they dare to stop to catch their breath.“Najma!” gasped a Matoran of the Green with a bow strapped to his back. “I saw him go down, we left him behind!”“I know,” said Imlen. “I'm sorry, Paqyar, I saw him... he's gone.”“And you're next!” said a slender, blue-armored warrior. His red eyes glowed, and the Matoran found themselves inexplicably mesmerized. Only Napruha, another Matoran of Lightning, was unaffected for some reason. She growled and skewered the hypnotic being with her rapier. He yelped, then hissed in anger. He grabbed Napruha's arm, pulled the weapon out of him, and disarmed her with a crushing grip. With his other hand he brought his sword to bear on her. Napruha blocked his initial attacks, but her Matoran-sized shield was no match. She was soon struck a mortal blow. Fortunately for them, however, this broke the other Matoran from their trance.“Go! I will hold him off!” Napruha managed to say. She stood defiantly between the Dark Hunter and her friends, who obeyed her and fled. The Hunter gave her a quick death and pursued the others, but he was too late. He had lost them.Ahead, the Matoran saw a surviving group of Brotherhood soldiers, led by a Steltian lieutenant. It seemed the soldiers had a clear escape route, but if the Matoran accepted their protection, they would lose their freedom. Then it would be back to laboring for the Brotherhood until the next opportunity to escape came, if they lived that long. Imlen considered it. Last time the Dark Hunters had captured a fortress, Teskor had sacrificed a considerable number of Ukzokth to take it back, an act which was beneficial to the Matoran. However, after that, dozens of Matoran had been worked to death improving the recaptured fortress and laboring to make up for the Brotherhood's losses. Fortunately none of the Matoran had actually been sent into battle, as they served the Makuta better as laborers, but Imlen feared Teskor might do something rash as a result of this recent defeat. Matoran were no match for the Dark Hunters' army, but if he was willing to throw away the lives of the Ukzokth, he might decide he had more than enough Matoran to waste. Yet, the Dark Hunters would certainly kill them all immediately. In a choice between death and slavery, Imlen would choose the latter, at least for a little while.But it seemed the choice would be made for him, one way or another. The lieutenant had spotted them and ordered two soldiers forward to retrieve them, while the rest retreated. They were halfway to the Matoran when another Dark Hunter emerged from an alley. This one was a male Vortixx, an unusual specimen to find away from their homeland of Xia. His quick, precise movement set him apart from the other Dark Hunters – the Matoran sensed something especially dangerous about him. They were soon proven right. As soon as they turned to him, the Brotherhood soldiers sent to escort the Matoran were dead. His sword moves were some of the fastest Imlen had ever seen. As the bodies hit the ground, the Vortixx turned to the Brotherhood lieutenant and his group. The lieutenant took another step back nervously, and ordered the rest of his company to attack. The warriors, consisting of four recruited soldiers of different species, three Visorak, and a Rahkshi, attacked together. Imlen gestured to his friends, and they took the opportunity to flee.The Matoran stopped short as a series of knives landed in the ground in front of them, thrown by the Vortixx as a warning. He had barely turned away from the Makuta forces. Intimidated, Imlen and the others paused. They wondered what it was for. The Dark Hunter could have easily killed them. He certainly was doing well in his fight. A hail of shuriken stung the recruited soldiers, distracting them while he took out the Visorak. The Rahkshi, a Turahk, attacked with its fear power. This slowed the Vortixx enough for the soldiers to score a few hits, but it was not enough. Seconds later, the Rahkshi was scrap, and the four soldiers were next. The last one standing, the terrified Steltian, held up his axe and shield as the Dark Hunter charged him, but it was no use. The Matoran were still standing in place, almost equally afraid as the lieutenant when his head was removed from his body.“Well, well,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter as he leaped backwards and landed smoothly in front of the group. “Four Matoran trying to escape. And judging by your weapons, you are not mere laborers.”“Are you going to kill us?” the Po-Matoran known as Mosori said bitterly.“Those are my orders,” the Dark Hunter admitted. The Matoran prepared themselves, but he did not act yet.“We won't make it easy,” said Vilam, trying to sound more certain than she was.“Hmm... but you do have some spirit, don't you?” chuckled the Vortixx. “You're renegades of some sort, I can tell. Rebels, bandits, adventurers, whatever you call yourselves, whatever others call you. I think it would do the Brotherhood some harm to let you go. Don't you think?”“Certainly,” said Imlen hopefully.“Well then, I think it would be in both our best interests to let you go. Agreed?”“No doubt,” said Imlen, more confidently this time.“Better run. Sounds like my friends are coming,” warned the Vortixx. He was right, the Matoran could hear others approaching.They took his advice and fled. Fortunately, the fortress wall had been damaged nearby. A hole had been blasted in the inner wall, and the outer wall was weakened significantly. With moderate effort, Mosori kicked the damaged section down, and the four Matoran spilled outside. Nearly stumbling, they continued down a hill and stopped half a kio away. There a large rock formation provided cover, and they rested.“Kara-Naja, there it burns,” said Paqyar, referring to the fortress. “I wonder if Aki-Naja is next.”“I doubt it,” said Mosori. “We Po-Matoran put our best into the Fortress of Valor, and I know Makuta's got it full of his forces up and down the hour-chart these days. Not that it makes much difference to us.”“Don't say that,” said Imlen. “You know there are still many of our brothers and sisters trapped in there, working for the Makuta until they drop dead or die in the war. I won't stand for it. If battle ever comes to that fortress, I swear I'll be there to help them escape.”“We need to see to our own survival first,” Vilam pointed out. “Look, our group is almost half gone. Weti, Najma, and Napruha, all of them are lost.”“I know. I... I don't know how we can...” stammered Imlen.“The Matoran must save themselves,” said Paqyar, answering the unspoken question. “We must show them: if they are to be free, they must work together to achieve it. They can't rely on a small group of rogues to do it for them.”“So that's your plan, is it?” said an unfamiliar voice.“Not again!” groaned Mosori.“We were followed!” gasped Vilam as she and the others stood. “That treacherous Vortixx – wait, that's... oh, Kraata slime.”Vilam's curse was a terrified whisper. For she and the others peered around the rock and saw a Brotherhood soldier flanked by two Rahkshi and led by a leashed Energy Hound.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa

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End of Yrenta (Review Topic) (Currently at 55 Chapters)

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End of YrentaChapter Two==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Matoran were caught now. There was no way they could outrun Rahkshi, and Energy Hounds could track a being to anywhere in the universe. And it was clear this soldier would not take prisoners. With a gesture, he ordered the Rahkshi forward. One of the Rahkshi was surrounded by a swarm of small insects, which it sent to sting the Matoran. The other raised its staff, and clouds gathered overhead. Hail pelted the Matoran, and lightning struck frighteningly close. Paqyar managed to nock an arrow and shoot, but sudden winds blew it wildly off target. Vilam and Imlen tried to make a stand against the Rahkshi, and were quickly knocked down. Mosori yelled and charged the Energy Hound. He dodged past the Rahkshi, raised his hammer, and struck the tracking Rahi hard on the head. A clang sounded, and the creature staggered. Then it recovered and growled. The Brotherhood soldier released its leash, and it pounced on Mosori.“Mosori!” Vilam cried out as the Po-Matoran was ravaged by the hound's teeth and claws.“R... run!” Mosori struggled to say. The other three Matoran tried to get up and flee, but were pinned down by the Rahkshi. All they could do was dodge their attacks for a little longer.“I don't think so,” said the Brotherhood soldier. “Enough delaying, you little worms are d – ”He was cut short by a knife in his back. He cried out in pain and turned, just in time to see the Vortixx Dark Hunter the Matoran had encountered earlier. In the time it took for him to blink, the Vortixx had covered the distance and swept his sword over the soldier's shoulders, cleanly decapitating him. The Energy Hound was next, thrown knives caused it to release Mosori, roll over, and die. The two Rahkshi turned away from the Matoran and struck back, but did not last much longer. The Hunter's curved blade slashed through the machines' armor and killed the Kraata inside with swift, precise swings. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam stood up as the insects and unnatural weather dispersed.“You followed us!” said Paqyar.“Not exactly,” said the Vortixx, pointing up at the Rahkshi's fading clouds. “That could be seen for kio around. I guessed it would be worth investigating. I'm sure I'm not the only one.”“You're right,” agreed Imlen as he walked over to help Mosori. “We need to move on, quickly.”“I... can't go,” coughed Mosori. “I don't think I can... walk... leave me here.”“No, Mosori, we – ” Vilam began, but was interrupted.“He's right, he can't walk,” said the Vortixx. “He'll just slow you down.”“He's not hurt too badly,” protested Paqyar. “We can't leave him to die here.”“I won't let that happen to him. I think I can help,” said the Vortixx.“You? You want us to trust you with him?” said Vilam.“Ah, right, because I'm a Dark Hunter, and I'm supposed to kill you all, or at least abduct you or something. If that's what you want...”“No, wait!” said Imlen. “What... what do you have in mind?”“There's a village nearby you can take him to, isn't there? Don't worry, my allies in the Shadowed One's army don't know about it.”“You're right,” said Imlen, unsure whether to be worried or relieved. “We'll head there.”“Let's go, I can hear others approaching,” said the Vortixx urgently. He picked up Mosori and sprinted away.“I don't like this,” said Paqyar as the Matoran rushed to catch up.“We don't have much choice, now be quiet and let's get out of sight,” said Imlen.Moving stealthily through rock formations and foliage, the Matoran followed the Vortixx. They knew of the village he was referring to, but it was actually barely even a village. It was a recently founded collection of huts known merely as Yotvis's Home. Yotvis was the Matoran that had founded it, but he was gone now. The most popular story was that goblins got him when he was traveling. All that was certain was that he had been a Ba-Matoran who brought his friends here where they hoped to survive unnoticed by the sinister forces of the world. Their seclusion had lasted for a few years, then Teskor's minions found them and ensured they were part of the Makuta's new social system. Imlen had visited a few times before, and knew that the inhabitants were especially sympathetic to his cause. Most of them would not dare to openly rebel, but he was confident he would find shelter for Mosori here. The Vortixx stopped where the village was just out of sight, and the Matoran caught up.“Here's where we part, Matoran,” the Dark Hunter said, letting Mosori down. “I don't wish to be seen here, and I must return to my allies.”“What is up with you?” demanded Paqyar. “You're no ordinary Dark Hunter.”“We're not all so bad,” said the Vortixx. “Some of us are just trying to make a living. Some of us even have some noble personal quest.”“But...” Paqyar said, too late. The Vortixx ignored him and jumped away.“I guess we were lucky,” said Vilam. “Or else this is part of an elaborate Dark Hunter plot.”“Looks like we have something else to worry about,” Imlen called from the hill he stood on. “Come and take a look.”Mosori leaned on Paqyar's shoulder as the three Matoran came to Imlen. They could see Yotvis's Home below. There were no Matoran outside in the village, which was not unusual, but even from this distance it was clear something was wrong. Most of the huts were open, and there were no lights, although it was getting dark. It was all disturbingly still and silent. The Matoran carefully came closer, and no one came to greet them.“Looks like we missed something,” said Vilam as they walked through the village center. “The Brotherhood must have come and taken them away.”“Let's see what we can find here anyway,” said Imlen, looking around curiously. “If this was for labor, they wouldn't have brought everyone...”“I see footprints. Leading to the north, alright,” observed Mosori. “Matoran and... some bigger kinds. Rahkshi and other enforcers, I expect.”“Do any of the Matoran prints look like – ” Imlen was interrupted by a muffled cough coming from one of the huts.As a precaution, the team ran in with their weapons drawn, although the sound did not seem to come from anything threatening. Indeed, a dusty brown mask popped out from a pile of damaged tools and other junk. It was a Po-Matoran.“Imlen?” he said with relief. “Oh thank goodness, I was afraid they'd be back.”“Rodas, what's going on?” asked Imlen, recognizing the Matoran from his previous visit. “Let me help you up there, then you can explain.”The Matoran of Plasma walked across the room to the junk pile and held out his hand to Rodas the Po-Matoran. Rodas took it and accepted the support in standing up. When he stood, Imlen's companions noticed that he was missing most of his right foot. Such a condition was not as uncommon in these times as it used to be. Without letting Rodas lose his balance, Imlen stooped to retrieve the Po-Matoran's cane and handed it to him. Rodas gave a short bow of gratitude, then he shuffled over to an overturned chair. Imlen righted it for him, and he sat down. Once he was settled, he began to explain without needing to be prompted again.“They came to take us to work, as we knew they would. They used to always let the crippled Matoran stay behind if they didn't have any work for them. And they rarely do, since most of it's bricklaying or smithing. They have no time for any other sort of crafting, these newcomers. Just making walls and weapons... anyway, when they came yesterday it was different. First, it was who came. They were a few Rahkshi, but there was someone else leading them. He... he was a Toa.”“A Toa?” Imlen's companions cried out in disbelief.“Not in the traditional sense of the word of course,” explained Rodas. “He was no hero like Gareki or the others. But he had the characteristics of one, you know, tall and slender, fancy weapon, elemental powers. This one was a 'Toa' of Ice. White armor with fancy silver, and a nifty spear too.”“What did he do?” asked Imlen. He did not like the sound of this.“Well, when he was gathering up all of us to go to work, instead of letting Miruka, Vatai, and Basi – the other maimed Matoran here – instead of leaving them behind, he killed them. He called them 'broken' and had their bodies taken away for 'resources.' He would have gotten me too, but I saw it happen to the others first, and I hid. Even creepier, he attacked Toruba for no reason I could tell. He called her 'defective' something and didn't kill her, but watched her like a Kahu the rest of the time. I was as bewildered as everyone else when it happened, but now I've thought of it for a while. I've learned a bit about Kanohi, and I bet that 'Toa' had a mask that gave him mind reading ability. Makes me shudder to think about it. Anyway, after that he and the Rahkshi took everyone off north. It was all very abrupt, no time to clean up before leaving as you can see. He was very brusque, just told us to gather up and move out. He didn't answer any questions, or converse with us at all really. Just the orders and his strange insults.”“So a Toa who murders those who are no use to him and who might be able to read minds is working for the Makuta,” summed up Mosori as he sat down on the floor. “Great. My wish has been fulfilled, a Toa has been delivered to us. A Toa who happens to be a sociopathic killer. I should have been more specific in my wishing.”“Yeah, this is bad news,” said Imlen. “And we came here helping to find shelter for Mosori here. He's been hurt.”“It's not too bad,” said Mosori. “I think I can almost... ouch, no, I can't stand yet.”“I don't expect them to come back soon,” said Rodas. “Make yourselves comfortable, we'll spend the night here.”“'We'll'?” said Paqyar, noticing the pronoun.“When you go, I'm going with you,” explained Rodas. “Don't even try to argue against it.”“Of course. I was going to suggest the same thing,” said Imlen with a smile.“He's coming with us?” said Vilam skeptically. “No offense, Rodas, but we live a dangerous life.”“Consider this. Everyone else in this tiny settlement has gone away,” said Rodas. “The only ones that used to keep me company while the others went away were just killed. If their killer finds me, he'll probably kill me too. They took most of the food too – the only thing they did bother to pick up before leaving, actually. Handicapped or not, I'd rather go on an adventure, even a very dangerous one, than sit here until I starve and rust.”“I'm sorry, I hadn't thought of that. I've always judged new members of the team by how good they'd be in a fight. And seeing as you can't stand up without support, well, you know...”“I'm honored to be called a member of your team so soon,” chuckled Rodas. “But my intention is only to accompany you to the next community that I can settle in. One where I won't be killed off because I'm missing a foot, preferably.”The Matoran closed the door and made themselves comfortable. The land was rather arid, so a hot day gave way to a frigid night. Wind howled outside the windowless hut while the Matoran huddled around a pile of heatstones within. To the northeast eerie flashes of lightning illuminated Mount Tasle in the night. But few Matoran were known to live on that mountain now. Most of the Lightning folk had mingled with the others, partly because of Ukzokth attacks, and partly because Teskor's labor recruitment enforced it, bringing Matoran from all around Yrenta to work in his fortresses. Imlen debated with his companions about hiding on the mountain later while they also asked questions of Rodas to satisfy their curiosity.“No, sadly, it was a construction accident,” answered Rodas after Mosori asked him if his foot had been lost in battle. “I was a clumsy builder, and the tools we use for cutting stone on a larger scale, for buildings for example, can go right through you as easily as the rock.”“Have you ever been in a battle?” asked Vilam.“I must have, long ago... I've been around a while. But I don't remember much. The days of waiting for the Toa to return, and when the Makuta revealed himself, those take up much of my memory, so that the times before that are vague.”“I know what you mean,” said Imlen. “Some things I'm not sure if I was around for or not, but I remember the stories. You remember Toa Tanu, don't you?”“Of course I remember Toa Tanu. He was the leader of our Turaga's team when they were Toa. And... he died. How, I do not recall.”“I was told Makuta Teskor killed him. I believe it.”“I can believe that too. But... it hasn't even been three thousand years, and it feels like such a long time ago.”“It's Mata Nui's sleep,” said Paqyar. “Nothing's been the same since the Cataclysm.”“I agree, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “Now, I don't have a universe to run, so I'm going to sleep willingly. I'm exhausted.”Vilam found a comfortable corner to curl up in and went to sleep. Imlen set a schedule for keeping watch, then the others followed her example. He took the first shift, and while he did, he tended to Mosori's wounds. Had he strained himself, the injuries could have become much worse, but in this condition, he would hopefully be fully ambulatory by morning. By the time he was done, it was his turn to sleep. But that did not come easily to him. Today he had witnessed the deaths of three of his closest friends, and many other brother and sister Matoran. He had been in several narrow escapes and been rescued twice by a mysterious potential ally, or perhaps a sympathetic enemy. And now he was resting in the site of another disaster, one which a Toa was apparently behind. It had been an eventful day. After what felt like hours of reflection, he finally began to fall asleep.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa

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Story Currently in Progress:

End of Yrenta (Review Topic) (Currently at 55 Chapters)

I realize I haven't updated my stories or posted much for quite a while. I will get back it it sometime, and I am still checking the site daily for any interesting topics.

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End of YrentaChapter Three==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Before Imlen could get even a moment of full sleep, Paqyar woke him up urgently.“Huh?” he groaned sleepily. “It can't be my turn already...”“No Imlen, get up, quick!” said Paqyar. “They're coming, the Brotherhood, they found us again!”At that, Imlen snapped wide awake. Now he could hear voices of Brotherhood forces descending upon the abandoned village. The door to the hut was in plain view, there would be no escaping that way without being seen. Thinking quickly, Imlen beckoned Paqyar and Vilam to him. Together they struck a part of the wall on the side of the hut facing away from the village center. The damaged area crumbled, forming a hole wide enough for a Matoran to squeeze through. As he helped Rodas get up and through the hole, Imlen heard shouts and questions from outside. The noise of the wall breaking had been noticed, and the Brotherhood soldiers were coming closer. Rodas hobbled away as quickly as he could, and Mosori was next. Mosori's injured legs wobbled, then with great effort he ran after Rodas. Imlen sent the other two Matoran in front of him, and squeezed outside just in time to see a Visorak peer into the hut. It fired a Rhotuka spinner, too late to hit Imlen. The spinner flew through the hole behind him, past the fleeing Matoran and hit a rock outside, discharging into a splatter of acid.“Rodas – here, I'll help you,” said Imlen as he helped Rodas climb onto his back. The Po-Matoran was heavy on his shoulders, but Matoran were strong for their size, and this was an emergency. Imlen kept running.“Where's the inexplicably friendly Dark Hunter when you need him?” whispered Vilam as she did the same for Mosori.“It's time we relied on ourselves – dodge left!” said Paqyar, glancing backwards and seeing some sort of projectile zoom towards them.“Behind the rock, there,” said Imlen as the Matoran dodged. “Then we turn right and make for the shrubland.”The five Matoran paused for a moment behind the rock formation Imlen pointed out. Then they came out on the other side and headed south. Mosori insisted he would be able to run now, and though his legs wobbled at first, he was soon able to match his friends' pace. Paqyar took Rodas on his back, allowing Imlen to go unburdened for a turn. Behind them, the Makuta forces were no longer in direct pursuit, but they were spreading out to search the area. The Matoran slowed to a brisk walk, until a few kio away they came to a swath of small, dry vegetation. Exhausted, the Matoran dropped down into the bracken. Voices of soldiers and Visorak sounded behind them, far too close for comfort. The Matoran kept going on their stomachs, panting as they dragged themselves quietly through the undergrowth. Finally, they stopped to rest under a large bush.“Here... is... good...” panted Imlen. He had not slept for almost a full day, and was unable to hold it off any longer.“Just for a little while,” yawned Paqyar. “They can't see us now, but we should find a better place to hide.”“It's almost dawn,” said Rodas. “You all get some sleep, I'll wake you if they get close.”This time, Imlen felt refreshed when he was woken, though it couldn't have been more than a few hours. The sun was still only about a quarter lit. Rodas warned him that the searching Makuta forces were getting closer, and they woke the others. Soon they were on the move again. Imlen did not have a particular direction in mind, they only worried about staying out of sight and getting far away. Several times enemies came frighteningly close, but failed to spot them. After hours of crawling, the Matoran noticed the searchers start to turn back.“Finally,” said Vilam. “I can't believe they put so much effort into finding five Matoran in the first place.”“I know, don't they have a war to – ” Paqyar gasped and stared behind him. “Oh, no.”“Up!” said Imlen as turned and he saw the growing fire. “Grab the Po-Matoran and run!”Now their hunters' final plan was revealed. The Matoran were forced to reveal themselves to escape the rapidly-spreading fire, and a few remaining Visorak went after them. These were Vohtarak, the red Visorak that were naturally resistant to heat. What had been a good place to hide was turned into a deathtrap. The Matoran had been staying in the thickest areas, now they ran along the most barren path they could find. If they could make it for another kio, they would be clear of the flammable vegetation. But the fire was catching up too quickly, and so were the Visorak. Paqyar cried out in pain and fell as a Vohtarak's Rhotuka hit him. Even if they had not stopped to help their brother, the Matoran were too slow. As huge sheets of flame roared closer, one last desperate idea struck Imlen.“Get down! Dig, dig as deep as you can!” he called. The Matoran, except Paqyar, who could only moan in pain, got on their knees and plunged their fingers into the dry earth. A wave of heat nearby blasted them over. They forced themselves to keep working, until when the flames were nearly upon them, they had made depressions that might have been deep enough to save them. They lay in the shallow ditches face down, covered by a thin layer of dirt. Imlen helped Paqyar, then buried himself. He hoped he had not just dug his own grave. Then the flames came over him. He felt like his armor was going to melt. He struggled to remain conscious. Then, the fire was gone. Imlen's back ached, but was not badly burned. But he had nothing to breathe. For a moment, he thought he could not summon the strength to free himself. Then he made it. He lifted his head out and breathed deeply – only to catch his breath suddenly. He was face to face with a Vohtarak. Then he registered sounds of battle to his left. His companions were fighting off another Vohtarak.The Visorak in front of him lunged forward, snapping its mandibles. Imlen ducked back into his hole just in time. The Visorak climbed over him, clawing at the dirt. Imlen managed to reach his axe and swung upwards, cutting the Visorak's unprotected belly. It wasn't a lethal blow, but it distracted the Rahi long enough for Imlen to burst out of the ground and shove it aside. He looked over at his friends. Rodas and Paqyar were on the ground, dead or alive, he couldn't tell. Vilam parried the other Vohtarak's jaws long enough for Mosori to intervene with a crushing blow to its head. Vilam finished it off as Mosori moved to help Imlen. The Matoran of Plasma raised his axe defensively, and the Visorak's jaws closed around it. The blade shattered, and Imlen dropped the splintered hilt. Mosori jumped in just in time and grappled bare-handed with the Vohtarak's mandibles. The Vohtarak responded by launching a Rhotuka at him. He let go and dropped to the ground. The spinner flew over him harmlessly. Imlen picked up Mosori's hammer and attacked wildly while Vilam came in from behind. That Visorak was killed, but more were coming. The Matoran dropped as more Rhotuka zoomed overhead. Imlen returned the hammer to Mosori and checked on the two fallen Matoran. Paqyar was just now overcoming the effects of the spinner that had hit him, but Rodas was wounded. They did not have time to check how badly.“Take my hammer back, Imlen,” offered Mosori as three more Visorak closed in. “I can fight bare-handed better than you can.”“Alright,” said Imlen. “Paqyar? Paqyar, can you fight? Look!”“Uh... uh-huh,” grunted the Matoran of the Green as he stood and took out his bow. “The rest of you, take cover.”Paqyar released one arrow each at the advancing Visorak, and ducked to avoid the incoming spinners. The Vohtarak fired again, aiming lower this time, so the Matoran were forced to jump out of the way. The Vohtarak stopped advancing, and the Matoran realized they would surely be hit again before Paqyar could finish them off at range. The archer focused on one of them, and took it down just as a spinner flew straight towards him. Vilam leaned forward and blocked it with her sword, falling over in the attempt. She got up and Imlen called her over to help with Rodas. The Po-Matoran groaned and stirred as he was dragged behind a nearby rock. Mosori and Paqyar followed. The rock provided momentary cover, but the Visorak changed the direction of their attack and managed to hit Imlen. Overwhelming, burning pain brought the orange Matoran to his knees.“Imlen!” cried Paqyar. “Hang in there, you'll be alright. How's Rodas?”“Looks bad,” said Mosori as he took his hammer back. “Visorak mauled him badly.”“I'm almost out of arrows,” said Paqyar. “It took almost half of what I had left to kill that one.”“I see one way out of this,” said Vilam. “Paqyar, keep that one distracted. Mosori, we'll rush the other.”“Can't think of a better plan,” said the Po-Matoran, and they charged.Vilam's electric sword dispersed incoming Rhotuka. She and Mosori covered the distance to the Vohtarak and attacked. Again, she parried its attacks as Mosori brought his hammer down. This time, however, the Rahi was not stunned. Instead, it hissed and charged Paqyar, knocking the other two Matoran down. Vilam got up and attacked it from behind, but her sword bounced off its hardened shell. She shouted a warning, and Paqyar ducked to avoid its spinners. He stood long enough to release his last arrow at the other Visorak. It pierced its green eye, goading it into charging too.“Sorry I need to borrow this, Rodas,” he said as he picked up the maimed Matoran's cane and desperately used it to defend himself.“Regret not bringing another weapon now?” said Vilam as she and Mosori came to support him.“Your turn to use this, Paqyar,” said Mosori as he threw his hammer with all his strength at the Visorak opposite him.The hammer bounced off the Visorak's head, staggering it for a moment, and Paqyar picked it up, dropping Rodas's cane.“Whoa, heavy,” he commented as he brought a clumsy two-handed blow down. It missed his intended target, but hit the Visorak's jaw, damaging it. The giant bug Rahi screeched and moved two steps back. Meanwhile, Mosori grappled with the other Visorak, trying to provide Vilam with a weakness to aim for. Just as his strength was spent, Vilam found an opportunity to lunge below the Visorak and stab it hard in the stomach, shocking its innards. That one died, and the remaining Visorak recovered and leaped at Paqyar. Imlen broke out of his pain-induced incapacitation then, and grabbed the Vohtarak from behind, stopping it. Its shell warded off all attacks, but together the Matoran managed to subdue it and strike a lethal blow to its underside. They were safe for now, but too late to help Rodas. His internal systems were mortally damaged by the Visorak, he had only seconds left to live.“Don't... be too sad,” he coughed. “This was... not my time.”“What do you mean?” asked Paqyar.“A cripple... wouldn't last long... anyway... but a hero...”Rodas could speak no more. With his last strength, he offered the pouch of belongings he had brought to the Matoran. Mosori accepted it. He and the others watched Rodas die, then he looked inside the pouch.“He may have been a cripple,” said Vilam, “but he was a hero too.”“Hmm, mostly carvings. Interesting,” said Mosori as he examined the bag's contents. “I wonder what significance he meant by handing these to us.”“We'll have to decide later. We'll bury him, but we cannot stay long,” said Imlen.After a short service, the Matoran departed. Paqyar thought he saw enemy forces moving on the horizon, so the Matoran changed direction and found themselves traveling south again. They were weary now, but Imlen convinced them to keep going for a while. Their perseverance was soon rewarded, for about a kio to the south the land began to become more lush and fertile. Trees and ponds dotted the area, and a small forest was nearby. A short while later, they were resting in a grove of large trees, comfortable but hidden. Mosori opened the pouch Rodas had given him and examined the carvings contained with in. There was a small figurine of the Toa of Stone Gareki, along with a few tablets with carvings depicting adventures of the Toa, as well as landscapes, villages, and fortresses. Mosori felt a rather heavy piece at the bottom of the bag and took it out curiously. It was a stone model of a building, which looked familiar somehow, but he couldn't quite tell why.“Do you recognize this building?” he asked.“Hm, looks familiar, but I can't say,” said Vilam.“Me too,” said Paqyar.“Oh, I recognize it,” said Imlen after considering for a moment. “It's an ancient temple, used by our Toa long ago. The Ce-Kini, it was called.”“Huh. I wonder why Rodas had a model of it,” mused Mosori.“He remembered the Toa better than most,” said Imlen. “Better than he remembered his own life, sometimes.”“And what does this mean?” Mosori showed them a tablet with a detailed etching. “Looks like some Toa and some glowing stones.”“I'm not sure. He sure seemed to know a lot more about Toa than he ever told me. I wonder...” a strange thought struck Imlen. “Could it be that this is a clue for us? He mentioned heroes – maybe there's somewhere we can find out what happened to the Toa and the Turaga, somewhere like the Ce-Kini!”“Kind of a stretch, don't you think?” said Mosori, as he blinked in surprise.“He was a good artist,” observed Vilam. “But if you're suggesting he was some kind of mystic too...”“Not a mystic. He just might have remembered things the rest of us forgot.”“Like what? What do you expect to find there?” asked Paqyar.“I... I don't know. Something that can help us, I hope. Even if it's just information. I think we're on to something. Trust me.”“I think we can guess closely enough what happened to the Toa,” argued the Matoran of the Green.“He has a point, actually, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “I got this sword from an old memorial, remember. And even if we find nothing there, perhaps we could use it as a place to gather allies to us.”“Alright, I can't come up with any better ideas anyway,” admitted Paqyar. “But what memorial? I don't remember where you got that sword.”“It was for an old village leader named Kuchapi. She was killed in battle while wielding this sword. When I found it, I thought it was time for it to be put to use again.”“It should be safer there, too, at least from the Dark Hunters and the Brotherhood,” said Mosori. “If you're sure about this, Imlen...”“Sure?” Imlen glanced at him and chuckled. “Call it a hunch.”Review

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End of YrentaChapter Four==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Matoran traveled for several more kio that day, but Mosori's injuries eventually began to cause him trouble. He had endured much strain during the day's action, and when that caught up with him, he could walk no more. Fortunately, the Matoran were in pleasant, peaceful country. For three full days they made camp and rested while Mosori recuperated. On the fourth morning, Mosori insisted he was fully healed. The other Matoran made him prove it, and when they were satisfied, they continued on. They traveled through a small forest, which Paqyar claimed had been grown by a Toa from his village. Vilam pointed out that while Toa of the Green could create plant life, they couldn't account for the water sources that sustained the forest. Merely to pass the time, she and Paqyar argued about it until they were tired. That night their camp was assailed by a Rahi, but Mosori drove it off. They left the forest without further incident early the next day.A series of low hills separated the forest from the plains that the Ce-Kini was built in. Large herds of Cows and other Rahi roamed wild here. The Matoran had seen no other people or enemies (barring wild Rahi) since the day Rodas was killed. Some of the hills were high enough for the Matoran to see for many kio over the flat lands before them. Still, their destination was too far away for even sharp-eyed Paqyar to descry. Imlen was relying on memory to guide them to the temple. Where exactly it was wasn't clear to him, but he was more sure than ever before he was supposed to find it. Such strong hunches did not come to Imlen often, but when they did, they always proved true. Or almost always, at least. Imlen wondered what this one would lead to. As Paqyar had implied, the Toa and Turaga were most likely dead. But any clue to their fates would be better than nothing, and the Ce-Kini seemed a good place to look.Maybe they would find some information about another Toa – the evil Toa of Ice that Rodas had told them about. Imlen vaguely recalled stories of Toa that would turn from the side of good, but he was curious about why this one was working for the Makuta. Where did he come from? Was he part of a team? If so, were his teammates evil too, or did he betray them? Imlen tried to reassure himself that the Makuta would not waste such a rare ally punishing Matoran. The Toa would probably be sent into battle against the Dark Hunters, and even a Toa wouldn't last long in that war. But Imlen still couldn't stop worrying about it. As Mosori had said in Rodas's hut, the wish that a Toa would come to Yrenta had been fulfilled in a horrifically twisted manner. Still, anyone who deliberately murdered Matoran was not a true Toa, not in the literal sense of the word. The Matoran could continue to hope that someday new heroes would come. Until that day came, the Matoran would suffer through the time, and ones like poor Rodas would suffer most of all. Imlen felt helpless, and not just because he was still unarmed.The fact that he was unarmed struck troubled him especially at this moment. For he heard a rumble, and Paqyar called out “Stampede!” Imlen looked to where Paqyar was pointing, down the hill to the east, and sure enough, a herd of Cows was running madly down there. The herd was far below, but coming closer quickly. And Imlen was not worried about the stampede as much as what had caused it. These Rahi Cows and their Kane-Ra allies could sometimes startle easily, but would not keep stampeding so far unless seriously threatened. It was a large herd, they should have been able to eliminate the threat. Something must have made them very afraid. Imlen was only a little relieved when the herd passed them a safe distance away. The sound of a hundred hooves was still nearly deafening when one far more frightening sound reached the Matoran's ears. It was the hum of a Rahkshi in flight.The Matoran gasped and quickened their pace. If there was anywhere to run to, they would have sprinted at full speed. But there was nothing but bare hills all around. Perhaps the local Rahi would have allied with them against the Rahkshi, but it had already frightened them all away. Dread overwhelmed Imlen as the Rahkshi swooped low. A bolt of electricity shot from its staff and bounced from one Matoran to the other, frying all four of them. Fighting pain, Imlen and the others managed to get themselves up as the mechanical abomination stopped a short distance in front of the group and landed. With that one attack, the Matoran were nearly defeated already. Vilam managed to delay the end a little longer, as this time she held her sword high when the Rahkshi attacked, and the blade absorbed the electricity. Its charging unit nearly overloaded, so Vilam released the excess electricity harmlessly into the ground. With no other way out of this situation, the Matoran ignored the electrical tingling of their muscles and charged together, except Paqyar, who took out his bow and arrows.With a kick that looked effortless, the Rahkshi knocked Mosori to the ground. Vilam was next, and Imlen grabbed her sword in time to hit the end of the Rahkshi's staff with it, absorbing its third lightning attack. Imlen managed to parry and dodge a few blows until Mosori, still on the ground, bashed the Rahkshi's ankle. This caused it to stagger for a moment while the Matoran of Stone and the Matoran of Lightning stood and reentered the fight. Imlen ran behind the Rahkshi, and as it turned to him he tossed the sword back to Vilam. That was a foolish move, for Vilam did not trust herself to catch the sword by the hilt. She dodged it, and while she was picking it up the Rahkshi turned to her and shocked her. Thinking quickly, Mosori and Imlen touched the Rahkshi, so that when its chain lightning redirected itself at them, the Rahkshi was shocked by its own power as well. Encouraged by that, the Matoran reacted faster than the Rahkshi did, and gave it a hard shove. Then they ran.“Nice moves,” said Paqyar as they fled. “You gave me time to get some decent shots off.”“Didn't you run out of arrows?” said Vilam. The Rahkshi was now flying after them.“Yeah, but I made more.”“Made more?” said Imlen. “How?”“Scrap metal and – look out, Vilam!” Paqyar warned, and Vilam absorbed another attack. “And wood I harvested. You didn't expect I – here he comes – got this far without learning that craft, did you? Not like I can just go to the store and – ”“Less talk, more running,” said Imlen as Vilam nearly dropped her sword absorbing a fifth lightning bolt. “Where's Mosori?”The Po-Matoran was the slowest of the group, and he had lagged behind. The Rahkshi zapped him, but missed. Hissing in frustration, it landed to finish him off. Mosori's friends turned and watched in horror as he took the full force of an electric attack. His body sizzled and fell to the ground. Imlen couldn't bear to watch. He looked away, and heard the buzz as the Rahkshi took flight again towards him... but something sounded odd. Imlen looked back and was surprised by what he saw. The Rahkshi was struggling to fly as Mosori, badly burned but more determined than ever, clung to its leg with all his strength. It was strong enough to carry him easily, but the awkward balance its unwelcome load gave it was greatly confounding it. Mosori kicked it, his mighty Po-Matoran legs denting its armor. In response, the Rahkshi shook and twisted violently, but still Mosori held on. It flew higher and faster, but this only gave Mosori time to climb onto its side. He grasped its ridged back tightly.Paqyar was nervous about hitting Mosori, but risked shooting the Rahkshi. His first shots were far off the mark, but Mosori seemed to take notice. He responded by kicking at the Rahkshi's hands and staff, and Paqyar realized his intent. The archer shot several more arrows, aiming for the Rahkshi's hands. The Rahkshi was twisting and turning in midair, but – more out of luck than good aim – one arrow finally hit the joint in its wrist. Mosori followed up immediately, kicking with all his might. As a result, the Rahkshi's staff fell to the ground. Again, it hissed, but this time it sounded almost afraid. Either in pursuit of its staff or simply attempting to move the battle to the ground, it dived suddenly. As he and the Rahkshi rapidly approached the ground, Mosori let go of the Rahkshi's spines and jerked its head back with both hands. The Rahkshi struggled, and his legs lost their grip on its body. He swung around in front, still gripping its head in his hands. Then the Rahkshi punched him, and he felt himself losing his grip.It was too late for that to change anything, however. At that moment the Matoran and the Rahkshi hit the ground. The Rahkshi had been flying at full speed still, and the impact nearly knocked the other three Matoran off their feet. Astounded by this strange end to the battle, they cried out and ran to the crash site. As they feared, Mosori lay dead. He had survived more than many Matoran could, but few indeed could have survived that impact. The Kraata controlling the Rahkshi was one of those few. The crumpled heap of Rahkshi armor struggled to rise, failed, and the Kraata fell out. It released one far weaker bolt of lightning at the Matoran before Vilam stepped over and cut it into pieces. Then the Matoran let themselves fall to the ground, exhausted, relieved, and saddened at once. Imlen fought the urge to let himself lose consciousness. Danger was still too close.“Better get up,” said Vilam. “We're not safe out here.”“I agree. And we're much less safe without Mosori,” said Imlen.“We'd better bury him,” said Paqyar.“True,” said Imlen. “But that's a shame. I can think of no grander monument than this scene.”“It won't be undisturbed for long,” said Paqyar. “We'll make sure people know the story.”Yet again the Matoran worked quickly to bury their companion in the wilderness. The grave was far more shallow than it should have been, but all three of them kept glancing at the horizon, expecting more danger to come any moment. When they could wait no longer, they lifted Mosori's body and lowered it in. Then they covered it with dirt, and as a last touch, Vilam engraved a simple message in the earth with her sword, its electricity melting the words into glass: “Mosori. He defeated a Rahkshi. Really.”The Matoran marched in silence for the rest of the day. There was still nowhere to hide, and the fear of the next encounter was driving them crazy. It was after midnight when they found an abandoned Rahi burrow they could fit in. Once they were confident it was truly abandoned, they went to sleep. It was around noon when they woke up. All of them had slept at the same time, instead of taking shifts, but they had been undisturbed. Now that they had left the hills where the herds roamed, there were few Rahi about. Imlen wasn't sure what had made the burrow they had slept in. The Matoran could hear no sound other than the ones they made themselves and the occasional howl of wind all that day. That night, they were unable to find shelter. They decided to sleep directly under the sky, and this time they took shifts. Nothing came to them that night. They were grateful to be away from enemies, but the solitude was unnerving.“This is pleasant enough land,” said Imlen later that day. “I wonder why no one lives here.”“Hmm,” wondered Paqyar. “I don't know. Never thought about it.”“I'm afraid to find out,” said Vilam.“Me too,” agreed the Matoran of Plasma. “Could just be social or economic reasons, though.”“True. Not much to eat, I guess,” said Vilam.“Looks like you could farm here, though,” Paqyar pointed out.Just the thought of an unknown danger lurking in those lands convinced the Matoran to travel through the night. They finally stopped the next morning, and after a short sleep with no shelter again, they went on. On the morning of the day after that, Paqyar noticed something on the horizon to the northwest. It was a building. The Matoran turned and traveled closer to it, and soon discovered they had gone too far to the southeast. They had passed the Ce-Kini hours ago. But now they had found it. Soon they came to the remains of a long-untended road. It was barely there, only marked by occasional flagstones surrounded by short grass. As they came closer, the stones gradually merged into a recognizable path. There were still a few hours until noon when the Matoran found themselves walking between small stone totems marking the approach. Chunks of stone littered the ground on either side. A quick inspection revealed these had once been statues, and they had been deliberately smashed. Someone had been here since the temple had been abandoned. Yet the statue fragments had been lying there for a long time. Whoever did this had done so many years ago.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Five==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Well, here we are, team,” said Imlen as they looked up at the gate. The remains of a giant stone mask loomed above a partially-collapsed entrance.“If anyone lives here,” said Vilam nervously, “I'm not sure I want to meet them."“What if it's one of our old heroes?” said Imlen.“Well, there's a chance of that,” Vilam admitted. “Alright, let's go.”It was dark inside the temple. The only light came from the entrance and a hole in the ceiling. The Matoran each took out a lightstone. The stones illuminated the walls, revealing scratched carvings and shredded tapestries. They were in the central chamber, which had a smaller room on each side. At the back of chamber was a damaged stone dome. A strange tingling feeling affected the Matoran as they came close to it. Suddenly a flash of right erupted from the cracks in the dome. Startled, the Matoran jumped back. Imlen's equipment spilled out of his pack, including a pouch that hit the floor with a clatter.“Isn't that Rodas's pouch?” asked Vilam as she picked it up.“Oh, yes,” said Imlen. “I had forgotten about it. I took it from Mosori's body before we buried him.”“It's taken a beating,” said Vilam, placing the bag's broken contents on the floor.“During the fight with the Rahkshi,” explained Imlen. “Let's take a look at it.”“Just like puzzle stones,” said Paqyar as the Matoran sat down and reassembled the fragmented tablets.“Keep at it,” said Imlen, glancing up from the pieces. “I think I saw something.”The room to the right had a small hole in it, letting a shaft of light inside. Something in the dim glow around the shaft caught Imlen's eye. He stood up and went to investigate. Holding his lightstone high, he looked upon the platform at the back of the room. It seemed to have writing and decorations on it, but had been defaced. As Imlen stepped closer to investigate, he almost tripped on something. It felt like a metal pole, but when his foot touched it, he felt an unfamiliar sensation. He turned and directed the lightstone along its length. As he saw what it was, his eyes brightened. He gasped.“Vilam! Paqyar!” he called excitedly. “Guys, come here!”“What, what is it?” said Paqyar and the two Matoran scurried into the room.“Look at this,” said Imlen, picking up the object with a grunt.“That's a Toa-sized weapon, alright,” said Vilam.“Not just any Toa tool,” explained Imlen. “This was the staff of Toa Tanu.”“Hm. He's buried in the north, but this must have been another memorial,” said Paqyar, examining the back of the room. “Someone's defiled it, too.”“Right, looks like the staff is meant to fit... here,” said Vilam, indicating a damaged frame on the platform. “Maybe it'll stay if we put it back carefully.”“Wait,” said Imlen. “Here, touch it. Feel that? What is that?”“I... don't know,” said Paqyar as he touched the staff carefully.“We should put it aw – wow, what is that?” said Vilam, fascinated by the sensation.“Maybe there are carvings around here that explain it,” suggested Imlen as he lowered the staff gently.The Matoran searched the room, but there was nothing legible left. All the engravings had been ruined by whatever had defiled the temple.“Hmm, I think I saw a picture of the head of this staff on Rodas's carvings,” Paqyar said when they finished searching.“Maybe there's something in the other chambers that can explain it,” said Vilam.“Worth a look,” said Imlen. “Here, help me bring it to the center.”The feeling the staff gave them when they touched it changed as they brought it to the central chamber. Somehow, it felt like it resonated with the dome in the back. The Matoran were curious, but they ignored that for the moment. They placed it on the ground next to them and looked over Rodas's carvings. The fragments of the carvings were small, and had been tossed around a lot during their travels. Each work took a rather long time to reassemble, and each one, while interesting, gave them no clear information they could use in this situation. At last, one of them, covered in both pictures and text, got their notice.“'And so the Turaga placed the two remaining' ...” Paqyar read. “... 'remaining' – can't read this next word – 'on the central Suva, where future heroes' … drat, I can't make out the – ”“Oh!” interrupted Imlen. “Of course, a Suva! That's what the dome there is. Both a memorial to Toa and something they use to store their masks in. But what did the Turaga put there?”“I'll go look,” offered Paqyar, and he stood up.“Paqyar, wait,” Vilam ran after him. “That thing could be dangerous.”“You're right,” said Paqyar, but he ran to the Suva anyway. Vilam followed him.“I don't like this,” said Vilam. “This feeling is almost overwhelming. Who knows what sort of energy is leaking out?”“Look, these must be what the Turaga left here,” said Paqyar, picking up two polished stones the size of his fist. “Weird, feels like Tanu's staff. Check it out, Vilam.”Vilam reached out and touched one of the stones. Imlen watched, and touched Tanu's staff curiously. The sensation was stronger than it had been, and seemed to be guiding him towards the Suva. He could not explain his reasoning as he picked up the staff and dragged it as he walked over to his friends. He was a few bio away from it when suddenly it erupted again. Bolts of energy flew wildly from the Suva, striking the Matoran. The stones Paqyar and Vilam held disintegrated. They screamed, until they realized they were not being harmed. The feeling was uncomfortable, but invigorating. The three Matoran stumbled and fell. Paqyar and Vilam tumbled down the small steps that the Suva rested on, and Imlen landed on his back, his hand grasping the staff tightly. Vilam cried out as Paqyar's foot shot into her face. Reflexively, she pushed it out of the way. The light had vanished, but the three of them were still dazzled. Vilam wondered how Paqyar's leg had reached so far when her sight returned, along with the others'. Though at first, they were sure their vision was still not working. For the appearance of their friends, and of themselves, was unfamiliar.“Us?” said Vilam in disbelief as she stood on her elongated legs. “We're Toa?”“Not what I was expecting to find, I admit,” said Imlen, holding the staff, which was now just the right size for him.“So, now what?” said Paqyar. “We save the Matoran?”“Not so fast,” cautioned Vilam. “We have plenty of enemies easily capable of killing Toa, and we're far more prominent targets now.”“You're right,” said Imlen. “And we need to learn to use our new abilities. I still feel dizzy in this new body.”“Right. Let's see what I can do,” said Paqyar.The new Toa of the Green called upon his elemental power, growing a small stem between his fingers. Before he could stop it, the power was flooding out of control, causing the stem to grow into a growth of vines that covered the room. The Toa sighed with relief when the growth stopped, but the plants remained.“We'd better save the testing for outside,” said Imlen. “Wait – your weapons, look!”Paqyar and Vilam checked the weapons strapped to their backs. They had changed to match their new bodies. Their masks gave off a strange feeling too, but the Toa failed to harness whatever new powers the Kanohi had been given. They decided to try again later, and to keep searching the temple for more information. In the chamber to the left of the entrance they found a broken sarcophagus. A scrap of golden armor and the letters 'lokk' were the only clues to who had been laid to rest there. The Toa did not recognize what that meant until they consulted Rodas's carvings. Searching through the carvings, they found one that referenced how the Toa of Yrenta were established. The engraved letters triggered long-dormant memories in their minds. The first Turaga of Yrenta, Turaga Varlokka, had been buried in this room. Whoever had defiled the temple had apparently taken her, too.“I've seen enough,” said Paqyar, as he stood up and left the room. “I just can't wait to get my hands on whoever did this.”“Paqyar, wait!” called Vilam. “We haven't thoroughly – ”“We'll come back and search more later,” Paqyar turned to reply. “I need some fresh air.”“I agree with him,” said Imlen. “I think we should also step outside for our first practice session.”“Good point,” conceded Vilam. “Alright, but let's be careful. We don't want to attract any attention out here – or kill each other.”The three novice Toa left the Ce-Kini interior. At the bottom of the front steps, they split up and began testing their powers individually. Imlen's first use of his elemental power summoned a large, formless cloud of plasma that was quickly dispersed by the wind. With concentration and practice, he managed to conjure smaller and larger masses of plasma, and keep them intact longer. After experimenting for about an hour, he tried something new. Aiming the tip of Tanu's staff – now his staff – at a chunk of rock about ten bio away, he channeled his powers through the weapon. Concentrating on it, he managed to keep a ball of plasma intact and rapidly launch it at the stone. He missed. He tried again, and hit this time, melting the rock. Meanwhile, Vilam and Paqyar had been testing their new powers. The Toa of the Green beckoned to his friends.“Hey, check this out,” he said, growing a small shaft of wood in his hands. “Now I just need to find out how to grow them pointed,” he added as he nocked the shaft on his bowstring, pulled it back, and released it.“Brilliant, Paqyar,” said Vilam. “What do you think of this?”Vilam spun around and swung her sword in swift, agile motions. Their physical transformations had made the Toa awkward at first, but their new forms were more lithe. Vilam was quickly becoming accustomed to the change and learning to harness her new gracefulness. She finished by shooting lighting out of her sword and causing it to arc back into her other hand. She soon found she could not hold the absorbed energy for long. She tested how long she could control it, and when she reached her limit, she released out of her sword again. But it did not blast out of the sword as she had expected. Curious, she inspected the hilt's capacitor and found it to be warm. She willed the stored electricity out of the capacitor, and this time it shot out of the blade.“Interesting,” she said to no one in particular. “I had expected the sword's battery and capacitor had been ruined in the transformation. But it seems it can still generate a little power on its own, and store a little extra power if I give it some.”“Alright, team,” said Imlen a little later. “Do you have a decent grasp of your element now?”“Well, I've learned a lot the past couple hours,” said Paqyar.“Me too, but we're far from being proficient,” said Vilam.“What I meant was, do you think we could duel without really hurting each other?” said Imlen.The Toa agreed that a mock-battle would be a good idea, if they were careful. They started with a free-for all. Forming a triangle formation five bio away from each other, they began. Paqyar tried to summon shafts of wood for arrows, but fumbled, instead creating misshapen chunks. Imlen checked Vilam's position, then blinded Paqyar with a bright cloud. He misjudged how long that would take, and was struck by Vilam's electrical attack. He composed himself and countered, summoning a shield of plasma to absorb the lightning. He and Vilam remained in a deadlock in this manner for a long moment, then suddenly vines pulled them off their feet. Paqyar chuckled and caused the vines to tighten around them. The entangled Toa released their elements unfocused through the whole of their bodies, burning the plants away. Vilam got back up faster, and after stunning Imlen with a quick jolt, ran after Paqyar. Paqyar managed to get some arrows off, but they did not slow her. He desperately released a burst of random plant growth from his off hand, which Vilam quickly hacked through. Paqyar staggered back – and was suddenly hit in the chest by a ball of plasma.“Hey, you stole my kill!” laughed Vilam.“Watch it, Imlen!” croaked Paqyar. “That actually hurt.”“Sorry,” said Imlen.Vilam offered to help Paqyar up, but he shook his head and they resumed the fight. After some more intense battling, they abandoned all pretense of competition and declared it a three-way tie. They were burnt and battered, but had been having more fun than they had had for a long time. Now the sun was dimming, and they remembered the seriousness of their situation. In a week, they had lost most of their closest friends. They had undergone an unexpected transformation that could one day lead to them saving their homeland, but now they were just high-profile fugitives. They were powerful, but that power was untamed, and they were alone. Imlen sighed and lead his friends back into the temple. At the stop of the stairs he paused and laid his hand against the broken gate, wondering what had transpired here.In a way he had never expected, he question was answered. He felt a strange sensation and turned to address his friends. But his friends were gone. Instead, he saw a team of Po-Matoran replacing broken flagstones in the road and repairing the stairs at his feet. The statues and totems were suddenly whole, as was the stone Kanohi Miru above him. Startled, he willed himself to concentrate on the vision, for he realized what he was seeing. He was glimpsing the temple's past. He tried to look at a different time, but could not control the power. A boulder in a dark quarry – the source of the stone he was touching – flashed before his eyes, then the phantom scene was gone. He heard his name being called.“Imlen?” Vilam repeated. “Are you alright?”“What happened?” asked Paqyar. “Your mask was glowing.”“It... it was?” Imlen touched his mask. “I guess I activated it somehow.”“Somehow?” said Paqyar. “How?”“I... I'm not sure. I just was wondering about the temple's past, and suddenly I was looking back in time. I saw the temple being repaired, and where the rock I was touching was dug up.”“The mask lets you see the past?” asked Vilam.“Of an object I touch, apparently,” amended Imlen. “I haven't figured out how to control what I see, or when it activates.”“What luck!” Paqyar exclaimed suddenly. “Don't you realize – with that power, you could learn... well, almost anything, but for a start, what happened inside the temple.”It was indeed an incredible stroke of good fortune. Yet that fortune seemed to fade as Imlen searched the temple again. Most of the time, he could not even get his mask to activate. When it did, he saw many scenes, most of which showed no one in the temple. A few showed people visiting, or repairing the structure. He once caught a glimpse of a new team of Toa being formed, but lost track of that vision too quickly. A few times, he saw Turaga, but what he saw was irrelevant to his current quest. Until, viewing the history of a random tile that had come loose from the floor, he saw their greatest clue yet.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Six==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Again, Imlen saw a Turaga shuffle across the floor of the temple. He had seen this Turaga in the mask's previous visions, and although this Turaga had not been around for over five hundred years, Imlen instantly recognized him. It was Turaga Morok. This scene was different than the other visions of the Turaga he had seen. Morok was alone, and looked worse than Imlen had ever seen him. His armor was battered and dirty, and he looked sad. Not just said, Imlen noticed, but also worried. Or even afraid. Morok walked past Imlen's field of vision, and the Toa of Plasma carefully willed the mask to expand the scene. For a moment, he lost control, and feared he had broken the phantasm. But then the temple came back into focus. Morok was doing something to the Suva – Imlen couldn't tell what – and then the Turaga stepped back as a small secret compartment at the base of the dome opened. The sight of Morok depositing something in the compartment and closing it shocked Imlen out of the trance, and he snapped back to the present.“There's something in the Suva,” he said.“Something? I don't want to get near that thing again,” said Vilam.“I think it'll be alright – look,” said Paqyar.In transforming the Toa, the broken Suva had used its last energy. Its inner glow had died out, leaving it nothing but a cracked stone dome. Imlen approached and examined it. Halfway up the side of the dome, in a straight line from the middle of the room, was a large button. Imlen pressed it, and the Suva rumbled as something opened. It was not the compartment Morok had opened, however. The top section of the Suva rotated and split open, revealing a compartment that took up most of the dome's interior. It was empty except for half of a Kanohi and some fine metal dust. Imlen checked to make sure there was nothing more to that section, then pressed the button again. Thin sections of stone slid upward and together, resealing the Suva. Imlen beckoned to his friends, and they examined the exterior of the Suva carefully. Something near the bottom caught Paqyar's eye. He brushed it off, disturbing a large amount of dust.“I think... I found... something,” he announced between coughs.“What, what?” said Imlen eagerly.“Just a little writing – mostly illegible, but come see what you think.”“'Place the mask carefully' ...” read Imlen. “No... 'potential Toa' ... 'stone' … 'transform' ... 'Toa' … I don't see how this could help.”“Ah, the word 'open' is here,” said Vilam. “'Only' … 'only n' … 'natural elemental' … ah, it says 'only natural elemental energy can open' ….”“Now we're on to something,” said Imlen. “So, only a Toa or Turaga can open the compartment. But where is it? We can't just blast the Suva randomly.”“Maybe here. Something looks just out of place in this spot,” said Paqyar, indicating a small part of the Suva in front of him.“Worth a try. But be careful – we don't want to break anything.”Paqyar channeled a miniscule amount of elemental energy into the point he had noticed. To his surprise, instead of manifesting as plant life, it formed a glowing green vapor that was sucked into a widening crack in the stone. With a quiet thud, the compartment they had been searching for swung open. Paqyar beckoned his friends over as he held his lightstone into the small chamber. There were some more tablets within, as well as some small pieces of equipment such as a compass. There was also a strange mechanical contraption built into the walls of the compartment, made evident by the presence of moving metal parts.“Don't touch that,” Paqyar warned. “I think I can see what it does. See, it's supporting this stone block here, and keeping this valve closed. This trigger here will drop the block and open the valve.”“Ah, I get it,” said Imlen as he touched the valve very carefully. “Ouch, acid. It's designed to trigger if someone attempts to break in. Forcing this open will cause the contents to be crushed and dissolved. We're lucky it wasn't set off when the Suva was damaged.”“I didn't expect any of the old builders to have been so... crafty,” said Vilam.“I'm glad they were. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been the first to find these,” said Paqyar, retrieving the compartment's contents.The Toa of the Green placed the items on the floor where the three of them could look them over. There was a set of basic traveling equipment, including the compass. They were already well-equipped, but took the supplies as spares, just in case. Morok had even thought to include a pack of ageless ration canisters. These very rare canisters contained concentrated food energy, and would keep well indefinitely – even centuries had no effect, unless the containers were ruined. Hence, they were useful for placing in hidden caches for emergencies. But the most important find was a series of inscribed tablets. In a refreshing change, the letters in these were perfectly legible. None of the three Toa could recall what Morok's handwriting looked like, but it was obvious enough that this was his work. The Toa arranged the tablets in order and began to read.“As of the time of this writing, it has been four weeks since the disaster,” the engraved letters said. “That day, the earth cracked, buildings crumbled, and the sea rose up as far as the village of Sonics. The water is receding, and the Ga-Matoran were unharmed, but the De-Matoran have disappeared. Their fortress is intact, but deserted. We have not been able to investigate. On the day of the disaster, the Toa were below the mountains. There was great damage to Metaku's realm. Many were buried in the quake, and I fear the Toa were among them. In addition to the initial casualties, the disaster has had more dire consequences. Everything is dimmer, less vibrant. Even the air feels strangely listless. All these point to one thing: Mata Nui himself has been gravely hurt. Initially we feared he may have died, but if that had happened, we would have all died with him. Then we hoped he had merely been briefly stunned. But after weeks, it is clear to us that he is asleep. The universe still functions, but it has changed for the worse, and will not be restored until he wakes.“Though I fear what this portends, we have more current problems. Mere days after the disaster, the Ukzokth attacked in overwhelming force. Many small communities were eradicated or enslaved. Fortresses that should have been able to hold out for months were breached in days. Just as those bastions were overcome, a new side joined the war. At that time, many of the Ukzokth halted their attack. The others were slain. But though our people rejoiced, Siok and I were afraid. For the one who had 'saved' us was our old enemy, the Makuta Teskor. He claimed he had conquered the Ukzokth just in time to stop them from wiping us out. Now I see he has always been behind them, working behind the scenes all the time we had thought him dead. His lies were accepted by the Matoran all too readily. His past deeds forgotten, he has been accepted as a savior.“His influence is quickly spreading, and we are powerless to stop it. Already, those who speak against him have begun to disappear. Siok and I have refrained from publicly commenting. We have spread dissent quietly, but it has not been enough. It shames us, but we must hide. Siok and I will disappear until the time comes. We have done what we can to set the rise of our next Toa in motion. Two of the Toa Stones, the remaining two of a set we made long ago, are in the Ce-Kini. Only Vibrak knew where the others were hidden. Siok has spoken of leaving Yrenta to get help. It sounds like suicide to me. Perhaps we should not simply wait for heroes to arrive, but the lands beyond are dangerous. Who knows what has happened out there since the disaster? And Teskor would surely hunt us down. I hope Siok has abandoned that hopeless idea. I do not know where he will go. We have agreed to stay hidden, even from each other.“I can only hope that Siok finds refuge before Teskor finds him. As for myself, I do not need to go far from home. The jungle is not the most vast region of Yrenta, but there are many places to hide there. Even if enemies find me there, the jungle will protect me. My village has stood for millennia, and has only now been conquered through deception. But the plants and Rahi are not so easily swayed by deceitful words. They know things for what they are.”“I... I don't believe it,” muttered Paqyar, as he stood up. “All these years, and he has been hiding in the very same jungle.”“He made a good point about that, however,” said Vilam. “Even if you had been looking for him there, you might have never found him.”“I know, trust me. No one knows that better than us Green Matoran,” said Paqyar. “But it's just... if he was there the whole time, why didn't he tell us?”“You know how things are, Paqyar,” said Imlen. “Had he shared that secret, the word would have been spread, and the Makuta would have found out. You read it, the two Turaga did not even tell the other where he was hiding.”“What do you think of the rest of it?” asked Vilam. “I wonder if Turaga Siok did leave Yrenta.”“If he did, he did not succeed in bringing back help,” said Imlen grimly. “Now, I noticed something curious. If the fortress of Sonics was not destroyed in the Cataclysm, why did the De-Matoran disappear?”“Good question,” said Paqyar. “I had assumed they were wiped out, but then I never got the chance to actually look for myself.”“Me too. We all had other things to worry about. Their disappearance was just one more thing to add to the pile,” said Vilam.“Also, there is a possibility we must consider,” said Imlen. “Turaga Morok may have not made it back to the jungle after he deposited his recordings here.”“True,” sighed Paqyar. “I hope that's not the case, however. So, how about that fortress of Sonics? Should we investigate it? It's close, isn't it?”“It is close, but I think we should head to the jungle next. Morok should know of us as soon as possible, and we need guidance from him. Besides, something might have wiped the De-Matoran out. If it's still there, I'd like to get some combat experience first. We'd better not rush off to die.”“I concur,” said Vilam.“Me too,” said Paqyar. “Besides, I can't wait to get back home.”“Unfortunately, we'd better not reveal ourselves to the Matoran yet, for the same reason Morok did not,” said Vilam. “I'm sorry, Paqyar.”“You're right,” said Paqyar regretfully. “At least it will be good to see the jungle again. I have been away for years.”Their path clear for the moment, the Toa camped in the temple that night. The next morning, they packed their equipment and left. They headed directly east, towards the distant river. Their longer legs and heroic endurance let them travel at a much faster pace. Later that same day, they arrived at the banks of the river. Since the Cataclysm, the Ga-Matoran had relocated to a site not far away. The Toa were careful to keep their distance, and were only spotted by the occasional Rahi. The river was much wider and more wild than it had been in past ages, and the Toa had to travel a considerable distance to find a safe place to ford it. It was only early evening when they made it across the river and to the eaves of the jungle, but they set up camp there and went to bed early. Paqyar had insisted that the inexperienced should never travel the jungle at night, even Toa. Imlen and Vilam were nervous that night, spooked by the calls of unknown Rahi and intimidated by the vast, all-encompassing plants that lay before them. Paqyar, on the other hand, had trouble sleeping for the opposite reason. Returning to his homeland had invigorated him.Before his disappearance, Turaga Morok had confided his fears to Paqyar, along with a handful of other trusted Matoran. That same day, he had disappeared without announcing his departure. Even the village's best trackers had been unable to find him. In the following years, the spreading corruption had touched the jungle, but the village remained well-insulated. And so, about three hundred years ago, Paqyar had decided to travel the land and do what he could to improve the lives of his fellow Matoran. His situation became more dangerous as he regularly committed acts in opposition to Makuta Teskor's authority, and even more dangerous when the war against the Dark Hunters reached his homeland. Only by teaming up with the small band of heroes led by Imlen had he survived. Over the years, members of their team had died and new members had joined. Now he and the other two Toa were all that were left of that group.Early the next morning the Toa rose and entered the jungle. Paqyar guided them, keeping them to the safest path. He pointed out signs of wild Rahi, and which plants were dangerous. Imlen attempted to use his Kanohi to look for evidence of Morok's passing, but he found that the mask's power did not work on living targets. What bare rocks or patches of earth he could find showed nothing of any use. Soon the Toa figured that the best way to find the Turaga was to let him know they were looking for him. Unfortunately, that would also alert the local predators to their presence. They stopped traveling stealthily, and in the next few hours they encountered various aggressive Rahi. Most of these fled when given a taste of their elemental powers, and posed little threat to them, so the Toa had let their guard down when a Muaka pounced on them.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Seven==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Paqyar shoved his friends out of the way just before the enormous feline Rahi's jaws closed around him. Vilam and Imlen shouted and retaliated together, forcing the beast to release Paqyar before he had been seriously hurt. Its extended neck retracted and it brought its entire body forward on rapidly-spinning treads. Imlen dodged raking claws as Vilam parried them. She delivered a painful shock from her sword, and the Muaka roared. It staggered, but resumed attacking even as Paqyar got up and began bombarding it with arrows and thorns. Imlen's plasma heated its armor until it glowed a dim orange, and still it battled them. Another swipe of its claws sent him flying into a nearby tree, a row of scratches across his breastplate. It extended its neck at him, and his friends focused their attack on that part, forcing it to retract it and come at them again.“Even a Muaka should have gone looking for easier prey by now,” said Paqyar.“I know,” said Imlen, getting back up and rejoining the fight. “We might need to just kill it.”“I'm trying,” said Vilam as she parried its claws and unleashed blasts of lightning. “Wait, there's something strange about its Kanohi.”The Muaka bore a dark Kanohi mask on each of its shoulders. Vilam summoned a forceful bolt and knocked one mask off, then the second. As the Kanohi clattered to the ground, the Muaka paused. It growled for a moment, sounding confused, then retreated into the foliage. The Toa picked up the masks it had left behind and examined them. The masks were rusty and scarred, and the Toa felt slightly nauseous from just holding them.“Infected masks,” said Imlen. “So corruption spreads among the beasts here, too.”“We've long noticed something wrong in the jungle,” Paqyar said. “But nothing so overt as this. We must be cautious.”The Toa began traveling quietly again. Still, they had several more encounters. A few more of the Rahi they battled also had infected masks. Each time the infected masks were removed, the Rahi would cease their attacks and disappear. Some had even seemed grateful to the Toa, but none had remained with them. They soon reached the other side of the jungle. They were dismayed by this, as they had found no trace of the Turaga. After traveling a short distance north, they reentered the jungle and began to search that area. They searched until dusk, and the Toa were weary. Paqyar said they should make for the eaves of the jungle again immediately. Not far into their journey back out, they were challenged by another Rahi. Paqyar caught his breath as it slithered out of the vegetation.“What's wrong, Paqyar?” said Imlen, noticing the Toa of the Green's concern. “It's just another Jivri.”“No, no,” he stammered. “Not just another Jivri. The Jivri Nui.”“What's a Jivri Nui?” asked Vilam, readying her weapon as the serpent coiled menacingly.“Not 'a' Jivri Nui,” said Paqyar as he grasped her shoulder and pulled her back. “The Jivri Nui, the King of Snakes. Get down!”Paqyar shoved Vilam to the ground as a Rhotuka spinner buzzed past. The snake Rahi lunged towards them, forced to stop just in time by a ball of plasma.“We beat four other Jivri today,” said Imlen. “I think we can take on this one.”“Maybe,” said Paqyar as he helped Vilam up and assumed a battle stance. “But it's a legendary, one-of-a-kind Rahi. If it's stayed alive this long...”His point was punctuated by the snake's next move. It ignored Vilam's sword as it bounced off its scales and twisted, scratching her with one of the seven blades on its dorsal surface. The Toa of Lightning cried out in surprise, then continued the fight. A moment later, the venom took effect. A feeling of numbness spread from the wound, slowing her. Her friends came forth, allowing her to retreat. The Jivri Nui coiled around Imlen's staff, apparently attempting to slither up it and bite him in the neck. As Imlen heated his staff, he realized too late it was a feint. The serpent dropped down and plunged its fangs into his foot before he could react. Imlen jumped back, clutching his foot, and the Rahi fired another Rhotuka from the launcher at the end of its tail. With remarkable accuracy, it struck Paqyar in the center of his chest. He screamed, not just from the pain of the poison burning into him, but also the fear of what would come next. Vilam had collapsed, her limbs paralyzed, and Imlen was on the ground too, his injured leg quickly numbing.“What... what does the venom do?” he asked fearfully.“The paralysis you feel will spread until you are unable to breathe,” said Paqyar, who had also fallen to the ground. “And you die. Don't worry, he'll wait until then before he starts eating us. Or so the stories say.”The Jivri Nui appeared to be in a hurry today, however. As Imlen found himself unable to move, the Rahi slithered to his vulnerable neck, bared its fangs, and... stopped just short of striking as a voice called out.“Not so fast, my old friend,” the voice said. The serpent hissed subserviently in reply. “I thank you for your concern, but we have nothing to fear from these three. Indeed,” continued Turaga Morok as he floated down from the treetops, “I think I have been waiting for them for a long, long time.”“Turaga Morok?” said Imlen in a mixture of disbelief and relief. He could not quite see for himself, for the venom was preventing him from raising his head.“That is me. I can tell you've been looking for me,” said the Turaga as his feet touched the ground and his mask turned off.“A little help here, please,” said Paqyar out of the side of his mouth. The paralysis was starting to affect his face, and Vilam could only mumble unintelligibly.“Oh, right. Don't worry, someone with a Toa's constitution should last about another fifteen minutes before the paralysis stops your lungs. But, luckily for you, the antidote is right here.”“Great. Could you hand it over – I mean, you'd better just pour it down our throats,” said Imlen awkwardly as his mouth began to numb.“You misunderstand. I don't have it. He does,” said Morok, pointing to the serpent. “If you'd be so kind, friend...”Morok took out a trio of small glass vials as the Jivri Nui slithered over. To the awe of the Toa, it raised its head before Morok, allowing him to squeeze the venom sacs at the base of its fangs. The poison dripped into the vials. When an adequate amount of the liquid was present in each vial, the Turaga thanked the snake and released it. Next, he cupped his hands and conjured a small amount of some sort of herb. After rummaging through his pack for a moment, he pulled out a pestle and mortar, and ground the herbs into a powder. He sprinkled a few pinches of the herb powder into each of the vials, then held them up triumphantly. Then he went about feeding it to the Toa. He started with Vilam first. At this point, she could not even open her mouth without help, so Morok lifted her mask, pulled her mouth open, and poured a vial of the potion into it. She gagged, and Morok strained to pull her upright.“I'm alright,” she said through a partially responsive mouth.Morok let her down and went to the others. Imlen was last, and he noticed the poison affecting his breathing by the time the cure was poured down his throat. Immediately, the effects ceased, and began to quickly reverse. Soon they were able to stand up, though they were tired and sore, and decided to remain seated. The whole time, the Jivri Nui stared at them. It looked as concerned as Morok had been for their health.“We're both very sorry about that,” said the Turaga. “Can't be too careful in these times. When we encounter three powerful strangers wandering through the jungle, we play it safe – safe for us, that is – and subdue them before talking to them. Or flee.”“How – ” Vilam began to say.“How did I befriend the legendary, ferocious, venomous, terrifying Jivri Nui?” Morok interrupted. “Why the same way we made friends back home, with a gift of pretty plants, friendly conversation, and helping with the chores. But no, really, not long after I began my exile, I found him injured. He had been in fight with one of the Makuta's creatures, and mortally wounded. He was... resistant to my help at first, but I managed to heal him before it was too late. And he has repaid the favor many times since. But you surely have many more questions than that, and I have some questions for you. So, let's get started then.”“Where do you live? Shouldn't we go there first?” asked Imlen.“Where do I live? I live in the jungle, silly!” laughed Morok. “I would not be very good at hiding if I stayed in one place for five hundred years, now, would I? And before you mention it, don't be too afraid. Most of the things you've encountered are my friends. Most of the rest aren't so bad either, but keep to themselves. Regardless, the only ones you have to fear now are the ones under the Makuta's dominion.”“One other thing, Turaga,” said Paqyar. “You said we were three strangers. We have not seen each other for a long time, so I can forgive you for not recognizing me.”“Oh, Paqyar! No hurt feelings, I hope, friend,” said the Turaga bashfully.“Not at all,” said Paqyar with a smile. “It's so good to see you again, after all these years.”“It is. It really is,” said Morok quietly. “But, now to business. There's a lot to talk about, and even more to do. First, I'd like to know what's going on, and how you became Toa.”The three Toa told their story to Turaga Morok. As they told him, he did what he could to tend their wounds. The venom did not damage organic tissue, only paralyzed it, but their armor had been badly corroded where they had been struck. Paqyar's chest armor was in especially bad shape. Morok did the best he could, instructing the Toa of the Green to temporarily reinforce the damaged metal with wood. Meanwhile, he responded to the details of their story. He knew of the war between the Dark Hunters and the Makuta, but was appalled by their account of how bad it had gotten. He listened excitedly to the tales of their several narrow escapes and sighed mournfully at the death of Rodas. The tale of Mosori's sacrifice thrilled him, but he also expressed sadness for his death. When they got to the part about how they became Toa, he stopped them. It was now late at night, but they did not end their discussion quite yet.“So, did I hear you correctly when you said there was a Toa working for the Makuta?” he asked.“Sadly so, and a ruthless one too, from what Rodas told us,” said Vilam.“How terrible,” said Morok with a sigh. “What could drive those who are supposed to be our heroes to do such things? I have known of such things happening before, but these days... trust and goodness are becoming rare. The Makuta's influence is everywhere. In fact, Makuta Teskor could be speaking to you at this very moment! Of course, I'm not Makuta Teskor. If I was, I would be able to do... this!”Morok stood up and held his hands in the air. Nothing unusual seemed to happen.“What was that?” said Imlen anxiously.“That was nothing, because, whatever it was, I couldn't do it,” chuckled the Turaga. “I am just Turaga Morok, and you have nothing to fear from me.”“You're... different than I remember,” said Paqyar hesitantly.“Oh? Stranger, you mean? More eccentric? Well, maybe it's because I've been a hermit for over five hundred years!”“Uh, right. Just to make sure you're not the Makuta,” said Vilam, “answer this: what did you do the last time you visited the Ce-Kini?”“Last time I... oh, well I went to deposit some records, and equipment for any traveler that happened upon them. But how could you know that?”“My mask lets me see the history of objects I touch,” explained Imlen. “While we searched the temple for clues, we figured that out, and eventually I saw you. From that, we found the items you had stashed.”“Ah, of course. The Mask of Psychometry. I've never seen one in action. On another note, I could tell you that it's said Makuta can read minds, but I'd better not. I don't want to worry you too much. Oh drat, I just said it, didn't I?”“Don't worry, Turaga, we trust you,” said Paqyar. “But I want to know why Imlen's figured out how to use his mask, and Vilam and I haven't.”“Oh, it will come to you,” said Morok. “In fact it's very unusual for one to learn that so soon after becoming a Toa. I call such things 'strange twists of fate' and I suggest you get used to them.”“So, anyway, we read the tablets you had written and came here to search for you,” Imlen briefly finished the story.“So, now what?” asked Vilam.“Now, we rest. It's the middle of the night, and there's much to do tomorrow. Don't worry, he's going to bed,” said Morok, pointing at the Jivri Nui hiding in the trees, “but more of my friends will come watch over us as we sleep.”“He's still here?” said Paqyar incredulously, staring at the serpent.“Not for long,” yawned Morok. “He's done more than his share of help today.”The Toa unpacked their belongings and went to bed on the jungle floor, trusting Morok's Rahi friends to watch over them.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Eight==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa woke comfortably the next morning. The sun was already bright, and Morok appeared to be dozing. However, when the Toa got up, he immediately stood and bid them good morning. The Toa looked around, and after careful inspection noticed about a dozen small creatures watching them from the trees and vines. Morok smiled as he studied them, then he caught sight of the staff Imlen carried and stared.“That staff,” he said reverently, “that is Tanu's staff. My old friend's...”“Ah, yes,” said Imlen, suddenly embarrassed. “I hope you don't find it offensive.”“Offensive? No, I know Tanu would be proud to know that, in this way, the heroes of this time carry his legacy,” said the Turaga.“There's much more to his legacy than this,” said Imlen. “But I'm proud you think of it that way. Also, it's not like I broke into his tomb to retrieve it. I found this on the floor of the Ce-Kini.”“On the floor?” said Morok. “The temple was defiled, wasn't it?”“It was. Seemed like a long time ago,” said Vilam. “Probably not long after you visited it for the last time.”“Well, that is far from the worst of Teskor's crimes,” said Morok, shaking his head sadly. “But the time has come to put a stop to that. One careful step at a time, of course.”“Indeed,” said Imlen. “We noticed in your records you wrote that the De-Matoran had left their home mysteriously deserted. We considered investigating, but decided to find you first.”“It sounds like a good next step,” said Morok thoughtfully. “I do not wish to send you back north until you are ready. And if we can find the De-Matoran, we may gain allies that remain unknown to our enemies.”“You're sure they're not all dead?” asked Paqyar.“No, I'm not sure,” said the Turaga. “But when I looked, I saw no bodies, and no signs of a struggle. The walls appeared to have stopped the flood from doing any damage, and the land was damp, yet inhabitable when I investigated. And I did not dare to search for long, but in the short time I was there I saw no records explaining their disappearance.”“Did it look like they packed up and left?” asked Vilam. “I mean, did they leave things behind like they were in a hurry?”“I don't remember seeing much left behind,” said Morok. “But I don't remember their dwellings standing out as being exceptionally clean either. It was too long ago for me to be sure of the details.”“Sounds to me like they got going quickly, but not in a terrible rush,” said Imlen. “But we should go and look ourselves.”Before the Toa prepared to go, Morok gave them advice in combat techniques and the use of their powers. After a few hours of lessons and training, they packed their things. Before they left, Morok had some more advice to give them.“I will remain in the jungle. You know how to find me. Enter it, and my friends will inform me, and we will meet you. Remember, keep a low profile. Try to avoid being seen, by people and by Rahi. However, if you find the De-Matoran, it should be okay to reveal yourselves to them. Soon, we will advertise our presence to the rest, but not yet. For if you did, the news could spread to the Makuta and the Dark Hunters, and they would move against you. Or the Matoran might rise up against their enemies too soon, and be slaughtered. I must have you know this: your careers as Toa have begun in a more dangerous time than any before in this land. Remember that, and be careful.”“We will, Turaga,” said Imlen. “Farewell.”“Farewell, and may we meet again soon!” the Turaga said, and he retreated into the jungle, signaling it was time for the Toa to leave.By that afternoon, the Toa had made it to the western bank of the river. They walked across the land carefully, and were unmolested the entire way to the former region of the De-Matoran. Their fortress lay silent on the horizon, in the midst of a wide plain of tall grass. As the Toa approached, they noticed that though the fortress was whole, the effect of centuries of dereliction were clear. What were once sharp, clean corners had been eroded, and various mosses and ivies were growing on the walls. The main gate was left slightly open, and the Toa entered through it. In the fading light, the rows of empty stone buildings were eerie. A lone bird cawed and came down to roost on a nearby roof. Paqyar scrutinized it carefully, and was satisfied it was merely a wild Rahi, and not under the control of an enemy. He joined the others in searching the town.As with the exterior, the only visible damage was the result of the passage of time without maintenance. Any footprints the De-Matoran had left had faded long ago. The Toa searched the houses, and found they were left in a condition much like Morok had described. The few possessions that were left were large items, such as furniture, and were left in rather careless positions. It indicated a population that had time to leave, but not a long time, and only what they could carry. Imlen began to search the past of various objects while the other Toa looked for physical clues. They looked carefully for signs of a fight, but there were none. Imlen tried many times, and still failed to see the time the fortress had been abandoned. After a while, he took a break from that and helped his friends search. They spent the rest of the day examining the village, and Imlen studied the past of some more objects. Still, they found nothing more of use.That night, they entered a modest building that seemed to serve as a library, or a hall of records. The Toa studied the most recently written tablets. The accounts of the community's history were meticulous up to a line that told about Toa Vibrak going to meet with his brothers to end something that was threatening the Matoran living under the mountains. After that, the records ended abruptly. It seemed to Vilam that they were being blatantly secretive about their fate, deliberately teasing whomever might read their records. The library was quite cozy, and it was late, so the Toa decided to sleep there. Vilam offered to take the first night watch, and while the others slept, she searched the building some more. She wondered if there was more worth investigating than the fortress's recent history. Her efforts were rewarded when she found a few tablets with personal records engraved by Vibrak.By the time she had found them, it was Imlen's turn to watch. She wished to read what she had found, but knew she should get rest, so she handed them to Imlen. He noticed that Vibrak's entries were minimal and far between. Apparently, he had only written things that were very significant to him. The accounts were interesting, and one was quite disturbing – the one telling of the time he had been caught in an illusion and killed some Matoran – but to Imlen's frustration, his last entry was long before the time he had gone away. He had presumably died on that journey anyway, and the De-Matoran had not left until after that. Still, Imlen had been hoping to find some sort of clue. After many attempts, he managed to scry on the last time Vibrak or the De-Matoran had handled the tablet. As he expected, it had been put away for a long time before the De-Matoran had disappeared.Imlen growled in frustration and dropped the tablet. His mask power was incredibly useful, but it could also be so frustrating. Even if it found the time he was looking for, that did not guarantee there would be anything useful to be seen in that time. He realized that he should not have been using it at the time anyway, since he was supposed to be guarding his friends as they slept. As he spent his shift in silent contemplation, something else occurred to him. Since the Water village was not far to the east, and although there was much more space to live in seclusion to the north, the north was much more dangerous. So, if the De-Matoran had gone elsewhere, they had probably not gone north or east. That left south, which would mean leaving the continent entirely by sea, or west. If they had sailed away, it was unlikely they would be found. But Imlen decided that it would be worth the effort to search for them to the west.After Paqyar's shift, the Toa got ready to go. Vilam took the time to study Vibrak's journal herself. She found nothing of use in it, but decided to bring it with her. She hoped the De-Matoran would be grateful to have it returned to them. It was still dawn when they left the Fortress of Sonics, as they expected a long trek ahead of them that day. The plains stretched for many kio to the west before terminating at a ridge of hills, the unofficial western border of Yrenta. The official border, when there was one, had moved depending on the prosperity of the region, but throughout their history the hills had been explored little by the Matoran of Yrenta. They were not nearly as dangerous as the northern Wasteland, but were judged long ago to be unfit for colonization, and the Matoran living on either side of the ridge had little interest in getting acquainted. Imlen was not sure exactly what it was, but there was a reason the hills had been left alone, and he was sure they would be at their most dangerous in this era.The hills did not look particularly intimidating to the Toa when they were arrived. They were more barren and rocky than most of the terrain in southern Yrenta, but looked easy enough to navigate. The Toa reached the summit of the first hill just before noon. From that height, they could see why no Matoran lived here. There was a small valley before them, and more hills beyond that. All were desolate and windy. The Toa could see large Rahi moving all around, as well as swarms of voracious insects. They stopped to rest for a short time, then continued on. They did their best to stay out of sight, but the vegetation and rock formations were sparse in the valley. The three of them had just reached the bottom of the valley and were beginning to scramble up the steep opposite slope when they heard a sound like a row of glass bottles shattering.A pack of Nui-Jaga was upon them, calling out with that distinctive cry. There were eight of the scorpion-like Rahi, and they were rapidly scurrying down from the northwest. Before the Toa could retreat, they were surrounded. The Jaga advanced, and at that moment they learned the folly of attempting to prey on Toa. Vilam struck first, with bolts of lightning that knocked out three immediately. Imlen formed a glowing, electrically-charged fog around the rest while Paqyar attempted to subdue them. He found that it took more energy and concentration for him to call forth plants in a barren place, but managed to summon some dry scrub that entangled the Rahi. Imlen increased the temperature of his plasma, while Vilam poured more lightning into it. The plants holding the Nui-Jaga caught fire and burned away, allowing them to flee. The Toa congratulated each other and moved on.The western slope was difficult to climb at first, but gradually became more shallow as the Toa ascended. They heard a loud buzzing as below them a swarm of insects descended on the three unconscious Nui-Jaga. The large Rahi were devoured in seconds, and the swarm moved for the Toa next as the travelers stared in surprise. A quick blast of lightning sent several of the bugs to the ground and scattered the rest, and the Toa continued their hike. Soon, they were attacked by a group of spider-like Rahi they did not recognize. Again, the Rahi were easily defeated, but the Toa were becoming weary. Vilam hoped that there would be no more encounters for a while. Her wish was denied her, however, for Visorak scurried around the opposite side of that hill. Paqyar spotted them first, and urged his friends to take cover, but it was too late. The Visorak had seen them.The Visorak were fierce, strong, and battled to the death, but it was much easier for the three to beat them now that they were Toa. Still, these Rahi were far more of a challenge than the wild beasts they had fended off earlier. And they were followed by reinforcements. After a fierce battle, Vilam fried the last of them. Just then, the Toa heard a familiar hum. Three Rahkshi landed in front of them and brandished their staffs. They were obviously eager to fight, after all, they had never had the opportunity to fight Toa before.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Nine==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa attacked immediately. Two of the Rahkshi seemed to vanish, while the third endured their assault and fired a ray of power from its staff. The Toa were caught in it, and were overcome by a feeling of disorientation. One of the other Rahkshi appeared back in the fight seemingly out of nowhere, and battered Paqyar to the ground with a supernaturally fast onslaught. In a daze, Vilam blasted everyone around her. Toa and Rahkshi alike staggered for a moment, and the Rahkshi of Confusion's hold over them was broken. Behind Imlen, the third Rahkshi's concealment was broken, but the Toa of Plasma did not see it in time. The end of that Rahkshi's staff dug into his back armor, and he fell forward. Vilam turned to protect him from a follow-up attack, but left herself open to another Confusion attack. This time, she refrained from lashing out with her power, and stood babbling meaninglessly.“Imlen!” Paqyar called.Imlen rolled out of the way as the stealthy Rahkshi tried to bring its staff down on him. Paqyar tried to snare the two Rahkshi attacking him and Imlen with a growth of vines. The quick-moving Rahkshi dodged, and the stealthy one was entangled just as it was changing colors to blend in with the environment. Imlen got up and prepared to take out the Chameleon Rahkshi while it was trapped, but the Rahkshi of Dodge leaped next to him in a flash and began forcing him back. Meanwhile, the Rahkshi of Confusion bashed Vilam in the face, knocking her mask off. Its hold on her was broken again, but she was greatly weakened without her mask, and stunned from the blow to the head. The Rahkshi followed up with a sweep at her legs, causing her to fall to the ground. She attempted to call forth a blast of lightning, but could not concentrate enough. The Rahkshi of Chameleon broke free of Paqyar's vines at that moment and disappeared.It reappeared a moment later to strike Paqyar, and retreated again before he could strike back. This process repeated over and over while the other two Toa battled their respective opponents. These Rahkshi only had one ranged attack between them, one which did not even do any direct damage, and yet they had the upper hand in the battle. They were much more skilled than the lone Rahkshi Mosori had defeated. Vilam could only weakly defend herself as the Confusion Rahkshi alternated between pummeling her and clouding her mind, and Imlen could barely fend off the rapid strikes of the dodging Rahkshi. Again, he attempted to call upon his element, only to be interrupted by a quick attack that broke his concentration. He tried something different. He feinted striking the Rahkshi's side, then brought his staff to the ground to melt the earth into lava. The Rahkshi was too quick, however, and his move backfired. He had just started to heat the ground when a mighty sweep of the Rahkshi's staff sent him flying back.A short distance away, Paqyar fell to his knees, battered from all sides. Then, the Toa had some success when Vilam managed to grab her opponent's staff, sending a weak electric attack through it. While that Rahkshi was dazed, she reached over and grabbed her mask. She felt power and clarity return to her, and when the Rahkshi recovered, it was hit by another, stronger bolt of lightning. Vilam moved towards Paqyar, but was struck midway by another confusion ray. Paqyar could not hit the Rahkshi that was attacking him, but snared the Confusion Rahkshi as it ran after Vilam. Imlen stood up and surrounded himself with a shroud of plasma, preventing the Dodge Rahkshi from approaching him without being blinded. Concentrating on maintaining that defense, he ran over to join the others. As he came closer, he saw the Chameleon Rahkshi striking Paqyar again, and blasted it. A moment later, the Toa stood together again, though Vilam was confused and all three were battered.“Vilam! Snap out of it, sister,” Imlen said as the Rahkshi resumed their attack.“Don't talk to the Brakas fish,” she mumbled incoherently, and was smacked to the ground by the Rahkshi of Dodge.“This isn't good – ow!” said Paqyar as the Rahkshi hit him next.Imlen blasted plasma all around the ground, giving Paqyar the time to help Vilam up. All three of them were sore and tired, but Paqyar was determined for them to get out alive. Just then, his mask glowed. As he reached out and pulled the Toa of Lightning to her feet, a glow embraced the two of them. The light lingered for a few seconds, and when it was gone, the two Toa stood fused into one being.“Fusion? That's your mask power?” said Imlen groggily as he was struck in the head by the Chameleon Rahkshi.“Y... yes,” said the fusion in Paqyar's voice after a moment. “Vilam's mind... struggles against mine due to the confusion, but the confusion... also makes her willpower... too weak to resist much. Now her mind is clearing.”As it spoke, the merged being lashed out at the startled Rahkshi. As its two minds began to cooperate, it became much more effective. The Rahkshi of Confusion was eliminated by a concentrated barrage of electricity, arrows, and plants. The other two Rahkshi nearly knocked Imlen's mask off, and the fusion caught him as he staggered back.“Fuse with us, Imlen,” said Paqyar. “It doesn't hurt.”Imlen allowed himself to be absorbed into the amalgam, and it glowed as it reformed into a new being. This fusion, instead of being controlled by Paqyar's mind, was a true Toa Kaita, with its own individual mind made of its component parts working in perfect unison. Like all Toa Kaita, he had his own name. His name was Samruna. He paused for a moment to consolidate the unification of his mind, and two remaining Rahkshi attacked while he was distracted. But their staffs could do little damage to the Kaita. With a sweeping kick, he sent the two machines flying back. A blast of electrified plasma destroyed the Rahkshi of Chameleon before it could rise. Next Samruna materialized a giant, primitive arrow – simply a tapered wooden shaft with leaves for flights – nocked it to his bow, and launched it at the Rahkshi of Dodge as it tried to flee. The projectile skewered the Rahkshi, pinning it to the ground, and at the Toa Kaita's command a tangle of branches burst from the wood. The plants tightened, crushing the Rahkshi and its Kraata.The battle was over. Exhausted, Samruna dropped down on his knees and broke into the three Toa that had formed him. The Toa lay on the ground for a moment, then more of the hungry insects swarmed over them. This time, Imlen dispersed them with a small application of his elemental power. Then the Toa rested for a short while, but they soon heard shouts and the screech of Visorak. More Makuta forces were on the way. The Toa were in no condition to fight them off. They were bruised, dented, tired, and low on elemental energy. Most of the enemy force was approaching to the west, so the Toa got up and traveled back the way they had come as quickly as they could. When they came to the steep valley slope, they stumbled down and landed in a dry thicket. A Brotherhood scout was there at the bottom just in front of them. Still lying in the bracken, Vilam shot a lightning bolt out of her sword. Imlen jumped up and finished the encounter with his staff, first knocking the scout's mask off, then knocking him unconscious, but not before the scout could shout.Imlen helped the other two Toa up, and they quickened their pace. The scout's cry had helped the approaching Brotherhood forces pinpoint their location, and they were closing in. The Toa made it to the bottom of the hills on the edge of the plains. They could hear the Brotherhood soldiers and Visorak on the hilltops behind them. Projectiles whizzed past, some exploding as they hit the ground or discharging into bursts of energy, others fragmenting or merely embedding themselves in the earth. One exploded next to the Toa, detonating with a surge of electricity, and blasted them off their feet. As they got up, they looked back and saw some of the faster Makuta units were chasing them, while ranged attackers rained fire down on them from the ridge. There were no more Rahkshi to be seen, but the Toa expected more to arrive at any time.“Any ideas?” said Paqyar, beginning to slow from fatigue.“We might need to just stop and make a stand,” said Imlen, shaking his head. “There's not a whole lot back there, no more than a platoon's worth including the Visorak. But I don't know how dangerous those warriors are.”“It might be better than exhausting ourselves running,” panted Vilam. “Paqyar, can you use your mask again?”“I'm not sure,” said Paqyar as they continued to run. “I'm tired, and can't focus. Wait – the grass is taller up ahead.”“It's still not enough to hide us,” said Imlen.“Maybe not. But good thing I'm a Toa of the Green,” said Paqyar.The Toa ducked as they reached the tall grass, then went down on their hands and knees, crawling as fast as they could. They were far out of range of the attackers on the hill by now, but hiding in the grass only slowed their remaining pursuers a little. More projectiles rained down around them, and shouts sounded not far behind. Paqyar considered the situation. He tried causing the grass a short distance away to rustle, tricking the Brotherhood forces into thinking the Toa were moving through there. The feint worked for a short time. Now the soldiers and Visorak were among the grasses. Silently, Paqyar animated the grass around him. He did not expend the energy to strengthen the plants, and they posed no threat to the enemy, but distracted them while the Toa moved away. Soon a few of them came too close, forcing Vilam and Imlen to blast them and give their position away again.There were only about five or six soldiers in the field now, but there were a dozen Visorak in the field too. Worse, the Toa could now hear the buzz of flying Rahkshi converging above. They dropped to the ground again, changing direction and crawling to the northwest. The grass seemed to actively hinder their passage now. They realized one of the Rahkshi must have been manipulating the plants, though the Rahkshi fortunately had not located them yet. The force on the ground was now passing them, and they ran into a lone Visorak at the northern edge of the group. With desperation and ferocity, the Toa fell upon it and slaughtered it before it could call for help. The Toa stopped and lay still in the cover of the grass. The soldiers and Visorak passed them, but the Rahkshi lingered. Several times they landed, searched on foot, then took to the sky again. The Toa stayed there and rested for a while.The Rahkshi remained, however, and the Makuta's forces resorted to a tactic they had used not long ago to flush out fugitives hiding in vegetation. If they were willing to burn a shrubland to get Matoran, torching an entire section of the plain to catch Toa was not very drastic in comparison. This region was less arid, so the fire did not spread as fast, but there was much more fuel to sustain and carry it. The edge of the tall grasses was not far, but the Toa would be exposed there. That would be better than burning to death, but the Toa had just nearly been defeated by three Rahkshi, and there were now at least five nearby. The Makuta-Sons were relatively uncommon in Yrenta even in this age, but the appearance of Toa probably justified sending all available Rahkshi to eliminate them.“If this is going to be a recurring tactic, we should start carrying buckets of water around,” quipped Vilam.“Can you put it out, Imlen?” asked Paqyar. “Absorb it or something?”“I don't think so. That's a job for a Toa of Fire, not Plasma.” said Imlen. “We'd better get out of here. On the count of three: one, t –”“Wait!” interrupted Paqyar.“What, Paqyar?” demanded Imlen impatiently, as the fire was now uncomfortably close.“I'll catch up, you'll know when to move!” said the Toa of the Green rapidly.Paqyar crawled as fast as he could away from his friends, and risked standing up when he was confident he would not get his friends in trouble too if the Rahkshi saw him. He knew the fire needed something to burn to spread. In this case that fuel was the grass. None of the Toa present were able to absorb or control the fire. But Paqyar could do just that to the fuel. He put his plan to the test. It took an effort, but he managed to convert a swath of grass into elemental energy and absorb it, creating a barren gap wide enough to stop the fire from reaching the area he stood in. Then he got down under the grass again. By then, the fire was almost upon Imlen and Vilam, and they got up and ran. So far, the smoke and flames covered their escape. Paqyar hoped that if the Rahkshi had noticed his diversion, they would come soon, for he was struggling to hold on to the absorbed power.Fortunately or unfortunately, one soon noticed the large patch of grass the fire had been prevented from reaching. The Kraata inside it reasoned that the Toa would surely be hiding in that small safe area, and called his brothers in for the attack. Paqyar saw them coming and gulped. He was taking a big risk for his friends. He did not plan to turn it into a sacrifice as Mosori had, but it would be a close call. This time, he had a slight edge in the form of the plant life he had absorbed. When he felt he could contain it no longer, he released it in a blast at the three Rahkshi landing nearby. The machines were caught by surprise, and one was instantly crippled. Paqyar ran before the other two could free themselves from the grasping vines and thorns. He sprinted wildly, and was pleased to see only more two Rahkshi, these ones following him from the air. No Rahkshi at all would be better, but they had a chance if they could take on the vile things one or two at a time. He saw his friends not far off, and soon caught up to them. The Rahkshi were right behind.“What was that about?” said Vilam as they prepared for battle.“A... plan...” Paqyar panted, and he coughed. “See, only... two... of them at a... time.”Imlen and Vilam got in front of Paqyar, allowing him to catch his breath as the Rahkshi attacked. One of them, a yellow Rahkshi, shot searing red beams from its eyes. This was probably the one that had ignited the plain. Its first attack missed and struck the ground. Fortunately, there was not enough grass here to start another wildfire. Imlen felt some of his elemental power had returned, and he wanted to end this quickly, so he stepped forth to unleash a devastating cloud of plasma. Before he could summon the power, however, the other Rahkshi hit him with a ray from its staff. Imlen was instantly sent into a deep sleep. Worried, Paqyar checked on him, confirmed he was only sleeping, and got out his bow. Vilam sent out a trio of quick bolts, one for each of the Rahkshi and a weak one to jolt Imlen awake.It worked, but he did not immediately shake the effect off. He stirred, and after a moment he got up drowsily just in time to be pushed away by Paqyar. The patch of grass he had been lying on was struck by the Heat Vision rays and burned to the ground. While he was waking up, Vilam had been preventing the maroon Rahkshi from putting any more of them to sleep while dodging the yellow Rahkshi's attacks. Paqyar stood back and peppered both Rahkshi with arrows. He got a lucky hit in the Rahkshi of Heat Vision's head. The Kraata inside was not dead, but hurt, and the machine stumbled. Imlen had woken up by then, and only needed to expend a small amount of energy to finish the yellow Rahkshi off. Alone, the maroon Rahkshi of Sleep did not last much longer. By this time, the other two Rahkshi were advancing quickly.Running to their prey instead of flying was their mistake. On the open plain, they made easy targets. Vilam took out one immediately with as powerful a bolt as she could summon. After a few attempts, Paqyar pierced the other one's knee with an arrow. What had once been one of the Makuta's most dreaded enforcers was reduced to a limping, broken machine. Paqyar prepared to finish it off, but before he could it let out a terrible scream, loud enough to make the ground shake. The Toa were deafened, though that did not save the Rahkshi. Paqyar caused rending vines to sprout from the arrow, tearing the Rahkshi apart. Imlen communicated through gestures which way the team should go next. They were safe for the moment, but would have to move quickly. This battle had been short, but they were even lower on elemental energy now, almost out. They would have to rest before fighting again, and more enemies would surely be on the way. Even if news of their presence had not already been spread, the fire and that Power Scream could be noticed from far away, and were a big indicator something was going on.“That could have gone better,” said Vilam later, when the Toa could hear again.“At least we're alive!” yelled Imlen. The Toa were traveling east, and had not encountered any enemies since defeating the Rahkshi.“You're yelling,” said Paqyar.“What?” asked Imlen loudly. Apparently, his hearing had not completely come back.“You're yelling!” repeated Paqyar, louder this time. “Wait for your hearing to come back!”“Sure, sorry,” Imlen whispered. Vilam chuckled.The southern plains were no longer safe with Brotherhood forces looking for them there and few places to hide. They doubted their chances of making it past the hills. And so, the Toa decided to return to the jungle in defeat.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Ten==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

“Don't feel too bad,” Turaga Morok consoled the Toa. “At least you're alive.”“That's what I told them,” said Imlen. “But the Makuta knows about us now. The Brotherhood warriors are searching the plains of De-Wahi for us. I hope they don't attack the jungle or the Ga-Matoran in an attempt to find us.”“I hoped your existence would stay secret for a while,” said Morok. “But that was an impractical thing to hope. There is much open space and untamed wilderness in these lands, but you cannot hide in the wild forever. You will need to confront your enemies, and aid your friends.”“I still don't think we should meet the Matoran. The Makuta probably hasn't told them, and we're not ready to protect them yet,” said Vilam.“I agree,” said Imlen. “We were on the run most of the time. We can't have the Matoran expect us to lead them to battle.”“True, none of us are ready for that yet,” said the Turaga. “But that time is coming. By your account, Paqyar learned to use his Kanohi, you formed a Kaita, and together the three of you defeated eight Rahkshi. Even a few at a time, that number is still impressive.”“The first three nearly defeated us, but the others put up much less of a fight,” said Imlen thoughtfully.“I'm not clear on the details, but I've heard that Kraata and/or Rahkshi have levels of maturity that determine their power and intelligence,” explained Morok. “And as living creatures, the Kraata that see more combat experience will generally be more formidable than other Kraata of the same strength. But do not underestimate any Rahkshi. I mean, do not underestimate anybody or anything. But don't let that make you too fearful to do what you must. Don't underestimate yourselves either. Now, you should rest. I also have something that might be of use to you.”“How did you get that?” asked Paqyar, indicating the healing and armor repair kit Morok showed them.“I persuaded some Brakas to steal it from the village,” said Morok. “I regret having to resort to theft, but I'm sure if our people knew what it was for they would have gladly donated this.”“We need it, but I still don't like this,” said Imlen tentatively. “It doesn't feel right to let them suffer while we hide right outside their homes and wait, and stealing from them makes it worse.”“We've already agreed about the present need for secrecy,” said Turaga Morok. “But as for this village, they are not suffering nearly as much as the others. The Makuta's corruption spreads, but my friends and I are doing a pretty good job of keeping the Matoran here safe from it.”“If they're so well protected, we should be able to let them know the truth,” argued Imlen.“But...” Morok tried to protest.“The Brotherhood already knows of us, the news will spread quickly,” Vilam supported Imlen.“The times are changing, and my people – your people – deserve to know this,” said Paqyar.“The village is not completely isolated. There are traders and such, and Makuta enforcers,” Morok pointed out. “But you make good points. Very well, how about a compromise: I will arrange to meet with trusted Matoran from the village in secret. Over time, more will know, but we will try to restrict the knowledge. By the time it is public, you will be ready for the next stage of your quest.”“That sounds fair,” said Vilam.“I agree,” said Imlen.“Me too,” said Paqyar.“Now, you really should treat your wounds and armor,” said Morok. “If it makes you feel better, I will make it up to the village somehow. If you don't consider keeping them safe from the spreading shadow and mentoring their next heroes to be enough, that is.”The Toa accepted the healing kit, and spent the next few hours treating their contusions and patching their armor. Then they slept for a long time.

-----

“You found three Toa and you... let... them... go?” demanded Makuta Teskor, drawing the last words out threateningly.“L-let them go? N-no, they escaped,” said the sniveling lieutenant. “They destroyed seven Rahkshi and badly damaged an eighth – ”“You allowed them to escape,” interrupted the Makuta. “I realize that you did not do so deliberately, and that you personally never got close enough to fire a shot or make one swing of your sword. But you were the commanding officer, and it was under your poor leadership that our forces let the Toa slip through their fingers. In addition, you did not send messages as per regulation. Other platoons only found about it from the light and noise you made while letting the Toa escape.”“But it was – ” the lieutenant was interrupted by a magnetic force closing his throat and lifting him into the air.As in many other places, Visorak made up the majority of the Brotherhood's forces in Yrenta, but they also hired beings of many species as soldiers. They especially relied on these for low to medium-ranking leadership positions, as they were more replaceable than Rahkshi, more intelligent than Visorak, and more adaptable and versatile than both. At least, that was the concept. In practice, they were mostly arrogant sycophants, pompous, ambitious beings that instantly became unbearably flustered and obsequious when threatened. Upper-class Steltians, such as this particular specimen, tended to be the worst. Teskor couldn't figure out what the other Makuta saw in them. He guessed this one would begin to take irreversible damage from lack of air in a few seconds. Savoring the last moment for as long as he could, he released the lieutenant. The Steltian fell to the floor, nearly unconscious, and gasped for breath. Makuta Teskor jolted him awake with a blast of electricity.“You will... assist me in the lab,” he said, and the lieutenant nodded helplessly. “You will think of what you did wrong, and when I judge you fit to return to service, you shall.”The Steltian looked even more terrified now than when he was being choked. Apparently, he knew that the Makuta's 'lab assistants' never failed to end up as experiments themselves. But there was nothing he could do about it, and he knew that. Teskor was looking forward to his service, but he had other things to consider first. The Toa had been found in the south, heading west from where the De-Matoran used to live to the hills at the border of Yrenta. It was possible they had arrived by sea, but in that case they could have sailed south of the hills to reach their destination. Discounting the possibility that they had encountered trouble at sea, it was more likely they were Toa from this land. Either way, they were trouble. But if they were from Yrenta, that would make things interesting. Regardless, he would let his minions – his most capable minions – deal with them. Since Makuta Teridax's plan had succeeded in putting Mata Nui to sleep, Makuta Teskor had outgrown his petty feud with the Toa and Matoran of Yrenta.He was above that now. Matoran were his subjects, and Toa were usually his enemies, though not always. A shining exception was one of those capable minions, a Toa of Ice named Zima. The last of Teskor's Toa Hagah, Zima was a Makuta's ideal Toa: loyal, competent, ruthless, and unambitious. The Toa guardians of the Makuta had long been deceived and diverted to prevent them from learning their masters' true intentions. And yet, when the time had come to purge the Hagah, Zima had been one of the few who remained loyal to the Makuta. Teskor's faith in him had been substantiated when the Toa of Ice had eliminated every one of his teammates. The rest of Teskor's Hagah had attempted to resist the purge, but unfortunately for them their most formidable member had remained unwaveringly loyal to the Makuta. Of course, Zima had not battled them all at once. He seemed naive, almost mindless sometimes, but had been clever enough to pick off his former comrades one or two at a time.This sort of naivety made him an excellent servant. He truly believed the Makuta were the rightful rulers of the universe. His personality was more like that of a robot than a person, and he seemed to think his nearly emotionless manner was the proper way to act, with behavior not completely grounded in cold logic being flawed. Teskor had to downplay his emotions and the role they played in his schemes while dealing with Zima, and conceal some of his thoughts from the Toa's Mask of Telepathy, lest he conclude that the Makuta were also 'malfunctioning'. But that inconvenience was greatly outweighed by the benefits of employing him. His only personal agenda was an ordered, functional universe under the rule of the Makuta. He knew that the universe was being damaged in the attempt, but placed that blame on those who resisted what he considered the inevitable inheritance of his masters.Unlike the Makuta and the mercenaries they hired, Zima only cared for his own well-being so that he could serve what he believed was the greater good. As his teammates had learned when he turned on them, the closest thing to friendship he understood was the concept of working together towards a common goal. On the subject of mercy, he did not distinguish between living and nonliving beings. If the death of someone was the most efficient way of achieving his goal, he would kill without empathy or remorse, for Teskor had long ago convinced him that the Toa Code was obsolete. These qualities all made him Teskor's best enforcer, and so he had summoned him to his chamber for a very important mission.“I am here, Master,” he said in his nearly monotonous voice as he entered.“Satisfactory punctuality, Zima,” said Teskor. “I have a special mission for you now. Enemy Toa have been sighted in Yrenta, and I need you to eliminate them.”“Of course, Master. Where must I go?”“Hmm, unfortunately they have eluded us,” said Teskor thoughtfully. “They were seen in the south, attempting to cross the western border, and were forced to flee to the east. After that, we lost track of them. They could have gone in any direction. You and your team will lead the mission to find and eliminate them.”“Yes, Master,” said the Toa of Ice as he noticed but ignored the Steltian cowering in the corner. “I will prepare at once.”Teskor summoned the rest of Zima's new team – his ten most disciplined and powerful Rahkshi – and the eleven of them departed together.

-----

The Toa traveled north along the river. Since they had failed to pass into the lands to the west, they had decided to investigate a different mystery. When Toa Vibrak and his team were lost during the Great Cataclysm, whatever danger they had been confronting had also disappeared. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam's new goal was to find out what had happened there that day, and with diligence, Imlen's mask would reveal the answer. Up ahead the riverbank rose into high cliffs, and beyond that the river ended in a desert canyon. But the Toa were not going there. At the point where the riverbank became too steep to walk down, they turned slightly to the west. The plan was to move west just south of the mountains, hidden among the foothills, until they found an entrance to the underground realm where the Onu-Matoran lived.Turaga Morok and the Toa had done their best to calculate the safest path, but it would still be a risky journey. The mountains and hills were home to most of the fortresses and outposts, some of which they would need to pass uncomfortably close to. But they had a better chance there than walking on the open plains. When they came to the foothills they first went north between them and the mountains, then south to walk among the hills, then slightly north again later, and so on. In this fashion they weaved among the hills, staying as concealed as they could and avoiding territory the Brotherhood prowled. They were in luck when they came near the fortress that was hardest to avoid, for the Makuta forces occupying it had another concern. The fortress was under attack by a small but elite Dark Hunter force. The Toa feared for the Matoran forced to labor within, but did not dare to intervene, not yet. They moved on.Soon before they arrived at the tunnel entrance, they encountered a small Brotherhood patrol. The Toa took them out easily and quietly, but were then faced with a dilemma. The soldiers were unconscious and no threat at the moment, but they would awaken later and report the presence of the Toa. Killing them would prevent that, but they were helpless prisoners. After wondering if it was worse to execute prisoners or to put their mission, and by extension the Matoran, in danger, the Toa compromised with themselves. They smashed the Kanohi of any of the soldiers that were wearing them, destroyed their weapons, and Paqyar summoned constrictive, leafy vines to bind and gag them. They would be trapped until they were found and freed, and only then would they be able to report what they had seen. Another possibility was that wild Rahi would eat them first, but the former scenario was more likely in this area.The main entrance to the underground realm was well-guarded of course, but a quarter-kio beyond it was an unwatched side entrance, formerly used for transporting ore. The Toa had to hunch over to walk through this shaft, until they reached another tunnel. This one was wider and also empty. The Toa knew that the Onu-Matoran and Fe-Matoran population living here had declined and been forced into a smaller area over the past millennia, leaving many tunnels abandoned. But they did not know exactly which tunnels were rarely used, which were completely abandoned, and which ones were forgotten completely or collapsed. Also, they had only a general idea of where in the vast network of tunnels and caverns the previous Toa had gone. They expected to be underground for a long time. They had prepared for that by packing enough supplies, but could only hope that few Brotherhood forces prowled down there.They wandered the tunnel for hours before encountering other living beings. They stumbled upon a tribe of cave Ukzokth, stunted, black-armored goblins that were like degenerate Onu-Matoran. In the past, the Toa and Matoran had been forced to slay Ukzokth by the dozen. But they were not at war with these creatures, and so the Toa could not bring themselves to deliberately kill them. But the Ukzokth attacked, heedless of how outmatched they were, and a few of them were mortally injured in the fight. Several more were struck down but not slain, and the rest fled shrieking into the dark. Though the goblins had apparently served Makuta Teskor, it was unlikely that these savages, isolated in abandoned tunnels, were in contact with the Brotherhood. Still, the encounter set the Toa on edge. Their presence underground was now known.It took the Toa days to search the subterranean domain. They encountered a few more groups of Ukzokth during that time, and each time they tired too much to move on, they made camp and slept. Many times they had to dig or blast their way through cave-ins that had happened hundreds of years earlier. Once they passed close to what remained of Matoran territory, and an Onu-Matoran had caught a quick glimpse of them. The Toa had quickly hidden and hoped that would not cause any problems for them in the future. Finally, the Toa found a conspicuous trail of igneous rock leading through caverns and large tunnels that appeared to have been melted long ago. The Toa followed it, and found the frozen flow led consistently downwards, as additional tunnels and caverns below intersected the magma's path, and magma had melted through the floor and poured down into them. The Toa scrambled down each of these former cascades of molten rock and continued to follow the path.For the most part, the resolidified stone was smooth, but in many places the ceiling had collapsed, cracking the stone and nearly blocking the large tunnels. At one point, the way was completely blocked by a large cave-in. The Toa did not turn back here. Imlen melted half of the rock away, while Paqyar created tough roots that crushed and ripped the other half apart. The Toa stepped over the broken stones and clods of earth. A short distance ahead the tunnel opened up into a large cavern. The Toa entered, and found what they had been looking for.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Eleven==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The cavern was half-collapsed, and the rest of it had various slabs of stone and piles of earth scattered throughout it. To the surprise of the Toa, one stone lay near a large carcass that belonged to a giant being they did not recognize. The Toa approached and found the body was merely an empty suit of armor. Before they could ponder that for long, they gasped, for a smaller body was nearby, pinned under a larger rock. It was a dead Toa, and as they inspected the corpse, they identified it as the remains of their lost Toa Lidon.“So, this is what happened,” said Imlen. “During the confrontation, this titan and Toa Lidon perished in the quake. But what happened to Vibrak and Spiileus?”“Let's find out,” said Vilam. “We're depending on you and your mask for that, Imlen.”Out of curiosity, Imlen first scanned the enormous suit of armor. As he concentrated on it, his consciousness was transported into an inferno. What he saw was a realm of fire and lava, but strange creatures thrived in it, perfectly comfortable in the heat. Of course, Imlen was not actually there, so he could not be harmed, but the shock of it was enough to cause him to lose his grip on the vision and return to the present.“Did you see where this came from?” asked Paqyar, indicating the hollow colossus.“I... I think so,” said Imlen. “I've never seen anything like it. A place of fire and lava, where it seemed nothing could survive, not even any of the lava-dwelling creatures I know of. And yet there was life thriving there.”“I've never heard of such a place,” said Vilam.“Nor have I,” said Paqyar. “But let's find out what happened to the Toa.”Imlen attempted for hours to revisit that fateful day while the others searched for clues. Paqyar and Vilam had no success, as any traces the previous Toa had left had been wiped out by the Cataclysm or the lava, or other unknown factors. Finally, as Imlen activated his mask while touching a fallen stone, he saw the cavern floor turn into molten lava. The fire giant lay on the ground, flames gushing from a wound in its head. Soon it would leave nothing but its dead armor. The sight of Lidon being crushed to death next jarred Imlen, and he maintained his focus just long enough to see the remaining Toa crawl away into a side tunnel, which was promptly sealed by the collapse. Snapping back to the present, he told his friends what he had seen. Immediately, they decided to follow. Imlen called upon his power to create a burst of plasma hot enough to melt a path through the collapsed half of the cavern, towards the tunnel he had seen. After waiting for the tunnel he had formed to cool, he led his team into it. Holding their lightstones in front of them as they crawled, the Toa soon found the tunnel Vibrak and Spiileus had escaped into.“This is fascinating,” said Paqyar. “The damage in this tunnel does not seem to be as bad, they may have even made it!”“Something still happened to them, or they would have returned to us,” pointed out Vilam.Vilam was soon proven correct. After they had crawled through the tunnel for a short distance, it became large enough to stand up in. Not far from that point, the Toa found a small chamber branching off from the tunnel. Peering inside, they saw another dead body, one that seemed strangely familiar despite them not recognizing it immediately. The Toa entered the chamber, and examined the corpse. It was a small, hunched figure in black and gray armor, but clearly not a cave goblin. It seemed to have been hastily buried, and mostly uncovered somehow, perhaps by a tremor. The Toa lifted it and found themselves staring into dark, dead eyes through the holes of the corpse's mask. It was a Turaga. Vilam found a small stone with letters carved into it behind the body, and picked it up.“'Spiileus, a more selfless hero than I could ever hope to be. – Vibrak'” she read aloud.“Spiileus became a Turaga, then died?” said Imlen quizzically.“That's what it looks like,” said Paqyar. “But you're the one who can look into the past. How about you find out?”Imlen agreed. He attempted to do just that. He tried many times and still failed to find out what had happened, but he was determined to keep trying until he had the answer. If Vibrak had not died in the cavern with Lidon and the giant, and had not died here with Spiileus, could he still be alive? And had Vibrak been referring to any specific event when he called his brother a more selfless hero than him? Imlen felt he had to know the answers, even if it took him days of scanning the chamber's past. However, he had not gotten even an hour to do so when sounds echoed outside the chamber. His breath caught in his throat. He and the others were hearing footsteps. He quickly looked around the room. There was nowhere to hide.“Run,” he whispered.He and the others dashed out of the chamber. Just as they did, energy bolts shot towards them from both directions of the tunnel. They pulled back into the chamber entrance and glanced from side to side. There were Rahkshi, two on each side. Imlen cursed in his mind as he remembered the Brotherhood soldiers they had tied up. He had forgotten about them, and that had been days ago. But even if those had not reported the Toa upon being freed, it was only a matter of time until the Makuta started to search every corner of Yrenta for them. From their defensive position on the threshold, the three Toa retaliated at the Rahkshi. But the machines expertly dodged or endured all of their attacks, and were now running towards them. In a few seconds, they would be at the chamber.“Paqyar!” said Imlen as the Toa retreated into the chamber. “Can you use your mask – help us merge?”“I'll try,” said Paqyar just as the four Rahkshi entered.Paqyar overcame his panic and concentrated. His green Mask of Fusion glowed, facilitating the amalgamation of the Toa into Samruna. The Kaita had to crouch to fit in the chamber. As he tried awkwardly to position himself, the Rahkshi pounded him with attacks. He resisted and retaliated, but again the Rahkshi were also unaffected. Samruna decided he was outmatched, and it was time to escape. He half crawled, half lunged into the tunnel, knocking over one Rahkshi and forcing the rest to dodge. While they were distracted, he created a barrier of plants over the chamber entrance, then allowed himself to separate into the three Toa. The Toa paused for a moment, recovering from the ordeal of merging, then realized what was happening and ran. Imlen twisted to the side as he ran to melt the ground behind him. The Toa had only gotten ahead a few bio when the Rahkshi burst into the tunnel, went into flight mode, and hovered after the Toa over the molten ground.The Toa kept running, though the Rahkshi were gaining on them. Vilam called out to Imlen, and he looked ahead to see another cave-in blocking the tunnel. He released a blast of plasma at it, and the Toa winced as they skipped over the resulting magma. They turned the corner and stopped to confront the Rahkshi as they followed around the bend. A moment later the Rahkshi came around, and the Toa released sudden elemental blasts. That slowed the Rahkshi a little, and the Toa turned and continued to flee. Now they felt hope mingled with dread, for they could see sunlight ahead, but more Rahkshi were coming through from that entrance. With a primal battle cry, the Toa charged, releasing an even more powerful elemental barrage at the Rahkshi ahead. The Rahkshi on both sides attacked back, and Paqyar failed to dodge one of their attacks. He was frozen in a stasis field. Imlen shouted and reached over to grab Paqyar's hand, but found his own hand stuck as it entered the field. Vilam tried zapping the stasis field to dissipate it. At first, the electricity stopped as it entered the field, then it seemed to move slightly.Vilam increased the intensity, and the field was overloaded trying to freeze the lightning. As it faded, Vilam was struck by an attack that left her moving in slow motion. Paqyar and Imlen grabbed her and dragged her behind them. The Toa almost reached the exit, but the Rahkshi in front of them barred their escape. The pursuing Rahkshi were directly behind, and so the Toa were surrounded. Bolts of energy whizzed past and hit the ground at their feet and the tunnel sides next to them. Lashing out in desperation, Imlen and Vilam created an electrified cloud of plasma as intense as they could manage. The Rahkshi jumped back, and continued to launch bolts at the Toa, but much less accurately this time as the Toa were concealed. Some of their attacks dissipated in the plasma. Imlen concentrated on maintaining the cloud as they ran forward, still dragging Vilam. They made it outside and let the plasma disperse. The Rahkshi emerged immediately after them.“Too bad they don't seem to be offering the chance to surrender,” said Imlen as they dodged and parried attacks. “At least then we'd have time to come up with a plan.”“How can get rid of this slowness effect?” said Vilam slowly.“I think it'll wear off... eventually,” said Imlen.“That's not soon enough,” said Paqyar. “Let's try merging again.”Again, Paqyar used his mask to guide them through the rapid process of merging into Samruna. The Toa Kaita stood to his full height and began to unleash his combined elemental powers on the assembled Rahkshi. But he was about to learn that Rahkshi knew that trick, too. The mechanical creatures stood together, and in a flash of light six of the seven combined into two Rahkshi Kaita. One of the Rahkshi Kaita leveled its weapon at Samruna, and he was pressed against the ground by overwhelming artificial gravity. The other Rahkshi fusion pointed its weapon at the sky, and a thunderstorm formed on the mountainside. The remaining lone Rahkshi fired twin laser beams from its eyes, searing a hole in Samruna's armor. The Toa Kaita struggled against the gravity, and deflected the Rahkshi of Laser Vision's next attack. The first Rahkshi Kaita blasted him with a sonic wave. He endured it and retaliated with a hail of arrows that sprouted into grasping roots and crushing vines.The Rahkshi of Laser Vision took to the air to avoid the attack, and the second Rahkshi Kaita burned the plants away with blasts of plasma. Samruna stretched out with Imlen's power and took control of the Rahkshi's plasma, turning it back on the source. The Rahkshi Kaita shook with annoyance, and the two of them pounced. Samruna fended off their brutal assault of physical blows and supernatural powers, and countered with his own. This continued for a short while, but not long. Merging into a Kaita had not changed the fact that the Toa were hopelessly outmatched. The Kaita with the gravity powers seized an opening in Samruna's defense to send the him high into the air, then reversed its power. Samruna bellowed as he hit the ground hard enough to crack it. Samruna's will to stay conscious and whole was intense, but perhaps it would have not been enough were it not for the Mask of Fusion whose power was one part of the triple-use Kanohi he wore.He knew he had to escape. Getting to his feet slowly and unsteadily, he unleashed as powerful a blast of lightning as he could muster, and prepared to bound out of range and flee. But he was stopped by the arrival of more enemies. Three more Rahkshi had arrived and merged upon seeing him, and this Kaita gripped Samruna in a magnetic force. As his armor began to buckle and crush him, Samruna released a surge of electrified plasma at the Kaita, and as he planned, it was attracted to the magnetic field in the direction of the Rahkshi. The magnetic force stopped as the plasma shocked the Rahkshi Kaita controlling it and almost melted its weapon. Now released, Samruna ran as the three Rahkshi Kaita and the Rahkshi of Laser Vision unleashed their combined powers. But the Rahkshi's Slow power struck again, rendering his great strides so sluggish he may as well have been shuffling away. He attempted to defend himself, but in a few mere seconds he fell before the terrible onslaught of ten different Rahkshi powers. He dissolved into three semiconscious Toa.The Toa rolled out of the way feebly as the Rahkshi continued to concentrate on them. Then something changed. The Rahkshi of Laser Vision and two of the Kaita stopped their attack and turned. With a surge of sudden hope, the Toa jumped up and got ready to run. Then they froze, metaphorically then literally. For as they got up they looked upon a Toa of Ice. He was clad in extravagant but soiled white and silver armor. He carried a spear, with which he cast a blast of cold that encased Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam in a layer of ice. The attack had seemed almost effortless, but he did not have time to follow up on it. The Toa could not move, but they could just barely see what had him so occupied. A new side had entered the battle. Judging by their appearance, they were Dark Hunters. The Toa of Ice jumped into the air, somersaulting and landing in the midst of the regrouping Rahkshi, which remained fused into Kaita. Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam now had the Rahkshi and the enemy Toa on one side and the Dark Hunters on the other.“We've got you this time, Zima,” said one of the Dark Hunters, addressing the Toa of Ice.“This is a waste,” said Zima monotonously. “But you are irreparably defective and must be scrapped. Know that your remains will be put to better uses.”“We're not going to end up as experiment material for your Makuta, you freak!” retorted another Hunter, and the battle between the factions began.Imlen and his friends were beaten and exhausted, but he knew that the arrival of the Dark Hunters had given them another chance. He stretched out with his elemental power and with it he encompassed the ice entrapping the three of them. In milliseconds, the ice melted, then boiled, then ionized. He gathered the water plasma around his staff and launched it at the face of the nearest Rahkshi Kaita. His companions supported him. Paqyar entangled the Rahkshi of Laser Vision long enough for a Dark Hunter to destroy it. Vilam shocked another Kaita, and as Dark Hunter attacks pounded it, it stumbled and reformed into three individual Rahkshi. One more of these was promptly taken out by the Dark Hunters, but the Hunters' victory was not assured. Zima, if that was the Toa of Ice's name, had managed to block or evade every attack. One Dark Hunter knocked an entire Rahkshi Kaita aside and charged him, but the Toa of Ice calmly leveled his spear and froze him in his tracks. Then his spearhead vibrated and released a sonic blast. The intense sound waves shattered the frozen warrior into pieces, ice, armor, and all.The other three Toa decided that they had lingered for too long. As they attempted to flee, Zima turned to them and released another blast of cold. Imlen countered, and for a moment there was a deadlock between heat and cold. Then Zima overpowered Imlen, and ice began to envelope the Toa. But they were ready this time, and broke free. The Rahkshi of Magnetism seized the Toa again, but was interrupted by a Dark Hunter while another three Dark Hunters engaged Zima. These Dark Hunters were skilled, but there were only seven of them, plus the eighth that had been killed by Zima. Soon another Hunter fell, drained to death by a Rahkshi of Hunger. By now a second Kaita had split apart and one of the Rahkshi forming it had been destroyed. As the battle raged, the Toa fled. Just as they thought they would make it, one of the Rahkshi noticed them and attacked unnoticed from behind. A wave of energy from its staff washed over the Toa, sending them into a deep sleep. It seemed they were not fated to escape.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Twelve==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen awoke as he bounced roughly. He found he was being carried over someone's shoulder, and his hands were tied. Whoever was carrying him seemed to be a rather large being. Imlen's first instinct was to struggle, but he forced himself to go limp and wait. His captors were speaking among themselves.“What do you mean, we're not taking them back to base with us?” the being carrying Imlen was saying.“I mean we're going to get them to a safe place and let them go,” said a voice that seemed familiar to Imlen somehow.“Are you mad?” said the first being. “Letting Toa roam free? If he found out, Bulwark would...”Imlen suppressed the urge to shudder. He had heard whispers of that name. Allegedly, Bulwark was the Dark Hunter in charge of operations against the Makuta in the area. As his code name implied, he was said to be like a walking one-being fortress. Rumors claimed Bulwark was three bio tall and clad in red armor, which he may have painted to attract attention to himself. Imlen did not know if the massacre at Kara-Naja had been at his direct order, but would not be surprised if that was the case. Either way, he was not eager to meet him.“They'll do more damage to our enemies than to us,” insisted the familiar voice.“Maybe at first,” said the other.“Do you think it would be wiser to bring them alive into the center of our operations? They are beaten and bound for now, but Toa are never easy to keep as prisoners. In fact, the one you are carrying is awake right now,” the second being pointed out, and Imlen caught his breath.“Bulwark has the highest authority here,” said the Dark Hunter carrying Imlen, apparently not caring that the Toa of Plasma was awake. “Something like Toa running around in the middle of our war is something he needs to make a judgment on personally.”“Yet I outrank you. You're not even really an operative, which is why you don't have a code name, Tehen. You're just a mercenary. A grunt. Cannon-fodder. And I say we will let them go, once we get out of Makuta territory. That is my order, and I will accept responsibility for it.”“Fine,” growled Tehen. “When Bulwark executes you for your blunder, maybe I'll get your job. Then we'll see who's the grunt. Of course, it won't be you either, because you'll be dead.”“I think he'll understand,” said the other Dark Hunter, sighing at Tehen's poor attempt at humor. “Do you have any complaints, Boramfi?”There was silence. Imlen risked looking around, and saw the Dark Hunter leader carrying Paqyar. He realized why that Hunter had sounded familiar. It was the Vortixx they had encountered earlier. The one that must have been Boramfi was carrying Vilam. He stared ahead silently, ignoring the Vortixx.“Boramfi, answer me when I address you,” said the Vortixx.“You're the boss, can't argue with that,” said Boramfi finally. “However, I just came up with a third option.”Imlen heard a sudden whoosh and saw a white blur. Boramfi was running back the way they had come with supernatural speed. The other two Hunters shouted and attacked him, throwing knives and launching Kanoka, but he was already far out of range. In seconds, he was kio away. Imlen realized at once what had happened. Boramfi had betrayed his companions in hopes of getting a reward from the Brotherhood for turning Vilam in. It was bold to betray the Dark Hunters only to depend on the generosity – and the mercy – of the Makuta, but Imlen could admit that if the deserter was rewarded well, it would encourage others to do the same. That could easily solve the Brotherhood's Toa problem. Of course, he had no intention of allowing the double-crossing mercenary to deliver Vilam. He kicked Tehen to get his attention and spoke up.“If you're planning to let us go, now's a good time,” he said.“To save your friend?” said the Vortixx, and he laughed bitterly. “Too late for that, even if you have a Mask of Speed of your own.”“I need to try,” said Imlen firmly.“Alright,” sighed the Vortixx. “I was hoping you'd do more damage to the Brotherhood instead of just running off to die, but at least if you do die, Tehen will stop bothering me about it.”“How about you come along?” offered Imlen. He wasn't eager to work with these thugs, but he would need all the help he could get.“No thanks. You may have noticed all but three of us were killed trying to take out Zima,” said the Vortixx as he woke Paqyar and set him down. “I don't feel like rushing back there. Besides, there's a good chance the Brotherhood's already executed your Toa of Lightning on the spot.”“What?” mumbled Paqyar sleepily. “Where – executed Vilam? What's going on?”“The Dark Hunters... saved us,” said Imlen, hesitating to admit the strange fact.Tehen threw him to the ground roughly, and Imlen attempted to melt through his bonds. The linked cords were somehow resistant to his power, but Tehen sliced them apart for him. The Vortixx did the same for Paqyar.“But one of the mercs decided he'd get paid better for turning Vilam in to the Makuta,” continued Imlen as he yanked Paqyar over for emphasis. “These two curs won't help, so it's up to us.”“You're throwing your lives away,” called the Vortixx even as Imlen and Paqyar jogged away after Boramfi. “She's probably already dead.”“Don't pretend to care about our lives,” replied Imlen, and his eyes burned fiercely. “But if she's dead, then this will be for revenge. On the Brotherhood, and especially on your 'friend'.”

-----

Vilam woke up and saw the ground moving in a blur under her. Her wrists were tied together and someone was carrying her over her shoulder. She looked and saw it was a white and black-armored being with a crested head. He was bringing her somewhere quickly, and she wanted some answers before they arrived. She decided a quick shock would get the point across quickly enough. She directed her hands at her captor and released a blast of lightning, but her bonds absorbed the electricity harmlessly. She tried releasing it through the whole of her body, to the same effect. She yelled in her abductor's ear and kicked and struggled, but as she expected that did not even slow whomever was carrying her.“No use struggling, Toa,” he said. “In a few seconds you'll be with the Brotherhood.”It was foolish of him to declare that. Vilam had suspected from the moment she had awoken that she was going somewhere she did not want to be, and he had just confirmed it. This time instead of pounding on his armor and squirming uselessly, she kicked hard at his face, throwing her momentum behind the blow. His mask went flying off, and immediately they began to slow to a normal running place. Her captor growled and threw her down, and she twisted and jumped to her feet. The white-armored being probably regretted not tying her ankles too. But it looked like he was planning for it to not matter, as he leveled a projectile launcher of some sort at Vilam. She dodged a colored sphere that hit the ground behind her and turned into a splash of liquid. He fired again and again Vilam dodged. He snarled and tackled her, and she did her best to get away with her hands still tied. Even without a Kanohi, her opponent was still strong, but she managed to twist out from underneath him before he could harm her.“I'm sure they'd rather have me bring you in alive,” he said as he aimed his launcher and took out a sword. “But they'd probably kill you anyway, and I think bringing your corpse in as proof of my deed will be good enough for them.”“You're not a Brotherhood servant,” she deduced. “What makes you think they won't lock up or execute you too?”The crested being didn't answer, but all Vilam wanted was to distract him. It worked, and as he hesitated for a fraction of a second, Vilam looked around for something to help her. Her gaze fell upon his Mask of Speed, which had fallen to the ground about five bio away. She ran towards it, dodging the salvo of spheres he fired in her direction. She figured that she could move her hands enough to put it on. But she had not learned to use Masks of Power yet. She allowed that doubt to slow her for just too long, and one of the spheres struck her. Its shell faded as it impacted, splashing an orange liquid over her. Instantly she felt weak, as if her physical strength had been drained. Vilam endeavored to keep running, and a thought occurred to her. She wondered if she had not learned to use her Kanohi simply because it was only useful in a situation she had not yet been in. That idea gave her strength, and she made it to the mask.Just then she heard the approach of flying Rahkshi. Quickly, she bent over and picked it up, then held it up to her face and used it to push her original mask off. She held onto that mask and willed the Mask of Speed to activate. For a moment, nothing happened, and she narrowly dodged another sphere of liquid. She heard the Rahkshi land next to her abductor, and just then she felt the power of the mask surge through her. She ran faster than she ever had before, speeding away from the one who had captured her and leaving him at the mercy of the Rahkshi. She did not expect them to show him any, as he had nothing to offer them and had no other excuse for being in Brotherhood territory. But that was his problem. He should have thought of that before trying to keep a Toa prisoner. He had not even done a good job of securing her, and Vilam was curious about that. She could not guess why, but was grateful for it. Suddenly she paused. Everything was a blur to her as she ran, but she thought she had seen a green and an orange blur on the horizon. Then she saw she was correct, as she spotted Paqyar and Imlen waving to her.“Vilam! You're alive,” said Paqyar happily, helping her free her hands and giving her an affectionate fist-bump.“Fortunately, I am,” said Vilam, laughing lightly with relief. “Who was that guy, and how did you get here?”“The surviving Dark Hunters from that battle with the Rahkshi and the Toa of Ice captured us. One of them decided he'd get a better deal for delivering you to the Makuta, and he bolted. Hey, is that his mask? Looks like his method of speedy delivery backfired on him.”“Right, and congratulations on figuring out the mask,” said Paqyar.“Thanks, I still don't know how I did it though. And I can't get this one to work,” she said, holding up her original mask.“How about I try wearing it for a while?” offered Paqyar. “Maybe I'll find out what it's for.”“Sure, no problem,” said Vilam, handing over the mask. “But how did you escape the other Dark Hunters?”“That's the weird part...” began Imlen as Paqyar gave Vilam his Mask of Fusion. “They let us go.”“Let you go?” repeated Vilam incredulously.“That's right,” said Paqyar. “And one of them was that Vortixx we met at Kara-Naja.”“Strange. There's more to him than he reveals, and I'm not talking about concealed weaponry,” said Vilam.“I know what you mean,” said Imlen. “But what we need to figure out now is: where are we?”The Toa looked around and got their bearings. They found they were in former Matoran of Plasma territory at the western end of the mountains, where the ridge turned into a series of hills. In fact, they were not far from Kara-Naja and Yotvis's Home, where they had started their fateful trek south a couple of weeks ago. The Dark Hunters had been taking them away from Makuta territory, which meant that the Hunters must have still occupied the fortress, or completely razed it. In any case, the Brotherhood did not have a presence in this land, but the Dark Hunters likely did. Vilam did not expect the rest of them to be as helpful as the Vortixx. They considered heading back to the jungle, but decided to head southwest instead. Perhaps from the north they would make it into the land to the west, and find if Vibrak or the De-Matoran had gone that way. Vilam put on the Mask of Fusion and managed to stuff the Mask of Speed with her carried belongings. Then the Toa oriented themselves and traveled away from the hills and towards the border of Yrenta.There were hills at the border in the north too, but they were smaller and less desolate than the ones in the south. Their terrain was also more well-known, as the Ta-Matoran had lived beyond them in the northwest, near a volcano. The Matoran of Fire lived in isolation, but they had been a part of the greater community of Yrenta until about two and a half millennia ago. The Toa considered visiting them, and decided that maybe they would, depending on how far south they had to go to get away from the Dark Hunters. The Dark Hunter force was much smaller than the Brotherhood's, and the Toa saw none of them as they traveled. But they knew the Hunters were keeping this land free of the Makuta's minions. Vilam wondered if there was any particular reason the Dark Hunters were here, besides attacking their enemy the Brotherhood of Makuta. Rumors she had heard said they wanted to punish the Makuta for some transgression, and it was possible the Matoran of Yrenta had just been unlucky enough to have their homeland chosen as a battleground.She could not see what the Makuta wanted with this land either. The Makuta of the region – Teskor, his name was, she remembered – had been around for a while, but she did not know why. There were many Matoran laborers for the taking, she supposed. The Northern Continent was the most populated island she could think of, though it was not as technologically developed as Xia or Metru Nui. The island capital of the universe had been cut off from the rest of the world since the year of the Great Cataclysm, making a bad era even worse. But Yrenta had declined technologically over thousands of years, and so the lack of imports from Metru Nui were no great loss. And this made Vilam wonder. She did not know what the Makuta were planning, but wondered why the Brotherhood did not simply amass their forces and conquer Xia, Nynrah, and other vital locations. With exclusive access to Xian and Nynrah technology, consequent conquest of the universe would be that much easier for them.Vilam realized why the Brotherhood had not done so millennia ago. It was benevolence, or more likely, the pretense of it. They had long been considered loyal servants of Mata Nui. She was not sure how much of that had been true, but now the Makuta had openly expressed their malice and ambition. Vilam and her friends had not thought of it much, but she realized that their quest to free their home was a conflict with a universe-spanning organization, and before or after that quest was complete, they would be drawn into a larger conflict against it for the fate of that universe.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa

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End of YrentaChapter Thirteen==Lands West of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

The Toa had made it. That was, they were beyond where the borders of Yrenta had ever been. That did not, however, mean they were safe. They stumbled upon a Visorak patrol, and though they eliminated all of the bug soldiers, this proved that the Makuta forces had a presence this far west. They turned more towards the south, heading in the direction of the region just west of the southwestern hills they had failed to cross. The Mask of Speed only affected the one wearing it, but Vilam was able to put it to good use by scouting ahead for the team. Paqyar did not like letting her go ahead alone, but she was doing fine, reporting the position of enemies ahead so the Toa could change their course. Still, all three of them agreed Paqyar had the best vision, and so he persuaded her to let him use the mask for a time.The land he scouted was not particularly fertile, but it was less barren than the hills at the southern border. The Toa meandered slightly east and mostly west to avoid Visorak and soldiers. The Brotherhood patrols Paqyar saw could not catch him when he had his Mask of Speed activated, and he made sure he was never followed as he returned to his friends. That evening, Paqyar saw the glimmer of water on the horizon. He went to investigate and found a small Ga-Matoran village beside a pond. He stayed far enough away to avoid the Matoran from noticing him, then went to tell his friends what he had seen. The Toa debated whether to stop at the village. It was getting late, and their only shelter was what they carried with them. Also, any information the Ga-Matoran could give would be useful. On the other hand, they still wanted to keep their existence as secret as they could, and did not wish to put the Matoran in danger by taking refuge in their homes.In the end, they decided to have one of them go ahead and speak to the Matoran alone. Imlen was chosen, as he was technically their leader, though he did not always act like it. He was also the most charismatic of them, which was a major reason he had been leader of that band of Matoran rebels and later Toa in the first place. Paqyar gave Imlen the mask of speed, and the two of them promised Vilam they would give it back when Imlen was done with it. Paqyar indicated the direction as Imlen put on the mask, and the Toa of Plasma ran off. The other two Toa waited, taking turns standing guard while the other sat and rested. Imlen soon came to the edge of the village and stopped. Several Matoran saw him, and ran off to gather the others. They all looked very excited, but Imlen could not tell if they were excited in a good way or a bad way. He continued towards the village center, and a small crowd that seemed to be the village's entire population formed in front of him. The one Matoran in the front and center spoke.“Toa of Plasma,” she greeted him with a miniscule bow. “Come inside, quickly, before they see you.”“I'm sorry if my presence puts you in danger,” he said he was led into the one hut in the village big enough for him to stand up in.“We're already in enough danger,” said the Matoran once they were inside. “We're lucky to be allowed to live here, but once in a while the Brotherhood recruits us for labor, and less of us return each time. And they also help themselves to the pond, letting their beasts of war pollute it. That's probably why they let us stay – so we can clean the water for next time they arrive. We're more fortunate than most others around, but I'm happy to see a sign of coming change.”“I'm not sure how I can help,” said Imlen. “I cannot fight an army, and showing resistance would just get you all enslaved or killed.”“Perhaps, but perhaps if we cause them enough trouble they will decide it's not worth it and leave the others alone,” said the Ga-Matoran.“Or torment them in retribution after slaughtering you,” argued Imlen. “Something must be done, but... but it's not time for Matoran to stand up yet. In fact, I need to keep a low profile. Actually... I have two friends waiting for me.”“Well, go get them,” said the Matoran. “I would like to speak with all of you at once. But make sure you are not seen!”Imlen left and ran back to his friends. He gave the Mask of Speed back to Vilam, and she put it away. Without the Kanohi Kakama the trek back took two hours, and it was late at night when the three of them arrived. To their relief, none of them had seen any Makuta forces on the way. Still, they quickly scurried into the large hut and shut the flap door behind them when they arrived. The Ga-Matoran Imlen had spoken to, who seemed to be the village leader, was waiting for them.“Greetings Toa,” she said, standing up as they entered. “Allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Ikemisu, spokeswoman for the village council.”“I am Imlen, and this is Vilam, and this is Paqyar,” Imlen introduced them. “You say there is a council, but there are so few of you here.”“The council is only three members, plus me,” she explained. “We choose new leaders every three years. And don't worry, I cannot make important decisions for the others, but I do have authority to grant sanctuary to strangers, at least for a short time.”“You are still taking a big risk by housing us,” said Vilam. “Even though we did not see any enemies around.”“Yes, and we really should get to the point,” said Imlen. “We are searching for a tribe of De-Matoran that disappeared from our homeland. Do you know of any in this area?”“I have heard of some, in fact,” said Ikemisu. “Now, none of us have ever met them, mind you, but once a Matoran trader, all too eager to tell tales of his travels, mentioned a hidden De-Matoran village to the west. At the time, we scolded him for revealing the secrets of others, but I could not help but be curious, and so I still remember after all these years.”“What did he say about it?” asked Paqyar.“Only that it was almost directly west and a little north of here, and that it was hidden,” she said, and chuckled softly. “We stopped him from saying any more. But don't worry, if you get close enough, the Matoran of Sonics will hear you, and welcome you if they will.”“Good point,” said Vilam. “Can you tell us anything about the terrain there, or any landmarks?”“I've never been there, so I can't tell you what the landmarks look like. But several kio in that direction the land grows more lush,” said Ikemisu. “I've heard there are ravines hidden among the forests there. Sounds like a good place to hide a village to me.”“It does,” said Imlen. “Now, we have been traveling all day, and I don't mean to trouble you...”“Say no more,” said Ikemisu. “You may rest here for the night, as long as you are careful to not lead enemies to us.”The Toa gratefully accepted. They unpacked their bedrolls on the hut floor and went to sleep.

-----

Makuta Teskor listened to the report and dismissed the messenger. Zima had apprehended the enemy Toa, but had been interrupted by Dark Hunters in the attempt. The Toa of Ice and his Rahkshi companions had defeated the Dark Hunters, but failed to kill them all, and had allowed the survivors to escape with the unconscious Toa rebels. Technically, he had been unsuccessful in his mission, at least so far, but the Makuta would not punish him. Zima was too valuable to harm for one failure, and Teskor knew he already did his duties to the utmost of his abilities. Besides, Zima's quarry had been captured by the Dark Hunters instead. If the unfortunate Toa were not executed, they would probably be locked up in Kara-Naja. The Dark Hunters would perhaps ransom them, but that would take time, even if the pathetic villagers were able to scrounge up enough money to satisfy the Hunters. Regardless, the Toa had been forced to run, and in doing so had run right into the arms of another enemy. Teskor decided he had been worried for nothing. These Toa were irrelevant.Still, if there were Toa prisoners at Kara-Naja – prisoners that could escape, or be released – that was one more reason to retake the fortress. Better reasons included that Brotherhood forces were divided with Dark Hunters controlling that area, and that by retaking it, the Makuta could turn the tables and make things even harder for the small force of Dark Hunters. A better reason still was the rumor that a leader among the Dark Hunters, one called Bulwark, had taken the fort as his base of operations. That he, a leader of thugs with delusions of military discipline, would set up a permanent base in Makuta property indicated his boldness. The fact that in the weeks since, Teskor's forces had failed to recapture the fortress indicated his skill and that of his subordinates. Teskor allowed himself to feel impressed. Mere centuries ago, he would never have admitted that to himself, but now he did not mind at all when an opponent gave him such a feeling. He found it made defeating them much more satisfying in the end.He would need help, however. He expected if he kept throwing his forces against the fortress, eventually the Dark Hunters would be killed one by one. But that would be a waste, and if losing a fortress to the Dark Hunters had not been noticed enough to damage his reputation among his brothers, wasting an army to retake it surely would be. Instead, he saw the opportunity to turn it into a glorious victory. He would need to borrow the aid of his fellow Makuta, but he was confident that, if he played carefully, he could take most of the credit. That credit would be worth a lot when it was Zima who led the charge and defeated Bulwark personally. A Toa achieving such a victory for the Brotherhood would make for very good publicity, Teskor decided as he teleported to Destral.

-----

The next morning the Toa got up and prepared to leave immediately. They thanked Ikemisu and the other Ga-Matoran for their hospitality, and she reminded them to be wary of falling in ravines in the location they planned to search. She told them that area was known to be dangerous to travelers, because of both the terrain and wildlife. The Toa thanked her once again for the advice, and they left. In the morning daylight, they could see for kio in all directions, and saw nobody else, except the Matoran of the pond village they were leaving behind. By early afternoon, they could see a large forest on the horizon, or perhaps several small forests, each less than a kio apart. They headed for the northern half of the forests as Ikemisu had advised, and a few hours later they were walking under the treetops. The Toa breathed the fresh air deeply. They could not tell exactly how they could sense it, but this land felt refreshingly free of corruption.That did not mean it was free of danger, however. After walking through the woods for almost two hours, they were attacked by a troop of some sort of Rahi apes. As the Rahi descended upon them from the trees, Vilam shocked them in an attempt to convince the beasts to leave them alone, but still the Rahi attacked. Some remained in the branches to hurl fruit, while the rest attempted to maul the Toa. Vilam and Imlen fended them off in melee combat, and Paqyar decided this would be a good opportunity for target practice. He took out his bow. A well-aimed blunt arrow would knock them out of the trees. These Rahi were too tough to be injured by such a fall, but it could knock them out, or at least daze them. Paqyar's first shot missed, but his second hit. The arrow bounced off the ape's armor uselessly and fell to the ground.Paqyar glanced over to where the arrow had landed, wondering if he could reuse it, and he felt a strange sensation coming from his mask. He concentrated, and the arrow flew off the ground and into his outstretched hand. He tried again, drawing the arrow farther back this time. This time it hit hard enough to fragment on impact and dented the Rahi's armor, causing it to tumble out of the tree. Paqyar tried to use his mask to retrieve the pieces of the arrow, and found he was only able to retrieve one piece. He tried to pull the other fragments to him, but that did not work. Next he tried it with a rock, knocking another ape down with a quick, hard throw. He focused on the stone when it hit the ground and found he was able to retrieve it telekinetically as well. He launched a few more volleys of arrows, then decided to finish the easy way. At his command, the tree branches moved, throwing the remaining Rahi apes off of them.“I figured this mask out, Vilam,” Paqyar announced when the battle was over. “It allows the user to retrieve projectiles telekinetically, but only ones you've already launched, and only one at a time. You don't use projectiles, so that must be why you never learned how to use it.”“That would explain it,” said Vilam.“It does make sense. Honestly, I expected you to learn how to use the masks first, as you're the smartest of us,” Paqyar said, and Vilam laughed modestly. “Say, do you mind if I keep it? You can use keep the Mask of Fusion in exchange, of course.”“Certainly. My old mask won't be much use to me, but it sounds perfect for you,” said Vilam.The Toa continued their trek, leaving a troop of sore and unconscious apes behind. A little later, Paqyar barked a warning and held his arms in front of his companions. He pointed out where there was a sudden drop nearly hidden by overhanging vegetation. The Toa had found the first of the ravines Ikemisu had mentioned. They descended carefully, and found it was much more spacious at the bottom than the view from above indicated. Still, it was too small to hide a community of Matoran. They climbed out and searched the surrounding area, including another, larger ravine. This one was also devoid of Matoran presence. They searched the rest of the forest, climbing into and out of ravines and glens, until it was late at night, but decided to not stop yet. They were not yet tired enough to want to stop, and they had the feeling the Matoran they were looking for were not far.But then they were forced to rely on their lightstones for illumination, which attracted predators and Rahi that were annoyed by the light. After fighting off a few different kinds of beasts, they decided it was a good time to stop. None of them wanted to sleep, but during their lives as Matoran renegades, they had trained themselves to sleep whenever the time for it came. In a life on the run, one often could not choose when it was time to rest and when it was time to act. They found a small area that had no signs of dangerous Rahi inhabiting it, and took shelter between the roots of a large tree. As usual, they took turns guarding the other two as they slept.There were undisturbed the whole time. In fact, each of them noticed that it was eerily silent. No birds or insects or any other Rahi made a sound throughout the night. The Toa discussed that fact in the morning and concluded that they were indeed close. De-Matoran always chose to live in quiet places, because of their sensitive hearing. The Matoran of Sonics living in Yrenta had chosen to dwell in an open plain so they could see and hear any approaching threats. The bottom of a narrow valley would be a very different place to live, but times were different now. The Toa had never seen a place such as this, so verdant and yet scarred with numerous chasms that did not appear to be the work of erosion. Vilam and Paqyar were just discussing how oddly broken the ground was when the ground gave way under Imlen and he fell.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Fourteen==Lands West of Yrenta, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen landed with a thud. He had a badly twisted ankle but was otherwise unharmed. He managed to stand up and reached for the rim of the pit. It was just out of reach, but the other Toa came to pull him out. When he was back on the surface, he inspected his injured ankle while the other two Toa looked at the trap. It was obviously just that, and not a natural hole. It had been disguised by a mat of earth held together by the grass growing in it. Curiously, this patch of false ground was attached to a vine, which had made a peculiar sound when the trap was sprung. If there were any De-Matoran in the area, they would have heard and recognized it. And they were quick to respond. While Imlen was sitting and Paqyar and and Vilam were examining the trap, a Matoran of Sonics came forth. He carried a spear, which he held boldly in front of him. He had been hiding somewhere nearby, but the Toa could not tell where. That was good, they supposed, that the Matoran had learned to be so stealthy. The Toa stood up, though Imlen was a little unsteady, and addressed the Matoran quietly.“Greetings, De-Matoran,” whispered Imlen.“Hello, Toa,” replied the De-Matoran nervously, still holding his weapon at the ready.“You can put that away,” said Imlen. “We're friends, and we've been looking for you.”“For me?” said the Matoran, confused. “Why?”“For your entire village,” said Vilam. “It is here, isn't it?”“So you know, then,” sighed the Matoran. “How did you find us?”“It wasn't easy. But don't worry,” said Paqyar. “We're allies, as he said.”“What do you want with us, though? We are only Matoran.”“You left Yrenta centuries ago, and we would like to know why, and what has happened since,” said Imlen. “Also, we wonder if you know what happened to Toa Vibrak in the end.”“Toa Vibrak?” said the Matoran, tilting his head to the side. “It has been a long time since we've had a Toa Vibrak. But I think our Turaga Vibrak would like to speak with you.”The Toa exchanged glances. So, Vibrak was alive, and had become a Turaga! The Matoran led them a short distance to a slope leading down the middle of a small chasm. As they entered, they found it was much larger inside, almost like a cave. The slope was rather steep, and Imlen stumbled as they descended. His friends caught him, and he told the Matoran about the minor injury he had sustained falling into the trap. The villager flashed Imlen an apologetic look, then nodded and showed them the safest places to step on the way down. The De-Matoran moved with barely a sound, but despite their best efforts the footsteps of the Toa echoed through the gorge. They could see several other De-Matoran below look up and stare. They were surprised that an entire village could fit in such a place, even a small, narrow one. Most of the buildings were small huts, which formed rows of two or three each that spanned the gorge's bottom from wall to wall with room to walk between them. There were a few larger buildings, and in some places the Toa could see light coming from windows in the chasm's walls.“Turaga Vibrak should be around there,” whispered their guide when they reached the bottom, and he pointed to one of the larger buildings. “I will take you to see him now.”Imlen nodded, and the Toa found they could move more quietly on the level ground at the bottom. No doubt they were loud enough for everyone in the village to hear them, but the De-Matoran looked less annoyed now, and now just curious. A few of them went back to whatever they had been doing before. Paqyar noticed something strange in their behavior. After studying them for a moment, he realized it almost looked like they were moving slightly to an unseen rhythm. No one was actually dancing, however, and the Toa of the Green decided he must have been mistaken. But as they came close to the building their guide had indicated, he thought he heard something just on the edge of his audio perception. Still, he half dismissed it as his imagination until the De-Matoran led the three Toa inside and to a porch at the back of the building.A villager was sitting on the steps, facing away from the Toa. He was strumming on a stringed instrument the Toa could not clearly hear until they were right behind him. He must have heard them coming like everyone else, but he chose to remain seated until that moment. Then he got up carefully and turned. As he stood before them, the Toa could see that he was no Matoran. They knew at once he must have been Turaga Vibrak. The Turaga studied them in turn, looking from their feet to their masks then back down again. A faint smile flickered beneath his mask, but quickly vanished and he grunted regretfully. He spoke, and his voice was soft in tone and volume, yet rough in an aged sort of way.“Hello, Toa,” he said, politely yet grimly. “You have come a long way to find us.”“Yes, and we have come looking for answers,” said Imlen. “I am Imlen, and this is Paqyar, and this is Vilam. Now, first: the De-Matoran left our homeland, and you led them, didn't you? Why?”“Because it was too dangerous there, obviously,” said Vibrak. “I expect you are on a quest to free your homeland – my old homeland. That will be difficult, if not impossible, but I suppose I should not discourage you. Very well. It seems to me you have already deduced much, but I will tell you briefly how my brothers died, and the disaster struck, and I led my people away. Do you recall when we disappeared from Yrenta?”“Kryaju was killed two years before,” said Imlen with a nod. “So it was you, Spiileus, and Lidon who went underground. We found the place where you confronted that titan of fire, and we found the bodies of your brothers.”“Yes, Lidon was the first to die, and Spiileus soon followed,” said the Turaga sadly. “I would have been the second to die, had it not been for the late Toa – Turaga – of Earth. You see, although only Lidon and the giant were killed immediately, all of us were mortally wounded in the quake. I was injured more severely than Spiileus, so I could do nothing to resist as he poured his inner Toa energy into me, healing my wounds. But we had achieved our Toa destinies at that moment, and it was time for both of us to become Turaga, as I had expended my Toa power long ago. His healing saved me, but I could not do the same for him. All I could do was try to drag him to safety, but his injuries and the strain of the transformation were too much for him, and he soon died.”“I see now what you meant on his epitaph,” said Vilam. “A shame it remained so hidden.”“I am so sorry I did not announce what had happened,” said Vibrak. “But I knew something terrible had happened, and that there was nothing I could do to stop what would follow. And so I secretly traveled back to my people and led them away. I knew I could not do the same for all the other villages, but that I could trust the De-Matoran to keep to themselves.”“In some ways I wish you hadn't. But I know that your people would have been targeted by the Makuta if you had remained in Yrenta with them,” said Imlen. “And at least you were able to bring them with you in your exile. Speaking of which, we have found Turaga Morok, alive, but Turaga Siok has disappeared, and may have left Yrenta.”“And Morok managed to go into isolation without abandoning his homeland!” said Paqyar, raising his voice, and many nearby De-Matoran stared at him and covered their ears. “Don't you think if you had worked together, you would have brought new Toa to Yrenta much sooner? Instead, we found the way on our own, and it might be five hundred years too late. We can't fight the Makuta – and his Visorak, and his Rahkshi, and some crazy Toa he has working for him – they all chased us out of Yrenta!”“Please, quiet,” urged Vibrak. “You are right, and I am sorry. I was thinking only of fleeing, and saving those I cared about most. I realize that hopeless, selfish thinking does no good when it allows a shadow to flourish that may consume us all. I mean, we are safe here, for now, but for how long? Long ago I came to realize that we cannot hide forever, but all I could do was wait and hope – for new heroes, such as you. But you have another point, Toa of the Green. Even if the three of you were to become skilled enough to best Makuta Teskor, as Tanu, Morok, and Siok did, it would not be enough. He has too many minions, and brothers that will avenge him. You will need to plan carefully, for removing him will not free Yrenta.”“You knew that the war against the Dark Hunters has come to Yrenta, right?” asked Vilam, and Vibrak nodded. “Do you think we could play those two against each other some how? The Hunters are after revenge. If we could help them get it, and drive the Brotherhood from Yrenta, that would be a step in the right direction. The Dark Hunters are not rulers. They might try to extort us somehow, but if we made it so that Yrenta was not worth keeping, for either side...”“If we make trouble for the Dark Hunters, they will kill us just as eagerly as the Makuta,” said Imlen.“Our lives might be what it takes,” said Vilam. “But the Hunters are not as well equipped for making the lives of every Matoran miserable.”“Unless they have a way to kill them all at once or something,” said Paqyar.“Toa Vilam has some good ideas,” said Vibrak. “Pitting two enemies against each other is a good way to have one defeated and the other weakened. But Toa are not manipulators, not like these villains. You have already left Yrenta, and this conflict spans the universe. I would advise you to not only rely on mutual enemies, and to look for more allies of your own.”“Like who?” said Paqyar. “We can't drag Matoran into this, and there aren't any races that live around here.”“You mean other Toa,” said Imlen. “But where can we find them?”“I do not know exactly, but we hear rumors of some passing through every few decades, sometimes more frequently,” said Vibrak. “None have come to us, before you, of course. I suggest you travel the continent, assisting the locals when you can, to gather allies.”“I don't like that idea,” said Imlen. “Leaving Yrenta for a short time is one thing, but a life of wandering the continent? I won't abandon my homeland.”“I agree,” said Paqyar. “Our goal is to make life better for the Matoran of Yrenta, and I don't see how not being there will help them.”“Will your presence there be of any help?” argued Vibrak. “Think, Paqyar. You three cannot fulfill your quest on your own. And consider the others out there that need your help. Matoran everywhere need the protection of Toa. Your duty is not only to your homeland.”The Toa and the Turaga debated about this a little longer, but the outcome was clear from the beginning. Imlen and Paqyar were adamant about returning to Yrenta immediately, and Vilam was undecided. She wanted to stay for a while, days if necessary, and give the matter more consideration, but the other Toa would not allow it. And so, after spending the night there, allowing the Toa of Plasma's ankle to heal, the Toa set off. Vibrak tried to discourage them each time he spoke, but it was no use. When the time came to say goodbye, he mumbled it, then sat down on the steps again and began to play another song. The Toa could not hear the notes, but they noticed a mood of sadness and regret permeate the village. The De-Matoran seemed to be mourning the loss of their would-be heroes already. Imlen was determined to prove them wrong.

-----

Makuta Teskor teleported himself and his reinforcements into the fortress in which he was marshaling his legion in Yrenta. There the units he had acquired from his fellow Makuta merged with the ranks of his own forces. Along with a few platoons of soldiers and Visorak, the additional units consisted of four Exo-Toa, large machines that could function autonomously or as power armor for Toa, and four of Makuta Anecrax's best Rahkshi, donated to replace those Zima had lost to the Dark Hunters. Teskor knew that his brothers had not let him 'borrow' these units out of generosity. Every one of them had ulterior motives. Some of them were more dedicated to Makuta Teridax's Plan than others, but most of them were ultimately dedicated to themselves. Teskor knew that well, as he was one of that majority. He arranged his forces so that none of the borrowed platoons had a vital role, and so that if any of them, Visorak, Rahkshi, soldier or Exo-Toa, tried anything funny, they would be easily eliminated. A mutiny by them would still cause trouble, but he had done his best to minimize the risk, and he doubted the Makuta he had enlisted the aid of would betray him in such a way.“Warriors of the Brotherhood of Makuta!” he addressed them once the legion was assembled. “You know what you are here for. The criminal syndicate known as the Dark Hunters has dared to take and hold one of our fortresses. They are stubborn, and have refused to yield to our initial attempts to retake the fortress. But today the Brotherhood of Makuta will work together to cast them out! And let me ask you something. How many times have you clashed with Toa? Not many? Well, they are much less common than they used to be, and with good reason. These so-called heroes, once our reluctant allies, have long stood against us. They honor an absurd Code above the need to do what must be done, and would prevent the Makuta – and all of you – from taking what is rightfully ours. But though most Toa regrettably hold to these beliefs, a few have remained loyal. One of these is the elite Toa of Ice, my own personal Hagah, Toa Zima. And he will be your commander. He will raise the banner of the Makuta over Kara-Naja once again, and the many Toa that oppose us will see this and despair!”The legion cheered, but not as enthusiastically as Teskor would have liked. He knew that many of the soldiers were mercenaries, no less than the Dark Hunters were, and did not care much for the Makuta, as long as they got their pay. Also, being led by a Toa would be awkward for all of them, especially the Ukzokth. The goblins' numbers had dwindled, but they were cheap to replace, and so Teskor had begun to use them as expendable combatants. He had even released Grungzarg from stasis, rebuilt him, and reinstated him as leader of the horde. The towering Ukzokth champion would lead his people to war with the others, mounted on the back of a hideous beast. Attempts to do anything novel to the Steltian lieutenant had failed, although impressive alterations had been made to others of his kind. In the end, Teskor had decided to use a method of Makuta Mutran's and salvaged what was left of the subject's mind and body to create Grungzarg's mount.The only warriors that were not uncomfortable at all about Zima were the Exo-Toa, of course. The Exo-Toa were designed to be used by Toa, and they could be programmed to obey anyone. In fact, Makuta Teskor had reserved one of his own Exo-Toa for Zima. The animated armor was a big target and hindered elemental powers, but granted a Toa additional protection and immense strength, and their electro-rockets could shoot farther than Zima could launch ice. Teskor knew Zima would use the machine wisely, and discard it if necessary. He took the Toa of Ice aside to speak to him one last time before the Toa went to lead the legion forth.“Remember, the Dark Hunters may be holding your traitorous kin in the fortress,” he reminded Zima. “Have them killed. Do not allow them to escape.”“Yes, Master,” said Zima, bowing slightly. “To verify: primary objective is to eliminate the Dark Hunters in the fortress and the surrounding area. Secondary objective is to eliminate the Toa, if they are there. Tertiary objective is to leave the fortress as intact as possible while achieving the other two objectives. Correct?”“That is correct,” confirmed Teskor. “Do you remember how to operate an Exo-Toa?”“I do,” said Zima as he nodded.“Very well. And remember to be prepared for any trouble from the additional units I acquired,” said the Makuta. “They or the Makuta that sent them may be... defective.”“I will, Master,” said Zima.“Excellent,” said Teskor. “Now, go, lead our forces to battle.”Zima entered the specially marked Exo-Toa and took his place at the front of the legion. As the fortress's gate opened and his forces marched through it, Teskor reflected again on how the last thousand years had changed him. Before Zima had proven his worth, Teskor would have done anything (to others) to exterminate the Toa from the universe entirely. Long ago he had hated how he could never be the hero of the people he watched over and maintained the ecosystem for, because he did not have a Toa's selflessness, honor, and kindness, and knew he never would have. The disgraceful way the Makuta were skipped over in the common peoples' reverence for the powerful beings of the universe was still the original motivation for the Brotherhood's plans. But now Teskor knew to not let his jealousy blind him. He would have what he wanted, but he needed to plan carefully to get it, not angrily smash everything that stood in his way.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Fifteen==Yrenta Region, Northern Continent, Matoran Universe==~536 AGC~

Imlen, Paqyar, and Vilam had made their way back the way they had come, bypassing the Water village they had rested in three nights ago. On the afternoon of the second day, they had entered Yrenta. Strangely, they had encountered no Brotherhood forces or Dark Hunters the entire way, and there was not even a Visorak to be seen at the border. They walked east for several hours, hoping to meander around the fortresses as they had last time. As they approached the low mesa Kara-Naja was built on, they could see wisps of smoke and flashes of light in the distance. Once in a while, a barely perceptible tremor rumbled under their feet. There was a siege going on, and it looked to be a major battle. Imlen quickened his pace, and the other two did so as well to keep up with him.“It's the Brotherhood alright,” said Paqyar, who could see farther than other Toa. “And it looks like this time they might have brought enough strength to do the job... ten times over.”“It does look like overkill,” said Vilam as they came closer to the besieged fortress. “Dark Hunters are tough, but there's not many of them. Are you sure we should be getting closer, Imlen?”“This is our chance,” said Imlen, and he moved even faster. “I'm not calling those thugs friends, but... we'd better go help the Dark Hunters out, at least for now.”“If they don't kill us first,” Paqyar pointed out.“Right. Maybe we can help the Hunters take out that crazy Ice Toa or someone else important,” said Imlen.“But let's not charge right in,” said Vilam. “We don't want to rush into the midst of battle and get killed. I don't expect it, but it would be a big help if we could convince the Dark Hunters into letting us into the fort.”The Toa debated tactics as they jogged to the fortress. Before they could implement what little planning they had done, however, they were surprised ten bio from the walls. It appeared they were too late to help break the siege, as the Dark Hunters were jumping from the walls and scattering. This was not surprising, for the Hunters were too few in number to effectively defend the fortress, and the Brotherhood army seemed to outnumber them fifty to one. One group of fleeing mercenaries ran past the Toa, nearly trampling them. A group of Brotherhood warriors, consisting of Visorak, a few soldiers and a Rahkshi chased after the Hunters. The Toa acted then, calling for the Dark Hunters to stand their ground and unleashing an attack on their pursuers. A few of the braver Hunters turned to join the Toa, and that group of Brotherhood warriors was eliminated.“Thanks for the help, Toa, I guess,” said one of the Dark Hunters as most of the rest fled.“Yeah, well, we're here to hit the Brotherhood as hard as we can,” said Imlen. “Who's leading the attack?”“'Toa' Zima,” spat the Dark Hunter. “And there was a big one of those Ukzokth creatures, but I think he's dead now.”“Where is – look out!” said Vilam as another Rahkshi came and attacked.Imlen cursed as the other Dark Hunters fled and the one that had spoken with them was frozen in stasis after dodging only two attacks. The Toa did not give the Rahkshi of Stasis Field another chance. When it was destroyed, they broke the Dark Hunter free. He thanked them, but refused to accompany them. As he ran after his comrades, the Toa ran towards the fort. As the Dark Hunters were scattering, so were the Brotherhood forces in an attempt to cut them off or catch them. Also, the Brotherhood would not have had time to completely consolidate their hold of the fortress, and the Toa intended to take advantage of the situation to slip inside. That looked like it would not be so easy, however. Imlen melted a hole in the wall ahead, and a horde of Visorak and warriors poured out. Thinking quickly, he melted away the top of the wall there, so that molten rock poured down into the gap. That barely bought the Toa enough time to run to another side of the fortress. There they saw what they were looking for.A group of elite-looking Dark Hunters was holding position there, fending off the Brotherhood force while other, less capable mercenaries escaped. At the center of the action was the aptly-named Bulwark. He held a launcher the Toa did not recognize in one hand, and in the other he held a shield that projected a force field that deflected every attack. Dozens of Visorak, Rahkshi, Ukzokth, and Urshnolg carcasses littered the ground, along with dead Brotherhood soldiers and a couple wrecked Exo-Toa. Each time a living creature died in the fight, Bulwark's Kanohi glowed and pulled energy out of the fresh corpse, invigorating him. There were only a few dead Dark Hunters, but it looked like that would not last long. A sudden hail of energy bolts downed one more Dark Hunter, and a group of ten Rahkshi charged, led by a bounding Exo-Toa. A group of Visorak followed. The Exo-Toa was moving much more gracefully than the robots usually did, and when it slowed for a moment the Toa could see why. Zima was operating it.Zima, his Rahkshi, and the Visorak fell upon the Dark Hunter squad. By the time the Toa had charged into the battle, the Rahkshi had killed or disabled a few more of the Hunters, and Zima's Exo-Toa had mauled several others. The machine's armor seemed almost as impervious as Bulwark's force field. The Rahkshi and Visorak prevented the three Toa and the other Dark Hunters from interfering as Zima engaged Bulwark. An electro-rocket followed by a series of brutal strikes from the Exo-Toa's claw finished the gradual depletion of the titan's force field, causing it to fade, but by then the Exo-Toa had been nearly destroyed by the miniature rockets Bulwark had been launching at it. Zima took a step back, and in one fluid motion, he ejected from the ruined machine and over his opponent's head. As Bulwark turned, a Visorak launched a Rhotuka at his back, but the titan resisted its effects.As Bulwark and Zima sparred, the lone Visorak ran around the Dark Hunter and jumped onto his shield, dragging it down. Bulwark quickly threw the Rahi off and blasted it, but that left a fatal breach in his defenses. The Toa of Ice took the opportunity to lunge forward and stab him in the shoulder, causing his shield arm to go limp. He followed with a kick to the knee, and the Dark Hunter fell onto his back. To finish, Zima stepped onto Bulwark and plunged his spear under his opponent's chin. The Dark Hunter's mask was knocked off by the force, and the spear pierced his head. Bulwark was slain, and only two of the Dark Hunters that had stood with him were left, though along with their temporary Toa allies they had taken down many Visorak and six of the Rahkshi. Imlen and his friends knew was time for them to flee once again. Before Zima removed his spear from the dead Dark Hunter commander, the other Toa blasted him with a combined elemental attack and ran while he was distracted.“Run!” Imlen called as the Toa fled, dodging the attacks of the remaining Visorak and Rahkshi.He hoped that the Dark Hunters would follow, but to his frustration one of them attempted to take out the Toa of Ice before he recovered. No doubt a more skilled operative could have succeeded, but that one stood no chance. Just by slowing, she allowed a hail of energy bolts and Rhotuka to batter her. Zima finished, freezing the Dark Hunter and shattering her as the other Toa had seen him do earlier. The sole remaining Hunter attempted to split off from Imlen's group, but the Toa followed him. Imlen knew splitting up was a good choice to avoid being caught, but also knew he and his friends could use all the help they could get. Zima and the four remaining Rahkshi continued to pursue them, and the Toa knew they could not defeat them alone. Still, the Dark Hunter was outrunning them even as Zima and the Rahkshi were catching up. And the Dark Hunter had no reason to help three Toa he didn't know. Imlen wished it had been that Vortixx again.“Maybe we can take them out if we make a stand together!” he called.The Dark Hunter ignored him, as he expected. He was not even confident himself that the four of them would prevail anyway. Just the three Toa were even less likely to survive, but he knew that they had to try. They could not keep running and dodging forever. He called for a stop, and he and his teammates turned in unison and attacked. Imlen started by surrounding Zima and the others in a cloud of plasma, which Vilam electrified. Zima burst out from the cloud, and Paqyar rained arrows down on him which grew into grasping thorns. The Toa of Ice sent out an aura of cold that froze the plants solid and leveled his spear at Paqyar. The Toa of the Green dodged to avoid the same fate as his plants, but was struck by an energy bolt from a red Rahkshi. Fear overcame him and he ran, screaming. Another Rahkshi stretched forward as if its metal body had turned elastic and knocked Imlen down.Vilam defended Imlen as he got up, and by now the Toa of Plasma had let his cloud disperse. It had slowed the Rahkshi down, but none of them seemed damaged much by it. One of the Rahkshi took off and flew after Paqyar. Vilam tried to shoot it down, but it ignored her lightning and flew out of range. Imlen released a stream of plasma at Zima, but he dodged. The fourth Rahkshi stepped forward and morphed into a shape with claws and fangs. Zima attacked again, freezing Imlen, and Imlen immediately vaporized the ice to free himself. He knew that as long as he had elemental power left, he would not be defeated that way. But the Toa of Ice was using his powers more conservatively. Imlen would run out first. Zima had years – probably millennia – of experience, and Imlen realized that Zima's Kanohi Suletu let him read his opponent's thoughts, giving him more of an advantage.“I can't hit Zima,” he said to Vilam. “Take out the Rahkshi one by one.”By now, Vilam was already battling the Rahkshi. She parried the claws of the Rahkshi of Shapeshifting while avoiding the energy bolts of the Rahkshi of Fear. The Rahkshi of Elasticity twisted around Imlen, constricting him. Imlen forced it to release him by releasing a wave of plasma, but that slowed him down enough so that Zima froze him again. This time he broke free with his own physical strength before the ice could fully form. Then the Toa of Ice ceased attacking at range and moved into melee combat. Imlen deflected his spearhead with his staff, but he could not maintain his defense for long. The Toa of Ice was too fast and skilled. He tried forming an obscuring cloud of plasma, but as he expected Zima countered by lowering the temperature, causing the glowing plasma to turn into normal air. Vilam had managed to slice off one of the shapeshifted Rahkshi's claws, but was barely withstanding the assault of the machines.Meanwhile, Paqyar had not gone far before the other Rahkshi caught up to him. The Turahk's power had put him into a nightmare, and all he could do was run. He felt like he was suffocating – and that was when he realized he really was suffocating. Realizing that it was this lone Rahkshi that was sucking the air away, he snapped out of the dream. He did not have much time to act. His plants would not survive in a vacuum, so the Rahkshi had a strong advantage over him. But that vacuum power could also be used against it. Paqyar reached for a quiver full of arrows he had made earlier, with heads made of sharpened scrap metal. Instead of taking out a single arrow, he grabbed an entire handful of arrows and tossed them in the direction of the Rahkshi. As he planned, the suction of the Rahkshi's staff pulled the arrows towards it before it could react. Most of the arrows did no damage, but a few penetrated the Rahkshi's arms and body enough to slow it down. It ceased maintaining the vacuum, and Paqyar took a deep breath.Then he called upon his elemental power. The vines he summoned around the Rahkshi of Vacuum wilted and died as the Rahkshi cut air off from them, but Paqyar only intended that as a distraction. One by one, he used his Mask of Rebounding to retrieve a few of the arrows he had thrown. Then he shot them as hard as he could at the Rahkshi's head. The machine created a force of suction to pull the arrows off course, causing each of them to bounce off its staff. Then it released the absorbed air with a blast that knocked Paqyar down. It ran forward to the Toa and stood over him. The Rahkshi began to suffocate him again, and the arrow trick would not work at this close range. Instead, as the Rahkshi leaned in close, he reached above its head and summoned a heavy block of wood. The block fell and struck the Rahkshi in the head, causing it to fall forward on top of Paqyar. The Toa of the Green grabbed it and quickly summoned some plants to tear the machine's head off.The Rahkshi's Kraata slithered out. Before Paqyar could crush it, the Kraata released a sudden blast of air. Paqyar nearly fell over again, but without the Rahkshi armor to protect it and amplify its power, the Kraata was no match for him. The Toa shrugged off the wind the Makuta-spawn created and squashed it. Then he ran back to his friends. When he arrived, one of the Rahkshi, the Turahk, was destroyed. Vilam had used the Mask of Fusion to merge with Imlen, but Zima and the two remaining Rahkshi were still more than a match for them. Vilam's concentration was being eroded, and as Paqyar rejoined the battle, the amalgam of the two Toa split apart. Vilam started to collapse, and Paqyar helped her remain standing. Zima was ready for that, and he froze them in a second. Imlen used the last of his elemental power to melt them free. Paqyar began to shower the Rahkshi with arrows, and the Rahkshi morphed and stretched into forms with narrower profiles, making themselves far harder to hit.“Vilam, we need you,” said Imlen as he smashed through a layer of ice Zima started to form around him. “Use your mask again, help us merge.”A moment later, it was too late for that. Zima froze Imlen solid, and Vilam was cut off from Paqyar by the Rahkshi. Clearing her mind, she took an alternative option. Before Zima could shatter the frozen Toa of Plasma, Vilam activated her mask as she charged the Toa of Ice. For once, Zima was taken completely off guard. He struggled mentally, and he had great practice, but Vilam was driven by the great will to live and to save her friends. For a few seconds, she had nearly absolute control of the fusion, enough time for her to weaken the ice around Imlen and slow the two Rahkshi with an aura of frost. Zima focused himself and threw his psyche against Vilam's, causing them to separate, but by then Imlen had broken free and moved to help Paqyar. He pummeled the Rahkshi from behind, distracting them while Paqyar entangled them. The Toa of Ice and the Toa of Lightning nearly fainted as the fusion was dissolved. Zima recovered faster, but as he got up, Paqyar and Imlen had already picked up Vilam and fled.“That was way too close,” said Paqyar as Vilam recovered enough to run with them.“Thank you, Vilam,” said Imlen. “That sudden trick saved us.”“I'm thankful it worked,” said Vilam. “And surprised, too.”“I feel like a pretty lousy Toa for being so outclassed by that Zima,” said Paqyar. “I guess Vibrak was right, we aren't ready for this.”“And I think it might be too late to ask the Dark Hunters for help,” said Vilam. “I'm not sure how many survived, but without Bulwark, they might just leave Yrenta.”“That would be best for them at this point,” said Imlen. “The Brotherhood's cracking down way too hard on them here. And... the same goes for us.”“You think we should leave Yrenta?” asked Paqyar, and Imlen nodded. “And go where?”“Anywhere that fulfills two requisites,” said Imlen with a shrug. “One, we're needed there, and two, we can survive there. And right now, Yrenta fits the first, but not the second. Let's move faster if we can, I'm not sure if that crazy 'Toa' is still after us.”Review

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End of YrentaChapter Sixteen==Senjo Town, Stelt, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa had traveled the Universe for seven years. They had been on many adventures, mostly on the Northern Continent, but they had gone to the larger but less populated Southern Continent a few times, along with many tiny islands around the continents. But all that time, they had never dared to visit the island of Stelt. Stelt was a barren island, not a small one, but not particularly large either. Besides its advantageous position between Xia and the Southern Continent, and east of the Northern Continent's Tren Krom Peninsula, Stelt was well known for constant warfare and gladiatorial battles. The Brotherhood of Makuta had a presence here, with a Makuta assigned to watch over the island, and they were known to recruit the natives for the war. Several of their officers, including, it was rumored, the leader of the Visorak horde, came from Stelt's ruling class. But Stelt, at least for now, was truly neutral, for the political situation was far too chaotic for it to be anything but that.There was another thing Stelt was famous for: clandestine trade, whether that was goods, services, or information. The Toa had finally risked coming to this hostile place to partake in that activity – specifically, information on who could help them free Yrenta, and perhaps the services of those beings. Three Toa traveling together could easily attract a lot of attention, but they tried to keep a low profile. They had been careful to avoid the places that had a significant Brotherhood presence, which added up to a large part of the island, and the places that were in open war, which was even more. And so, they had come to the settlement of Senjo, which was relatively peaceful, with inhabitants that were mostly indifferent to both the wars that scarred their island and the war that raged across the universe. They would not find any help if they remained out of sight, and so after a quick scan of the streets they entered the town's tavern.It was small for such a building, although it was much larger than what the Toa were used to, having been built for much larger beings than Matoran. And so there was only a small crowd in the main room, consisting of many species. There were a few Matoran, Steltians of both the laborer race and the leader race, a Vortixx or two, and half a dozen others, some of which the Toa could not identify. Most of the patrons looked up and stared at them as they entered. The three of them were certainly an unusual sight in this isolated town. Imlen bowed his head humbly and cleared this throat.“Ah, I see, um, we've been noticed,” he said nervously. “So I'll say what we're here for. First, we're looking for other Toa.”Most of the clients ignored him and returned to their previous business, and some of them grunted with disdain. A few continued to stare at the Toa but said nothing. But the innkeeper, a Steltian of the laborer race, waved them over. Imlen and the others walked over to the counter.“I can tell you about where other Toa might be,” said the proprietor in surprisingly good Matoran. “But it'll cost you, of course. And you need to get one drink each before I consider dealing with you.”“Fair enough,” said Imlen, handing over a small pile of cash.Fortunately, the Toa had collected a decent amount of currency of various kinds that they had been awarded in their travels, as well as items that the Steltian might be willing to barter for. But the innkeeper gave the money a disapproving look.“That isn't worth much around here,” he muttered.“Well, we also have – ” Imlen began to say, as he reached into his pack.“Keep your voice down,” said the innkeeper quietly. “I try to keep things decent here, but you shouldn't talk about the wealth you carry, not on Stelt.”“Thanks for the tip. I hope it doesn't cost us,” said Vilam, and the Steltian looked at her curiously for a moment before laughing.“Hey, some of us have some decency,” he chuckled. “Tell you what – just having you here will bring business later, with the rumors of Toa visiting and curious customers and all, so I'll give you the drinks on the house. But the information will cost you. A lot more than this pile.”“Uh, do I want to know what sort of 'energy' you've 'charged' these with?” said Paqyar as the innkeeper handed over three canisters of some sort of colorful liquid Protodermis. “Makuta viruses or something? Visorak venom?”“Secret recipe,” said the innkeeper with a wink. “If you think I might have doctored it with something unpleasant for you, well, I can say I didn't. But you can't be too careful, so I don't mind if you want to drink them later. But it's on your Toa honor to drink them sometime, alright?”“Sure,” said Imlen. “But now let's get to business.”The Steltian called for an assistant to take over and led the Toa into a back room. There, they bartered for the information piece by piece. The innkeeper got piles of several different kinds of currency, along with assorted tools and supplies. In exchange, the Toa learned that a Toa of Air with a maimed arm had visited the island not long ago. Allegedly, he had also been looking for information, but had gotten involved with local matters and ended up being chased off the island by the Brotherhood. Rumor told that he had fled to a particular port settlement and chartered a private boat. To Imlen's relief, the Toa were not completely broke by the time they had learned all that, but the innkeeper had gotten more than a good deal, the free drinks notwithstanding. They thanked the innkeeper and left. As they walked down the street to the edge of town, Vilam felt someone trying to grab something from her from behind. She turned and released a small blast of electricity, enough to stun a being.“Really? Trying to steal from three Toa?” she asked the black-armored being, who just stared at the ground. “And they said the laborers here were stupid.”“Well, Toa are safer to steal from,” Paqyar pointed out. “After all, they won't kill you. But they might do this.”Paqyar wrenched the mask off the thief's face and tossed it into an alley. The thief scurried after it, and the Toa moved along. The port they were heading for was on the other side of the island, and the journey was long and difficult. As with everywhere on Stelt, the land they crossed was desolate and battle-scarred, but that posed the least danger. Many times, they had to change course to avoid armies and Brotherhood agents. Once they were even caught in the middle of a sudden battle when one local warlord's forces ambushed another one's. Several days later, they came to the seaside town. It seemed neutral enough, with minimal signs of Makuta presence. But it was also much less isolated than Senjo, and more likely to be full of dangerous characters. Still, whoever had helped the Toa of Air escape could at least be persuaded to support their cause, and so the Toa asked around for him. Soon they were directed to speak with a Matoran of Magnetism.“Toa,” he greeted them as they approached. “You'd better not stick around. Rumors of you reached my ears the day before you got here, and I'm sure it got to others even faster. Trust me, get out of here before you get the Makuta of Stelt himself after you.”“Like how a certain Toa of Air got himself into trouble?” said Imlen.“Toa of Air? What Toa of Air?” said the Matoran.“No, it's okay, you can tell us,” said Imlen. “We're... we're friends of his.”“Now you're the one who's lying,” said the Matoran.“So, you were lying first?” said Imlen, and he chuckled. “Alright, we don't really know him, but you can trust us. And you just pointed out how easily rumors spread – we heard about the Toa of Air all the way back in Senjo.”“Senjo? Never heard of it,” said the Matoran. “But settlements come and go as war destroys them. Well, I have not met many Toa, but all the ones I have met have been honorable. I think I can tell you.”“We've met only a few other Toa as well, but I would not define the first one of those we met as honorable,” reminisced Imlen. “Please, tell us about this Toa.”“He came looking for information, like you. He was wondering about the location of some Dark Hunter. He didn't get an answer, because he made enough noise for the Makuta to take notice, and fought back when they sent their goons out to get him. He even tried to rally the people of Stelt against the Brotherhood, something I'd have expected of a Fire-type myself. Of course, the Steltians were too busy fighting themselves to notice and he got himself run off the island. I managed to get him away.”“Sounds like the kind of guy we could use,” commented Paqyar, and Imlen nodded at him.“You have your own boat service?” asked Vilam, surprised.“Oh, yes, we Matoran do well enough here on Stelt,” said the Matoran. “We do good work and stay out of the way, and the Steltians treat us well in return.”“So, where did you take him?” said Imlen.“Just the short distance to the Southern Continent,” said the Matoran, gesturing across the sea to the south. “But he said something about meeting up with his friends there and heading to Nynrah.”“Nynrah, eh?” said Vilam. “We've never been there... darn, it's far off, isn't it?”“Not for my boats,” said the Matoran proudly. “We on Stelt have some of the fastest vessels, probably because of all the people that need to get away quickly.”“Hold on, are you offering to take us to Nynrah?” said Imlen. “We don't have much money, and besides, this Toa might be on the Southern Continent.”“True, but I dropped him off at the Southern Continent almost a week ago. If we head directly to Nynrah, we might still miss him,” said the Matoran of Magnetism. “But my boat can probably go faster than his, so we could catch him if we went straight there. Also, Nynrah is a lot smaller than that whole continent. You're much more likely to find who you're looking for there. As for the cost, I will give you a discount. But I must warn you: to get to Nynrah, we must pass through Dark Hunter seas.”“If you're willing to take that risk, so are we,” said Imlen. “Let's get going.”The Matoran had a small selection of boats, one of which was just the right size for three Toa-sized passengers to travel comfortably in. As with many of the vessels found on Stelt, it was armed with Kanoka launchers, but this particular ship only had two. The Toa hoped they would not have to use them, for the vessel was far from being a frigate. After they accepted the price – a sizable amount, but not more than they could afford – the three of them and the Matoran boarded and set sail. Paqyar thought he saw someone look at them from the docks when they were far away, but they soon turned and sailed out of sight of the shore. He continued to keep watch while the other Toa rested.“So, Matoran – I mean Captain – what's your name anyway?” Paqyar said when they were out in the open sea.“Kyulget,” said the Matoran.“Alright. I'm Paqyar, and she's Vilam, and he's Imlen. So, what makes you so willing to go all the way to Nynrah?”“I guess I just wanted an adventure,” said Kyulget with a shrug. “And I'm getting paid for it, too.”“I'd have thought living on Stelt would be enough of an adventure,” said Paqyar.“That's not an adventure, it's just life. Seriously, it's not bad if you're careful. I'm no warrior, and when battle comes to town I can just sail away until it's over. Besides, the warring factions are usually careful to not destroy the docks. After all, they keep in mind how much Stelt depends on... 'tourism'.”“Now, what about these Dark Hunters?”“Nynrah is south of Odina, their island headquarters. We should be able to avoid Odina itself, but the Dark Hunters will likely be watching the passage. I'll explain it more when we get there.”“Sure. I'd better get some rest too anyway. And I'm thirsty, do you – oh, I have this,” said Paqyar, taking out the drink the Steltian innkeeper had given him. “I guess I told the innkeeper I'd drink it. Wake me up if I start to die, Captain Kyulget.”Paqyar opened the canister and carefully took a sip. It tasted terrible, and he immediately felt ill. He staggered as the boat rocked and a moment later he fell unconscious. A little while later, Kyulget woke him. Paqyar still felt awful. At first he was furious that the innkeeper had tricked him into drinking such poison. Then he remembered the Steltian had actually suggested they wait until they were safe before drinking it. He realized it was a test of sorts – if the Toa had been foolish enough to drink it on Stelt, the innkeeper would have refused to deal with them. They had been wise enough to not trust him, and so they had passed his test. He admired the mischievous deceit of the innkeeper, though he could still not stand up. The trip would take a long time anyway, so Paqyar decided to go back to sleep.The voyage went on uneventfully. A few days later, the boat passed through one of the great Sea Gates. On the other side, they turned south and sailed past the first island of any significant size they had seen since leaving Stelt. The day after that they came to another island. After Kyulget went ashore there and returned with fresh supplies, they continued. About a week after leaving Stelt, the ship passed through another Sea Gate and turned west into a tunnel. Kyulget explained that Odina was nearby, and the passage let travelers bypass the island, leaving the Dark Hunter capital relatively isolated. Still, he expected that Dark Hunters would probably be watching the tunnels, he and warned the Toa.“They'll probably charge a 'toll',” he said. “But don't resist. In fact, stay out of sight. Hopefully they won't search us.”“And if they do?” said Vilam.“If they find you, we'll just hope they aren't too angry about me trying to smuggle you past,” said Kyulget. “Dark Hunters are all different. A few might like to kill Toa just for fun, but most of the ones I've known are more professional than that. But they might decide to kidnap you and hold you for ransom. That's a good way to get money, if there's anyone to pay it.”“Not for us,” said Imlen. “Not many knew about us back home, and we don't know anyone with any real wealth to speak of.”“Tell that to the Dark Hunters,” said the Matoran. “And if ransom doesn't work, they're into... 'alteration' too. Most of their operatives have artificial enhancements of some kind, and they could always use more test subjects. But let's hope we can avoid all that. Now, you'd better go inside.”The Toa agreed, and they went down to the vessel's hold. A short time later, they stopped. The boat thudded against a larger vessel and a clang echoed from above as a gangplank was lowered between the ships. The Toa heard beings board, perhaps two or three of them. They quieted their breath as they heard the Dark Hunters and Kyulget converse.“What's your business here, Matoran?” said a voice that the Toa recognized as belonging to a member of a certain amphibious species.“Traveling to Nynrah,” replied Kyulget.“Are you carrying cargo or passengers?”“I'm alone, just carrying enough supplies for the journey.”“You'd better be telling the truth. We're going to search for ourselves, you know.”The conversation stopped momentarily as the Dark Hunters began to search the vessel. Then Kyulget spoke again. His voice was full of shame, sadness, and resignation. He did not wish to betray the Toa, but there was no way to stop them from being discovered.“Wait,” he said. “I... I'm carrying passengers. Three Toa.”Review

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End of YrentaChapter Seventeen==Sea near Odina, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa heard a short wail, then a splash.“That's for lying the first time,” called the amphibious Dark Hunter. “The rest of you, get over here! We've got Toa.”Heavy footsteps sounded on the deck above. Supplies and equipment clattered as the Dark Hunters ransacked the ship. The Toa decided to not make them search the whole thing. They got up immediately and dashed to the ladder as a lone Dark Hunter came down. Vilam parried his weapon while Imlen brought his staff down on his head, knocking him out. Another Dark Hunter tore a large hole in the deck, allowing himself and his comrades to drop down around the Toa. There were three surrounding the Toa now, taking up almost all the space in the hold. More were above. The Toa attacked first. In these close quarters, Paqyar and Imlen were at a disadvantage. Vilam managed to disable her opponent, but not before Imlen had been disarmed. Paqyar was desperately blocking his opponent's claws with the blades on the front of his bow. Imlen poured a stream of plasma out of his bare hands, incapacitating the gray-armored Dark Hunter he was battling.As Imlen retrieved his staff, two more Dark Hunters jumped down to replace the ones that had fallen, landing on the unconscious bodies. Vilam was turning to assist Paqyar when one of the two smacked her in the back of the head. She was knocked out, and Paqyar blasted a storm of leaves in his opponent's face, giving him time to back up. At that moment, the combatants noticed the boat was moving forward again. Another Dark Hunter's Mask of Strength glowed, and he threw a punch that Imlen narrowly dodged. The Toa of Plasma countered by jabbing the brawler with the end of his staff. Then he heard something whir, and he looked up in time to see one of the Dark Hunters on the deck aiming a launcher down at him. Just before the Dark Hunter could fire, a thrown object struck her in the arm. She turned, and Imlen continued to battle the Hunter that wore the Kanohi Pakari. Paqyar managed to release an arrow at nearly point-blank range, puncturing his opponent's eye. However, that seemed to only make that Dark Hunter angry.The masked bruiser punched again, and as Imlen ducked he released a sudden cloud of blindingly bright plasma. While his opponent stumbled, Imlen grabbed him and used his body as a stepping-stone, bounding up to the deck. Paqyar used the moment of distraction to follow. They planted their feet on the deck just in time to see the Dark Hunter with the launcher shove a crate aside, revealing the dripping wet Kyulget cowering behind it. Before she could turn, Paqyar shot her in the back and grew binding vines out of the arrow. While she was restrained, Imlen knocked her unconscious as he ran over to Kyulget. He just realized that Vilam was still down in the hold when the Dark Hunters they had left below held her unconscious body up into view.“Good effort, Toa,” the amphibious Dark Hunter said, standing on the other side of the deck. “But you'd better give it up, or my friend here tears your friend here in half.”“What happens to us if we do surrender?” said Imlen, keeping his staff aimed at the Hunters.“We're equipped to hold Toa on Odina,” shrugged the Dark Hunter. “The Shadowed One can decide at his leisure.”“I don't like the sound of that offer. But it seems I don't have much choice,” said Imlen, and he lowered his staff. “Are you coming up here to get us or should we come down?”“Just stay there,” said the Dark Hunter, and another Dark Hunter standing beside him fired a launcher of some sort at the Toa.When he dodged, Imlen knew he was putting Vilam's life in danger. But if he and Paqyar just let themselves be captured, it was unlikely they would ever escape. He had been hoping that the Dark Hunters would get closer first, but it was too late to pretend to cooperate now. Vilam was lowered back into the hold, and Paqyar dashed forward to save her, dodging another shot. The Dark Hunter with the Mask of Strength was beginning to fulfill his leader's threat when an arrow knocked the glowing Kanohi off his face. Another Hunter came forth to just stab her. He ignored the arrows Paqyar put in his back, but could not shrug off a crate to the head. Kyulget dusted off his hands theatrically as the container knocked his target unconscious. He and Paqyar dropped down into the hold while Imlen battled the Dark Hunters on the deck. While in close quarters, the Toa of Plasma had minimized the use of his elemental power. Now, on the open deck, it was time for him to put it to its full use.Without his Mask of Strength, the Dark Hunter brawler was easily dispatched. Kyulget handled the other, taking a Kanoka out of a nearby crate and hurling it at him. The Dark Hunter had not expected any trouble from a Matoran, and so he did not react in time. The disk struck him and teleported him out of the ship. Kyulget laughed vengefully as he heard a splash. Above, Imlen snarled as plasma streamed from his staff, blinding his enemies and melting metal. Dark Hunters all around him were forced to jump overboard to save themselves, until only the leader, the amphibious being, was left. He picked up a launcher that one of his subordinates had dropped and fired at Imlen from behind. The projectile vanished in a flash as it struck, and Imlen felt his mechanical parts moving against his will. He strained against the force manipulating him, but only succeeded in wearing himself out. He dropped to the ground.The Dark Hunter lunged at him, and Imlen saw Paqyar, Vilam, and Kyulget climbing up to the hold behind him. The Hunter noticed where he was looking and turned in time to be struck in the chest by a bolt of lightning from Vilam. When he fell, there were no Dark Hunters left standing on Kyulget's boat. But the danger was not over yet. The Dark Hunters that had jumped overboard were getting back onto their vessel, and the crew was bringing the ship's many weapons to bear. Kyulget ran to the stern to see to his boat's engines.“The gangplank!” he called over his shoulder.“Right,” said Imlen, melting the walkway that connected the two ships. “Vilam, Paqyar, get their gunners!”With electricity, arrows, and plants, Vilam and Paqyar delayed the Dark Hunters that manned the enemy ship's Kanoka launchers and other weapons, preventing them from getting a shot off. As they did that, Imlen vaporized a small area of the Hunters' ship's hull below the waterline. He heard Kyulget cheer as his boat surged ahead while the other vessel began to sink. Imlen sighed and let out a small laugh of relief. Once they were moving forward steadily and leaving the Dark Hunter ship far behind, Vilam went down to the hold. A moment later, Imlen heard her cry out. There was an electric buzz and a thud, then the Toa of Lightning poked her head above the deck.“They were waking up,” she said. “I put them back to sleep.”“Oh, right, them,” said Imlen, looking around at the unconscious Dark Hunters that littered the deck. A few more were below in the hold. “So, what do we do?”“Throw them overboard, obviously!” called Kyulget, coming forward from the stern.“No, that won't do,” said Paqyar. “If we do that, they'll either be stranded here to drown, or they'll recover and follow us. Toa don't abandon prisoners to die.”“You should have thought of that before you sank that boat,” said the Matoran.“Emphasis on the term 'prisoners',” said Imlen. “We did not have much choice back there.”“Paqyar can use his plants to bind them. And this is a boat, you must have plenty of rope lying around,” said Vilam. “Besides, these are criminals. We might be able to turn them in when we get to Nynrah... and get a reward for it.”“Good point,” said Kyulget. “Alright. But make sure they are secured and disarmed. And even then, have someone watching them at all times.”The Toa and Matoran agreed to keep the Dark Hunter prisoners in the hold. They searched the unconscious mercenaries and removed their weapons, including any that were bolted or welded to their bodies. Then they tied the captives up five times as securely as seemed necessary, and the Toa took shifts watching them. Kyulget kept the boat going at as fast a speed as it could maintain until they left Dark Hunter waters. Later that day, they passed another rather small island, and the next day, they reached their destination. The boat sailed to Nynrah's main port and stopped against a dock. Some natives – local authorities, or customs agents – came to greet them. These were not the famed Nynrah Ghosts, which were Matoran. These were members of Nynrah's native species, which was known as a race of crafters. Kyulget suddenly looked uncomfortable, but it was his ship, and so he had to represent them.“Three Toa,” said one of the natives. “A rare sight these days. Your kind has become far too uncommon.”Imlen merely nodded, and Kyulget spoke hesitantly.“In addition to these passengers, we're carrying... additional... passengers – or rather, 'cargo', of a sort.”“What do you mean? Speak plainly,” said another native, looking at the Matoran curiously.“We have several captive Dark Hunters aboard,” Kyulget blurted out with one breath. “We were wondering if maybe there was a reward for them...”“Likely,” said the first native, exchanging a glance with his partners. “We'll help you unload them.”“Right. Thanks,” said Paqyar. “Careful – they are disarmed, but dangerous still.”“Why so nervous?” Imlen whispered to Kyulget as they led the Nynrah natives onto the boat. “Are you in some kind of trouble here you didn't tell me about?”“No, no, nothing like that,” Kyulget whispered back. “I just realized what the Dark Hunters would do to me if they found I was involved in this.”“Ooh. Didn't think of that,” admitted Imlen. “Well, maybe the reward will be enough for you to start a new life, away from Stelt.”The Matoran muttered something Imlen could not hear. The conversation ended, and one by one the captives were brought ashore. All of them were awake now, and all were very angry. Paqyar thanked himself for having decided to gag them. Some more local enforcers came to escort the captives away, and assured the Toa that the Dark Hunters would be safely contained. The enforcers requested Kyulget and the Toa to follow to claim their reward, but the Toa declared their intention to continue their own mission. They parted from Kyulget then, but the four of them promised to meet again before leaving Nynrah. For now, the Toa began to ask around about the Toa of Air they sought. They started by asking the locals they had first met, whom had gone back to work at the docks. If the Toa of Air had come to Nynrah at this port, they would have found out about it. However, that did not seem to be the case.“Sorry. We'll let you know if he arrives,” one of the natives finished speaking.“But I can guess why he's here,” said another. “If I was missing half an arm – and could afford it – I would pay the Ghosts a visit and get them to craft a prosthetic.”“Good thinking,” said Imlen. “The Ghosts only live in one village, right? So if he heads there, he should be easy to find. But if he does show up here later, I'd like to be around to greet him. Who wants to visit the Nynrah Ghosts, then?”“I'll go,” Vilam and Paqyar both said.“You probably won't see them even if you visit their village,” said another of the natives. “They keep themselves shut away.”“I could use a walk anyway, after being on that ship for days,” said Paqyar, and Vilam nodded in agreement.“Very well, I'll wait here in case he arrives,” said Imlen, then he turned to the locals. “You are under the jurisdiction of the Brotherhood here, right?”“There is a Makuta watching over the island,” confirmed one of them. “They keep to themselves mostly, but I'd try not to make much noise if I were you. In fact, you should leave as soon as your business is done here. These days, three Toa traveling together does not go unnoticed.”“Thanks for the advice,” said Imlen, turning back to his friends. “We might be waiting a while anyway. If the Toa of Air shows up, we'll meet you at the Ghost village. If we don't show up for, say... a week, meet me back here.”“Be prepared to camp out,” said another local. “Don't expect the Ghosts to provide lodging.”The Toa thanked the port agents for the help and split up. Imlen knew that to keep a low profile, he should also camp outside the town. But that was no way to find someone he was waiting for, so he stayed in a local inn. There was much chatter in the inn, talk of engineering and production, and of competition between the Dark Hunters and the Brotherhood of Makuta for Nynrah's favor. Imlen was weary, and so he payed little attention to it. He stayed in town for days, and during that time he received an uncomfortable amount of curious looks. He thought he heard talk about his presence whispered behind his back. He was beginning to consider finding his friends and leaving the island early when he heard a commotion outside. He opened the window of his upstairs room and dropped down to the street. No one seemed to notice that, and he could see why.Some strange beast – or a bestial being – was hurtling down the street. It did not attack anyone, but knocked people and objects over obliviously, growling. It stopped for a moment to howl madly, and Imlen could see it was about the size of a Toa, with metallic gray and black armor. Its face reminded him of a Kavinika, but it was clearly not one. It was not any sort of Rahi he had ever seen. He was about to confront it when he saw two other beings in his peripheral vision. He turned, and saw two Toa running after the beast. The one in the lead was a flustered-looking Toa of Psionics, and behind her must have been the one Imlen had heard about. He was a Toa of Air, and his left forearm was nothing but a stump. In contrast with his partner, he looked more exasperated than embarrassed. The wild creature overturned a food stand and began to feast on the spilled wares when the Toa of Psionics held out a hand in its direction, and it stopped.“Great, Vayrag,” groaned the Toa of Air as the Toa of Psionics went to retrieve the beast. “What a first impression we've made.”“You've certainly made a... unique impression on me,” said Imlen quietly, coming forth.“Oh, another Toa,” said the Toa of Psionics, risking a glance away from the creature, which she seemed to be keeping under control with her elemental power. “What brings you to Nynrah?”“Looking for potential allies,” said Imlen. “But I have the feeling this isn't the place to talk about it.”“Right,” said the Toa of Air, as several locals converged on the Toa and their beast. “Sorry about the mess.”“We'll clean it up, and we won't be here long,” the Toa of Psionics attempted to placate the natives.“Keep that thing leashed!” one of the locals called.“Get it out of here,” said another.“I'm still hungry,” the creature spoke, to the great surprise of Imlen and the locals. “Get me... I mean, I'm sorry about the...”“What is he?” asked Imlen as the creature's speech degenerated into growls and snarls.“Vayrag is a Toa, like you,” answered the Toa of Psionics as she and the Toa of Air began to clean up the mess.“Or at least, he was,” said the Toa of Air as Imlen helped. “Until the Visorak did that to him.”“You mean it was...?” Imlen trailed off.“Hordika Venom,” said the Toa of Psionics sadly. “He's not usually like this, but being stuck on a ship for days can make anyone restless.”Imlen knew all about Hordika Venom. The mutagenic poison of the Visorak transformed its victims into mindless, ferocious beasts. He had only seen its effects on Rahi, which had the effect of making even peaceful creatures needlessly violent, and caused them to grow spines, fangs, and other natural weapons. Sometimes that even included natural Rhotuka launchers, and Imlen noticed the Toa Hordika here – Vayrag – had one on his back. Vayrag was docile for now, but he did not speak. He sat quietly until the other Toa were done cleaning the mess and apologizing to the natives. Then the four of them them left the town. The Hordika stood up and walked on digitigrade feet. Imlen also noticed that one of Vayrag's arms ended in a some sort of twin claw and saw weapon, and the other in a hand that looked mostly normal.“We're heading to the village of the Nynrah Ghosts,” said the Toa of Psionics, still walking as Imlen tagged along.“I guessed you would. I sent my two friends ahead there,” said Imlen.“So, you travel with two others as well,” said Vayrag, who was quite lucid now. “Together we make six. Interesting.”“But do we want to team up?” said the Toa of Air. “We could use allies, I admit, but not just anyone.”“I think we're fortunate to have found each other,” said Imlen. “In seven years of travels, I've met only a few other Toa. None of them were willing to team up for long. I was hoping there would be something different about you.”“Got some sort of personal quest?” asked the Toa of Psionics.“I want to free my homeland from the Brotherhood of Makuta,” said Imlen.“You can't get rid of the Brotherhood,” laughed the Toa of Air grimly. “But if you want to hurt them as much as you can, I'd be happy to help.”

-----

Vilam and Paqyar had received as friendly a reception as they had been told to expect. The doors to every building in the village were shut. When they had knocked and requested lodging, they had been told to go away. And so they spent the days just outside the village, spending the nights in their sleeping pouches under the sky. The sounds of the Matoran crafters working their miracles could be heard even from behind closed doors. The noise was beautiful in a way, but it made sleeping difficult. Therefore, the Toa were awake the night different sounds mingled with the noise of metalworking. They immediately recognized the sounds. Rahkshi and Visorak were on the move, and they were heading in the direction of the port the Toa had arrived at. Paqyar and Vilam got up and followed stealthily a safe distance behind. They traveled for the rest of the night, and until afternoon of the next day.The Brotherhood force reached its destination in an open, uninhabited area. The Visorak circled around a small group of beings, and Paqyar could see that those beings were Imlen, two other Toa, and another being he could not recognize. He and Vilam were about to charge to save them when several more Visorak and Rahkshi suddenly came from behind. As they surrounded him, he and Vilam realized that the Visorak had known they were being followed all along, and had waited until now, when they could trap all six of their targets at once.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Eighteen==Nynrah, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Apparently, the Makuta of Nynrah was the curious type, or at least he had some reason to prefer the Toa alive. If the Rahkshi and Visorak had attacked immediately with lethal force, the Toa might have been defeated in seconds. But the energy bolts and Rhotuka that rained down on them had powers to paralyze and otherwise incapacitate. The Toa of Psionics, who had said her name was Mozmana, was grazed by a Rhotuka. Iskanemo, the Toa of Air, moved to cover her as she fell, but she was soon back on her feet, having resisted the effects of the spinner. A wave of psychic energy sent several Visorak running in terror, while Iskanemo created a cyclone that blew more of them away. Now that the Toa had resisted, the Rahkshi and Visorak were using lethal force. Imlen and Vayrag teamed up to take on three Rahkshi, blasting the machines with plasma and Rhotuka of magnetic elemental energy. A short distance away, Paqyar and Vilam fought their way over to the larger group.Vilam knew that if they could just make it over to the others, they could make the Visorak regret waiting to capture them. She sliced and blasted the bug Rahi that threatened to swarm over them, and Paqyar cried out and launched an arrow at a Rahkshi that was approaching the Toa of Air from behind. The arrow did not stop the Rahkshi, but the Toa of Air turned and activated his mask. The Makuta-Son went flying back, violently repelled away from its target, who finished it with a cyclone that lifted it high into the air and dropped it. Several Visorak surrounded him, and he activated his mask again, pushing him into the air. He continued to rain elemental attacks on his enemies from the sky, while Imlen and Vayrag were losing their fight against the three Rahkshi. The Rahkshi were too fast, and what few attacks managed to strike them barely slowed them down.Then Vayrag roared and launched a Rhotuka that glowed brighter than any of his previous attacks. It struck one of the Rahkshi, and other the two and a few nearby Visorak slammed into it hard enough to deform metal. Imlen conjured an intense globe of plasma that melted the pile of enemies before they could get up. Mozmana wielded her sword one-handed, fending off a few more Visorak, while with the other hand she channeled her elemental power, keeping the Rahkshi in front of her mesmerized. After defeating the Visorak near her, she released her hold on the Kraata's mind. It was too late for the Rahkshi to react, however. She sliced through its head and the Kraata inside. She moved to rejoin the others, who had all grouped together by now, except Iskanemo, who was still flying. The tide appeared to have turned in favor of the Toa, but there were still three Rahkshi and about two dozen Visorak remaining.Imlen failed to dodge a powerful laser vision attack, and the beams burned a hole through him, narrowly missing his vital organs. He cried out and fell, and Vilam retaliated, focusing the remainder of her elemental energy to into a powerful bolt that zapped the Rahkshi of Laser Vision, frying its Kraata. Iskanemo absorbed the air around a group of Visorak, suffocating them, then released it as a windstorm that blew over many more. The other Toa made sure they would not get up. While they were dealing with the Visorak, one of the remaining Rahkshi plunged its staff into the ground. Toxic fumes drifted from a green glow that spread across the ground, killing any plants it passed over. Iskanemo shouted, and the Toa dodged, but Vilam moved to help Imlen, whose wound had rendered him unconscious. She threw him out of the spreading poisonous aura, but could not get herself out of it in time. It passed over her, leaving her choking on the fumes. She passed out.“Vilam, Imlen!” Paqyar called, running over to assist them as soon as the poison faded away.“Wait for me, rookie!” said the Toa of Air as he followed, swooping in low to the ground.“We'll finish the Visorak,” said the Toa of Psionics.The Toa of Air and the Toa of the Green combined their powers to make a tornado of plant life, preventing the two Rahkshi from finishing off their injured brother and sister. Mozmana's psychic attacks caused one Visorak after another to pass out, and Vayrag slaughtered those and the remaining Visorak with claws, fangs, and his elemental Rhotuka. Meanwhile the two green-armored Toa had managed to take out another Rahkshi, a Rahkshi of Shattering, but were in a deadlock against the Rahkshi of Poison. It was enduring all of Iskanemo's air attacks, and poisoning any of Paqyar's plants that got close. Paqyar released another arrow, and it dodged again, but as it dodged it was struck by Vayrag's Rhotuka. The magnetic force warped its body where it had struck, and it staggered, allowing Iskanemo to jump into melee range and finish it off with his sickle. Finally, the battle was over, and Paqyar attempted to aid his fallen comrades. He hoped he would not lose his old friends just as he was making new ones.“Will they be alright?” he asked.“Not without help,” said the Toa of Air. “Fortunately, Mozmana here wears a Great Mask of Healing.”“They'll be alright,” said the Toa of Psionics, healing power flowing from her mask into the wounded Toa.“Thank goodness,” said Paqyar as Vilam and Imlen stirred and got up. “We owe you guys.”“Same to you. They sent more than enough to deal with the three of us,” said the Toa of Air. “Almost enough to take out all six of us. Not quite enough, but more will be coming soon. I'm Iskanemo, by the way, and that's Vayrag. Before you ask, I'll tell you: he's a Toa of Magnetism, mutated by Hordika venom. He's more and less feral at different times. Looks like the battle brought out the beast in him.”“Shouldn't you stop him?” asked Vilam, indicating the Hordika feasting on Visorak carcasses.“He's not doing any harm,” said Iskanemo. “We'd be much more efficient warriors if we could eat Visorak ourselves.”“It's often best to not fight his urges,” said Mozmana.“Right. Now, these are my friends, Vilam and Paqyar,” said Imlen. “I guess you two saw the Visorak moving and followed along.”“And aren't you happy we did?” said Paqyar. “But the Makuta here, or his commanders at least, know we're here.”“Not a surprise at all considering what a scene we made when we got here,” said Iskanemo.“The Matoran who brought us here should still be in town,” said Imlen. “His boat might be a little cramped for all of us, but – ”“Whoa, hold on there,” said the Toa of Air. “I thought you wanted to take a stand against the Brotherhood. What better place than Nynrah?”“I'd prefer to take a stand that I didn't die in during the first round,” said Paqyar. “And our stand is more... personal.”“I know, you want to free your homeland in the Northern Continent. Imlen told me,” said Iskanemo. “But do you know how important Nynrah is? This is bigger. It's more important.”“It's more suicidal,” said Imlen. “Unless the Makuta of Nynrah is a pushover, which I doubt, if Nynrah is so vital.”“So you want to resist the Brotherhood in your homeland, and maybe even vanquish one of the Makuta,” said Mozmana thoughtfully. “It would be quite a symbolic victory, even if the region and its Makuta were relatively unimportant ones.“Exactly,” said Imlen hopefully.“But Iskanemo is right. Striking a target that would actually hurt the Brotherhood is an even greater victory. But it isn't safe here. You both have good points, all I know is that we need to get moving.”“Alright. First stop is the Ghost village,” said Iskanemo.“But they'll be waiting for us there,” protested Vilam. “And in the port... where do we go?”“I say we go back to the port. I'm willing to fight my way out – not into more trouble,” said Imlen. “Whoever else is with me, let's go. The airhead can stay and die alone if he wants.”“'Airhead'!” snarled Iskanemo, pushing away Mozmana when she attempted to use her power to calm him. “You insolent... no, we need to work together. My way. And that is – ”“We need to go, now!” interrupted Vayrag, scampering away from his meal. “More are coming!”Iskanemo sighed and joined the others in fleeing in the direction of the port. After jogging in a straight line for a while, they changed course slightly to evade their pursuers. Several hours later, they had to slow to a quick walk. They found shelter and stopped to sleep before nightfall, for they did not want to be ambushed in their sleep in the dark. When each of them were fully rested, they continued. The next morning they came to the port, and as they expected, Brotherhood agents were waiting for them. The natives had already abandoned the streets in preparation for the coming fight. As the Toa began to blast a path through the soldiers, Rahkshi, and Visorak that stood between them and the docks, more Makuta forces converged on them from out of town. The Toa pressed harder against their foes' defense. Together, Vilam, Imlen, and Iskanemo formed a tornado of electrified plasma that cleared a path. Imlen winced as the glowing twister spun out of control and demolished the front of a building. Fortunately, it looked like no one had been hurt, but he had more to worry about anyway.“Where's Kyulget?” asked Paqyar as projectiles whizzed overhead. “Anyone seen a Matoran of Magnetism?”“He's probably hiding with the others,” said Imlen. “Don't worry, I'm sure he can tell why we need to leave in a hurry.”“Or maybe he's in his boat. I see it over there,” said Vilam, darting towards the docked vessel.“Sure we want to go in that?” said Iskanemo dubiously.“It's not a combat vessel, but it's fast,” said Paqyar. “And I think flight will do us more good than fighting.”“Good point,” said the Toa of Air as he jumped aboard with the others.“Kyulget!” called Imlen and his teammates as they began to launch the boat.“Wait, we're just taking his boat?” protested Mozmana. “And he's probably not even on board?”“The lives of six Toa outweigh the convenience of a single Matoran,” said Vayrag.“Besides, if all goes well, he'll have more than enough money to buy a new one,” said Paqyar. “I'll explain later.”Mozmana submitted, and went to help Imlen get them moving while the others defended the boat. Fortunately, many of the Visorak and Rahkshi had powers meant to be used against living beings, and they were unable to damage the hull with their Rhotuka and energy bolts. Iskanemo indicated which enemies to focus on, especially the Panrahk and Guurahk, Rahkshi of Fragmentation and Disintegration that could blow the boat to pieces or crumble it to dust if they got a lucky hit. A Brotherhood soldier managed to score a hit with his Cordak Blaster before a sudden change in air pressure knocked him into the water. The Toa looked below and to their relief they found that the hole was above the waterline. Paqyar wasn't taking any chances, however, so he grew a vine out of the wooden deck, with which he swung overboard and into the hole. He landed down in the hold, and with a quick application of his plant power he formed a wooden patch over the hole. As he came back onto the deck, he noticed they were leaving the port behind. A few Rahkshi were flying after them, but Iskanemo buffeted them with a gale, allowing Imlen and Vilam to pick them off easily.The Toa celebrated their escape, and decided to keep sailing north, past the Dark Hunter-controlled waters they had passed through on the way to Nynrah. They decided to stop at one of the two northeastern-most islands of the universe upon getting to them. They were happy to be away from their enemies, but they were cramped on the boat, and all of them felt vulnerable. They knew they had been lucky to escape Nynrah with such little damage to the boat, and feared the craft would not fare so well in their next confrontation. Vayrag was the most agitated, pacing and growling like a caged Rahi, and Mozmana had to stay by his side constantly to keep him calm. Soon they were passing through the giant tunnel the Dark Hunters had confronted Imlen's team in. The Toa of Plasma felt tension grip him, and he started a conversation with Mozmana to alleviate it, while Vayrag was sleeping. As they spoke, he kept his eyes on the sea ahead.“Seems you have a... difficult couple of teammates,” he said casually.“They have their quirks, but they're good friends all the same,” said Mozmana. “And I can't claim to be entirely reasonable all the time. I feel quite stupid for protesting us taking this vessel. It was just an impulsive reaction.”“I hate to steal from Kyulget too, but trust me, he can handle himself. He lived alone on Stelt.”“Stelt, huh? I've been there. It's a nasty place in many ways, but the blending of cultures in the places visitors gather is fascinating. Now, your friend mentioned earlier that the Matoran would be receiving a large sum of money. If you'd satisfy my curiosity...”“We captured some of the Dark Hunters that held up the boat and tried to capture us, and Kyulget turned them in for bounties,” said Imlen, laughing lightly at the memory. “It was around here that they confronted us, so keep alert. But, hey – if you wanted, you could have read my mind for that information, couldn't you?”“I could have, but I prefer not to,” said the Toa of Psionics. “I was taught to consider it rude to do unnecessarily. After all, if we don't respect the privacy of our friends' thoughts, what kind of friends are we?”“Rather impolite ones,” agreed Imlen, and he chuckled again.“I'm told I should expect to encounter Dark Hunters,” said Iskanemo as he and Paqyar climbed up from the hold. “Shall I try scouting ahead? I can't fly as well over water, but it's worth a try.”“What is that mask, anyway, and why doesn't it work over water?” asked Paqyar. “I've never seen one like it before.”“It's the Mask of Repulsion,” explained the Toa of Air. “It allows me to force any one target away from me at high speed. I can target the ground with it to fly, but that technique is tricky to use over an ocean. My air powers help.”“Most Toa consider a Kanohi that repels nature itself to be immoral, which probably explains why you haven't seen it before,” said Mozmana. “That matter is one of the things Iskanemo and I have accepted our disagreement about.”“I don't really get it,” said Imlen.“Don't worry about it now,” said Iskanemo activated his mask and shot into the air, causing the boat to rock violently.He flew off, to return a little while later with dirty, battered armor. He reported that he had seen a Dark Hunter boat, and they had seen him, and they had fought. Mozmana seemed to disapprove of him stopping to fight alone, but Imlen was impressed by his account of taking out five of the Hunters when the whole crew was attacking him at once. He admitted that those five were merely unconscious, and would be awake by the time the two vessels met, but he had removed any weapons and Kanohi they had on them and dumped them into the sea. About an hour later, the Dark Hunter ship came into view. The mercenaries were ready this time, but so were the Toa. They had crates of Kanoka at the ready, and Mozmana and Paqyar were manning the boat's two launchers. Iskanemo took to the air again, carrying as many disks as he could. The other Toa defended their ship from incoming projectiles. Several Weaken and Increase Weight disks struck the hull, threatening to cause the boat to break apart or sink. Imlen rushed to apply Regeneration and Levitation disks to counter the effects.Vayrag leaned over the boat's railing, eagerly anticipating the moment the craft would come side by side and allow him to engage the enemy in melee combat. Until then, he battered the Hunter ship and its crew with Rhotuka of magnetic force. His spinners dented the hull, but he could not summon enough power to penetrate it. Above, Iskanemo laughed wildly as he darted around above the enemy vessel, his Kanohi Crast pushing hard against its deck. He dropped his load of Kanoka disks, most of which were intercepted before they could hit. The rest bounced off the deck, discharging their energies in a variety of harmful effects. Iskanemo turned to return to his allies, and as he did so a Zamor Sphere struck him, causing his mask to fall off. Vayrag saw him plummet, and launched a magnetizing spinner at the Toa of Air as fast as he could. It struck Iskanemo a few bio above the water, causing his Kanohi to change course in midair and cling to his body as Vayrag intended. It also had the unforeseen side effect of causing him to slam into the Dark Hunter ship fast enough to knock him out.“Oops,” said the Toa Hordika. “Don't worry, he'll stick there until I demagnetize him. Or until the Hunters pry him off.”“Looks like we'll need to retrieve him,” said Mozmana. “You three stay here, once we're in range Vayrag and I will jump aboard.”“Right,” said Imlen as he melted another incoming projectile. “Get ready to take the launcher, Vilam.”The vessels continued to exchange salvos until they were side by side. Several Dark Hunters extended planks and threw grappling hooks across the distance and attempted to cross over. Imlen kept intercepting incoming disks and other missiles while Mozmana and Vayrag struggled to get aboard the enemy vessel. Vilam and Paqyar turned their launchers against the Dark Hunters that remained on the deck. Mozmana used telekinesis to knock the Dark Hunters attempting to cross the gap into the sea, and she and Vayrag charged up the main boarding ramp. Vayrag tackled another Hunter as he landed, and after killing him with his fangs, he darted over to the spot above where Iskanemo was magnetized to the hull. Mozmana and the Toa manning the launchers covered him as he crawled down the side of the ship, using his claws to dig handholds into the hull.“Need a hand here!” he called from below.“Can't help now,” replied Mozmana as she battled the Dark Hunters on their deck. “Do what you can.”A Dark Hunter turned and blasted the Kanoka launcher Paqyar was aiming. The resulting explosion demolished the launcher and nearly knocked Paqyar out. Vilam got up from her launcher, shocked that Dark Hunter into unconsciousness, and helped Paqyar up. The Toa of the Green assured her he was not hurt, and went down into the hold to check for hull damage. As he feared, Imlen had not been able to prevent all the attacks from striking the boat. Water was leaking in slowly through cracks, and there was a badly damaged patch that looked like it would collapse into a large hole with one more hit. Paqyar created a large growth of a particular marine plant to absorb the seawater, then repaired the damage as well as he could. He could not do anything about the tattered metal plates that protected the boat, but it took only a miniscule amount of his elemental power to regenerate the wood that made up the body of the hull.Beyond the damaged section of hull, on the other side of the Dark Hunter boat, Vayrag held on with his clawed arm as he tried to wake Iskanemo. His efforts were in vain, or at least they were not working fast enough. An idea came to him, and carefully he climbed down until he could reach Iskanemo's Kanohi, which was magnetized to his leg. He tried pulling it off, but the force pinning it to the Toa of Air's body was far too strong for him to overcome with only one arm. Above, he heard Mozmana grunt as she dodged and blocked attacks. Vayrag and Iskanemo could not wait for her help, she needed their help. Fortunately, both of them could swim, though neither of them was very good at it. Bracing himself, Vayrag struck his ally with a spinner that counteracted the magnetism that pinned him to the ship. The unconscious Toa of Air dropped into the sea, and Vayrag followed.He grabbed Iskanemo and pulled him to the surface. The shock of falling into the water caused the Toa of Air to stir, but he was still dazed. Vayrag let go of him momentarily to pursue his sinking mask. Once it was in range, the Hordika fired a series of Rhotuka at it, until one hit. The Kanohi became strongly magnetized again, and it shot towards the nearest metal object, which in this case, was Vayrag. As he swam up to support Iskanemo, the mask clapped onto his foot. The impact was jarring, and hoped the mask was not damaged. He lifted his foot and found it wasn't. He managed to pry it off, reduced its magnetism to what a Kanohi normally had – just enough to secure it to a face – and slapped it onto Iskanemo's. Revitalized by the mask's energies, he opened his eyes wide. Vayrag heard Mozmana cry out, and a weapon clattered on the deck above.“Mozmana! She needs help,” said Iskanemo, now wide awake and floating on his own. “Grab on!”“I'll tear those brutes apart,” growled Vayrag as Iskanemo's mask propelled them into the air.Now below them, Mozmana was desperately dodging and using her elemental power to defend herself. Her sword lay on the other side of the deck, and the Dark Hunters were not giving her time to retrieve it telekinetically. A lithe, quick-moving Dark Hunter knocked her down, and prepared to finish her when a bolt of lightning struck him in the back. He turned to Vilam, who had launched the attack from Kyulget's boat. Before he could retaliate, the Toa of Air and Magnetism swooped down. A gust of wind knocked many of the mercenaries down, and Vayrag let go of Iskanemo. He dropped down and rampaged across the deck, fulfilling the promise he had made to himself a few seconds ago. Mozmana called her sword to her, and plunged it into the back of the lithe Dark Hunter. The rest scattered before Iskanemo's winds and Vayrag's savagery, jumping overboard or running to the lower deck. The Toa turned their attention to the vessel's weapons, and quickly destroyed them.“Alright, time to go,” said Mozmana, jumping across the narrow gap between the ships.“I'm not done yet!” snarled Vayrag.“We are,” said Imlen. “But don't worry, I won't leave them like this.”Imlen used the last of his elemental energy to melt a large hole in the enemy craft.“That's better,” he said. “Now let's go.”“I'd rather slaughter them all myself,” said Vayrag as he leaped aboard the smaller boat. “But that is a more efficient way of doing it.”Imlen did not mention that it was likely most of the Dark Hunters would survive. He was sure they could all swim, and help would arrive for them soon. By then, however, the Toa would be a safe distance away. As the Dark Hunter ship foundered, Vilam went below and revved the engines. They continued at full speed until they were on the open ocean again. Soon, they passed the nearest Sea Gate. When they were beyond it, they relaxed. Their next destination was a few hundred kio ahead.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Nineteen==Northeastern Sea, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

When the Toa reached the next island, they needed supplies, but did not wish to attract attention. So Imlen traveled inland alone in search of local settlements. Vayrag and Mozmana went ashore to take a walk. The island was small, but there was plenty of wilderness near the shore for them to hike unseen. The other Toa had wanted to take the opportunity to enjoy the dry land as well, but Iskanemo insisted they stay to watch the boat. They did not expect the Makuta or Dark Hunters to find them in this relatively insignificant corner of the universe, but still were not going to take foolish risks. Losing their vessel could potentially be a major setback. Paqyar understood and accepted this, but he was still bored. After sitting in silence for a while, he attempted to start a conversation.“So, Iskanemo...” he began. “Sorry we couldn't stay on Nynrah long. I guess you were looking forward to getting that arm fixed, huh?”“That would have been a nice bonus. But I was actually hoping to get some weapons,” said the Toa of Air. “I could get a prosthetic a lot of other places – maybe sometime I will – it wouldn't be as good as a Ghost-made one, but I was visiting Nynrah for the same reason our enemies do: for weaponry. Ever been to Xia? Heard of it? Well, a lot of those fancy machines, lots of war machines, that they make on Xia are actually designed by the Nynrah Ghosts.”“They must charge clients a fortune for high-tech weapon designs,” said Vilam.“I was hoping to find a way to do them a favor, so they could repay me with something unique. I suppose it's too late for that. For now, at least. Maybe once things settle down over there I'll try again.”“How did you lose your arm, anyway?” said Paqyar, still curious.“It was a few hundred years ago. I was in the way of some Dark Hunter heist that had to do with my homeland. They tried to eliminate me, and only succeeded in eliminating this part,” Iskanemo said, indicating the missing part of his left arm.“Did they get away with it?” asked Vilam.“I couldn't stop them. Whatever treasure they took, it hadn't been important to us, but they killed some Matoran that got in the way. Yet one good thing came of it. I realized that I was wasting my life patrolling one region. I love my people, but I know now that I have a greater responsibility.”“We're not so different, then,” said Paqyar. “Except we left our homeland because it was too dangerous, and we plan to return soon. At least for long enough to make things better for them.”“With our help, I take it. We'll see,” said Iskanemo. “I'd die to save Matoran, but I'd rather die to save a million than a thousand.”“After that happened, do you hate the Dark Hunters as much as you hate the Makuta?” Vilam asked, diverting the conversation.“I don't hate them all personally – that's not the way of a Toa – but I hate the fact that their organization exists, and I know their leader is an evil being.”“We've had mostly bad experiences with them. Especially the time they massacred an entire settlement, just before we became Toa,” said Paqyar. “But we've met a few that aren't so bad, or at least they seem that way.”“Be careful of what you assume, Paqyar,” said Iskanemo. “Assumptions like that are a good way to get yourself betrayed, and killed.”At that moment Vayrag and Mozmana returned. They expected Imlen to come soon, and so they waited. A few hours later the Toa of Plasma arrived, moving as quickly as he could while carrying two large crates. The other Toa went to meet him as he approached, and relieved him of his burden. Once the supplies were on board, they unpacked them. They spent the next few hours ensuring the boat was in as good a condition as they could get it. With Vilam's help, Paqyar smoothed the wooden patches he had created to repair the hull, making the boat as hydrodynamic as it had been. Imlen and Mozmana used some scrap metal they had acquired to restore the craft's armor, and Vayrag and Iskanemo tried to repair the destroyed Kanoka launcher. They found the launcher was irreparably damaged, so they moved the remaining launcher to the center to compensate. When the repairs were done and the remaining supplies were safely stowed, the Toa cast off.They sailed north until they passed another island, then they turned west. Once they were far into the sea, at least a hundred kio from any charted island, they came to a stop. It was time to decide their next destination. Imlen and his friends were set on going directly to Yrenta, but Mozmana's team had been hinting they had another goal in mind. Imlen hoped that would not delay them for long. In the seven years he had been traveling the universe, he had thought of his home every day. Hopefully, the defeat the Dark Hunters had suffered just before he left had ended the battling in Yrenta, allowing the lives of the Matoran to return to the state they had been in for the few centuries before the Hunters showed up. But even if the Matoran were no longer being massacred by mercenaries and worked to death to build fortifications, Imlen could not tolerate the evil Makuta ruling over them. Also, he was sick of sailing. He felt vulnerable in the boat, and the water seemed to be rising up to flood it. Then he realized that was not far from the truth.“We're sinking!” exclaimed Vilam the same moment Imlen noticed it.“Who's the fool who left a hole in the boat?” said Iskanemo as the Toa rushed into the hold.“Impossible,” said Paqyar. “We've sailed for kio and...”“Then it's sabotage,” said Mozmana, jumping off the ladder and landing with a splash.The seawater in the hold was ankle-deep, and rising quickly. There was a large gash in the middle of the hull, which Paqyar sealed as quickly as he could. After instructing his allies to climb up a safe distance, Imlen vaporized the water that had leaked in. Then the Toa began to search the hold. A moment later they heard machinery grinding and something being thrown overboard. Iskanemo was the first to get back up to the deck, but he saw no one. Vilam and Vayrag followed him. They quickly inspected the motor and discovered that it had just been destroyed. While Paqyar, Imlen, and Mozmana were in the hold and the other three Toa had their backs turned, something stabbed Iskanemo in the back. The unknown assailant was gone before the Toa could see him, leaving only some drops of water. Iskanemo's injury was potentially lethal, and Mozmana heard him scream. She rushed up to the deck, followed by the other Toa, and used her mask to heal him. When he was stable, she reached out with her elemental power, scanning for minds in the area.“He's down there!” she called, pointing to under the bow. “Wait – he's over there now.”“A teleporter, “ said Vilam.“Split into groups of two,” said Imlen. “Watch each other.”Mozmana covered Vayrag as he began to magnetize the metal panels on the side of the hull. If the saboteur tried clinging to them, he would be in for a surprise. Before the Toa Hordika of Magnetism could finish the job, the boat shuddered and began to sink again. Mozmana sensed a presence directly underneath the boat, which moved as soon as it felt her mental scan. She called out, and Paqyar and Imlen went below to repair the hull again. This time the boat was even more badly damaged, and Imlen had to quickly vaporize the water rushing in before the boat submerged. As Paqyar began to close the hole, the two Toa heard the crackle of electricity and a thud behind them. They turned in time to see an unknown being lying on the floor. Before they could get a good look, his body glowed and he vanished. Vilam was gone with him.The Toa of Lightning reappeared underwater nearby, still clinging to the mysterious saboteur. Fighting electrically-induced spasms, he reached for a dagger, and Vilam let go and pushed him away before he could stab her. Then he turned and attacked. Within a few seconds, Vilam knew she was outmatched. Her opponent was almost as fast as her lightning, capable of teleporting at will. She had to resist the instinct to gasp or cry out as he scored several small hits, and she was running out of air. The other being seemed to be wearing some sort of breathing apparatus, but he did not allow Vilam to damage it. She resorted to her emergency tactic. As he appeared behind her, Vilam reached back and grabbed his outstretched arm. Ignoring the deep cut he made in her grasping arm, she activated her Kanohi. With a flash of light, their bodies merged.The attacker's mind was strong, and Vilam just barely managed to exert enough control over the amalgam to teleport onto the deck. Then she released her mental hold, allowing the fusion to split back into two beings. Her allies on the deck immediately jumped on the saboteur and knocked him out before he could recover. A moment later, once they were satisfied the vessel was seaworthy again, Imlen and Paqyar came up. Paqyar conjured bonds of plants to restrain the unconscious assailant. He, Mozmana, and Vayrag watched over their new captive while the other three investigated what other damage had been done. A few minutes later, the group was reforming when the prisoner teleported away. Fortunately for the Toa, he had not left his bonds behind. Mozmana sensed him reappear behind the cabin, and the Toa retrieved their choking captive.“Tried to 'port away as soon as you woke up, and forgot you were tied up, eh?” said Paqyar. “You probably noticed we removed your breathing device as well.”“Who are you, and why are you trying to sink us?” demanded Iskanemo once the saboteur had stopped coughing up water.“My name would... not mean anything to you,” wheezed the prisoner.“Who are you working for, then?” said Imlen. “You're a Dark Hunter, aren't you?”“Dark Hunters are not the only hunters,” said the saboteur with a laugh. “I suppose there would be no harm in me telling you I attempted to kill you on orders from the Brotherhood of Makuta.”“It might do some harm. To you, specifically,” said Vayrag, baring his fangs.“How did you get aboard?” asked Mozmana, more for the benefit of the others, as she could simply read his mind if she applied enough mental effort.“We didn't need any help locating you on Nynrah,” he replied, glancing at Vayrag meaningfully. “But a certain Matoran approached us and confessed to bringing you to the island. In exchange for a pardon of that crime, and in fact a substantial reward instead of punishment, he directed me to his boat, where I stowed away. And don't worry, Mozmana. He will be compensated for the loss of the vessel.”“That Piraka,” growled Imlen. “Kyulget betrayed us!”“And it seems he got away with it too, though this assassin has failed,” said Vilam.“He got away with the reward. But the consequences will harm him as much as anyone,” said Mozmana.“What do you mean?” said Paqyar.“If we had been killed, there would be six less heroes to set things right in this universe,” explained the Toa of Psionics. “He has only succeeded in delaying us a little, but the point remains that when we are done, life will be better even for Matoran like him.”“Ah, so he'll have to live with the universe in this lousy state that much longer,” said Imlen. “So I guess he's lucky we survived.”“Not if I ever get my claws on him,” growled Vayrag.“He might have delayed us more than 'a little',” said Iskanemo. “You've failed to kill us, but your sabotage was a partial success. Bad news for us: the engine and the back-up sails are both gone.”“We're drifting?” said a few of the Toa at once, and Iskanemo nodded.“Good news is, we're in a current that's taking us in the same general direction as we were going,” he said. “But I can't tell exactly where we'll end up, and I estimate we'll be out here for at least a week. Probably multiple weeks.”“Wonderful,” said Paqyar sarcastically. “Any way at all we can regain control?”“You could make a replacement sail, Paqyar,” Imlen realized. “And Iskanemo can help guide the winds.”“Unless your friend is an expert in sail design, it will not work as well,” said the Toa of Air. “But it will be a lot better than letting the current take us. Still, we'll be in this ship for a long time.”The Toa prepared what was left of the emergency sail system – a collapsible mast and some rigging – and Paqyar grew enormous leaves and branches to form a crude replacement of the missing parts. The other Toa helped him refine the design to the best of their abilities. The whole time, they kept an eye on the captive Brotherhood assassin. Paqyar had made sure to bind him extra before getting to work, and the prisoner seemed to be cooperative. Once the makeshift propulsion system was prepared, the Toa of Air and the Green stood by it, ready to set a course.“We're from the Northern Continent,” said Paqyar. “So, we should head in that direction.”“What? No,” said Iskanemo. “We haven't agreed on that yet.”“True. So, where should we go?” said Imlen.“The Southern Continent is ahead,” said Iskanemo, blowing wind into the sail to direct them to the continent. “We'll head there and get this ship fixed, or replace it.”“And then where?” asked Vilam, getting the feeling Iskanemo was holding something back.“Iskanemo, Vayrag, and I have discussed the matter with each other,” said Mozmana. “We have agreed to aid you in your quest, if you aid us in a short mission to Xia first.”“Xia?” said Imlen and his friends in unison, and they babbled protests.“A short mission, huh?” said Paqyar. “Because we'll be killed quickly, right?”“Listen. We've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” said Vayrag. “Just as you have been waiting for help with your own quest. We're near Xia now, and the six of us could do some real damage.”“Don't worry about it yet,” said Mozmana. “You have a while to consider it.”“I will consider it,” said Imlen after hesitating for a moment. “For now, let's get this prisoner into the hold, then get some rest.”The Makuta assassin was carried down the ladder and secured to a crate in the hold. He did not struggle, in fact it was unsettling how passive he was. He had not said a word since his interrogation, during which he had also been cooperative. The Toa suspected he was waiting until the right moment to attempt an escape, and maybe gathering energy for some ability they had not seen him use. So four of the Toa sat and rested in the hold where they could watch him, and made sure at least one of them was always awake. Up on the deck, Paqyar and Iskanemo also relaxed. Once in a while Paqyar would adjust the sail, or Iskanemo would manipulate the wind, to make sure they kept sailing in a straight line towards the coast of the Southern Continent. Their control reduced what could have been several weeks of drifting to, in Iskanemo's estimate, about a week of sailing. After traveling for several days, they could see the continent in enough detail to notice a large forest, with a small strip of grassy land between it and the shore.“Where on the continent are we going?” asked Vilam, who had come up to visit Paqyar and Iskanemo.“I'm not sure. Someone in the northeastern part of it, I think,” said the Toa of Air. “It's a big place.”“I know,” she said. “We went there a few times in our travels, and sometimes we stayed for a while. But we never got to explore much of it.”“Not many people living there, though,” said Paqyar. “Good for avoiding trouble, but I hope it does not take long to get going again. I've longed ached for the sight of Yrenta, and it has gotten worse this past week.”“Remember, we are taking a detour to Xia first,” said Iskanemo.“I didn't agree to that, and if Imlen listens to me he won't either.”“One thing at a time,” said Vilam, and Iskanemo nodded.Unfortunately for Paqyar, Imlen seemed to be close to agreeing to the request of the other Toa team. It was only fair, he had told his friends, and Iskanemo was right – they had a responsibility to battle evil for the sake of the whole universe, not just the small, isolated region they came from. Still, a decision on the matter had not yet been made. Imlen wanted to see his homeland as much as his friends did. And, as they came closer to the coast day by day, he turned his attention to the mission ahead. He consulted his memory of the Southern Continent. Its primary inhabitants were a few thousand Matoran, it was mostly lush, covered in forests and swamps, but there were also mountains and deserts. During his travels there, he had encountered many strange flora and fauna. The wildlife was generally more dangerous there than in Yrenta.Also, the continent had suffered a strange disaster during the Great Cataclysm, in which a region in its center had been destroyed and replaced by a waterfall that poured out of the sky and into a hole in the ground. At least, that was what the rumors said. During his visits to the continent, the most Imlen had seen of it was a mysterious glint in the sky in the direction of the alleged waterfall. He had never been close to the land's center, and neither had he and his team come this far to the continent's east. When the boat finally landed, it was in a region he did not know the name of. The Toa packed supplies and were ready to explore, but there was one more matter to address first.“What will we do to him?” said Paqyar, indicating the assassin that was still tied up in the hold.“Bringing him will be trouble,” said Iskanemo. “But we can't leave him, to possibly escape and report us.”“I wish we could turn him into the authorities, as we did the Dark Hunters,” said Imlen. “But there are no authorities around here. And the nearest ones are his employers.”“I notice you don't want this on your consciences,” said Vayrag abruptly, and he plunged his claws into the captive. “So don't feel responsible for that.”“Vayrag!” said Vilam, as she stepped forward to check on the prisoner.He was dead, and he had not said a word or even struggled as Vayrag executed him. Perhaps there had not been time for him to move – it was too fast for the other Toa to prevent – but Vilam doubted it. He could have at least teleported across the room, though he would have brought the crate he was bound to with him. Vilam realized that although she did feel somewhat responsible for the assassin's demise, Vayrag had a point. It was the most practical and efficient way to deal with the situation, and that realization unsettled her.“That was not what a Toa should have done,” she said.“I'm more savage than the average Toa,” retorted the Hordika. “He can thank his masters for that. They wanted to make me into a monster. I'll show them how well that worked out.”“But...” Vilam began to protest.“This is not the time to argue,” said Mozmana, exerting a fraction of her elemental power to calm her allies' minds. “We are a team, at least until we make it off this continent.”“I agree,” said Imlen. “We're a team. That does not mean I've decided to accompany you to Xia, but we have traveled together for what, almost two weeks? We're a team for now, I say it's time we act like it.”“What do you three call yourselves?” asked Iskanemo. “Most traveling Toa teams go by a name.”“Never really thought of it,” said Paqyar. “Our homeland is called Yrenta, so we're the Toa Yrenta, I guess. Third team to bear the name.”“We are called the Toa Muktirhith,” said Mozmana.“I've never heard a name like that before. It's a bit of a mouthful, too,” said Imlen. “What does it mean?”“Where I come from, it's a word we use to mean 'liberator',” said the Toa of Psionics. “Or more accurately, 'one who battles tyranny'.”“Liberator? Battler of tyranny?” said Imlen thoughtfully. “I rather like the sound of that.”Review

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End of YrentaChapter Twenty==Northeastern Part of the Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

The Toa extended the gangplank and stepped onto the beach. Mozmana and Iskanemo carried the corpse of the Brotherhood assassin, and they began to bury it in the sand. The other Toa looked at the boat and noticed it had come quite far ashore. Upon inspecting it more closely, they found it was too far inland. The emergency repairs had caused them to land clumsily, and now the boat was stuck. They tried with all their strength to dislodge it enough to have a chance of launching it again, but they failed. They would need to abandon the vessel. The Toa went back aboard to gather what supplies they could carry, and they found several heavy-duty backpacks. With those, they could carry plenty of basic supplies. Once he had packed a satisfactory amount of necessities, plus some extra, Paqyar filled the remaining space in his pack with Kanoka.“I say we find ourselves a Toa of Water,” he said as he took another disk from a crate. “It would make all this sailing easier.”“Pay attention to what you're doing, Paqyar,” said Imlen. “Who knows what will happen if those go off.”“I have some idea,” said the Toa of the Green. “These are mostly Weaken and Increase Weight disks, but there are also some Teleport and – ”“Whoa, hold it!” Iskanemo interrupted, and he held up a red Kanoka. “Where did this come from?”“What do you mean? Kyulget got all these,” said Paqyar, and then he noticed the symbol painted on the disk Iskanemo held. “Hey, it's a Disk of Fire. Don't see those often.”“Take a closer look,” said the Toa of Air grimly.“It's a power level eight,” Paqyar observed. “The most potent kind. If we could find someone who knew how, we could get a neat Mask of Fire made out of it.”“I find it rather unlikely that the Matoran who owned this boat acquired such a treasure. And if he did, I find it even less likely that he would leave it buried in a random crate,” said Iskanemo. “Imlen, you wear the Great Mask of Psychometry, right? See what you can find out about this disk.”Imlen complied. He saw the Kanoka in storage somewhere he did not recognize. He guessed it was a factory on Xia. That vision passed, and on his second attempt, he saw it being placed in another storage area, far from its original location. This time it was not with other disks, but with an assortment of dangerous tools and weapons. He tried to examine the rest of the room the disk had been stored in, but the apparition would not allow it, and he snapped back to the present. Before losing his focus, he had caught a glimpse of a symbol he recognized.“This belonged to the Brotherhood of Makuta, at least for some time,” he said.“As I thought,” said Iskanemo. “That assassin brought it on board, and could have blown us all up with it. I guess someone found it and stored it with the other disks, and so he lost it.”“If you're right, that was a very close call,” said Vilam.“Let's all be more careful next time,” said the Toa of Air.Paqyar took the fire Kanoka and stored it carefully in a separate pouch. When the Toa were done packing, they began to travel inland together. Mozmana scanned for the presence of Matoran or other locals, and detected none in the area. They headed northwest, towards the northern coast of the continent. Stelt and the Northern Continent were beyond that coast, so the Toa expected to find some locals in that area that could provide them with a boat. For now, they passed through quiet forests, and occasionally a swamp or meadow. They traveled for days, and did not encounter anyone but Rahi. Some of these beasts were aggressive, but none of them could stand before six Toa united. As they traveled, the Toa debated going to Xia. Vilam, Imlen, and Paqyar would all have rather gone directly to Yrenta, but Imlen was willing to go if that was what he had to do to gain the help of the other three. Vilam agreed with him, and Paqyar was still firmly against the idea.As on Nynrah, both the Dark Hunters and the Makuta competed for influence on Xia. The Vortixx grew wealthy from supplying both with high-tech goods, particularly weapons. To keep that arrangement safe, they surely had plenty of security. And with a war going on, the Brotherhood would have their own forces present to protect their assets. Paqyar supposed the only reason Xia was not being torn apart by the conflict was the fact that neither side wanted to lose the island. Iskanemo would have loved to escalate the tension between the two factions until they destroyed each other's production facilities, but he said he would settle for some extensive sabotage. Paqyar still thought it would be suicide. He realized his apprehension could have partially come from the fact that Xia was polluted and barren, in opposition to his element. But that was not as relevant as the danger Paqyar knew was waiting for them.He decided to voice his objection once more. Complaints were all he had left to resort to, as he had already expressed his reasons, but he expected his friends would thank him later for reminding them what a bad idea it was. Before he could form words, Mozmana shushed him. For a moment he thought she had read his mind and preemptively stopped his complaints, then he noticed something up ahead. The landscape abruptly changed from a pleasant green forest to a gray waste, full of black, leafless husks of trees. It was possibly the result of some sort of natural disaster, or perhaps a fire. Yet the Toa felt uneasy as they entered the dead area. That feeling increased when they discovered scattered Rahi carcasses. The bodies seemed to have been dead for months, and the environment had corroded them, but there was no sign of even the smallest scavenger. Not even Protodites had contributed to the decomposition process.“What... what could have done this?” said Iskanemo, who usually seemed so knowledgeable and self-assured.“Killing everything around for kio without leaving a mark on the victims,” said Imlen with disbelief. “I... I've never known of... of anything that could do that.”“Is everything really dead?” said Vilam. “I mean, it looks like it, but...”“I can sense no minds but ours,” said Mozmana. “Anything that I could have detected... they are gone.”“At least that means whatever did that is not around,” said Paqyar, looking around nervously as they walked. “At least, probably not.”“Should we go around?” said Imlen.“Well, something is keeping life from returning here – if it had just killed and left, this would not be so barren after months,” said Vayrag. “So that can't be good.”“Right,” said Mozmana. “This place is making us all uneasy, I can feel it. Let's get around.”The Toa backtracked to the living forest they had left, and headed west without straying into the barren area. After walking for several hours, they came to the western edge of the mysterious devastation, and they traveled north along it. The blighted area went on for several kio on their right, while the only sign anything was amiss in the forest to the left was the scarcity of wildlife. The local Rahi were also afraid of the nearby wasteland, apparently. The Toa were relieved when they finally left the place behind them, but were still nervous, lest whatever had obliterated all life in that area arrive to do the same to them. Yet a kio past the dead land, nature was normal, as if the terrifying place not far to the south did not exist. Soon the Toa stopped to rest, but only for a brief time, and they moved quickly when they resumed their travel.They traveled for a few more days, and they came to a small village that they estimated was about twenty kio from the coast. They noticed the stone huts that formed the village were rather large, and they soon discovered why. It was not a community of Matoran, but rather a species of red-armored beings that were about the same size as Toa. A few of them wore Kanohi, and these appeared to be the more privileged or important ones. The villagers were surprised to see the Toa, which was to be expected in such a place and time. A message was passed to the village leader, who remained shut away in his home. Soon his decision was reported, and the Toa were allowed to take shelter in the village, as it was nearly night. Most of the locals ignored the Toa, but not all were indifferent. Some of them seemed relieved, and hopeful for something.“I can sense your anticipation,” Mozmana said, stepping out of the hut the Toa had been staying in and addressing a nearby villager. “Is there something we can do for you?”“Perhaps,” said the local hesitantly. “We... we have not decided if we should request it of you. That sort of thing is really up to our chief, Merbesi, and he has a lot on his mind already.”“Are you aware of what has happened in the region to the southeast?” said Vilam, who had overheard the others and come outside. “The area in which everything has died?”“It's true, then?” said the villager. “Most of us don't travel far from the village, and when one of our scouts came back telling stories, we didn't believe him. In hindsight, that seems foolish, admit. But, you know, in a boring little village like this people things up for fun sometimes.”“Oh. If you did not expect it was true, I take it what task you have in mind is unrelated,” said Mozmana. “Not that that's a bad thing. Now, come inside, and tell us what we can do for you.”The villager hesitated, and Mozmana repeated her request. Then he looked around, and when no one was looking, he followed the Toa inside. He quickly closed the door flap behind him.“Sorry,” he said. “Merbesi is a good leader, but he is often too proud to ask strangers for help.”“What's going on?” asked Imlen as he noticed the two Toa and the villager enter the hut.“Ask him,” said Vilam.“I'm not sure how important this is,” began the villager. “But some of us have a funny feeling...”“Out with it!” barked Vayrag, and he growled quietly.“Things have been disappearing from the village. Sometimes food, but usually random objects,” said the local. “Of course, we expected one of us was stealing from the others, but we investigated and it seems none of us are guilty. We began to keep a closer watch on our possessions, and discovered that some sort of energy beams were striking the objects and causing them to vanish.”“What did the beams come from?” said Paqyar.“The perpetrator of these thefts, apparently. But we've never even seen him. He shoots them from the shadows, taking the object, then shoots the beam somewhere else, and he disappears.”“Another teleporter, it sounds like,” said Imlen. “We just had a bad experience with one of those. But how do you know the objects are being stolen, and not annihilated?”“Oh. Well, the few times we've come close to catching him, he's dropped some of the objects he seized. But wait, it gets stranger. A few times, the village sentinels have claimed to have been teleported away from their posts, and when they returned, the thief had stolen something else. They were confused, but unharmed.”“Any connection between the objects that have been stolen?” asked Vilam thoughtfully.“Besides the food, some of them might have been useful for surviving in the wilderness. But the others... let's see, there was a map of the center of the continent – as it was before the Cataclysm – a broken mask, a flute, a volcanic rock, a magnet from some tool, some flower petals, some decorative beads... and that's all I can think of.”“I don't get it,” said Imlen after considering the list for a minute. “How long has this been going on, and how often does this thief strike?”“This started about three weeks ago, but only once during the first week. Then he showed up almost every day the last week. Since we've been staying alert, he's only come twice his week. The day before yesterday is when he stole the map.”“This is interesting, and I don't mean to sound insensitive, but we have more important things to worry about,” said Iskanemo. “You may have not noticed, but the Makuta and the Dark Hunters are battling each other over who gets to enslave the universe. We can't stop to help catch some petty thief.”“I think we should help,” countered Imlen. “It's our job to help those in need, and I'm just too curious to just walk away.”“We'll talk this over,” Paqyar turned aside to tell the villager.“Right. Don't tell Merbesi I told you,” he said as he left.“I agree with Imlen,” said Paqyar, turning back to his allies. “Who will trust us if we decline requests for help?”“If that was a request, it was a very, very gently spoken one,” said Iskanemo. “And I suspect you're just saying that to get out of going to Xia.”“Sounds boring anyway,” said Vayrag as Paqyar spluttered a protest. “I want to feel my claws slicing through armor and flesh, and if this thief is as harmless as he sounds, you won't let me do that to him.”“Hold on. Imlen and Paqyar have valid points, but I have more,” said Vilam. “If this is nothing important and easily solved, it will grant us a little relaxation that would be good for us after traveling for weeks. If there's more to it, it might be important enough to satisfy you, and will help us learn to work together.”“Exactly,” said Imlen. “We'll need all the practice we can get before we go to Xia, and think of this as a warm-up.”“So you agree we are going to Xia, then,” said Mozmana.“Well, that's not what I meant. I still need to convince my other teammate, it's – ”“Fine,” said Iskanemo. “Just because I'm too tired to argue.”“Not me,” said Vayrag. “I've been sitting in this hut all night, I need to get out.”“It's only been a couple hours, Vayrag,” said Paqyar. “But I think I have a working compromise.”Paqyar suggested that Mozmana and Vayrag continue north and acquire a new boat. Fortunately, the locals knew enough about the surrounding area to direct them to the nearest coastal village. The two of them left, and the others promised to follow them in no more than five days. The next morning, they were finally brought before Merbesi, to explain why two of them had left and the rest lingered. Instead of telling him their plan, they said they merely wanted to rest a few days. The chief seemed suspicious, and he was nervous about sheltering Toa for long, but he grudgingly allowed it. The Toa suspected he had actually guessed their true purpose and was thankful for it, yet too proud to admit it. Still, they did their best to hide the observation they made of the village over the next three days and nights. On the morning of the fourth day, while the Toa were scattered throughout the village, they heard shouts.They rushed in the direction of the shouts, and found the villagers battling a large Rahi they did not recognize. The villagers were hardy, but the beast was too strong for them. They would be no match for it alone. The Toa released a focused blast of elemental power, and the Rahi roared and turned to them. Another attack caused it to stop in the midst of its charge, and upon being struck by a third elemental blast, the creature fled. The village was safe, but several of the locals had been mauled. The Toa made sure none of them were dead, and did what they could to tend the wounded. Vilam was just helping up one of the villagers, who had been merely stunned, when she saw a flash. Immediately, she ran in its direction. As she ran, a beam of light caught her, dazzling her, and she felt the teleportation effect take hold.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Twenty-one==Merbesi's Village, Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vilam reappeared three bio above the ground. Before she could control her fall, she landed hard on her front. Dazed, she shook her head and got up as quickly as she could. There was another flash at the edge of the forest surrounding the village, and she ran after it. As she ran after the second teleporter she had encountered in the past three weeks, and the second non-Rahi opponent in that time, she missed the Mask of Speed she used to have. That Kanohi had been lost years ago in a battle with Frostelus, and she had since gotten used to relying only on one mask, as her brothers did. But there were times when it would have been very useful. She heard the other three Toa behind her, but she was already far ahead. Once again, she was going to face the teleporting being alone. A doubt entered her mind, a small thought that she should wait for her friends, but she ignored it. If she waited, her quarry would escape.There – another beam of light flashed between the trees. It seemed the thief could not teleport far each time. Vilam sprinted, catching up, and when there was another flash, she could estimate where the beam would end. Aiming carefully through the trees, she released a bolt of lightning that was strong enough to stun an average being. Under the electric crackle the bolt made, she heard a voice cry out. It was not a voice like what she had expected. It sounded much smaller and weaker. Vilam did not let her guard down, and she had her sword ready as she prepared to apprehend the unknown being. When she found her quarry, she nearly dropped her weapon in surprise. Lying still at the base of a tree was a Matoran. Vilam whispered a lamentation as she investigated the motionless body. She had not accounted for the thief being such a small being, and had shocked the Matoran with potentially lethal strength.To her relief, the Matoran – a Ga-Matoran, she noticed – stirred. Before the Matoran opened her eyes, she suffered a spasm. Vilam could sense no electricity shocking her, and held the Matoran still until she stopped twitching to prevent the little being from hurting herself. The Ga-Matoran looked small and weak, even for a Matoran, which were usually quite strong for their size. Her blue and silver armor was filthy and dented. Vilam looked upon the small thief with pity, and wondered why she had been stealing from the village. Obviously, she needed the food and supplies she had stolen to survive alone, but she could have gotten help. Vilam expected the red-armored beings would have been sympathetic, and there were other villages nearby besides. And she could think of no explanation for the theft of the other objects. She helped the Matoran up and greeted her.“Are you alright now?” she asked, and got no answer. “What are you doing out here?”“What's going on?” said Paqyar as he and the others showed up. “Is that a Matoran?”“You mean to tell me these people ignored the story of everything in a large area dying mysteriously, and yet they were freaked out by one Matoran?” said Iskanemo.“The Matoran was actually affecting their lives, and only one of them saw the blighted area,” said Vilam. “And this Matoran can teleport somehow. I wonder how.”“Hey, what are these?” said Imlen, picking up a pair of matching tools.Imlen experimented with the tools, holding one in each hand. He pressed a button on one and found himself teleported several bio away. He aimed the tools at a spot beside his friends and pressed the button. Nothing happened. He waited a brief moment for them to recharge and tried again. This time he reappeared next to them. He looked around for an object to test the tools on, and found a small boulder. By aiming one tool at the boulder and another at its intended destination, he was able to teleport it around. He continued to experiment, and found he was able to aim at two objects at once to reverse their positions, as well as teleport things into the air. That whole time, the Ga-Matoran did not respond to the Toa. She just stood and stared ahead blankly. Imlen rejoined the others. Only when he put a hand on the Matoran's shoulder and attempted to escort her into the village did she finally speak.“No, no!” she cried, and Imlen let her go.“Sorry,” the Toa of Plasma hastily apologized. “But you've been stealing from these people. Don't worry, we can help you. Can you tell us what's going on?”“No help... dust for water... volcano's gone,” the Ga-Matoran babbled.“Did I do this to her?” said Vilam.“I don't think so,” said Iskanemo. “I think this poor Matoran is insane.”“Idris!” the Matoran shouted suddenly. “Idris, don't... don't go!”“If only Mozmana was here,” said Paqyar. “We should bring her to her.”Imlen and Iskanemo went to the village to report what had happened. The villagers were relieved that the phantom thief was only a Matoran. They were disappointed that the Toa had not found any of the stolen objects, but Merbesi told the two Toa to leave that to his people. Apparently, it was already hard on his pride that he had had to rely on others to catch the thief. With difficulty, he managed to thank the Toa for their assistance. The two of them then gathered their belongings and the others', and once they returned to the others outside the village, the group traveled north to the coastal settlement Mozmana and Vayrag had gone to. Imlen took the little Ga-Matoran by the hand, and she allowed him to lead her. Occasionally, she would exclaim something. The Toa could understand most of the words, but not any meaning they might have had.“I remember,” she said that night as they prepared to make camp.“Remember what?” said Vilam, excited by her sudden coherence.“Why did I go? Why did they go? Was it the same reason? No, they went up, I went...” the Matoran whimpered quietly and stopped talking.“Any idea what happened to her?” asked Paqyar.“Something traumatic,” said Imlen. “But I'm not sure what.”The next day the four Toa and the Ga-Matoran came to the coastal village. This one was populated by several types of Matoran. Some of them were Ga-Matoran, but none of them looked like the Matoran the Toa had found. Most of the buildings were huts of wood, though a few were made of green plants in traditional Ga-Matoran style, and a few larger buildings were stone. The Toa were led to a boat maker's home, in which their teammates were lodging. There was not room for all of them in the hut, so they went outside. The Ga-Matoran was introduced to Mozmana, who attempted to tend to her while the others discussed the next step. Apparently, there was no boat in the village large enough for the six of them. The locals informed them about another village to the east. They decided to go there, after resting and settling the matter of the insane Ga-Matoran. They looked for Mozmana, and found she had taken the Ga-Matoran to the edge of the village, where it was quiet.“It's clear she has suffered severe mental trauma,” said Mozmana as the Ga-Matoran sat silently. “There seem to have been two causes, each separate traumatic events. Yet it seems to me the first such event was long before the second, and the memories of it were lost until after the second event. That is to say, a more recent disaster uncovered memories of an earlier one, and the weight of them both has damaged her mind, and she mixes the events together.”“Can you repair her mind?” said Vilam hopefully.“With or without my power, it would take many months,” said Mozmana, shaking her head sadly. “There is no simple wound in her mind, but rather deeply ingrained anguish. I can help reorder her mind, help her control her fear, and feel her memories – which are vague – but to restore her completely...”“Turaga Jovan!” the Ga-Matoran exclaimed. “Turaga! Come back!”“I did not feel that coming,” said Mozmana, clearly surprised. “Have any of you heard of this Turaga Jovan?”“Not me,” said Imlen as the others also responded negative. “I wonder what I will find if I look into the past of her teleporter tools.”Imlen picked up the tools and activated his mask. Immediately, he regretted it. He saw a nightmarish land, with a red sky and gray ground. All was terribly wrong there. Dust poured over mountains, turning stagnant pools to mud. An exhausted-looking Matoran sat on a rock, and before he could get up, he was turned to stone. In a forge worked by terrified slaves, the tools Imlen held in the present were carefully crafted into their final shape. All that flashed through Imlen's mind in a second, and that was all he could bear to watch. If the Ga-Matoran had lived there, it was no surprise that she had gone mad. As he returned to the present, he found he had fallen over and was hyperventilating.“See something bad?” quipped Iskanemo as he helped him up.“Yes,” Imlen croaked. “Some... nightmare land...”“Dust falls!” the Ga-Matoran cried. “And waterfalls – a giant waterfall! The land is gone, the land is gone...”“I saw dust falls,” said Imlen. “And 'a giant waterfall'... do you think she's talking about the center of the continent?”“That would make sense, especially since she stole a map of that area as it used to be,” said Mozmana. “But that does not explain the other event that happened, and that place you – ”“Karzahni!” the Ga-Matoran suddenly screamed.“Karzahni?” echoed Paqyar. “That place is just a myth, isn't it? Or is it a mythical person?”“She has some very painful memories,” said Mozmana. “I do not wish to make her experience them again.”“What about her name?” said Vilam. “Does she remember it?”“Her name was slowly being forgotten as a result of living alone, but I pulled the memory forth from obscurity. Her name is Sisretan,” said Mozmana, and the Ga-Matoran looked at her as if she had addressed her. “That, at least, is a step in the right direction. If we could take her with us until she was cured, I would, but our future will be far too dangerous. The villagers here have agreed to accept her into their community. These are good people, I sense. They will care for her.”“So, we'd better get some rest before heading to the next village,” said Imlen. “Let's hope that's the last stop before we can finally get back onto the ocean.”“Wait, I have an idea,” said Paqyar, and he went into town.Paqyar went to talk some Matoran, and the other Toa introduced Sisretan to her new comrades. Most of them did not seem happy about accepting a crazed, unwashed kleptomaniac into their community, but it was impossible for them to see the small Ga-Matoran without feeling pity for her. She seemed happier among other Matoran, and soon she walked to the beach. She seemed almost cheerful now, and the villagers allowed her to swim in the sea under careful supervision. When she emerged from the water, her armor was still far from glistening, but it was no longer caked with mud. Imlen smiled as he saw another Ga-Matoran take her hand and lead her off. Then he frowned curiously as he heard a splash from another direction. He and the others went to investigate, and they saw Paqyar standing proudly before an enormous floating piece of wood. Looking closer, Imlen could see the piece of wood was hollow, and very vaguely boat-shaped.“I don't feel like taking another walk,” he said. “So with some help from these fine crafters, I'm going to make our own boat.”“That's... enterprising of you,” said Imlen, and he could not help but laugh.“How long do you suppose it will take?” asked Vilam.“If this hull I just made is adequate, a few days,” said Paqyar.“Just a few days? And there's a catch to this, isn't there?” said Iskanemo. “You won't let us take this to Xia, will you?”“I've come to accept the inevitable,” said Paqyar. “There's no way to talk you out of it, so that's that. So on the contrary, I am planning for this boat to be disposable.”“Show some optimism, Paqyar,” said Mozmana. “We've had a long time to plan this. And Iskanemo, don't be so cynical.”“Something good enough for us to get to Xia, and then scuttle with no great loss,” said Imlen. “I like your idea. Let me know what I can do.”“But we will still need to pay to get this working, right?” said Vilam.“Yes, but the price will be small for something as crude as I have in mind,” said Paqyar. “Especially since I can provide most of the raw materials.”Over the next three days, the Toa and the boat makers of the village worked together to turn the crude hull into a crude functional vessel. Paqyar provided additional wood for the decks, which the Matoran hastily nailed into place. The village's stock of metal was small, and expensive, but the Toa bought enough to make a motor. A few Matoran set to work building the engine, which would make it much faster than a sailboat, yet not as fast as the Steltian vessels. For the craft to be seaworthy and fast enough to serve its purpose, the wooden hull would need to be smoothed and streamlined. A team of Ga-Matoran got to work on that, and the Toa were pleased to see Sisretan working alongside her new friend. She still barely spoke at all, and even then only in mostly random phrases, but she had behaved herself. Mozmana was confident that she would someday communicate clearly with her new brothers and sisters.When the boat was ready, Mozmana went to confer with the villagers one last time about how to help Sisretan recover. While she did that, the other Toa brought the supplies they had salvaged aboard, long with some additional supplies they purchased. When that was done, the Toa thanked the Matoran for their assistance, and said farewell to Sisretan. They promised to visit again someday if they had the chance. The afflicted Ga-Matoran only stared blankly at them, until another Matoran led her away. Then the Toa boarded their new ship and set a course for Xia. The route took them near Stelt, and they turned to take a wide route around that island. In the afternoon of the day after they left the Southern Continent, they came close to the shores of Xia. In keeping with the plan, they kept the vessel well out of sight from the shore as they moved to part of the island they expected to have low security. There they moored the vessel, and rested.They waited until it was late at night, when the stars would have shone down on them had they not been obscured by smog. Then they sailed as close as they dared. The trick here was to avoid detection. Mozmana held up a hand for them to stop, then she and Iskanemo plunged overboard and swam the rest of the way to the shore. Once it was certain they had reached land safely, the other four sailed around to another part of the island. They brought the boat in for a landing at the cargo unloading docks for a factory. As expected, that place was heavily defended. Vilam took the helm while the other three Toa battled against defensive emplacements. When they were close enough, Paqyar hurled Kanoka at the defenses, using his Mask of Rebounding to retrieve and reuse any disks that did not break or fall into the sea.The vessel was quickly riddled with gaping holes, and Vilam brought it against one of the docks. The last major projectile launcher destroyed itself by firing open the boat at dangerously close range. The resulting twin explosions caused the hull to splinter, and the Toa jumped onto the land. Local security was quickly converging on the docks, supported by Brotherhood enforcers. All six of the Toa had landed on Xia, and all was going according to plan.Review

Edited by The Iron Toa

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End of YrentaChapter Twenty-two==Armaments Production and Shipment Districts, Xia, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vayrag rampaged through the streets, blasting and mauling hired guards along with Brotherhood soldiers, Exo-Toa, and Rahkshi. Behind him ran the three other Toa. A powerfully-charged Rhotuka caused a large group of enemies to magnetize to each other, allowing Imlen and Vilam to defeat them with their combined powers. Paqyar was especially nauseated by the pollution of the island, and he had to expend additional energy to keep the plants he summoned strong enough to fight. Fortunately for him, he still had plenty of Kanoka left, though he was saving the powerful Fire disk for an emergency. He realized that every moment was potentially an emergency, and hoped that he would recognize the most desperate moment before it was too late. The security force moved to close the gap in its lines, and local officers saw to their wounded allies. The Exo-Toa and Rahkshi stepped on and crushed living and dead bodies alike.That last attack had cost too much elemental energy for the Toa to maintain such a strategy, and the group they had taken out was a small portion of the security force present. Vilam spotted two possible hiding locations: a warehouse and a waste processing center. She gave her comrades a subtle signal, then cried out and pointed in the direction of the warehouse. The Xian and Makuta forces moved to cut the Toa off as they ran towards the warehouse, then the Toa split up and evaded them. Stealthily, each of the Toa changed direction and headed in the direction of the waste processing center. Imlen was the first to arrive, and he ducked behind an enormous waste receptacle. As he expected of such a thing on Xia, the waste processing was very minimal. Byproducts and refuse of every sort were buried, burned, or floated down greasy slicks that led either to the sea or Xia's single stream.“Where's Vayrag?” said Imlen after he and the others had waited for a minute.“I've been here,” said the Toa Hordika, climbing down and around from the other side of the waste container.“Whoa, startled me there,” said Paqyar. “Vilam, are you sure this is a good idea? This place looks rather hazardous, and unless you're relying on the chance we'll be beneficially mutated by energized garbage...”“Just a temporary stop,” said Vilam quickly as she began to move again. “Look for another place to hide.”“Quickly, they'll be spreading out to look for us,” said Imlen, scanning the area.“I just hope they don't spread out far enough to find Mozmana and – in there!” Paqyar indicated a derelict-looking building just as the sounds of security forces got uncomfortably close.A trio of Vortixx enforcers spotted them as they ran to the building. Vilam half-turned and released a triple bolt that knocked all three of them out. She hoped that encounter went unnoticed long enough. The Toa entered the run-down structure, and found it was pitch black inside. They slowed to a careful walk and groped their way around in the dark. They found nothing but walls, and after a few minutes Imlen dared to create a dim globe of plasma in his raised hand. There was no hostile response from inside or outside, so he maintained the light, allowing himself and his allies to look around. The building was indeed abandoned. It looked like it had once been a factory, but it was hard to be certain, as it had been stripped clean of machinery. It had not, however, been cleaned of dust and grime. The windows were so filthy all light from the outside was blocked, and Imlen guessed that even in the night, his light would not be seen from outside.But it was only a matter of time until the local security and Brotherhood forces came upon the factory in their search. And an abandoned building was an obvious place to hide. After another minute to rest and recover, the Toa crawled through a small delivery chute of some kind on the other side of the building. As Paqyar came out last, a security team led by two Rahkshi came upon the Toa. There was no chance to be stealthy at this time, so Imlen, Vilam, and Paqyar merged into Samruna. The Toa Kaita scattered the entire group with a swing of his arms, and Vayrag took out one of the Rahkshi before it could recover. The other Rahkshi reduced its density, causing it to be immune to his claws, and floated away. The Hordika launched a Rhotuka at it and missed, then snarled and turned to the others. Samruna conserved his elemental energy, and used his size and strength to pummel the Xian and Makuta enforcers. Vayrag made sure those who fell would not get back up.As the Kaita and the Hordika took out the last two members of the security team, the Rahkshi of Density Control returned with reinforcements. Samruna then called upon his elemental powers, and along with Vayrag's, he immediately devastated a large portion of the reinforcements. Vayrag brought a couple damaged Exo-Toa down on the survivors. Three Rahkshi remained. Samruna hurled a volley of Kanoka, and one of the Rahkshi was struck by a Weaken Disk that allowed him to shatter it with a thrown piece of rubble. A second Rahkshi was struck by another disk, and shrunk to the size of a Matoran. Vayrag pulled it to him with his magnetism powers and shredded it. Again the Rahkshi of Density control turned nearly intangible and attempted to flee. That did not save it from Samruna's plasma powers. The Rahkshi were the last members of the security team to be defeated, but an even larger force was converging on the district. The Makuta of Xia – or whomever was overseeing the island in his absence – had surely been informed of the situation.Samruna separated into the Toa that had formed him, and the three of them plus Vayrag took cover and looked for another place to hide. They spotted a packaging facility of some sort with an unguarded entrance, and ran inside. There was a small night shift of guards and workers on duty, and the Toa attacked swiftly, hoping to render them unconscious before anyone could sound an alarm. The Toa noticed too late that there were many other workers sleeping at their posts, and the sound of battle woke these off-duty workers. The workers scattered, and the Toa knew even if none of them cared if the Toa were caught, the commotion would be noticed by the searching security force. Yet as the Toa ran outside, they noticed their intrusion and the search for them had caused confusion among the locals. Fleeing workers woke their neighbors, and the streets filled with agitated laborers, overseers, and guards.The searching Brotherhood enforcers did not react with patience. After a brief attempt to bring order to the crowd, they moved through and over the mess of confused Vortixx. From inside a building whose workers had just run outside, the Toa saw this. They did not know how satisfied the Vortixx were with their working conditions, but being trampled by Rahkshi and occupying soldiers was enough to irritate anyone. The spark to ignite a riot came in the form of a series of blasts from a Panrahk that destroyed a large workshop the Toa had recently passed. The workers inside attempted to flee as the building crumbled. Some of them made it, others emerged from the rubble with various injuries. A few of them did not emerge from the ruins. The brown Rahkshi began to shatter the fragments of rubble, looking for the Toa underneath. Of course, the Toa were not in the pile, but several innocent Vortixx were.The locals did not like that. The workers that had escaped from the shop surrounded the Panrahk and tore it apart. As the machine was being destroyed, it resisted, and two more Vortixx were slain. Ordinarily, Vortixx were content to work for whomever, as long as they were paid. Fighting with the customers was bad for business. But, in the opinion of the low-ranking laborers that did most of the work in the district, the Brotherhood had just crossed the line. The workers went from clogging the streets in confusion to actively resisting the enforcers. The Toa ran out into the streets, and saw how quickly and ferociously the riot was spreading. Brotherhood soldiers and Xian security officers were assaulted, Exo-Toa were toppled, and even many more Rahkshi were destroyed. Reinforcements continued to pour into the district, and soon the rioters would be mercilessly subjugated.“I think the others have had enough time,” said Vilam as they took shelter in another empty building.“I agree. We should be able to steal a boat from the docks easily enough, if we hurry,” said Paqyar.“What about the workers?” said Imlen. “It's already turning into a massacre.”“It will be for us, too, if we don't get out of here,” said Vilam. “There's too many of them, there's nothing we can do.”“We didn't tell them to riot, or even ask them nicely,” said Paqyar. “And this frenzy is getting to Vayrag.”“It sure is,” growled Vayrag. “I want to be out there, tearing through my enemies!”“Shh, you'll give us away!” Imlen shushed the Hordika as he howled, and turned to the others. “You're right. We've done all we can do loosen the Brotherhood's grip on Xia. Let's go.”Just then, something hit the walls of the building from outside. The Toa dodged and fled the building as it trembled and the ceiling started to collapse. Vortixx typically took too much pride in their work to vandalize their own workplaces, but there was bound to be collateral damage in such a struggle. As he and the others ran towards the docks, Imlen grimly wondered what would be more difficult and costly: rebuilding, or replacing the workers that had rebelled. The Toa soon found they were not the only ones fleeing to the sea. With the exception of exiles, low-ranking male Vortixx were not allowed to leave the island. Exile would be the most merciful punishment any captured rioters could hope to receive, so those who realized it was a lost cause were voluntarily leaving the island. But though the rioters were outnumbered, they were not all outmatched in terms of firepower.Many of the rogue laborers had looted weapons from the very armaments factories they worked in, and were using the high-tech devices to blast their way to freedom, or just blast as many enforcers as they could before they were overwhelmed. This contributed to the destruction of the district's buildings, and the air was becoming even smoggier than usual as fire spread, burning pollutants of all kinds. The Toa took cover against a wall and wheezed. Fleeing rioters passed them, and when they continued, they found the escaping Vortixx rebels in battle with a large force of Rahkshi, Brotherhood soldiers, and guards and officers that remained loyal to the Makuta. Several of the rioters managed to get onto boats, most of which were sunk. Imlen heard a Vortixx enforcer loudly complain to a Brother soldier as a particularly large cargo transport was destroyed.“On the count of three,” he said as they took shelter around a corner. “One...”“Need to shred enemies now!” interrupted Vayrag, and with a feral roar he charged into the fight.“Okay, now!” said Imlen.The battle for the docks was horrifically chaotic. Haze that burned the lungs spread outward and downward until it was all the way to the ground, and it obscured the combatants' vision. The Toa coughed and wheezed as they fought the security forces, while attempting to see a suitable escape vessel through the toxic fog. Vayrag was lashing out half-blindly, and all the other Toa could do was keep a safe distance from him and hope he could continue to evade attacks with his senses blocked. There were over a dozen Rahkshi, and the Toa knew that were it not for the rioters, they would have had no chance. Yet the rebels were only enraged and heavily armed laborers, and they were no match for the Rahkshi and trained soldiers despite their superior weapons. Paqyar had given up using his elemental powers in this environment, and again resorted to throwing Kanoka. His friends heard him call out, and saw him pointing to something. Vilam and Imlen strained and through the haze they could just barely see a nearby boat. Even in this pollution, which he was so unsuited for, Paqyar seemed to have the best eyes. Imlen turned back to acknowledge him, and found Paqyar was not where he had been.“Paqyar!” he called. “Where did you go?”There was no response, and he repeated the call, this time loudly enough to be heard over the sounds of battle. Still, there was no reply. Then a Rahkshi of Weather Control created a wind that blew the smog away for a short time, and Imlen saw Paqyar. Or rather, he saw what was left of him. That wasn't much more than a pair of legs. A shocked Vortixx rioter with an enormous cannon mounted on his shoulder still stood over the remains. Imlen snarled and tackled the Vortixx. Vilam and Vayrag were busy fighting on their own, so they did not notice him vengefully assaulting the confused rioter. The air around him superheated and ionized, and the Vortixx wailed as his armor glowed red-hot. Imlen savagely beat the unlucky rebel with his staff, causing his melting armor to ripple and splash. The Vortixx fainted, and before Imlen could finish him, a strong hand restrained the Toa of Plasma. Imlen started to protest to Vilam, then realized the hand was not Vilam's at all. Nor was it Vayrag's, or any other Toa's. He looked up and saw a face that did not look out of place at all here, then he realized he had seen that particular face before, about seven years ago.“He didn't mean to, you know,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter. “Toa aren't murderers.”“Unlike Dark Hunters,” retorted Imlen.“I'm just a simple Vortixx, doing my part to improve the lives of my people,” said the Dark Hunter.“Sure you are,” said Imlen sarcastically. “Aren't Vortixx all about the individual putting himself first?”“Does this seem like a good time to discuss cultural stereotypes to you?” said the Dark Hunter as he defended himself, Imlen, and the beaten rioter from advancing Rahkshi.“Good point. And you haven't stabbed me in the back yet,” said Imlen, turning to help the Dark Hunter finish off a fourth and fifth Rahkshi. “Didn't back in my homeland either.”“Thanks for noticing,” said the Dark Hunter, and he called to Vilam and Vayrag. “Hey, you – Lightning Toa and... beast Toa... thing – over here!”“Paqyar? No!” cried Vilam as she ran over and saw what had happened.“Who did this?” demanded Vayrag. “I'll rip out their...”“Never mind!” snapped the Dark Hunter, earning a defiant growl from the Toa Hordika. “The Weather Control Rahkshi are gone, and soon the smog will be so dense you'll be running into each other, if you don't suffocate first. Luckily, I found – ”He had to stop mid-sentence to fight off the Rahkshi, soldiers, and security officers. The last of the rioters at the docks had been defeated, and the Vortixx Dark Hunter and the Toa stood against a few remaining Rahkshi and many others. Before anyone else could attack, the Dark Hunter took out two of the Rahkshi, then jumped back and held up the Level Eight Disk of Fire.“ – this,” he finished. “Now run! Now!”The Toa complied, rushing for the nearest vessel. The boat Paqyar had pointed out was gone, but there was another not far from where it had been. A flash of light, a rush of heat, and the roar of fire erupted simultaneously behind them as they ran. The Toa nearly fell over. When they recovered, they continued to run, and a moment later they jumped off the high dock into the boat. Before dropping down, Imlen turned to see the results of the fireball. Of the entire group that was advancing on them, no one was left standing. Of course, more enforcers were on their way from deeper into the district. The Dark Hunter was not there, but Imlen just barely saw a figure moving rapidly among the buildings in the distance. The fire was nearly extinguished, though the smog was still enough to make him dizzy. Before he could fall, or be attacked by the enemy reinforcements, he followed his allies into the boat.“I hope Mozmana and Iskanemo are alright,” said Vayrag as they launched the boat and set a course to where the team had split up.“They'll want to stay here when they meet me,” growled Imlen. “That's a good idea, actually. Let's leave them behind.”“What are you saying, Imlen?” said Vilam with disbelief. “We – ”“It's their fault Paqyar is dead,” said Imlen bitterly. “This was all their idea.”“Don't talk like that about them,” warned Vayrag.“We agreed to help them,” said Vilam, who continued to steer the boat to the rendezvous point. “Do you really mean to betray them?”“We didn't have a choice,” said Imlen. “It's not betrayal, it's... it's... what they deserve.”“You monster. If you want your barbaric revenge, you'll have to deal with me first,” said Vayrag, readying his Rhotuka launcher.“Ever heard the expression 'the Lohrak calling the Stone Ape ugly'?” retorted Imlen.With that, Imlen and Vayrag began to fight.Review

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End of YrentaChapter Twenty-three==Off the Coast of Xia, Matoran Universe==~543 AGC~

Vayrag launched his Rhotuka, and a powerful magnetic force began to deform Imlen's armor. Before either of them could make another move, Vilam intervened.“Stop!” shouted Vilam, and she struck Imlen with a bolt of lightning that knocked him out. “Sorry about that, Imlen. And Vayrag. Don't worry, he'll get over it.”“He'd better,” said Vayrag, demagnetizing Imlen's armor and putting his launcher away.Dawn had come and was passing when Vilam brought the boat to the rendezvous point. Imlen had been awake for a while, and he was sulking. He seemed too upset to do or say anything. Vilam knew how he felt, but she also knew they were not safe yet. She kept the boat anchored, and waited. A little while later, Mozmana and Iskanemo appeared on the shore, just barely close enough to be seen. As the two of them prepared to swim, a lean, dark figure came out of the shadows and struck them both from behind. Vilam gasped as she saw them fall, and immediately raised the anchor and headed towards the land. Whether or not Imlen had noticed what had happened, he did not react. At full speed, it only took a few minutes to reach the shore, but that was almost too long for Vayrag. As soon as the boat was close enough, he leaped out of the boat and pounced on his friends' attacker.“Whoa, wait,” said the Vortixx Dark Hunter as he caught Vayrag mid-pounce with one hand and set him down. “They're alright. Sorry, I needed to get your attention, and prevent these two from reacting rashly to my appearance.”“I should still maul you for treating my friends like that,” growled Vayrag, checking on his friends and trying to wake them. “But I... I don't think I could beat you. Who are you?”“He saved us a couple times years ago, back home,” said Vilam as she came ashore, followed by the silent Imlen. “But he's a Dark Hunter.”“What do you want, then, Dark Hunter?” said Vayrag. “Off-duty from killing Toa?”“I don't usually get those jobs,” said the Dark Hunter casually. “But before we say any more, let's wake these two. And before that, I'd better make things a little safer.”Before the Toa could question that, he moved swiftly to disarm them. Half-reflexively, they fought back, and the Dark Hunter dodged or endured their attacks effortlessly. Seconds later, Imlen's staff, Vilam's sword, and a knife Vayrag had been carrying were lying at his feet. Of course, he could not steal their elemental power, nor harmlessly remove Vayrag's claws, but he had again asserted his superior combat ability. He added Mozmana's sword and Iskanemo's sickle to the pile, and woke the unconscious Toa. As the two of them got up, the Dark Hunter showed the courtesy to place his own weapons on the ground in front of him. Vilam was certain that he was still capable of defeating them even while disarmed. Upon getting up, Iskanemo and Mozmana immediately prepared for combat, then relaxed when they noticed no one was fighting.“What's going on?” said Iskanemo, seeing the pile of weapons in the midst of the group.“Sorry for my rude greeting,” chuckled the Vortixx Dark Hunter. “I've come to discuss something with you.”“Where's – ” Mozmana began to say, suddenly noticing the missing member of the team.“Paqyar is dead,” Imlen chose that moment to speak. “Because of you.”“Oh. Oh, no,” said Mozmana, and Iskanemo muttered a curse word regretfully.“Yes, it's true,” said Imlen angrily. “And I want nothing more to do with you. Let's go, Vilam.”“Hold on there, Jet, hear me out,” said the Vortixx as he grabbed the turning Toa of Plasma's shoulder.“My name is Imlen,” Imlen responded indignantly to the nickname. “What do you want?”“To have Toa Zima taken out,” said the Hunter.“Zima? He's still around?” said Vilam with surprise.“So you are out to kill Toa,” said Vayrag suspiciously.“Zima is a villain,” explained Imlen. “A servant of the Makuta, and traitor to the word 'Toa'.”“And the Makuta that oversees your part of the Northern Continent – Teskor – has made him his champion,” said the Dark Hunter. “Since he defeated us in Yrenta, Zima has been assigned to hunt his fellow Toa.”“And has he... had any success?” said Mozmana apprehensively.“He has killed several Toa,” confirmed the Vortixx. “I believe his mission is to convert them to the Makuta cause, but as far as I know, every one of his targets has resisted. That's no surprise, really.”“Why do you care about this?” said Iskanemo. “Your kind is one of the factions most responsible for the decline in our numbers.”“Well, you Toa do interfere a lot...” said the Dark Hunter.“Like what you've been doing?” said Imlen.“Point taken. But I personally don't want to see Toa go extinct. More relevantly, Zima must be eliminated because he is dangerous as an individual and as a symbol. Makuta Teskor is using him to demoralize his enemies and gain prestige among his allies. It's working.”“It sounds like he's not on Yrenta,” said Imlen. “And I plan to – ”“Return home and free your people,” interrupted the Hunter. “I know. But listen: if a Toa's responsibility to help those in need means nothing to you, you at least have a grievance against Zima. Even if you do not care for his other victims, you can at least consider this part of your quest. And I know you mean to battle Teskor. I cannot expect you to triumph over him. He is a lesser among his brethren, but a Makuta all the same. But you would have no chance if Zima was protecting him.”“If Zima is far from Yrenta, he will not be able to defend his Makuta,” said Vilam.“I never said he was far from Yrenta. Last I heard, he was somewhere else on the same continent. I do not know what the effective range of a Makuta's teleportation power is, but I suggest you consider that.”“So this Zima is a rogue Toa working for the Makuta...” said Iskanemo.“A Toa of Ice, and Teskor's last Toa Hagah,” the Dark Hunter clarified. “It is said he killed his teammates himself.”“And if he is linked to Imlen and Vilam's homeland, they should be happy to hunt him down,” said the Toa of Air. “Very well – ”“Wait. This is a job for Vilam and I,” said Imlen. “I told you, I am done with you three. And you, Dark Hunter... do you have any more information?”“I'm not going to just give you directions,” said the Vortixx. “I'm taking you there.”“You? But – ” Imlen began to protest.“And we are going too,” Mozmana said, stretching her arms to indicate herself, Vayrag, and Iskanemo.“No time to argue,” said the Dark Hunter as the Toa noticed mechanical whirring and heavy footsteps coming closer.A small group of Rahkshi and an Exo-Toa had found them. They were no match for five Toa and an expert Dark Hunter operative together, but the presence of the intruders had now been detected. The Toa and the Dark Hunter grabbed their weapons and destroyed the Brotherhood patrol. When the fight was over, the Dark Hunter plunged into the water and swam for the boat. Imlen pulled Vilam's hand and they followed him. He knew the other Toa were also following, but he could do nothing to prevent that. He was fatigued and weary with grief, so the others passed him. Mozmana helped Vilam into the boat, and with Vilam's help Imlen climbed up last. He scowled at the others for a moment, then gave up on keeping them out of his business. He went down to the vessel's hold to be alone. The hold was empty, and so he had a lot of space to himself down there. A small corner of his consciousness hoped they would get to their destination before they needed supplies, but he mostly did not think about that.He could only focus on the fact that Paqyar was dead. Imlen had lost many friends before becoming a Toa, but that had been years ago, and members of a Toa team shared a special bond. Paqyar had been killed instantly and by accident, too. No heroic sacrifice, no time for meaningful last words. And it was supposed to be his last stop before finally returning home. Paqyar had not wanted to go to Xia, he had known it was too dangerous, and no one had listened. Well, they had listened, but they not considered his concerns to be of any worth. With a shock, Imlen realized that he had also ignored his brother's warnings. Iskanemo also had a good point about the Toa's duty to protect the entire universe, and Imlen had not been eager to listen to his wisdom. Still, Imlen felt it was wrong of Iskanemo and Mozmana to persuade him and his friends into going on a mission they were not ready for. With seven years of experience, Imlen, Paqyar, and Vayrag were no longer novices, but Iskanemo knew they were far less experienced than his team.And yet no one had forced Imlen to take his team to Xia. In turn, he had not forced his teammates, but no one was expecting Paqyar or Vilam to leave him. The bond between the two teams of three Toa was much weaker than the bonds between the individual team members. As Imlen thought of this, his anger at the other Toa turned into shame, along with the grief and regret he already had. He suddenly felt exhausted, and went to sleep. Later, he snapped awake and saw Mozmana's hand reaching above him. She displayed a smile that was visible through a gap in her Mask of Healing, and bent down to help Imlen up. He did not respond, and she said nothing. She turned and left, and Imlen remained in the hold, though he felt a little better. He suspected her psychic abilities were partially responsible for that.Vilam was not as angry, and did not display her emotions as openly, but she was equally as upset. It was never easy, but Vilam had learned to not be crippled by grief, and instead endure it or harness it to do what must be done. Paqyar had died on a mission for the three other Toa, and so Vilam resolved to make sure Mozmana and her friends fulfilled their promise to help the Toa from Yrenta with their quest. She tried to plan what exactly to do when they reached the northern continent, and if they defeated Zima, what to do after that, but she was too tired. No one spoke, so it was easy for her to fall asleep. The other Toa took turns sleeping, always leaving two to watch the Dark Hunter as he brought the boat to the northern coast of the Northern Continent. They knew the Vortixx could kill any of them, maybe even all of them, if he wanted to. He had not shown even a tiny hint of any intention to do so, but Mozmana and Iskanemo were still unhappy about being knocked unconscious, and as a rule, Toa did not trust Dark Hunters.After a meandering voyage through waterways and along coastlines that lasted about three days, the boat came to its destination on the Northern Continent. The Vortixx brought the boat to a large Matoran port on the western side of the trapezoidal cape in the center of the continent's northern coast. Viewing the coast from the boat, the Toa could see the settlement was built in various traditional small-village styles, with huts of stone and plant material, like Sisretan's new home. However, it was much larger than the Southern Continent village the Toa had sailed away from. This was large enough to be called a city by Matoran standards, though it was far less urbanized than the lost island of Metru Nui. Before sailing into the port, the Dark Hunter had the boat anchored where it was and summoned the Toa into the hold.“I haven't had anything to drink since yesterday,” said Vayrag, demonstrating his dry, creaking joints. “Could we get to the town already?”“Hungry, too,” groaned Imlen. “We should have stolen a boat that had enough food aboard to last the journey.”“You can get your supplies once you're in town,” said the Vortixx. “I'll drop you off as soon as we're done here.”“This is the place?” asked Imlen.“If my information is correct, he's somewhere nearby,” said the Dark Hunter with a nod.“But I thought you were going to help