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Falling in the Black
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Story
Setting
Date Set
1,003 AGC
Timeline
Previous
Concurrent
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Falling in the Black was a story set on the Southern Continent in the Fractures Universe. It was written by BobTheDoctor27 and Abc8920.

The events of this story serial take place around the same point as Frozen Calling, set roughly nine months after the events of Whispers in the Dark and three months after Over Your Shoulder.

Story[]

Chapter 1[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27


Screams in the dark.

The yell of a Matoran sentinel pierced the silence of the night. The village exploded into life. Fully awake warriors were already racing towards the guard by the time Sarnii managed to whirl around from her watching post near the main gate. Torches were flung into the shadows, causing fiery trails of orange light to burn through the darkness, revealing the scene.

Sarnii could just about make out the shape of Rakui, a Le-Matoran sentry who was new to watch duty… and a brutish Rahkshi of Fragmentation. The Matoran of Lightning’s heat-light skipped a blink at the sight of the monstrous creature, at how it was clutching the almost certainly-doomed Matoran of Air in its claws – as if it was closer to a Toa than a terrifying creature that had been spat out of some Makuta’s backside.

Goll – the village’s stoic, battle-hardened leader – was the first on the scene. The Po-Matoran snarled before advancing on the monster, swinging his weapons and hacking wildly, burying one of his axes deep into the Rahkshi’s thick, muscular legs. It screeched in pain but didn’t release its grip on Rakui. Instead, the Rahkshi lashed out at Goll with a clawed, slimy fist, knocking the warrior down. Before the Pakari Nuva-wearer could return to his feet the creature hissed and clamped its nightmarish jaws around Rakui’s neck. The Bo-Matoran’s eyes bulged as his throat was crushed.

Sarnii looked away, not wanting to see the expression on the Le-Matoran’s Kanohi Garai. Instead she found her eyes resting upon a trio of warriors as they charged towards the Rahkshi, a Le-Matoran named Torlo at the lead. The Panrahk didn’t hesitate to swing its staff at the closest of the advancing villagers, a Po-Matoran.

The Matoran was slow. The tip of the weapon struck him directly in the eye as he charged forwards, sending a spray of broken circuits and shattered metal splinters to the ground. The warrior crumpled to his knees, screaming in agony at the loss of his eye.
A burst of blue energy surged from one of Torlo’s weapons, striking the Rahkshi square in the head. The creature grunted as the Le-Matoran’s Mental Bolt Launcher’s effects kicked in. Almost instantly the Rahkshi’s mind went into overload. Its memory became a scramble of images and shapes flashing across the creature’s fractured mind. Soon enough, the Panrahk fell into a vegetative trance and toppled backwards, its Kraata crippled beyond recovery

Nobody took any chances. Goll, who had returned to his feet, pushed his way to the front of the mob of warriors and produced a knife from a sheath strapped to his back. With a single, infuriated roar, he drove the blade deep into the Rahkshi’s spine. Making a hole in the casing, the Po-Matoran wrenched the metal apart with his bare hands then tore the paralyzed Kraata out. He grunted in disgust then threw the creature to the ground. It squirmed around for a moment before another warrior’s armored heel stamped down on it, crushing the organic slug into pulp.

“More!” came a call from near the gate. It was late – later than the village was usually attacked. Most of the villagers on the main watch had long since retired for the night, replaced by some of the less experienced warriors. Their eyes and audio receptors were usually sharp, but this close to dawn, most of them were tired and sluggish. They’d been caught off guard. The Rahkshi had the advantage.

Matoran spilled out of huts. Hands locked around spears, swords, axes, and knives as groggy fighters wrenched themselves from of their beds and joined their fellow villagers in the unorganized gaggle of fighters. At least a half-dozen Rahkshi began to pound the high wooden barriers that encircled the village, tearing planks of rotten wood apart in sprays of splinters as they climbed over. The wooden barrier was only remotely effective against Visorak: Rahkshi were a different matter.

The Panrahk must have been a diversion . Or at least it just had a terrible sense of direction, as most walking slugs in suits of armor tended to have.

Goll finally put his embarrassment at the hands of the Rahkshi of shattering behind him and began barking out orders. He bellowed at those on watch who had drifted away from their posts.

“Stay the hell where you are!” he roared ferociously. “Call to me if your area is clear.”

The trembling guards looked at each other – debating whether or not a scolding from Goll was worse than almost certain death at their posts. In the end, they decided to do as they were told, hoping that somebody else got mauled by Rahkshi.

Sarnii turned back to her post and watched the guards return to their positions, waving torches over their heads as they peered into the darkness.

“Clear,” yelled one of them, a Po-Matoran named Turas. Like usual, his Kanohi Rode was stricken with a peculiar mix of doubt and fear, unusual traits in a Po-Matoran but not something Sarnii had ever lost too much sleep over.

“Clear,” echoed Fiancha. The Onu-Matoran was a lot more relaxed than his fellow guards but there was still a trace of dread in his voice. Although his Akaku Nuva twisted his face into a natural squint, his eyes were open wide enough to give him away – even in the little light that the torches created.

In turn, the other guards yelled out similar warnings.

Clear.”

Clear.

A conceited Ko-Matoran named Kyros snorted then glanced at his area. He was clearly irritated about being posted as a guard. The power hungry Matoran of Ice had been seeking to overthrow Goll as the village’s leader for years. But still, for public appearance, he bore his tremendous burden and began to shout “Clea-” only to flinch and curse halfway through.

“NO!” he wailed. “There’s one of them over here.”

Sarnii watched as Goll turned to the warriors surrounding him. “With me,” he ordered the other warriors who'd met the first attack, plucking up one of his axes from the Panrahk’s leg as he spoke. The Vo-Matoran could see rage in his face. He wasn’t fuming about the Rahkshi though, but himself. He'd made a mistake with the first one and let it knock him down. That wouldn’t happen again.

As the warriors engaged the invading Rahkshi, Sarnii moved to the center of the fortified village. Normally she threw herself into fights without thinking, but the first attack had given her reason to be cautious. Although living on the Southern Continent was dangerous, deaths were rare enough. Rakui’s brutal murder had been one of the first that month. Sarnii had almost forgotten the number one rule of surviving on Voya-Nui these days:

Stick to a group and let someone else die first.

The Matoran of Lightning was surprised to see Connla – the village’s healer – charging into battle. That was strange. The Ga-Matoran was considered too valuable to risk. Her knowledge of both plant life and medicine were unrivaled by any of the other inhabitants of the dying breed of resistance fighters. Although Sarnii doubted the shy Pakari-wearer could deal much damage to even the weakest of Rahkshi, the others in the fortress liked to think otherwise. Everybody had their doubts of the Ga-Matoran, but they just pretended she was some great healer – mistress of all things magic and supernatural. The lie seemed to comfort them, giving them a faint glimmer of hope, but not Sarnii. She was too old for fairy tales like that. Any story that ended “and they all lived happily ever after” served only a slightly higher purpose in life than a broken Kanohi as far as her 100,000 years in the Matoran Universe showed. If experience had taught her anything it was that there were no happy endings in life, full stop.

That was Sarnii’s life. She could overcome great obstacles, face great dangers, look evil in the eye and live to tell the tale – but that was never the end. Her life was controlled by a cruel, omnipotent child high up in the heavens. It swept her up, swung her around, bruised and battered her, then seemed to drop her in some new drama or tragedy.

As long as you’re still breathing, your story’s still going.

A blue and silver armored Rahkshi managed to make it over the wooden barrier of the fortress – a Rahkshi of Gravity. It had demonic red eyes and a large, monstrous jaw that was filled with a mixture of needle and fang-like teeth, Sarnii wasn’t sure which. There didn’t seem to be much of a different from where she was standing.

The creature screeched and jumped from the barrier to the earth below it. The ground seemed to shake as the Rahkshi landed on a wooden crate, reducing it to wood chips. Goll barked an order, raising his axe in a battle cry as the majority of the village’s warriors charged towards the Rahkshi of Gravity.

The fools.

Sarnii was suddenly alerted to an abrupt crack behind her. The female Matoran tensed then spun around. A Visorak Keelerak crawled out of the guard-hut and into the light. The beast must have found the emergency escape tunnel that ran under the village and tunneled its way up to the trapdoor in the hut, then broke through the planks covering the entrance. The piercing crimson eyes of the creature scanned the area then widened as it hissed. It had found prey.

Sarnii ducked for cover behind a stack of wooden crates as a Rhotuku Spinner soared through the air. There was a scream to her left as a Ce-Matoran named Kentran hit the ground, struck by the spinner. She shrieked and toppled backwards, the armor on her chest bubbling as if on fire.

Two glaring facts flashed through Sarnii’s mind in that moment. The first problem was that Kentran was lying in the mud, her chest corroding away and clearly in pain. She needed medical attention quickly if she was going to survive. The second problem was that the Keelerak was still at large. The green spider-like creature seemed to spit a triumphant victory-cry.

Sarnii was in luck. Goll heard the scream too and began looking for warriors to send to their aid. However, before he could bark out orders, two volunteers presented themselves, charging towards the Visorak and blocking it from Kentran. Torlo and Iolan, two of the village’s finest warriors, and both armed with a pair of blades each. Goll grunted to himself then refocused on the Rahkshi at the main gate. He didn’t bother sending other warriors to deal with the spider. He trusted the dynamic duo. Although they both came from dramatically different backgrounds, the pair had grown to be just about inseparable these days. They hung around together, ate together, and killed Visorak together. Sending reinforcements would be unnecessary.

Iolan was a strong and noble Ta-Matoran. He was likable but wasn’t all too bright. He had traveled to the realm of Karzahni from Vacca-Nui in search of repairs after a mining accident had paralyzed him from the waist down. As a result, his legs had been extensively rebuild, more so than the rest of his body. What had once been a tall, lean, proud Ta-Matoran was now a small, bulky, disproportionate warrior who had clear trouble walking – which had clearly impacted on his confidence. Iolan barely spoke in village meetings and relied on Torlo to do the talking for him – something that Sarnii could not understand. He faced all manner of hellish Rahkshi and Visorak every night. It was almost ironic that he’d be afraid of public speaking.

Torlo, the taller of the pair, was almost the complete opposite. He had come to the village as a free-lancing crafter many years ago. When he had arrived, he had everything the average, respectable Matoran could want: a stable job, the best tools and materials in the area, and a goodly partner with whom he could make a home. Torlo was a stand-up type of guy who tended to speak his mind around the village. His word and his craftsmanship were synonymous with honor and integrity. He took pleasure from his belief in justice and exposing hypocrisy, which he was widely respected for.

But that didn’t seem to be the case anymore. By the time Sarnii had joined the village community Torlo had been married – something she had not known at first. She had fallen in love with the Le-Matoran. She would break spears and weapons just for him to repair them for her. However, the craftsman had become corrupted by his lust for her. Before either of them knew it, Torlo’s goodly life had become irreversibly tainted. When Sarnii learnt that he was married she had reacted shamefully and blamed him for being disloyal to his partner. Torlo had begun to feel he had lost his most prized possession: his self-respect. He had become the very thing he had hated: a hypocrite. As a result, his wife had left him and committed suicide, leaving him caged by guilt. Watching him now, Sarnii realized that she was watching an empty shell of a Matoran, like he had been left behind in Karzahni all those years ago. She had destroyed him.

Trying to push thoughts of Torlo out of her mind, Sarnii turned to Kentran. The armor on Ce-Matoran’s chest was burnt an ugly scarlet color. Bubbles of flesh burst. The acid sizzled. The Matoran screamed.
Sarnii didn’t know what she was doing. She had no knowledge of acid wounds or medicine – that was Connla’s department.

Desperately, the Vo-Matoran began trying to calm the pained Visorak victim. Kentran had been her friend some time ago but the two had grown apart when the war started 3,000 years ago, back when the attacks had first started. But that didn’t matter. Her duty to the welfare of the village came first. Always.

A thick shadow suddenly cast itself over the two female Matoran. Confident that Torlo and Iolan were taking care of the Visorak, Sarnii calmly raised her head to see Krennato – the village elder standing above them. Again, similarly to Connla, Krennato was considered far too valuable to be out in the open at night. Her appearance was unnerving. This particular Ga-Matoran was the pillar of the entire community. If something bad ever happened to Goll then she would probably be the next in line for leadership, much to Kyros’ annoyance. Krennato’s knowledge and expertise in Rahi and ancient legends made her the village’s Turaga figure. She was a symbol of strength and resolve for all who lived behind the curved wooden walls of the village. Krennato was nothing short of a living legend for most of the misguided villagers. After all, they’d lost faith in “Mata-Nui” and his “Toa” long ago.

Who else could they look up to?

Without a word, the village elder tugged a small bag from her pouch, opened it, and poured the contents of it into her left hand. Sarnii wasn’t sure why the Ga-Matoran had gone to Karzahni in the first place. She had heard that Krennato had developed a blood clot in her core processor, which could possibly be the cause of the creepy village elder's poor working.
She watched as coarse green grains spilled into Krennato’s palm. Dropping the bag back into her satchel, the Ga-Matoran spat over the grains and mixed them together with a finger of her right hand, forming a paste. She then proceeded to rub the mixture into Kentran’s disturbed flesh and it stopped dissolving.

“Will she live?” asked Sarnii, her voice sounding a little more desperate than she had wanted.

“She will be scarred horribly,” sighed Krennato as she returned to her feet. “But, essentially, yes, she will live. There are other pastes and lotions that I can use to help her wounds clean properly. But not now. There are Rahkshi to deal with.”

Sarnii stole a glance at Kentran as the effects of the thick paste began to sink in, causing her to sigh and relax, her eyes closing behind her Kanohi Suletu.

Moving Krennato out of her mind, Sarnii sprung to her feet and leapt into battle. Torlo and Iolan had made little progress with the Visorak Keelerak. Iolan seemed to be drawing its fire of Rhotuku Spinners while Toro flung himself at the creature, latching onto its back and trying to find hand holes among the scaly, slimy ridges of the Visorak’s hind.

She could always call Goll for assistance, but Sarnii wanted to handle this on her own. She could help, leaving Torlo and Iolan to concentrate on some of the Rahkshi with the other warriors.

Taking a firm stance, the Vo-Matoran her hands out and gripped her Shock-Thumpers. As Sarnii activated the weapons a low pitched hum filled the air. As she strode forwards the weapons began to charge, emitting a static buzzing.

“Move!” she snapped. Torlo and Iolan glanced back at her, surprised, then took cover. Iolan ducked back a few steps while Torlo simply let go of the Visorak’s rear, letting it throw him backwards – clear of the danger zone.

The Shock-Thumpers burst into life as a crackle of electricity blasted the Keelerak. The creature screeched as thousands of volts of electrical energy surged through its scaly moist body. The wailing continued as the spider lost interest in everything other than Sarnii as her beam of electricity. Iolan and Torlo returned to their feet, one on either side of the creature. Four blades glinted in the light of the torches – and four slimy legs went flying into the darkness.

The Keelerak collapsed uselessly onto the ground. It squirmed around, completely immobile. After watching it wriggle and whine for a moment long, Torlo boldly stepped forwards, making sure to press his foot down on the creature’s head to keep it down, then buried his one of his Mental Bolt Launchers into the Visorak’s heat, staking its brain. The Keelerak stiffened, whined one final time, then died. The Le-Matoran withdrew his blade and leaned down to wipe it clean on the dry, water-starved grass. He looked up at Sarnii through hollow, empty eyes. He wasn’t going to thank her, not after what she had done to him. He probably would have preferred to have been mauled by the Visorak than have accepted Sarnii’s help.

“Nice work,” grinned Iolan, answering on behalf of the resentful Le-Matoran. Snorting, Torlo turned to leave, breaking into a run to return to the action – much to Iolan’s disadvantage. The unbalanced Ta-Matoran Calix-wearer whined and waddled off after his friend.

The Vo-Matoran turned to follow, ready to lend a hand when she realized there was no point any longer. The efforts of Goll and his warriors had ensured that the main gate stayed secure. The creatures were retreating. The Rahkshi of Gravity had been slaughtered, along with a couple of its other unfortunate brethren. There was, however, a single Rahkshi of Plasma trying to scale the wooden fence in desperate hopes of escape. It was clinging to the top of the barrier, its staff abandoned and with nothing for it to stand on – leaving it unsupported.

When it finally lost its grip, the Rahkshi plummeted back to the ground, where the warriors began hacking, stabbing, and slicing at it. There was a screech as the tan and red armored Rahkshi struggled back to its feet and began its retreat. Half the warriors hadn’t even realized it was escaping until it was too late: it was Kyros’ moment to shine.

As the Rahkshi of Plasma launched itself out the gate and into the open, Kyros ran after it and hurled a spear in its direction. Although Sarnii’s view was blocked by the arch of the gate she could see the Ko-Matoran yell triumphantly – it must have been a hit. Laughing cruelly, Kyros turned to grab another spear off a nearby Matoran. Aimed it. Then lowered the weapon.
It had finally dawned on him that the Rahkshi were retreating. They'd survived.

Not a word was spoken until the gate was firmly closed, and even then silence hung over the fortified village.

The battle may have been won, but the war was far from over.

Chapter 2[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27

No clouds. The clearest day in a long time. That was supposedly good for healing. Connla had worked through the night, applying all manner of potions, pastes, and medicine where they were needed, though there was little the coy Ga-Matoran could do for those with serious injuries.

The warriors were tired, their sleep disturbed. They would probably rest later but many were too edgy to return to their huts straightaway. It had taken an hour or two for the battle lust to pass. After that the villagers had relaxed and put away their weapons, setting about their normal daily routines – pretending nothing had happened.

Connla herself felt fine. She had managed to grab a full night’s sleep having only woken up a short while before the attack. That seemed to be her regular pattern on nights where there was an early assault.
Having tended to Kentran and the Po-Matoran who had lost an eye to the Panrahk, the Ga-Matoran began to wander around the village, just in case she’d missed anybody. She used to think the ring fortress was huge back when she had first settled in the community. Back then there had only been around ten huts contained behind the circular wall, providing plenty of space for the desolate village’s inhabitants. But things had changed in recent years. More huts had been built since the Rahkshi started appearing in order to shelter the refugees, who had come flooding through the gates, desperately seeking refuge. At first the residents had feared that the village would run dry of resources under the wave of newcomers. But when the Rahkshi started attacking villages in groups the wandering Matoran seemed to stop coming.
Strange coincidence.
The shape of the entire Southern Continent had been altered by the war. Rahkshi and Visorak had besieged entire villages. Many of the neighboring settlements had been burnt to the ground and left in destruction. There were now twenty-two huts in the village, and, although the walls of the fortress had been extended outwards many decades ago, the surrounding forests and perilous year-wide mudslides on this part of the island prevented them from growing much.
It was as tight as a noose.
Spending all morning healing had tired Connla, leaving her hungry. Setting off in search of something to eat, the anxious Ga-Matoran found Goll sitting alone near the village’s abandoned shrine. He looked downhearted. Many centuries ago, Goll had been the leader of the whole west side of the Southern Continent, the most powerful Matoran in the region, with command over every local village. There was even talk that he may have gone on to rule the entire landmass, something no Matoran from the western district of the continent had ever done. It had been an exciting prospect. Goll had once had the support of every other village in the neighboring regions.
But then it had gotten out of hand. The Po-Matoran had been stabbed in the back by another would-be-king and forced to step down due to his injury. He wasn’t bitter though. He never spoke of what might have been. This was his fate and he had long since accepted that.
But the Pakari Nuva-wearer was in a gloomy mood that morning. He hated making mistakes. Feeling sorry for the former ruler, Connla decided to sit down next to him. The Po-Matoran looked up at her and smiled weakly, his eyes ghostly.
“It wasn’t your fault” reassured the Ga-Matoran softly. “It was a lucky strike by the Rahkshi.”
Goll grunted lightly and turned towards the shrine. The villagers had all but deserted Mata Nui when they had been shipped off to Voya Nui centuries ago. Connla wondered why anyone had even bothered to build the shrine in the first place. All she was sure of about the miniature temple was that it had long since been left derelict. It was neglected. Nobody knew any of the old legends of Toa and Rahi anymore.
His grunt should have marked the end of Goll’s temper. However, Kyros chose that moment to stride past the forsaken shrine with his posse of warriors, boasting of the Rahkshi he hit with his spear. The Ko-Matoran had heard Connla’s comment and laughed out loud.
Ha!” he snorted cruelly. “That wasn’t luck! Goll’s just a rusty old Mahi!”
The Po-Matoran stiffened and glared at Kyros.
Having come from Metru-Nui, the Ko-Matoran seemed to think he was automatically smarter than everyone around him. Due to his greedy, materialistic nature, Kyros seemed to switch his weapons every so often, his attempt to stay both fashionable and as the center of attention. At the present, he seemed to be carrying a pair of short swords and, unlike most of the other males in the village, Kyros had taken to wearing a Gukko-hair sash. Although Connla personally saw no point in the questionable strip of peculiar cloth, several of the Ko-Matoran’s followers had taken to wearing similar attire.
The armor he wore was of the finest quality in the village and was shined to perfection. He looked more like a king than Goll ever had and when the Po-Matoran died, Kyros would – unfortunately – be one of the probably contenders to take his place as the village’s leader. But he was no warrior. Everyone knew the self-centered Matoran of Ice was a distinctively average fighter at best. And far from the bravest.
“Well at least I was there to make a mistake” grunted Goll darkly, menace in his tone. “Where were you, Kyros – polishing your mask perhaps?”
“I was in the thick of the fighting!” insisted the Ko-Matoran. “I struck a Rahkshi. I think I killed it.”
“Aye” sneered the Matoran of Stone coldly. “You hit it with a spear. In the back. While it was running away.” The Pakari Nuva-wearer clapped his firm hands together in a sarcastic applause. “A most courageous deed.”
Kyros’ face twisted into a warped snarl of utter disgust as he raised his swords. Goll snatched for an axe.
Enough!” barked Torlo. The Le-Matoran had been tending to one of the village’s Gafna nearby and had been keeping a watchful eye over the scene. He always seemed to be at hand when Goll and Kyros argued – which happened all too often. The weaponsmith stepped forwards, his Kanohi Zatth dark. “Isn’t it bad enough that we have to fight Rahkshi every night, without battling amongst ourselves too?”
“He questioned my courage!” declared Kyros, pointing an accusing finger at the village’s leader.
“And you called him an old Mahi” retorted the Le-Matoran. “Now shake hands, and forget it. We don’t have time for quarrels.”
A moment of silence hung in the air as the three Matoran glared at each other. After leaving the awkward silence open for as long as he could stand, Goll finally caved. He sighed and extended a hand, realizing that Torlo was right. Kyros took it, but his mask was twisted into a repulsed expression. After on stale, unwelcoming handshake, the Ko-Matoran shook Goll’s hand away then turned to return to his group of warriors – who always seemed to be huddled close to him. As they left, the Matoran of Ice continued bragging about the Rahkshi he had speared and how he was certain the blow had been fatal, boasting of his skill and courage. Connla watched after him as he disappeared from sight, wondering how so much hatred could exist inside a single Ko-Matoran.




After leaving Goll to brood to himself, Connla decided to go for a walk. The village’s gate was open in the daytime because Rahi had to be let out to graze at some point. It was just as well that the attacks only happened at night. If Rahkshi swarmed the settlement in the daylight the villagers wouldn’t be able to tend to their Rahi or crop to their plantations. They’d be dead within a week.
The blue armored Matoran left the outskirts of the village behind and continued her aimless wander. She liked to get out of the ring fort when her duties allowed her, to stretch her legs, to breathe in fresh air. Lost in her carefree hike, the Ga-Matoran strolled towards a small hill. From the top of the earth mound she had a fantastic view of the valley below. She could see the rural sprawl of burnt black trees. It had been one of her favorite spots before the war. Back then it had been alive with all forms of plant life and flora. She used to pick up spices and seeds to use for medicines, but there was little vegetation left in the area and ingredients for her mixtures were scarce. The fortress was located on top of the hill and surrounded by charred woodland – a strategic advantage against invaders. That was probably why only a dozen or so of the creatures attacked the fortress every night. The Ga-Matoran found no comfort in that information.
From the dull grey rock she was sitting on, she could see all the way across the Tren Krom river to the steeper hills on the other side. Many of the warriors had travelled to those hills, to hunt or fight. Sometimes Connla dreamt of climbing along the peaks and seeing what the world looked like from the top of the almost mountainous terrain – though, in reality, it would be a journey of many days and nights. There was no chance of doing that while the Rahkshi and Visorak were attacking. And for all Connla knew, the creatures of the night were never going to stop.
“When will it end?” muttered the worried healer, her eyes fixed on the distant hills. “Will these monsters keep coming until they kill us all?”
Silence. A breeze stirred the scorched, blistered branches of the nearby trees. Connla studied the moving limbs, almost praying for something out of the ordinary. But it just seemed to be a regular gust of wind – not some otherworldly voice to guide her.
After a while, the Ga-Matoran sighed heavily and bid farewell to the hills and returned to the path behind her. There was still work to be done. Her world may be going up in flames, but the village had to carry on as normal. The villagers couldn’t afford to let the Rahkshi think they were winning. They didn’t dare let them know how close they were to collapse.




Having had a quick bite to eat and after refilling her water canteen, Connla returned to her daily chores. Weaving should have come first on her agenda for that day. She was a skilled weaver. Her small, capable fingers were able to dart across cloth like lava eels. She wasn’t the fastest in the fortress, nor was she the best, but she was still good enough to be of use.
Arriving at her hut, Connla noticed several of the male villagers returning from their morning hunt. Emerging from the gaggle of Matoran, she spotted Fiancha and Iolan, carrying a grand total of four Ruki fish between them. The two had obviously spent the morning on a fishing trip, struggling in a small handmade raft against the dangerous rapids of the Tren Krom river. Because the Visorak and Rahkshi swarms had difficulty getting up the hill to attack the village they would usually lurk around the flood plain of the river, the large valley that Connla had been admiring mere minutes ago. That meant that the creatures would destroy any boat the Matoran left in the river or on the shore overnight. The fishermen had to rebuild rafts every morning if they wanted to catch anything other than a sand fly.
Connla smiled as she watched the two Matoran deposit their catches on wooden stakes outside her hut. She enjoyed cleaning the Ruki fish. Everybody else seemed to hate the whole ordeal because of the smell, but not Connla. She liked to observe the fish guts for signs and omens. She hadn’t deduced anything from a Ruki’s innards yet, but she lived in hope.
The Pakari-wearer stole a glance up at the cloudless sky and decided in the blink of a heart-light that it was far too bright a morning to be weaving inside. Instead the Ga-Matoran picked up her utensils and set up a crate to sit on outside her hut.
The village was buzzing with activity. Most of the residents of the ring-fort were either hunting or helping to rebuild damage caused in the night. The latter was Connla’s favorite. She enjoyed watching her friends walking along the roofs of the nearby huts, thatching and mending holes. It was fun.
But the miniature town was eerily quiet, save for the rhythmic CLANK of metal coming from Torlo’s forgery on the opposite side of the street. Even as late as noon, a couple of the Matoran were still sleeping. Several were cleaning blades and discussing the night’s battle. It had been one of the earliest attacks, despite it being short-lived and the fact there were only seven attackers. Some of the villagers reckoned that was a sign that the swarms of the Brotherhood’s foot soldiers were dying out. But they were dreamers. As far as they knew, in their isolated region of Voya-Nui, the war against the Makuta was far from over.
Connla didn’t need Ruki guts to tell her that!
Sitting down on her crate, the Matoran realized that she had a decent view of Torlo in his dwelling. The Le-Matoran was working away, straightening crooked swords, fixing new handles to axes, sharpening knives. This was the only village in the whole region with its own personal weaponsmith. That had been Goll’s doing when he was king. Most of the crafters had wandered around from settlement to settlement in the early days, picking up work where they could find it. Goll had figured that if they paid one to settle then Matoran from nearby villages would come to them if they wanted weapons and tools fixing instead of waiting for a drifter. He had been right. The fortress-village had become the focal point of the entire region until the attacks began. The Rahkshi had put a brutal end to the good-spirited scheme. Nobody travelled now, unless they wanted to flee the monsters in the night.
Growing bored, Connla decided to wander over to where Torlo was hammering away at a particularly stubborn blade. She watched him silently, smiling shyly when he glanced at her. She liked Torlo. He was a lot thinner than most of the other villagers, but he was far stronger than he looked – an unusual trait for a weaponsmith. The Le-Matoran was very skilled too. He could swing heavy hammers and weapons with ease, bringing them down on both warped blades and on the heads of Rahkshi.
But it wasn’t just his appearance. He was noble and kind with distinctive morals and an unwavering sense of justice. The Ga-Matoran recalled how Torlo had stood up to separate Goll and Kyros from their argument earlier. Most other Matoran would have ducked back, not wanting to anger such powerful figures. But Torlo had boldly stepped forward and scolded both of them. In Torlo’s presence, a fool felt their foolishness instantly. The Zatth-wearer had made it more that clear in the past that he did not care much for authority. He said what he thought, disregarding the rank of whomever he was talking to – something that he made look attractive.
The Le-Matoran paused to catch his breath between swings and looked up, catching Connla staring. He glanced at the weapons, then back at the Ga-Matoran. He smiled, but not in a teasing way, not like Kyros would smirk if he had seen Connla gazing at him.
“You did well last night” he grunted, after cooling off from his toiling. His voice stayed strangely calm and fluent. “I’m sorry I couldn’t see you fight, but getting involved was very brave of you.”
The Pakari-wearer could feel her cheeks going red. “I didn’t do much” she murmured, sticking the tip of her foot into the sand and drawing a circle.
“Nonsense” grinned the Le-Matoran, his warm grin broadening. “You’re getting bolder. You’ll be fending off Rahkshi by the tenfold soon enough.” They both knew that was a lie but Connla loved him for saying it. She flashed him a smile at the praise.
“Can I give you a hand with anything?” she asked gawkily, hoping for an excuse to stay with him and not have to return to her weaving.
The Le-Matoran’s smile dwindled as he shook his head. “There’s no need” he responded. “I’m almost finished, and I’ve volunteered to go off hunting this afternoon.”
Oh.” The blue armored Matoran tried to suppress her disappointment. “Well, if you need me, call.”
Torlo nodded, a smile returning to his face. “Sure. Thank you, Connla. I will.”
Simple words, but as the Ga-Matoran began weaving strands of yarn into a half-finished fabric, they rung inside her head for ages, making her smile.
At that moment in time her life was content. She was not ill. She was not scared. She was not fleeing. Instead, she was working away, assembling the textile with careful precision, inebriated by her own fantasies and ambitions, hoping to one day achieve them. She had her whole life ahead of her.
And best of all, she was happy.

Chapter 3[]

Written by Abc8920


A Toa lay on the beach, eyes shut, relaxed and calm. The sand was warm and soft, inviting him to continue resting in his position. He could imagine what the scenery was like – a Toa Canister next to him, half-buried in the white sand, the sun setting in the distance and an endless ocean that extended beyond his range of vision, everything unstressed, listening to the bird Rahi flying above the sea…

But then he made a big mistake. The Toa of Fire opened his eyes and what he saw could only be described as anticlimactic. The sand wasn’t white. It wasn’t even sand, but rather water soaked soil. There was no gentle, cooling breeze. No waves hitting the shore. No beautiful landscape for him to admire. When the Toa had enough courage to raise his head and sit on the mud, he noticed that he was in fact next to a puddle of water. No canister around, which meant no shelter as the final whisps of sunlight began to seep away from the impossible sky.

But none of that seemed to bother him. His head was his biggest concern. He simply couldn’t remember anything. There were traces of something – jumping between energy rings, some sort of a metal robot – but he just couldn’t make sense out of it.

And his name… It eluded him for a brief moment until a thought burst into his head abruptly. The word “Santis” echoed for a moment then disappeared. It was far too short, too ephemeral, for him to retain it. Perhaps that was who he was. He didn’t seem to have any other identity. Although the passing thought had already long-since escaped the Toa’s mind, he decided that it must be his name.

The Toa could only tell for sure that he was in the middle of some pestilent swamp and that, if he stayed there too long, chances were that he would die anyway from either inanition or just plain boredom.

And he felt an urge to make up a plan, a scheme, whatever got him out of there. Purposefully, he rose to his feet and overlooked the panorama that extended before of his eyes. The marsh region was extensive, alternating zones with puddles and reeds with patches of land, but not endless. In the far distance, he could see the outlines of a forest… nothing too strange about it, besides the fact that the trees seemed to be made out of some kind of black wood.

Taking a deep breath, the red-armored figure made his first steps into the bog. He took one stride and felt his foot slide across the muddy surface. Nearly slipping flat on his mask, the Toa managed to flail his arms out and steadied himself, like some frantic winged Rahi trying to fly. Cursing under his breath, he decided to take another route. His right foot was now encrusted in filthy brown muck.

Shuddering in disgust, Santis worked around the clammy patch of ground until he found more solid land. As he began walking, the Toa looked behind him. His keen eyes spotted something covered by a dark piece of cloth. It was synthetic, something that didn’t occur naturally in the charred wilderness. Therefore it was fairly safe to assume it had been left there for a specific purpose. Perhaps it was covering the entrance to an subterranean passageway or protecting a rotting carcass from attracting the local wildlife.
Curious, he edged daringly closer and cautiously snatched up the material, revealing what concealed. His eyes widened in mild surprise as he discovered there was a sword and a dagger hidden below it. Why someone had chosen to leave them out in the open like this was beyond him.

He was lucky. Maybe his day wouldn’t be as bucolic as he had imagined, but he felt his self-confidence growing. Attaching both weapons to his scabbard, he used the cloth as an improvised cape, then started his journey into the unknown.




As he trudged onwards, the Toa was becoming increasingly aware that there were only a few more minutes left of daylight, and the swamp was starting to grow silent. Or, that is, it would be silent if it weren’t for the fact that every step that he took made a horribly loud splashing sound.

Shortly after, night fell, and the Toa of Fire decided against lighting up a torch. It would probably attract unwanted attention; he now wondered what the point of that was since the water-saturated field pretty much killed any of his chances of a stealthy saunter across this strange forest of ash and debris.

Fortunately, he was already starting to walk on drier, more coherent ground, and trees were becoming more common. Those were the ones that he had seen from distance, and a closer look confirmed that they were indeed burnt. This place was surely a crooked and twisted realm.

However, being a Toa of Fire, Santis couldn’t be bothered to find reason for the mindless destruction or to harvest firewood. He could light up his sword any time and use it as a torch, but where was the fun in walking through a well-illuminated forest?

The moonlight was enough for him, but even if there was no moon, he was sure that he would still refuse to artificially light the pitch-black night. It was a question of pride, maybe arrogance, but that was how he wanted to picture himself.

A hunter of the night.




Running – the warrior known as Torlo was fleeing for his life through the night. The expanse of charred woodland and burnt forests which surrounded him didn’t seem to have an end in sight – and even if they did, the chances of the doomed Le-Matoran reaching it would be the same as a Kikanalo bounding up and start licking him.
Luck just wasn’t on his side that night.
The Matoran of Air could feel his lungs burning in his chest and he could barely hear his footsteps over his heart light blinking. The ground felt damp and warm. Every step he took left a sloppy squelch in the mud. The ground was sticky, the air clung to him, and he had just about caked himself in dirt. But that was the price one had to pay when running was pretty much his only way of surviving every day. Torlo could not remember a time where that had not been the case. Living on the Southern Continent was hard work. He had to keep his blades sharp and his senses sharper still.
The Matoran could still hear noises, the screeches of the twisted spiders of the night that scurried after him. Of course, over his travels, he had learnt that the creatures were called Visorak . He also knew they liked to make cocoons to wrap people inside them and that they had a fondness for firing Rhotuku Spinners. Not a group he particularly wanted to be spending time around, let alone be running away from. He missed the days when the Brotherhood of Makuta gave a broken Kanohi what became of their creations. He did a lot less running in those days.
For the umpteenth time that evening, Torlo reviewed why he had gotten himself into this situation. He was supposed to be in his hut, crafting weapons and fixing swords. His role was essential. He was the only craftsman in the village, better than any Po-Matoran for sure. Rahkshi attacked his home just about every day and the metal that his people used was brittle. There were always weapons to repair.
Which was probably why he had volunteered to serve the late afternoon as a hunter. Unable to ignore his primeval sense of duty, Torlo had demanded more information and gotten himself roped into doing the task himself. So far he’d gotten lost, broken his spear while trying to vault over a ditch, angered a Burnak, and at least halved his weight from running. If there was no risk of death he may have recommended the experience as a fitness program. He definitely needed the work out more.
Mata Nui hated him.
The Matoran of Air dove for what he thought was a cluster of wild grass. It turned out to be prickly undergrowth. He slipped and skidded into the tangle of thorns before crashing to the damp, muddy ground. Torlo winced and ignored the pain that flared through his legs. Fear engulfed all other senses. If one of the Visorak saw him he would be as dead as an Archives Mole in a Nui Kopen hive. He had to stay out of sight. Who knew, perhaps Mata Nui was looking kindly on him today. The Great Spirit certainly owed him, the least he could do was swat a couple of Visorak.
He liked being the optimist. At least falling over embarrassingly had saved him having to dive into the sharp shrubbery.
The fixed victim of Karzahni lay still where he’d fallen, conscious that any hint of movement might reveal his hiding place to his beastly stalker. He fought to stifle the urge to suck in lungfuls of air, each breath roaring in his audio receptors as if screaming “Over here!
With the passing of each agonizing moment, he could feel the dampness of the sodden grass, soaking through his battered armor until it met his flesh.
Yet the crafter remained surprisingly still, listening expectantly for any sound of pursuit.
Silence.
Torlo lay there a moment longer, exhausted. The pain in his leg was starting to hurt more and more, gradually increasing in intensity. Could he have twisted something as he fell? Would his ankle still take his weight? Could he still run?
Then came the screech of the creature itself: a scream that ripped through the air from the depths of Hell itself, a noise not of Mata Nui’s creation.
The Visorak were coming.
The fixed Zatth-wearer raised his head tentatively. He could see the dark yet reassuring shape of his village’s circular wooden barriers in the distance, silhouetted against the grey clouds that marked the clearing in the burnt forest: a vision of hope.
Shelter was so close. Even with his potentially injured ankle Torlo could make the short journey home, he was sure of it. All he had to do was get close enough to yell for assistance and help would come. Even in these dark times, help would come. Wouldn’t it?
One thing was for sure, he couldn’t stay lying in the mud-splattered field. If the Visorak didn’t get him then he would probably pick up some incurable infection from the filth knowing his luck.
Gathering his last reserves of energy, Torlo made a run for it. Pain surged through his leg instantly, but it wasn’t enough to buckle him – meaning his ankle wasn’t twisted. Trying to find motivation from that hollow thought, Torlo gritted his metallic teeth and carried on, his single thought was to reach the village’s entrance. Nothing more than his determination drove him on, running, running, resisting the urge to look back with all his inner strength.
When it came the force of the impact was as powerful as it was unexpected, and for a few moments the Le-Matoran couldn’t move from shock.
Shaking his head to clear it, Torlo grunted and struggled back to his feet, spinning around to search for his assailant, but there was nothing there.
Confused, the Le-Matoran’s gaze fell upon his shoulder, which had borne the brunt of the attack. He couldn’t see a cut in the darkness but he could feel the wound. There was blood, and lots of it. Strangely, he felt no pain. It simply didn’t matter. He would be fine, he just had to keep moving. Drawing breath defiantly, the turned towards the village and staggered on. He had barely taken two steps when it hit him again, a weight slamming against his head, jerking his body awkwardly and hurling him through the air into a twisted heap.
This time there was no choice but to stay down. His body was weak and he was stunned.
More blood now, from somewhere just above his right eye. It trickled down behind his visor, clouding his vision with a crimson tint. His head spun. This was just a bad dream. I couldn’t be happening. There was no reason for this to be happening, not to him.
And then his attacker looked down upon him: a Visorak Roporak. Its deep-set orange eyes glared hungrily at him, the prey.
That at least explained how Torlo hadn’t been able to see anything when he turned around. Roporak had remarkable, yet surprisingly inconvenient access to a chameleon ability. The creature had been fully concealed in the darkness when the fixed Le-Matoran had looked for a follower. It was a neat trick, one that Torlo was satisfied as being the trick that would kill him.
“Well go on then” he challenged the Visorak limply. “Hurry up and kill me you miserable excuse for a Visorak. I could kill ten Matoran while you’re fooling around!” The Le-Matoran snarled, daring the Roporak to continue. The creature screeched and gnashed its nightmarish teeth together. Torlo sure as hell wasn’t going to be mutated by the creature’s venom. His head was probably too delicious for that. Instead he puffed his chest up and growled menacingly as the jaws of death opened wide and moved in for the kill.

Only, the bite never came.
A burst of heat shot through the air and scalded one of the already-scorched trees, reducing it to dust. The fireballs startled both the Matoran and the Visorak for a brief moment before they both turned towards where the flames had come from. When he finally regained some measure of clarity in his vision Torlo was able to see the dark outline of a figure standing in the distance. The newcomer was clad in what looked like crimson and yellow armor, though it was harder to tell in the darkness. In his right hand was a magnificent sword, crafted to resemble a flame that was bigger than most people Torlo knew. The warrior’s helmet was smooth and untroubled save for three spikes, which jutted out at different angles. The fixed Zatth-wearer would have marveled at how original the abrupt appearance of the scarlet-armored giant was, but at that moment – having just looked into the very jaws of his potential killer – he was a hard guy to impress.
It was undoubtedly a Toa. Torlo had only ever seen one before in his life, back on Metru-Nui – where he’d been before he had been sent to Karzahni for repairs and never come back. The name of that Toa escaped him but this towering stranger was nothing like what he imagined his hero to be. He was broad and muscular with a tatty dark cape strapped around his neck.
The sword began to glow as the Visorak hissed and growled at the newcomer. The Toa tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at the creature before him.
“I don’t think much of your welcoming comity” grunted the Toa in a voice as hollow and stiff as a coffin. “I was expecting a parade.”
As he raised his sword a jet of flame erupted from the tip of the blade, blasting the Roporak with nothing short of pure fiery energy. The creature screamed one final time as it was torn apart by the ball of fire and engulfed by the heat. The spider-like abomination was incinerated on the spot: not even ashes were left to mark the brown creature’s passing.
Torlo flinched and scrambled backwards frantically only for the Toa to turn to look at him, his blade still glowing with energy. “Fear not, Little One” grunted the Toa of Fire in a voice that was far too calm than it should have been for a person who’d just given a Visorak a free cremation. “If I wanted to harm you I could have done so already, with far less effort than it would take to raise this sword.”
Speechless, Torlo turned his attention from the Toa, to the burn mark in the shrubbery, then finally to his village in the distance. “You’re a Toa?”
“I was the last time I checked” replied the warrior as he tucked his weapon away into his pack and began scanning the area. “And where am I this time? Judging by the trees, I’d say safety-with-fire-day gone wrong.”
“You’re on Voya-Nui” explained the Le-Matoran cagily, still cautious of the stranger. “Or at least what’s left of it.”
Ah! That’s good!” exclaimed the Toa of Fire cheerfully as he clapped his hands together. “So I take it I’m in the right giant metal robot?”
Torlo grunted and shrugged, dismissing the idle comment. “What’s your name, Toa?” he asked, hoping to get some useful information out of the potential serial killer. Who knew, if he turned this guy into the Brotherhood for the murder of a Visorak it could be his ticket off the barren rock that was the Southern Continent.
He lived in hope.
The Toa frowned and turned away, mulling the question over in his mind. “My name?” he repeated before beginning to pace around. “My name, my name, my name. Wait!” Torlo flinched and recoiled as the Toa suddenly spun around. “Don’t tell me! I know this!”
The Le-Matoran watched in confusion as the Toa of Fire continued pacing, pondering over the simplest question he could ever be asked. “I wasn’t planning to” he muttered in response, becoming increasingly aware that the Toa was probably insane.
Just his luck to get the eight-foot warrior who didn’t even know his own name.
“Look, that doesn’t matter” shrugged the Le-Matoran. “If you don’t want to tell me then I’m fine with that. It’s probably a name you don’t want going around.”
NO!” growled the Toa, a dangerous tremble in his tone. “I know this. My name… my name… is… Santis.” The Toa frowned then muttered something flatly, sounding deflated. There was definitely something strange about him.
Torlo tilted his head questioningly. There was every possibility that could be the Toa’s actual name, just as easily as it could have been the name of a friend of his or the name of some brand of Kanoka Disk Launcher manufacturers in Metru-Nui. He had no way of telling, but the Toa’s voice gave it away. He sounded let down, as if it wasn’t what he had been expecting, and that contrasted the cocky, arrogant, egoistical attitude he had introduced himself in.
“Are you sure?” asked Torlo as he took a step closer, debating whether or not a Toa who was unsure of his own name could be much of a threat.
The Toa raised his head again, as if he had completely forgotten about the Le-Matoran in front of him. He quickly adopted a smug wink. “Oh, ye of little faith” he chuckled in a tone that was probably slower and more sinister than he expected it to be.
“Anyway,” continued the fixed Matoran, wiping as much of his frown away as he could, “my name’s Torlo. I’m a craftsman at the village down there.” He raised his arm, extended a finger, and pointed towards the black silhouette of the fortified village in the distance, just in case the Toa was that deranged.
The Toa nodded.
Silence hung as the two warriors stared at each other. Torlo shrugged expectantly, as if encouraging Santis to speak, but no reply came. “Well, you know the drill” grunted Torlo. “Toa shows up, Toa helps Matoran, Matoran sleeps easy at night. Aren’t you going to help us?”
“Sure I will” shrugged the Toa of Fire as he turned his attention back to the village. He seemed different now, as if he was thinking. Maybe he was still dwelling on how he had forgotten his name. Or – more likely – perhaps he was trying to find an excuse to be looking thoughtful whilst wearing a stupid black cape for a moment longer. When he glanced back at Torlo there was a faint glimmer of excitement in his eyes. “Very well. Hello, Torlo. My name is Toa Santis, Toa of Fire.” The Toa extended an armored hand to the Matoran. “Here to help.
The Le-Matoran hesitated then accepted the handshake. The Zatth-wearer smiled faintly and watched the Toa strode past, his cape rippling behind him. His eyes were fixed on the Toa, and sensing trouble of the very worst kind, though he wasn’t sure why.




There are times when one knows that a conversation is over, that there’s no point in continuing a meaningless chat, where the other’s proximity becomes uncomfortable and annoying and the silences starts being music to the ears.

In Santis’ case, his conversation with Torlo had long since died.
Probably the fact that he’d just fallen into the unknown place, with his memory blackened. It didn’t help with his antisocial mood. He was acting like a fussy Ko-Matoran, but he wouldn’t take the initiative to start a conversation when the Le-Matoran next to him didn’t help at all.

He felt some sympathy for Torlo, though. Apparently Matoran of Air was a skilled craftsman in his village, and had gone hunting late in the afternoon. Santis had saved him from his unfortunate encounter with a Visorak, and in gratitude he’d offered him the chance – or begged him – to visit the Matoran settlement.

And there was something about him… he wasn’t sure but Torlo looked like he had seen better times. They were both walking uphill towards the village walls. They were still far, which meant that Santis would have to fight over the prized silence.

However, Torlo finally decided to break it up. “Have you ever been to Metru Nui?”

For a moment, Santis’ mind went off the physical place where he was, and rocketed to the City of Legends. He saw the chutes, the Matoran walking in the streets, the sun rising behind the Coliseum… and a Tryna-wearer. The Matoran was wearing grey and silver armor, and suddenly the crowd around him stopped, and started whispering something. At first, the Toa couldn’t hear it, but the whispers raised intensity to the point where the crowd of Matoran was a homogenous mass – all pronouncing the same chant over and over… kill Tollubo.

Kill Tollubo. Kill Tollubo. Kill Tollubo. Santis couldn’t help but keep repeating the same phrase over and over in his head. It was his objective. He was there to kill Tollubo. Confused, he decided he needed to meditate over the matter, then he should probably find out more about this Tollubo, but his Le-Matoran travelling partner interrupted his musings.

“Are you listening or not?”

“Go on.”

“I was talking about Le-Metru, with all of its innovative technology. Have you ever tried to take a ride on moto-sled over the roofs of the factories? It’s a really exciting experience. ”

“Moto-sleds are just an excuse to sell more petrol. The whole point of building tracks over the factories was to increase the income that the vehicle-companies were having in the area. And there’s nothing better than bored Po-Matoran Tourists for that purpose.”

“Are you always so cynical?”

“Only when I’m materialized in the middle of a swamp that smells like rotten Furnace Salamander dung.”

“That marsh is our most reliable source for food.”

“That explains your poor performance against the Visorak.”

“I like that.”

“You like getting kicked in the backside by a Roporak? That sounds a bit masochistic.”

“No, I like that you are so direct, so sincere. If there’s something I hate it’s hypocrisy.”

“Couldn’t agree more.”

Both the Toa and Matoran stayed silent for several minutes longer. Their open silence was broken when Santis realized he needed to have some thought over the Tollubo affair, but he just couldn’t concentrate. Maybe he would once he had had some rest in the village.

“Have you ever heard of a person named Tollubo, Matoran?”

Torlo hesitated then rolled a shrug. “Doesn’t sound familiar. Why? Who is he?”

“I don’t know. A Matoran with silver and grey armor whose element I couldn’t identify.”

“A De-Matoran.”

“Couldn’t it have been an Onu-Matoran, Torlo?”

“Since when are Onu-Matoran silver? They all have black armor as far as I know.”

Santis snorted. “Believe me, Onu-Matoran can be full of surprises… Anyway, are you sure you haven’t seen any Tryna-wearing De-Matoran lately?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to looking at Ga-Matoran.”

“Now you’re the one playing ironic, Torlo.”

“No one said that only Toa can be arrogant. Anyway, why do you want this Tollubo-guy anyway?”

“I want to… give him a big hug when I find him.”

The Zatth-wearer fell silent, as if he had expected Santis to say something more serious. The Toa of Fire just wasn’t willing to reveal the fact he wanted to kill a Matoran, at least not before he’d entered the village and had enjoyed the villagers’ hospitality for a while.

At that point, they reached the hill’s crest, and the fortified village lay a hundred meters away. However, there was something strange going on. Some of the wooden barriers were being rammed by red, four legged beings with pincers, and some dark reptilian figures where climbing them as the Matoran on the top of the wall fended them off with whatever they could get their clumsy, little hands on.

Before Santis could even think about the best line of action, Torlo had already run to one of the doors and was fighting Rahkshi and Visorak. No time for thinking. The Toa of Fire grunted something to himself then ran straight for the nearest group of Rahkshi by the wooden wall. But his dash was halted when something hit him in the back, making his armor erupt in pain. He fell to the ground and whipped out his sword from its scabbard.

In the light of the flames in the village, he could barely make out the shape of his attacker but he knew enough to tell that it had been a Vohtarak. The red Visorak lunged at him, its piercing green eyes staring in the Toa’s, as if burning through him and into his very soul.

Then something happened that Santis couldn’t understand. It was one of those situations when one made a bold deed, usually improbable in normal conditions, due to the adrenaline pumped to his mechanical brain, but it was far from that. The Toa felt a strange sensation of his face burning behind his mask, going crescendo, when the climax reached and two beams of fire sprouted from his eyes and connected with the Visorak in midair.

He was blinded at first, but as his sight returned to him slowly he admired the Vohtarak’s crisp, crinkled corpse next to him; it was the first time he’d fried a Visorak brain like that, and though it was sick, it made him proud.

But there was no time for celebration, and the death of one spider was not great achievement. That became increasingly obvious from the point a Rahkshi was thrown off the barrier and landed next to him. Tan abdomen, red limbs. That meant Plasma. The Rahkshi quickly rose to its feet, a bit dazed and didn’t notice the Toa of Fire. It started walking away slowly, exposing its back to Santis, who wasn’t willing to waste the opportunity.

So he quickly rose too and kicked the Rahkshi between its legs. He was surprised to see it slowly turning to confront him, no expression of pain – not even disgust – on its ugly face. Without a second though, he sent a vortex of flames at the beast. But again, it stood there, impassive, almost bored; like if it had no time for amnesic Toa.

The Rahkshi of Plasma sent a bolt of super-heated gas through its staff, which Santis blocked with his sword. The Toa absorbed the energy through his weapon, but soon realized he probably shouldn’t that again. Still, he grunted and dismissed the burning sensation caused by his weapon.

Knowing that his sword might as well melt before the Rahkshi started to tire, he decided to roll on the floor. He’d taken the wrong decision. The Rahkshi started toying with him, knocking him to the ground with its staff. The Toa decided to repeat the eyebeam trick that had worked with the Visorak, though the beams of fire just made a small scratch on the beast’s armor. Still, it didn’t take him long to realize he’d managed to distract his opponent.

The situation repeated again, but this time it was Santis who was sending waves of heat at the Rahkshi. The Toa raised the intensity, and to his enemy’s dismay, he reached a point in which he melted the Rahkshi’s staff. Was that plasma? The Toa was no longer sure of what his capabilities were or how far they were limited. But he liked it. Whoever said power corrupts obviously hadn’t been a Toa.

The Rahkshi, not having its staff was unable to resist the Toa. Killing the Kraata with a clean slice in his foes’ thorax, Santis entered the village as he heard war chants of victory.

And, as he crossed the main wooden door, now open, he saw the Matoran staring at him in surprise at first. But when a Matoran from the crowd, possibly Torlo, screamed his name, the whole village started cheering and greeting him warmly, repeating his name over and over as if it was a synonym for victory.

He was triumphant, he was admired, and he had glory in his hands. He had the sensation that it was the start of a startling career as a hero, and maybe, just maybe, as the village leader.

The Toa of Fire cracked a smile. This almost made everyone else in the world wanting to kill him worth it.

Chapter 4[]

Toa Santis ducked his head into Torlo’s crafting workshop and examined his surroundings. It was a large structure, made from bleached wood and metal, unlike the many huts that surrounded it. Excellently equipped, probably designed to be used by four crafters at the very least. Perhaps some Ta-Matoran had wanted to bring a little chunk of Ta-Metru with him.

The forge was square-shaped, situated towards the southern reaches of the cramped settlement. There were a total of four work benches lined up against three of the four walls, not that the wall on his right was anything more than a window, though it did have one of the workbenches pressed up tightly against it. The only one in obvious use. The wall was just a barrier that ran up to his knees, only a little higher than the table. Above that was a gap stretching the entire length of the forge, designed to let smoke escape and for light to spill out onto the street. Indeed, a warm, gingery glow illuminated the dirt-trodden path, as if someone had taken the time to paint the ground a different color.

Santis lost interest in his surroundings and wondered over to the center of the workshop, towards the actual foundry. There was a large, circular hearth in the middle of the room, like something taken from a Ta-Metru forge. Only there was no fuel. The hearth couldn’t be run by gas or oil, and it certainly wasn’t solar powered. The Toa took a careful glance at the flickering flames and concluded it must be running on firewood, which must heat up the metal. There was probably some chemical inside that was designed to react and increase the temperature.
Whatever it was, it didn’t engage his interest, so he didn’t give the topic any more thought.

For a moment, he wondered whether or not it would burn him if he placed an armored hand on the metal. After all, being a Toa, his heat resistance capabilities could only go so far.
But then again, how many Toa of Fire could shoot Lasers from their eyes?

In the end, he decided against the dangerous impulse and sat down in front of the hearth. He closed his eyes and saw the same ginger glow through his eyelids. It took him a moment to adapt to it and when he did, a deep blackness consumed his vision. He let out a deep, heavy sigh as the warmth of the foundry filled him. It had been a cold, chilly night and his feet were still muddy from walking around through the marshland for so long. But still, he ignored the dirt and crossed his legs, then placed his palms on his knees.

Breathe in. Breathe out. The Toa inhaled slowly, withheld a lungful of air, then exhaled at the same rate. After about a minute or two of focusing on his breathing, he felt his tense muscles beginning to slacken. A deep tiredness rolled over him, like a warm, gentle wave from a sapphire -blue ocean. He imagined water swirling at his waist, licking at his chest and soothing his discomfort.

Sometimes he wondered if his creator – whoever the hell he was – had made a mistake when making him a Ta-Matoran. Granted, most of the time he lived up to the fiery, arrogant, violent stereo-type that existed of his kind, but Santis was sure he wasn’t always like that. Although the reaches of his memory escaped him, he knew from his conversation with Torlo that he could be erratic and calmer than most other short-tempered Toa of Fire, capable of great compassion and forgiveness.
He did have some redeeming qualities.

A deep cough shattered the Toa’s concentration. Irritated, he let out a low grunt then peeled open one eye to see who it was. When he realized it was only Torlo he closed it again.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Meditating. It helps me keep calm.”

You don’t say” muttered the Le-Matoran sarcastically.

“You should try it” grunted Santis emotionlessly. “It’ll get rid of your wrinkles, probably take the last 10,000 years off your brow.”

The Zatth-wearer exhaled. A snort. Santis guessed he must be smiling.
“I’ll stick to my beauty sleep” he responded smoothly. “Besides, good looks are overrated.”

“And you’d know?”

There was a pause. Santis pictured the Le-Matoran, leaning at the door frame, arms folded, shaking his head.
“Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty. They just move it from their faces to their hearts.”

The Toa of Fire chuckled to himself then opened his eyes only to see that Torlo was deadly serious.
“My wife was like that.”

Was?

“She died” shrugged the Matoran, taking a sad step closer to the hearth. “Suicide. 12 years ago.”

The Danuu-wearer snorted. “Doesn’t seem very heartfelt.”

Torlo stopped in his tracks and twisted his head up, insulted. The flames from the foundry danced in his eyes, making them wide and shiny, piercing Santis. They were ancient eyes. Old and wise, yet burning like the fire they reflected. They belonged to someone who had clearly seen his fair share of injustice.
But there was something else there, hidden behind the flickering blaze. It wasn’t just offense. The Toa of Fire was pretty sure he saw traces of anger in there. An inferno. A dark, sinister side to the Le-Matoran that made even him to grow uncomfortable. Torlo’s eyes were unnerving him, making him wary.

Santis grunted to himself and broke eye contact. Torlo had gotten the better of him.
“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“How did it happen?”

The rage in the Zatth-wearer’s eyes blinked away and, instead, began to cloud with memory.

“It was my fault” he stated. “She fell ill one year, I neglected her and began seeing someone else.”

“I thought you hated hypocrisy” he frowned. “But that makes you a hypocrite for – ” He trailed off when he realized that probably hadn’t been the best thing to blurt out.

“I know” muttered the blacksmith. “I’ve become the very thing I hate the most, the thing I argue against in every town meeting and yell at people like Kyros for. I’m a sinner and I know.”

Santis stayed silent.

“There’s a special place back in Karzahni for people like me, the damned. If there wasn’t then I don’t know what the world’s come to. For my crimes – my sins – I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

The Toa of Fire swallowed uncomfortably and glanced at the hearth. A full minute of awkward silence followed the Le-Matoran’s words. It hung uneasily until Santis realized he couldn’t take it much longer. He groaned to himself, pulling his bulking, over-armored body into the air. Rising to his feet, the Toa turned to face Torlo.
“I trust your village elders are waiting for me?”

“They should be” grunted the Matoran. “I doubt they’ll have much else to do at three in the morning.”

The Toa nodded then glanced at Torlo. He had a proposal to ask of the village’s leader, whoever the hell that was. The words “kill Tollubo” were still echoing through his head, like nails being drilled into his skull, like water dripping against his forehead – slowly driving him insane. He had to find this De-Matoran.
But then what? The Matoran of Sonics had obviously been a part of his past – be it a past he couldn’t remember – yet he was supposed to kill him? He wasn’t an expert but Toa weren’t renowned for assassinating Matoran.
Besides, after torturing him, Tollubo could probably tell him something else about his past – maybe something useful this time.

The Toa of Fire took a fleeting look from the Matoran, to the empty doorway, then back to the Matoran again. He couldn’t remember anything about who he was, who he had been or what he had done and it was torture not knowing. Torlo seemed to trust him, but he doubted the village leaders would.
And for all he knew, they were right not to.

“I’m going to propose an expedition” uttered Santis as the pair began walking. “I’m setting off on a mission tomorrow morning and I would like a Matoran to accompany me, to be my aide.”

“Anyone you want to travel with in particular?”

“Well, I don’t see you doing much around here.”

The Le-Matoran hesitated then frowned, his eyes trained on the ground in front of him.

Me?” he spluttered. “You want me to put my life on the line without knowing the reason why?”

The Toa shrugged. “Yes” he answered simply.

Torlo’s frown disappeared and his shrugged. “Fair enough.” The pair shared a smile before continuing their hike to the village center.

“And this mission,” continued the Matoran, “would it take us far away from here?”

“Probably.”

“Anywhere specific?”

“Probably” he repeated.

“Let me guess” chuckled the poorly-built Zatth-wearer. “You’re heading for Metru-Nui to find this Tollubo-guy, right?”

Santis nodded.

“Have you thought about how you’re going to get there?”

“Yeah. Walking.”

“Across the Silver Sea?”

The Toa stopped in his tracks and shot the Le-Matoran with a confused look. “I thought we were on Voya Nui. Isn’t that the one above all the domes with all the underground passageways?”

Torlo smothered a snort. “Since when has Voya Nui been in the sky?”

“I’ll take that as a no” grunted the Toa. He continued walking. “All the more reason why I need someone like you as a guide, someone I don’t argue with who can show me the way off this burnt wasteland.”

The righteous Matoran took a skeptical glance at him but remained quiet, or at least until they ended their walk in the village center. Santis’ eyes widened in terror when the horrific scene was revealed to him and he saw the one thing he possibly hated more than Rahkshi:
A party.

“You have some sense, Santis” muttered Torlo as the horrible sound of an overly-cheerful drumbeat deafened them both. “I hope you can leave some of it behind here before you go.”




Normally, a wanderer like Santis wouldn’t have drawn so much attention. Under ordinary circumstances he was likely to be ignored – just an over-sized mouth and another hungry appetite for the tiring village fishermen and farmers to provide for. They had enough of their own problems to cope with.
But the mood in the fortress was seemingly lighter than it had been in a while. As the Toa soon discovered, one of the nearby Matoran resistance settlements had fallen to the creatures of the night and three new arrivals had turned up in the village, only a couple of hours before sunset. Though they were only refugees and would probably be more of a burden than a blessing, they’d given their fellow Matoran hope. If survivors from other villages had manage to make their way to them, perhaps they could build a great fort and a mighty army to keep the Rahkshi and Visorak out forever.
It was wishful, crazy thinking, but the Matoran seemed to be thinking it anyway.
The desperate and the damned could build a mountain of hope out of a Stone Rat’s droppings.

That was why Santis found himself as the focus of the banquet. Being a Toa, he literally was the army the Matoran had been praying to Mata Nui for, which – strangely – did nothing for his or Torlo’s solemn moods. He barely touched the food he was given and only ate anything out of politeness. All around him Matoran were sinking their metallic teeth into their own feasts. Huge hulking chunks of organic meat, mugs of broth and sugared Madu cubes were being passed around.

Not wanting to cause too much trouble by ruining the celebration, Santis waited until the mood had begun to dwindle until he confronted who seemed to be the village’s leader, a Po-Matoran named Goll. He’d been observing each member of the crowd for some time now, not wanting to have to ask Torlo to explain everything to him.
But it hadn’t been that simple. As soon as he’d begun talking a gaggle of onlookers had crowded around him and whispers had been passed in the background, which distracted him. In the end, he’d had to pull Goll aside into one of the nearby council huts to have his discussion.
After explaining his proposal to the Pakari-Nuva wearer he began to feel guilty about the Matoran’s downtrodden expression. The village needed him for protection against its attackers and he was abandoning them.
But worse still, he was bringing Torlo with him too. It must be like he was selecting a single survivor then bringing him to safety whilst leaving the others to die.

“I see” muttered the Po-Matoran when the Toa had finally finished. “You will leave in the morning?”

“That’s the plan” shrugged Santis casually.

The Po-Matoran glanced from the Toa of Fire to the Le-Matoran by his side. “Very well” he grunted. “But are you sure you want Torlo to be your companion? He’s the village’s only blacksmith. If our weapons are damaged he’s irreplaceable.”

“I have to go” shrugged Torlo. “But I don’t intend to stay. No matter how dangerous it is, this is my home. Plus, I hear there are Toa in Metru-Nui. If I get there, the first thing I’ll do is send them here and bring the rest of you to safety. And failing that I could at least train in a Metru-Nui forge, learn to make weapons that are stronger and lighter. That way I could make better weapons here, when I return.” The Zatth-wearer paused then sighed. “I’ll stay if you order me to Goll – I have enough honor to obey you – but this is for the best, and deep down you know that too.”

Goll raised an eyebrow then nodded decisively. “Indeed” he grunted. “But I don’t want you two going alone. You won’t stand a chance, even with Santis.” He turned and looked up, indicating he was addressing the warrior. “Toa, I accept your offer but, in exchange for taking my village’s only craftsman, I cannot see any pair of travelers crossing this merciless wasteland – not even Karzahni and Tren Krom together would make it past Mount Valamai. No good can come of your quest if there are only two f you. My one condition is that you bring more Matoran with you, save as many as you can from this hellhole.”
Santis frowned.

“I don’t want a tagalong-team of Matoran squabbling at my feet” he grunted. “Besides, my journey will be dangerous. You’ll only be putting innocent lives at risk.”

The Matoran of Stone shook his head and raised his arms, openly referencing the entire village. “Look at this place” he retorted. “Living here is dangerous enough as it is.”

“And that’s worth Matoran sacrificing themselves? Last time I checked, Metru-Nui wasn’t all that great.”

Goll sighed deeply and shook his head, like a tired Turaga. “At least in Metru-Nui they’ll have a chance. Here they’ll just wither away and fall victim to the prying pincers of a Visorak to be dragged off and torn to pieces. That is my offer. You take as many Matoran as you can, and you put your life before theirs.”

“That seems fair” grunted Santis sardonically.

The Pakari Nuva-wearer ignored him. He just stared at the duo through weary eyes then he extended a hand. “Then it is agreed. We have a deal” he announced.
The Danju-wearer almost felt sorry for the village’s leader when neither he nor Torlo shook his hand. There was nothing more awkward than standing there, ready to shake hands, when the gesture is ignored. It is foolish to keep standing with your palm stretched out, yet, at the same time, it is somehow worse to retract your hand back.
When he finally realized neither of them wanted to thank him, Goll nodded to himself, swallowed, and lowered his arm back to his side. Uneasily, the trio began shuffling towards the doorway and back into the party-atmosphere.

It was at that moment when a crooked-looking Ga-Matoran hobbled up to them and began glaring at Santis. He frowned and waited for one of the others to introduce him. In the end, neither of the Matoran said anything.
As he watched, the Toa saw the strange, twisted Matoran raise her arm and point a bony, wrinkled finger at him. It was twitching with suspicion.

“I do not trust him” she gurgled. Obviously insane. Santis turned to Goll questioningly. Again, the Po-Matoran sighed and shifted his attention to the aged Matoran of Water.

“Krennato, my friend, that’s hardly the way to address a Toa, particularly one who has just saved our village.”

The Makuta sent him” countered Krennato with a snarl. “They could have conquered his last village, muddled his senses and sent him here – luring us into a trap.”

“You afford those cowards too much respect” grunted Torlo, returning to defend the Toa. “The Makuta hide behind their armies. Their solution to every problem is to throw foot-soldiers at something until it breaks. Besides, the Rahkshi are mindless, clumsy and dimwitted creatures. They couldn’t mastermind whatever senseless nonsense you’re blabbering about.”

The female Matoran froze and shot the Le-Matoran with an icy stare, which barely fazed him. “Indeed” she murmured. “But our attackers are changing. They are growing more intelligent.” She paused to extend another shriveled, fragile finger in an eastern direction. “Until yesterday we had a craftily hidden subterranean passageway. Now the Visorak have discovered it they will adapt and attack it more regularly. It will become their primary target. They’ll form plans and calculate tactics, all by themselves. Soon they’ll attack at the same time as their Rahkshi allies at the gates. They are thinking and planning clearly, more like us than you could imagine, Le-Matoran.”

Goll massaged his chin thoughtfully. Santis could guess why. He imagined that the one great advantage the Matoran – besides the fact they were only attacked at night – was the fact they were smarter than their enemies. But if their midnight stalkers were getting smarter…

“It can’t be a trap” snorted Torlo, dismissing the idea with a curt wave of his hand. “If the Rahkshi were smart enough to be manipulating Santis into luring us – which is preposterous – he’d have slaughtered us all already, you first probably.”

Spurred by the Matoran of Water’s accusation, Santis bristled angrily and flexed his muscles. He raised his arms to crack his knuckles aggressively then threw a dark glare at her. She just stared blankly back at him through empty eyes.
In the end he decided she wasn’t worth ruining his heroic reputation by pummeling into the ground. She was just some dusty, deranged, senile excuse for a Matoran, probably not above fortune-telling and pessimism, claiming the world was going to end in a column of brimstone and hellfire on a daily basis. Engaging her in a fight – be it one he would surely win – would come to no good. In the end, he just grunted and turned his attention away, casting her from his mind.
But a small crowd of Matoran was gathering around him. While there were only a handful of villagers surrounding him it felt like the heads were tilting towards him. He was becoming something of a spectacle.
A sleek, vain-looking Ko-Matoran stepped forwards, eager to get his word in on the matter. A wanna-be center of attention.

“Moving on from our protector being possessed,” he snorted, “who’s to say this quest is that important? We need help too. Out plight is just as serious as your memory loss. What do you expect us to do, Toa? Send our warriors to protect you, leaving our weak and helpless at the mercy of the Rahkshi?” He spat into the dust, which turned a few more heads and suddenly made Santis think about how fitting the Matoran’s head would look on a plaque above his bed.
There were murmurs of agreement before Krennato nodded too and silence fell. By now the party mood had died down for the villagers to listen. Many of the lights had been doused and some Matoran had been set the task of tidying up. Many of the villagers who weren’t crowded around for the debate even appeared to be sitting down, conversing in hushed, orderly discussion with each other. Some were even sleeping, one of Santis’ favorite pastimes.

“He puts it harshly, but there is wisdom in what Kyros is saying” muttered the aged Ga-Matoran, as if patronizing Santis by giving him a running commentary, pretending she hadn’t said anything worse. “Protection is one thing, but appearing in the night to sweep away out people? If this quest goes ahead, our village will fall!”
At the moment, the situation didn’t look too good for the Danju-wearer. Krennato and Kyros seemed to have sided and turned completely against his idea, while Torlo and Goll were of the opinion that the villagers should send a small group with him, to help him find his way north. He wasn’t sure why, but Santis had the strangest feeling that these four Matoran were inevitably going to be stuck with him for his journey, squabbling amongst themselves and doing a number on his audio receptors.

But then Torlo stepped forwards and snorted, countering the cynical Ga-Matoran. He moved fluently and smoothly – obviously used to defying people in public, just like he claimed.

“It’s no accident that he came on the same day as the other refugees” he argued, gesturing swiftly to the crowd. “Yesterday we couldn’t have let anyone go. But our ranks have been bolstered.”

Bolstered?” The Ko-Matoran almost shrieked, casting a scornful glare at three of the crowd members, presumably the new arrivals.

Kyros!” snapped Goll sharply, before the hot-headed villager could disgrace the settlement’s guests of honor. When he was sure of the Matoran of Ice’s silence, he leaned forward, concentrating hard. The Toa could probably guess what he was thinking. Torlo had a point. To the misguided Matoran, this was a sign. Goll wouldn’t dare ignore something like that, not in this superstitious society where people would willingly believe anything that brought them hope.
If he said he’d once beaten at a game of Kohlii they’d probably believe him.
But he wasn’t sure this was a sign. Santis hadn’t told them anything and they couldn’t exactly stop him from walking off on his own. They’d all seen it, he’d butchered two Visorak and a Rahkshi of Plasma and that was against his own Toa Code. If he wasn’t going to obey those morals, who was to say his arrival was a blessing?
Still, he decided to wait for someone to throw in a query of their own. It was becoming clear that Goll couldn’t think of anything.

In the end it was Torlo who spoke. “We should go,” he stated, addressing the crowd, “as many of us as possible. After all, is the chance of escape from this dark, hellish wasteland not what we’ve been clinging onto all this time?”
Silence.
“Plus we’re stronger now” added the Zatth-wearer. “We can easily spare a few warriors and I believe it will benefit us in the long run. Once in Metru-Nui we can send supplies back: more food, better weapons, maybe even organize an evacuation.”
To Santis’ surprise, Krennato leaned back on her staff and nodded. “True” she croaked. “Bad luck would befall us if we refused this opportunity.” It appeared she had switched sides, which was all that was needed to bring a slick grin to the Toa’s mask.
Argument won.

Goll glanced at the Ga-Matoran then nodded slowly. “If we are decided then that is the end of this matter. But the question of who to send still remains. I don’t want to command anyone to leave. Are there any volunteers?”

Aye.” A red-armored hand immediately shot up. It belonged to a stout Ta-Matoran wearing a Kanohi Calix. He seemed desperate. He was either stupid or felt the need to be close to the group, which struck the Toa as odd. “Anything to kill a couple of extra Rahkshi.”
The starting stages of a psychopath.
The Po-Matoran growled unhappily. Despite his small stature, the Matoran of Fire looked physically fit, which suggested he was a good fighter, possibly one of the best in the village and certainly the most determined from how he’d stuck his hand up to swiftly. Good reflexes, which meant Goll probably didn’t want to give him up. But, at the same time, he couldn’t exactly refuse the Calix-wearer the chance without insulting him.

After some careful thought he nodded reluctantly. “Any others?” he asked.
A number of other hands rose up. To the Toa’s counting, there were four: the Ta-Matoran, a somewhat thickly-built Matoran of Lightning, a timid-looking Po-Matoran and a unperturbed Onu-Matoran. There were no objections so the four Matoran stepped forward, into the center of attention, allowing Santis a better look at them. Most of them were well-built, except for the Po-Matoran – which was somewhat strange, he had to admit. But if he didn’t want to fight then the team had their own cook, weapons carrier and firewood collector.
After a careful examination, the Toa nodded his approval. Calling upon his grand mastery of the Matoran Language, he chose to say nothing. A simple grunt said more than any of his words could.

“I might as well accompany you too” grunted Goll, which was also surprising. “Since I argued the case, I have to go. Plus I used to rule these lands. I know my way around my kingdom.”

The Danju-wearer cocked a mocking eyebrow. “And who will lead the village you’re so eager to protect in your absence?”
Immediately Kyros’ hand was in the air, his eyes wide with greedy, gluttonous ambition.

The Po-Matoran chuckled and shook his head. “I’m hardly going to leave this settlement in your hands. You’ll probably evict everyone and keep the fortress to yourself. You will have to come with us too.”
The Ko-Matoran’s jaw dropped as he gawped at the Pakari Nuva-wearer. Others in the crowd were surprised too. The quest was going to be a perilous one. The land was full of shadowy creatures and the chances of survival were slim. Yet Goll himself was going and he was bringing his seemly only successor – or at least that was how the situation appeared to Santis. Not even the Toa of Fire saw wisdom in that. Goll just didn’t want his village to succumb to the selfish Po-Matoran.




But one person in the crowd did. The Ga-Matoran known as Connla had been listening to the debate for some time now. Despite how much the villagers hated the idea, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Kyros was going to end up as Goll’s successor. If the Po-Matoran died on the quest, there would be several challengers to replace him and Kyros might find powerful allies hard to come by, particularly as he was so untested in battle.
Which was what Goll was hoping for.
If the Ko-Matoran completed his task and returned to the village with a bloodied blade, desperately-needed supplied and tales of glory, that would be the making of him. But that was hardly likely. The tiring village leader was missing the obvious. If Kyros survived he was hardly going to return to Voya-Nui. He would stay in Metru-Nui and build himself up there, claiming to have faced monsters and Makuta alike. He would spread his poisonous lies anyway. This would do the Ko-Matoran more justice than the Po-Matoran realized.
While the conceited Ko-Matoran blinked stupidly at Goll, Krennato took a short step forwards.

“I may as well accompany you fools” she grumbled bitterly. “You’ll need a healer because you are bound to get yourselves hurt with your aimless traipsing.”
The thunder in Toa Santis’ eyes was unmistakable.

Goll nodded then grunted.

“Very well. Now, if that’s all…” he looked around, seeking any final volunteers, making it clear by the way he had asked that nine people were more than appropriate.
But one last hand went up, a tiny hand.
Connla’s. “I want to go too” she announced.
Goll was astounded. Everyone was.

Connla” hissed the Po-Matoran. “This quest isn’t suitable for –”

“For what?” she retorted. “Ga-Matoran?”

“It will be dangerous” added Torlo, his tone warning her. “This is a task for warriors.”

“But you’re going and you’re no warrior.” “I have to go so I can learn to make better weapons to craft and bring back here.”

“Maybe I can learn something too” argued Connla, clinging on to scraps of arguments. “Who knows, maybe I could learn how to make bandages from leaves or something.”
She paused then searched the blank masks of her fellow villagers for support only to find none. “I have to do this” she continued. “I sense failure if I don’t go. I’m not sure what good I can do – maybe you’re right. Maybe none at all – but I believe I must travel with you.”
Goll shook his head, troubled.

“I can’t allow this. If Krennato’s coming then you’re the village’s only healer. Who will aid to the injured every night? The village needs you.”

“It needs you too” she countered. “And what of Torlo, Fiancha and Krennato? Who will fix our broken weapons? Who will endeavor for our fish each morning? Who will give us wisdom?”

“That’s different” struggled Goll, losing the argument. Seeking help he turned to the Toa. “Please, tell her.”
But the Toa of Fire only shrugged.

“She lives in this village by choice – and now she chooses to leave it” grunted Toa Santis, some of his first words since he’d emerged from the council hut mere minutes ago. “I see no reason to rob her of that right to decide.”

“You’ll accept her?”

“I’ll accept anyone with the courage to join my expedition” shrugged the cape-wearing warrior. “Besides, you’re the one arguing to get as many Matoran out of here as possible.”
Brave, provocative words, which Goll couldn’t ignore. It would appear the Toa of Fire was on her side of the argument, which gave Connla at least some stance in the debate. Perhaps he recognized her as a healer and planned on getting hurt, though the Pakari-wearer knew she was no more of a medic than some of the Gafna sleeping peacefully around the huts on piles of straw. But she was closer to the ways of medicine than anyone else in the community and, deep down, that somehow seemed to give people hope. Nobody would dare cross her is she brought some spiritual, ritualistic trash into her argument.
It was strange how closely her remedies could be linked to the paranormal.

Goll grunted hollowly, sighed, then seemed to grow angry.

“Very well.” he growled irately. “We’ve pledged some of our greatest warriors, our leader, our elder, the only blacksmith in these lands and a fisherman to this reckless cause – why not add our only healer too?

And so, in a bitter, resentful fashion, the Po-Matoran finalized the decision and the Matoran were dismissed, as if it had been some motivational speech to an army about to go to war instead of a party. With a mixture of fear and excitement in the pit of her stomach – mostly fear – the Ga-Matoran began trudging back to her hut to enjoy one final night of sheltered sleep, before leaving the only home she’d known for the past 50,000 years to face whatever demons were lurking beyond the safety of the village and other dangers that were beheld by the world beyond.
Metru-Nui had damn well better be worth it.

Chapter 5[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27

There were no further attacks that night – an encouraging omen.
The group departed at dawn, with the first slithering stretches of sunlight spilling out over the the newborn sky, bidding short farewells to their fellow villagers. Connla wanted to take one final look back at the huts and walls of the fortress as they left as she knew she might never see them again, but that would be inviting bad luck. So she kept her eyes fixed on the path ahead.


It soon became apparent that it was going to be a cloudy day. There were erratic showers and a bone-chilling gales. The climate was different lower down, something the Ga-Matoran had almost completely forgotten about having spent the past 3,000 years atop a hill, cowering at night and tending to soft, gentle Rahi. The air smelled cold and clammy, an element she was not comfortable with.
They marched at a steady pace, staying close to the Tren Krom river, heading East. All the village’s boats had been destroyed by Rahkshi attacks some months back, so they could not cross the river easily. Goll seemed to have an idea that, if they headed further inland, the river would reach a point where it would be narrow enough for them to cross and head north at, which should take them all the way to the tip of the continent if all went well – which it probably wouldn’t.
However, as a rare stroke of fortune, the earth was solid underfoot from the trampling of their midnight attackers. As there was no vegetation left to obstruct their way, the group found plenty of paths through the burnt trees, making good time. Torlo and Iolan were at the fore of the pack, followed closely by Goll. Then came Connla herself, along with Fiancha, Sarnii and Kyros. The Ko-Matoran was sulking and hadn’t said a word since leaving the village.
Krennato and Turas seemed to be towards the rear of the group with Toa Santis strolling along slowly, bored senseless by the sluggish pace of the Matoran. The Toa was dawdling leisurely, taking slow, exaggerated steps, prompting them to hurry up.
The young Pakari-wearer brooded upon her reasons for leaving the safety of her fortified home as they continued their trek, growing increasingly troubled the more she thought about it. Mostly she had chosen to leave because of the promise of a new world. But there was another reason – fear.
The village seemed to be getting smaller and smaller with every passing day. She felt so confined, like it was betting harder and harder to breathe. She had nightmares where she was trapped, where the walls of the fortress closed in, even tighter, squeezing her to death. If her worst fears came true and they fell to the hordes of monsters, she didn’t want to die caged in.
But, even so, no matter what way she looked at it, the Ga-Matoran began to realize she had left for purely selfish reasons. The villagers needed her and she shouldn’t have abandoned them because she was afraid or to save herself from an oncoming disaster. She should go back. Fight with them. Use her knowledge of healing to help her doomed friends back in the village as best as she could.
But what if there was another reason? What if this is my destiny? Krennato’s teachings of faith always seemed to follow the guidance of spirits and the supernatural. The paranormal normally wouldn’t have anything to do with Connla’s life, but now she seemed to be torn between logic and belief.
Mata Nui help me she muttered under her breathe. There were so many possibilities – her head was hurting just thinking about them. Perhaps she should stop and give herself a rest, to gather her thoughts. There was no point worrying now. They were more than half a day’s hike from the fortress, which meant they couldn’t return to safety before nightfall.
There was no going back.




Everybody was quiet during the march, thinking about those they had left behind and what lay ahead.
They stopped to rest and eat at midday. Torlo and Iolan managed to capture a couple of Hikaki, which they ate raw, along with some berries that Connla herself picked. After that they walked slower on their full stomachs, which annoyed their Toa guardian considerably.
But it didn’t take long for conversation to pick up and talk began, low and laid-back, with Torlo asking Santis a question about his Sword and blade. Of course, his idle curiosity was followed by lots more questions after that. The Matoran of the village knew all there was to know about each other already, which left the Toa as the only mystery in the group.
But the cape-wearing giant didn’t answer many of their questions and whatever answers he gave were sketchy and vague as he looked ahead, focusing on the track and not the circle of annoying Matoran. Still, after the Toa fell silent the conversation took a more philosophical turn, which came as something of a surprise to Connla, though she stayed out of it. Speaking of death and legacy didn’t seem to bode well for their expedition.

“I wouldn’t have a lot to leave other than memories” grinned Goll when the conversation reached him. “But they’d be good memories. I live in the light. I regret none of the mistakes of my past.”

“Except getting stabbed and losing your throne” snorted Kyros with a smirk, sending the Po-Matoran spiraling into a foul mood.

“You should not provoke him like that” hissed Krennato harshly as she glared at the Ko-Matoran, repulsively.

“He’s an old wreck!” retorted the egoistic Matoran of Ice. “I’ll have you know I had my own Knowledge Tower back in Ko-Metru. I’ll speak to the old Mahi any way I choose.”

“We’re not in the village now” growled Torlo as he turned to face Kyros. “We’re a small, isolated group and we need to rely on each other. Think on – Goll might hold your life in his hands one night soon. Will you compare him to a Rahi then?”

The Ko-Matoran’s jaw dropped when he realized that nobody was going to support him. He scowled but considered Torlo’s words.
Off on another of his legendary sulks again.




Torlo and Iolan sparred with Santis in the evening as the group crossed bogland. The Toa threw a few knife feints with his blade which were new to the two warriors and they practiced until they’d perfected them. The two Matoran, in turn, knew a lot of moves which the Toa of Fire didn’t and they taught him a few, promising to reveal more over the coming days.
Once warriors had been secretive. They had kept techniques to themselves, always wary of their neighbors, knowing that today’s friend could be tomorrow’s enemy. The Rahkshi had changed that. Now they shared because they had to – warriors, blacksmiths, fishermen, healers. The Brotherhood’s creations had united the various Matoran of the land in a way no ruler ever had. It was devastatingly unfair that the survivors couldn’t join forces to face their attackers on a single battlefield, in fair combat – Connla was sure they would win. But, although Rahkshi and Visorak weren’t as clever as Matoran, they were sly. They spread out, taking control of paths and routes, limiting the opportunities for travel and isolating their enemies, dividing prospective allies. They shared arms, learning from others whenever possible, but they wouldn’t be able to share enough.

After they grew tired of jousting, the warriors dispersed and returned their attention to walking. Kyros approached Torlo for advice, which struck the entire group as odd considering he hadn’t spoken since his argument with Goll. He announced an idea for a new spear, topped with several sharp fins and wanted the weapons-crafter’s opinion. The Le-Matoran listened politely, then explained why the weapon wouldn’t work. Kyros was disappointed but the smith managed to cheer him up by telling him that any weapon could be forged in the furnaces of Ta-Metru and, if he met other blacksmiths, perhaps they could work together to come up with something along the lines of Kyros’ designs, which seemed to shut him up for a while.
And that suddenly made everyone happy.




The group finally came to the crossing point of the Tren Krom river late in the evening. The river was shallow and narrow where they had arrived, easier to cross. The valley had once been the land of another region. A much larger fortress than the one the travelers had left behind had once stood in the marsh, the largest in the entire district. Several dirt trails still led up to where the once impressive stone fort had stood. Matoran used to travel there in masses, naturally leaving eroded footpaths in the earth.
But now the fortress was little more than a pile of rubble and most of the roads in disrepair, washed away by the river. The villagers had heard that this particular pocket of resistance fighters had been overrun centuries ago but had hoped the reports were wrong. The remains of the massive stone structure would have been the ideal place to shelter that night.

“What now?” demanded Kyros impatiently, studying the untidy mound of rubble that had once been the pride of the region. “Cross the river or camp here?”

Cross” grunted Toa Santis, though he eyed the water warily.

“He’s right” added Iolan irrelevantly. “There’s no safety here.”

So?” snarled the Ko-Matoran. “Where Visorak attack once, they’ll sure as hell attack again.”

“True, but most Visorak can’t cross running water.”

“Well, who’s to say they’re not already there?”

“They can’t be” grunted Goll. “The fortress used to be protected by a moat. Maybe there’s something left of it that we can use.”
Kyros glared at Goll then nodded hesitantly. He was still uneasy.

But, as they drew nearer, the entire group was overcome with the anticlimactic sense of disappointment. From the looks of things, they had been completely wrong. There had never been a fortress on the opposite side of the river, just some huts when Matoran of the neighboring village dwelt. They used to greet those who crossed the river and either granted them the freedom of their village or turn them back. The dwellings were still standing but they had long-since been abandoned. Matoran had lived there at one point, that was for certain, but there was no sign of them now. They might be hiding but Connla knew that to be wishful thinking. It was far more likely that they’d all been murdered with Rahkshi sheltering from the sunlight inside their dwellings.

“Come one” grunted Santis, taking the lead. “The sun is setting. Let us get across and find a hole for the night which we can defend. I expect no safety here.”




There were small wooden boats tethered to the banks of the river, bobbing up and down on the gentle evening current. Each held four Matoran at most. The group headed for the nearest then divided into smaller groups. Torlo and Iolan teamed up together with Sarnii and Fiancha whilst Goll, Krennato, Kyros and Turas took the second vessel, leaving Connla to share the third with Santis.
Turas leaned forward and grabbed the rope of his group’s boat and hauled it in. He’d almost pulled the dingy up onto dry land when there was a flash of crimson and Santis’ Kanohi burst into life. A red flare sparked from the rear of the crowd, making everyone turn as the Toa’s eyes widened in shock.
He was using his Kanohi.

Turas! No!” he roared.
The Po-Matoran reacted instantly. He dropped the rope and leapt backwards just in time. A huge demonic eel-like Rahi unleashed itself behind him, rising out of the boat like an arrow shot from a bow, reducing it to splinters. It’s jaws were impossibly wide, filled with teeth that would be more suited to a Fenrakk.
The Rahi snapped for Turas’ head and only missed by a finger’s breadth. It landed hard on the riverbank and writhed angrily, going for the terrified Po-Matoran’s legs. Toa Santis was at the poor villager’s side in the blink of a heartbeat, his sword aflame with fiery energy, blazing like a god. He took a swing of his mighty sword and stabbed at the place where the monster’s eyes should have been but it didn’t have any. It was blind, operating by some other form of sense.
There was a deafening battle-cry as Iolan threw himself forward, landing on the Rahi’s jagged, rock-like back and hacked at it with his blades. The creature bucked and twisted desperately, trying to dislodge the Ta-Matoran but he rode it like a Mahi, digging his heels in, expression twisted as he roared hatefully, his Kanohi Calix rippling with fury.
Kyros snapped into action, as if he’d been waiting for a cue. He took aim with a spear and hurled it at the beast, down the maw of its gaping mouth. The spear stuck deep in its throat. The Rahi choked and slammed its head downwards, trying to spit out the spear.
Goll darted forwards, a war-cry on his lips. He grabbed the shaft of the spear and drove it further into their attacker’s throat, twisting savagely. The Rahi spasmed, then weakened.
Suddenly, the warriors were all over it, hacking away like Fikou trying to bring down a Spiny Stone Ape. Connla, Torlo, Krennato and Toa Santis watched them from afar.

“Do you think I should help?” grunted the Toa of Fire, fingers tapping the hilt of his sword which hung from his waist.

“They’re in control” shrugged Torlo.
And, indeed, moments later the battle was over and the broken Rahi lay at their feet, covered in the crimson blood which once pumped through its veins, torn to pieces, jaws stretched wide in a final snarl.
Goll grasped the handle of the spear, yanked it out and handed it to Kyros. He laughed and clapped the Ko-Matoran on the back, leaving a red handprint on his white armor.

“A master throw!”

The Ko-Matoran smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t mean for it to go down the throat” he muttered with untypical modesty. “I aimed for the top of its head. But it moved. I got lucky.”

“I’ll always take luck over skill” chuckled the Po-Matoran, clapping his back again. The pair grinned at each other like lifelong friends.

“I’ve never fought an aquatic Rahi before” grunted Iolan, wiping his blades clean on the grass.

“They’re rare” grunted Fiancha, studying the corpse then turning it over with his foot. “We’re lucky it’s not night yet or we wouldn’t have seen it coming.”

“Come on” ordered Torlo with iron in his voice. The others glanced around uneasily. “It’ll be sunset soon and the Rahkshi will be coming. And they won’t be this slow.”
That silenced everyone. After a quick check to make sure the other boats were safe to use the team clambered onto the wooden vessels and crossed the river as swiftly as possible. All eyes were on the water, wary of another attack from beneath.




Nobody emerged from the huts as the group docked, which gave the whole area an eerie echo. When the group was on dry land they stared at the dwellings suspiciously. It was customary to announce oneself before entering another village. Normally a traveler had to be confronted by a villager of their own rank and guided. But times had changed and many of the old laws no longer applied.

“You in the huts!” bellowed Santis, in case anyone was alive inside.
Silence.

“Should we go see if anyone’s there?”

“They’d have answered if there was.”

“Unless they’re scared or sheltering underground.”
Fiancha turned sharply and pointed at a spot to the left of the settlement. Connla’s eyes weren’t as sharp as his so it took her a while to focus. Then she saw is – a small arm, scrappy white armor, lying in the dirt.
Santis sighed, drew his sword and moved to the front of the group.

“Let’s go” he muttered gruffly. His long legs forced the travelers to proceed at a forced nervous jog.




There was nowhere to shelter, so the group didn’t stop when the sun set, but kept going, hoping to outpace any Visorak which caught their scent. Connla tried to persuade herself that they wouldn’t be noticed. You had to be suicidal to travel at night in these troubled times. The creatures of the night wouldn’t expect to find anyone out in the open. Maybe they didn’t even look anymore.
A silly, juvenile notion though, for an hour, it seemed as though it might just be true. They didn’t sight any Visorak and hope began to grow.

But then the Ga-Matoran’s entire world was taken and hurled upside-down. There was a howl of ruthless vibrancy from far behind them, but not far enough for comfort. The entire group paused and listened as the screech was answered by others. Like a call to attention.
In her mind’s eye Connla saw a group forming, Rahkshi and Visorak lurking in the darkness. They would gather around the one who found their trail, sniff the air, perhaps lick the earth if they were still unsure, then quiver with excitement.
Then they would lurch forward, insanity burning in their cold, starved eyes. Pincers slicing. Feet stomping. Rhotuku charging. Mouths foaming. It was sickening. She could hear them crashing through the scorched foliage, snapping off burnt branches, knocking over small trees.

“They might be after someone else” implored Kyros unconvincingly.

Goll grunted and turned to face the path ahead. “We keep moving” he growled. “If we can make it to the – ”
A fierce rumble from the left caught Connla’s attention. Instinctively, she whirled around and caught sight of a Rahkshi leaping through the air. It had been hiding behind a rock. Three others stepped out alongside it.
An ambush. The cunning beasts.
The first of the monsters landed on Santis, knocking away his Sword with a swing of its staff. A streak of black and gold armor. Magnetism. The Toa seemed to snarl as the creature screeched.
Before anyone could blink, the Toa’s arm shot up, grabbed the creature’s head and jerked it from left to right, trying to break its neck before it touched him. After a moment’s struggle, the cloak-wearer grew tired and activated his control over Plasma to melt the creature’s throat, leaving the head to slide off and the scorched Rahkshi to slump to the ground.
But the other Rahkshi chose the easier option. They stuck together as they charged toward the Toa.

Get the Hell out of here!” he bellowed, smashing the first Rahkshi’s head with an elbow, ducking to grab the second by its waist. He whirled around and ripped it away, leaving a trail of something scarlet. Connla didn’t know if it was blood or Plasma. “Go!” he yelled furiously as his first attacker regained its feet and leapt at him again.

Do as he says!” roared Goll. The Ga-Matoran felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder and she started running. More Rahkshi were beginning to appear behind them, cutting Santis off from sight. There didn’t seem to be anymore in view but it would only be a matter of seconds rather than minutes before the others came to investigate the screaming.
The Ga-Matoran found herself moving before she could consciously make the decision, her feet one step ahead of her brain. Santis was their leader. He’d given them orders to run. They’d be fools to ignore him, and the Toa didn’t seem the type to tolerate fools gladly.
Never in her life had Connla known Rahkshi to be so excited. When they attacked the fort it was hard work. It must be frustrating, the scent of prey thick in their flaring nostrils, having to fight their way through, often failing. But out here, in the open, they only had to hunt the Matoran down and they were theirs for the taking. Without their Toa they were helpless. Like Sand Lions after a Dermis Turtle.
Her last glimpse of the burly Toa was of him wrestling a Rahkshi of Hunger, while keeping a Rahkshi of Weather Control away with his Blade, backing up into the shadows of the forest, conceding ground reluctantly, stubbornly.
Then the air filled with ash as Rhotuku Spinners tore the trees around them to splinters. The dust from each individual explosion enfolded to obscure Toa Santis and his attackers, swallowing them whole.

Chapter 6[]

The Rahkshi snarled menacingly as it advanced on Toa Santis. Black and yellow armor. A Rahkshi of Limited Invulnerability. The group’s leader by the looks of things. The cloak-wearer chuckled throatily and stepped forwards with a provocative grunt, beckoning him on. Challenging him.

The Rahkshi snarled again, uncertain. It was unsure if the strange Toa before it was a valiant, bold hero or a simpleton of some sort. It thought about the problem, which wasn’t exactly the speediest process the Toa had ever seen. Giving his attacker a helpful kick in the right direction, Santis let out a monstrous warrior-like roar, which seemed to clear matters up. The Rahkshi’s eyes narrowed and, with a screech of its own, it charged.
His attacker was huge, with arms like tree trunks, only slightly shorter than Santis himself. The Danju-wearer planted his feet, twisted and drove his shoulder into the Rahkshi’s chest. It reeled backwards then tripped, knocked to the ground. Around it Visorak wailed and screeched, laughing and taunting him it appeared, as if it were some sick arena match.

As the Rahkshi returned to its feet the Toa landed a blow hard on the side of his head, which almost tore it right off. His attacker crumpled and fell.

Not so Invulnerable now.

The Toa could sense victory, but remained focused. Many battles were lost in their last few seconds, when the one with the upper hand grew over-confident and gave his opponent the chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Sanits was sure he wouldn’t make that mistake.

But the other dominant pack leaders had other ideas. Seeing its chance for glory, one of them darted forward and latched onto the Toa’s arm, sinking its metallic clamp of a mouth deep into his armor. The wanderer grunted as he wrenched his arm free then swung it back to ram into the new attacker’s spine. The Rahkshi’s casing was torn off and its Kraata was ripped out in his hand. It withered and squirmed under his grip before he grew tired of it and squeezed until he heard a satisfying pop sound.

Another Rahkshi surged forwards, gibbering and screeching madly. Yellow armor. Heat Vision. The Toa didn’t waste a moment. He dove forwards immediately, wrapped one hand around the creature’s throat – making sure to jerk its head away so it couldn’t catch him with a wandering eyebeam – then grabbed its right thigh, rooted it off the ground and held it above his head. With a sharp grunt, the Toa flung the Rahkshi towards a group of Visorak. Those it landed on went wild and tore it to pieces.

A fourth Rahkshi stepped forwards from the circle of attackers, the largest yet. It had the widest, broadest shoulders of the entire pack, leveling out to Santis’ own height. But it was edgy. If it was a true leader it would have led from the beginning. Possibly the strongest Rahkshi on this side of the Continent, but it lacked courage. It was only challenging him now because it felt it had to, after he’d become tired by fighting the other dominant members of the pack. He was at his weakest. It was, tactically, the easiest opportunity for a Rahkshi to strike him down.
The Toa leapt at the aggressor. It lashed out with its fist because its staff was missing. Brown armor, like mud. A Rahkshi of Fragmentation. He just let the punch connect with the side of his chest then laughed. He threw a fist of his own, striking his enemy clean in the chest. It stumbled away from him, winded and dazed. With a single beam of his Laser Vision, there was nothing left of the Rahkshi to worry about, just bits of ash gently fluttering to the ground.

Santis glared at the others. Neither the remaining Rahkshi or the Visorak advanced. He stepped forwards. When they held their ground he knew there would be no more challenges.

A sick, twisted smile crept across his Kanohi Danju as the Toa raised his hands. Jets of flame erupted from his fingertips, blazing through the air and engulfing the clearing on the outskirts of the forest. In the blink of an eye the entire village erupted in flames. The huts burned. The Visorak screeched. The Rahkshi squealed. The temperate vaulted up as the air began to burn. Entire Rahkshi simply melted away to molten metallic puddles, leaving their Kraata to topple into the liquid metal and fry away. And the Visorak seemed to soften and dissolve in the air, reduced to sludge.

But it wasn’t enough. The fire blazed around the Toa’s hands, his eyes wide with power. He was standing victorious, taking his victory in, imagining a couple of shocked faces in his head. He became filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and joy, like fresh energy.

Was he going Nova?

He couldn’t tell. Fear suddenly gripped his concentration when he realized that he couldn’t stop. He was no longer emanating the heat, rather, he was beginning to absorb it. Fires were doused out, against his will. The puddles solidified. Mud hardened. Then the temperature plummeted from one extreme to the other. The river began to freeze over. Frost lined the burnt grass. The air became thick with ice.
And all the time Toa Santis was helpless to stop the imminent explosion that was about to erupt from his fingertips.

He reached for the sky.




Torlo let out a snarl as he stumbled over the charred flora of the burnt forest. A spray of ash trailed after him as he charged forwards.
It all seemed hopeless now without Santis. He’d been so sure the Toa would be the last of them to fall, and without him they were surely lost. But the hero had gone down fighting and the rest of them owed it to him to give escape a chance.
But, if they failed, at least they could die valiantly – like Santis.

Where the hell are we going!?” demanded Kyros as he sprinted past, now directly behind Torlo.

“Somewhere open where we can make a stand from!” yelled the Le-Matoran as they ran, answering for the wheezing village leader.

“We won’t find anywhere in time. They’ll catch us first!

A brainwave struck the Le-Matoran and he suddenly stopped, wheeled around, waiting for the other Matoran to catch up. While he did so he scanned the surrounding area. It was a suitable place to make a stand, somewhere they could easily defend. A cave would have been preferable. Once inside the group could fend off the creatures for the rest of the night then escape in the morning. But there were no caves conveniently located in the middle of this scorched forest.
The clearing they were in was small but a number of trees had been felled. The wooden trunks now lay strewn across the ground. Somebody had probably intended to graze Rahi in the area, or build a hut in the days before the war.

“Not here” panted Goll as he fought for breath, his face dark from the strain. “It’s too… exposed.”

“There’s nowhere better” retorted the Zatth-wearer with a confused frown. He pointed towards the mound of logs. “We can chop down a few more trees, stake their trunks in the ground and sharpen the tops.”

“These are Rahkshi!” argued Krennato, fiercely. “They will reduce your tree trunks to dust in a second!” Goll and the Ga-Matoran looked around, searching for support only for the entire to group to be thrown by the sound of a loud explosion.

Tense, Torlo jerked his head up to search for the source. His eyes widened in shock as they settled on a blinding fireball rolling into the direction of the village, like a ball of gravity-defying tumbleweed.
A gigantic concussion ring blasted outwards. The entire forest was hit by a violent shockwave, causing branches to fall, twigs to crack off, splinters to rain down. The group was tossed sideways. Torlo wobbled, his right foot stabbing into a particularly moist patch of dirt as he tried to frantically keep his balance. The terrible explosion had blasted outwards and had met absolutely nothing in its path. The Le-Matoran closed his eyes and stood in silence.

When he opened them again a moment later there was nothing to see in the night sky other than a roiling cloud of thin smoke. No debris, no metal, no broken scraps of armor. Nothing at all except microscopic invisible particles of vapor accelerating into the atmosphere.

“What happened!?” gasped Sarnii in disbelief. The flames shone off her armor, lighting her eyes a blazing orange. With a vengeful snarl, Torlo stepped forwards and draw his Mental Bolt Launchers, preparing for battle. Following suit, the majority of the other Matoran did the same and began taking positions, leaving Goll and Krennato speechless. They all knew it was hopeless, that they were going to die. But what choice did they have? They couldn’t run any further, their stubby little legs wouldn’t allow it. There was nothing left to do but charge their weapons and aim for anything that shrieked.

Die as warriors, with pride.

It was almost a shame that their expedition was going to end so abruptly but Torlo hadn’t held any high hopes of survival anyway. Right from the start he’d had a gut-instinct that it was all going to end horribly. He anticipating at least four Matoran dying – hopefully Krennato or Kyros first. But he never would have expected Santis’ death. He’d expected the Toa to go on until the end, battling his way through all manner of enemies, leaving the broken bodies of Makuta to burn as he trudged onwards.

This wasn’t right. His stomach was churning and his feet were tingling. Something was wrong but he couldn’t place his finger on what it was. He’d long since gotten used to the imperfect nature of the world in which he resided in, so why something would be bothering him now, as he prepared to fight to his death, seemed strange. He frowned and turned to his right. Kyros was kneeling down beside him, praying and gibbering frantically. He felt like joining him.

He hadn’t prayed in years, not since the first days of the war. The Le-Matoran had lost all faith in this Mata Nui character from Matoran folk legend. How could this creation of fools be both benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient? What kind of all-powerful, all-seeing, all-forgiving meddler could sit back and watch as his Universe was torn apart by war? To him, Mata Nui didn’t exist – and if he did then he was one hell of a cruel, childish, irresponsible jerk.

But, nonetheless, Torlo closed his eyes and reached out with his mind. His breathing slowed and the storm of his mind calmed. His bulging muscles slackened as a wave of serenity washed over him. While he no longer believed in Mata Nui’s protection, he still made his peace with whatever Gods might be watching over him, just in case. If he was going to die, he’d want a clear conscience. He probably wouldn’t ask for forgiveness for the countless sins he had committed in his long and barbarous life, probably for the times he’d been weak instead, when he’d disgraced his proud and demanding conscience. Then he prayed for help.

"You can help yourself" came a reply. The Le-Matoran’s eyes snapped open in surprise, searching for whoever had chosen to play a practical joke and spoken aloud. Nobody had. It had been a thought, and one that was not his. The spark of surprise was followed by a slightly larger one of confusion. He had never heard the voice before. It was hard and weighty. There was unquestionable gravity to it.

"Matoran, you are in a unique position" continued the voice. "You are at the crossroad of two possible destinies. Depending on which path you take at this precise moment in time, your fate is either to become a mighty, noble Toa of Air, or to die, falling in the black. Only you can determine your destiny but it is in my interest that you do not die... not yet at least."

Torlo shuddered then focused, scanning the area around him, searching for whoever was plaguing his thoughts with this nonsense.

"No, don’t bother looking around for me. I am not on the Southern Continent, but someplace far away, nice and safe. You, however, are not, so I would strongly advise you to listen to me."

Shocked, Torlo asked the strange consciousness in his head who it was.

"My name is Makuta Karabak and, right now, my voice is the only one in the universe that you can trust" came the reply, a dark chuckle. There was a pause then he heard the next sentence. "I speak to you because I know misery is your destiny and, for once, the suffering of a Matoran does not bring me pleasure."

“But this land is full of suffering and I don’t give a bucket of Burnak-bile about destiny. Why am I picked, out of the thousands of tortured souls, for this special attention?”

"Because the Great Beings were having a bad day when they thought up your role in the Universe."

Torlo didn’t answer.

"I can guide you to safety, Matoran, and I will give you instructions when I have to. But you must act quickly when I give you the order. So pay attention because I am not in the habit of repeating myself."

“And what’s the order?”

"Get out of here." This time the tone was commanding, abrupt even.

“How?” muttered the Zatth-wearer under his breath, unsure of himself as he lowered his weapons a fraction of an inch.

"Fight the Rahkshi on their own terms."

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

The voice sighed contemptuously. "Do I have to do everything for you?" Before he could respond, it added curtly, "Defend yourselves. There is shelter close-by, about a five-minute run from here. I can guide you but it is your responsibility to guide your friends. I have no interest in them. It is you alone who is of any value to me. Not even your precious Toa Santis. Right now, in this single instance, you are the most important Matoran in the history of creation. Whatever you do now will determine your future. You have the potential to either destroy all evil in this universe or you will die... So start running."

Torlo felt a sharp jolt of pain, blunt and agonizing. It cut through his mind, severing the mental connection between him and his mysterious Makuta protector. In that moment, he awakened, his mind reeling. Somebody had just been talking to him – but who? What was this about him being destined to become a Toa and smite the world of evil? What had just happened?

Goll!” he roared. The old warrior raised his head and glanced at him. “We’re leaving.”

But –

Don’t argue!” The Zatth-wearer lowered his weapons, willing them to stop charging. “I was wrong. We’ll die if we fight here. But, I think, if we carry on there’s…” He stopped, unsure of what might lie beyond, but sensing in the depths of his very being that the strange Makuta was right.

Everyone was looking at him now, torn between hope and suspicion.

“This place isn’t much” grunted Iolan “but it’s defendable. If we’re caught on the run, we’re finished for sure. Are you certain…?”

“Yes” he growled icily with unexpected venom. “We have to go… now. Like Santis said, there’s no safety here. If we stay here we’re dead.”

“But we’ll live if we go?” asked Kyros dubiously.

“Perhaps.”

It wasn’t enough. The others didn’t trust his instincts. They were going to stay. He opened his mouth to argue afresh, but then Krennato lowered her staff and came to the Le-Matoran’s side, like a faithful Dermis Turtle.

“I’m with Torlo” she announced.

“Why?” Goll asked – not a challenge, just curious.

The patchy Matoran of Water shrugged. “A feeling.”

Iolan picked at a crease in his Kanohi with the tip of one of his blades. “I don’t feel like we’ll live if we go, but I’m sure we’ll die if we stay.”

Goll looked around at the others and asked the question with his eyes. They all answered with weary glances and resigned shrugs. “So be it” he grunted, attaching his axes back in their sheaths. “It was your idea to stay here anyway. Torlo – lead us.”

They ran.




Sweat. Terror. The sound of their pursuing stalkers crashing through the crisp foliage behind them. The explosion must have attracted some more nearby gatherings of the midnight monsters. They were almost upon them. A minute, maybe two, and they’d be forced to stop and fight – stop and die.

There was a flash of blue energy and a cry of agony. Fiancha was ahead of the group, having overtaken the others to run alongside the Le-Matoran, so he should have been the safest. But the burst of sapphire energy struck his leg in mid-sprint and he toppled forwards, falling flat on his face. He hit the ground hard, bellowing into the night. One of his Stasis Blades flew out of his hands and disappeared into the darkness, leaving nothing but a solid crunch as it hit the singed leaves and charred flora.

"Help him" whispered the voice once again, this time with none of its previously typical vagueness.

Without even considering his own safety, Torlo leapt forwards and stretched his arms out, selflessly using his body to protect his felled ally. The Rahkshi could strike his friends down once, but he’d be damned if he let it happen a second time.

The wound was bad, probably caused by a Rahkshi of Molecular Disruption. Most of the armor on the fisherman’s leg had been burnt off. Some of his organic parts were hanging out of a jagged hole in his knee. Torlo was no medic but he doubted that was healthy.

“Can you walk?”

…What do you think?” responded Fiancha weakly, between fits of screaming.

With a mighty grunt, the Le-Matoran hooked an arm around the felled Onu-Matoran’s waist and hauled him up, looping his other arm around his ankles. The chances of either of them making it to the clearing through mere support would be pretty slim, but it was preferrable to the alternative.

Carrying the wounded Onu-Matoran in his arms, he charged forwards, his muscles straining. Already panting wildly for breath, he looked up, searching for oxygen. The trees were thick around them. Impossible to see far. It was dark. Too dark. Torlo looked up and noticed extra branches, scraps of cloth, thatch torn from roofs, all sorts of bits and pieces scattered among the tree tops, linking the upper branches, keeping out the light of the moon and stars.

His heartlight skipped a blink. It was a trap. He was wrong. This Makuta Karabak had tricked him and he’d fallen for it, leading himself and his friends to their doom. When the thunderbolt of realization struck him Torlo began to shout out a warning, but it was already too late.
Then…

They burst into another clearing and came to a surprised halt. There lay a clear circle around them and at the center – a ring of giant stones. Most were taller than the fleeing Matoran. Some probably would have towered over the late Toa Santis. Set in the ground at intervals. Impossibly ancient, covered in thick green moss and creeping vines. There was an aura of power radiating from the circle, but power from a time before theirs. From the time of the olden days, before even the Matoran Universe was even thought of perhaps, when some other world had been the playground of the Great Beings.

The Rahkshi and Visorak were still hot on their heels, surging up behind them, their stench foul in the air. “Come on!” bellowed Torlo. The group flew forward at his call, rushing to the stones, readying themselves for battle.

They spilled past the stones, into the center of the ring, where the Le-Matoran set the battered Matoran of Earth down and the others formed a protective ring around him. The stones wouldn’t provide much cover but they’d make it marginally harder for their attackers to get at them and would buy them a few valuable seconds. They wouldn’t make a great difference but Torlo had always believed in hope; if nothing else.

Iolan jumped onto a stone which felled on its side many centuries ago. He waved a blade over his head, screaming a challenge at their stalkers as they began to emerge from the cover of the burnt trees. Dozens of hideous and twisted monsters. Rattling, snake-like spines. Oozing, sickly green saliva. Darting blood-red eyes. Nightmares everywhere Torlo looked.

Their aggressors advanced slowly. It was probably safe to assume that they were relishing the moment, prolonging it, toying with their prey. But then they stopped and screeched with anger.

As they stared at the Rahkshi beating the ground with their fists and staffs, or Visorak trying to tear at it with the tips of their legs and pincers, all cursing at them in their own garbled language, Krennato lowered her staff and rested a hand on one of the stones, stroking it as if it were a Gafna.

“And you all thought I was a lunatic” she muttered. “I was right… Mata Nui is worth having faith in…




Over the next few hours, one thing became apparent: whatever invisible force seemed to be protecting them – or what Krennato had insisted was magic – proved to be too strong for their attackers to withstand. None of them could even come within striking distance of the stones and any bursts of energy seemed to flicker away and dissipate into nothingness. A few of them tried to get closer over the course of the night, making darting runs, heads low, screaming with defiance. Each came crashing to a halt or was thrown back, as if they’d run into an invisible wall. One Rahkshi even tried to fly above the stones then drop down only to be swatted aside, bouncing right off an invisible dome and onto the ground, where it landed with a sharp crack and lay still. Whether it was just unconscious and its staff had split or if its neck had been broken wasn’t something Torlo was in any hurry to find out.

When they’d finished celebrating, the Matoran had examined the stone circle in greater detail and what they found dampened their elated spirits. Bones. There were organic patches of rotten decay. Some belonged to small Rahi but most were from Matoran origin, stacked carefully at the centre, arranged so the head pointed west, in the direction of the setting sun. According to some of the shadier, lesser-believed areas of Matoran mythology, the sun was supposed to guide the dead to whatever came next.

But the bones were far more recent than the stones. Many were sill dotted with flecks of dried blood and flakes of armor.

“They must have been brought here to their deaths” muttered Sarnii. “To keep the Rahkshi from stealing their bodies and animating them with Kraata.”

“Perhaps” grunted Goll. “But why not just burn them?”

“Maybe the bodies are part of the circuit” suggested Turas. If you move them then maybe the whole thing stops working. The stones might need power from the newly dead.”

Goll shook his head. “Even if they did, what purpose would it serve? Why drag bodies here just to keep Rahkshi from overrunning a stone circle?” The mystery puzzled them all night – nobody could sleep with the screams of the Rahkshi. It was like trying to close your eyes and drift away surrounded by a pack of hungry Rock Lions with no visible barriers.




“I remember something like this on the way to Karzahni” announced Kyros eventually, a couple of hours after midnight. “There was a tunnel that I passed through that didn’t let anything with elemental Light energy pass through. Maybe this is the opposite of that, keeping out all the bad things.”

“Then how come it let you in?” grunted Iolan, kicking the Ko-Matoran as he rolled over and tried to get to sleep.

Torlo ignored the Ko-Matoran’s scowls and returned his focus to guard duty. Fiancha was moaning, in a state between consciousnesses. He, Turas and the annoying Ko-Matoran were sitting up, waiting for dawn to approach and for their attackers to recede back into the shade. Not that he thought any of the others would be asleep.

Still, he wished they could learn more about the strange stones. They could build some stone rings around their village. If they made enough they could rid the entire continent of its invaders, driving them off into the ocean or up to the crater of Mount Valmai. But there was no chance they were going to unlock any forgotten secrets anytime soon. If they chipped anything off the barrier might break. Krennato often spoke of ancient wonders but she knew relatively little factual information about them, except for legends she’d heard in the days when the world was in its infancy.




A solution to the problem of the bones didn’t arise until early the next morning, when their attackers had calmed down and stepped into the shade, only withdrawing as far as the trees which encircled the ring. There under the cover of the rough shelter, they stopped and leered viciously, pounding the earth with terrible, steady, threatening rhythm.

“They were workers from the village” grunted Torlo in the end. “You saw their settlement, they had no defenses yet they’d survived long enough for the severed arm we saw to be fresh. They must’ve sought the protection of these stones every night, which made the Rahkshi and Visorak mad, so they blocked the sunlight in the trees with scraps of equipment from the village and stuck it in the trees, so they could sit around here and wait for the villagers to come out in the day. When they’d finished they must’ve let the Matoran get into the circle then stood guard the next day, protected from the light, trapping them.” He sighed as he looked down at the dusty, battered, grey Kanohi Rau that was half-buried in the ground. “There was no way out. They died here, slowly, of starvation and thirst.” “Most of the bodies don’t have weapons” muttered Goll with a heavy sigh. “They probably got so used to coming here, they grew lazy and didn’t bother with weapons, since they were safe within the ring. They couldn’t even fight their way to freedom.”

“And now we’re trapped too” snarled Kyros bitterly, shooting Torlo a dirty look.

“Hold your Rahi” shrugged the Le-Matoran. “You’d all be dead already if it weren’t for me. If you don’t like survival, maybe you should have lagged behind when you followed me here.”

“True” admitted the Ko-Matoran acridly. “But I’d rather have died fighting in the open than of hunger and thirst, trapped like a Desert Fox in its den.”

“You can die any time you like” snarled Goll, taking an unprecedented step closer to Torlo. “The Rahkshi are waiting. Go pick a fight with them if you’ve so eager to die quickly.”

“Maybe I’ll pick a fight with you instead” snarled Kyros, his knuckles whitening around his spear – the one he’d thrown down the Aquatic Rahi’s throat and that Goll had fished out again hours before.

“You Ko-Matoran can be so juvenile and selfish” snapped Sarnii before the insults could escalate further. “Instead of being grateful of an extra day, you’re bitter and scrap with each other like Rahi.”

“What do we have to be grateful for?” retorted the white and blue-armored Matoran. “We’re surrounded! We’ll die like the others who lie here and our bones will rot slowly, unburied, ignored by the world.”

“Not necessarily” snorted Goll. “The Rahkshi haven’t built up a wide shelter and we’re not weaponless. If we break through their ranks, they won’t be able to chase after us.”

“That won’t be easy” disagreed Torlo warningly, studying the land ahead. “There’s a lot of space between this ring and the trees. We can’t surprise them. They’ll see us coming and converge at that point.”

“So we separate. We pair off and dart at them from a few directions at once. I doubt everyone’ll make it through but some of us should.”

“The strongest” noted the Le-Matoran softly. “But what about the others?” He eyed Connla and Turas.

The Ga-Matoran stepped forwards. “We’ll take our chances!” she retorted stiffly. The Matoran of Air cringed on the inside, annoyed at himself for singling her out. Connla was no warrior but she knew how to fight and she wasn’t afraid to die. All she wanted was to be treated equally, not as the helpless, dependant spare part.

“What about Fiancha?”

A beat of silence passed. Goll shook his head. “If he can’t walk that means he can’t run. He’s as good as dead... but he’ll probably die soon anyway.” He smiled bleakly at the Matoran of Earth. “Sorry to put it so bluntly old friend.”

Don’t worry about it” croaked the Onu-Matoran, grinning back. “I didn’t want any of you guys to be there when I died anyway... just wish I didn’t have to be either... anyway... will it work?

“I’m not sure” grunted Goll, doing some quick calculations in his head. “We could maybe make the distance back to the village in a day if split, but we’d have to run, and there’s no way we’d outrun anything between here and the boats. Assuming we survive that… we’d have to walk by night as well.”

“But we’ve more hope this way, so we’ll have to chance it, right?” asked Iolan inquisitively.

“If you’re willing to make that sacrifice.”

“You’re all insane” sneered Kyros. “You’ll kill yourselves for nothing instead of doing the wise thing.”

“And what’s that?” enquired Goll with all the sweetness of an Ice Bat’s bite.

“Leave a decoy… probably Fiancha… after all, he isn’t going anywhere. Then we can get to the river, take the boats and sail to the coast. We can get out of here and head to Metru-Nui without all the slaughter!”

Silence.

Torlo shook his head. “I never had a high opinion of you before, Kyros, but I wouldn’t have expected this, not even from a lowly worm like you. Flee when Santis is in danger? Run when there’s a war going on? I don’t believe you’re of our people.”

The Ko-Matoran growled menacingly and began to advance on Torlo, but the Le-Matoran shot him his own scornful glare. He stopped, recognized the severity of the Matoran’s wrath, then thought twice about stabbing him. In the end he only scowled and spat at his feet before turning away in a sulk. With a fatigued sigh Torlo glanced at the sky. “Well, if we’re going to try anything we’ll need to do it soon. The earlier we split up, the better. We’ll only get more tired and hungry from this point onwards… Does everyone remember the way back to the boats? Because I’m not putting my life on the line to give directions. I hope – ”

Wait!” snapped Connla, directing the tip of one of her whips in an easterly direction. All heads turned to follow her outstretched arm. There seemed to be some kind of disturbance. Rahkshi and Visorak were mobilizing, retreating back into the trees, starting off slow then charging away, leaving the Matoran behind. Others gazed on after them, confused.

Creeping closer, Torlo squinted and focused, dimly aware that the others followed his example and crowded round. There was a flare of crimson as a Visorak Suukorak was sent flying. It withered and squirmed, landing on its back, legs twitching before a deep stillness overcame it. There was a perfectly straight line of magma dripping from its underbelly.

Toa Santis tore through the trees, blazing like a God.

The Toa of Fire bellowed a mighty roar and lava bubbled from his palms. His sword dripped with Plasma. His eyes blazing with red-hot fury. The temperature seemed to shoot up as the savage hero’s sword sliced through the air, sending heads rolling. The head of one unfortunate Rahkshi of Illusion ended up being hit with such force that it landed in the stone circle… without the rest of its body. But it immediately became obvious that the Toa was in bad form. The sun seemed to darken for that moment of realization. He was bleeding all over. Torlo could only barely see his right eye – it looked like his mask had been taken off and he’d had his face clawed at it. Plus he was missing the tops of all four fingers on his left hand, plus two on his right.

But then his eyes locked on the Matoran and the murder seemed to disappear from his expression, gone in an instant, as if a passing gust of wind had cleared it from his head. In that moment he looked vulnerable. He was open to any kind of attack from the circle of monsters. He drew to a halt halfway between the trees and the stones. It was like he’d just strolled into some arena match.

The Rahkshi and Visorak didn’t hesitate. They bunched together, snarling and drooling, reaching out towards him, each wanting to be the first to snag him and feast on his flesh. But the Toa dodged the claws, pincers and teeth of the creatures then started to… toNo! Torlo couldn’t believe his eyes. He blinked in utter disbelief, wondering if he’d finally given in to insanity.

Toa Santis had started to dance.

It was crazy. Foolish. Ridiculous. But he danced anyway. It wasn’t a graceful dance, or a dance of tradition or power. He just threw his sword tip-first into the ground and hopped from one armored foot to another, clapping his hands, waving them around, grunting a few off-key tunes.

The demons in the dark went wild, infuriated by the display. Santis was taunting them, dancing around within their reach, mocking them. They fell over one another in their fury, clutching, grasping, desperate to drag him down and end his insolence. Some even stepped out of the shade of the trees and lunged at him, risking the burning rays of the morning.

The battered Danju-wearer dodged all of them, leaping here, darting there, dancing the whole time. He set off on a circuit, his attackers following him. He came within the range of those that’d been standing their ground, keeping an eye on the Matoran. As he passed they lost interest in everything but the dancing Toa and joined in with the rest of their monstrous allies, giving chase, lashing out, spitting poison.

Within minutes every Rahkshi and Visorak in the clearing was focused on Santis, stumbling after him, chasing each other, fighting amongst themselves. The Brotherhood’s foot-soldiers had never been the most logical of creatures. Now they’d lost their senses entirely and only cared about destroying this waltzing thorn in their sides. They’d completely forgotten about the trapped Matoran.

“I never would have believed it if I had not seen it” muttered Goll, stunned, watching the show with a wide, incredulous eye.

“He’s sliding through their fingers like smoke” chuckled Iolan, who wasn’t doing a particularly good job of disguising the fact his jaw was on the ground.

“There’s more to the fool than we thought” grunted Kyros dismissively, a hint of disapproval in his voice. He didn’t like surprises, even if they worked to his advantage.

“Come on” commanded Torlo. “He’s created a gap for us to slip through. Let’s not waste it by giving them a chance to regain their senses.”

“What about Santis?”

“He’ll be fine” laughed the Le-Matoran. “He’ll catch us up later, after he’s gotten tired and started massacring them. I think it would take all the Rahkshi in this land to snare that Toa!” Torlo marched forwards, secretly not liking the idea of leaving the Toa behind but knowing it was for the greater good.

But he came to a stop after a couple of steps, urging Goll to take the lead as he looked back at the Toa. He studied Santis as he continued to dance around the rim of the circle, teasing and tormenting the creatures. But, as he watched, he noticed that one of the monsters wasn’t chasing the hero. Strangely, it was neither a Rahkshi or a Visorak. An Onu-Matoran it seemed, almost completely hidden in the shade, masked by a dark veil.

The figure stood alone, ignoring the commotion, gaze fixed on the circle of rocks and the fleeing Matoran. He couldn’t see very well but Torlo was sure he could see the strange Matoran’s eyes blazing crimson. And his jet-black armor appeared pale and clumpy, as though made of wet clay. He wore a Kanohi Avsa, twisted and mis-shapen to have pincers and sharp spikes.

There was something especially disturbing about the Matoran amongst the Rahkshi. Why he hadn’t been torn to pieces by the monsters was another mystery, one that seemed to trouble the Matoran even as Iolan thumped him supportively on the back and pointed in the opposite direction, where the trees stood unguarded.

Then, before he could steal another glance at the strange Onu-Matoran, Torlo barked an order and the group broke into a run, surging forwards for freedom, heads down, knees kicking up clouds of dust behind them. In the heat of the moment all thoughts, except those of escape, slipped from the Matoran’s head and blew away on the cool morning breeze, though he still remained suspicious, and one certain fact would remain with him, right up till the day he died:

He had just seen Makuta Karabak.

Chapter 7[]

Written by Abc8920

One could say many things about the Southern Continent; for some it had once been a key commercial point between the northern landmasses and the unexplored south, for others a nice countryside. Some considered it to be the location in the Matoran Universe with the prettiest landscapes, while some pointed out at how it was a Makuta-made hell. But Fiancha felt something entirely different.

The Southern Continent was huge.

Even though the statement was simple and obvious, he didn’t think that any of the group had actually considered what it took to cross the continent with the starting point being their village. Even he, who normally gave some thought to things, had not imagined how slow and sluggish the tread through the land would be.

They probably should have taken some more food with them. Santis had argued that they could hunt on their way, but - in reality - that only made their trip even slower. But he had decided not to argue back. He only spoke when it was really necessary, and it hadn’t been such an occasion.

The thing was, overall he didn’t share the optimism with the rest of the group. He had decided to leave, but not for some idealistic dream, not for helping Santis, not even for getting himself a new, better life. Years had taught him that the world would be sick machine and his life bad, no matter where or when. Therefore, he had just agreed out of boredom.

And he was starting to get bored now. They were trekking along some woods as a dense fog crept through the undergrowth, advancing slowly but surely towards an undetermined point in the unknown.

Walking next to him was Turas, the Rode-wearing Po-Matoran. Fiancha couldn’t recall if he had decided to walk next to Turas or rather if it had been a result of fortune, but the Po-Matoran was probably the one who he got on the best with in the group.

Turas was a quiet guy; more or less like him. The Matoran of Stone almost never spoke, always looked calm, maybe even too calm. His eyes always seemed to be staring into an unspecified direction, and unless a Rahkshi appeared, he just couldn’t be disturbed by anything.

However, there was one trait that differentiated him from Turas; basically, he didn’t speak because he chose to not do so, whereas Turas didn’t speak most of the time because he lacked the self-confidenc. There was a very big difference between cynicism and shyness.

Fiancha was almost relieved when the forest ended, and what looked like a grassy landscape extended in front on them. However, as soon as they neared one of the cliffs they realized how unnatural it was. The walls were almost vertical, and at the bottom of the indent there was some water, making the “valley” look like a pool.

“This” – started Krennato, the wise and creepy Ga-Matoran – “is the place where the Great Spirit landed, in the time before time, coming from the heavens...” The old one continued with her usual babble about mythology. Fiancha didn’t even bother listening to her, for he already know what happened here, quite some time ago.

The truth was that this section of the forest had a complex series of tunnels – the Nui Caves- underneath. The Order of Mata Nui - back where they still gave a Burnak about what happened down in the south of the Universe - had decided that it would be fitting to use the Nui Caves as a place to plan out their advances on the regions under Brotherhood’s sphere of influence.

However, apparently something had gone absolutely wrong, and the Order blew up part of the caves, bringing down a gentle hill that became the ‘Great Spirit Valley’.

The crazy Ga-Matoran appeared to be the cleverest one in the group, but Fiancha knew that that was just a façade behind which an unstable mind hid. The fact that she was - or at least looked like - the oldest Matoran in the village didn’t make her the smartest. He himself hadn’t gotten any clever with time. Krennato firmly believed in the lies that her subconscious produced, and that was enough for everybody to consider her some kind of mystic shaman.

She didn’t know about the true history of the valley, just like the rest of the group. But he wasn’t going to tell them. He just was the fisherman. He didn’t consider himself the smartest one either, but he at least was capable of reading standard Matoran, something which most of the group members probably couldn’t boast about.

And that was about it, he had just been lucky enough to pick up some stone tablets in one of his nets one day, detailing the disastrous Order of Mata Nui mission.

The group walked closer to the cliffs, until they were on the edge, and contemplated it. There was something strange in the centre. It was a diminutive patch of emerged land, just big enough for one Matoran to stand on top of, with what looked like some kind of metallic material on it. Unfortunately, the valley was far too deep for any of them to clearly see what it was.

There were a few seconds of silence, in which the same question floated around the minds of all the questers, until Kyros was the one who decided to materialize it with his Kanoka-disk-sized mouth.

“Who’s going down there? That thing may be worth a check.”

Each of the members of the expedition looked at one another, searching for an approval sign, but all they found was the same expression over and over, the one that was able to say without pronouncing any words: ‘let someone else do it’.

Fiancha was already starting to grow sick of it all, but he controlled his emotions with the endless patience that every fisherman has.

For once in a long time he considered speaking up suggesting Santis as the one to descend to check the mysterious object, but he chose to oppress that though, deciding it would be better if the others decided for themselves. Life had also taught him that it was better to observe arguments than to take part on them.

By the expressions on their faces, Fiancha could tell much of what each Matoran wanted. Kyros felt like he had excluded himself when he had pointed out the problematic. Fiancha didn’t get around much with the Ko-Matoran but he knew that it was better to not do business with him.

Goll on the other hand was clearly convinced that Connla was the one to be chosen. Goll himself was one who he did respect a lot. Unlike Krennato, Goll was probably wise in the right meaning of the word, and not just old and senile.

His arguments weren’t exactly well-founded, but it made sense to think that Connla was the best swimmer out there. And Fiancha had to admit, with traces of embarrassment, that he couldn’t swim. A fisherman that couldn’t swim. That was an argument that he could use, but he really wasn’t going to enter the discussion anyway.

Connla argued back that she wouldn’t have the strength to climb the walls once she had examined whatever was down the hole. A valid argument, but from the look of her eyes he could tell that fear played an important part in that argument too. Fiancha didn’t see that as bad. All of the members of the expedition, including him, had been under constant stress since they had left. It was probably better to let it out like the Pakari-wearer did rather than let it corrode from the inside.

The Vo-Matoran called Sarnii was instead pointing at Turas, saying the Po-Matoran was one with the greatest physical strength. The Matoran of Stone didn’t even respond to that and just laid on the grassy ground looking at the clouds in the sky, having some kind of herb in his mouth while he did so.

But Fiancha wasn’t the only one who found himself out of place in the argument. He could tell that Santis’ patience was running thin, judging by his murderous looks at the Matoran. There was also Turas, absent as always, and Torlo, who was close to the discussing Matoran but saying nothing. The Le-Matoran was just staring at Sarnii and Connla, probably thinking about the past. So, in the end, he decided to lie on the ground and stare at the clouds just like his Po-Matoran companion was doing.

A few minutes later, he had to stop looking at the midday sky as Santis finally decided to intervene.

“Oh please, for Mata Nui’s sake, just stop!”

The Matoran, who had been arguing for a long while, but actually saying nothing, all shut up and looked at the Toa.

“Any one of you” – continued the Toa, still angered - “would be far better suited than I am for doing this. The stone that makes up the walls is fragile and it will be more likely to break under my weight. But, seeing as none of you have the maturity to suck up your squabbling and pick a suitable candidate for this trivial task, I will do it anyway.”

Everyone sat on the ground, silenced as the Toa started his descent. Santis was probably the most responsible member of the expedition. The other Matoran owed him a lot, and so he did.

Fiancha was still unsure of their protector. Granted, the Toa of Fire had been the one who had healed him with his Danju, and saved him from having to receive the treatments of Krennato, but there was something strange about him. Something alien and unlikable. It disburbed him though he would never admit it aloud.

He walked closer to the edge, and watched the Toa slowly climb down the wall of stone.




There are moments where time becomes subjective. Hours can fly like sand through a closed fist, and a few seconds can be enough to realise hidden truths, review one’s miserable life or even just become crazy. Santis was experiencing one of those moments.

He hadn’t actually descended far before he had fallen. Now, he didn’t actually remember if he had fallen because his Danju had showed him that he would fall in a brief spawn of time, or rather he had jumped off because he was already going to fall anyway.

It didn’t really matter. He was already in the air, and the ground was rushing to meet him.

Instead of playing the role of some pretentious hero, he should have kicked some Matoran down the hole and watched how they reacted to it. They were probably having fun watching him hopelessly kick the air. Sometimes the humour of Matoran could be a lot sicker than that of a Rahkshi.

Finally he met his fate. He crashed against the water, hard as a rock and cold as ice, and then hit a muddy floor. His whole body ached, and his mind was clouded as the instinct to swim to the surface overrode anything else in his head. The Toa opened his eyes, but the water was murky and he couldn’t differentiate up from down.


Don't panic he thought to himself. Stay calm, hold your breath. After a moment of calmness, he began to drift upwards, the forces of upthrust repelling his battered body from the riverbed. With a lot of effort he managed to force his head out of the water, and took a deep breath. The hardest part was done, apparently.

Santis looked up, to the cliff-top where, in turn, the Matoran were staring at him expectantly. Then, the Toa turned his head, and found the cross in the centre of the valley’s lake. He started swimming towards it. The stagnant pool wasn’t too deep, approximately just three bio deep, and it became shallower nearer the cross. The bottom of the lake was made of the same material as the plain above, and there were also metallic pieces scattered. The Toa started to doubt that that hole had anything to do with Mata Nui.

And there it was. The cross was made of equally long, metal bars. It didn't seem to be any religious symbol of any kind, but rather the axels of some broken vehicle. There was some sort of robot impaled in the central bar, no bigger than a Matoran.

The robot itself was barely recognisable; it was way too oxidized to tell its original colour, and the armour was battered. In fact, it actually looked like it had been under a stampede of wild Mahi, judging by the state of the metallic components.

Santis stared for a moment at the cold unlit eyes of the machine and realized that he had his hand on the robot’s head. And then a flash came.

The Danju activated, and he saw a scene of the robot’s past. It took place in a forest, similar to those that Santis and the others had just passed, and the android walked through the undergrowth. Unfortunately, the fact that the memories were recorded from the robot’s perspective made Santis unable to unveil its identity.

It proceeded down a path in the forest, when suddenly something made the world spin. The grinning face of a biomechanical being appeared just before it banged its head against the robot’s, ending the scene.

There was no doubt in Santis mind. It had been a Skakdi.


---


The Toa of Fire finally sat on the grass back at the overhanging plain. He was exhausted after having to climb his way back to the surface. He looked at the afternoon sky, with the clouds stained with red and orange light as the day started to fade.

When he had recovered from the effort, Santis raised and looked at the plateau around him. The Matoran weren’t in any of the cliffs of the hole, where they had been during his descent.

After further examination he saw them next to the edge where the plain ended and the forest started once again. He ran fast, after seeing a preoccupied look in their faces.

One of them was missing.

When the Toa arrived there, all the Matoran were listening to Iolan, who was in the centre, with wet eyes and mumbling something about Rahkshi.

“What happened?”

Goll comforted Iolan, assuming the role of the village leader once more.

“I decided it would be better if we split in groups of two to search for some food.”

The Ta-Matoran raised his head, and slowly made eye contact with the Toa.

“The Rahkshi threw him off a cliff. Fiancha is dead.

Chapter 8[]

Toa Santis stared dumbly at the Calix-wearer before him, standing in utter disbelief. For a moment he was stunned, transfixed on the spot, unable to move. Then, after several awkward second of unwelcome silence, he moved towards the edge of the cliff and looked down. The rest of the Matoran hung their heads, the joy of the victory already forgotten.

Kyros could feel a lump in his throat. He didn’t like it. Breathing was becoming hard and he didn’t want to choke to death over an Onu-Matoran losing his footing.

Normally it wasn’t in his nature to care about others. Matoran died every day. The Ko-Matoran didn’t see how Fiancha’s passing was any different. But still he felt a flicker of guilt. Images of the fallen Matoran flooded into his mind. He saw the black-armored fisherman fighting, hunting, laughing. He was sure the Matoran would have wanted to die this way, fighting, which made the loss far easier for Kyros to bear.

The way he saw it, life came and went. It was a principal of the universe. The living weren’t around forever and he had accepted that many years ago. What precious little time any of them had in this universe shouldn’t be wasted mourning the dead... unless it was he who had died. When that happened Kyros wanted the sky to burn and Ga-Matoran to be crying in the street. But that wasn’t going to happen for a while. Life wasn’t something to gamble with. He wasn’t a fool. Not like Fiancha had been.

“He fought bravely,” muttered Iolan. He probably meant to comfort the others but there was something strange about his tone. It was almost patronizing, as if he were talking to a deaf person.

“Did he fall before or after the Rahkshi fled?” asked Santis, gripping his sword tighter.

“Before, of course,” frowned the Ta-Matoran. “They forced him over. He was close to the edge. He never stood a chance. I tried to help but –”

“Yet they left you alone?” snorted Kyros, stepping forward into the conversation. “They killed him then ran?” He couldn’t believe that. This miserable little Matoran of Fire could barely stand up, his puny legs struggling to support his weight, yet he had survived, by some miracle, where another had fallen. It was Rahkshi-bile!

“They saw I wasn’t such an easy touch,” bristled Iolan, his features darkening. “They got lucky with Fiancha. He was hurt. But then they tangled with me and realized they were out of their depth. They ran for their miserable, demonic lives.” The crimson Matoran’s eyes hardened.

“It’s strange,” muttered Goll uneasily. “Rahkshi don’t fight that way. To catch someone in the open… outnumbering him… in broad daylight.”

“Enough!” snapped Santis, turning from the edge of the cliff. “A Matoran, who I could have saved, who I was responsible for saving, is dead! That’s the end of it. I don’t care why the Rahkshi ran. There will be no arguments, not at a time like this.” Iolan and Goll looked down uncomfortably, ashamed. Kyros knew no such emotion.

“He didn’t die through any fault of his own,” sighed the Calix-wearer. “They took him by surprise, is all. It was just bad luck that he was so close to the edge. I would have saved him if I could.”

Krennato nodded slowly, as if the words of comfort had been addressed to her. “Luck will always turn against a warrior in the end. You have nothing to answer for, Iolan.”

Snide old hag. Like she knew what she was talking about.

Santis only grunted and began walking again, leaving the Matoran to follow him. Something told Kyros that the Toa’s mood had not been improved by Krennato’s words.

He just hoped Goll was standing in front of him if the Toa decided to take his rage out on someone.




The atmosphere remained unsavoury for most of the day. Progress was slow too. Fiancha’s death had taken the drive out of the Matoran but Toa Santis remained anxious to cover as much ground as possible before nightfall. The Toa would often outpace his fellow questers and wouldn’t realize until he was on the other side of a valley or on the wrong side of a hill.

Worse still, the weather took a turn for the worse. The murky morning turned into a showery afternoon, soaking the group. Fortunately, that was only a minor inconvenience for most of them. Connla would take any amount of soakings after her unexpected escape from the Rahkshi.

At first there had been little conversation. But, eventually, Toa Santis’ determination withered and he fell back, lingering around the rear of the group with the likes of Turas and Krennato instead of spearheading a military march. As the pace slowed to something manageable, the Matoran felt more energy returning to their aching muscles. Not much, but enough to talk at least.

By early afternoon, Connla found herself at the middle of the group, walking alongside Torlo. They’d been discussing the ring of stones, wondering how old it was, who built it, what the original purpose might have been.

“It’s a shame they didn’t have stone tablets back then,” muttered the Le-Matoran. “They could’ve told us who they were and lived on through their writing.”

“Depends what language they spoke, I suppose. There are many ancient runes and carvings from forgotten Matoran civilisations around here. Can you read?”

“A little,” shrugged the blacksmith. “I learnt from a Ko-Matoran who couldn’t pay me for fixing his axe. Can you?”

The healer shook her head. “No. I don’t believe in recording things. I think that history should be kept alive by word of mouth.”

“Perhaps, but many stories are lost forever that way. I think – ”
He stopped, eyes narrowing.
“Kyros!” he exclaimed. The egocentric Matoran of Ice had been leading for the last couple of hours, desperate to establish himself as head of the team. When he looked back, Torlo pointed to a spot off to the right. “There’s a hut over there. Is it a sentry post?”

Everyone gathered around the Matoran of Air. Connla could see the tip of a lookout post now that the crafter had pointed it out. It was like any other she’d seen before. A dull, dark structure hidden behind shrubbery and flora with a high vantage point and cleverly-disguised windows.

Without a word the group advanced on the hut. Connla’s insides were tight. It was a feeling she always got when silence fell and people grew tense. The feeling only got worse as they drew closer. She sensed a power within. A dark, throbbing, painful power. It gave her a headache and disturbed her. It seemed to be affecting the others too.

Kyros stepped forward then stepped back again and turned to Goll. “What do you suggest? Go in together or send a scout first?”

“Together,” answered the warrior after a moment of thought. “To separate is to weaken. But everybody draw your weapons and tread carefully.”

When they were all prepared the Matoran advanced cautiously, scanning the branches of trees overhead, eyes darting between charred, black trunks and crisp piles of burnt foliage.

After about a minute of slow, careful snooping, they arrived at a small island in the forest. There was a mound of earth in the middle, supporting a fenced fort, containing half a dozen huts. There was another sentry post built above the gate, and from the marks behind it and on the shore they were standing on, it looked like there had once been a bridge connecting the island to the mainland. But it had been demolished, probably to keep Rahkshi and Visorak out. There were several wooden rafts moored to the opposite side of the moat.

Hello!” bellowed Torlo.

Echoes then silence.

Anyone there?” When the silence held he added “We’ve come to help. We’re here to...” He trailed off into silence since it was obvious nobody was going to answer.

“It’s a ghost village,” muttered Iolan.

“We’re too late,” sniffed Kyros, insincerely.

“Not necessarily,” muttered Sarnii, stepping forward. “There might be sheltering underground, in a tunnel system, where they can’t hear us. Look!” She extended one of her Shock Thumpers and pointed towards the rear of the village. “It’s wedged in next to that massive chunk of rock. Maybe it has a cave system.”

Surely enough, as Connla squinted to see, she saw that the island was sheltered in a cove, where the water made a distinct U-shape against a rock plateau. The feature must have been formed through some erosional process, leaving the outcrop of hard rock thicker and more impermeable than the underlying soft rock that the land they were standing on.

Torlo grunted and glared at Sarnii and Kyros. “Every village we’ve come to you’ve mentioned underground shelter. You two seem to think Matoran do nothing but cower in fear.”

Sarnii’s eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you just accept the simple truth that, when nobody answers, it means they’re all dead?”

“I prefer to hope for the best” grunted Torlo, a menacing tremble in his tone. “Even when I can see just as clearly as you that it’s unlikely.” He locked eyes with the Matoran of Lighting and shot her a fierce gaze. She looked away.

“Are we going in or not?” grunted Iolan, eying the village uncertainly.

“We haven’t come all this way to turn back,” answered Torlo with a grunt. “If nothing else, this place offers a place to rest tonight, and it’s getting late.”

“Unless it’s been taken over by Rahkshi,” muttered Sarnii, undermining him.

Unless it has been taken over by Rahkshi,” agreed Torlo. “But we have to check. Kyros, will you swim across and come back with a boat for the rest of us?”

Kyros may have been a pain in the backside but it was still a well-known fact that he had been the best swimmer in their village, a strange trait for a Ko-Matoran. He could beat most Ga-Matoran in races, including Connla herself. The contrived Matoran hesitated, reluctant to bow to Torlo’s leadership, but then shrugged to himself. He stepped forward and studied the water, looking for any giant worm-Rahi. He couldn’t see any but that didn’t mean it was safe. Rahi often hid deep in the murky depths in the daylight, to avoid the rays of the sun.

Without saying anything, the Ko-Matoran threw down his weapons, stripped off his armor – not wanting to get it wet when he put it back on later – until he was standing in only his Kanohi, then dove in. He stroked powerfully, tearing through the water with incredible speed. The others watched nervously, weapons at the ready. Some of them were itching to throw spears even if Kyros wasn’t attacked.

The swimmer made it to the closest wooden raft unhindered and pulled himself out of the water, pausing to heave a quick sigh of relief. He brushed the water from his body before untying the rope mooring the raft to the bank, then rowed across to where the rest of the group was waiting, hard strokes, one eye on the setting sun.

Krennato, Goll, Iolan and Sarnii crossed first while Kyros put his armor back on. Then Goll rode back to pick up the others. Once the group had reassembled on the opposite bank they began to formulate a plan.

“Will we try the gate or should we go over the fence?” asked Goll.

“The gate’s open,” grunted Torlo, cutting through the air with one of his Mental Bolt Launchers.

Goll squinted then chuckled. “My eyesight is deserting me. I was never the sharpest in my better days.” The warrior looked around.

Toa Santis stepped forward, his sword in his hand. “We’ll go in fast. Any sign of trouble, we retreat to the gate. Based on what we’re facing, we’ll decide then whether to fight or flee.”

Deep breath. Weapons drawn. A signal from the Toa.

In.




No Rahkshi. No Matoran either. There were a few wondering Rahi and pronounced damage. A recent attack.

“Do you think they’re all dead?” asked Iolan. The Ta-Matoran had advanced forwards to meet Torlo and Goll at the head of the group as they approached the courtyard. A clearing in the huts, a community space.

“Unless they’re hiding,” answered the Po-Matoran, eyes narrowed, nose wrinkled against the stench of the carnage.

“We should split up to search the huts,” suggested Torlo. He continued before Goll had a chance to pass a command. “There are nine of us and only six huts.”

“So we split into pairs?” grunted Goll.

“Sure” answered the crafter. “Well, pairs of two plus Santis. I’m guessing he won’t want to be pinned down to any of us and it’s best if he’s free in case we encounter any problems.”

“Wise choice,” grunted the Toa, drumming his remaining fingers on the hilt of his sword while it rested in its sheath.

The Matoran looked at each other then fractured apart, each pairing up with the person closest. Torlo and Connla, Goll and Krennato, Kyros and Sarnii, Turas and Iolan.

Torlo pointed at Iolan. “You lead Sarnii’s group and check the two foremost huts. Goll, you and Krennato check the rearmost huts, Connla and I will take the middle two. Santis, just wander between and stick a sword in anything that isn’t a part of this group. We’ll all meet in the middle if it’s all clear.”

The team simultaneously nodded then set off quickly, each of them aware of the rapidly setting sun.

It was almost the time of the nightmares in the dark.




The first hut that Sarnii checked with her team had holes torn in the walls, making it easy to peer in. The floor was caked in drying blood but otherwise empty. In the end Turas was the one forced into going inside. When he returned his eyes were wide with horror.

“Three De-Matoran bodies, no trapdoor or hiding places,” he wheezed. His feet were stained scarlet.

The second hut was smaller than the first, a tiny entrance. No holes in the walls. Dark pools and shadows. The Matoran stuck their heads through the doorway, allowing their eyes to adjust to the gloom. Objects gradually swam into sight. Pots, a small table, a broken chair. Rugs on the floor – which could be hiding a hidden exit.

Tempting.

The four Matoran glanced at each other then slid inside, Iolan first, Kyros last, looking up for any Rahkshi clinging from the thatch. Turas and Iolan worked on the rugs – nothing. When they’d finished they placed themselves on either side of Sarnii and looked at Kyros as he exclaimed in joy.

The bloody corpse of a De-Matoran lay on the floor, with half of another Matoran of Sonics sprawled out behind him. Probably his friend. Kyros was prying at the spear in his hands. He tore it out of the warrior’s grip then held it up in the air, a broad smile on his mask.

“Have you no respect for the dead?” Sarnii felt like slapping him but saw no point. The gluttonous Matoran of Ice would probably claim her hand as his own.

“What’s to respect about a corpse?” snorted Kyros. “The fool is dead. Why should I respect somebody who decided to engage a Rahkshi in his hut?"
He paused to examine the tip of his new spear.
“It's survival of the fittest. He would've wanted me to have this.”

With that inconsiderate remark, the Matoran of Ice stepped through the door, leaving the others staring at the two broken bodies, wondering how any one person could care so much about himself that he wouldn’t bat an eyelid over the carnage before them.




Goll knelt down on his knees and lay his axes aside. He squinted as he leaned in closer to inspect the burnt-out campfire in the centre of the village. There was a small pot nearby. It was upside-down. He lifted it up to see a rotten fish, decaying from when it had been dropped. Grunting in disgust he placed the pan back over it.

He looked up to see Krennato wandering out of the right-hand hut with something in her hand. As she drew closer he realized it was a Kraata. The wretched worm-like creature was colored bright blue and red, indicating it was a Kraata of Electricity. Dead. It was obvious seeing as the Ga-Matoran didn’t have shocks of electricity surging through her body. As she drew nearer she turned it over to reveal a knife had been driven into the slug’s mouth and up into its tiny bug-brain. A victory token. Probably done after a battle to assert dominance.

“It’s been dead for a matter of days,” muttered the female. “This village was only abandoned recently, within the week.”

The team’s Toa of Fire strolled past them and walked up to the rock wall at the rear of the village. It was completely vertical. There was a strange face-shaped notch carved into the rock. Santis tapped it with his remaining forefinger then turned to face the two Matoran, a dangerously eccentric glimmer in his eyes.

Sand,” he chuckled, as if it were the funniest thing in the world.

“Sand?” frowned Goll. He glanced at Krennato then they both looked at their feet. The center of the village had been covered in sand. It drained rainwater far quicker than dirt and this area of the Southern Continent was known for particularly bad waterlogging. It was easier for the villagers to walk around on and there was always the life-saving chance that it could be kicked in the face of a Rahkshi or Visorak to distract them in an attack. Goll had often considered using it in his own village but it would be too hard to carry sand up the hill from the banks of the river below and it could be brought into the dwelling, which was an inconvenience, plus it was harder to build on.

“What is sand?” muttered the Toa.

The two Matoran glanced at each other again uncertainly. “It’s broken up rocks,” grunted Goll.

“Close,” shrugged the Toa. “Sand is composed chiefly of granular rock particles and mineral deposits. It’s usually found in sediment of an aquatic nature, meaning it was dug up and carried from the river we crossed.”

“That’s a lot of hard work,” remarked the Pakari Nuva-wearer, unsure where the Toa was steering the conversation.

“A lot,” agreed the Toa. “In big clumps, and made heavier by the water, carrying the sand would be very hard for a couple of "fixed" Matoran. So, in normal circumstances, they’d carry the bare minimum, wouldn’t you agree?”

“They’d only carry enough to surround the village,” agreed Goll.

Santis smiled and pointed at the cliff. “Then why does the sand lead up to the cliff?”

“Maybe they liked to climb it.”

“With sand on their feet? I think not.”

“What do you think?”

“I think that I see footprints in the sand,” muttered the Toa. “Footprints that go into the cliff face.”

Goll’s eyes widened as Iolan and his group returned. “What are you saying? That the rock can be moved?”

No, I’m saying the Matoran who lived here were ghosts,” snorted Santis sarcastically. He rapped a finger against the face-shaped notch. “I think it’s an entrance into the rock.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s not our biggest problem.”

The heads turned to see Torlo stepping out from behind one of the middle huts, Connla closely behind. Both of them had put away their weapons and both held items in their hands. In Torlo’s was a brown Kanohi Kualsi, split down the middle then trampled on. In Connla’s hands was something Goll had never seen.

She was holding a green container, like a strangely shaped box with no lid, in which an intimidating, blotchy grey face rested. The eyes were empty but they still twisted into a hate-filled glower. It looked organic and fleshy, like somebody had torn the organic parts off of several Matoran then stitched them together to make a Kanohi. Only it looked like no mask Goll had laid eyes on.

Krennato gasped and waddled forwards, terror in her eyes as she snatched at the item. Connla stood where she was, startled as the strange fleshy mask was torn out of its container. Krennato stared at it, as if it was a body part. Then her face fell and the life seemed to drain from her wrinkled features.

“This is a Krana,” she murmured, turning it over in her hands. “The driving force behind a species called the Bohrok. This particular specimen is dormant, a Krana Vu, capable of enabling a Bohrok to fly short distances.”

“What the hell are you nattering about, you old hag?” snorted Kyros in disgust.

The Ga-Matoran shot him a glare that silenced him. “Do not undercut me, Ko-Matoran,” she snarled with venom. “The Bohrok are a force to be reckoned with. They have one sole, destructive purpose in this universe. They exist to cleanse the very world, to purge anything standing in the way of the swarm.”

Swarm?” spluttered Torlo. “Exactly how many of these things are there?”

Krennato turned to face him, her eyes narrow. “Enough to serve their purpose.” There was unquestionable weight to her words. “If the Bohrok have been unleashed here then the entire Southern Continent is in jeopardy.”

“So these Bohrok attacked the village?” asked Sarnii with a frown.

“There were Bohrok here,” nodded the Ga-Matoran. “But the locals fought back. What you have found are the remains of a Lehvak Va, a messenger for the Lehvak swarm. This Krana is inactive.” She threw the Krana Vu on the ground then kicked sand on top of it and spat in its direction.

“What about the passageway you mentioned?” asked Kyros, slowly recovering from being silenced.

“It will lead to the Bohrok Hive,” muttered the Ga-Matoran. “We will not go near it. This village is not safe. We will find no shelter here tonight. We must leave this cursed place as soon as – ”

“We’re not leaving, soothsayer” growled Santis. He spoke calmly. There was no menace in his eyes, but no warmth either. He regarded the shaman in the way any other person would regard a Visorak. “You are welcome to sleep on the other side of the moat if it brings you comfort but your spiritualist natter will not change anything. The sun is setting and we have shelter. We are not leaving and I am not putting innocent Matoran in jeopardy because you’re scared of absent creatures.”

Krennato shot the Toa a hateful glower then muttered something to herself. Before the Toa could humiliate her further, however, a skull-shattering scream emanated from one of the huts.

There was somebody inside.




Torlo didn’t waste time flinching. The second he heard the cry he dropped the broken Kanohi in his hands and made a break for the hut, knowing a second’s delay could mean life or death.

It was a cry of agony, one of pain and fear. It wasn’t something to be scared of. It was an innocent, probably a villager stranded in one of the huts Goll and Krennato were supposed to have checked. When he drew closer however, he saw why the hut hadn’t been inspected. A thick table had been propped up against the door frame, blocking the entrance. Snarling at the obstacle, Torlo tensed, locked his eyes onto the furniture item, then charged forwards, ramming into it, shoulder-first. There was a shower of splinters as the wood snapped and he regained his balance.

Help,” wheezed a broken voice.

The Matoran of Air looked around, eyes wide, heart light blinking fast. His shoulder hurt but he ignored the pain as the others crowded around outside. He raised a hand and signaled for them to stay outside. To his surprise, they obeyed.

The crafter stared into the shadows. He couldn’t see anything as the hut had no windows but he knew he wasn’t alone. Long, terrifying seconds passed where he feared there was still an attacker in the room. Then the swirling darkness stopped dancing and the cloud that obscured his vision faded away. He saw a heart light in the gloom. Feeling his way forward, Torlo stuck an arm out to find the Matoran pinned to the ground, buried beneath some kind of shelving unit. With two quick slashes of his blades, the rotten wood slid away and the villager was freed.

He heard painful coughs as he wrapped an arm around the survivor and pulled him to his feet. Slowly, they edged towards the doorway, at an agonizingly slow pace. He didn’t realize until they were outside that the Matoran was babbling. A fragile-looking De-Matoran, clad in grey and black armor. Torlo wondered if a gust of wind would fell the villager.

Wh... where is it? What have they done with it? I... I need to find it or I’m dead” he spluttered, stumbling over his own words. The Matoran of Sonics lurched and burst out of Torlo’s arms. The Zatth-wearer tripped and steadied himself only to see the startled villager disappear off into another hut, running, arms flailing from side to side frantically.

“What the hell’s he playing at?” frowned Kyros as the others crowded around the entrance. The De-Matoran was inside, rooting his way through a pile of Kanohi. Some were already broken. Masks went flying as he sifted through the mound.

“What are you looking for, friend?” asked Goll, adopting a friendlier tone. “Do you need medical attention? We have two healers travelling with us.”

“I don’t need help,” implored the Matoran of Sonics as he hurled a scarlet Faxon over his shoulder. Then his face fell and he stopped digging. “Oh no!” he gasped as his hands wrapped around two sides of a broken mask and he rose to his feet. Torlo had to fight his way past Turas and Sarnii to get a glimpse of the splintered Kanohi Rode.

The survivor stumbled towards the doorway, his eyes fixed on the Kanohi in his hands, his wrist blades hanging uselessly across his arms.

“What is your name?” grunted Iolan, stepping forwards to put a supportive hand on the Matoran’s shoulder.

The Matoran of Sonics stared at him then shook his head and swallowed. “It’s... it’s Romak,” he frowned. “But that’s not important.” He raised the broken Kanohi Rode. “It’s been broken! They’re going to kill me for that! Oh... Mata Nui!” He collapsed to his knees, his arms slumping to either side of him with the two Kanohi splinters in his hands still.

“I should’ve known,” exclaimed Kyros. “He’s insane!”

Torlo ignored him and pushed past the Ko-Matoran to support the survivor. “What happened here, brother?” he asked in as friendly a tone as he could manage.

“Bohrok,” shrugged the villager. “We were expecting a Rahkshi attack. We were exhausted, close to collapse, at the very jaws of surrender. It was only a matter of days but we had our duty.”

“Your duty being?” enquired Sarnii bluntly.

The Matoran hesitated. “To guard the entrance to the nest.” He pointed to the cliff face. “The Order of Mata Nui put us here. Our original village was overrun long ago but the Order helped us, saved most of us from the slaughter. They needed guards, we were in their dept. So they placed us in this place and told us to guard it.”

“But something went wrong and the Bohrok got out?”

Romak nodded. “One of us, Artaudo, a De-Matoran, he betrayed us. He opened the entrance we’d vowed with our lives to keep shut and unleashed the Bohrok. They ravaged our village.”

“And you are the sole survivor?” snorted Kyros, clearly a challenge. He phrased it harshly but he still had a point. It was unlikely for all the villagers to perish except this one stranger. Perhaps this Artaudo hadn’t been the traitor.

“They didn’t see me,” answered the Matoran. “I hid.”

“Sounds like a coward,” continued Kyros, a malicious sneer on his Kanohi.

The De-Matoran paused then shrugged. “Call me what you will friend. I’ve heard it all before. And being bullied by you isn’t my biggest problem right now.”

Romak scuttled towards the rest of the group. The Matoran parted to let him pass as he waddled onwards, towards the face-shaped notch, the two pieces of the Kanohi in either hand. He slotted them together and tried to press them against the carving.

Nothing happened.

“What are these Bohrok?” asked Torlo, stepping forwards. “Why do they come to our lands? Why now?”

“I don't know,” whimpered Romak as he dropped the fractured Kanohi into the sand and bowed his head in resignation. “Until last week, I'd never seen them. We were told only to guard the entrance and to grant passage to any Order of Mata Nui agents who passed through the area intent on inspecting the nest.”

“Are they allied with the Rahkshi?” frowned Goll. Judging by the wreckage of the settlement, such a partnership could prove to be catastrophic.

“They are servants of the Order,” answered the De-Matoran. “But they are a force of destruction, and if awakened early or in the wrong place... they could level the Southern Continent.”

“Can they be defeated?”

“Not by Matoran means – obviously. But you’re missing the point. If the Bohrok have been awakened then it is not of the Order of Mata Nui’s doing. I fear the Brotherhood has some involvement. And if the Makuta have control of the Bohrok...” The life drained from the Matoran’s Kanohi. “...Then Axonn’s going to kill me.”

Torlo glanced at Goll. His features were tightening, much like he imagined his own features were. They’d guessed that more intelligent, stronger soldiers were coming, but not that they’d be organized. The Rahkshi and Visorak were formidable foes but they were scattered, relying on tribal attacks. Most were just scavengers. These Bohrok, however, were an army. They could wipe out all life on the continent if commanded to. If Romak was correct then his words could herald the end to all they’d ever known and cared about.

“Well the Bohrok Va fell pretty easily,” snorted Kyros, gesturing to the remains Connla had dragged out of the hut. “We can fight these creatures ourselves when they come, Brotherhood or not.”

Romak turned to fix him with an irate stare then smiled and chuckled madly. His laughter offended them all, but before any of them could react he spoke quickly. “The Bohrok Va are nothing! They are Stone Rats before a great plague. They are robotic servants, made solely to aid the Bohrok. They carry replacement Krana to and fro. They're not good for much else.”

“Then we must destroy them,” grunted Santis, stepping forward.

Again, Romak smothered a snort then cowered as Santis growled and threw his sword at his feet. The great weapon sliced through the sand and buried itself in the soil beneath, causing the De-Matoran to fall over in shock. After recomposing himself he returned to his feet and addressed the red-armored warrior.

“I mean you no disrespect, hero,” he implored. “But I know the might of the Bohrok. I have seen the threat that they pose to this world. You are one Toa against an army. I know you not but even your strength and power must know limits.”

“Wanna bet?” snarled Santis. He took a sudden step forwards, creating a cloud of dust around his armored foot. Romak quivered in fear and recoiled.

“Santis is right,” grunted Torlo, stepping between the Toa and De-Matoran. “These Bohrok are a menace to our lands, and pose a greater threat that any wandering Rahkshi. They will bring chaos and destruction greater than anything we have seen before. In the war, our forests were burnt. If the Bohrok invade they won’t leave ashes.”

“You propose we fight the Bohrok?” frowned Iolan.

“It’s our duty,” nodded Torlo. “These are our lands and our brothers and sisters will suffer if we do not.”

“And what of our mission?” grunted Goll. “What of Metru-Nui and this Tollubo we are searching for?”

“We will deal with that afterwards,” muttered Santis. “This is my quest and you Matoran will obey my direction if you wish to continue travelling.” He glared at Goll then shifted his gaze to Kyros and Krennato. “I don’t give a bucket of Rahkshi-bile about your local politics and your ambitions. I did not ask for you contrived, irrational simpletons to follow me. You volunteered, all of you.”

The Toa snatched up his weapon in the blink of an eye and gripped it tightly in his hand as he continued challenging his followers. “I am a Toa and I am bound by duty to protect innocent Matoran. You are all liabilities. You burden my quest.”

Silence.

The Toa’s gaze dug into the very souls of every single one of the questers. Nobody argued with his authority. “Now Torlo and I are going to confront these Bohrok. You Matoran have a choice whether or not you follow us. I will not make any of your follow me, it is your decision and I respect that. But if you do follow me, this juvenile bickering stops. Is that understood?”

“You want us to fight the Bohrok?” snorted Kyros.

“If you have any sense,” countered the Toa of Fire, his eyes narrow and his features dark. “The Bohrok are your problem. I am leaving this continent. The Bohrok, however, are not. They cannot cross the ocean to Metru-Nui. You and your people will suffer.”

“And how do you propose to defeat the swarms?” challenged Krennato grudgingly.

The Danju-wearer cracked a smile then drew his sword and gestured towards the cliff. “At the moment there’s only one entrance and, right now, if it can be opened, it is vulnerable. One warrior in the right place, who knows what he is going, is all it will take. I am one such warrior.”

Santis looked questioningly at Goll. The old fighter was unhappy. His unease around the Toa was plain to see and was mirrored on the Kanohi of the other Matoran. But he was a noble and caring person at heart, and if what he’d just heard was true...

“We’ve made it this far,” shrugged Iolan neutrally. “We can go further.”

It was clear that the Calix-wearer liked the idea of continuing journeying with the Toa and facing extra dangers and enemies. He was young and bloodthirsty, much like Torlo had once been. But what set the pair apart was that he’d realized the Ta-Matoran probably cared more about notching up killings than the welfare of the Matoran.

“Perhaps, if we succeed, we can form an alliance with the Bohrok,” added Turas, his voice unsteady. Not used to speaking up. “They could help us defeat the Rahkshi. Maybe they could be used for good, to rebuild rather than destroy.”

“I’m in two minds,” muttered Goll. “Our people will think the worst if we are gone too long. Perhaps one or two of us should go back. Connla, for instance – ”

I’m staying!” interrupted the Ga-Matoran, with unexpected force. “This is my home as much as it is to any of you. I have every right to fight for it.”

Goll grunted. “Kyros?”

The Ko-Matoran glowered hatefully at the Toa of Fire, then spat at his feet. “I say damn him! Damn him and all his wretched Toa-kind! Where were they when the war started? When the Rahkshi first attacked, when so many of us died? We can hold our own without helping him, as we have since the start!”

“And if swarms of Bohrok attack by day?” asked Torlo softly, before Santis could decapitate the unruly Matoran. “More powerful than any we’ve ever faced before? Organized, brutal, harder to kill?”

The Ko-Matoran just snorted.

“It would be a great honor,” suggested Sarnii wryly. Kyros’ audio receptors pricked and he became hooked. “If Santis succeeds and we play a part in that success, we’ll be hailed as heroes, throughout the Matoran Universe.”

That was the clincher for Kyros. If he could help save the entire land then his role as a leader would be guaranteed. He could have any high-ranking position he wanted. And maybe not just the ruler of the fortress. If Goll was to perish he could claim all of Voya-Nui as his own. Maybe more – the first king of the entire Southern Continent. Many had tried to gain complete control. All had failed. But still the greedier warriors dreamed...

“Very well,” grunted the Ko-Matoran. “I say we go with him.”

Goll turned to face Krennato. The uncanny sorcerer snarled but nodded anyway. “The Bohrok are an infestation. They must be eradicated.”

“Then it is decided.” Goll nodded reluctantly.

“I thought so,” grunted Santis sinisterly. Torlo would have expected a self-satisfied smirk on his Mask but the Toa let slip no such emotion from behind his rock-like expression.

“There’s still the question of how we actually open the entrance,” contradicted Sarnii, her hands on her hips. Her tone was snide and pestering as usual. “We need a Kanohi Rode to open the entrance. And as our deranged friend told us, it got split in two.”

Santis grinned then glanced at the group. “We have a Kanohi Rode of our own.” There was a moment of awkward silence before the others caught on and followed his gaze.

All eyes rested on Turas.

The Po-Matoran stepped back and let his eyes widen in fear. It was possible that there was only one thing he feared more than Rahkshi or Visorak: being put on the spot.

Romak gasped then scuttled closer.

“Your Kanohi!” he gawped. “We need your mask to open the gate.”

“But...” The Po-Matoran looked around helplessly, searching for support but finding none.

“It’ll only be for a second,” added Torlo reassuringly.

“But, without a Kanohi... you know what happens,” pleaded the Po-Matoran.

It was a well-known fact. Matoran had always had need of Kanohi. They couldn’t survive without them. While a Toa would be rendered dizzy or a Turaga would be left weakened by the loss of a Kanohi, Matoran had a far more serious dependency on their masks. If Turas’ Kanohi was to be removed from his face then he would falter immediately and tumble into a comatose state if his mask was not replaced within an extended period of time.

But there was also the sentimental nature behind a Kanohi. A mask could retain the bearer’s consciousness within it. It became as much a part of a wearer as their arms or legs. It had been millennia since Torlo had thought of his own Kanohi Zatth as a piece of metal magnetized to his face.

“But there are other Kanohi here,” suggested Romak. “In the Kanohi Store. I’m sure there’ll be a replacement you can wear.” Without being told to, the Matoran of Sound waddled off in the direction of the hut and emerged a moment later with a brown Mask of Sensory Aptitude. He offered it to the Po-Matoran.

Turas looked from one of his companions to the next then sighed and accepted it. “It doesn’t matter what I say. Even if you have to tear it off my face I know you guys are going to use it.”

“I’d take your head off with it,” muttered Kyros darkly, only to be silenced when Torlo shot him an equally dark glare.

Iolan leaned forward and carefully tugged on the mask until it came off. Instantly, Turas’ legs buckled and he fell to his knees groaning. Fortunately Sarnii and Goll grabbed him by either arm while Romak attached the new Kanohi to his face. He shuddered then steadied himself, returning to his feet a moment later. The transition was all over in a matter of seconds.

“What about you, gate keeper?” asked Santis, his voice a low rumble. “Will you join us on our quest?”

Romak paused then shook his head. “Oh, no, no, no, no. It is my duty to guard the entrance. I cannot risk anyone else entering.” He continued talking as he slotted the Kanohi into the notch. There was an immediate grinding sound and the cliff face began to split. “I shouldn’t even be allowing you in, but if you are honor-bound to stopping the threat of the Bohrok and returning them to sleep then I suppose Axonn wouldn’t mind if I –”

Romak never got to finish his sentence. A jet of green sludge erupted from the entrance of the nest as it opened, blasting the De-Matoran full-on. He screamed as he was thrown backwards. The viscous slime corroded away at his armor, sizzling and burning him. He seemed to wither and melt, slowly crumpling in on himself and blackening darker than night. Within seconds the acidic stream had engulfed him and his body dissolved away into nothingness.

He was liquefied before he even had the chance to hit the ground.

Torlo’s eyes widened in horror at the abrupt nature of the gate guardian’s passing then glanced at Goll and drew his weapons to face what horrors the nest held.

There was an explosion as the cliff face broke apart, burying Santis in rubble before it could open. The Toa crumpled to the ground as a rock slab struck his head and he slipped into unconsciousness, a red mist trailing behind him as the back of his head was cut open. He slumped to the ground, where he lay inert, legs ensnared in debris. His sword fell out of his reach.

There were figures in the darkness of the tunnel but they didn’t become clear until the dust settled. There were four large, bulky, insect-like robotic creatures. Two were colored green, one blue, and another black. Around them were five De-Matoran, each standing with Krana plastered over their faces and empty eyes.

They could see the mess through the open entrance. Blood everywhere. Bits of De-Matoran bodies. A Matoran’s head – maybe their leader’s – stuck on the tip of a spear set in the center of the tunnel. Its mask had been ripped off, its eyes gouged out and a blue Krana pressed onto its face.

“I’ve never seen anything do this,” gasped Krennato. “Not even Rahkshi. Bohrok usually strike and kill obstacles. They usually leave bodies scattered around or destroy them. This is unnatural.”

“It’s like what we do to our enemies after battle” grunted Kyros, readying his spear.

The Matoran stood at the gateway a moment longer, studying the Matoran’s head on the pike. Then their gazes flickered back to the advancing Bohrok. The ground seemed to shake as they stepped forwards.

Torlo stepped closer and charged his Mental Bolt Launchers with energy then narrowed his eyes, ready to fight to the death. He would battle these creatures till the end and he would cut down any of their possessed Matoran slaves that were unfortunate enough to get in his way.

Then, in a blur, the blue Bohrok stepped forwards and fired at them.

Chapter 9[]

Written by Abc8920.

Torlo knew for sure that the situation had spun out of control. After the Bohrok and the seemingly Krana-possessed Matoran had broken through the cliff wall, one of those monstrosities had shot a jet of water at the group. He had been lucky enough to evade the sudden burst of moisture and was now cowering behind a fallen tree, but the rest of the group was rather dislodged.

Kyros was lying in the ground next to him, his Kanohi knocked aside. Iolan had run to the huts to hide like the cowardly Lava Rat he was. Santis and Sarnii were buried under the rubble of the village wall. Trying to free the Toa first would be productive, tactically necessary even; the Su-Matoran, however, was better off under the rocks. Turas was nowhere to be seen. Goll had been thrown onto the sand, where he lay only half-conscious. Now that Santis was down he was considered the team's defender, which was why Connla and Krennato were trying so desperately and failing so miserably at waking him up.

Basically, he was going to have to face four Bohrok and five Krana slaves alone.

For some reason, he had no confidence in the two Ga-Matoran, or at least not in the shaman. Connla would not be able to help him even if she wanted, having to protect both the unconscious Goll and the unfortunately-conscious Krennato.

He cursed under his breath at the impossibly unfair situation, but then started to slowly realize that it was his day. It may not have been Mata Nui, but someone had given him a chance. It was his opportunity to demonstrate his worth. He was surely outnumbered, facing devastatingly crushing odds. He was overpowered, surrounded and looking his own doom in the eyes. But he still had one factor in his favour:

He was Torlo. They weren't.

The Zatth-wearer looked at the nine opponents under a new shade. He needed to formulate a quick plan, just like Santis would do, and find some weakness in the enemy and use them to his advantage and exploit, like Kyros would do.

He aimed a Mental Bolt Launcher at the metallic forehead of the green-armored Bohrok. That breed had just reduced Romak to slime. Those two were clearly the most dangerous of the group, and the ones which needed to be eliminated first, even at the cost of his own life.

Something nobody other than Torlo would do.

“That’s not going to work, Le-Matoran.”

The green-armored crafter flinched in surprise. It was more of a reflex than a jolt of terror but he was still shocked to see Krennato standing next to him.

“And you would know? I’m the weaponsmith of the village, you're the potion dealer. I carve weapons to defend us; you base your religion on hollow lies and narcotic mushrooms.”

“The Bohrok are connected to the Krana” replied the Ga-Matoran, with a snide flick of her staff. “And the Krana are connected to a hive-mind. A single Krana cannot be incapacitated by your puny little blades no more than a Protodite can set fire to a – ”

The discussion was cut as the black-armored Bohrok sunk its shields on the ground, sending a tremor that made both the arguing Matoran fall face-first into the sand. The Krana-possessed villagers began to advance on them. Torlo only just managed to throw himself at Krennato, knocking them both behind one of the huts, before the corrupted Matorans' spears sliced through the ground.

Krennato glanced at the mask-less Kyros, then at Torlo. She didn't even utter a simple thank you to the Le-Matoran who had just saved her life.

“If you were not such a non-believer, you would know what to do.”

The Ga-Matoran pointed at Kyros. Torlo was starting to see the outlines of a crazy plan, but he preferred not to think about it.

“What are you nattering about Krennato?” He fixed her with a stare that was a mix of both distrust and disgust, but he wasn’t ready for what he saw next.

With surprising strength, the elderly Ga-Matoran picked up the mask-less Ko-Matoran and carried him back out into the village square, where she propped him up against a stack of crates, so that Kyros' exposed face was in plain sight of the Bohrok.

“I know what you’re looking for, emissaries of the Great Spirit! I offer you this present. Off with their heads!”

Immediately, and as if the machines had actually listened to the old one’s prayers, the two Lehvak took a step further than the rest of the Bohrok and Krana-Slaves. And to Torlo’s surprise, they started rotating their eyes, opening their brain-cases as they did so, launching their Krana.

Next thing Torlo knew, Kyros was running away, a Krana Xa attached to his face. Krennato held another Krana high in the air with new-found admiration, a mad glimmer in her eyes.

Things certainly weren’t going well, not at all.

The Matoran of Air turned his back on the witch and found Connla hiding behind him. Goll was still unconscious but he had been moved. The coy healer had dragged him to safety. The markings in the sand proved it.

“Can you take care of Krennato as well as Goll while I look for Kyros?” he grunted, raising his Mental Bolt Launchers.

“Yeah sure," shrugged the female. "Just make sure to distract the villagers for a while so I can look for a better place to shelter us three.”

The Le-Matoran nodded, and slowly raised his head from behind the layer of crates, and saw that while Krennato, willingly or not, had managed to disable the two Lehvak, there was still a the black-armored Bohrok and a blue one which had fired the jet of water to care about, in addition to the possessed villagers.

He jumped out of the cover, running quickly to a dirt path that went back to the entrance of the abandoned village, the black-armored Bohrok and three Krana-Slaves chasing him in a hot pursuit.

Being a questor involved a lot more running than he'd originally thought it would have.




Things did not make sense. Stuff was messed up. Turas was lying on his back in the mud, looking at the sky like he usually did. Only that, this time it had a strange greenish-grey colour, and it looked like it was rippling.

No, rather, it was really rippling in an unnatural way. Then the freezing cold around him brought him back to realisation of his surroundings.

He was underwater, below the murky surface of the lake, drowning. The lack of strength in all his limbs, as well as the sensation of freedom running through his face, made him realise that his Kanohi was long gone.

But he was calm and relaxed. Nothing had ever altered his spirit, nothing ever would.

In fact, he would probably slip into coma before drowning, something that would make his death much more pleasant, if not quicker than the slow advance of his demise.

There was nothing to worry about.

The Po-Matoran returned to his observation of the waves-sky, admiring the concentric circles that formed each time a leave fell to the lake.

But then, abruptly, something happened and broke the beauty of the moment. A red Matoran, Kanohi in hand, had plunged into the lake, to save him.

If Turas disliked anything, that would have to be Ta-Matoran interrupting his thoughts.




Connla took a brief look at the unconscious Goll, then at Krennato, and decided that this was the last time she did something like this.

Okay, she thought. There was no point in denying that she was terrified by the Bohrok. There was no doubt either that she was the most inexperienced fighter on the expedition team. But that didn’t mean that she had to undertake the role of nanny looking after these two old Matoran.

Krennato, even though Connla recognised her wisdom, might not react well in a situation of danger like the one they were experiencing now. And Goll, the very honourable village leader, had demonstrated that day that he was too old for his responsibilities. If he wasn’t there to take the lead when he was really needed, then there was no point in him being around as the village leader in any other situation.

And now there she was, having to take care of the two Matoran, like if they were young Mahi. She had never thought of herself as a warrior, and in fact she was very nervous at the moment. She felt uneasy for the threat that the Bohrok represented, even though they had apparently lost interest in them to chase Torlo, and worried for herself too. If some of the possessed Matoran attacked them now, she wouldn’t be able to defend both herself, Krennato and Goll.

The unnerved Ga-Matoran decided to put away those thoughts, and just stare at the surface of the lake, hoping to calm down. She did not want the situation to overwhelm her. She needed some self-confidence – where she would draw it from was indeed unknown.

But her thoughts did not stay peaceful for long. All of a sudden, she was pulled straight away from her meditation as a scarlet figure jumped over a fallen tree on the riverbank and into the water of the lake.

Her eyes barely had time to register it, the sight filled her eyes long enough that a question burned in her mind.

What in the name of sanity was Iolan doing?




Even though the stench of rotting flesh had provoked him nausea the first time he had arrived to the village, Torlo had to admit that he did not smell anything anymore. Only one thought was in his mind, overriding everything else.

Survival.

The Le-Matoran was hiding in one of the huts, all windows closed, lying in almost absolute darkness. All he heard was the sound of wood being splintered and rock shattered as the bulky black-armored Bohrok destroyed hut after hut, hoping to kill him in the process.

The thought of the Bohrok doing the same to his village made him sick. But what was really starting to grind his gears was the fact that the Bohrok seemed to be enjoying it. Enjoying every second of his fear, every wall smashed, every moment of ever-growing desperation. There was hesitation, as if the mechanical death-machine was savouring the experience of an easy hunt. Taking his time to breathe it all in through senseless nostrils.

And in the few seconds which seemed to tick away as hours, Torlo finally heard the footsteps of the Bohrok right in front of his door. The Matoran felt his heartlight beat faster than it had ever flashed, his body paralysed while all he could do was try to contain his breath.

The footsteps continued getting louder and closer. The Le-Matoran was sure that if the Bohrok was capable of expressing emotions, it would be laughing at his pathetic cowardy. He didn't exactly know what was going to happen next, or how his plan was going to play out, but there was one definite fact on his mind.

He would not go down like this.

In the blink of a heartlight, he was back up to his feet, no longer caring about the noise he might make. Torlo kicked the poorly-built door of the hut aside, and rolled on the floor. Looking up, he saw the Bohrok and its Krana Slaves.

"Good evening," he grunted sardonically.

Immediately, one of the possessed Matoran lunged at him, like a Rahi, wrestling with him to snatch the Kanohi off his face. The Le-Matoran kicked the possessed Ta-Matoran, sending him flying straight back in the direction of the group of other five Krana Slaves. Desperate to get their hands on him, they stampeded fowards, only to trip over the unfortunate Matoran of Fire.

The black-armored Bohrok sank its shields in the sand. The Earth beneath shuddered with thunderous force, causing the Le-Matoran to almost losing his new-found footing and sending an energy wave that shattered the hut he had been hiding in. A miscalculation. Or, just as easily, a taunt. The Bohrok could have reduced him to dust but instead it had destroyed a hut directly behind him.

And something told Torlo his enemy wasn't going to be so merciful with its next attempt.

He ran, as fast as his ‘fixed’ legs would allow, to the Kanohi cache close to the shattered cliff-face. Perhaps he could redirect the Bohrok's fire towards Santis, maybe even make it dig him out of the debris.

But as he dived over the extinguished campfire, something unexpected happened.

What the – !

The door was blasted away and Iolan shot lightning fast out of the hut, Kanohi in hand, headed to the beach at on the banks of the stagnant moat.

Even though the image puzzled him for a second, Torlo decided to focus on more pressing matters, more concretely the Bohrok and possessed Matoran chasing him. Iolan's exit from the hut did not seem to have bothered them, which was strange but not exactly beyond explaining. But, better still, it didn't threaten his plan.

The Le-Matoran slipped into the hut, and took cover behind a fallen Kanohi shelf. He directed his attention towards the entrance, allowing him a view of the entire hut. It was all a matter of events unfolding the way he had planned.

The possessed Matoran and their black-armored Bohrok master stormed into the hut like Nui-Rama, ready to crush his precious Kanohi Zatth and slap a sickly organic second face on his head. A truely disturbing concept.

The Le-Matoran stepped forwards and let his Mental Bolt Launchers drop to the floor of the hut. A wickedly slick smile slipped across his Kanohi. He didn't need the tools anymore.

He was standing in a room full of swords and a giant magnet had just walked in.

The Bohrok sunk its shields in the ground, ready to send another energy wave. A seismic surge shook the dwelling. A locatized earthquake. The world seemed to spin and shudder, as if trying to dislodge Torlo from its grip yet still he clinged on.

Wood crumbled, stone smashed.

Kanohi shattered.

Razor-sharp splinters flew in all directions, not making any discrimination between cutting the Le-Matoran, possessed Matoran or the Bohrok.




If someone had told Connla that she would be seeing the scene she was witnessing now, the Ga-Matoran wouldn’t have believed it. Perhaps her head had been too close to one two many of the ingrediantes in Krennato's healing mixtures. But this was no trick. Her eyes saw both Turas and Iolan had both emerged from the greenish waters of the lake. The Po-Matoran wasn’t wearing his brand-new Mask of Sensory Aptitude anymore, but rather a brown Akaku.

And they were both fighting.

But that wasn’t what didn’t make sense to Connla. After all, she knew that Ta-Matoran like Iolan could get quite temperamental, especially when it came to cooperating with Po-Matoran.

However, it seemed that tables had turned. It was Turas that was actively attacking Iolan, who was barely holding his ground against the maddened Po-Matoran.

Then she realised.

Turas had been infected by the Madness.

She wasn’t absolutely sure, but she recalled that the Madness was spread through Comet Balls, and there weren’t any in the Southern Continent as far as she knew. Anyways, it was time to step into the fight before Iolan could take any serious damage.

So she started swimming to the opposite shore of the lake. She had always felt comfortable in her element, which was not the case at the moment. The water was dirty and smelly. But what was worse, the lake remembered her of the fisherman Fiancha.

She really hadn’t had much relation with him at all –actually, it wasn’t like Fiancha had socialised at all during his time in the village- but she missed him anyways. He wasn’t like Kyros, Torlo, Santis or Goll, fighting all day over a position in power. More like Turas, though not the Turas she was going to face now.

When she arrived to the shore, both Iolan and Turas were on the sand, kicking, punching, trying to snatch each other’s Kanohi. Needlessly to say, Turas was having much more success in that than the Ta-Matoran.

Connla quickly drew her whips, and slashed them both at the Po-Matoran. Upon contact, Turas was immediately numbed, and stopped moving. However, Iolan still looked afraid and alarmed.

“Quickly smash his Kanohi!”

Connla first thought that the Ta-Matoran was crazy, but then realized that it made sense – probably the Madness could spread through Kanohi too.

She slashed her whips again, this time striking the black Hau, which broke in three pieces, then looked at Iolan with an interrogating look.

“I swear I didn’t provoke him.”

“Yeah, just like last time you told me so.”

“This time I mean it.”

“Now seriously, you gave him an infected Kanohi.”

The Ta-Matoran didn’t answer, and instead stared right into Connla’s eyes. The Ga-Matoran examined them for any trace of hate, lies or even guilt, but found nothing. Not even the usual sadness.

“Next time you try to save the world, at least make sure the Kanohi you pick up are not infected.”

“I didn’t notice it! There must have been a Kraata lurking between the Kanohi shelves – others in the group have seen Kraata in the huts too!”

“It’s alright. Let’s get back to the island; we’ve got no time to spare.”

And as both Matoran started swimming back to the cliff village, Connla felt that, for once in a long time, she would not share her emotions. For, right now, she felt deeply disturbed by what she had seen in the eyes of the Ta-Matoran.

His stare had been the same that of the dead Matoran statues in Karzahni.




When Torlo woke up, his whole body was aching. He inspected his arms and torso, then at his legs. Having being covered by the fallen shelf, he had avoided the Kanohi shards. Not bad, considering that the rest of the hut had been blasted all to hell.

The Krana-possesed Matoran were sprawled all across the floor. Alive, but with a whole collection of shards of all sizes and colours stabbed into their skin. The Bohrok, on the other say, was standing still, its arms limp, with what looked like the forehead of a Hau slicing through the Krana.

He got to his feet and contemplated what to do next. He couldn’t leave the Krana-slaves alone to die from bleeding, but he needed to look for Kyros too.

In the end, he decided to just tie the Matoran with a rope and then worry about the Ko-Matoran – there would be time later on for Connla to come and heal them. However, before heading down to the shore, the Le-Matoran approached one of the Krana slaves, the Ta-Matoran, and stared at the Krana.

Out of curiosity, he touched it and tried to wrench it off of the Matoran’s face. Failing to do so, he tried harder, but it was all a hopeless effort.

Someone had fused the Krana to the Matoran’s face.

That thought unnerved Torlo, who then decided to just head out to look for Kyros. Even though the Ko-Matoran had the ability to appear only when you didn’t want him to, this time Torlo was fortunate.

He needn’t have worried about searching for the Ko-Matoran, since he found it in the same dirt path he had used before to get to the village. Kyros was lying unconscious on the floor, a crushed Krana Za and a life-less Gahlok next to him.

The sight astonished the Le-Matoran. It was almost unbelievable. He had always thought that all the attributes that Kyros assigned to himself in his stories were false. But there seemed to have been some truth behind that too – the willpower needed to both tear the Krana off of his face and defeat the Bohrok was something that most of the Matoran couldn’t muster.

Perhaps, after all, Kyros was a rival to be taken into account. But it wasn’t time to think about breaking unity – there would be time for that later on.

So he just slung Kyros unconscious body over his shoulder, and began walking down the dirt path.




Santis seemed to be having a really rough day. Apparently, he had lost his sense of vision, for he could not see anything but pitch-black darkness.

His limbs were limp, his face numb. He felt some pain in the back of his head, ticking in and off like a clock marking seconds. His mouth was dry, and he felt like he had his mouth full of rocks.

Then he realised, he actually had his mouth full of rocks.

Enraged, the Toa gathered all the strength that remained in his spirit to blast the rocks away with bolts of fire.

He spat out the debris, and then tried to open his eyes. Sunlight welcomed him once more, stinging his sight. When his vision had adapted to the level of illumination, he checked the only thing that mattered at that very moment – the state of his armour.

He examined every bit of it, looking for any scratch that could have appeared on the crimson protometal. Satisfied with his good-looks, he then checked the back of his head – there was an actual gash there, and he was bleeding. Not a problem, he could handle that.

But he was deeply disappointed when he looked around.

The battle was over. No more Bohrok to slice, burn down, melt to slabs. In fact, he had a strong desire to burn something. His pyromania was starting to kick in and get stronger, but it didn’t worry him at all. Everyone had its flaws, and he was glad that his flaw didn’t mess with his pretty face.

Torlo approached him. The rest of the Matoran were helping Krennato and Connla heal some Matoran with Krana in their faces and Sarnii, while Kryos and Goll where doing their usual shared activity - arguing.

“Too late for the party, Toa?”

Santis smiled at the Matoran.

“You think that the party has ended? It hasn’t even started. In fact, it would probably start if you put some more clothing on you... over your face preferably... you’re scaring the chicks away.”

Both chuckled, and began walking to the group.




Night had already fallen and the expedition group was already far from the place of death that the Matoran village had become. But their minds, and their arguments, were still anchored back to the Bohrok Nest entrance.

They were all sitting in a circle around a bonfire in a clearing of the forest, except for Santis, who was interrogating the Krana Slaves.

Turas was, as always, a mere expectation. He wouldn’t say a word. He didn’t feel like doing that most of the time, and now more than ever he decided to stay away. He was only glad that he had been able to retrieve his new Hau from the lake.

It wasn’t like he was the only one out of the discussion. Kyros was, per usual, boasting and explaining how he had defeated the Gahlok to Sarnii and Connla.

But other than those, two clear sides had been formed over an argument. In one hand, there were Goll and Krennato, supporting not entering the Bohrok Nest and instead proceeding with their voyage to Metru Nui. On the other, there were Iolan and Torlo, saying that they couldn’t just leave the Bohrok free to destroy everything in sight.

Turas tried to return from his thoughts to reality, and concentrated on what the Matoran were saying.

Krennato was talking now, in her usual apocalyptic tone.

“The Nest is a sacred place! Who are we to profane a creation to Mata Nui? Who are we to disagree with his will?”

Torlo, as always, was the one to react harder to this kind of religious babbling.

“And who are you to determine the doom of this land? Who the Burnak are you to impose your believes to the security of the Matoran?”

Then Iolan cut in, to back up Torlo. Even though the two shared the same view, they acted differently – to make an analogy, Torlo was the bad Vahki and Iolan the good one.

“Nobody is saying that we are going to profane anything! If what you say is right, Krennato, the Bohrok shouldn’t be awake now. We can just go down the nest and lock them up, until Mata Nui sees fit to awake them!”

Goll, who had been feeling that both the leadership of the group and his edge of the argument were slipping form his hands, decided to intervene.

“We do not have the military strength necessary to carry out such operation, and you all know it. We would need the Order of Mata Nui to help. I say we go to Metru Nui, then organise troops from there. And besides... Bohrok just want to clear out the forest and level the hills. They purpose is not killing Matoran.”

Torlo just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“How can you say that? Of course, since you were sleeping while the rest were fighting for our lives, you didn’t see what happened. I swear that Nuhvok was trying to assassinate me!”

Santis came out of some bushes, and decided to step into the conversation to.

“Assassination wouldn’t be the correct term. That verb is used for important-people-murders... and no offence, but you aren’t important, at least not in the right meaning of the word.”

Torlo gave a look full of rage at the Toa.

“Hey, I said no offense! But come with me, we have something important to talk about... privately.”




Ten minutes later, Santis had decided that they were far enough that nobody would hear them.

“Torlo, you’re the only Matoran I trust in this universe.”

“Should I take it as a compliment or are you asking for me to rent you money?”

Santis ignored the Le-Matoran’s response. Unlike most of the time, Santis was really serious when he talked.

“Torlo, I believe there is a traitor amongst the expedition.”

“What?”

“There are just too many coincidences. I think that the Rahkshi attacks lately have been placed in the right spot to deviate us from our route north. We have ended up finding that Bohrok Nest. Nobody mentioned a village in the middle of the lake when I planned the trip – we have deviated either east or west.

Nobody except for the people in the expedition know which path we’re taking – not even the Matoran we left in your village. It must be one of the Matoran in the expedition... so watch your back. And when the time comes, be prepared to act quickly, to leave behind friendship and morality.”

Torlo just lay silent, trying to make something out of the puzzle that the situation now was.

“Don’t leave yet, Torlo. There’s something else I want to tell you... or rather show.”

They walked a few more meters, until they came to the clearing where Santis had interrogated the Krana-Slaves.

They were all impaled in wooden sticks in a bonfire. Torlo looked at Santis face, and saw a dark expression that he had never seen.

“They didn’t want to talk, so they will talk no more.”

The Le-Matoran continued staring at the atrocity trying to fight the mix of friendship and repulsion that the Toa of Fire transmitted him at that moment.

“Be careful, Torlo, because when you fight monsters, you risk becoming one of them.”

Chapter 10[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27

None of the questers won a wink of sleep for the remainder of the terrible night. Every single one of them stood tense around the campfire, even Kyros. The tantalizing flames leapt up and flickered across the cracks in the rock, casting flitting shadows that haunted the edgy Matoran till the early hours of the next day. Then didn’t dare venture back into the huts.

Sarnii didn’t sleep. She just couldn’t. She knew that this was probably her last night alive. It was horrible, just lying there, shivering with cold and fear, knowing what was to come, thinking about her death at the hands of an entire Bohrok swarm. She had often dreamed of dying in battle, being killed quickly, with no time to worry about what lay beyond, but now her doom was creeping up on her she found she wasn’t enjoying the experience so much.

At one point Iolan worked up the courage to ask Santis what had become of the Krana possessed villagers, though his inquiry afforded him no response. The Toa of Fire ignored him and pulled on his tattered cloak, as if he were cold next to the flames.

In the end the silent hostility became too much for Sarnii to cope with. Several hours before the first traces of daylight flooded the night sky, she slipped away. She told the others that she needed some time on her own. She was met with fierce disagreement from Goll but she managed to silence the tatty old warrior easily enough by walking off. No doubt he would send someone after her... if anyone still cared enough to obey him.

The Vo-Matoran marched along to the outer edges of the village, past the gate and down to the river that Turas had nearly drowned in. She followed it round East till she was shielded from the night’s chilling breeze by a small rock outcrop. It jutted out, just above the sand. Perhaps some Matoran had carved it out of the cliff and carried it down to this secluded spot to contemplate his thoughts. It was the perfect perch for a Lava Hawk, but she sat on the sand in front of it. Settling down, Sarnii used one of her Shock Thumpers to create a few sparks, which set a small bundle of dry twigs ablaze.

She had moments of doubt throughout the night, where the world was a lonely place. She considered deserting, running away and escaping with her cowardly life. It was tempting, but the Matoran of Lightning knew her duty and hoped she would find peace in the afterlife. Yet in her heart she knew she was still so young and juvenile, afraid of the darkness of death, wanting to grow old and see more of the world, taste more of life.

She cried quietly to herself inwardly, thinking of the terrible sacrifice they were making, the joys they would never know, the love she’d now almost certainly never find. Part of her wanted to slither back to Kyros and offer to run away with him. The Ko-Matoran had said he wasn’t one to flee a challenge but maybe it was just that he feared running by himself, with nobody to watch his back. If she said she’d go with him, she was sure he would jump at the chance.

But she didn’t. Duty won out fear in the end. She couldn’t stop the shivers or the fast pulse in the back of her mind, but she could still wipe away the fears and hold her ground. And so she did. She hated the prospect of dying and she was more afraid than she ever thought she could be. But if this was her destiny, then so be it. It was better to die for her people in her own land than cower in another and suffer a lifetime of spineless guilt.

For a while she just sat staring into the heart of the blaze, saying nothing. Then, finally, she heard footsteps. A smile slipped across her Kaukau Nuva as the form of a Matoran stepped out from behind her.

“You came for me, Torlo” she remarked passionately. “Just like you used to appear in the night for me.”

The Le-Matoran behind her didn’t respond for a moment. He just leaned against the rock before finally strolling forwards and sitting on the opposite side of the fire.

“I have nothing to say to you” he snarled in the end, his voice riddled with hate.

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I like seeing you around fire... reminds me there’s still a chance you could slip and fall in.”

Sarnii swallowed at lump in her throat. “If you came here to reproach me then I suggest you leave, but I don’t think that’s the reason you’re here.”

The crafter glared at her. “Care to explain?” he grunted bluntly.

“You love me yet, do you not?”

“About as much as I love Tren Krom.”

The Vo-Matoran snorted. “I’ve heard Krennato tell more convincing stories about Toa collecting Kanohi.” She raised an accusing finger and pointed it straight at the Le-Matoran. “You think that you’re someone. You think that, just because you’re so moral and righteous, you’re going to be Goll’s replacement or something. You undermine anyone who’s bigger and better than you till you get what you want. You’ve built your reputation up from lies.”

The Zatth-wearer said nothing in response. He just stared at her with empty eyes.

“And you hate me because you’re deluded. You’ve spent so long trying to convince yourself that you’re a good person that you’ve actually fooled yourself.”

“I’m a sinner” grunted Torlo. “I never denied that. As far as I’m concerned, we all are, you no more than me.”

Sarnii whimpered. After a long look at her former lover she continued with her old quiescent love. “Must I go on weakly confessing to you things that I ought to conceal? Words cannot express how gloomy I have been because of the dreadful belief that I have had – that you despise me.”

“I am sorry I caused you that pain.”

“I don’t thank you for that” she snarled, turning away while an inner indignation spread through her like subterranean heat. “I never knew what pretence our society was, I never knew the lying lessons taught by those tricksters and traitors.”

The Le-Matoran looked absently towards the village for a long moment, as if he did not much mind her outbursts.

“Sarnii,” he murmured indifferently, “I may reach for you softly from time to time, but I would rather cut off my own hand before I reach for you again.”

Likewise!”

“I no longer care for you like I did before, when I was a fool, and I swear on my damned, blackened soul that I never will again. I’ll not have your suspicion anymore. But that’s not why I’m here.”

Sarnii raised a snide eyebrow. “Then why are you here, lover?”

“To make peace, I suppose” shrugged Torlo. “You chose to follow me before, and you chose to again now. I guess if you’re willing to believe in me, in spite of all that I’ve done to you... I guess it gives me hope.”

“Well thank Mata Nui for that!” she snarled with icy sarcasm.

“You don’t have to follow me. You could run off in the night and leave this accursed place. You don’t have to put your life on the line. Nobody ever made you stay to die.”

Sarnii glared at her former lover through spiteful eyes, but it didn’t take long before his gaze softened her. The anger that had pumped through her began to dwindle and seep away, leaving her blank and vacant.

“I have my reasons. They’re not the same as yours. These aren’t my people, so I don’t really care if they live or die. And I never planned to perish on this quest. I knew the risks would be high but I hoped – still hope – to get out alive.” She glanced at her feet for a moment. “How about you?”

“Simple answer” responded the Matoran of Air. “The tunnel will remain open, and the Bohrok are awake. The swarms will awaken. They’d kill everyone, and make any survivors walk around as undead slaves. I can’t let that happen.”

“Even if it means your death?”

“Of course” he sighed.

Sarnii shifted in the sand. “We’d be going on towards certain death, one way or another. How can you find the strength to do that?”

“How can I not?” replied Torlo simply. “One life is nothing when measured up against thousands. I’d give my life a dozen times to save the lives of those I care about.”

“And those you don’t, who mean nothing to you? The ones who aren't important?”

“I've lived in this Universe for 100,000 years, and that would be something I've ever seen before: somebody who isn't important.”

The Kaukau Nuva-wearer stared at the Matoran across the fire from her.

“You doubt me yet?”

Yes, actually.”

The weapon-crafter bowed his head, the flames flickering in his lifeless eyes, then they exploded in a blazing inferno of rage. “Look to your own problems before you go to judge me” he snarled frostily. “Every moment I’m with you I feel judged for lies, as though I have entered a courtroom whenever you draw near.”

The Matoran of Lightning narrowed her eyes. “I don’t judge you. The magistrate who sits in your heart, atop his golden throne of lies, is the one who judges you.”

“And still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart” bristled the Matoran of Air guardedly as he rose to his feet again. “Take it harshly, I hold no love for you anymore.”

Sarnii snorted. “And yet here you are, appearing for me in the night, like you used to all those years ago. You have forsaken your dead wife, and for me, someone not even worth one of your fingers. That must burn you inside. You must feel like one sick –”

She never got to finish her threat. Torlo’s fist slammed into her chest, smashing her heartlight. The small bulb fizzed and shattered. The Vo-Matoran fell backwards, then tried to crawl away half-heartedly on the sand, stunned. The Le-Matoran followed after her then clubbed the back of her neck. She slumped, where he grabbed her wrists and pinned them to her sides. Then he turned her over. He’d been expecting a torrent of abuse but his former lover seemed to be giggling.

Manipulative witch!” he snarled, slapping her mask. He grabbed the back of her Kanohi Kaukau and yanked it, forcing her head forwards.

“Get a grip” she grated. “You’ll topple over from a heartlight attack if you carry on like this. Deep breaths, lover.”

The broken crafter regarded her contemptuously. Then he grinned in spite of himself, the grin of a Rock Lion with its keeper trapped in its cage. In that moment all he wanted to focus on was payback. His conscience twisted around the single error he had made in his life. He thought about all the tools he’d seen in the abandoned village that he could use. The hacksaw. Pliers. Several hammers. A drill. And lots of knives.

The time of weakness was over.

But torturing a Vo-Matoran wasn’t going to fix anything. What she had done was unforgivable; it was a tragedy. His rage was earned. But destruction and vengeance weren’t going to change what had happened to his past. Sarnii’s dying screams weren’t going to soothe his restless soul.

He let his fist drop. A second later, he dropped to his knees as well. He couldn’t do it. He had every reason to, but something held him back and wouldn’t let him take the last, damning step which would separate him from all that had once defined his morality. Torlo returned to his feet and walked away.

Coward!” she spat.

“Yes,” he agreed sadly. “I am.”

“I thought you meant business. I should have known better. You’re a waste of a Matoran. What kind of husband are you, that you can’t take it upon yourself to avenge the murdered love of your life?”

“Don’t flatter yourself” grunted the damned Le-Matoran. “She didn’t die by your hand, though you’re as much the villain in this piece as I am.”

His new enemy narrowed her eyes but said nothing.

“We will meet again” he grunted. “Be it in the fiery depths of hell or later in this life, we shall finish this, and I will make you pay for what you’ve done to my life.”

The Kaukau Nuva-wearer returned no answer, and with the mockingly graceful bow of a dancing-master Torlo vanished into the darkness. When she was sure he had gone the Vo-Matoran sighed. It was no fragile maiden’s sigh, but one which shook her like a shiver. Whenever a flash of reason darted like an electric light upon her former lover – as it sometimes would – and showed her imperfections, she shivered thus. But it was over in a second, and she regretfully loved on.

She knew that he trifled with her, but still she loved him.




Day. The order of the world restored. Everybody knew that they were looking at their final sunrise. Fittingly, it was obscured by grey clouds. According to Krennato, clouds were rare in some lands, where the sun shone all day in a clear blue sky. But surely those were fanciful tales, told by Turaga for the amusement of lesser Matoran around a campfire, safe inside their village walls. The world was made to be clouded in grey. It wouldn’t feel natural if the sun shone brightly all the time.

Toa Santis addressed the group early in the morning, the vacant shell of the Bohrok Nuhvok in his hands. He lived up to his reputation of being a warrior of few words by propping the empty Bohrok casing up against the mouth of the cave. He took two consecutive swipes of his sword. The first swing struck the bulky casing of the black-armored Bohrok, bouncing right off. The second sliced through the feeble legs like sailcloth, causing the broken armor to slump to the sand. The open casing flapped against the ground.

“I spent all night hitting the Gahlok. The legs were the only weakness I could find” explained the Toa with a flick of his cape, which had gotten caught over his leg. “Hit them once, hit them right. Because if you don’t act fast you’re all as useful to me as –” He stopped, brow furrowing as he stared at the group. The assembled Matoran mirrored his expression as they turned to see his gaze fixed on Kyros.

The Ko-Matoran had cut both the palms of his hands and was daubing his cheeks and forehead in blood, quietly muttering words which could either be a spell or a prayer.

“What in the name of sanity are you doing?” demanded Goll, unnerved by the spectacle.

Kyros finished his chant, then smiled. “A bit of added protection.”

“That won’t help” stated Krennato doubtfully. Even she was thrown by the peculiar sight.

“We’ll see” chucked the conceited Matoran of Ice, although there was nothing funny about it. He casually glanced up over the rows of heads at the cave’s darkened entrance. “Well I’m ready. Make up your minds, tell me what you want to do and on we’ll go.”

Santis regarded Kyros with uneasy surprise. Some warriors were never afraid of going into battle, but the scrappy, selfish Matoran in front of him hadn’t struck him as one; he lacked the willpower. Yet here he squatted, more at peace than any of them, looking like someone with nothing to lose and no notion of defeat.

“You understand what we’re discussing?” asked Torlo. “The Bohrok’s weak spots?”

“You worry about fighting below the waist with your dirty tricks, crafter” laughed Kyros. “I’ll worry about doing the actual fighting.”

“A warrior at last” remarked Goll wryly.

Santis grunted then checked that everyone had a weapon in hand. When he was content he turned and raised his own sword. Calling upon his Elemental Powers, he willed his weapon to glow a fiery crimson color. Flames emanated from the blade and illuminated the passage ahead.

The cave looked like an unnatural rip in the cliff, like a mine shaft. Perhaps Matoran had dug here in the past and discovered the nest beneath. It certainly looked like a mine from where the Toa was standing. He ventured further inwards, without making sure the Matoran had followed him into the tunnel’s gaping maw of an entrance. Torlo swiftly appeared beside him, faithful till the end, and the two looked down at the shaft angling immediately down, deep into the ground. Unnatural heat bellowed from it.

Feeling troubled by whatever horrors lay beneath, the Toa lowered himself to a sitting position, so his feet dangled off the edge, then lowered himself down into the hole, searching for handholds, descending into the darkness of the pit. Torlo followed next, then Goll, Iolan, Sarnii, Turas, Connla and Krennato, with Kyros finally bringing up the rear.

The rock was hot to touch, even for Santis, but it was bearable. There were lots of holds and it was easy to climb if Bohrok had managed to haul their way up. Immediately after touching the ground, the shaft turned to the left. There was pure darkness around the bend, broken only by the light of the Toa’s sword. The protector of the Matoran looked up at the brightness at the top of the ledge. He took one last look at the overcast but beautiful Matoran world one last time, then blundered on into the eternal, demonic night.




The gradient of the tunnel went down sharply for five minutes, slowly making the questers stumble forwards. They all expected the descent to last for ages, but a few minutes later they hit level ground and were soon standing in a huddle, unsure what to do next, afraid they were standing on a platform overhanging a deadly drop.

Holstering his sword, Santis allowed the cave to plunge into darkness. A moment later flames flared dimly in his left hand. Slowly, he let them grow and expand, filling his palm and then rising to hang in the hot air above them. The fire lit up the entire cave, revealing a wretched terror.

Three different passageways presented themselves. There was one miniature tunnel carved into the far wall of the cave. Each was about the size of a Toa, each one with a metal plaque above it – like a ceremonial keystone on an arch. Krennato stepped forwards to examine them.

Unity. Duty. Destiny,” she announced, apprehensively. She reeled back a step then turned to address the others. “What now?”

“Splitting up would be foolish,” grunted Goll. “But it doesn’t seem like we have much of a choice. We’ll just have to guess lucky.”

“None of the passageways look worn,” remarked Torlo.

“And my Mask of Clairvoyance reveals nothing,” mused the Toa.

“Then we have no choice,” shrugged Sarnii. “We'll split up.”

“How will we see where we’re going?”

“I have a couple of Lightstones,” announced Turas quickly. He lay down his blades then fumbled around clumsily in his pack. After a minute of rummaging, he produced a pair of the almost heavenly stones in question.

“Three passageways, three teams,” nodded Goll. “I’ll lead one. Santis should lead another, he has the glowing sword. So we’ll need one other team.”

Torlo’s hand rose into the air.

Kyros’ hand stayed down, which took even Santis by surprise. Instead, the Ko-Matoran gravitated towards Goll, which made the seasoned warrior bristle uncomfortably.

Turas handed the two Lightstones out as the others wandered towards their closest leaders. Turas latched onto Goll and Kyros’ team, while Iolan, Sarnii and Connla shuffled towards Torlo. That left Krennato to hobble towards Santis.

“We’ll take the right-hand tunnel,” muttered Torlo, pointing towards the tunnel saying Destiny. “I think that one’s the least likely to lead anywhere.”

Santis nodded and shuffled towards the cave which read Duty, leaving Goll and his team to tackle the tunnel which read Unity.

“Hang onto your Lightstones” warned Krennato, whilst Santis once again willing his sword to illuminate. “If you lose them you might become a permanent resident down here.”

Torlo snorted then handed his Lightstone back to Iolan and stepped into the darkness of the tunnel. The shadow seemed to engulf him, swallowing him whole, yet his voice bounced back after him.

That’s what I love about Ga-Matoran, always so positive.”

Chapter 11[]

Written by Abc8920 and BobTheDoctor27.

There were many things that could make Torlo feel disturbed. Rahkshi, Visorak, Bohrok and even the horrific sight that was Krennato in the morning. But right now it was quite a different thing.

Silence.

There was a very tense atmosphere as the group that Torlo lead through the tunnel advanced, the only light coming from the lightstone that the Le-Matoran held in his left hand. The yellow light formed a semi-sphere around them, giving the impression that a golden shield was sheltering them form evil. It felt warm in his palm, filling him with the closest thing to sunlight he'd felt in hours, almost sensual and seductive.

But that was nothing short of a fallacy. For, once again, appearances were deceiving, and it would be probably easier to find evil inside them than outside the light.

Torlo and Sarnii hadn’t exchanged a word since the past day. It wasn’t like the Matoran of Air was intentionally avoiding it – rather, there just was nothing left to say.

Both had unintentionally engaged in a strange choreography to avoid their eyes meeting. When one looked up, the other looked down. If Torlo looked to the right, Sarnii would also do so, like if there was actual magnetic repulsion between their bodies.

One could say they were practicing the dance of isolation. But at that very moment, Torlo was having enough problems inside to care about what others might say.

Bitter rage was starting to burn inside him. Had it been another time, another place, perhaps another life, he wouldn’t have forgiven himself for breaking another Matoran’s heartlight.

But things were not as he would wish. The Vo-Matoran was as guilty as he was for his wife’s suicide. Back in the day Torlo had decided to take the right path – the road of acceptance.

He had never denied his sins. He had taken them; lived with them, let them die away while they slowly consumed him from the inside. But Sarnii, in the other hand, had always blamed him for what had happened. She had called him hypocrite many times, saying that he had become what he had sworn to fight.

Sarnii had made fun of him. She had made his darkest side appear. She had made him hit the bottom.

And yet, she still had the courage to come up to him, tell him she still loved him. Just another web of lies to fool him.

He could only be grateful for one thing – the moment her wife cut her own throat open, the old Torlo died, opening the path for the new, darker Torlo. The old Torlo was overambitious; wanting to end with the world’s evil, wanting to unearth the truth, while in reality his heart was as corrupted as Makuta’s. The new Torlo didn’t live to fulfil a specific role or appearance. He was no longer fighting hypocrisy – he had decided that for starters he should stop being one. Even if that meant breaking heartlights, limbs or necks.

In the end, Torlo decided to stop thinking about the past. He knew that while exploring the corners of his mind, he could get lost in them.

And for the first time in an eternity, the Le-Matoran surrendered to the urge of looking at the Matoran of Lightning.

There she was. The same beautiful and sleek figure from the times when both furtively met. The irradiating anger from her Kanohi only enhanced her beauty. Torlo stopped that line of thought dead in its tracks. The old Torlo was screaming in the back of his head, but the new Torlo was stronger. And when the Le-Matoran looked at Sarnii again, the only thing he felt was the urge to practice torture, dismemberment, beheading, to make a home out of her bones.

No, that wouldn’t be right. Torlo remembered Santis' warning quite clearly. He could not let his hatred dominate him. So he instead decided to focus on something else and turned to see the two Matoran walking behind him.

Iolan was, for once, exceptionally calm and quiet. The oppressing influence of the place seemed to have taken the skill of speech out of him. Perhaps the fact that he had been accepted into the group after committing such mistakes had given him hope for a better life someday.

Connla in the other hand looked very nervous. The fear was strong inside her, only a façade of self-control preventing it from breaking out.

Torlo stared at the Ga-Matoran for a moment, then at Sarnii, then back at Connla, and made up his mind.

This time he would not make the same mistakes again.




Hours and hours had passed, and Santis and Krennato had finally reached their destination in the tunnel.

A dead end.

The tunnel abruptly stopped as a stone wall prevented them from going on further. And in front of it, there was a perfectly circular hole, half the width of the wall.

Santis wasn’t actually certain what he should do at this point. Over the days, he had been gaining more and more memory about his past. Unfortunately, those flashes of memory only showed part of his dimensional travels.

None of them gave any information on Tollubo, or the reason for which he had to kill the De-Matoran.

But he had seen many things... and some of them were solid illusions. Created by the Bahrag themselves as a means of blocking entrances to the Bohrok nests, only those who didn’t believe in the existence of the wall could bypass it.

There was only one way of knowing.

The Toa backtracked thirteen steps, then ran and charged onto the wall.

An unbearable amount of pain answered Santis’ question as he fell to the floor, his face buried in his hands.

Krennato ran to the fallen Toa, a confused look in her face.

“What in Mata Nui’s name where you doing Toa?”

“Just testing they were Santis-proof. Do I have anything broken? I mean, aside from my faith and dignity like you usually say?”

“Nothing. What do we do now?”

“Wait until one of your damn myths comes to the rescue?”

The Ga-Matorn gave an angry look at Santis.

“Why do you have to keep criticizing my faith? I have my religion. Don’t you care about your mortal soul?”

“Are you trying to sell me a life-insurance contract? Thanks but no thanks.”

Krennato then started pointing at the walls surrounding them, trying to point out unseen evidence.

“You are so blind. You close your eyes to Mata Nui, while his proofs are everywhere! Look at the floor you have been walking on for the past hours. It’s completely flat and immaculate! Have you noticed a single scratch, a single bump, any imperfection at all?

Furthermore, look around, at the floor, at the walls, at the roof, look as far as your sight reaches. There is no tiling at all – the whole cavity is just one massive block!”

Santis looked around, impressed, and touched the wall next to him with his hand. It was perfectly smooth.

But the Toa of Fire had seen enough to know that this construction had not been carved by Mata Nui, for it was part of Mata Nui himself. No divine intervention or whatsoever, if anything, quite the contrary. Of course he didn’t know for sure, but it was likely made by the Great Beings themselves, just like the rest of the Matoran Universe.

What had impressed him though were Krennato’s observation capabilities. He had seen that there was something more than myths and lies in the old one’s head – she was actually smart.

He imagined that Krennato must have shown her true, wise profile at one point. Maybe she'd made an effort all those years ago when she first arrived at the village. But slowly she sheltered behind her false hope to relieve the pain caused by her blood colt, becoming eventually abducted by those ideas. Still, he had to find a way to use that covered intelligence to his advantage.

“If you know your cave-paradise so well, then how do we go further?”

“We go down, Toa.”

“Down the hole?”

“Got any better ideas?”

The Toa looked thoughtful for a moment, and then raised his finger in approval.

“We backtrack the way we came, out of the nest, out of the Southern Continent, and spend our holidays in an Artidax beach. That sounds just about right.”

The Toa didn’t wait for the Ga-Matoran’s reply, and proceeded to examine the hole, trying to figure out what might be under the layer of darkness. He threw a bolt of fire, illuminating the walls and uncovering some shallow water below.

“I would say ‘ladies go first’, but courtesy is overrated. I will scout ahead first.”

Santis jumped down the hole, slowing his fall by heating the air below him. When the Toa landed, he noticed that there was much more water than he had expected, reaching up to his knees. He looked around in the unforgiving shadows, noticing a faint glow to his left.

A piece of metal was reflecting the light emitted by some kind of bioluminescent red coral. He reached to touch it, and then the Psychometry power of the Danju kicked in.

He saw a ship sailing across the silver sea, busy crewman working frenetically on the top deck. A very heterogeneous group, but they all shared one trait: an armband with the Order of Mata Nui insignia. Suddenly, a sphere of purple light enveloped the ship, and then the world outside the sphere changed into pitch black cavern.

As the vision ended, Krennato jumped down and splashed loudly on the water.

“What’s up? Has Mata Nui spoken to you again, Toa?”

“I’ve seen a ship, and some kind of teleportation device, very similar to the one used by the Brotherhood in Destral.”

“Were they using it as means of transport, or was it an attack by the Makuta?”

“Who knows? They could have reverse engineered the teleportation system, or they could have been attacked by the Brotherhood of Makuta. Either way, that means we’ve got free take and go navigation charts.”

“We? How do you know where the ship is?”

“I saw this red coral in the vision. It must be a pretty rare kind of coral, to grow in complete darkness. ”

“Let’s take the plunge then.”

“Now you’re the one precipitating yourself. Unless you are a siren – and you look far from being that- you would need some kind of water-breathing apparatus to reach the flooded section of the caves.”

“Well, I happen to have air bladders.”

“That is really convenient.”

“I never go outside my hut without those. I still believe that someday Mata Nui will punish us for our sins and flood our world.”

Santis decided to ignore the elder’s ramblings and just took the weird organic device.

The Toa could feel the oxygen and nitrogen mix rushing into the back of his throat. It had a slightly stale taste but he could tell using the Air Bladder wasn't going to be overly complicated. Satisfied with his breathing supply, he pressed one hand to his Kanohi Danju, holding the strange organic oddity in place, extended his sword in the other, then hopped into the water.

It was cold and stagnant after centuries of lying untouched. He felt his elbow make contact with the ledge behind him and his whole world seemed to spin upside down. The pool rushed up to meet him and his vision was pulled apart like a curtain opening as he found himself plunging into the water.

The Toa kept his head below the surface for a moment. Partly to wait for Krennato, partly to map out his bearings in the dark liquid surroundings. But, as he feared would be more likely, to plan how to get back.

It was a narrow cave and it was cold, which was a dangerous enemy of any scuba diving Toa of Fire, sapping his strength and concentration. The deeper they went, the colder it got. Hence, he couldn't afford to hang around.

Santis willed his Elemental Fire power through his sword once again, creating the first light that the sunken cave had seen in centuries, then let his weight drag him down, like an anchor. The water rose up and devoured him.

Down and down he sank, blowing hard, equalizing, to stop the pain in his audio receptors. Krennato was lagging above him, perhaps marvelling at the astonishing beauty of the underwater world. There were a few different species of watery plants dotted around the cave, their shapes and colors as alien to him as anything it was possible to find in the Matoran Universe.

For a single moment, he felt completely at peace, an unusual trait for him. The sound of his own breathing echoed and each breath released a cascade of silver bubbles. He was approximately fifteen bio down below the surface, about two bio from the ground. A school of brightly colored fish swam past him, a species he was unfamiliar with; fat lips, bulging eyes, and strange, misshapen bodies. Hideous and beautiful at the same time. Harmonious. The Toa hadn't ventured underwater in centuries. He only vaguely recalled how to swim. Still, he wished that he had time to enjoy it.

But he didn't. So he kicked forward. The fish darted away, alarmed.

The walls were of course much more than just a seething mass of rock; coral, vegetation and marine-life. It was a living thing, in a sense. Huge fans of seaweed waved slowly from side to side. Clumps of corals exploded brilliantly around him. There was a slither of movement as a Venom Eel disappeared behind a rock.

Unfortunately, Santis didn't have the time to waste admiring the colors and sights of the underwater kingdom. He had to concentrate. They had to keep swimming.

The cave itself was like a gaping mouth, an expression which the Toa soon began to almost believe as he led the unsuspecting Ga-Matoran further inside. This tunnel hadn't always been flooded and over a period of time – millions of years – stalactites and stalagmites had grown. The needle-sharp spears hung from the ceiling and protruded up from the floor. As always, Santis was unable to remember which was which. But even from a distance there was something menacing about the place. It was like looking into the open mouth of a giant, undersea monster. He could almost imagine the pointy formations biting down, the whole thing swallowing him up.

He was about to swim forward when there was a movement just outside his field of vision. Something was there. Puzzled, he looked up. He froze instantly. He actually felt the air stop somewhere at the back of his throat. The last of the bubbles chased each other up to the roof of the cave. Santis just hung there, fighting for control. He wanted to scream. But underwater, it wasn't possible to scream.

He was looking at a Takea Shark, at least three meters long, circling slowly above him. The sight was so unreal, so utterly shocking, that at first he didn't quite believe his eyes. It had to be an illusion, some sort of trick. The very fact it was so close to him an Krennato seemed impossible. He stared at its grey underbelly, the two sets of fins, the down-turned crescent mouth with its jagged, razor-sharp teeth. And there were the deadly, round eyes, as black and evil as anything in the Matoran Universe. Had they seen him yet?

Swallowing his surprise, the Toa refused to let himself get scared. Panicking while underwater was the last thing he wanted to do. So he thought about what he knew about the species, which wasn't a considerably great deal of knowledge. Was it going to attack him first? He didn't know. Could its teeth penetrate his armor? He didn't know. Was there any chance it was a vegetarian?

He seriously doubted it.

He knew that there were a number of different shark-like species inhabiting this world, courtesy of the Brotherhood of Makuta, of course, and that only a few of them had ever attacked another living creature. The Takea shark was definitely one of them. Not so good. But attacks were rare. Only about a hundred Ga-Matoran were killed a year. More people died in Moto Sled accidents. But these were dangerous waters, and this was a single shark...

...Still circling yet, as if choosing its moment...

Perhaps it hadn't seem them yet. No. That wasn't possible. Any kind of Rahi's eyes had to be at least ten times more sensitive than a Toa's. Even in pitch darkness it could see at least fifty bio away. And anyway, it probably didn't need eyes. It had receptors built into its snout that allowed it to detect even the tiniest electrical current. A blinking heartlight, for example.

The Toa forced himself to think harder. Both their lives could depend on it. A shark would be attracted to shiny metal objects, bright colors, and to fresh blood. He slowly turned his head. His sword was dazzling with light and his armor was bright red and yellow. But there was no blood. Was there?

Most of his wounds from the night before had been healed by the group's two Ga-Matoran medics. There were no open wounds that he knew of. He turned his hands over, examining himself. And then he saw it. Just below the elbow of his left arm was a small gash. He hadn't even noticed it, though he remembered knocking it against the ledge when he dove in. A tiny amount of blood, brown in the murky water rather than red. Tiny, but enough. The Takea could smell one drop of blood in fifty gallons of water. Who had taught him that? He had forgotten, but he knew it to be true. The shark had smelled him...

...and was still smelling him, closing in...

The circles were getting smaller. The Takea's fins were down, its back arched. And it was moving in a strange jerky pattern. The three textbook signs of an immediate attack. Santis knew there were only going to be a few seconds between life and death. Slowly, trying not to make any disturbance in the water, he reached down.

His knife was still there, strapped to the armor of his leg. He carefully unfastened it, using his right shoulder to keep the Air Bladder pressed against his Kanohi. The weapon would be tiny against the bulk of the Rahi and the blade would seem pathetic against those vicious teeth. But at least it was something to defend himself with.

The Toa tried to edge backwards. Slowly, keeping the creature in sight, he resumed his swim, Krennato just ahead of him. For a moment he thought the shark had lost interest in him, but then he saw that he had been tricked. The monster turned and, as if fired from a Cordak Blaster, rushed through the water, heading straight at him. Toa dived down, his Air Bladder dislodging from his Mask, bubbles exploding from his mouth. There was a boulder to one side of the cave, which he tried to wedge himself and his Matoran accomplice between it, shielding them from their attacker.

The Takea hesitated and curved away. At that moment, the Toa of Fire lunged forwards with his blade. He felt his arm shudder as the knife cut into the thick hide of just under the two front fins. As the Rahi flickered past, he saw it was leaving a trail of what looked like brown smoke. Blood. But he knew it had barely been wounded. He had managed to pinprick it, nothing more. And he had probably angered it too, making it all the more determined.

Worse, he was bleeding more himself. In his attempt to get out of the way, he had backed into the coral, which had cut what little flesh peaked out from behind his armor. He felt no pain, though he was sure that would come later. But now he really had done it. He had advertised himself: dinner, fresh and bleeding. It was a miracle that the shark hadn't been joined by a dozen of its friends.

The Toa kicked, propelling himself forwards, with all his mighty strength. At the same time he was thrashing with his arms and cursed noisily inside his head when he accidentally dropped the knife. He decided it would have done him no good anyway. He needed his Sword as a light source. He couldn't use it in this skirmish, and he couldn't use his Elemental Powers, Plasma capabilities, or Heat Vision in this watery graveyard.

Yet the Takea still came hurtling towards him. The devilish eyes seemed to have grown larger. The mouth was stretched open in a snarl that contained all the hatred in the world. Its jaw gaped, the dreadful teeth slicing through the water. The Toa jerked backwards, twisting his spine. The Rahi missed him by centimeters. He felt the surge of water pushing him away.

But then the battle was over.

Santis watched as the Takea rammed right into one of the stalagmites. Teeth that skewered the creature. Blood exploded into the water. He saw the dreadful eyes as the creature's head whipped from side to side. He could almost imagine it howling in pure agony. It was stuck, completely trapped, as it in the jaws of a monster even more dreadful than itself.

The Toa of Fire hung in the water, shocked and uncomprehending. Slowly the blood cleared and Krennato joined him as the Takea gave its last spasm and died.

When the Toa of Fire and his Ga-Matoran companion had swam onwards, a shadowy female figure drifted out of the blackness, stepping into what little light remained of the distant pair. She ascended to her position atop a large rock, where her armored heel cut through the overlying moss. There she stood still, around her stretched the murky rocks of the flooded cave, darker than mortal sin.

The fact that she was tall and straight in build and that she was feminine in her movements were all that could be learnt from her. It was as if her form was wrapped up in a close-fitting shawl of darkness.

Her reason for standing so dead still, watching the disappearing questers was just as obscure. Her extraordinary fixity, her conspicuous loneliness, her heedlessness of the darkness, betokened among other things an utter absence of fear. This was her home. Her domain. The only world that she had known for thousands upon thousands of years, and these burglars were not welcome here.

The watery warrior narrowed her eyes and focused on the intruders. The light coming from the red-one's blade had awoken her from a trance of unbroken tenseness. It did not belong here, in this desolate, grey world.

What the female uttered was a lengthened sighing, apparently at something on her mind. Millenia in this craggy, dingy hellhole had eaten away at her mind. Fractured images cascaded into the foreground of her vision. She had pledged herself to this place, given herself to that cause of defending the Kanohi Ignika from thieves foolish enough to try their luck. She had lived a life before that, but it did not matter. It did not aid her in her century-old task. Protecting this cave was her responsibility, for the passageway splintered off further down the line, leading straight to the Chamber of Life where the Mask was held.

The blue and white-armored female glanced down at the broken corpse that had caused the Toa to hesitate. It had belonged to a lone bounty hunter, who had been hired to steal the Mask for his employer. He had tried his luck only to be met by this watery guardian.

And his luck hadn't lasted long enough.

But the female sentry had killed him before this point while the Toa had managed to go further on. Why was that? Was she getting sloppy? Had a lifetime spent in this forgotten, watery cavern rendered her lazy?

In the space of a second she decided that could not have been the reason. She had sensed the presence of the Toa long before she had seen him and his accomplice. Her waters had been disturbed. Although the reason why she had stayed lurking in the shadows allowed the intruders to pass were a mystery to her. She knew it was unacceptable. She would follow the Toa and the Ga-Matoran. It was obvious that they were using primitive Air Bladders to hold their chances. Not the best effort she had seen, but still one she would enjoy exploiting. Tactically, the best move would be to simply wait for their lungs to fill with the water she now breathed. But the tunnel didn't go on forever, which afforded them a chance of reaching air again at the end, however slim, and succeeding. She could not allow that. Life in this cave was dark and cruel if lived alone. Perhaps a hunt would rectify her gloomy mood.

Calling upon her Mask of Conjuring, the female paddled forwards. She spoke aloud as she moved and the nebulous shaped Kanohi began to glimmer. Even as she began to describe the powers she was programming into her Mask, she knew she wasn't going to need the full fifteen minutes.

She wasn't getting slow... she was just toying with her prey.

Playing with her food.

Chapter 12[]

To be written by BobTheDoctor27.

V-shaped, glistening formations of calcite hung from the ceiling of the cave as the three Matoran marched onwards: stalactites and stalagmites.

Some reached from the floor, others hung from the ceiling majestically. All sorts of sizes. Water dripped from the tips of some of the overhanging shapes and splashed over the floor of the cave or on a stalagmite. In some places pillars had formed where the two formations met. It didn’t feel like the place belonged to the world of Matoran. It was so quiet and peaceful, yet rough and sinister at once. Time didn’t touch the cave, or if it did, it touched it softly, slowly, subtly.

Goll stared at them with idle interest as the group clambered onwards, his inner Po-Matoran intrigued by the fascinating shapes and textures all around him. Turas disregarded them and tried to focus on not slipping and impaling himself. Kyros just continued muttering to himself, dragging the bottom of his ill-gotten spear along the ground after himself.

Little by little, Turas felt the nagging sensation in the back of his skull that the environment was changing. The temperature was increasing and there was a strange odor in the air. Perhaps the scent of a Rahi.

Or a group of unwashed Matoran struggling to survive.

Goll had picked it up too. The lightstone picked up all the worried ridges in his Kanohi.

“We must tread carefully,” muttered the warrior.

Then he frowned and glanced ahead, the lightstone in one hand and an axe in the other. All three travelers followed his gaze to the end of the passageway, where the shaft drifted off to the left. The outline of the walls was visible.

There was light up ahead.

Cautiously, the Matoran advanced. As they neared the bending of the passageway, however, it became obvious that they weren’t alone. Beneath the jagged stalactites was a small group of Visorak, dozing in the light of a small hole in the wall.

Staring in silent horror, Turas retracted back into the shadows, following the Pakari Nuva-wearer’s lead. The sound of their shuffling footsteps stopped and was replaced by the faint drip of calcite off of the stalactites.

It was only then that he realized the Visorak were still sleeping. It was daytime, after all and the Brotherhood’s footsoldiers one ever attacked at night, when they were sheltered from the harsh rays of the sun, after all. Their grizzly snoring bounced off the cavern walls. Every disguised shape and shade available could be seen through what little light came in from the hole in the wall.

“We’ll never get through them all,” whispered Kyros through gritted teeth. Ever the optimist.

At least two dozen spider-like forms littered the floor of the underpass. Nearly one of every breed. But, strangely, not a Rahkshi in sight. There weren’t any creatures standing guard. No attacker dared siege the home of a miniature Visorak squadron.

“I’ll create a diversion,” suggested Turas. “If I attack from one side, I can draw them away and you two can continue down the passageway.”

“No distraction is worth a Matoran’s life,” retorted Goll. “We’ll stick together and push on as a group. If any of them notice us we’ll make a run for it. They’ll be slow because they’ll have just woken up. It looks like that’ll be our only advantage if it comes down to a chase.”

“We won’t let you down,” Kyros snorted grandly, blood still staining his Kanohi.

Then the Ko-Matoran just stepped forwards confidently and walked on, as if he was casually strolling through a street in Ga-Metru, admiring a fountain. His two fellow Matoran were left mystified. After sharing a confused shrug, they too advanced through the demonic ranks, carefully stepping over twisted limbs and maniples, ignoring the stench of rotting Matoran body parts and the even fouler reek of filthy Visorak. Many were larger than the specimens Turas had encountered in the past. They looked fiercer and stronger. He didn’t think their fortress could have survived an assault by this platoon. Yet, these weren’t the worst specimens. There were no Kahgarak and the dreaded Zivon certainly wasn’t in the chamber.

Until that moment, the Matoran wearing an adopted Kanohi hadn’t truly believed that these creatures would overrun the land. He was inwardly sure that the Matoran would fight hard and win in some places, repel the beasts, hold their own. Now he knew he was wrong. If they failed and the Bohrok came into play, all would fall in quick succession. Depending on how fast the armies of monsters moved, the entire Southern Continent could be a steaming pile of ruin, broken armor and decaying organic matter within a week.

Kyros cast a cool eye over the hideous Visorak, acting unimpressed – as though they were a flock of scraggly Mahi. Goll studied them with interest, smiling at the thought of how dangerous this all was, reliving days of lost glory.

The scarlet outline of a Vohtarak stirred in its slumber, moving itself to face Turas. The Matoran froze, certain that he had been revealed. But then it continued with its fractious breathing. The half-chewed up hand of a Ta-Matoran lay on the ground next to the Noble Miru-wearer’s foot. It was half-dissolved and bile-speckled. Obviously regurgitated back up. The traveler fought to keep his insides from turning and averted his gaze.

Finally, after what seemed like a marathon of sidestepping and tip-toeing around Visorak, the three of them reached the opposite side of the cavern. They didn’t stop to breathe individual sighs of relief, for they were far from safe. Instead they regrouped and continued. Goll went first with the Lightstone, then Turas, then Kyros taking up the rear. The floor of the cave actually felt hot to the touch, but all three of them bore the heat as they scrambled onwards.

Eventually, the pulsating stench of the chamber faded away and was replaced with a faint drizzle. One sensation gave way to another as smell turned to sound. Indeed, after rounding several other twists and turns in the tunnel, another open chamber presented itself. There were five other outlines in this one, but they belonged to grazing Colony Drones. Their eyes widened at the sight of the Matoran and they scattered for cover.

But the Rahi didn’t catch Turas’ attention. The most noticeable feature of the shaft was the underground waterfall to the right. The crystal-clear liquid appeared as if by magic from high up the wall, vanishing through a crack in the rock underneath, flowing on to who knows where.

There was a hole – the start of another tunnel – in one of the walls of the cave. And around and within in, the head and warped body of a Le-Matoran. The head, with its Mask of Rebounding still attached, hung just above the hole, limp. The neck jutted out of the rock. The body spread out around it, mixed in with the rock, part of the wall. There was an arm far off to the left. A leg further down to the right. The chest and stomach were torn open, surrounding the hole, some inner organs visible inside the mouth of the tunnel.

A chilling warning.

Or at least that was Turas’ first decision, that the head had been stuck there to emphasis the strange nature of the hole and to scare off anyone foolish enough to be down here. Then he assumed that the body just adorned the outside of the rock, that bits and pieces had been stuck on and crammed into cracks. But as they moved closer, drawn to it in silent fascination and horror, he saw that wasn’t right either.

The body was the rock. Somehow the two existed together, occupying the same space. It was as if the stone had melted and the Le-Matoran stepped into it, coming apart as the rock grew hard around him. It must have been a grotesquely painful way to die. Had he been sacrificed? Did the Visorak do this? Were they capable of melting rock then –

The head bobbed up and the eyes flickered open. Turas stifled a scream. Goll and Kyros gasped and raised their weapons automatically.

“No,” Goll muttered in the end. “It’s alright. He cannot hurt us.”

Don’t be so… sure,” croaked the Matoran of Air.

“By Tren Krom’s black guts! It speaks!” exclaimed Kyros.

“What is it?” Goll muttered, mesmerized. “What manner of…” He stopped, eyes narrowing. Then he took a step ahead of his companions, gazed into the ravaged eyes for a long moment then looked back.

“It’s flesh and blood,” he muttered. “It’s ancient.”

Do you… seek the Mask of… Life?

“No,” answered Goll truthfully.

Good… because you won’t find it here, ” snarled the Matoran in the rock, before chuckling to himself. “I’ve had fifteen… millennia to make sure… of that.

“Would you mind checking again?” snorted Kyros sarcastically. The blood was now caked to his armor.

“His name is Vican,” muttered Turas quietly, which caused heads to turn. It seemed ironic how often he was the one who spoke reason, being the only member of the group who did not wish to speak.

“You find his nametag on the wall too?”

“No, I remember him,” shrugged the Noble Miru-wearer. “Back in the days before I came to the fortress, I settled in Mahri-Nui as a sanctuary guard. There was a local Toa Shrine in the village and I was responsible for its safekeeping. I made a good job of it for a couple of centuries. It was decent pay and I was allowed to sit down whenever I wanted because of the repairs that Karzahni gave me.”

He glanced at the Le-Matoran’s Kanohi.

“That was until one faithful day when some local lunatic named Vican began raving about a lost treasure hidden in Mount Valamai. Nobody took him seriously so he decided to go prove himself. On his way out of the village he paid the shrine a visit. He knocked me out and vandalized the place. I got kicked out onto the nearest footpath and told I couldn’t protect a flower from being trampled by a Stone Rat because of him.”

“I guess this is where his journey took him,” shrugged Goll. “Fused to a rock for 15,000 years is some punishment. Who did this to you, Vican?”

The Le-Matoran glared at him. “I traveled with a… Toa, ” he wheezed, every word tormenting his solid throat. “He used a Mask… of Fusion to trap me... A dirty trick.

The Mask of Rebounding twisted to face the running water. A faint, ghostly smile slipped onto its smooth, rocky surface.

All those years… I have been down here… this is the first time I have… seen that waterfall,” he crackled, his eyes twitching. “It keeps me awake at night… every night… I think it drove me crazy.

Wild eyes looked the trio over. Turas couldn’t help but marvel at how similar the prisoner looked to Tren Krom in this remarkable state.

Your faces… this light… it is the first I have seen in millennia,” rasped the former Matoran. “There is greatness in the air.

“Why did you seek this Mask of Life?” asked Goll sullenly. “I have long-since heard rumors of a mystical Kanohi existing in these lands. I always thought it to be an Olmak or something.”

I wanted to ascend… into a higher form, ” croaked the Le-Matoran. “To be immortal and make… armies… crumble at my feet… the fool I was.

“Do you know what lies ahead? Is the Bohrok Hive close by?”

I have heard many… whispers about… Bohrok,” snorted the Mask of Rebounding-wearer. “You shall witness… their glory.

“Vican hated his fellow Matoran more than most,” explained Turas guardedly. “I was never sure why.”

Because they change,” spat the stone Matoran, eyes filling with fury. “They change… that which should not… be changed… They destroy!

“I guess finding the Ignika was his way of fighting them. He sought a way to rule them, like the Barraki of old. When his Toa companion found out Vican was punished.”

“How do you know that?” frowned Goll.

Turas shrugged. “Because I was there.”

“You were where?”

“In this chamber. 15,000 years ago. I accompanied Vican and Toa Salu on their quest to find the Ignika. I begged the Toa to spare him but Salu was relentless in his quest for justice. We continued and left him in the dark. We never found the Ignika in the end. I was always afraid that I would once again face Vican.”

“You knew he was here all along!” gasped the weathered Matoran of Stone. “You wanted the quest to bring us here.”

Turas nodded. “His face has appeared in my dreams for many nights now. Guilt has consumed me. I knew, in the pit of my stomach, that no matter where I travelled, I would eventually end up here again. That’s why I joined Toa Santis’ expedition.”

“Not such a noble cause then,” snickered Kyros.

“Do my motives matter?” countered Turas. “I came. I wish to put a stop to this insanity. That should be enough. Vican needs to be put out of his misery.”

Tell me, false Matoran,” snarled the Matoran of Air. “Has the world been overrun with Visorak?

“Yes.”

Vican sneered. “Better a world of Visorak… than one of the Matoran stain.

“This is pointless,” Goll grunted. “Will I just chop off his head at the neck so we can continue before nightfall?”

“That won’t stop him,” muttered Turas. “His twisted spirit is infused with the rock. He has become part of the tunnel. He is beyond physical harm. We can only kill him by destroying this entire underpass.”

False Matoran!” exclaimed Vican urgently, repeating his words from earlier. “There is iron… in your blood, Turas… and ice in your heart… Tell them the truth!

The Pakari Nuva-wearer frowned. “What’s he talking about?”

“Ignore him,” muttered Turas. “He’s mad. Maybe I’ll just leave him here for another 15,000 years and come back to kill him then. Let’s push on before the Visorak – ”

A cry of pain stopped him from finishing his sentence. It was Goll. As eyes whirled, the elderly warrior fell to the ground, clutching his chest, blood pouring out around his fingers.

Visorak were Turas’ first assumption as he turned sharply, drawing his blades. He stopped bewildered. There were no spiders in the cave behind Goll. Only Kyros – with the tip of his spear stained blood-red and a killer’s smile.

Before anyone could react, the Ko-Matoran raced to the cavern’s entrance and roared up the shaft: “Visorak! Hurry to my side! There are enemies in your midst!”

Goll cursed vilely from the puddle of blood on the floor as the sounds of Visorak screeching echoed down the passageway. They poured into the hole above and scrambled down the shaft. Turas stopped, unsure what to do.

Kyros was standing by the side of the entrance, whistling merrily, cleaning the blood off the tip of his spear. Goll struggled back to his feet. The treacherous Matoran of Ice must have missed his heart because, although he wasn’t wounded fatally, he wasn’t dead. Vican just stared at the blood pouring out of Goll’s chest, not sure what to make of it. Then he too smiled wickedly.

This is a show… worth a lifetime of waiting.”

From the shaft came screams of outrage. The Visorak must’ve piled down too fast, too many of them, and jammed. But the blockade couldn’t last long. They’d be upon their prey in about a minute or so.

Why!?” roared Goll, glaring at Kyros with red-hot rage. “We’ll all die now!”

You will all die,” replied the Matoran of Ice smugly. “Not me.”

He reached up and locked his fingers around his Noble Mask of Clairvoyance then unclipped the magnetic fasteners and tore it off. A blue Krana revealed itself.

“When we found you in the village, your Kanohi was missing!” gasped Turas. “One of the Bohrok must’ve stuck a Krana on you before we noticed. But you hid it with your mask.” He remembered one of the Krana slaves crouching over Kyros’ unconscious form before being warded off by the others.

“Indeed,” chuckled the Ko-Matoran. “With this Krana Xa I command the Bohrok Swarms! I will decimate the Matoran in the name of the glorious Brotherhood of Makuta!”

Vican snorted from behind them, entertained by the spectacle he’d earned after so many years in the darkness.

From the sounds in the shaft, the jam had cleared and the Visorak were moving once again. Time was almost up. Turas glanced desperately at his allies.

“Be quick!” roared Goll. “We’ll be Rahi-bones in a minute and I don’t want to die without knowing the full extent of your treachery.”

“Very well,” giggled Kyros. “My sole reason for coming on this trek was to stab you in the back Goll. That’s twice someone’s done that to you, and I want the honor of dealing the final blow that brought you down. For years you have hindered me and disgraced my name. I would’ve killed you and usurped you. Your place is rightfully mine!”

“It makes no different that you’re wearing a Krana now,” challenged Turas, stepping forward defiantly. “That thing just earns you the trust of the Visorak. You were going to betray us anyway! Right from the start!”

“Guilty as charged,” chortled the traitor. “I even –”

Whatever words he was about to say were lost as the first of the Visorak crashed through the entrance into the cave. It was a scrappy little Visorak Keelerak. It landed on its ugly head then toppled over, onto its back. Four legs stabbed savagely into the air as it struggled to roll over again. When it finally managed to swivel round it charged forwards, searching for prey. It spotted Kyros, took a step towards him, then sniffed the air, paused, the then turned its gaze on the other two Matoran, leaving the smirking Ko-Matoran alone.

The Keelerak scuttled forwards, shrieking. Goll met it solidly, driving his axe down through the top of its head, slicing its entire face in half. The Visorak stopped in its tracks, spasmed, then died. The Po-Matoran winced and fell back down to the ground, panting and clutching his torso as blood frothed from the open wound. When he’d stood up, Turas had seen right through his chest and out his back.

But it was by no means enough. More came. An endless flow. Streaming into the cave. Amidst the flurry of spiders, the Noble Miru-wearer spotted Kyros, moving through the Visorak like a Makuta commanding his Rahkshi, or a referee calling for an Ussal race to commence. Many growled at him suspiciously but when they smelt the blood on his armor they left him alone. He cackled at the prospect of such oncoming carnage.

A pair of maniples locked around his leg and Turas felt a severe sting and burning fluid was injected into his limb. Hordika Venom . He looked up in horror to see a Visorak Suukorak had sunk into him, its eyes wide and its jaws wide open. Desperately, he clawed at the metal pinchers, trying to fight his way out of the position. In the end he managed to kick the creature in its left eye, which made it back off.

Seizing the opportunity, Turas made a break for the waterfall. He rolled aside and threw himself to the ground, scraping his armor and cutting his chest on the stone floor, but narrowly dodging the snapping jaws of a Boggarak. A plan was beginning to formulate in his mind as he charged towards Kyros.

The Ko-Matoran’s eyes widened as Turas’ arms locked around his waist and a compact head-butt was delivered to his midsection. Winded, he could do nothing as he brown-armored Matoran – who had once been the most timid villager in their old fortress village – tackled him. The pair fell backwards, colliding with the rock behind the waterfall. They both fell heavily into the freezing waters then bolted upright, wincing and chilled but otherwise unharmed.

Kyros shook his head as water cascaded over him. “You’re going to have to do better than that,” he chortled, wiping water from his eyes.

“I don’t think so,” retorted Turas icily.

The Krana-possessed Matoran frowned at his tone then looked up in horror as a Visorak Oohnorak stared at him hungrily. Then its mouth opened wider than any Matoran’s, revealing row upon row of dagger-like metal teeth and poisonous green saliva.

Kyros stared at the Oohnorak, confused. Then he realized – the water had washed the blood from his armor. A moment of panic. Desperately, he tried to cut his palms open again.

“Hah!” Goll roared, taking great pleasure from Kyros’ near death. “That’ll teach you! Well done, Turas!”

Then a Visorak knocked the old warrior off his unsteady feet once again. He fell and demonic spider-bodies filled the space around him.

“Move!” yelled Turas, with such fiery command that he scared even himself. No matter what crime he had committed, he couldn’t allow Kyros to die. He’d already left one Matoran to die in this same cavern. He’d be damned if he allowed anyone else to fall. Not here. Not today.

His hand locked around Kyros’ waist, dragging him forwards towards where Goll was being harassed, narrowly dodging the snapping jaws of another Keelerak. Once again, the Visorak were squabbling over their prey, fighting each other for the right to take the first bite out of the unfortunate Po-Matoran. For a moment, he disappeared under an avalanche of the monsters. Then Turas saw a brown finger flying high into the air and prayed it wasn’t his final glimpse of his ally.

It was hopeless but, regardless, they kept on fighting with fiery determination. Goll finally managed to brreak free of the Visorak and limp away. The monsters seemed drawn, edgy even. Even as they backed the three Matoran against the cavern wall, the Visorak were growing skeptical. No further Rhotuku spinners had been launched.

Then they all shrieked and wriggled around in place.

The tips of the spiders’ legs were rooted into the stone, as if the rock had melted and flash frozen around them in an instant. They were clamped in place, all seven of them. Frowning, Turas looked frantically at Goll as he collapsed onto the floor once again. He was equally confused.

I needed an… intermission,” giggled Vican crookedly, one of his stone fists clenching further down the wall. “This really is… quite entertaining… but you need a fighting chance… so that my fun can last longer.

“You are all fools!” cackled Kyros heartlessly. “The mighty Brotherhood of Makuta has spent centuries infiltrating Bohrok Hives across the Matoran Universe! What chance do Matoran have against our strength?”

A skull-shaking impact shook the Ko-Matoran’s Krana, adorning the Matoran’s head with a dent the shape of Turas’ knuckles. The organic Krana was temporarily stunned for a fraction of a second, which was all it took for the Noble Miru-wearer to lock his grubby fingers around it and tear it off. The light blue Krana was warm in his hands as Kyros melted to his knees, scrambling for the decorative Mask of Psychometry that he’d left lying on the floor earlier.

“We have to flee!” yelled Kyros cowardly, clutching Turas’ arm and gesturing towards the passageway. “Leave Goll behind and let’s make a run for it! We can still make it to – ”

“I’m not sure if that’s much of an improvement, traitor,” bristled Turas with uncharacteristic sharpness as he cut into the Matoran of Ice’s words. “But it’s a lot less confusing when we know who to blame for your treachery.”

“We need a plan,” grumbled Goll from the ground. “And, to be honest, I always wanted to be buried, not eaten.”

You think of a plan!” snapped Kyros, folding his arms.

“I’m delirious from blood loss, you fool!” growled the Po-Matoran.

You’re putting on quite… the show,” chortled the Le-Matoran in the wall. “But your audience-of-one… grows bored. Have you… considered a fusion?

The three sane Matoran on the ground glanced at each other.

It’s something that… Toa Salu explained to me… many years ago,” continued Vican. “When three Matoran… of different elements… merge their bodies and minds… they form a Kaita.

“That’s ridiculous!” roared Kyros. “Only Toa can form those! And besides, we only have two elements between us.”

Turas sighed inwardly then snatched up Kyros’ and Goll’s hands.

“Shut up and clear you minds,” he ordered with atypical gravity in his voice. Vican only smiled.

Turas is a Fe-Matoran,” he rasped. “No Matoran can hide his… true nature behind brown armor.

“Karzahni’s repairs,” shrugged the Noble Miru-wearer. “He altered my natural color scheme with his tinkering. Over the years Matoran mistook me for a Matoran of Stone. I just went along with it.”

Stunned, the other two Matoran stared at each other, then at the Visorak. The creatures were growing increasingly irritated by the stone clamps locking them in place. A Visorak Boggarak glared at them and began charging a Rhotuku spinner.

“It’s now or never,” continued Turas. “When we divided from the others and went down this tunnel we all knew that it said Unity. Are you guys gonna trust me and form a Kaita or are we going to die in this cave?”

Reluctantly, Kyros and Goll joined hands with each other and closed their eyes. The Po-Matoran was reaching up from the ground. He was in a sorry state, which would make the Kaita unstable, but it would simply have to be enough.

Swirling wisps of yellow energy began to steam off of the three Matoran and their armor began to glow. Three pair of eyes locked. Three heartlights switched off. Three sets of armor disappeared in a blinding flash on light.

A lone figure, approximately the same size as a Toa, was left standing. The Lightstone that Turas had left on the floor illuminated the warrior’s midsection, casting sinister shadows over his semi-mechanical form.

Vican let out a low whistle as he released his hold over the ground and the Visorak swarmed forwards.

We… are one,” boomed the Kaita in a thunderous voice that shook the entire cavern.

I am Cathaka!” bellowed the Kaita with true masculine intensity as her glared at the Visorak. “You threatened the Matoran of this realm. That… was a grave mistake!

Stalactites threatened to dislodge themselves as the warrior leapt forwards and delivered a solid kick to the undersection of an eager Roporak. The swing caught the edge of the Lightstone, sending it flying backwards into a wall. The delicate rock cracked against the wall then shattered like glass on the floor. The Le-Matoran in the wall screamed as the cavern was once again plunged into darkness.

Screams in the dark.




Normally, Krennato would have enjoyed any opportunity to wander through an unexplored inland cave. The fact that this one seemed to be flooded was an added bonus. What made things better still was the fact that her Airbladder had plenty of oxygen left, even after the twenty minutes she'd been swimming.

The underwater passageway offered many beautiful sights, the likes of which she doubted could be found anywhere else in the Matoran Universe. The sensation of being in this miraculous ecosystem was hard to describe. There were so many stunning aquatic Rahi and plants, even without the presence of sunlight. The dazzling colors and softened rocks had a relaxing effect on her that loosened her aching circuits. She always felt a deep and profound connection with the miracles in the sub-aquatic world. Being a Ga-Matoran did have its advantages, after all.

But then the water had seemed to turn cold when the Takea Shark appeared, and thereafter the watery world proved itself to be alien even to her. A trail of corpses littered the marine foliage and chamber had seemed to shrink. Krennato no longer felt like she was swimming along a majestic coastal reef on the outskirts of a Ga-Matoran village. Instead she became very aware that she was inside a cave, with a very limited amount of oxygen.

Toa Santis appeared to be in far worse shape. The smooth walls had become jagged and the tunnel seemed to have gotten smaller. It only just seemed to accommodate the colossal Toa of Fire now. He swam like he was hobbling along on a limp. He was restricted, constrained, humiliated, following her like a giant caged Brakas Monkey.

For a while, her only concern had been running out of air and, unless she'd started panicking, that shouldn’t have been a problem.

But then a new light had lit up the water other than the warm glow of the Toa’s sword. Santis’ Kanohi Danju glistened, casting the only glimmer of light that the local flora would ever see, and the strange Toa had stopped swimming.

Confused but unable to form words, Krennato started Dermis-paddling and glanced at her traveling companion with discomfort. His eyes were elsewhere for a long and awkward moment before his Kanohi dulled once more and he frantically scampered forwards.

A streak of silver tore through the water, like a powerful tide crashing down on a beach shore. Krennato nearly cried out in horror at the thought of another Takea Shark attack. But, as the waters settled and the Toa raised his sword to illuminate the ground, she saw that a long spear was now embedded in the floor of the cave.

Greetings travelers!” boomed a loud voice from behind them. For some reason the words weren’t altered by the mellowing waters.

Struggling to face their attacker, the two questers turned their attention to a sinister, female figure hovering in the water. Santis summoned more flame to illuminate the aggressor.

The spear-thrower was strangely-armored, sporting a number of spikes and the unwelcoming eyes of a monstrous sea creature from the bottom of the ocean that had never seen the light of day. She was shaped vaguely like a Toa of Lightning but with mutations that made her look more like a sea creature. Her long fingers seemed to crackle with energy as they swished and closed in anticipation of snapping shut around their necks.

“My name is Toa Caliga and I will be your executioner,” she challenged. Her strange Kanohi made her expression rest into a predatory snarl.

A powerful electrical current surged through the water, causing both Santis and Krennato to spasm. This time neither could help but scream and let go of their Air Bladders. It felt like her entire body was being beaten by Kolhii Staffs. It burned with deathly intensity. A hot, numbing, tingling, sensation surged through her whole body and she was frozen for a second or two.

“I am a guardian of the Kanohi Ignika,” announced their attacker, her gauntlets glowing with blue wisps of electrical energy. It was the only light in the entire cavern as Santis’ sword darkened.

Toa Caliga glanced at them severely. “As with all my captives, I will give you the chance to turn back... I truly hope that you ignore it.”

They had no choice. Santis and Krennato grabbed for their Air Bladders and tried to swim for their lives. Behind them was only the cackle of the water-bound Toa of Lightning.

But then, a moment later, she’d swam past them. Now she was blocking them from the rest of the tunnel.

“I notice that you used Water Bladders,” remarked the distorted Toa of Lightning, sounding genuinely impressed. “Nobody’s ever tried that before. I’ve had a couple of thieves attempting to steal the Ignika using Kanohi Kaukaus. Some use Breathing Apparatuses. Some can already breathe water. Most simply choose to hold their breath and don’t realize how long the tunnel goes on for.”

Another jolt of electricity tore from the Toa’s long fingers. It struck the wall of the cave but the energy was conducted through the water, conveying a more powerful shock. Krennato’s joints locked in place for a moment and paralysis gripped her for a moment. Fortunately, her Air Bladder got caught in her fingers, but her mouth was still wide open and water started gushing in. Toa Santis wasn’t so fortunate. He was pressing his Air Bladder close to his Kanohi with his left forearm. It drifted away from his grip and sank out of view, drifting into the darkness while his unresponsive fingers tried to grab it.

Caliga smiled wickedly, triumph blazing in her green eyes.

“Toa have larger lungs than Matoran,” she announced. “But Ga-Matoran are pretty capable of holding their breath for long periods of time too.”

She clasped her hands together and let her fingers curl around each palm as she glided through the water towards them.

“Let’s see who can last longer without air: the Matoran or Water, or the Toa of Fire.




Sarnii shot Torlo another spiteful glare then looked on ahead, tiny sparks crackling out of her damaged heartlight with every step.

Their group was following the passageway without direction. Iolan was marching along in his own merry way while Torlo seemed too lost in thought to offer any leadership. Connla lagged behind, tiring already. Although she hated him, she knew she would never be able to escape Torlo’s grasp. He had a hold over her that made her quiver.

Several steps away from the Vo-Matoran, Torlo felt the heat of her glare bite into him. When she looked away he stole a forbidden glance at her and felt his insides melt at her beauty, though it was tinged with anger and mistrust.

Destiny bound the pair together, though both Matoran were too stubborn to admit it. Torlo knew that Sarnii would just dismiss the notion with the bluntness he knew her to possess.

And yet he found himself thinking back to the first moments he’d shared with her. After the Rahkshi and Visorak had retreated in the early hours of the morning they would go for walks together upon the charred land. She’d looked at him and smiled in a way that made him burn hotter than the furnace in his forge. He remembered the feel of her small hands in his and the smell of her flesh. He remembers the passion with which they embraced, a passion that had set his soul ablaze. Since then there had only been coldness, slowly creeping into his heartlight.

“I wonder where these tunnels came from,” murmured Connla softly, her voice bouncing off of the walls and scaring her.

“They’re probably access tunnels of some kind,” shrugged Torlo without a shred of interest. “Like Romak said, the Bohrok were creations of the Order of Mata Nui at one point.”

“The floor’s getting smoother,” noted Sarnii coldly.

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is, you fool! Look down.”

Unwillingly, the Matoran of Air grunted then lowered his gaze. Sure enough, the grey, rocky ground was beginning to give away to metal. Their footsteps began to clank on the hollow surface.

Iolan hesitated, looked ahead, then continued to lead the group, stumbling along in his little, stumpy legs. Connla fell in behind him, leaving Sarnii and Torlo together once again.

The Ta-Matoran began to march forwards, which was somewhat strange. He advanced confidently through unknown territory then came to a full stop. The Calix-wearer bowed his head then looked at his companions sadly. His expression was cold and unfamiliar.

“I’m sorry,” he uttered, his words quiet and edgy, his eyes full of fake anguish. “I’m so very sorry.”

Torlo cocked his head, looked Iolan over, looked at the passageway ahead of them, then let slip the foulest curse he could possibly utter in the presence of two female Matoran.

But it was too late. No words could undo the forces that were already in motion. Three dark shapes bolted out of the shadows. Bohrok. It was an ambush. Their metallic green forms surrounded the Matoran, their shields wavered and twitched like insect antennae. Three pairs of red eyes fixed on the travelers. Then they locked in place.

HALT!” screeched a voice from further down the tunnel. This one was deep and mechanical but didn’t belong to any normal Bohrok.

A pair of glowing neon lights pierced the darkness as another fully-robotic figure advanced, one stubby but powerful leg at a time. It strode into the light cast from Iolan’s Lightstone then came to rest next to the Matoran of Fire. The crackling brightness slithered up the Bohrok's reptilian printings to illuminate its black and silver armor.

DO NOT MOVE OR YOU WILL BE OBLITERATED!” bellowed the strange Bohrok with a voice similar to that of a Makuta.

There was nowhere to go, nowhere to run. The three captive Matoran just stood and stared helplessly as their strange attacker.

I AM NUHVOK KAL,” proclaimed the newcomer in a grating voice. “AND YOU ARE PRISONERS OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAKUTA!

Chapter 13[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27.


Under normal circumstances, Caliga would have enjoyed watching the Toa and his Matoran companion struggle for their lives. After all, what good was the ability to electrocute your enemies underwater if you couldn’t watch them suffer?

Exactly how her electricity bolts surged through the water without electrocuting everything in a five kio radius was a matter that intrigued her. In essence, she was only able to perform the maneuver because of her Voltage Gauntlets, a pair of weapons gifted to her by the Kanohi Ignika. Even after so many centuries of experimenting she still had no knowledge of how they worked exactly. They seemed to channel her natural Elemental Powers and focus them into a burst of blue-tinted lightning bolts. How a millennia-old Kanohi had managed to give her a pair of gloves that fired water-resistant electrical charges in the first place was far beyond her understanding, regardless. So she chose not to ask too many questions.

A sinister smile crept onto the Toa of Lightning’s Kanohi. The pleasure of watching her prey squirm was indeed the only thing she seemed to live for. Their muffled, watery screams filled her, satisfying her completely. Such occasions were few and far between. After all, this was one of the lesser-known entrances to the tunnels beneath Mount Valamai.

Another two bolts of electrical energy escaped the long, bony fingers of Caliga’s Voltage Gauntlets. Two direct hits sent the red Toa on a one-way trip down to the bottom of the aquatic cavern. His sword continued to glow. After all, the electrical charge had at least locked his fingers in place if not permanently paralyzed him.

She had time to savour this kill.




If he could flail his arms about, Toa Santis would be frantically trying to find out which way was up, which way was down, and where he was between the two.

The weeds growing at the bottom of the cavern were beginning to tickle against his feet as he slowly descended further into the gloomy reaches of the water. Now that his Air Bladder was gone the warrior’s breath was rapidly running out. Given some solitude he easily could have remained underwater on a full lungful of air for around five minutes thanks to his Toa physique. But the constant electric shocks had forced him to yell in agony. Panic had set in and bubbles were cascading freely out of his mouth. They shot for the surface. He thrashed his head and body about trying in vain to dislodge himself from both the plants that were wrapping around his feet and the numbness that threatened to consume him completely, but it was too late. His brain was screaming for oxygen and his heartlight blinking like never before.

As he looked up he noticed tiny shards of light radiated through the water. The rippling surface was being outlined by the light that his sword was giving off. The breath that escaped his lungs glimmered like bobbing crystals shimmered overhead. The soft blue infusion felt inviting and in a strange way, safe. Although he only had another minute left to live in his present state he felt completely calm.

The Toa of Fire instinctively opened my mouth and drew in the water as if it were air. It filled his throat and he could feel the weight of it. He didn’t gag or splutter, simply went still, calm.

There was an immediate sense of weightlessness as a numbing darkness filled his mind and he slowly drifted off into unconsciousness. His eyes and vision seemed to recede into his skull, disappearing within him. Blackness prevailed, and the slow and steady ceasing of his heart followed.

The confusion gently receded and a warm nurturing darkness consumed the Danju-wearer. He rested within it, unwilling to move or be anywhere else.

His neck tightened as the wet fabric of his cape pulled against him. For a moment he figured it to have been caught on a rock but the soaked cloth tugged on him again and again. Small and insistent. Gentle but urgent.

A blurry face moved across his field of vision. A dark figure. It was Krennato, her eyes were frantic and distressed in what little light his sword was giving off.

He could feel his heavy chest being pressed, weighted down. It was uncomfortable but it made him want to breathe. He gasped and felt his lungs respond, heaving.

Air.

The Toa coughed and spluttered as he felt the water pouring out his mouth. Finally a breath escaped his lips and his eyes suddenly arrived in the front of his skull. A hand gently patted his back as he opened his eyes.

At that moment the Toa wasn’t all that happy about having his life saved. He’d just been wrenched back from such a comforting and tranquil rest, and one that he was long overdue. But, when he was able to think clearly he was more than grateful for the second chance. It seemed so easy to slip into that world of water, beyond the troubles of battle, beyond contention.

Welcome back,” he heard a distorted voice say.

It was only then that the Toa realised an Air Bladder was being pressed against his lips. He was still in the cave, trapped with no hope of escape and with a disgruntled Toa of Lightning on his tail.

Krennato.

His eyes adjusted to the foggy waters just in time to see the Ga-Matoran drift off into delusion. She had given him her own Air Bladder while his lay empty at the bottom of the tunnel. Her heartlight began to blink rapidly and her expression dulled. A sad smile slipped across her Mask of Intangibility. A tear could have rolled from the Matoran’s eye in her final moment and he wouldn’t have noticed.

She began to drift away from him, her feeble body stiffening under the weight of the thick liquid’s embrace. Then the current swept her away and she disappeared from the small circle of light that his sword created.

The Toa treaded water for what felt like a very long time. He felt a chill form in his stomach. His entire body ached and the salt water stung his eyes, reducing his field of vision to whatever he saw through his two narrow slits of pulsing eyelids. The darkness of the marine cavern was, in that moment, so complete that it devastated him.

A cold calm washed through the Toa of Fire. Just two days ago, he had experienced a similar calmness just before he’d killed an entire platoon of Visorak and Rahkshi. It was as if he withdrew emotionally from the world. He forgot every rule he’d lived by and every moral restraint he had ever placed upon himself.

In that moment he was neither a hero nor a villain, but a force, one that would not stop until it had been spent. Out in the burnt forest he’d had multiple targets to direct his fury against. Now there was just one. And for that he was glad.

In that moment he wasn’t a Toa.

Caliga met his challenge with a wicked smile.

“What manner of Toa leaves a Matoran to die in his place?” she contested, launching another jolt of electricity in his direction.

One of a kind, answered Santis inside his head.

As far as he knew, electricity and water generally didn’t make a good combination. Contrary to popular belief water could not, by itself, conduct electricity at all. It simply isn’t a conductor, he told himself while unsure of exactly when he had learnt this. What did allow electricity to travel through water were the impurities in the liquid, such as other chemical agents or minerals. Salt water did not necessarily conduct electricity better than other types of water, it really just depended on what chemicals were present. It was the tiny microscopic particles of substance that conducted the electricity.

But that was no good. Everything Santis knew about electricity and water revolved around the theory that electricity could not be directed through liquid. Clearly his attacker had defied the laws of physics just to deter him. He couldn’t control the sub-atomic particles and he didn’t think that an electric current could be blocked by boiling the water.

There was, however, one other option.

Triggering his elemental powers, Santis reached out into the cold waters. What little warmth resided in the chilling marine depths flowed into him. The temperature dropped as he absorbed the heat.

Before Caliga could let slip another of the threats that she’d spent the past century preparing for such an encounter, the water around her hardened and froze. It was, of course, a gradual process. Santis wasn’t a Toa of Ice. He couldn’t flash-freeze the water, but it was clearly becoming more viscous around his opponent, and therefore heavier.

The female Toa was dragged down to the bottom of the cave by the sheer weight of the slush until, finally, the temperature dropped far enough. Her eyes widened in shock as her armor began to steam. Ice crystals materialised on her then clumped together until a thin layer of tangible frost encompassed her.

Santis didn’t stop. The water grew colder still and Toa Caliga’s form stiffened. For a terrifying moment, he thought she was going to flex her muscles and shatter her delicate icy bonds with a slash of her wrist-blades. But the dimensionally-displaced Toa was relieved to find that his frozen structure was sturdy enough to contain her. A glistening, glassy formation seemed to replace Toa Caliga, like an unfinished statue had been carved by a Po-Matoran artisan.

One blow would be enough. One punch. One swing of his sword. One violent stomp and that would surely be the end of Toa Caliga. He could finish her right then and there in a single decisive, judgmental blow. He would have officially killed another Toa.

But then his Kanohi shone once again. A timely intervention that would momentarily save Caliga’s life, for Santis’ mind was somewhere else entirely. He was lost in a cascading haze of sounds and lights. Thoughts that were not his own seemed to captivate him and his eyes adjusted to a different setting. Memories of things he had not yet experienced washed over him. His Mask of Clairvoyance.

In his mind’s eye, he saw himself bursting out of the tunnel in a shower of cold water, clutching onto the Toa of Lightning’s frozen form as if it were an ancient pot that belonged in the Onu-Metru Archives. His future self flopped straight to the ground, his cloak snagged on a rocky ledge. He lay on the ground, gasping and choking for air before tugging on the black material and freeing himself. He didn’t seem to mind that the cloth was now torn. Finally, he spluttered and subsided with a wild coughing fit, the air stinging as it gushed down his throat. Caliga’s ice-encrusted form lay on the ground beside him, unharmed.

A wave of all-consuming darkness covered the image and he fell back into the whirlwind of shapes and colors that brought him back to the present. His eyes snapped open with a start and he found himself in the cave once more.

The Toa trod water, silently cursing the Great Beings for giving him a Mask of Clairvoyance. Now he was burdened with carrying out the mission of ensuring that Caliga stayed alive. He had to take her out of the tunnel and bring her to safety.

And worse still, with all the commotion and switching the Air Bladder from Krennato’s Kanohi to his own, he only had a limited amount of air left.

It was at times like this when he wished he could just discard the useless organic clump and swallow down mouthfuls of water until he drowned. He was nobody’s servant and he hated adhering to the commands of his Mask of Clairvoyance. The only thing that motivated him to keep on going was the fact that the cave had no other lighting other than that which came from his Flame Sword. He didn’t want to die in darkness.

So, painfully, he took the deepest breathe of his life, let the Air Bladder drift from his grip, then dived again for the floor of the marine cavern. He gathered up what he thought was Caliga’s waist then rolled over onto his back and hauled her onto his stomach. It was the only way to ensure that her ice-encrusted legs didn’t get bashed to pieces with her dangling along behind him. Plus it reminded him how much of a weight she was.

It was awkward. Streams of water forced themselves up his nostrils – but this was the only way to move quickly carrying a passenger. He anticipated that he could last around five or six minutes on his air supply, easily – but, because he was on his back, he had to keep blowing air out of his nose to stop the water going up it, so he’d only have around two or three minutes before he ran out of oxygen and drowned.

Swimming around another corner, he stared down the long corridor. He could spot the shape of what must be the border wall at the end, but he was too far away to see if there was a marking on it or not. Santis thought that he could see the vague outline of an X, but that could be his mind playing tricks – an underwater mirage.

He swam up the corridor regardless. About halfway he realized that there was no X – a long crack in the stones had fooled him – so he turned and swam back the way he had come. Caliga’s weight was forcing him down. So he stopped, put his feet on the floor, and used them to push himself up, straightening out and resuming his swim.

The Toa searched in vain for another glimpse of border wall but the next two turnings both led to other corridors, not the wall. His oxygen supply was running low and it became all the more difficult to more his legs and arms.

The next turn didn’t lead to the border wall either, but the Toa had no time to swim ahead and look for another turning. Summoning all of his energy he swam down the short corridor and took a right turn at the end. That led to another short corridor. As he started down it, Caliga’s crystal-like form slipped off of his belly, scratching him as she fell. The Toa yelped without thinking and water rushed into his mouth.

Coughing, he struck for the ceiling, but the water had beaten him to the punch – there was no more air to be had.

There was no other option now. It was do or die. Santis struck out for Caliga and caught the frozen Toa of Lightning by the ankle, just before her icy form struck the rocks of the cave floor. He had no air left. He had to push himself past the extreme or he would die. Krennato had already met her watery grave here. He wouldn’t let himself fall to the same fate.

His lungs felt like they were shriveling up and grinding into each other in his chest but still the Toa pushed on again, forcing himself to swim forwards and continue channeling his Elemental Powers through his Flame Sword. So long as he could illuminate the cave he knew he could continue onwards.

As he made a left turn at the end of the corridor, Santis spotted a dark stone slotted into the border wall. He smiled weakly, remembering how exciting that would have been to him a few minutes ago. He rolled over onto his feet, so he could die the right way up – then stopped.

There was a marking on the wall.

The Toa stared stupidly at it for a long moment while precious air bubbles popped out of his mouth, like a fish. Was this another trick of his oxygen-starved mind? Another false crack? It must be. There was no way he could be so fortunate. It would be best if he just ignored it, surely.

No! It was real!

The wall was indeed adorned with an intricate carving in the shape of a strange and antiquate Kanohi mask. It wasn’t one that he recognized but it inspired hope in the pits of his stomach. He was out of strength and air, but the symbol gave him a new lease of life. Making use of energy reserves that he didn’t know that he’d had, he kicked hard with his muscular legs and shot towards the wall like a bullet. He bumped his head against it, recoiled, then rolled over and studied the large, rough engraving.

He was so delighted to see the symbol that he didn’t notice the button inside the left eyehole until he was right in front of it. What a farce that would have been – to have come so far and fail at the very end. But, thankfully, he was spared of such indignity. Of its own accord, he pressed Caliga gently onto the ground then allowed his left hand to creep out and press the ancient button. The knob slid inwards and the carving vanished as the stone slid back into the wall.

With a huge, slushing roar, water gushed out through the gap. Santis was carried along with it, coming to a jolt just beyond the door when his cape caught on something and he lay stuck on his back. His Flame Sword clattered to the ground with a metallic clang. His eyes and mouth were still shut, and for a while it seemed like he was still submerged in the maze, as water flooded out over his head. Gradually, though, the level diminished, and he realized he could breathe.

With one final burst of strength, the Toa tore his cape free from the jagged rock, adorning it with a deep tear down the center. Exactly as he’d seen in the vision.

Following the deepest single breath of his life, Santis opened his eyes and blinked. The cavern he was in was illuminated by lightstones, and fairly new ones, as if someone came down here with a new stock to perform maintenance duties. The tunnel seemed a lot brighter than it had before he’d entered the water. It was like sitting on a beach on a warm afternoon.

Staring around like a Ruki fish on dry land, the Toa of Fire began his wild and excruciatingly painful sequence of belching up water, clearing out his respiratory system. The coughing wasn’t as painful as it had appeared in the vision but his throat still felt like it had been strangled by Toa of Stone then stepped on by an Artahka Bull.

As the water subsided, the Toa of Fire scooped up his sword and struggled to his feet. Water was still gushing into the chamber from the Aquatic Maze but there appeared to be a series of drainage grids built into the ground. The Toa didn’t allow himself the weakness of a smile even at his victory. He just rubbed the bump on his head where he’d connected with the ceiling. Blinking water from his eyes, the Toa moved his attention towards the ice sculpture. His eyes narrowed at the thought of Krennato’s sacrifice.

A quick burst of his Elemental Fire power reduced much of the ice in the Toa of Lightning’s lower legs to slush. Instantly, her feet began to spasm and kick, like a sea creature wriggling around, trying to get out of its shell and return to the water. He afforded the villainess no such mercy.

Another burst of flames melted her upper section and freed the Toa of Lightning. Instantly she cursed at him and tried to launch a bolt of lightning at her from her Voltage Gauntlets but swiftly realized that her hands were still frozen together. They were the only parts of her body that Santis hadn’t freed for obvious reasons.

He did feel a tangible shred of sympathy for the underwater warrior when he realized that she was shivering like a bedraggled Stone Rat.

“I can… breathe,” she gargled, her entire body adjusting to the new environment.

“You are, Toa Caliga, I take it?”

The Toa of Lightning shot him an odious glare. “And to whom do I owe the pleasure, jerk?”

“My name is Toa Santis,” muttered the red and yellow-armored warrior humbly. “I’m a Toa of Fire… here to help.” He extended his left hand and lay his sword down on the floor.

When she had finished learning to breathe once again, Caliga looked the Toa over then glanced at her stubby ice cube-encrusted hands. She couldn’t shake his hand even if she wanted to.

“Why would you offer me help?” snarled the strange female Toa.

“Because you are in serious need of it.”

The female flexed her fingers and broke the ice to steaming shards of crystal then looked longingly back at the entrance to the maze.

“You… carried me away. You spared my life. Why would you do that?”

“Call it an act of kindness,” shrugged the Toa.

Caliga snorted. “Toa who are nice tend to make great doormats.”

“If you want to step on me, you’re welcome to,” shrugged Santis. “But there’s a reason I chose a Kanohi adorned with spikes.”

The two Toa glared at each other before the Toa of Lightning grunted and looked away.

“I suppose you want the Kanohi Ignika now.”

Santis hesitated. “Do I look like the kind of guy who goes around collecting sets of Kanohi that some Turaga hid for me?”

“Were you hired to come here and steal it?”

“I came here to destroy the Bohrok.”

The spiked Toa of Lightning tilted her head in a sinister frown. “What in the blames of Karzahni is a Bohrok?”

“How long have you been in that cave?”

Caliga didn’t answer. She just shot him another spiteful look.

“It would appear that I can breathe air once again,” she bristled. “Explain.”

“As much as you may want to be, you are in fact not a fish,” grunted Santis. “I hope I was able to enlighten you there.”

The Toa of Lightning snarled and tried to take a swipe at the Toa with her wrist-mounted blades. After centuries spent underwater, however, she gave out a cry of pain and toppled over, unbalanced on her feet.

Once again, Santis offered her a hand.

“I am unsure how your escape from the water has enabled you to once again breathe air,” he answered seriously. “But I have recently lost my female companion and her position is now vacant.”

Ancient eyes looked up at him with youthful confusion and a hint of wonder.

“You may travel with me, and I will help you to readjust to this world,” continued the Toa of Fire. “I can only imagine what torment you have endured over the millennia, but I offer you the chance to escape this foul and watery place.” Caliga looked the Toa over once more, this time with slightly less hostility blazing in her eyes.

“I met a Toa once,” she muttered, taking his hand and allowing him to pull her to her feet. “I used to live on the Northern Continent in my earlier years.”

Santis’ Kanohi Danju began to glimmer in the brightness of the lightstones, shining in Caliga’s face, illuminating the darkened ridges of her Kanohi and taking away the shadows that had been cast over her features for centuries.

“You lived in the Coastal Desert region of the Northern Continent,” finished the Toa, his Mask of Psychometry kicking into action. “You worked as the local guard for your settlement until a Dark Hunter militia group raided your village in one of their earliest plunders of the island.”

The misshapen Toa of Lightning narrowed her eyes.

“Determined to find a way to make the Dark Hunters pay and convinced that you were destined to one day hold a position of power in the Matoran Universe, you set off in search of the Kanohi Ignika, the mythical Mask of Life. After years of travelling, you made your way to Mount Valamai only to be defeated by the Mask’s Guardians. You were, however, fortunate enough to be selected by the Ignika for the role of guarding the Aquatic Maze.”

“The Ignika changed me,” nodded the female Toa. “It transformed me into a Toa and fused my weapons to my hands. But it tricked me. It made me a water breather so I couldn’t ever escape.”

“You are a more than capable warrior,” continued Santis. “I could use your help.”

“You freed me, but that doesn’t make me your slave,” snarled Caliga. “I will not commit my loyalty to you because I owe you a debt.”

“I don’t expect you to.”

“You are weak.”

“I am not weak.” Santis shook his head, feeling a little too much like a Turaga for his own liking. “I know a thing or two about things and people. You are not the villain in this picture.”

“I killed your friend.”

“She was starting to get annoying.”

Caliga regarded him coldly for a long moment.

Once again, Santis extended his hand. This was the third time now.

“Shake,” he ordered.

The female stared at his hand, then into the Toa of Fire’s unfocused eyes.

“I don’t shake hands with those I don’t respect,” she spat. “One victorious battle does not convince me that you are a warrior.”

“Shake!” repeated the Toa, angrily.

“And if I don’t?” she asked guardedly.

“If you don’t then I’ll melt your armor to the floor around your feet and leave you standing in this cave, naked and rooted to that spot.”

Caliga studied her new traveling companion in length then nodded and took his hand.

“Power to you, noble Toa Santis,” she muttered gruffly.

Power,” repeated the Danju-wearer weakly as he grabbed a new lightstone off of the cave wall and began walking off into the shadowy maw of the cavern, this time with an ally who was taller than him.

Off to find a brighter place to die.

Chapter 14[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27 and Abc8920.

The circle of Bohrok advanced closer still, blocking off the tunnel behind them. Torlo’s eyes surveyed them edgily, trying to determine whether or not he, Sarnii and Connla could overwhelm their three Lehvak attackers. It took slightly longer than it should have for it to dawn on him that he had no hope.

You will obey the Brotherhood of Makuta,” grated the black and silver-armored Bohrok in the shadows. Even with its bulky, hefty little legs, it advanced forwards to where the Matoran were huddled, like a chess piece being pushed across a board. The Nuhvok-Kal’s head twitched up and down, examining them contemptuously with a cold regard only slightly more piercing than Sarnii’s.

The Le-Matoran was gripping his Mental Bolt Launchers so hard that his knuckles were bone-white. He was a fraction of a second from opening fire when his Vo-Matoran companion kicked him.

“Leave it,” she snapped. “Try anything stupid and we’ll all be killed on the spot.”

“Then what do we do?” hissed Connla, the Matoran of Water, her voice cracking with fear. She, too, was a single jittery moment away from lashing out with her weapons.

Torlo glanced at Iolan, standing at the Nuhvok-Kal’s side, impartial to the conflict. The traitor had walked them right into this trap, leaving them with only one option.

“Surrender,” ordered the Vo-Matoran, raising her hands into the air meekly.

There was a tense moment, but neither Torlo nor Connla yielded. There was no movement in the passageway until the Nuhvok-Kal’s head swiveled and fixed on Sarnii.

Are you the leader of this group?

“No, she isn’t” interjected the Zatth-wearer fiercely. “I am.”

The Elite Bohrok’s dome rotated, the neon tips of its cold eyes focusing on the Le-Matoran. His Kanohi reflected the emerald glow like stone.

Discard your weapons,” it ordered.

Nobody moved.

Immediately!” boomed Nuhvok-Kal. “Obey!

“Do it,” grunted Torlo, after a pause. His Mental Bolt Launchers dropped to the ground at his feet worthlessly. Sarnii and Connla exchanged worried expressions then threw their own tools aside.

There was a mechanical whirl and the Nuhvok’s silver faceplate began to glow, creating the silhouette of a Krana. Its eyes whirred like a set of telescopic lenses, like two metal detectors. A Krana Ja Kal – Radar.

No concealed energy or projectile weapons detected.

“Told you,” grunted Torlo quietly.

Silence!” barked their attacker, catching the Matoran of Air by surprise and making him flinch. Its headpiece rotated towards the three Lehvak lurking on the other side of the captives. “Destroy the weapons!

All three Bohrok took an identical step forwards, twitching and readjusting in unison, their Acid Shields pivoting to point at the gadgets and instruments lying on the cave floor. There were three separate bright flares and the discarded tools were melted into thick, green slag.

Sarnii seemed like she was either going to attack or make a break for the tunnel back up the way they had come. Knowing the cut-throat nature of the Vo-Matoran it would probably be the latter. Either action would result in death.

Connla, also, was visibly shaking. But this was due to simple terror. She had one hand clamped over her mouth, as if try to stop herself from being sick. Her eyes were so wide that they were almost circles.

Walk this way,” commanded the Nuhvok-Kal, blundering round to position itself at the front of the group, Iolan following faithfully behind. “Move! Disobedience will result in execution!

Torlo shot a hateful glare at the treacherous Ta-Matoran then nudged Sarnii and Connla forwards.

“Stick with me,” he muttered. “I’ll handle this.”

Connla looked uncertainly at him. “Really?”

The Le-Matoran snorted, trying to adopt as jaunty a tone as possible as the group of Matoran fell in behind the Bohrok-Kal and his Ta-Matoran accomplice. The three Lehvak clunked along after them.

The two female Matoran fell in behind Torlo, walking stiffly down the corridor with odd, awkward steps. It was hard to not picture an invisible length of chain being shackled to their ankles. An illusory net had been thrown over the Matoran as the stumbled ahead, into unknown territory.

The mysterious Bohrok-Kal led the uncooperative cordon until they finally arrived at a stone ledge. Just in case the Matoran didn’t get the message, the three Lehvak herded them closer. When they reached the precipice, they stopped. No one wanted to go too near the abyss.

“What’re they going to do?” asked Sarnii under her breath. “Throw us off?”

But a heavy whine of machinery was already filling the air as a large, flat metal surface suddenly rose up adjacent to the ledge. There were two Pahrak Va on the platform, one of them positioned next to a small control podium. It made an adjustment with its thin, robotic right hand and the platform moved closer to the edge, hovering on antigravity thrusters.

“A lift,” Sarnii remarked coldly. “It looks like we were expected.”

“That’s true,” nodded Torlo. He took a deep breath. “They’re letting us live, we got escorted by one of their Elite Bohrok-Kal, and they’re giving us a fancy levitating, mechanical elevator.” He looked carefully at Connla. “Why do you think that is?”

The blue-armored Matoran shrugged but made no reply.

Iolan led the way, struggling onto the metal stage. It bobbed fractionally under his weight, like a raft floating on a stream. His weak little legs buckled and he fell to his knees, exclaiming in pain.

There was room for a dozen Matoran or so, but the Bohrok ignored both the prisoners and their Ta-Matoran ally, forming a rough square around their captives.

The platform started to descend once the final Lehvak had boarded. Eventually they couldn’t even see the top of the cliff, it just rose up like a vast, dark wall, blotting out their escape route.

“The Bohrok came to me in my sleep,” grunted the Calix-wearer unevenly. “Three weeks ago. They foresaw the arrival of Toa Santis in our village and warned me that his presence must be monitored. They reached out to me with their Krana. I’d been living in agony for years, harassed by every step.”

“And they promised to fix your legs,” grunted Torlo.

Iolan scowled in blunt fury. “Shut up, Torlo!” he snapped. “You don’t know what I had to put up with every waking second.”

“There were other ways,” shrugged the Le-Matoran absently. “Ways that didn’t involve betrayal and murder. You killed Fiancha. Didn’t you?”

There was an awkward pause that was disrupted only by the hum of electricity.

“I was told to,” muttered Iolan. “My end of the bargain. There were no Rahkshi. I shoved him over the edge then made up a cover story.”

“And Turas’ Infected Kanohi?”

Iolan sighed again. “My handiwork also. I rubbed a dead Kraata that I found in the Kanohi Storage on it before I gave it to him. Then I just stepped back and watched the Naming Day parade pass by.”

“But that’s not all,” continued Torlo, a lump developing in his throat. “You did a lot of the navigating yourself. You knew the route, you brought us here on purpose, steering us this way and that ever so slightly. Killing off a few here and there.”

“Guilty as charged.” This time there was no flicker of shame in the Ta-Matoran’s tone. “I played you all like pawns. A bad thing was done to me once and I was left crippled. I was sent to Karzahni. I was spurned and ridiculed at every stage. The world can go to blazes. I just want justice.”

Personal justice.”

“Whatever.”

The platform cleared the upper edge of an enormous cavern. The solid wall of the Southern Continent’s volcanic soils had suddenly given way to a vast hollow in the rock. Whether it was a natural chasm or deliberately excavated it was impossible to tell, but there was enough room for several Airship hangars. Their metal elevator veered into the cavern, moving slowly inside the foundations of the Matoran Universe itself. Below them was an immense, metallic web of crisscrossing walkways. Entire platoons of Bohrok stomped across the various different stages and corridors. On one level there were serried ranks of Bohrok, all moving in unison, disappearing into a deeper, darker cavern.

“By Karzahni’s twisted spirit,” breathed Torlo. He had never in his life seen so many enemies.

Iolan shrugged. “Sucks for you guys. You’re really in the –”

“Should have seen this coming,” interrupted the Le-Matoran. There was no attempt at a casual demeanor now. “We really should.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Sarnii, trying to pretend she was more shocked by his words than the legions of Bohrok before them.

“They’ve been here all the time,” Torlo sighed. The expression on his Kanohi was dark, rueful. “Look at this place! It must’ve taken years to construct.”

“I think it’s worse than that,” murmured Connla quietly.

Sarnii let out a hiss of frustration. “Will you two stop saying that? “It’s worse than that” and “We should’ve seen this coming”. By Tren Krom! How much worse can it get?”

“A lot,” responded Connla with uncharacteristic ice in her voice. “I think I know what this place is. I heard rumors in my old village about the Order of Mata Nui hiding a top-secret base somewhere underground, where they took all their high-level prisoners for interrogation."

“No way,” snorted Iolan, spitting in disbelief. “I thought we’d already established that the Bohrok serve the Brotherhood of Makuta now. And you know how Makuta are. Interrogation? I think experimentation is more accurate. Makuta love prisoners, after all. It gives them such a sense of power. They love nothing more than lording it over the inferior masses of this scum-filled universe. Humiliation, torment, slavery. That’s their thing.”

Sarnii shook her head. “You’re hardly one to talk, Iolan. You’ve never even met a Makuta.”

Before another argument could erupt, Torlo raised a hand and silenced the Vo-Matoran and the traitor, then turned to Connla. “This Order of Mata Nui base. Is there anything else you can remember about it?”

“Why?” The blue-armored Matoran’s tone was bleak. Her face was retreating further behind her Kanohi as she prepared herself for what lay ahead.

“Anything could be useful.”

“Don’t count on it. They called it the Black Hole – as in nothing ever came out again. No one – and I mean no one – ever escaped from this place. It’s a one-way ticket.”

Cease talking!” boomed the Nuhvok-Kal, taking a step towards Torlo, its Energy Shields twitching eagerly. “Prisoners will be silent!

Nobody spoke again as the platform continued its descent into the Hive. Whenever they passed more Bohrok, mechanical heads would turn, insect-like bodies swiveling, observing. It was as if every Bohrok that saw them was minutely examining them, glaring at them with a mixture of hatred and resentment and, perhaps, just a hint of curiosity. The four Matoran huddled together. Sarnii moved closer to Torlo than she needed to. Even Iolan didn’t dare speak.

Presently, the platform lowered itself into a wide reception area. Bohrok stomped to and fro, watching them carefully. Two more Bohrok came forward from the platform. Both were clad in Elite, silver armor, indicating their Kal status.

Step off the landing platform,” instructed the first, a white and silver Bohrok.

Slowly the prisoners filed onto the metal floor and the two new Bohrok Kal joined their protective cordon. A brown and silver Bohrok Kal took swipe at Torlo, striking his back with the edge of its shield and prodding him forwards.

Move! Faster! Obey the Bohrok Kal!

The Matoran of Air glared back. “Don’t push me, you metal creep.”

The Bohrok’s headpiece twitched to the left , the bulbous green eyes fixed on its target. “Be silent!

Torlo held his ground, his Kanohi reflecting the light. “Don’t cock your head at me, creep. I can get a couple of good widgets for that at the scrapyard in my village.”

Be silent or you will be executed!

“All right, cool it,” interjected Sarnii sharply. “That’s enough, Torlo. Let’s not rile them. It’s too easy.”

With a snort, the Le-Matoran turned away. “Whatever you say,” he grunted dryly.

The brown and silver Bohrok-Kal circled around Torlo, examining him from every angle.

You will obey the Brotherhood of Makuta! From now on you will take orders from only the Bohrok. You are no longer the commanding officer of your unit.

“I was never the commanding officer,” shrugged Torlo. “Nobody else had the guts to take responsibility for charging aimlessly through the dark.”

Sarnii, keeping very much to the background, watched the exchange carefully. She didn’t know whether or wince or to cheer out loud. But Torlo was playing a dangerous game, the line between defiance and suicide was a very thin one when baiting Bohrok.

This particular Bohrok had already reached screaming level.

You will obey the Brotherhood of Makuta! You will obey!

“Just remember,” countered Torlo coolly, “that headpiece is mine.”

Be silent!” One of the brown and silver Bohrok’s shields swung forward, connecting solidly with the Zatth-wearer’s chest, knocking the breath out of his lungs and sending Torlo crumpling to the ground.

Both Sarnii and Connla rushed to his side but the Le-Matoran shrugged them both off.

“You’re going to get yourself killed!” snapped Sarnii.

The next prisoner to speak without permission will be obliterated!” announced the brown Bohrok Kal.

Torlo’s bravado may have been inspirational, but he had very nearly paid for it with his life. Connla was trying to keep a low profile and merge with the group, keeping her head down.

A deep metallic groaning emanated from behind the prisoners. All further conversation halted as the very walls of the Bohrok Nest lurched. There was a high-pressured hiss as ancient air escaped from pipes and the barrier behind them slid apart. Heavy metal bolts slowly withdrew. A thick mist and green light poured out of the hidden chamber to reveal a monstrous form skulking in the dark.

A robotic form of tremendous size stood majestically in the limelight, its black and blue armor glimmering dully in what little brightness the Bohrok Nest was afforded.

Torlo surmised that this was the machine designated as overall commander of the Bohrok Nest, a mechanical monstrosity that towered taller than any Bohrok. The Bohrok Kal certainly deferred to it as their chief, backing away instinctively to allow it to access the prisoners, which it did, advancing forwards like a chess piece. Its burnished black armor glinted dully. It nightmarish eyestalk turned to stare at them with blue, glowing lenses. A pair of long, thin, Rahi-like arms protruded from its midsection with three fingers on each hand and big, throbbing blue sensors at the end of each finger.

Report!” commanded the strange blue and black mechanical monstrosity, its eyestalk bearing down on the Nuhvok Kal.

Excavation work to the Universe Core is behind schedule,” replied the black and silver-armored Bohrok of Gravity. “Slave output is falling. Resources will be diverted.

Acknowledged,” boomed the Swarm Commanding Bohrok. “Report on the Scientific Research Division.

Progress continues. The Research Team estimates breakthrough in 48 hours.

That is unsatisfactory! The barriers of the Universe Core must be broken as soon as possible. Divert all available resources. Priority one.” ordered the Command Bohrok, its single blue eye fixing on the Nuhvok Kal. Their guide bowed its misshapen, robotic head then marched off deeper into the nest. Then that single fearsome blue eyestalk rotated around to pierce each other Matoran prisoners.

I am Bohrok X,” it boomed.

Prisoners will be scanned and categorized,” announced the Kohrak Kal. “Stand apart! Move!

The little group shuffled around until they were all separate and in a line. Iolan watched through empty eyes until he realized that the Bohrok were waiting for him too.

“But... I helped you,” he spluttered. “You can’t possibly want to process me too!”

None of the Bohrok responded.

The Ta-Matoran’s mouth hung open in disbelief. “We had a deal!”

Your usefulness has expired,” countered the Kohrak Kal harshly, its sapphire eyes burning fiercely.

Iolan searched around, wide-eyed, looking for help. He found no sympathy in Torlo’s obdurate expression. Ruefully, the Ta-Matoran swallowed then stepped forwards.

Bohrok X advanced, sensors on the tips of its fingers droving all over him, emitting strange electronic warbling noises.

Species – Ta-Matoran,” it declared. “Physical capacity – Level six point four. Marginal use. You will be fitted with a Krana Yo.

Marginal?” echoed the Calix-wearer, affronted. The Bohrok Commander retracted then moved past the confused Matoran of Fire, onto Connla.

Species – Ga-Matoran, Physical capacity – Level five point three. Marginal use. You will be fitted with a Krana Ca.

The Pakari-wearer quivered as the leader of the fully-mechanical Bohrok dismissed her

Species – Vo-Matoran,” stated the Bohrok leader. “Physical capacity - level seven point four. Suitable. You will be fitted with a Krana Bo.

The Kaukau Nuva-wearer looked fearfully at Torlo, the next in line. He reached out and squeezed her hand gently.

Bohrok X moved one, scanning Torlo next. He stood straight, shoulders back, chin up, almost as if he was posing for a Po-Matoran to carve his statue.

Species - Le-Matoran. Physical capacity - Level nine point four. Wait!” Something had attracted the machine’s attention. “Extend your arm.

After a brief pause, Torlo thrust out his left arm and removed part of his armor to show his biomechanical composition.

Bohrok X’s sensors focused on a small white scar in the muscle tissue of his forearm.

Evidence of subcutaneous transmitter removal.

“Transmitter?” Connla whispered. “What transmitter?”

“Not a clue,” Sarnii whispered back. “But Torlo doesn’t look happy.”

The Matoran of Air glared stonily at the Bohrok Commander and lowered his arm. “Guess it’s your lucky day,” he growled.

“What’s going on?” Iolan wanted to know. Like the others, he could sense something was up, and curiosity kindled by panic was enough to make him forget his orders not to speak.

But the Bohrok were too preoccupied with Torlo to notice. “Step forward!” commanded the Pahrak Kal. “Kneel!

“Oh, come off it,” replied the Zatth-wearer simply. “Not before you’ve had a chance to interrogate me, surely.”

But before the Le-Matoran could say anything else, a Pahrak Va scuttled up behind him and swung the bottom of its staff at the back of his left knee. His leg folded and Torlo hit the metal floor with a yelp.

Initiate mental assault!

The Kohrak Kal stepped forwards, its shields swirling like mechanical buzzsaws. There was a shrill, piercing whine and Torlo cried out in distress, flecks of saliva jumping from his lips. He slumped forwards, onto his hands and knees. He was trembling violently, his head hanging low between his arms, fighting the urge to vomit.

Among all the confusion, the Kohrak Kal had activated a Krana Za Kal and reported its finding back to its fellow Bohrok telepathically. They were screeching at each other with excitement.

Throughout the vast, metallic cavern, a ripple of agitation spread through the Bohrok ranks, with the Matoran at its very center.

Alert!” grated the Kohrak Kal. “Prisoner identified as Major Torlo of the Matoran Military Command!

Matoran Military Command?” murmured Iolan in disbelief. “Since when?”

“Since the very beginning,” winced the Le-Matoran painfully, his senses clashing together. “I was a high-ranking member of the Matoran High Command until Toa Helryx was killed and the whole system got stuffed up.” He reached down and tapped the scar on his arm. “Everyone who knew anything of value to the Matoran High Command was surgically implanted with a transmitter when they were commissioned. It was a small microchip that transmitted my location and health status – basically whether I was dead or alive – back to base. It helped the Military Command keep track of its important assets across the Matoran Universe.”

“No wonder the Bohrok are so excited,” huffed Sarnii. “It can’t be often they catch someone as important as this.”

Important?” Iolan frowned. “He’s not important. Or at least not that kind of important.”

Stand!” ordered Bohrok X, looming over the Le-Matoran. “Stand imediately!

Torlo didn’t reply. He just looked the Commander Bohrok straight in its eyestalk, his face as impassive as a rock. The Alpha Bohrok twitched, its eyestalk re-adjusting to examine him. Then it spoke once more, almost gloatingly.

Disable Major Torlo,” ordered the Command Bohrok. The Kohrok Kal turned around on its metallic heels, almost reflexively, and activated its Sonic Shields. At the same time, its Krana Za activated. Combined with the chilling vibrational effects of its weapons, a devastating ripple of solid Sound struck both of the Matoran of Air’s legs just below the knee joints and he collapsed to the floor. He lay there, hands scrabbling at the metal, unable to get a grip. His legs were completely immobile.

You have suffered temporary neurological damage,” stated the Kohrok-Kal. “Mobility will return in due course.

Take Major Torlo to the Interrogation Level,” ordered the Bohrok Commander.

A pair of Lehvak Va appeared from the shadows and grabbed the Zatth-wearer by either shoulder, then started dragging him towards a ramp leading further down into their base. He struggled against their grip, head high and shoulders squared.

Instantly, Sarnii made her objection clear by turning and spitting at the Command Bohrok.

“Leave him alone!” she challenged. “Don’t touch him or I’ll rip your circuits out!”

He is to be taken for a full brain excoriation and deep interrogation.” Already the spittle was evaporating from the strange Bohrok’s dome in a tiny, pathetic puff of steam.

“You’ll have to kill me first!” challenged the Vo-Matoran. She lunged at the Kohrak Kal but the white and silver armored Bohrok’s faceplate jerked forwards, delivering a powerful headbutt to Sarnii’s midsection. She crumpled to the ground uselessly, where a pair of Gahlok Va stepped up to restrain her. They gripped her arms and practically lifted her off her feet, kicking and struggling.

You will obey the Bohrok!” ordered Bohrok X.

“Why don’t you just kill me!” yelled the winded Vo-Matoran.

It is not necessary,” intoned the Bohrok Commander sinisterly. “You are required to work on our mining project. But you have disobeyed the Bohrok. One of your part much be punished.

Torlo looked up groggily. “No...” he croaked pathetically.

The weakest member of your group will die!

“No!” This time Torlo bellowed. Sarnii watched, her Kanohi white with fear.

Connla could hardly breathe. She knew precisely what was about to happen. But her brain, normally so quick, had simply stopped thinking. She was completely unable to speak. Her mouth dropped open wordlessly as the Pahrak-Kal stepped up to her.

Destroy this Matoran,” ordered Bohrok X.

The twin bursts of Plasma should have caught her square-on in the chest. But the Bohrok Kal had aimed to the right so as to leave some remains, catching her left leg and shoulder instead. The orange, bubbling bursts illuminated the Matoran of Light with a deadly, coruscating glow as her armor temperature vaulted, becoming superheated in a matter of agonizing seconds and burning its way through her flesh. Connla’s arm flopped useless to the ground, the limb completely detached from the rest of her body.

She screamed and flung her remaining limbs out wide, irradiated flesh bubbling violently. The Pakari-wearer fell to the ground, sprawled across the metal grid.

“No...” begged Torlo, almost silently in a pitch that only Stone Rats could hear. “Please, no.”

Then Connla’s face tipped slowly over and her open eyes were revealed. They were charred black and utterly dead. Empty eyeholes behind a blistered and alien Kanohi Pakari.




After having endured many twists, turns and backtracking from dead-ends, Santis and Caliga finally found their way into the Bohrok nest. According to the Toa of Lightning, they still were under Mount Valmai. For some reason, the Great Beings had decided that connecting the 777 stairs with the hive would be a good idea.

Santis was starting to like Caliga. The female Toa was confident in herself and surprisingly, she hadn't lost her sanity after a millennia trapped underwater, something that showed just how mentally strong she was. For once, the Toa of Fire had found someone with a willpower and determination that surpassed his own.

But, deep in the back of his mind there was something nudging him. He hated to admit it, but that was guilt for Krennato's death. It was a very small annoyance, though, and Santis easily overcame it. He was pragmatic and he knew that he had replaced a decrepit old Matoran with a powerful Toa.

Eventually the pair saw the tunnel they were in widen, until it became a full-fledged cavern. The floor also changed from rough rock to polished circular tiles. They tried to continue walking in a strict, straight line, to avoid walking in circles.

It didn’t take long for them to find some company in the lonely cavern. Orange dots, which hovered at their waist level, started approaching the Toa. As they came closer, Santis started seeing that the dots were triangular, that the light was reflected on impossibly white teeth, and that accompanying them was a light blue headplate with a sickly orange Krana inside.

Gahlok.

Santis signaled Caliga to close her eyes and cover her heartlight. The Toa of Fire did the same, while also powering off his fire sword. The Danju wearer knew that was a bold move to make, but Bohrok were not especially feared for their wits. Avoiding confrontation would save them some precious time, so they had to take the risk.

The mechanical sound of gears spinning and ungreased joints screeching came closer and closer. Santis heard motion to his side – Caliga was getting nervous. Although she tried so hard to pretend that she didn’t have any, the Toa of Lightning was ruled by her emotions, like all females. Although he wouldn’t admit it, he was also getting worried. The Gahlok were walking right up to them.

Santis was about to pull Caliga by the arm to move when suddenly a jet of water struck him at full force, sending him flying backwards. Another Gahlok shot at him, making him spin until he finally met the ground, crashing hard.

The Toa of Fire instinctively threw a ball of flames at the source of the water, only to find it turned into steam. He ignited his fire sword, and stared at the attackers, counting eight of them.

Caliga charged headfirst into battle, followed by Santis. The female warrior smashed the outer shells of two Gahlok, and then proceeded to slice the Krana inside with her spear. Santis threw up a wave of plasma, which melted the three Bohrok trying to stop it with more water.

A curtain of steam, almost solid-looking in the light of Santis’ sword, engulfed the Toa. Santis felt a sharp pain in the back as he was head butted by one of the robots. Trying to keep on his feet, he spun around and shot beams of laser vision of the Bohrok, one luckily striking at the eyes of the machine, sending the Krana flying to the floor, where it was mercilessly stomped by Caliga.

Only two Gahlok were left standing. Santis took of his Danju, taunting the Bohrok. The insect-like being didn’t think twice, and it launched its Krana at the Toa of Fire, who sliced it in-two.

Caliga threw a bolt of electricity at the last Gahlok, but the Bohrok fought back with a water blast, electrocuting the Toa of Lightning. Furious, she rose from the floor and ripped open the robot with her bare hands.

Moving on from the incident they walked for minutes, silent as they swam in the oppressively dense darkness. Santis’ sword was barely enough to light a few steps in front of them. Something in this place was clearly off. The atmosphere was heavy and Santis was starting to feel weak, even though that could be attributed to the long hours walking through tunnels with very few stops to eat in-between.

"What’s that?" yelled Caliga, pointing to three green dots floating a dozen of meters in front of them. Both knew what that meant - It was the triangle of eyes and heartlight.

The three orbs of light were fixed in the black firmament, like a ternary star system frozen in place and time, condemned to hover in the black void of space for eternity. Whatever those eyes belonged to, they weren't moving.

Sanits scratched his head. "Bohrok are not that tall. Possessed Matoran neither."

As the sphere of light of his sword engulfed more and more of the seemingly impenetrable darkness the Toa finally met a solid structure, above which hovered the eyes, still out of reach. It was a platform of some sort, with some kind of strange machinery, wires crisscrossing from various connection ports and ending in a central connection… where the mysterious figure was.

Creeping closer, Santis observed how badly rusted most of the machinery was, and realized that it must be a command center of some sort. There was screen showing the depiction of Krana, some levers and buttons, as well as various smaller screens with coordinates. Santis touched one of the buttons, and the Krana Yo in one of the screens turned into a Krana Vu.

Santis decided that this must be the way that the Bohrok Va know which Kanohi they have to change, and probably it also served as means for the Bohrok squad leaders to communicate with one of various command centers without having to overload the Bahrag Queens themselves. But the most important piece was still missing – the person behind that had to manipulate all the controls.

The Toa of Fire was expecting anything - Skakdi, Rahkshi, Makuta or even Krennato's ghost coming to kill him for saving her murderer. Therefore, what he felt when his fire sword finally illuminated the figure could only be described as disappointment.

Just another Toa.

Only that this one wasn’t moving at all, like if he was a statue. It was sitting on a chair, hands attached to wires, circled by more of the machinery that Santis had examined.

The Danju-wearer started examining the immobile Toa's armor, trying to determine its element. A pair of armored feet were connected to a pair of equally armored legs. On the Toa's back, a huge and at the same time graceful shield was attached. The whole figure was colored in shades of grey and black. That meant Sonics.

All of it was monotone, until he reached the face, where a disgustingly black Krana Za was attached, like a charcoal leech sucking out his sanity.

"What should we do with him?" asked Santis as he examined the parasite. It was warm on the touch.

"I say you get out of my way and I just zap him. I've lost enough time enclosed; I shall waste no more of my life. Not for a Toa."

"Hey, why all this violence and extremism? I think we should just free him from the Krana. I'm offering him the same thing I offered you."

"I didn't ask to be saved. I already told you that I owe you nothing. I'm not following you because of a life debt, but because of convenience."

Santis turned his back to argue when suddenly the Toa of Sonics sprung to life and slammed the Danju wearer hard with his shield. Then the Krana-enslaved Toa turned on Caliga, sending a wall of piercing sound at her.

"Enemies of the Brotherhood will be executed," challenged the grey Toa in a serene, ill-fitting voice.

Santis groaned as he got back to his feet. "Hey there, don't get out of character. You're supposed to be one of the clean-freaks of the Swarm, not a Rahkshi-lover."

The Za-wearer hesitated for a moment, a glimmer of dazed recognition glinting in his emerald eyes. But then, just like that, the slither of hope disappeared and the Toa of Sonics engaged his two opponents.

Santis tried to bring him down with a wild swipe from his sword, only to meet with a loud screech that hammered his audio receptors, loosing grip on the weapon. His enemy kicked it away, leaving them in complete darkness.




Connla’s smoking corpse lay between the prisoners and the Bohrok.

All that could be heard in the minutes that followed was the full, persistent throb of the Bohrok machinery.

“There was no need for that,” snarled Torlo quietly. He didn’t look up. He was staring down at the body, his fists clenched hard. “She wasn’t any kind of threat to you.”

The Ga-Matoran was of no use to us,” declared the Bohrok Commander.

Its voice grated at Torlo’s nerves, and he closed his eyes to shut out the sight.

“You’ll pay for this,” he muttered. He tried to sit up on the floor, teeth gritted as his legs throbbed with astonishing pain. “I’ll make you pay.”

The Bohrok Commander circled around Torlo, eyestalk fixed on him.

Cease talking!” screeched the Pahrak Kal.

Your associates will be taken to the mines and made to serve the Bohrok cause,” deliberated Bohrok X darkly.

Torlo never took his cloudy eyes off of Connla’s corpse.

You will be taken for deep-level interrogation. You will not survive this process. The information that you divulge will serve the Bohrok. It will be used to aid us in our victory and destroy the Matoran race. You will obey!

Torlo raised an eyebrow. “That a fact?” he challenged.

Silence!

“Why? What are you going to do to me, Bohrok?” snarled the Le-Matoran. “I’m too valuable for you to kill. You need me alive for interrogation, remember? To help you wipe out the Matoran.”

You will be made to cooperate. If necessary you will be permanently disabled and taken to the Interrogation Chamber by force."

Torlo straightened up squaring his shoulders. Even in these desperate circumstances, half-crippled and leaning on two Bohrok Va for support, the stubborn, thick-skinned Le-Matoran had found a way to maintain his dignity. “Forget it. I’ll walk.” He shot a glance at his two companions and smiled wearily. “Don’t worry, I’ll be OK,” he lied.

“We’ll come back for you!” shouted Sarnii as the two Pahrak Va marched off, dangling the Le-Matoran like a puppet, heading for a doorway that led deeper into the prison.

Then the door closed and Torlo knew that would be the last he ever saw of her.

Chapter 15[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27 and Abc8920.

Sarnii tried to blank Torlo from her mind. She had been consumed by rage and fear in the reception area, and it could have cost her everything. She had to stay alive and get back to him, somehow.

The Hive crackled with static electricity and the metallic air smelled of machine oil and hate. Iolan could barely walk and he was forced to lean on her for support, something the Matoran of Lightning had hoped would be a temporary condition of their time in the mines. They staggered drunkenly as the elevator that carried them down into the prison vaults slowed to a stop. The Kohrak Kal pushed them out onto a narrow walkway overlooking a vast cavern. Its rough-hewn walls rose up to a jagged cathedral arch of stalactites.

It was incredibly hot. The entire elevator-ride down had been like descending into a cauldron. As they moved down the ramp, inclining through a layer of thick, searing mist, the ground suddenly came into view: irregular blocks of black granite separated by streams of bubbling, red-hot lava and volcanic slag.

And all around, everywhere, there were workers: Matoran manacled together and set to work with pickaxes and shovels, breaking rocks and carrying them to heavy, primitive barrows. Each was fitted with a Krana, each one a different shade of some grotesque, sickly rainbow.

Of course, Sarnii was no longer a stranger to Krana. Her normal Kanohi had been taken from her and replaced with a repulsive blue Krana Bo. It was warm and clammy, like a moist and grimy Rahi had clamped its claw on her face.

Unspectacularly, the Matoran of Lightning was aware that her thoughts were being manipulated. She could feel a cruel presence in her head, one that was not her own. The Krana had a grip over her, but she could still feel her own thoughts. It was as if the Krana was in her subconscious, like a whisper directing her onto a particular course of action. No single word was being uttered in her mind. Instead, there was a string of phrases, none of which she could make sense of.

She’d tried to fight against it many times. It was like she’d been sedated and the world around her was mellowed into an illusory, dream-like trance of blurred edges and undefined shapes that she had to focus on to see. Sarnii had wanted to scream out, to tell the world that she was being manipulated. But every time she tried to share her fears, her lips would seize up. She was completely unable to speak. No action was her own.

Trooping through the clouds of steam and sidestepping around the glowing lava were Bohrok guards, their armor plating pockmarked and stained, their headpieces constantly twitching around, looking for signs of trouble or weakness from the slaves. The Kohrak Kal advanced and examined one of the nearest groups, its blue eyes shining out of the burning haze with deadly, implacable purpose.

Work Unit Delta,” it grated. “Your production rate has dropped below minimum tolerance. Your output is unsatisfactory!

Four Matoran looked up fearfully at the Bohrok Kal as it approached, flanked immediately by a pair of Lehvak. They were thin, emaciated, clearly exhausted – and all chained up together. One of the workers, a Bo-Matoran, tore off his Krana Yo defiantly and simply sat down heavily on a nearby rock, putting his face in his hands.

“I can’t go on...” he wheezed.

“It’s not our fault!” cried one of the other workers, a Ta-Matoran. He was more muscular, healthier. He pointed at the weakened Bo-Matoran sat on the rock, his chains rattling as he moved, the fear in his eyes showing through his Krana Ja. “He’s holding us all back. He can’t work any longer. He’s sick!”

Inefficient work units will be replaced,” retorted the Bohrok Kal of Sonics remorselessly.

The two Lehvak readied their weapons then opened fire without an order, coating all four members of the slave group in a powerful acid. The Matoran screamed and twisted in the blaze of corrosive sludge then sank into the lava. Within minutes they had disappeared, leaving nothing but a layer of bubbling slime on the surface of the molten rock and the stench of rotting meat in the air.

Step forward,” ordered the Kohrak Kal.

The two Matoran shuffled forward, Sarnii trying to keep Iolan on his feet. His legs were shaking as he tried to walk.

A blue and silver-armored Bohrok Kal marched over to inspect the group, joining its fellow Bohrok Kal.

You will now be Work Unit Delta,” announced the Kohrak Kal after a long moment of glaring.

A swift rush hammered through the back of Sarnii’s mind and she fell the Krana twitched on her face, tightening its grip. Instantly she let go of Iolan and stood to attention, completed seduced by the Krana’s demands.

“This Matoran is injured,” she reported, pitilessly. “His legs are damaged. He is of no use to the Bohrok.”

Then he will be obliterated.

“No, wait!” cried Iolan, struggling against his own crimson Krana Su. “I can work.”

Can you stand unaided?” demanded the Gahlok Kal.

“Yeah.”

Iolan wobbled, and let go of Sarnii’s arm. His metallic teeth were bared – he was clearly in great pain – but he managed to stand on his own two feet. The Matoran of Lightning could see that he simply wasn’t going to give the Bohrok the satisfaction of killing him.

Satisfactory,” droned the Gahlok Kal.

Iolan smiled through the pain.

“Damn right.”

Two more prisoners – a Ga-Matoran and a scrawny-looking Ce-Matoran – were marched over to where Iolan and Sarnii stood. Manacles and chains were quickly fixed to their wrists and ankles so that all four were bound together.

Your task is to remove rock debris from the drill area, ” the Gahlok Kal informed them coldly. “If you do not work hard enough, you will be obliterated.

Iolan looked at his three female companions. The Ga-Matoran wore the shabby remains of what had once been sharp blue and teal armor. She was probably from one of the nicer areas of Ga-Metru. The Ce-Matoran, however, was in pretty poor shape. Just like Iolan and Sarnii, she was another victim of Karzahni’s tinkering. What little remained of her golden armor was dull and cheap. One was physically stunted while the other had probably never done labor in her life. Two orange Krana pulsed and throbbed on their tired and grimy faces. Both kept their heads down. Iolan felt his stomach churn in anger.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” he told the assembled Bohrok Kal. “They cannot work.”

The Gahlok Kal stepped forward, eyeing him guardedly through false eyes.

The Bohrok do not make exceptions. You are to work as a unit. If you fail you will be executed.

“I’m telling you, she can’t work –”

He turned around, searching for Sarnii’s support. But the Vo-Matoran was staring listlessly at the rocky ground, the chains hanging heavily on her wrists. She looked utterly defeated.

Do not argue with the Bohrok! You will obey!

Iolan’s Krana Su tightened its grip on his face and a dangerous cluster of brainwaves that weren’t his own rushed through his brain.

He had to trust the Bohrok. They were, of course, driven by the Krana, one of the most intriguing and ancient species in the Matoran Universe. Who knew what otherworldly knowledge the Bohrok had acquired over the centuries, what greater good they were striding towards? It was best just to let them continue, intent on glorious purpose.

The anger in the Ta-Matoran’s guts turned into a sense of obedience. He looked back at the Gahlok Kal expectant, but the orange eyes only blazed, daring him to argue back. Wanting him to rebel and be crushed.

Iolan had been leaning on Sarnii for support, but his legs were now stinging from an agonizing pins and needles sensation, the likes of which he experienced most of the time. The few nerves that remained were burning, but he was determined to walk alone. That was what Torlo would have done.

The four of them trooped slowly, awkwardly, across the cavern, winding their way through the other slaves and clouds of steam. They were taken to an area littered with rocks and rubble, where work units – groups of four Matoran chained together – were picking up rocks and passing them along the line to a large metal skip.

“They don’t need us to do this,” frowned Iolan, his crimson Krana Su still palpitating strongly on his face. “Our glorious masters could do this work far faster and better with their Bohrok Va. Why use us? We are inferior.”

“Because they can,” answered the Ga-Matoran darkly from behind her Krana Vu. “Because they like to. Subjugation of the lower races. It’s Bohrok policy.”

A Nuhvok marched by, watching them with its cold eyes. The mysterious Ga-Matoran picked up a rock and thrust it into Iolan, as he tried to make sense of her strange disgust for the Bohrok. “Best get started,” she ordered. “Pass it along.”

Iolan stared blankly at the rock in his hands, then passed it along to Sarnii, who passed it to the Ce-Matoran, who threw it into the skip. The “fixed” Matoran of Psionics moved quickly back, waiting for the next rock. Then chains that bound them rattled with every movement.

Again, Iolan felt fury building inside him, the Krana’s temporary burst of obedience dissipating and his mind’s eye clearing the fog it had created, awakening to clearer vision. But he was surrounded by Bohrok – all of them looking for an excuse to kill him. There was nothing he could do.

Except, his Krana Su told him, whatever the Bohrok want.




Report!” commanded Bohrok X, gliding imperiously past the Nuhvok Kal without so much as turning to acknowledge it.

The Elite Bohrok of Gravity edged closer to its leader as they moved towards the prison interior, flanked by a number of Kohrak.

Mining to the Universe Core is proceeding as ordered,” reported the Nuhvok Kal. “But the schedule has been delayed by the arrival and apprehension of Major Torlo. Resources have been diverted to ensure maximum security on level nine point zero.

Level nine point zero was the Bohrok Hive’s most secure area. That was where Torlo was being held.

How long until the barriers of the Universe Core are beached?

Research team estimates two days until the Core is exposed. The Bohrok Kal will enter and reprimand the strategic location immediately!

They reached the interior hallway. Bohrok X swept around and allowed his cold blue gaze to fall on the Nuhvok Kal for the first time. “The delay is unacceptable,” it stated sinisterly. “Summon the Bohrok responsible for the operation.

I obey,” stated the Nuhvok.

Led by Bohrok X, the group moved into the prison control center. The guard Bohrok took up positions behind and either side of their leader. Very soon, three Bohrok mine overseers arrived. Their normal mechanical casings were covered in grime and dust and lava splashes from the cave systems that surrounded the molten soil of the Southern Continent.

Bohrok X’s eyestalk twitched menacingly. “Explain the delay in the mining operation!

The leader of the mining project, the Tahnok Kal, stepped forwards, head twitching nervously. “Disruption due to the arrival of Major Torlo has diverted resources from the mine workings. The Matoran slaves are not strong enough to absorb the increased workload.

This delay is unacceptable!” repeated Bohrok X implacably. “You have failed the Bohrok! Failure cannot be tolerated!

One of the Bohrok Commander’s mechanical arms shot upwards and grabbed the Tahnok Kal’s headpiece. Before the machine could so much as twitch, a devastating electrical pulse penetrated its faceplate, frying the Krana Kal alive. The harsh, dying shriek nearly drowned by the piercing screech of the electronic pulse. A moment later, all that was left of the Krana Kal was a blackened shell, the oily smell belching from the neck grille accompanied by a quiet sizzling noise.

Recycle the casing,” ordered Bohrok X, addressing the two regular Bohrok that had accompanied the Tahnok Kal. “Continue with the mining schedule. Force the Matoran to work harder and faster.

But, leader, they are all wearing Krana,” pointed out the Nuhvok Kal. “They are already working at full capacity.

Evidently not,” retorted Bohrok X. “The Matoran continue to resist the Krana. Force them to work harder and faster. Select the weakest Matoran every hour and eliminate it in front of the other slaves. They will redouble their efforts. Continue!

We obey!” proclaimed the Nuhvok Kal as the two mining Bohrok turned and hurried away.



Iolan was still hurting. He was starting to shake, almost as if he had a fever. Spasms of burning pain ran through his legs every few seconds. Occasionally, he would stumble, or fall painfully on one knee, and Sarnii or Ryla – the Ga-Matoarn – would have to pull him quickly to his feet before the Bohrok noticed. His heartlight was blinked frantically every time a guard came near.

The Bohrok glided amongst the workers, some armed with whips and electric Mahi prods in place of their usual shields. Any slave thought to be slacking was prodded. There would be a loud crackle and the Matoran would instantly move faster, blinking away hot tears of pain.

“I can’t take much more of this,” muttered Iolan in one of the few instances of freedom that his Krana allowed him to think and speak freely.

Ryla looked at him. “Don’t stop now, you fool. You and I are the strongest ones here.” Her eyes fell on Sarnii, then she corrected herself. “Well… the strongest ones willing to work that is.”

“I don’t mean that,” wheezed the Ta-Matoran. “I can keep on shifting rocks from now until doomsday, if my legs hold out. I’m talking about watching the Bohrok torture innocent Matoran.”

“Just keep your head down,” muttered Ryla. Her voice wavered as she spoke, but her green eyes were steady and determined. “If you do anything stupid, we all die.”

Iolan lowered his gaze. “How long have you been here?”

“Long enough to know that you’re badly injured,” Ryla replied.

“I’m OK.”

“You can barely stand. You’re shaking.”

The Ta-Matoran gritted his teeth. “Yeah, well, I don’t like to talk about how that happened.”

“It’s a permanent case of neurological shock,” explained the Ga-Matoran coolly. “I was a scientist back on Metru-Nui. I came down to the Southern Continent to help the Av-Matoran escape when the war began. A squadron of Bohrok captured me, my fellow medics and some Av-Matoran, then brought us here. But I’ve helped treat injuries like that. There were a lot of locals here on the Southern Continent with “fixed” limbs.

“Is he going to die?” asked Sarnii, dazed. She stared at him questioningly, as if expecting him to fall over and die at any moment. Her Krana was messing with her mind, making her delirious, but still blunt as ever. She had totally succumbed to the effects of the parasite. However, it would appear that Iolan and Ryla were finding some way to combat it.

The Gahlok Kal trudged closer to the Matoarn workers.

Do not speak!” it declared. “You are here to work. Talking is forbidden. Obey the Bohrok!

Once again, Iolan felt his Krana Su tighten. A flash of crimson. His chains rattled sharply as he spasmed. Ryla grabbed him and tried to pull him upright. It was difficult. The Ta-Matoran felt like his legs were on fire, and they were as weak as those of a Turaga. He clung onto the Ga-Matoran for support, teeth gritted.

You cannot stand,” observed the Bohrok Kal. “If you cannot stand, you cannot work.

“We’ve been through his already,” wheezed the Matoran of Fire. “I’m still standing. And I’ll still be standing when you’re a pile of rust on the floor.”

The Gahlok Kal’s menacing orange eyes looked down on him once again. “If you cannot work you will be executed.

“Yeah,” nodded the Krana-wearing Ta-Matoran, bending down and picking up a rock.

For a moment he contemplated ramming it into the Bohrok Kal’s headpiece. It might not do much harm, but it would make him feel a bit better. Just for a second. But then he thought of the three female Matoran who were chained to him and passed the rock along. It was transferred down the line and dropped into the skip with a loud clang. Satisfied, the Gahlok Kal moved on.

Had that decision been his own? Maybe the Krana on his face had changed his mind. It was certainly allowing him a lot more freedom than Sarnii’s was allowing her. Why was he allowed so much rebellion? Why did Ryla’s Krana seem to barely effect her when all the other slaves were totally succumbed to servitude?

He guessed that didn’t matter. Iolan just gritted his metallic teeth and fought back the overwhelming pain. He bent down and picked up another rock. His legs were throbbing but his Krana seemed to throb louder and, in the end, he completely forgot about the pain. He became lost in the rhythm, caught up in the energetic tune that his vivacious Krana was drumming out.




Caliga formed a lighting arc between her hands, and Santis ignited the air around his right fist. In the next instance, they were just a violent blur, trying to kick, slash and punch an opponent who blended too well in the shadows and moved in absolute silence.

Santis tried to shout some tactics at Caliga, only to find that his words carried no sound.

He was starting to really hate this Sonics-guy.

The Krana-possessed Toa jumped out of the shadows and smashed Santis' head onto his shield. The Toa of Fire reeled back and growled, snatching at the ground for his missing weapon.

After spending the majority of her life in a subaquatic cave, Caliga instantly knew exactly what to do next. Survival had become a force of habit for her, particularly when she shared her environment with Takea Sharks. And the key thing to remember about Takea was that they always strike...

"From the back!" shouted the Toa of Lightning as she turned around and sent a surge of hundreds of volts at what she anticipated was their silent attacker.

The grey being fell to his knees and then raised up his shield, emitting a high-pitched frequency. Lights flashed and klaxons blared. An intruder alarm. In response to that, one of every three tiles sunk. From the newly opened holes came out a horde of Bohrok Va, all of them brandishing weapons and itching to prove themselves.

Caliga helped Santis out the hole in his own tile, and then started to fight off the incoming mass of possessed Matoran. The female Toa sent a wave of lightning that fused about a dozen Bohrok Va feet to the ground, immobilizing them.

The upcoming crazed mass came to a halt abruptly. At first they didn't know what to do, but after a moment, a Lehvak Va decided to tear its legs off its feet. The rest followed suit and, one by one, the mass of robots started crawling, feetless, at an amazing speed.

A pair of Bohrok Va lunged at the Toa of Fire, trying to take away his Danju. Santis tried to calm down, knowing what was about to happen.

The Toa gave in to his pyromaniac instincts and set himself on fire. The machines lost their grip on him, their hands scorched.

He was starting to imagine what would come next - armor melted, circuits burned, and metal blackened.

No! His inner self shouted. He couldn't give in. He remembered the lesson he had taught Torlo, back on the surface.

Santis calmed down, and the flames died down.

When the dimensionally-displaced Toa turned his head, he saw that Caliga hadn't resisted. In that moment she was no Toa, but rather a maddened animal.

The Toa of Lightning was electrocuting the Bohrok Va, one after another, making their flimsy bodies shake in a sickening dance, and cutting off their hands with her spear, as if wanting to confirm her body count. But the worst part of it - she was wide grinning.

Determined to end the mechanical carnage, Santis started shooting balls of plasma at each of the Bohrok Va, finishing them off quickly.

Caliga at first looked mad at Santis, he having ended her fun, but then something - maybe the stench of burnt metal, or the pile of robot bodies in front of her - made the Toa realize the horror she had just made. How easily they could have been Matoran.

None of the two Toa dared to speak for a minute, until Santis decided to break the silence.

"If you use their methods, you become them."

Silence.

"I hope you learnt the lesson, because this is the last time we are going to speak of this."

Silence.

Santis then walked to where the Toa of Sonics laid, weak, trying to get up but finding his legs failing him. With beams of heat-vision Santis destroyed the Krana Za, freeing the Toa's mind.

The confused Toa looked at his surroundings in surprise, ignoring Santis and Caliga at first. He tried to scratch his Kanohi, finding that it was no longer there. Cursed under his breath, he then looked at the two Toa in front of him.

"What is this place supposed to be? And what did you do with my Kanohi? Are you heading south too?"

“Who in the blazes of Tren Krom are you?” grunted Santis.

The Toa of Sonics, seeing that the two strangers were as clueless as him, decided to present himself, expecting -almost demanding- to receive their identifications in return.

"I'm Sonitous, Toa of Sonics,” he winced, groggily, as if he’d just woken up after his bed was buried in an avalanche. “Sergeant of the 56th division of the Metru Nui army, heading south to aid in the Final Push.”

Silence.

Santis and Caliga exchanged confused glanced.


“Soldier,” muttered Santis, fixing his new comrade with a quizzical look, “you’re late for duty.”





Iolan stumbled again, crashing to his knees and almost pulling Ryla over with him. The Ga-Matoran staggered, grabbed him quickly, by the arm and hauled him back to his feet.

“Another slip like that will cost us all our lives!” she hissed in his audio receptor.

He shoot her hand away. “Be silent. You imped my work,” he snarled, his Krana Su speaking over him.

The Matoran of Fire looked down at his legs, where the tough metal of his armor was becoming stained with blood. He couldn’t feel the pain, not properly. His legs were still riddled with nerves and it took all his concentration not to let them shake. Bending down and picking up rocks was becoming more and more problematic.

“Please be quiet,” murmured Ryla. “It attracts attention otherwise.”

“Not picking up rocks is gonna attract attention,” snapped Iolan bitterly.

“Let’s change places, then,” the Matoran of Water suggested. She pulled on the chains with sore and bleeding fingers. She was in far worse condition than he was yet she never complained. The Ta-Matoran felt ashamed.

“I’ll go at the head of the line,” explained Ryla quickly. You stand at the back, then you won’t have to bend down so much.”

“I’m not invalid,” bristled Iolan.

“The Bohrok might not agree.”

Two overseer Bohrok swept into the cavern and approached the Gahlok Kal. The regular Bohrok couldn’t speak, but the Gahlok Kal’s Krana Kal connected them to the hive mind, allowing them to have a brief conversation before the Bohrok of Magnetism turned, eyes roving over the Matoran slaves.

Attention!” it announced. “The work rate is unacceptable! You will increase your efforts immediately!

The unblinking eyes of the Krana-possessed Matoran regarded the Gahlok Kal.

From this point on we will identify the weakest work unit every hour,” the Bohrok Kal continued, addressing the entire cavern. Its harsh metallic voice echoed around the stalagmites. “That work unit will be executed. No further warning will be given.

“They’re in a bad mood,” observed Iolan quietly. “I mean, worse than usual. Wonder what got into them.”

“Fear,” stated Ryla.

The Bohrok marched through the lines of slaves, heads twitching and rotating. “The first unit to be executed will be chosen now.

The slaves milled around in quiet panic, all trying to look stronger, taller, fitter than their neighbors. But not by their doing. The Krana were worried. The Krana didn’t want to be killed with their hosts. They did not want to disappoint their superiors.

Iolan gritted his metallic teeth once again as his legs began to shake. The sweat was pouring down his face, onto his Krana and chest. He knew he must look awful. Everyone around him seemed to be healthier and more upright.

The Bohrok cornered a work unit on the edge of the cavern. From where they stood, Iolan could not see the prisoners. Were they old? Weak? Injured? It was impossible to tell. All they heard was a savage metal cry, followed by screams and what sounded like the crushing of armor.

Then silence.

Continue working!” ordered the Gahlok Kal.

The remaining slaves set to their tasks with desperate energy, each work unit competing with the next as if it was some macabre contest.

Iolan picked up rocks and passed them quickly down the chain. The Ce-Matoran tossed them into the skip, giving a tiny grunt of exertion every time. The whole process was repeated, again, again, faster, faster. Iolan was visibly shuddering now, his legs burning. Tears scorched his eyes. Whoever they were – the Matoran that the Gahlok Kal had just murdered – they couldn’t have been any weaker than him. He felt ill with fear and guilt. He long would it be before they came for him?




In the prison control center, Bohrok X was studying a bank of minters. Circular screens projected images of the mines, the core, the research laboratories, and the prison levels. One large monitor was showing the interior of Major Torlo’s cell on level nine point zero.

The small, stunted Le-Matoran made the creature that lurked inside the Nuhvok Kal’s casing squirm. But Bohrok X seemed completely unfazed. It studied the Matoran with fierce intent, the blue light in its eye glowing stronger by the second. And then, bizarrely, the Le-Matoran looked up, straight at the camera lens. His wide, alien eyes staring out of the screen at the observers.

He knows we are observing him” noted the Nuhvok Kal.

It is of little consequence,'” retorted the Command Bohrok. “Certain reactions are expected.

The Nuhvok Kal touched a control and a succession of images flicked across the screen – different Le-Matoran, their features flicking past at bewildering speed.

This Matoran does not match any previous identifiable versions of Major Torlo in our databanks.

He continually changes his Kanohi in a futile effort to avoid our detection,” explained Bohrok X. Its eyestalk never left the prisoner on the screen. “He has interfered with the Brotherhood of Makuta’s plans on many occasions. But he will interfere no longer.

He is resourceful and cunning,” warned the Nuhvok Kal.

He relies on fortuity. His arrogance will prove to be his downfall.” Bohrok X turned away. “Bring him to the Interrogation Chamber.




Torlo was taken out of his cell in chains and marched down a series of featureless metal corridors. The Le-Matoran was getting anxious now. His skin was a horrible grey color, his lips compressed into a thin white line. His eyes were sunk deep into his skull, full of visions of what lay ahead.

He was trying to think, trying to come up with a last-minute escape plan or brilliant idea, but his mind felt paralysed.

The Le-Matoran and his Nuhvok escorts passed a number of doorways and laboratories, with wide windows allowing views of Bohrok at work. He saw one room with a feeble looking Matoran of Plasma strapped to a wall, his skin glowing brightly under the harsh electric light, an ugly metallic Krana Ja attached to his weary face. A Tahnok used its Fire Shields and opened fire on the frail Su-Matoran, who blackened and died like a leaf separated from a tree. A Tahnok Va was calculating exactly what firepower was required to kill the overworked slave.

Sickened, he looked away.

The cordon arrived at a junction, where Torlo was pushed roughly into a door. At this point, Torlo normally would have made a joke purely for his own entertainment, but the Zatth-wearer felt nothing but a profound, helpless sadness.

Then the door slammed shut behind him as he was maneuvered into the darkened room. He was marched over to a metal wall and forced to stand upright against it by a pair of Lehvak Va. It felt uncomfortably like being made ready for a firing squad. His ankles and wrists were secured with tight steel bands so he was utterly immobilized. The Lehvak Va then withdrew and the door clanged shut behind them. The Matoran was left in complete darkness.

It was cold. He had no idea how big the room was or what else was in there with him. He couldn’t see a thing. All he could hear was the heavy, metallic throb of machinery and behind that some kind of hard, electric vibration. The air tasted of static.

Something cold and metal embraced his head. Torlo gasped as his skull was clamped into position and a hundred fine needles pricked his scalp. This is it, he thought, his heartlight blinking pathetically.

After some time, a light appeared in the darkness – a blue disc. A single eye. He sensed rather than saw the familiar shape of the Bohrok Commander, its single blue eye marking him.

Eventually, there was a harsh, grating voice. “Major Torlo.

The Zatth-wearer swallowed. His interrogator was in no hurry. He licked his lips and, as brightly as he could manage, replied, “That’s me.” His voice sounded more brittle than he would have liked.

I am Bohrok X.

“Can’t say I’m pleased to meet you.”

You are attached to a Bohrok Mind-Probe Machine. It has been calibrated to your specific frequency.'

“You won’t get anything out of me,” blurted the Matoran of Air.

That is not the intention,'” replied Bohrok X. “Yet.

Torlo couldn’t turn his head because of the device attached to him. It felt like a vice clamped around his skull. A could of extra turns of the screw would crack the bone.

“So,” he said at last. “What do you want? If it’s my secret recipe for Stewed Bula Berries you can forget it. I’m taking that little beauty to my grave.”

I intend to measure your capacity for physical pain.'

“Oh. Why?”

Because I wish to.

There was a fierce, galvanistic crackle of power, and Torlo’s body arched like a bow, straining against its bonds. A howl of anguish echoed through the darkness, torn from his lips with sudden, shocking ease.

How long it was before the control was released the Le-Matoran could not tell. Time passed in abstract seconds, minutes or even hours. It left him drained, limp, his armor damp with perspiration and his throat raw from screaming.

Expect no mercy,” Bohrok X informed him.

“I’m no fool,” Torlo croaked, feeling very foolish indeed. Partly because his head felt so foggy with pain but also because he couldn’t for the life of him work out how it had all come to this: helpless, friendless and homeless, chained to a wall and being tortured by the leader of the Bohrok.

Makuta do not show weakness.

“Yes, I know.”

Mercy is weakness.

“Really? Why don’t you give it a try? Go on, I won’t tell anyone.” The Le-Matoran tensed, ready for another onslaught. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the Bohrok leader’s ridiculous fingers hovering over the probe controls. Any second now and he would be plunged back into the abyss of pain.

“On second thought,” he continued, “maybe I’m wasting my breath. And I’ve reconsidered the Stewed Bula Berries thing. You can have it if you want.”

Makuta show no mercy,” repeated Bohrok X mechanically.

“Or common sense either, for that matter. Don’t you realize that when the Matoran Military Command hears news of my capture, of your mining operation down into the Universe Core, of your existence and manipulation of the Bohrok they will launch a counter-offensive?” The Matoran of Air suddenly stopped speaking and marshaled his thoughts. “Ah, now I see. That was the whole point, wasn’t it?”

The Matoran Military Command will respond as you have predicted. However, the Bohrok will be prepared and our enemies will be crushed.

“It’s a bit desperate, though. Or is that the real reason? Are you losing the war against the Matoran? Or, more accurately, have they already won? That explains the lack of Makuta organizing their Rahkshi troops around here. Is this one last shake of the dice?”

The response was unequivocal: a savage twist of the probe control and a series of wracking, nerve-shattering waves of pain. Torlo’s brain felt like it was about to burst, but when the torment ended he was laughing.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” he panted, his breath ragged and thin but his head locked in place. “You’re losing! This whole plan – your capture of the Matoran, your mining down into the Universe Core – it’s a last-ditch attempt to worm your way out of defeat!”

You underestimate our power,” grated Bohrok X.

There was a metallic hiss and the hydraulic locks that had held the mind probe in place released. Torlo sagged for a second before the Lehvak Va returned and released him from his bonds, but then stood up stiffly, rubbing his wrists. He felt unsteady on is feet but tried not to show it, choosing to clear his throat instead.

“Find anything useful?”

The mental probe confirms that you are indeed Major Torlo of the Matoran High Command. But you do not match any description currently held in our database.

“Oh, shame. Maybe your records aren’t as up to date as you think.”

Bohrok X swiveled round to glare at him. “The most likely conclusion is that you have continually changed your Kanohi.

The Matoran of Air pursed his lips. “Well, now you mention it, yes… but never mind. Tell me all about your plans for the Universe Core instead. That’s much more interesting.”

Bohrok X led Torlo out of the interrogation chamber into a long, low room with a wide viewing window stretched across the far wall. The room was in darkness, but there was a flickering orange glow coming from the window, as if it overlooked a furnace. The Zatth-wearer strolled across to the glass and found himself looking out across a vast, subterranean vault. Dark crags were separated by winding, straggling rivers of molten rock. Bohrok patrolled amid clouds of sulphurous smoke, overlooking thousands of Matoran slaves as they toiled in the searing conditions.

“Your own private view of Karzahni?” asked the Le-Matoran as the self-proclaimed Bahrag King roved over to join him.

We are close to the barriers of the universe Core,” replied Bohrok X. Lit from below by the bubbling red light, his black and blue casing seemed to run with blood. “The Bohrok Hives are dotted across this verminous universe, filled with thousands, millions of soldiers ready to serve my command.

“And you’ve waited all this time because?” Instantly, the answer came to the Matoran and a grin spread across the width of his Kanohi. “Oh, I like this,” he chuckled. “From what I’ve been told, you’d need the Bahrag Queens to awaken the Bohrok underneath Metru Nui and, seeing as they’re not kicking around this place, I’m guessing you usurped them.”

The Bahrag Queens are no more,” announced Bohrok X. “I am the new Commander of the Bohrok: the Bahrag King!

“But you can’t awaken the Bohrok yourself. You’re not recognized as either of the Bahrag. You’re not even recognized as a Bohrok. You can’t unleash them.”

True,” conceded the Swarm Commander. “But I now have you at my disposal.

“Yes,” grumbled the Le-Matoran, trying his best to consider the strange Bohrok Leader’s threat as a compliment. “You were planning on drilling down into the Universe Core and exposing its treasures. But you don’t understand how the Universe Core works.”

Explain.

“The Universe Core is the very heart of the Matoran Universe, its power source. It’s the world that feeds the world. If you were truly a Bohrok, or any real threat, you’d understand that.”

Torlo glanced out of the window once more, wondering how the glass was kept so clean then realizing he could probably see Iolan and Sarnii from here.

“There’s a Nuclear Storm Drive situated in there. That energy is integral to the functioning of Mata Nui. It gets sent to Metru-Nui, where it gets distributed to the rest of the world. Last time I checked, word was we’d landed on some weird desert planet and the Toa were taking the fight to the Makuta. Mata Nui’s still alive and kicking, just blind as usual. The Universe Core will be active. If you break past the barriers, you’ll unleash a storm composed of sheer energy onto the Southern Continent. It’ll tear you, your base, and every Matoran, plant and rock for mio around into dust.”

Bohrok X regarded him coldly, its single blue eye unmoving.

“But nobody told you that. You’re just following orders. Going along with a plan of greater design? Trying to gain a strategic foothold in the most important part of the universe but completely oblivious to exactly what you’re dealing with? You’re no Bohrok.”

An interesting theory,” snarled the Bohrok Leader. “But a theory nevertheless. The Universe Core will be breached in a matter of hours.

“But now I’m here, you’ve been given another option.” The Le-Matoran’s mind was running a kio a minute trying to make sense of all the snippets of information he’d filed away in his head. “If you could, you’d unleash the Bohrok hidden underneath Metru-Nui, wipe out the island, and do with the Core Processor what you want. That was the Brotherhood’s plan all along: to get to the Core Processor. That’s why the Order of Mata Nui made such an effort to guard it above the Southern Continent. But you’re not a Bahrag, so you can’t. So, logically, the next best option is to capture someone who can. A member of the Matoran Military Command, like me. You think I know the codes? Of course not. But you’re counting on my ability to get them for you. A secondary plan, and one that you didn’t even form yourself. I just stumbled into your Bohrok Hive like an extra present on Naming Day.”

If the Makuta are to achieve total universal domination and take our rightful place as the supreme beings then the Core Processor must be won. That the Matoran have failed to achieve the same goal is a sign of their inferiority.

“Or a sign that we don’t want to rule the universe.”

Then they will capitulate to the power of the Makuta,” announced Bohrok X.

“And you know so much about Makuta, because?”

The blue and black Swarm Commander stiffened then froze. There was a hideous metallic grinding noise, but then, with a loud hiss of escaping gas, hydraulic motors opened up the casing in its chest. A huge segment of the robot’s chest armor split away, shifting on concealed hinges and slides.

A glowing, silver Krana Xa was now visible. Something pale and wet pulsed like a slug amongst the machinery, recoiling from the little light that penetrated the window. It was like a sea urchin emerging from its shell, and it was accompanied by a foul stench, the smell of pure wrongness, of something rotten sealed away for too long.

The first thought that struck Torlo was that this Krana was very much alive. He was aware that all Krana were, but this one seemed to be pulsing. It was breathing, and its eyes had life.

Upon closer inspection, the Le-Matoran realized that the Krana had an aura of darkness around it.

“You’re a Makuta… possessing a Krana?” The Zatth-wearer sighed deeply. It was a hearty heave that shook him right down to the very core of his moral fiber. “Getting Matoran to do your dirty work again, eh? Always the same with you lot. Of course, I blame the Antidermis.”

Explain,” snapped the Krana in an extraordinarily deep voice.

“I mean, does breaking into the Universe Core really compensate for not having any hands?”

The Krana stared at him complacently while Torlo shuddered and returned his attention to the window. He heard the mechanical whine as the casing closed up once again and the creature that truly was Bohrok X was shielded from the world once again.

And Torlo felt a new sensation of fear running through his circuits.




Iolan winced, straightened up, took a deep breath. He caught Ryla’s eyes and she nodded at Sarnii and the Ce-Matoran. They were clearly exhausted, but their Krana provided them with extra strength and the determination to drive themselves past the point of physical torment.

But even the Krana had their limits. The pain that Iolan was feeling made it physically impossible to work, and the Krana Su on his face recognized this. It had to allow him the freedom to express pain, which made him wonder what Ryla’s excuse was.

“There’s nothing more that I can do,” croaked the Ta-Matoran, knowing that he was only seconds away from collapse.

The Ga-Matoran glanced at him then nodded, knowing that he truly meant his words. “We can’t go on much longer. None of us can. They’re going to kill us sooner or later and that will be it.”

The two Matoran came to a standstill, causing their two followers to stop in their tracks, confused and distressed that their work was being impeded.

“We couldn’t have done this without you and Sarnii,” muttered Ryla softly.

Iolan gritted his teeth. “No, you helped me. I could hardly stand and you kept me going.”

“It’s not over yet,” Ryla smiled sadly.

“It is now,” grunted the Ta-Matoran. He was looking past them, to where the cloud of sulphur had dispersed to reveal the Kohrak Kal.

“Work Unit Delta!” grated the Bohrok Kal. The hard, metallic words were full of cold menace and arrogance. “Step forward!




“So this is the guided tour, is it?” asked Torlo airily. Bohrok X had taken him down into the rocky bowels of the Southern Continent. Two of the Swarm Commander’s faithful Bohrok Kal had joined them. They hung back slightly, shields trained on the Le-Matoran at all times.

Bohrok X glided along a metal walkway installed the length of the cavern. Clouds of evil-smelling steam drifted by. The Zatth-wearer strolled along, gazing all around him like a tourist on a holiday excursion to Ga-Metru.

“It’s a bit stuffy down here,” he continued. “You need to get your air conditioning fixed.”

Despite his causal demeanor, Torlo was very worried. For a Makuta, Bohrok X was one cool customer. He was impossible to taunt. And he seemed to be two steps ahead all of the time, out-guessing him at every turn. The Le-Matoran was waiting for the chance to somehow turn the tables, but it was never coming – or showing any sign of coming.

“I suppose we’re pretty close to reaching the Universe Core here,” he asked chattily. He tried a few light bounces, his armored feet scraping clanging loudly on the metal walkway. “I can feel the fluctuations in the magnetic field. Nobody’s supposed to dig down this deep. It must be playing havoc with your circuits.”

I am immune to the effects,” replied the leader of the Bohrok coldly.

“As soon as you breach the Universe Core you’ll let out the Energy Storm,” sighed the Matoran of Air dramatically. “I guess we’ll see how well you fare when that circumstance befalls you.”

They came to another part of the cavern and turned a corner. Torlo stopped in his tracks. After a moment he let out a low, appreciative whistle. In front of them was an enormous machine, five stories high and just as wide, filling the length of a massive tunnel. It curved away into the distance on either side.

“Ooh,” murmured Torlo, gazing at the towering apparatus. Bohrok Va scuttled around the machinery, adjusting and monitoring the complex systems. “That looks serious.”

This is the Nuclear Storm Collider,” explained Bohrok X. “Once the Universe Core is breached we will bombard all energized particles against the hostile conditions of the landscape at supralight speeds. The resulting energy shower will be used to nullify the Energy Storms. We will then be able to achieve magnetic separation and deactivate the Matoran Universe’s power supply.

“Stopping the Energy Storms?” frowned Torlo. “The Core Processor would deactivate. Mata Nui would sleep and you’d be able to step foot in your precious World that feeds the world. Well… that’s one way of getting what you want.”

It will work.

“Ah, well, yes – I suppose it might.” Torlo craned his neck, pretending that he had any idea what he was talking about. His job title had never pertained any information to the inner workings of the Universe Core’s role. He looked up at the highest parts with a critical eye. “It’s possible, I’ll give you that. But it’s also insanely dangerous.”

Nothing important can be achieved without risk.

The Zatth-wearer frowned. “Was that a bit of Makuta philosophy I just heard?”

You concede that the plan is viable.

Torlo couldn’t tell if it was a statement or a query. But it was true, nonetheless. He nodded thoughtfully. If this strange machine could switch off the Energy Storms from above the Universe Core then there was no reason why Bohrok X’s plan couldn’t work.

A simultaneous attack on Metru-Nui will also be implemented into the plan.

A grim look stole across the Matoran of Air’s Kanohi and his eyes became deep, dark pools. “No,” he said bluntly. “Absolutely no.”

You are not in a position to refuse the Bohrok.

That was definitely a statement. And it was also a fact. But Torlo shook his head regardless. “You want me to give you a means of awakening the Bohrok beneath Metru-Nui? Never. It’s not even negotiable.”

You will provide the Swarm Activation codes, Major.

“No.”

Bohrok X moved closer. Its voice continued to grate out calm, unhurried statement as if they were facts. “You require persuasion.

“I do not.”

Coercion.

“Not possible.”

Let us investigate.” Bohrok X turned to one of the Pahrak as it scuttled past. The Bohrok almost seemed to cringe as the blue and black machine addressed it peremptorily. “Alert the Nuhvok Kal.




Torlo was taken back to the detention levels and then into a high-speed lift to the prison control room. He walked out into the busy chamber with Bohrok X in tow, as if they were old buddies. The feeling made the Matoran’ flesh crawl.

The Nuhvok Kal turned hurriedly to face the Swarm Commander. “Your orders have been carried out.

Torlo had an uneasy feeling. Bohrok X glided silently forward then turned.

Summon the prisoners.

A door opened and four Matoran shuffled into the control room.

“Sarnii! Iolan!” the Zatth-wearer exclaimed in delight. His face fell. They looked awful. “Are they alright?”

Iolan was limping badly, and he seemed smaller than before, his shoulders hunched and his eyes haggard. His Kanohi Calix had been swapped for a dusty red Ruru.

Sarnii also seemed bowed, and her green eyes looked cloudy from behind her miscolored noble Mahiki.

Behind them, in chains, were a Ga-Matoran and a Ce-Matoran whom Torlo had never met before. They looked equally weak, though the Ga-Matoran had a shifty quality to her. Her sapphire Iden was marked and pitted, as was the Ce-Matoran’s awkward and dull Mask of Incomprehension.

“Hi there,” muttered Iolan. His smile looked fake, though Torlo sensed that he was genuinely pleased to see him.

Sarnii, however, was looking around the brightly-lit control room. When she saw the Le-Matoran standing with the Bohrok her expression turned sour. “What’s going on?” she snapped. “You colluding with this scum now?”

“No,” shrugged the Zatth-wearer. Then he cleared his throat and said, more firmly, “No, I’m not.”

Major Torlo is refusing to cooperate with the Bohrok,” stating Bohrok X. “That position is about to be reversed.

“Nope,” grunted Torlo.

Incorrect!

The Swarm Commander’s headpiece rotated to address the Nuhvok Kal. “Bring forward the prisoners who accompanied Major Torlo.

The two Tahnok Va guards unfastened the chains that connected Iolan and Sarnii to the other two female Matoran. They were marched into the center of the room. Sarnii looked uncertainly at the Matoran of Air, as if wondering whether to be wary of him or the Tahnok Va.

Bohrok X moved forward, fixing Torlo with his steady glare. “If you do not comply with Bohrok instructions then innocent lives will be lost. It is your decision.

“I won’t be bullied into helping you,” retorted the Le-Matoran. His words were steely. “There’s too much at stake.”

The Swarm Commander looked at Iolan for a long moment then announced, “This prisoner is a combatant. He expects to die in the line of duty. What of the Vo-Matoran?

“Her life is of even less value to me than the traitor’s,” snarled Torlo. Sarnii stared at him, a hurt expression on her Kanohi. But then her head fell and she fixed the ground with a glare.

Bohrok X turned away, addressing Torlo only. “These prisoners will not be killed.” There was a longer, colder pause. “Bring forth the other prisoners.

“No!” Torlo’s eyebrows shot up in horror.

“No!” snapped Iolan, the same expression on his Kanohi Ruru. “Kill us instead!”

The Ga-Matoran and the Ce-Matoran were herded forward, looking panicked and disturbed. Their faces were white and rigid.

Formation three,” ordered Bohrok X coldly.

A trio of Bohrok guards lined up in front of the two females. There was no doubt that it was an execution squad. They turned their faces away from the nightmarish Bohrok. Nobody drew so much as a breath and the only sound that could be heard was the Ce-Matoran panting frantically.

All right!” yelled Torlo. His voice echoed around the control room. “All right! All right. Stop! I’ll do it.”

Bohrok X’s eyestalk swiveled to face him.

“I’ll give you the codes.”

The eye glowed, full of greed. It bathed the Le-Matoran’s face in its cold blue light.

“But there are conditions.”

Not valid.

“Wait. It’s important.”

The Le-Matoran took a deep breath, his face solemn. “I’m giving you everything here. Everything you want. One word from me and an entire island goes up in smoke. The least you can do is hear me out.”

Continue.

Torlo swallowed the lump in his throat, then he sighed. He had to tell the truth. There were Krana that could read his mind. It was no use bluffing.

“There’s an outpost, in the Mainland Swamp, about a day’s hike north from here. Six Matoran are needed to open it. A Matoran Nui. That’s the only way I can retrieve the codes for you. I need Sarnii and Iolan.”

That is only three,” grated Bohrok X.

Torlo indicated towards the other two female prisoners. They were squatting on the ground, huddling together, looking up at him with haunted, disbelieving eyes. He hardly dared give them hope, but he had to try. “These two, plus the outpost’s guard will make six.”

These prisoners are not part of your party.

“I know. But they are needed. They can help. I can show them what to do –”

Negative.” The three syllables were ground out like pieces of broken rock. “You will have four Matoran only.

“It can’t be done!” the Matoran of Air argued. “A Matoran Nui needs six Matoran, all of different elements.”


It will be done! These prisoners are not members of your crew. They are not necessary. Therefore they will be executed.

Torlo leapt forward. “No! No, wait. They must be allowed to live. Even if they can’t come, they must be allowed to live.”

The execution squad was already moving back in on the two females, taking up their positions again. The Matoran of Air ran over and placed himself between the Bohrok and the females.

“If you really want to kill them you’ll have to go through me first!”

You can be disabled.

“Try it.”

The Bohrok twitched impatiently as their shields pointed at the Le-Matoran. All eyes were on him, but he met the pitiless electronic stares unflinchingly.

“Harm them in any way and I will not cooperate. You can disable me and torture me and kill me but then I will never show you the location of the outpost.”

Bohrok X seemed to consider. “Agreed. But that is the last of your conditions. There will be no further compromise.”

“All right. You win.” Torlo’s shoulders were slumped in miserable defeat. “But I do need Iolan and Sarnii.”

The blue and black armored leader of the Bohrok advanced on Torlo, its lethal fingers quivering hungrily.

Tell me the location of the outpost.

Through gritted teeth, Torlo answered.

“About a kio north of the settlement knows as Bo-Koro.”

The Swarm Commander twitched excitedly as it processed the information.

We will proceed immediately,” declared the self-proclaimed Bahrag King.

Torlo edged closer to Sarnii and Iolan.

“A Matoran Nui?” frowned the Vo-Matoran.

“Don’t mention it,” grunted the Le-Matoran. He turned to face the two female prisoners. “I’m sorry. I did my best…”

“I know,” smiled the Ga-Matoran weakly. “Thank you. I owe you my life, Major Torlo.”

The Matoran of Air nodded.

Proceed to the Mobile Command Unit,” instructed Bohrok X, interrupting all conversation loudly.

The Bohrok Kal and the Bohrok cordon filed out of the room individually, herding the Matoran captives with them.

Torlo, Iolan and Sarnii marched out in somber formation. Bohrok X watched them go. They it turned to follow, its head swiveling to address the Tahnok Va that were still guarding the female prisoners.

Return them to the core mines.

Instantly the Bohrok Va turned to face their captives. The dark shape of the Bohrok Commander glided smoothly through the door as the Ce-Matoran broke down and wept.

The Ga-Matoran, however, stood defiantly. She watched Torlo leave and dared to wonder what it would be like to one day walk in his footsteps.




Torlo’s feet clanking against the cold, cheap metal as he strode onwards. The journey to Bohrok X’s Mobile Command Unit seemed like it was going to be a long one, particularly with the unexpected route that they were taking. The walkway was narrow and the gridded platform was thin. The walls of the Bohrok Hive were too far away to see, but the railings on the walkway seemed to become more and more confining, yet Bohrok X’s large, sleek form still managed to advance with irritating ease. This particular boardwalk must have been designed for Bohrok Va. Access tunnels for small machines to reach the surface.

Iolan was still limping badly, and one of the Bohrok watched his painful progress with full attention. It was the brown Bohrok Kal. The only one who had accompanied the cordon. Bohrok X seemed to always have at least one of his Elite foot soldiers in attendance.

“What’re you looking at?” snapped the disgraced Ta-Matoran. He had stopped for a rest, flexing his swollen knees and grimacing. Nearby a number of heavy chains rattled and clanked as the others filed slowly past. The chains were attached to ancient pieces of machinery high above their heads.

Move,” ordered the Bohrok Kal.

“When I’m ready,” grunted Iolan. “My legs are still sore after you made me labor in your slave mine.” He pulled himself up using one of the chains, his small biceps bulging as he allowed the chain to take his weight. He staggered off in a huff. But now Torlo had stopped and was staring at the brown Bohrok Kal, which had remained stationary.

“Wait a second,” he muttered quietly. Such was the tone of his voice that everyone else on the walkway stopped to look back at him. Sarnii and Iolan had reached a landing where there were a number of narrow maintenance hatches. Torlo glanced down at his companions and smiled at them coldly.

“What is it, Major?” asked the Ta-Matoran. “You’re holding us all up.”

“I know this guy,” declared Torlo, pointing at the Bohrok Kal. “I recognize his Elite prints.”

The Bohrok Kal said nothing.

“You’re the one that killed my pal Connla,” stated Torlo. His tone was serious, quiet. “You shot her down in cold blood just to make a point.”

Still the Bohrok Kal said nothing.

“Connla was one of my best friends.”

“Hey Torlo…” croaked Sarnii. She sounded worried. There was a grim light in the Le-Matoran’s eyes that only she could see.

Torlo held up a hand for the Vo-Matoran to be quiet. His attention was still fully focused on the Pahrak Kal.

“I made a promise,” he muttered. “I said I’d get you for that. And I meant it.”

Proceed,” the Pahrak Kal ordered, gesturing with a sharp twitch of its head for Torlo to continue walking down the metal stairs.

The Zatth-wearer had been standing where Iolan had stopped. Now, with explosive force, he suddenly moved. He wrenched one of the chains off the wall, and advanced. Instinctively, the Pahrak Kal’s head snapped forward, intent on shattering his Kanohi. But the Le-Matoran was too agile and, while the Bohrok’s inner mechanisms were exposed, he looped the chain around the Pahrak Kal’s neck, locking the head in its protruding position, jamming the circuitry that was exposed from the armored housing. The Bohrok Kal exclaimed in a wordless exclamation that sounded like a Lava Hawk squawking.

“Torlo!” yelled Iolan desperately.

Halt.” Bohrok X was already starting to turn, hovering in mid-air, floating next to the steps in the confined space. But there wasn’t much room to manoeuver.

Torlo, his metallic teeth bared in a savage grin, kicked out at the machinery attached to the chains. It flipped over the railing and plunged heavily down into the darkness. The chain snapped taut and the Bohrok Kal was suddenly pulled downwards after it, tipping over, its two electronic lights strobing against the walls. With a terrible clatter, the machinery, the Bohrok Kal, and the chains tumbled down the metal grating, banging and crashing their way into the shadows.

“There’s only one way to stop you from getting those codes,” chuckled the Matoran of Air as Bohrok X descended back into the walkway, his single blue eye glazing with cold fury. “With a stone heart I’ll sink you all,” he challenged, meeting the Swarm Commander’s glare. “And now, finally, I think I see some good in the name Torlo.”

With those final, threatening words, the Matoran threw himself backwards, away from Bohrok X’s swipe. He sailed on backwards, connecting with the railing and toppling over the side, arms stretched out and a wicked grin on his face. Then he too plummeted into the darkness.

Sarnii watched in sheer horror as Iolan’s features darkened and he get rip a primal bellow. The Ta-Matoran charged forwards, his Ruru twisted into a hateful snarl.

But the Matoran of Fire’s journey came to an abrupt end. Bohrok X rotated to face him with incredible speed and locked one of his metallic hands around the Ta-Matoran’s head. A powerful surge of energy rocked the helpless victim of Karzahni, lighting him up for all to see, insides glowing, head back. He clenched his teeth and refused to scream, his eyes staying wide open in their sockets.

Then, in his final act of life, Iolan did something heroic. He reached out, grabbed Bohrok X’s chassis in both arms and squeezed, like he was giving the metal monstrosity a hug. The paralyzing neutronic flare engulfed the Swarm Commander as well as the Ta-Matoran. A startling metallic roar came from within.

The flow of electricity ceased abruptly. Bohrok X’s circuits crossed and shut down. He toppled backwards, down the walkway with a heavy clang as his elevation unit failed and it toppled down the stairs, knocking the other Bohrok guards down like skittles. One Lehvak using a Krana Vu managed to elevate into the air to avoid the pile-up of Bohrok but the rest were knocked over like dominoes. Bohrok X bounced and banged down the stairs until a total of five Bohrok brought him to a stop, Iolan’s dead body still clamped into one of his hands.

Wasting no time, Sarnii shot off across the landing towards the maintenance ducts. She kicked open the hatch and pushed her way through it. Bohrok X was re-activating already and the Bohrok would be hot on her tail in a matter of seconds.

The Matoran of Lightning tumbled into a narrow passage. It was pitch black and full of dust, which she wanted to scream about. But now was not the time. She could only grimace as she ran through a curtain of sticky cobwebs, dislodging small spider-like Rahi as big as her hands.

Her shoulders banged and jarred along the rough walls, her legs scraping against pipes and electrical ducting. Eventually, she fell down a step into a small rectangular bay.

Service hatches. Designed for Bohrok Va. Luckily Bohrok X hadn’t thought to bring any of the smaller robots to chase her through the mess.

As she crawled onwards, Sarnii asked herself why Torlo had jumped. Why Iolan had sacrificed himself. All in the space of a few seconds. It seemed bizarre for a long time until she realized: Torlo must have seen where they were. The walkway was about to reach the platform with the hatches. He must have seen how close she and Iolan had been. Of course, the Ta-Matoran had experienced a rare impulse of nobility and chosen to heroically avenge his comrade. In spite of his betrayal, it appeared that their friendship really did have no bounds.

Sarnii scuttled on, like a Fikou spider weaving its way through a new set of webs.




Bohrok X reactivated almost instantly. It did not spare a glanced at the Matoran filth that was still in his grip. Instead he just tossed the useless corpse over the railing.

The loss of the Pahrak Kal was a grave disadvantage, but it was of little consequence. The death of Torlo presented a new dilemma. One that he had not anticipated. He felt no sorrow for his fallen Bohrok Kal. No Makuta was capable of lamenting a loss of wasting time ruing an error, the Swarm Commander even less so.

But he was, however, furious. And anger was something that every Makuta knew.

The Vo-Matoran has escaped!” he exclaimed. “Station Bohrok on the opposite side of the Access Tunnel.

It was at that moment that his mind seemed to buzz. The Kohrok Kal was sending him a report telepathically.

“Leader,” it began. “There had been a breach of security on level three point five. The Toa of Sonics has escaped.”

Find him!” demanded the leader of the Bohrok. “Summon all the remaining Bohrok Kal.

Two Bohrok approached the maintenance hatches. One of them was a Nuhvok, and it immediately began digging its way through the metal, carving out a large section of the wall around the nearest hatch. The other was a Lehvak equipped with a Krana Ja. It extended its head down into the opening of the hatch, scanning the dark recess beyond.

Neither of the workers were capable of speech so Bohrok X invaded the Lehvak’s mind. It was tracing the Vo-Matoran in the Station Superstructure. She was following the maintenance conduits.

Assemble all search units!” ordered Bohrok X. “Unite the Bohrok Kal! Seek! Locate! Obliterate!

Chapter 16[]

Written by Abc8920.

The tunnels of the Bohrok Hive were slowly changing before Santis' eyes. The further they went, the more machinery they found, and the more complex it got. First, there were only wires that crisscrossed the rock. Then lightstones appeared, to the Toa of Fire’s relief - who was beginning to get tired of using his sword as a torch - and finally a strange, cylindrical device that extended for meters and meters until if finally dissolved into the vanishing point.

The tube was encrusted in the black volcanic rock, and had a series of fans inside. Probably just a way to keep the sulphur concentration low. Not that the creators of the place had cared for lung damage – after all this was a hive of robots. But the gas could sublimate and obtrude machinery, thus becoming problematic.

The temperature was also getting higher – they must have been descending closer to the magma chamber of Mount Valmai. Santis noticed that Sonitous had also observed the gradual changes. The Toa may not have spoken a word but he had been staring at the wires for minutes.

The Toa of Sound was a quiet guy. He didn't speak much, but when he did he actually said something important, asking about the current situation of the war, about the Brotherhood or the Bohrok.

“Sonitous...” began Santis, looking at the maskless Toa in the eyes as they walked on. If there was one thing he admired about the Toa it was his determination to carry on. After the Krana had been taken off his face, he’d decided to join them, even if that meant having to stroll through tunnels in the weak state that every Toa is rendered into when left without a Kanohi.

“Yes,” answered the Toa of Sonics.

“You should find something to cover that face. You’ll scare away any find Bohrok-Va-ettes we come across.”

Sonitous ignored the humor, continuing in his former state of deep silence.

“Come on, why don’t you talk?”

“Talking is a useless waste of the little energy I can spend without a Kanohi. Besides, if I've got nothing intelligent to say, I prefer to be quiet. Now if you’ve got nothing to add...”

“Actually, I do.” retorted Santis, the ever-present smile in his face disappearing and his tone turning dead-serious. “When I arrived in this place, just a few days ago, I remembered nothing about my past. There was just one thing in my mind – my ultimate goal: to kill a De-Matoran.”

Sontious gave an alarmed look at the Toa of Fire.

“I know nothing about that Matoran aside from his name,” continued Santis “Tollubo.”

“Well, no great loss there,” replied the Kanohi-less Toa, relief in his exposed face. “And you say you know nothing about him? I’ll be damned; Tollubo is one of the Brotherhood's most prominent servants and a wanted fugitive on at least three different islands.”

Santis felt relieved too – he wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of having spent his past killing innocent Matoran for a living.

“That means that at least I’m not some psycho Brotherhood assassin or something like that, hopefully.”

“Don’t be so sure,” started Sonitous as he resumed his hobby of staring at the wire above his head, signaling that the conversation was about to end. “Tollubo is trouble. The wrong kind of trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Makuta were trying to get him out of the picture. In fact, I bet an arm and a leg that right now he’s either up to his Kanohi in hot water, or dead. Besides, he’s not even a De-Matoran. He was one of the first Shadow Matoran in history. He was light-drained long ago, and I have no clue about his affiliation before that.”

Santis fell silent then, submerged in his thoughts. He was starting to fear his own past. Years and years of his existence, wiped out, a Tahtorak-sized blackout reaching the corners of his mind. Maybe gone for good, after all?

He tried to wrestle against the maelstrom that raged inside is brain. Trains of thought sped, shot, clashed, dazing him. Trying to relax, he clung to his only certainties – facts.

The first thing he was sure about is that he wasn’t from this dimension. He remembered the day of his arrival, in the marshes. He’d apparently been dropped – quite literally- into the swamps, six feet above the stinking quicksand. While he’d no memories about the travels, the reality of having done them had been one of the first things that he’d been able to scavenge from his partially fried mind.

The second fact that he had, at some point, encountered a Toa Kaita, the union of three souls, three bodies and three masks into one mind, one body and – most importantly - one Kanohi. Three-in-one Kanohi didn't occur naturally, and they didn't just wind up on the faces of random, dimension-hopping Toa of Fire. He knew how Kaita worked. If the fusion disappeared, the Kanohi would also split into three. So he must have put the Toa in stasis, to be able to steal the Danju for himself. Not a particularly nice thing to do, and it certainly didn’t help to water down the fear about his old criminal self.

The third and final certainty was that his past was tied to Tollubo, a very strong bond, perhaps the strongest of all – that of life and death. This one he wasn’t sure he could cling on, though. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that wanting to kill a Matoran – for whichever reason – was everything but the act of a noble Toa.

The Toa of Fire tried to not think too hard about the matter. After all, he had probably worried about this less than Goll had enjoyed female company in the past few centuries, and this was already overestimating the whole picture.

In the end, he found a fourth, inalienable fact: he was Santis, and he wouldn’t kneel before anything, not even Mata Nui himself.




Tick, tack. Tick, tack

The sound of the evil hands of a mechanical clock marked the sluggish flow of time, hammering Kinu’s brain as it ticked on and on. The poor Matoran was on the brink of insanity, an insomniac in an asphyxiating Southern Continent night.

“I have to find a rational solution out of this,” muttered the Ko-Matoran to himself like a mantra. “I’m a scientist, after all.”

So that was what he did. Jumping out of the bed in a single, spastic movement, he clutched the malevolent device and threw it out of his window, feeling great pleasure upon hearing a loud crashing sound on the jungle floor.

But the Ko-Matoran was now too awake to go back to the sweat-soaked bed. It would be worthless. Sleeping in tropical heat was rocket science to him.

He sat down in his chair, trying to figure out the reason he was in this forsaken place at all. Then he remembered – a scientific expedition organized by the Matoran High Council of Metru Nui, to learn more about the nature of Protodermis. The practical application: medicine. If nothing else, the Metru Nui military knew that medicines could be just as useful as weapons on a battlefield.

Still, that didn’t answer his original question. The pay was negligible. Back in the good old days, the pay he was now receiving on a monthly basis would have barely been enough to get fixed in Le-Metru. No, there was a deeper reason that had pushed him to his current situation. He'd had to run from the rotting carcass of Metru Nui.

In a few decades, historians would say that the Matoran had won the war. They obviously knew nothing of war, or its consequences. The strict wartime laws weren’t abolished when combat ended. The economy, crippled by the war effort, failed to progress, instead cycling between alternating periods of anemic growth and recession.

There was also the tension caused by the mass immigration. It was the Matoran High Council’s favorite smokescreen. They always blamed insecurity on badly integrated newcomers. And while they weren’t completely wrong, it was a lie that immigrants weren’t integrated – the lingua franca spoken these days in Metru Nui were widgets, and every single citizen was a fluent speaker.

Some said that the Turaga Tuyet Dam had been the largest in Metru Nui, but in reality the biggest dam was the Coliseum, where the river of money stalled for the rulers to feed off. The once-noble ruling class had been taken over by the politics of with-me-or-against-me, of corruption, of smoke grenades and zero relativism. Only Turaga Matoro remained with his hands clean.

But Kinu didn’t care about that. He had run away due to the lack of opportunities. Scientists weren’t valued as they once were. During the six previous months before the expedition, he had sent a couple hundred CV’s, never getting any response. For many years he'd had to get by doing under-qualified jobs at minimum wage. So when he saw the opportunity, even if it meant living in the Southern Continent, he hadn’t had a single doubt.

Kinu decided he had to relax. All that remembering was starting to stress him out again. He got up from his chair and shuffled around the room, looking for a certain piece of equipment. On the way, he observed that the moisture indicators indicated a figure way too close to 100% humidity.

He finally found it, a black metal case with a fragile sing stamped in the side. He opened it and took a telescope out. It was ironic that for an expedition with the role of studying at molecular and atomic level, they had been issued a telescope and a spectrometer instead of the two spectrometers that he and the other member of the expedition, Ryla, needed.

Good riddance that the Ga-Matoran had decided that helping out the local “fixed” Matoran was more important than carrying out their task, since that meant that the only spectrometer was Kinu’s to use.

The Ko-Matoran put the telescope next to the window. Doing this remembered him of his home, Ko-Metru, and relaxed him. Also, it had been prognosticated that that night there would be shooting stars, so it added a plus of interest to the activity.

He looked at a red card next to the telescope, lying on the floor, and cursed. It was the digital card where his digital money was uploaded every month. When that happened, he had to engage in a two day trip to a half-ruined town far away, where the only Matoran who changed digital cash for widgets in the whole continent lived. That Matoran had some connections with the Brotherhood, and charged a percentage for the operation, but they had no choice.

Kinu wondered for a moment about Ryla. He hadn’t seen her in a long while. After parting ways they had only met once in a month to exchange their cash for widgets. But this month Kinu hadn’t seen her.

Thinking it through, he just shrugged. It didn’t matter. After all, money was almost useless. Most of the Matoran villages around didn’t use widgets and most items could be bartered for. There was only one Matoran he knew that accepted widgets – a vain Matoran called Kyros – and his prices were extremely expensive. Again, Kinu had no other choice.

The Ko-Matoran went back to his chair, looking at the digital clock hanging on the wall. This one he wouldn’t throw out of the window. There were still a few long hours before Spirit Stars started appearing in the night sky, so he decided to just sit there and try to get some rest.

No doubt there would be quite a show in the sky tonight.




Caliga walked along in line with her two Toa companions, the lower part of her body complying with the rhythmic, repetitive and automatic action of walking. Her mind wasn’t there, instead on an ethereal vacation back to the flooded cave.

Her upper body, meanwhile, was concentrating on changing the intensity of the current in the wires on the ceiling. She played with the lightstones, surging power into them until they were on the brink of bursting into splinters of golden red hot crystals. Then she transferred the current to the next lightstone, and so on.

For an instant she thought that the link between these three sub-entities would be broken forever, and then her will finally fused them back into a single, more or less cohered Toa.

She’d got used to such experiences during her couple thousand years as guardian of the Ignika. The expanse of time taken away from her life was too much for her mind to comprehend, or even remember it completely.

And while everything else was foggy, she was still able to retell the story of her life, before being mutated, back on the Northern Continent, down to obsessive detail. She could speak about her friendship with Ninian: their adventures as guards of the village, their discussions about Caliga’s rather crude but effective methods of interrogation.

If she was handed a Harakeke papyrus and some ink, she would be able to draw the faces of each Matoran of her village. Unfortunately, she could also draw blindfolded the fatal head wounds in most of them after the Dark Hunters’ raid.

There had been a Toa team in the region. She recalled that the team’s leader was a Toa like Santis – brave, arrogant, reckless and narcissistic. There was something noble in him too – as if he thought himself the ruler of the land.

When asked about the absence of his team days after the attack, the leader had innocently reported that his fellow Toa were hunting down a dangerous pest of Hoto further east, code for - as Ninian had told her later on – debauchery in Stelt’s taverns.

That was the final nail on the coffin. Her village ravaged, all hope in the Toa lost, she vowed to avenge her villagers and hunt the Dark Hunters. She embarked on a journey. Initially, she'd wanted to go with her friend Ninian, but her friend had refused in the end, seeing her violent intentions.

After a year of searching amongst the northern islands for ways to fulfill her quest, she finally came across two pieces of important news while on Xia. Firstly, the leader of the Toa team of her village had been brutally assassinated by "Lurker".

Secondly, a rumor had come to her ears that an artifact of great power, the Kanohi Ignika, Mask of Life, was on the Southern Continent.

Seeing it as a chance to attain ultimate power, she immediately embarked on a quest to find it. She finally did, after peacefully questioning a Turaga of Earth. She had gone through most of the 777 stairs, only to be defeated by one of the mask's guardians, Umbra.

Caliga had then been placed as another guardian, deemed by the Ignika itself worthy of defending the universes' deadliest failsafe. She had been transformed into a Toa, confined in a flooded subterranean cavern beneath Mount Valamai, and given new weapons. Additionally, she even could transmute into her own element, becoming a lightning volt herself.

The now-Toa of Lightning had the tools that she’d been looking for. She could finally have justice. But the Mask of Life had other ideas. If the Kanohi had humor, she bet it would have laughed loudly during her first escape attempt, when she’d found out that she no longer could breathe air.

From that very moment she guessed what her future would be like – millennium of seclusion underwater.

She had been right.

Caliga had also been certain from the start that her free spirit would break in captivity. Her sanity would drain faster than a pond of water in the Coastal Desert. For that reason she started building walls around her, not of physical nature but of psychic one.

She had built an island, in the middle of an endless ocean, and formed a solid bedrock, one that would withstand the strike of a thousand Cordak missiles. And in the center of the island she’d placed in a concrete vault her most prized possession – the memories of her past, about Ninian, the village and her former life. Just as she’d predicted the storm of madness soon started raging, but even the tidal waves of insanity could not break the fortress she’d built. And, for thousands of years, .

For the thousands of years, she'd clung on to hope with that single, strained mentality. She had little recollection about what happened. She knew for sure that for most of the time she was in her lightning form; a surge of electricity spread throughout the whole lake, her conscience barely enough to piece it all together.

Years flied past like minutes in that state, one that she only abandoned from time to time to hunt food. It wasn’t like she needed to eat – as long as the Ignika needed her, she wouldn’t die. But she did so anyway, developing further the predator that had always been lurking within.

Nevertheless her routine was broken by Santis and the defunct Ga-Matoran. She was forced out of her home, which had come to be a part of her. Ironically only now that she could finally live in dry environments, her island was finally truly sinking.

The reason was none other than realizing that she could have escaped a long, long time ago. Santis had told her about the other Toa, about how they had taken the Mask of Life, and Sonitous had elaborated further, filling her in on the war against the Brotherhood, on the world that she had missed in her absense. She had fought so many years for nothing. There was no Kanohi for her to protect, no impediment for her to escape.

Yet, she hadn’t done so, ignorant of any change outside her vault.

The cliffs of her island crumbled, the waves of change striking with an unforeseen strength. Part of her tried to stop the process, but then she realized that maybe it was time to abandon isolation. If she was to return to the civilization, to Metru Nui, she would have to open up her world.

Suddenly hope reignited inside her heart as the last peak of the island sunk beneath a calm ocean. What if she could find Ninian in Metru Nui? She didn’t know what had become of her friend since her departure from the Northern Continent. Yes, she would follow Santis, whose destiny lay in Metru Nui too, and start over.

Although she’d been wandering in thoughts for quite a while, she had continued playing her lightstone game. She now tried to almost overload two lightsontes. Success.

What if she tried a whole row of them? Caliga carefully sent power to the first two, then to the third...

An explosion ensued, a cascade of sparks, shattered crystal and metallic Protodermis falling on Santis.




The Toa of Fire lay on the floor, immobile. As senses slowly returned to him, he quickly made two discoveries without even opening his eyes, which were both good and bad.

First of all, he was no longer on the cold, hard cave rock that his feet had been stomping on for what felt like forever and a day. He was some place else entirely. The bad ones were that he was back to the marshes.

A century could pass by and he would still immediately identify the foul stench of that same swamp. That moldy, sour and rancid odor just could not be erased once it delivered its hard kick on your nose, which it did every single time.

At least he wasn’t disappointed like in his first time there. When he opened his eyes he was prepared to see the almost endless swamp, the greenish blue water, the overcast sky above, a forest of charred trees on the horizon. Islands of erratic geometry dotted it all, the dark mud full of organic matter discomposing into humus. On every single of them proud reeds rose, populating every square centimeter of land, like a city on a speculative rush.

Santis didn’t have time to ponder if all this imagery was worth the smell when he heard some commotion behind him.

The water rippled, first slowly, then frantically, as bubbles burst and columns of water burst out, reaching for the sky. The small mud islet around him was torn apart as a hulking mass of wood appeared.

Once it had fully surfaced, Santis recognized it as a wooden gear, like the ones in the rudimentary machinery used in the Southern Continent, only that this one was nearly as huge as Mount Valmai itself.

Then, without further warning, it began spinning, crushing the puny islets in its path. On a direct collision course with him.

The Toa of Fire turned and ran, pushing himself with all his might, jumping from islet to islet, falling, getting soaked in mud and rising again. He clawed at the wet soil in every step, and the dirt fought back by turning the once immaculately red-armored Toa into a soot-covered fool. When life and death were the cards being played, words like grace and elegance could be substituted for pure vanity.

He kept running and running, but the massive gear was getting closer and closer. Just when he thought that his legs were going to desert him, he heard a voice that almost made him trip over and fall face first into the murky water.

“So we meet again, non-believer.”

Santis turned his head and saw the too familiar figure of Krennato, running next to him, running through water and on earth alike with ease, no sign of exhaustion on her old face.

“Could you give me a hand, Matoran? I’m in serious trouble, as you probably can see. No grudges, right?”

“Help you? Again? And from what should I save the false Toa now?”

The Toa tried not to think to long on the prospect of his bones being grinded to the point where he became indistinguishable from wheat. The gelatinous mess of what once were his inner organs would leave a nasty trail in which small Ussal crabs will rejoice.

"You can call it death," he snapped.

The Ga-Matoran laughed as she continued running. Santis stared incredulously as the old villager continued to hump along without any sign of wanting to stop, whereas all the muscles in his body were aching.

“There is no such thing as death, Santis.”

“Then what?” replied the Toa, almost out of breath.

“Birth and death are void words, empty shells filled with meaning by Matoran such as my past self. No substance, for life is a circle, and a circle has neither beginning nor end. The life of a being isn’t linear. Death is not the end but rather the relative point in which the circuit is restarted. What is the point at placing an absolute point where none exists? And... Santis?”

“Yes?” The Danju wearer answered, almost out of energy, while looking at Krennato.

“Let yourself be crushed by the wheel.”

Santis looked back, at the wooden gear that was fast approaching, then to his left, only to see that Krennato had vanished.

A circle has neither beginning nor end, thought Santis, and then stopped running, staring at the gear, at life, as it rushed to crush him.




Just as the Toa of Fire was running for his life, Sarnii was too. She was putting every ounce of her strength in her particular pursuit of sorrow. Her feet kicked the ground, raised her, and at moments, she hoped she could fly and get away from the reality she’d just witnessed.

Still, it was worthless, as in the end her other foot crashed in the ground, and although she stubbornly went on, even if she could fly she would just find the stone ceiling above her. It was impossible to escape.

Isn’t that what life is all about?, thought Sarnii. Running and running to stay in the same place, as obstacles become harder and harder to avoid and every time you have to lower your head more, until life finally decides to put you out of your misery and snap your neck.

Lightstones flew past her, almost a continuous neon yellow line, until she tripped over something – in her eyes, in the middle of the race against herself, only an indistinguishable blur - and fell, sliding face-down until friction decided to stop her.

All her armor was scratched, and beneath she could feel superficial wounds. Sarnii tried to get up, to no avail. She was better off dead.

No! She had to get over this. The Vo-Matoran knew what she had to, somehow, survive. She tried to convinced herself: Torlo was an alien word to her. Cold, with no meaning. It seemed to take forever, but she finally rose, and wondered exactly which part of her she was leaving behind.

With her head significantly further up from the ground, it all suddenly made much more sense. She tried to convince herself that her Le-Matoran lover had meant nothing, that her feelings for him had been just an illusion, as love so often was. It had been just like her previous relationship, the one with the Ko-Matoran whose name she couldn’t even remember and whose face Sarnii could only barely recall.

Then she looked at her heartlight – cracked at on both a metaphorical and a physical level. Torlo hadn’t been a saint. He had dared to hit her, to use violence against her. He certainly wasn't perfect, but she realized that they'd had good moments too.

Slowly, the fact that Torlo – the one that she was sure, she had loved - was dead, began to sink in. And consequently, she was dying too. It was ironic that only now she was starting to see how much she needed the presence of the tormented Le-Matoran, whom she had hated for so long. Love and hate, perhaps, were two feelings that the Matoran of Lightning couldn’t tell apart.

The Vo-Matoran thought about this as she walked on, limping a bit, when she saw three figures in the distance. At first, she couldn’t recognize them, but when she got closer, Sarnii contemplated a sight that shocked her.

Toa Santis was knocked out cold, two other Toa towering about him, one of them maskless, discussing what to do with him. When finally the two unknown Toa noticed her presence, they looked at each other, wondering who would be the one to explain the compromising situation.

“It appears she's one of yours,” grunted the maskless Toa, turning to his accomplice. It was hard to distinguish in the darkness, but he appeared to be male and his voice carried a cold tang. His ally's silhouette was distinctly female in shape but she blended in with the shadows too well.

But then Santis groaned, looked around, and got to his feet.

“What have I missed?” asked Sarnii, confused. It was an open question.

“We're Toa,” answered Santis, still very groggy. “We grow out of badly-lit caves like ‘shrooms.”

The Vo-Matoran didn’t laugh. She wasn’t in the mood, and she hated to be the bearer of bad news, but there was no other option.

“I'm the only Matoran left,” she began, a tear forming in the corner in her eye.




It took her under a minute to explain everything that had happened. It was, of course the condensed version. She spoke of Torlo’s revelation of his involvement with the Matoran Military, Iolan’s betrayal, Connla’s death and Torlo’s sacrifice, this last part struggling to not let her voice crack. She wanted to stay strong but her will wasn’t enough to keep the tide of her emotions. Sarnii also explained Bohrok X’s plan to destroy Metru Nui, now crippled by her lover's death.

The expression on Santis face, normally pleasantly cheerful, gradually changed as the Matoran carried on telling the story, to the point in which the Toa of Fire was irradiating frustration and anger from his eyes. That was strange. Although she had expected him to start spraying curses like a Cordak Blaster sprayed rockets in suppressed fire, the Toa remained dead-silent for a minute.

“I promise you, Sarnii, that they are going to pay,” he vowed, with iron in his voice. “You have my word. Torlo will not have died for nothing.”

Then the Toa of Fire turned to his two companions.

“We are going now. I’ll accept no objections.”

“This is a very bad idea,” interjected Sonitous. “We are already in a Nui-Rama nest. Going in guns blazing now would be the equivalent of putting your naked hand inside it.”

“I say we burn their nest, then.”

“You just don’t go and burn a nest,” sighed the Toa of Sonics. “No, instead you make a plan, you think of a strategy. No, you don’t burn them; you lit a fire under the nest to asphyxiate them. We must decide our course of action first.”

“Thanks, but I prefer incineration,” spat the Toa of Fire, looking for support in Caliga.

“As much as I’d love to scrape them off of the face of the Southern Continent,” began the Toa of Lightning, “I think that Sonitous is right. There are five Bohrok Kal remaining, and we are just three Toa and a Matoran.”

Santis cursed under his breath, but finally seemed to resign to the fact that he was not right.

“What do you propose then?”

“First of all, we need to find a Kanohi for me,” began Sonitous. “We can deal with that along the way. Secondly, we have to rely on the fact that the Bohrok aren't acting normally. They're allies. The main target is then, Bohrok X.”

The Toa of Sonics then instructed Santis to burn a circle on the ground, and he proceeded to place stones of various sizes in it.

“If we run headfirst into battle we are just going to get vaporized, or worse, enslaved. The Kal are Bohrok X’s praetorian guard, so they will fight tooth and nail to protect the platform which Sarnii described.”

Sonitous picked up the bigger stone, and surrounded it with five smaller ones.

“I will be the one who enters first the cavern, reporting that my Krana has been destroyed and that I require a new Krana Kal to do my tasks. If Sarnii is right and Nuhvok Kal is the second in command, then he will be the one to come up to me, leaving one of Bohrok X’s sides unprotected.”

“This is where one of you must come in stealthily and attack Bohrok X by surprise. After that, the other two hiding in the tunnel come to aid us. If this works, we will have something of a chance.”

“I’m up for stealth,” purred Caliga. “In bolt form I will pass unnoticed.”

“This is a setup,” concluded Santis. “Let’s get moving”.




Although she hadn’t really thought about it, going back through the tunnels which Sarnii had run through some minutes ago was proving to be harder than actually explaining Torlo’s death. She barely remembered the path to the main cavern, but given that she hadn’t taken any turn during her escape, it was safe to assume that they just had to go straight.

The Matoran of Lightning did remember, however, passing through the brainwashing room, the stairs of which led to Bohrok X’s lair.

But no, the hard part wasn’t finding her way again, the hard part was going back to the place where Torlo had died. Part of her had died too when the Le-Matoran had decided to jump into the abyss, taking Pahrak Kal with him in the process. Going back there now would be like visiting the crime scene of her own death.

In the distance, she could already see the pale blue light that came from the brainwashing room. The sight was starting to reignite the fear, a flame that burnt cold and made her shake.

“Sarnii?”

The Vo-Matoran turned around, to find Sonitous by her side. She didn’t know what to expect from the Toa of Sonics; from the outside, he seemed to be aloof and distant, not the kind of guy who would talk for no apparent reason.

“Are you alright?” asked the maskless Toa.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Do you think Torlo died honorably?”

“What are you even trying? Do you want me to feel responsible for his death too?”

“My point is, remember Torlo, remember what he did, how he died, but first and foremost – the honor that it carried. Remember him for his sacrifice and let that be the image of him in your mind, not the crooked Torlo you might have met.”

The Toa of Sonics paused, his mind briefly wandering off to a distant place and time.

“My friends, all of them, went to the Final Push,” started the Toa. “It was a successful campaign from what I have just learned, but not without its cost. I too would have liked to know how my friends died, but I will not have the same luck as you do. Keep that in mind, keep Torlo in mind.”

Sarnii watched as the Toa of Sonics accelerated his pace, out of her reach. They were already in front of the brainwashing room’s archway.




As the group advanced further to the room that would take them to Bohrok X, Santis enjoyed a moment of calm. He had calmed down since receiving the bad news from Sarnii. He had come to accept that his first and only friend in this world was dead.

The fire of rage still burned inside him, but he had learnt to control it. It wasn’t extinguished, rather just waiting for a gust of wind coming from the right direction to turn the spark into a forest fire. He knew when that would happen – during the final and inevitable confrontation with Bohrok X, in which he would give everything he had to avenge his fallen friend. But for now he decided to put away those thoughts, concentrating on the room they were about to enter.

Santis looked at the room before him with a mix of bewilderment and awe. It was poorly lit, the only light source being an ominous blue glow coming from somewhere deeper in the jungle of unidentified machinery.

Unlike the others, who were nervously looking around, taking careful steps to not trip over any treacherous wires, he felt comfortable and walked without any extra effort, like if the cave was his home and this room his garden.

What he didn’t see coming was a blunt object which hit his head, striking from the shadows. The Toa of Fire yelled in surprise and ignited his flame sword, discovering that the attacker had been a cylinder hanging way too low from the ceiling, attached with a chain.

The cylinder was cracked, the usual fate of anything that dared to hit Santis. The Toa examined it, and found that through the cracked glass leaked an oily liquid.

He thought for a moment about it and then an idea shot through his head. He searched for another of these cylinders, finding another identical to the one he’d broken, with an aperture on the top around the link with the chain.

He concentrated on this one and five more that circled around the bluish glow, creating small fireballs inside of them. The liquid ignited quickly, lighting the room and showing to the group the horrors that it had been concealing.

The Danju-wearer turned his head slowly, seeing that next to him was an Onu-Matoran – dead and chained – handcuffed to a metal board raised 45 degrees from the floor. All sorts of tubing entered through his neck and forehead, all of them flowing down like a stream towards the blue glow.

Looking around the room, he spotted six more Matoran in the same state. Examining further the corpse next to him, he saw that a dull gray noble Kanohi Huna lying on the grimy floor, a probable former possession of the now-passed Onu-Matoran.

“Sonitous?” called Santis out loud, hoping to attract the maskless Toa’s attention.

“Yeah?”

“Here’s a Kanohi for you. Enjoy it.”

The Toa of Sonics looked at the gray Kanohi in disgust, still in Santis’ hand.

“Did you frisk that from the rotting Onu-Matoran?”

“Kind of.”

“And you expect me to wear it?”

“Hey, at least you didn’t get a Kaukau. Wear it, or stay maskless until we get to the nearest Kanohi Bazaar, which is probably as close as Metru Nui.”

Sonitous reluctantly took the Kanohi and put it on, changing its pigmentation to jet black.

Santis then went to the center of the room, where the anomalous glow came from, not so strong now that it was drowned by the light from the oil lamps. The Toa came closer, finally being brought into full sight of the source, sending a chill down his spine.

In front of him lay a stasis pod, about a bio tall, filled with blue luminescent liquid and bubbles. And in the center of it, an unnatural horror; a Krana, floating around, an eyeless face giving off its substance for a cause that Santis was starting to understand.

Numerous tubes surged out form the top of the pod, going on into different directions – to the seven Matoran, and one going into a table next to the wall opposite of the entrance.

The Toa of Fire quickly made his way to the table, the rest of the group choppily grinding on through the machinery. On it was a metallic box with a side made out of Protocrystal. Confused the Toa raised his fist, ready to smash the crystal.

“Hey don’t do that!” exclaimed Sonitous. “What do you think this is? You just don’t open a data-hub like that.”

“Data-what?” asked the Toa of Fire, now even more confused.

The Toa of Sonics sighted “Press the button under the crystal screen.”

Santis did so, and the alien device powered to life, a phrase in Matoran alphabet flashing intermittently.

Please enter command.

“Put your hands on each side of the box and think of each of the letters you want to write. Believe me, you will get quicker with time,” instructed Sonitous.

Santis did was he was told, mentally spelling Enter.

Invalid command.

The Danju wearer tried again, this time thinking of Access Datalogs.

The screen flashed blue, and suddenly windows and more windows of info started flooding. Each one had a combination of numbers and letters on the top, so he guessed that he had to type those to access the specific info.

He entered K45R9, bringing up a list of powers. He started reading them, and then decided that the list of Kraata powers wasn’t what he was looking for.

He spelled SJS67 bringing up a window of much more interesting info. It described the experiments that took place in that room.

“So,” started Santis, sick of the mental spelling. “This is a brainwashing room. Apparently the Brotherhood was searching for a method more effective and cheaper than enslaving with Krana. And they found it, discovering that a Krana was enough to brainwash seven Matoran... or it would be enough, that is, if they could survive the process.”

“Congratulations,” said Sonitous sarcastically. “You’ve just proven that you are worthy of your degree in Brotherhood machinery usage. I would be worried if I were you.”

Santis, even though knowing the harmless intention of the comment, was deeply worried. He recalled that two of the powers that he’d read in the list – Plasma and Heat Vision – were powers that he possessed and which were unnatural to Toa... but not to Kraata.

Was he an experiment of the Brotherhood of Makuta? Had he once been one of their servants, one of their lab rats? Had he been tampered with to be the perfect assassin? At least, that would explain his uncanny ability with Brotherhood Data-hubs.

“That was supposed to be a joke,” added Sonitous. “Don’t overthink it. Besides, so far from what I have observed this whole cave system is a mess of recycled space. The main structure was obviously built by the Great Beings when they constructed the Bohrok nest. The main additions – such as the lightsones, or the fans I was observing earlier – were placed here by the Order of Mata Nui. I think it’s safe to assume that this old Data-hub was also theirs. Brotherhood technology is much cruder. There’s also the prison, but that’s probably just a rumor.”

“When the Brotherhood conquered the Southern Continent,” continued the Toa of Sonics, “they must have used this place as a temporary base of operations, before giving it another use, related with the Bohrok. But the question is, what?.”

“No problem,” grunted Santis, relieved. “I was just thinking of how much better you look with a mask covering you that ugly mush you call a face.” The Toa of Fire snorted at his own joke then glanced at Sarnii, who looked up at him with fearful, innocent eyes.

She knew.

“We should move on,” he muttered, darkly.




The group continued wandering through tunnels, maintenance hatches and other cavities for what seemed like forever, finding no opposition in their path. And that unnerved Caliga, conscious of the fact that they were walking on a red carpet straight to the grave.

When they reached what seemed like a dead end, the Toa of Lightning shot a questioning glance at Sarnii. She wanted an answer to the question of why they were lost now, and wanted it right now.

“I’m sorry,” spluttered the Vo-Matoran. “When I ran away from Bohrok X I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted to get away from the horror. I didn’t register my path correctly.”

Caliga then looked at the other Toa. Sontious was silent, thinking of a solution to get them out of the mess they were in. Santis was just randomly igniting his fire sword, impatiently waiting for someone to come up with an suggestion.

The Toa of Fire then took some steps back and, to Caliga’s surprise, threw himself headfirst into the rock wall of the dead end. Even more surprisingly the Toa seemed to pass through it like if he was a ghost.

“This time it worked!” shouted Santis from the other side of the rock, triumphant. “Just walk through the rock, it is an illusion.”

Caliga watched Sarnii and Sonitous advancing through the rock, and she did the same, feeling a strange sensation as she crossed what she had believed to be basalt. On the other side, there was a very short tunnel that lead to a metallic platform about as big as the Coliseum arena.

“Looks like you brought us here after all, Matoran,” muttered Caliga sourly before turning to her fellow Toa. “Is this the queue to go for my lightning bolt form?”

“Affirmative,” answered Sonitous. ”I'll enter first, asking for a replacement Krana. Then you enter and catch them off-guard. Santis, you wait here with my Kanohi until the real deal begins. Sarnii, you’ll watch our back.”

The Toa of Sonics gave his Noble Huna to Santis, and walked to the tunnel. Caliga crawled behind him, like a predatory Rahi waiting for the right opportunity to strike.

Sonitous walked up, his feet making a loud metallic clank against the metal platform of this particular cavern. It was cylindrical, with passages built into the rock, probably for miners to work in, like if was another of the Universe Core mines that Sarnii had described.

Caliga heard more metallic sounds. The Bohrok Kal were on the move. She couldn’t raise her head and risk being seen, so for the time being she just listened.

“Your escape has been reported. Obey the Bohrok!”

“The Krana was destroyed,” stated a robotic voice belonging to Sonitous. “This unit requires a replacement to resume coordination tasks.”

“Nuhvok Kal!” screeched the thundering robotic voice. “Supply the Toa unit with another Krana.”

The Toa of Lightning heard another set of metallic sounds. This time probably from Nuhvok Kal, which meant that it was her time to intervene.

She concentrated, slowly transmuting the Protodermic molecules of her body into electrical energy. Now in control over an eerie mass of crackling electricity, she felt herself starting to hover, flying into the main chamber.

That was when things started going wrong.

Neither she nor Sonitous had taken into account that the room would be poorly lit. Nor had either of them had taken into account that entering in bolt form would be like setting up a huge warning flare. And before they realized their mistake, the eyes of the five Bohrok Kal and the cyclopean eye of Bohrok X were trained on her.

Then all plans fell apart as the tempo increased tenfold. Caliga rushed at Bohrok X, ready to infiltrate into his systems and fry him from the inside, only to find that her own very energy was being frozen in place.

She had been so close, for she was hovering only a few inches away from the Bahrag King, yet she had failed horribly. The mass of sentient electricity turned, to find that the red Bohrok Kal was controlling her.

The Tahnok Kal’s deep blue eyes shone as Caliga felt her energy quickly expand all over the room, in an attempt to dissipate her. The Toa of Lightning quickly transmuted back into her normal form, crashing on the ground hard.

Upon doing so, Santis rushed into the chamber, tossing the powerless Huna to Sonitous. The Toa of Sonics caught it mid-air and pressed the mask to his face, feeling then power surge inside him.

Sonitous charged at Nuhvok Kal with his shield, trying to cleave his shell open. The black and silver Bohrok Kal simply lowered his gravity, dodging easily. But the Huna-wearer grunted and sent a high-pitched soundwave at the Krana Kal, making it scream in pain.

Santis activated his heat vision and focused his energies in the direction of the Kohrak Kal’s legs, making the Bohrok fall backwards. Caliga slowly got up, knowing that it was her chance to try again and hopefully win back some of her lost dignity. She ran, jumping over a Lehvak Kal as it tried to head-butt her. She readied her claws, knowing that she would have to tear Bohrok X’s armor open. However, as she reached the peak of her parabolic jump, she realized that she’d made a great mistake again.

Where was Gahlok Kal?

She found out the hard way as she felt a magnetic pull in her face. And as she crashed on the metallic platform, feeling strength desert her body, she realized that the sapphire Bohrok Kal had broken the magnetic link between her face and her Kanohi of Conjuring.

The Toa of Lightning tried to press the mask harder against her face, but found herself blocked by Gahlok Kal’s power. She looked around, seeing Lehvak Kal right next to her, sending an air blast that sent her sliding over the metallic surface. She closed her eyes as her world spun around and eventually crashed. When she opened them, she was on the ground, next to Sonitous and Santis, all with Kanohi but maskless, surrounded by the five elite robots.

“Resistance is futile. The Bohrok cannot be stopped. I cannot be defeated.”

“I beg to differ,” retorted Santis, this time eerily calm. “When you killed Torlo, when you killed my one and only friend, you killed my humanity too. Now I’m a beast, one that craves for metal. I will not defeat you. But be sure I’ll rip you apart.”

“That is a harmless threat, Toa. I have you surrounded by five Bohrok Kal. You are without your Kanohi and weakened after days of travelling on foot. My calculations estimate that you are not just outnumbered by three – a single Bohrok Kal is worth two of you inefficient Toa. And besides, in the improbable situation in which you managed to destroy them, there is me. And you will not get past me. I am far superior to any Toa.”

“And I understand that you want us to be afraid now?” asked Caliga. “A Krana cowardly hidden behind a metal chassis is laughable compared to the torments the Ignika puts you through.”

“Do you think I am just a Krana?" grated the robotic Swarm Commander. "Then you know nothing. The Krana is only the body, the vehicle, for my will to be carried out. I am much more than you ever could or want to comprehend – and believe me; if you did, you would run away in fear. The essence of a Makuta, fused with the organic body of a Krana, a hive mind reaching out the darkest corners of the nest and beyond, able to control tens of thousands of Bohrok. This body you see, it is only the antenna through which the signal will be sent to Metru Nui to restore the Makuta to their past glory.”

Santis struggled to break the magnetic bond keeping him down, but was unable to move.

“Don’t stick your nose so high, half-Makuta. You can’t win. Torlo already foiled your plans. You will never get the access codes to the Metru Nui nest.”

“Foil my plans? Far from that. His death was worthless, suicide, the most flagrant sign of cowardice.”

“No way!” interjected Sonitous. “He took his own live so thousands could live instead. You can’t take the codes from his cold, dead corpse.”

“The fate of the Matoran is of little consequence," snapped the Bahrag King. "The Bohrok have little requirement of Torlo. We need an Order of Mata Nui agent. And as I just discovered a few weeks ago, there were two. One decided to kill himself in shame... the other is in this cavern.”

“You're wrong,” denied Sontious. “I never got high enough in the ranks to be trusted with that kind of information.”

A single cold blue eye fixed on the Toa of Sonics.

“So you do not know yet... interesting, indeed. Two weeks ago, I had a vision of a stranger arriving in this land... when he finally arrived, my mind reached out for his, only to find that it was mostly blocked. The one who calls himself 'Santis' is an Order of Mata Nui operative.”

Caliga looked at Santis, who looked just as puzzled as her.

“The mental barrier is nearly impenetrable... nearly. Under the right conditions, it can be broken, and I have just these conditions. The energy we are draining from the Universe Core runs through me.”

“So that is all there is about the mining?” asked a furious Sonitous. “All this suffering, only to gain an extra input of energy to your circuits?”

“Once again, your feeble mind cannot hope to comprehend the grand scheme that is in effect, its threads nor its consequences. The mining of the Universe Core is nothing but a pastime until the invasion of Metru Nui can begin. That is what everything is about, Toa. Through circumstances beyond their control, the Makuta were tricked of this land and forfeited the war in order to conquer a new world for it is in our nature. We are rulers. We are the dominant race, the only race capable of governing this universe. Matoran are complacent, safe behind the gates of Metru Nui, no longer any desire to fight, dominate, and expand their young empire. They have fallen behind in the evolutionary scale. And when one species degrades to such an extent, it is time for another, more advanced contender to step in and replace them at the top of the pyramid.”

The sleek machine turned its single eye to Kohrak Kal.

“Matoran society has been rotting from the inside for years, Toa. My plan is to deliver the inevitable. What I want to do is just deliver the final kick, so it finally caves in. The Bohrok under Metru Nui will be awakened, and they will destroy the Matoran and their capital.”

Kohrak Kal walked slowly to the Toa of Fire putting each shield a few centimeters of Santis’ audio receptors.

“Think about it this way, Order Agent. When you arrived, people thought you were their last ray of hope for Matoran. It is a shame that most of them will not know that you were the harbinger of their final fall. Think ponder this while we storm through the corners of your mind.”

The white Bohrok’s shields started to spin when a loud, high-pitched cry – of fear, pain, rage, rung out over the sound.

All the heads in the room, both mechanical and organic alike, turned as one to see Sarnii standing in the corner, impaling the Gahlok Kal's faceplate with a sharp metal rod, drawing strength from all the suffering the Bohrok had caused her and her kind.

Caliga didn’t waste any time admiring the heroic fete. Instead, she quickly pressed her Mask of Conjuring back to her face and ran, straight to the Bohrok commander. Feet kicking at the metal railing as the Toa of Lightning propelled herself to victory...

But, once again, her plans were foiled, this time her senses ringing and her eyes shooting beams of hate and rage at Kohrak Kal. The white and silver Bohrok put its shields above its faceplate, charging up something that Caliga wished she didn’t have to experience.

She could almost see a sadistic smile on the Bohrok’s expressionless face when suddenly bright light blinded her. When she regained vision, she realized that Kohrak Kal would never do so – twin bolts of plasma had shot from Santis’ still white hot hands, hoping to knock the Bohrok’s faceplate open. The effect hadn’t been the intended one – Santis had melted the eyes of the machine.

Knowing that Kohrak Kal wouldn’t be helpless for long - for it was, after all, the specialist in echo-location - she took a brief glance at the platform around her, now turned into a battlefield.

The Toa of Fire was locked in combat with two Bohrok Kal at once, shouting curses but transmitting no sound. Caliga quickly understood as she saw Lehvak Kal absorbing the air around hear new-found teammate. Santis was far from helpless – plasma didn’t need air to burn. And Tahnok Kal knew that, hence why it was continuously zapping the Danju wearer.

Sarnii on the other hand was hiding behind Gahlok Kal’s lifeless shell, well aware that her chances of surviving depended on striking only at the right moment.

Sonitous was... well, flying all over the place, trying to fight Nuhvok Kal’s gravitational bond. The elite Bohrok was taking tremendous pleasure in smacking the Toa against the leftover machinery and scaffolding that had been abandoned when the mining in the cavern had stopped.

Bohrok X retreated away from the battle, letting his pawns do the dirty job or, at the very least, amuse him.

And as for her, Caliga looked at Kohrak Kal, now fully aware of his surroundings, giving a taunting stare with black singe marks where once crystalline eyes were.

The Toa of Lightning knew that this was going to be a hard fight. She knew that she’d probably die. But she accepted it without fear. Choices had consequences, and she’d decided to follow the Toa of Fire to the end. She'd made a promise.

And she was, after all, a warrior ruled by her emotions.



Santis fell on the ground, feeling strength desert him. His lungs burned and his thorax spasmed in a worthless attempt to gasp for air. He knew he’d been defeated. His time, the brief age of glory, was about to meet an abrupt end at the hands of two of the most fearsome machines ever designed by the Great Beings.

He knew that he had just a few seconds until his cells, aching for energy, shut off. In that ephemeral span of time, Santis started to wonder about Bohrok X’s revelation.

And the more he thought of it, the less sense it made.

If he was an Order agent, why hadn’t Torlo recognized him? He could understand why Sontious, who didn’t get high enough into the rungs of the Order’s hierarchy, hadn't recognized him. But Torlo? He had been a high-ranking member, the kind of guy who would know where every single agent was at any time.

Yet, the Le-Matoran hadn’t shown any sign of recognizing him when they’d first met, just hope – a sincere and genuine hope - that he and his fellow villagers had just found a way to escape the darkness that they had been drowning in for so long.

No, he’d definitely not been a member of the Order. He wasn’t even from this dimension. Who knew if the Order recruited Toa at all in other universes?

The other option - which was infinitely less comforting - was being a Brotherhood servant, and that was starting to seem more and more likely. His unusual powers, his shady past, and his relation with the universe’s most infamous assassin... it was possible, there was no denying that. And even though this conclusion would have rocked his insides a few minutes ago, he felt very calm, for he knew that he was wrong.

Santis couldn’t explain it – he just had an intuition. Assassins were heartless and did not fight with honor. Quite clearly, the fighting style that came naturally to him was not the kind that one would expect from the elite assassin Sonitous had described. No, he felt that the magnitude of the crimes he’d perpetrated and perpetuated was much larger. Hundreds. Thousands. Whole races engulfed by his greed. He was guilty. His nobility was tainted.

The two main options had fallen, but the question still stood tall. How had he acquired his Rahkshi powers? Why was he obsessed with Tollubo? What had happened to his memory? Why did he feel guilt for atrocities he didn’t even recall?

As anoxia got worse all the questions fell, one by one, like the circular dolmen Santis had come across in his travels, leaving only one monolithic doubt in the center.

What was he?

The Toa was out of time. His vision was fading away...

...Black...

Santis gave one last backbreaking spasm, this time finding air in his lungs. He breathed frantically and coughed madly, his whole body aching.

He opened his eyes, seeing the Lehvak Kal and Tahnok Kal still looking at him. And as another electrical current burn his insides, he finally understood.

They didn’t want to kill him, they just wanted to humiliate him, to induce a mental breakdown, to leave him as a ripe fruit for Bohrok X to collect and analyze.

And Santis no longer knew if he’d have the strength to resist.




The Twin Suns had long-since set over the Southern Continent, but life in the valley was busy as ever.

The village of Mahri Nui was silent. These were the early hours of the morning, after all. Any of the locals were asleep. Only a few guards were on watch tonight, for Rahkshi and Visorak were becoming scarce in this region. The air was cool and fresh. A gentle midnight breeze was picking up, carrying the scent of Bula Berries and flowers. Thousands of stars littered the night sky.

One Po-Matoran stirred. His name was Dekar and, as he groaned in his sleep, he felt the air change temperature. It ran cold for a moment, then vaulted up. Even in his hut, he could feel that something was amiss in the universe. The gust of was beginning to pick up, shaking the wind chime outside his dwelling.

Meanwhile, the village of Voya Nui had become a fortress. A refugee camp. Hundreds of haggard, warped Matoran clutching blankets and weapons mad their way through the city of tents.

Normally, settlements were not this active at four in the morning. But the village had received a radio message from the Matoran High Command in Metru Nui. A warning. An attempt was being made to overthrow the Turaga High Council, which would have severe repercussions upon the entire Matoran Universe. Disaster was about to befall Metru Nui.

It was then that a scream pierced the silence of the night and all heads turned to the heavens. A swirling black mass had appeared in the inky sky. It pulsed with crimson energy, illuminating the entire valley in its tinted light. For a long moment it was as bright as sunlight.

Then, almost as swiftly as it had appeared, the entity disappeared, leaving a dark speck in its place. It was just a blimp in the night sky, brushing against the tip of the Southern Continent’s dome. A star falling from the heavens. The thunder of an engine pierced the rural darkness as the dot hurtled to the ground, like a bullet fired from a gun. It descended nose-first, on a direct collision course with Mount Valmai.

Thousands of innocent Matoran watched with fearful eyes. None of them knew the first thing about missiles. None of them could see the word Gorast printed on it. None of them knew what would happen when it struck its target.

They just watched in a mixture of shock and horror and the mysterious, blighted star disappeared behind the lip of the volcano’s crater.




Just when Santis was expecting one final zap, the walls of the cavern shook, the sound of a muffled explosion emanated through the walls. Then a much more deafening sound sprouted from the depths of the cavern. Mount Valmai roared in anger, enraged by the fool who had dared to start the aggression. The earth shook violently, the sound of rocks cracking open filling the air as magma rushed to the surface.

Santis swiftly jumped on the Tahnok Kal during the confusion, bringing him to the ground. The Toa of Fire tried to wrestle with the elite Bohrok and expose his Krana, only for Lehvak Kal to throw him into the air with a sharp head-butt.

The Danju-wearer quickly rotated in the air, seeing that he he’d been launched exactly where he wanted to – Nuhvok Kal.

The black Bohrok Kal, still concentrated in keeping Sontious high in the air, didn’t see Santis coming until he crashed on him. Nuhvok Kal – quicker than his fellow Bohrok Kal - quickly rolled on the floor and started altering Santis’ gravitational pull, making him heavier, bending the metal platform below their feet. But what the Bohrok wasn’t quick enough to realize was that while working on Santis, he’d left Sonitous free.

The Toa of Sonics somersaulted to the ground, crouched, then sprang up again shield-first, crashed at bullet-like speed on the Tahnok Kal.

Caliga, now with nobody to oppose her power, transmutated into an electron cloud, flying into the Lehvak Kal’s faceplate. Before the Bohrok-Kal of Vacuum could do anything, she burned the internal circuits and incinerated the Krana Kal.

Sonitous rolled on the floor, taking cover from Kohrak the Kal’s headbutts behind the Tahnok Kal’s remains. Realizing that the Bohrok was blind, he raised his hands and created a number of loud sounds, placed erratically around the Bohrok.

The Kohrak Kal spun madly, trying to find an invisible enemy, sending piercing sound blasts wildly and becoming more and more disorientated with each energy burst. Finally Sonitous put him to an end, slicing the Krana through the faceplate with the sharp edge of his shield.

The Nuhvok Kal, seeing himself surrounded, and sensing the increasing heat coming from Santis' hands, decided to make one last gamble, all or none, the one that would prove to be fatal. The pull that was sinking Santis faded away, and the Toa ran back to his three companions, screaming what he feared that Nuhvok Kal was about to do.

All or nothing...

The last of the Bohrok Kal started increasing exponentially his own gravity, becoming larger and larger, playing with physics. Its logic had arrived to a devastating conclusion – if the Toa could not be defeated by normal means, then extreme measures would have to be taken, even if that meant destroying himself, the cavern and Bohrok X himself. Santis, Caliga, Sonitous and Sarnii ran, to the tunnel where they had come from, desperately trying to avoid the looming disaster.

The cavern was flooded with white light as Nuhvok Kal reached critical mass. The Toa just barely reaching the mouth of the tunnel.

Then Bohrok Kal collapsed into a black hole. The Toa tried to get a grip of whatever they could, feeling a current of gravity come from all directions like a furious river converging on the black hole.

Santis was grasping the metallic door frame of the tunnel, trying to sink his fingers in the material as he heard the sound of metal and rock grinding and pulverizing behind him.

And then... nothing. The incident ended quietly, The Toa fell to the ground as gravity normalized. When he turned his head, he saw that most of the platform had been destroyed, a big hole in it, now only a thin metallic ring. Most of the scaffolding had disappeared, and large parts of the walls had become unstable.

And, far along the decrepit metallic ring, there were the remains of black and sapphire armor.

Bohrok X.

Sanits ran to the shell of the Bohrok commander, his companions following him, forming a circle around the pile of scrap metal and electrical circuits.

“This is over,” stated Santis, feeling a strong relief. The Commander, the King of the swarms, had arrogantly let the pawns do the work for it, and in the process, had been destroyed by the very Bohrok it claimed to have absolute control over.

The cavern shook once more, reminding the Toa that the eruption was about to start. They would have to hurry, but first there was a need to reflect on what they had achieved. In years to come he would want to remember this moment. He looked at the faces of Sarnii, Caliga and Sonitous, finding various expressions each. They were ravaged, panicked and battered, but they all had one glorified glimmer in their eyes – a sense of triumph. They had finally put an end to years of enslavement, torture and suffering.

They were mistaken.

A loud screech emanated from the black remains of Bohrok X, sending chills down Santis’ spine. The pieces of metal moved, the screeching becoming more intense, as finally a hellish creature surfaced.

A silver Krana Xa, now coated with oozing greenish-black liquid continued to move in spastic movements, reaching the top of the pile of armor.

“I told you I cannot be defeated.” Santis stared in disbelief as those words were spoken by the gelatinous Krana. “The remains of my armor can still be used for the transmission. Metru Nui will fall.”

In a split second, Santis looked around, to see his companions frozen in stasis by the Krana’s powers. Before he could react, he felt the intrusion on his mind. He tried to fight back against the mind reading, instinctively throwing banal thoughts and emotions in the path, but he fell to his knees, struggling to resist the invasion that was taking place in his head.

The inside of his head was not a coherent place. There was dark thoughts in there. Irregular shapes and flashing colors not found in the realms of sanity. But, like it had promised, Bohrok X broke through the wall that blocked his memory. Santis felt his vision being flooded with images as the memories that the broken Swarm Commander was shuffling through reached him. His own life was being played back to him. Events that he had forgotten were unfolding before his eyes in a bizarre jumble.

A laboratory. A stasis tube with an unfamiliar figure inside. A city surrounded by a ring of fire. And then, like thunder striking in the middle of a pitch black night, a name it up the darkness. The void inside his head disappeared and the ever-present sense of ignorance lifted. But, before he could make out the name, he was already feeling a soul-gripping sense of horror at his own identity.

The Toa of Fire was on the verge of collapsing. The mental strain was simply too great. His mind not capable of processing all the horrors that Bohrok X was unearthing. But these were snapshots of his own life. He couldn't shut them out. This was what he wanted: his past. This was what he had been missing and it could his only chance to make sense of it. Even now, as he witnessed the disturbing image of a sacrifice he could not yet understand, events began to fall into place and his life seemed to make just a little bit more sense. And when it finally did, a deep wave of tranquility seemed to gently wash him away, soothing the storm that had been raging his insides for as far as he could remember, healing his damaged spirit.

For a single moment, he forgot about the world, about the cavern falling apart above him and the mental assault. Santis - for the Toa was still too afraid to identify himself with his true name and the pain it implied - finally came back to his senses, finding Caliga, Sonitous and Sarnii still in front of him, but no longer in stasis. He also felt that the dark presence of Bohrok X was all gone. Puzzled, the Toa quickly understood why.

After the commander of the Bohrok had examined his mind, finding no codes in them, it had realized that it no longer served any purpose. Bohrok X had been created with the sole intention of manipulating the swarms into winning the war. With both the death of Torlo and the eruption of Mount Valmai, its goal was no longer achievable. Its legions were being crushed by the second. Millions of dying Krana were screaming in its head, weakening the Swarm Commander.

But even so, Bohrok X was still capable of inflicting tremendous pain on Santis and his companions. In that moment, it seemed like it had every reason to. It could go down in glory before the cavern collapsed. But, instead, it chose to not to.

The Toa of Fire stared at the exposed, dying Krana, disturbed to the very core by the feeling of admiration that it was irradiating.

“You would make a good Maktua.”

With a snort, Caliga flicked her wrist and struck Bohrok X's Krana with lightning. The strange silver Krana Xa's final words died in a wordless, hysterical exclamation. The creature revulsed then seemed to deflate as its eyes closed for a final time. The Toa of Fire was now under no illusion that it was now truly dead. And for that he was profoundly grateful.

Santis exchanged glances with every of his companions, now truly finding fulfillment in them. It was over. The Bohrok would be engulfed by magma, the nest under Metru Nui would remain dormant, the Brotherhood's hold of the Southern Continent would be crippled.

"I think we should get going," he bellowed, more sure of himself now than ever. Taking a deep lungful of air, he inhaled the sweet, burning aroma of victory, something he had solely missed of late, then grabbed Sarnii around the waist and broke into a run. Without hesitation, his new-found friends followed suit and the group charged down the tunnels as the whole cave system began to crumble.

A silent giggle began to creep up out from the pit of the Toa of Fire's stomach. An infectious smile creeped across his Kanohi as a hearty chuckle finally began to work its way from his mouth. The others stared at him as if he were insane, then shrugged their shoulders and they too began laughing as they ran for their lives.

He was finally at peace with his past.

Epilogue I: Falling[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27


40,053 Years Ago

Toa Gorta struggled against the grip of the virus that coursed through her veins. She squirmed and wriggled around wildly in the cocoon, desperate to force a way out of the webbing.

She was dangling over an empty expanse of nothingness, plastered to the roof of an impossibly large cave, teetering over a black abyss, gazing down at the gaping maw of her doom. The darkness was so thick that she couldn’t see the cavern floor. There were stalactites above her Kanohi Kiril, so she assumed that her death would involve impalement on their razor-sharp counterparts.

Gasping for frigid lungfuls of precious air, the novice Toa of Water whined, like the Ga-Matoran she’d been not so very long ago. She was truly terrified. The road ahead was not going to be a remotely pleasant one. She was alone and vulnerable, dangling from a tangle of endless green webs, surrounded by Visorak, above a darkness so complete that it made her insides turn in repulsion.

Only a fool didn’t know what came next.

There was a sharp burning sensation in her chest, beneath her breastplates. After a moment of mild discomfort it began to shoot across her entire body, leaving her screaming in agony and begging someone – anyone – to still the churning of her insides.

Fortunately, her torment was relatively short-lived. A mellow numbness kicked in until it reached the point where she couldn’t feel anything at all, not her neck, not her feet, not even her fingers as they balled into trembling fists. And yet she gritted her metallic teeth and bore the pain while they morphed in her mouth. There was no other option. The Hordika venom had taken root. It controlled her already, as it would for the rest of her life she assumed.

Perhaps if she’d been less of a loner then she could’ve tricked some handsome, hulking Toa of Fire to come bursting in to save her at the last possible second. But life was never so clear cut. Bad things always happened to Toa of Water who were left on their own and captured by Visorak. There was no rescue team. No chance of her fellow Toa blasting through the cave walls to free her. No chance of landing on something soft. And no cure.

Gorta’s eyelids flickered open feebly. It was painful beyond imagination but she had to see what was happening. The Visorak were watching her through small, beady eyes. Although they didn’t have faces with which to convey emotion, their eyes gave enough away. If they could mimic any facial expression, it would be a triumphant sneer, a gloat.

The Toa’s temperature vaulted, her skin tightened beneath her armor as it too crackled and collapsed. The metals within her seemed to crack and snap apart from each other, thrusting upwards and outwards. Her eyes hardened as they focused on her hands, which were bound at her chin. One by one, the strands of web strained and split. Her fingers curled inwards. It was the last thing she saw before her sight flickered and blurred.

She should’ve been dead within 30 seconds. The heart of a Hordika was about two-thirds the size of a Toa’s. But in order to shrink it had to stop. All of her internal organs were about to contract and collapse inwards on themselves, so while her heartlight went offline, she had lung, liver, and stomach failure too. And if she could stop screaming it wouldn’t be because the pain had dulled. Her gullet, windpipe and vocal chords were tearing and reforming. She literally couldn’t make a sound while she suffered in silence.

By this point, the pituitary gland should have been working overtime, flooding her body with endorphins to help ease some of the pain, but that too had long since shut itself down.

Her gums split, her teeth grew, her lips extended. She coughed, lungs altered, muscles ripped and strained, then knotted again. White noise polluted her overly-sensitive audio receptors, threatening to deafen her. Then it faded, leaving her with a more acute sense of hearing than ever before.

Sight was next to return. The colors were different, not as keenly defined, but her field of vision had expanded and she could see more sharply, as if viewing the world through a magnifying glass.

Something howled, a cry of jubilation, triumph, and untamed aggression. As the muscles in Gorta’s throat contracted, she realized she was the one howling.

A lesser being would have died from shock long ago, but the scrawny female had survived because the venom would not allow her the sweet mercy of death’s embrace. That was the most remarkable thing about it. The transformation dragged her through the fire and kept her alive – conscious even – to endure every second of the torture.

Nothing like that could ever evolve. It was not the fingerprint of Mata Nui. It was an impossible, lethal curse spread by the venomous bite of a Visorak.

It was so cruel... it was perfect.

Epilogue II: Into The Light[]

Written by BobTheDoctor27

The Southern Continent had never looked sweeter as the three Toa and their Matoran companion broke clear of the tunnel. The freshness of the air embraced them instantly, tingling against the backs of their throats. Dawn had passed. The Twin Suns hung lazily in the sky, and for the first time in a millennium, Sarnii saw green. The atmosphere rested in such delicate equilibrium and was so transmissive that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five. As soon as the lavish grass tickled their burning feet all four travelers stopped to take in the scene that was unfolding before them.

Flowers, trees, rushes, shoots and leafs intertwined amongst each other in natural splendor. There were verdant, overgrown hills stretching out off into a distant mountain range. No distinction between near and far existed. The pollen floated lazily through the air, caught in an otherworldly, luxurious breeze. High up in the sky a flock of tiny Gukko birds trailed after one another. Vivid, bright light bounced off the sprawling foliage. The whole scene contained tangible warmth and nature seemed to open itself up and bloom, like the whole world was one big organism.

“So,” muttered Sonitous after a minute of standing at the threshold of the destroyed Bohrok Hive. “We’ve single-handedly foiled the Brotherhood of Makuta’s latest world domination plot, rescued a Matoran, and laid the foundations for a long and lasting peace here on the Southern Continent. Not a bad day’s work.”

“It is over,” Caliga muttered. “After Mata Nui-knows how long, I am finally free for the first time in my life. To taste the freshness of this air... it is breathtaking. I can be whoever I want to be, live for myself, do as I want.” Her fingers flexed slowly, hungrily, by her sides.

“There’ll be no more killing,” warned the Toa of Fire, clearing his throat huskily and taking up stance beside the female warrior. She didn’t give any sign that she’d heard him.

“Says who?” she chuckled.

Santis' eyes drifting off into empty space, a warm smile on his face. That was indeed the question of the hour.

“What of you, Toa of Sonics?” asked Caliga, assessing the landscape before her with the eyes of a huntress. “You have your freedom as well. What will you do with it? Will you join us?”

The shield-carrier thought about it deeply, then nodded. “I am grateful to you for including me in the rousting of the Bohrok Kal – that was sport I shall not forget in a hurry – so I will stay in your company. Besides… there is someone in Metru Nui whom I wish to meet once again.”

“And what of you, Santis?” smiled Caliga wolfishly. “You still hunting De-Matoran?”

Sonitous’ audio receptors pricked and his mouth hinged open but the Danju-wearer silenced his queries with a curt wave of his hand.

“I was never hunting Matoran,” he corrected. “I was under a false impression and have now awakened to better judgment. I shall embrace Tollubo as an ally when I find him.”

The soundless, tranquil scene of a universe in balance impressed the Toa of Fire as a positive entity rather than a mere negation of noise. But there was a murmur on the warm, sticky waft. The hush was broken by an airy tune.

The woodwind was spirited. Notes wandered in the still air with a stark quality like that of nudity. To speak absolutely, both instrument and execution were sensual and enticing. All four travelers glanced at one another in fascination. For a long moment, none of them could bring themselves to move. The music was faint at first but, gradually, as the harmonious melody meandered through the trees, it seemed to demand their presence. The travelers found themselves edging closer in search of the performer.

The outskirt of the opening that they found themselves in had been left uncultivated for many years, and was now damp with plush, juicy grass, which sent up mists of pollen at the touch. Tall blooming weeds emitted offensive smells – weeds whose varying hues of yellow and purple were as dazzling as cultivated flowers. The four wanderers picked their way through the confusion of growth stealthily. They drew closer to the music, still unobserved by the mysterious musician.

None of the warriors were conscious of neither time nor space. It was like gazing at the one star that burned bright in the night sky. Sarnii felt herself undulating upon the thin notes of the flute. The harmonies passed like breezes, tendering even Caliga. The floating spores seemed to be notes made visible. Waves of color mingled with waves of sound vibrantly.

Sat under the shade of a Madu tree, his back against the trunk, sat a Fa-Matoran, a straw hat perched on his head and a leather satchel slung over a nearby tree branch. He concluded his wordless song tentatively; a simple performance, demanding no real effort yet blessed with skill. A distant smile adorned the natural grin of his Kanohi Miru as his eyes fell upon his audience.

“At long last,” beamed the Matoran of Magnetism, placing his instrument gently into his satchel. “We finally meet in person.”

Four blank faces stared at the strange musical Matoran until a slither of recognition manifested in the eyes of Toa Sonitous.

Pofia!?” he murmured in wonder. “Is that you?”

The Fa-Matoran regarded the Toa of Sonics with an even broader smile. “I see you have changed your mask, Sonitous,” he noted. “That simply will not do. Mata Nui has given you one face, and you make yourself another? Shame on you.”

Reaching into his satchel once more, the Matoran produced a dull, grey Kanohi Arthron and handed it to the startled Toa, who held it hesitantly then tore off his Noble Huna and clamped the new Kanohi on. Instantly, the grey mask altered to his face, adopting a rich black color.

“Much better,” beamed Sonitous from behind his new Mask of Radar. His latest choice of head-ornament was only a slight improvement from the Krana that Santis and Caliga had found him wearing.

“You have spare Masks for all of us in that magic bag?” snorted the Toa of Lightning.

Pofia smiled at the joke. “I have been following Toa Santis since his untimely arrival. In fact, it was I who planted his weapons in the swamp.”

The Toa of Fire cocked an eyebrow, casting his mind back to when he had arrived in this universe. Indeed, he recalled stumbling across his Fire Sword and cape atop a hillside. He had remarked the event as strange even then.

“You knew that I would travel down that path,” he muttered. “And you knew that Sonitous had lost his Kanohi in the Hive. How could that be?”

The Fa-Matoran pursed his lips and looked up into the sky, his straw hat tilting back.

“I serve a higher power,” he answered loosely. “The Lady of the Wilds. She is an ancient and legendary protector of Matoran. It was her will for me to be here, to impart you with these weapons and masks; but most importantly of all, she has charged me with the protection of an important document.”

The Miru-wearing Matoran reached into his satchel one final time and pulled out a tightly-bound scroll. It was knotted with a crimson ribbon. The paper looked old and discolored, but the seal was fresh and there wasn’t a crease to be seen.

“This is Ramonda’s Scroll of Judgment,” he announced proudly. “A list of Matoran who my mistress has foreseen in the next generation of Toa, a group she calls The Warbound. It is my charge to bring this to Metru Nui, else the woe shall be universal.”

“A list of Matoran destined to become Toa?” inquired Sonitous dutifully, still adjusting the angle of his new-found Kanohi Arthron. “If I’d known we were having a reunion I’d have gotten you something too.”

“Think nothing of it, old friend,” winked the Fa-Matoran, taking a step forward to inhale a deep lungful of air. “What of your comrades? May I count on their allegiance?”

Caliga narrowed her eyes and looked down on Pofia contemptuously.

“Do you have a weapon?” she asked bluntly.

The Matoran of Magnetism reached into his pack and produced a short staff. Mounted on the end of it was a rather heavy-looking pincer claw on a hinge. It looked like a utensil that would’ve been found in a Ta-Metru Forge.

“You survived out here with a glorified pair of tweezers?” The Toa of Lightning was instantly impressed. No doubt the strange Matoran was therefore a capable warrior in her eyes. She was probably thinking of a dozen different ways to throttle a Rahkshi with the archaic weapon.

Pofia beamed broadly then turned to Santis and Sarnii. The Vo-Matoran glared at him, an eerie sense of unfulfilled resentment emanating from her.

“The fates are indeed kind today,” smiled Pofia upon seeing her. “Another old friend returned to me. You have met with things dying, and I with things reborn.”

“I’d need a Kanohi Rau just to make sense of you,” sighed the Vo-Matoran, looking away. Her eyes were wistful. A deep gloominess hung over her.

“How about you, Santis?” asked Sonitous, placing a hand on his fellow friend’s shoulder. “You took quite the mental beating down there. You still up for one final round guarding a bunch of Matoran?”

The Toa of Fire shared the same pensive expression as Sarnii for a long moment. But then he heaved a deep sigh and looked up, a smile on his Kanohi and the lights in his eyes bright once again.

“I feel at balance,” he murmured in an uncharacteristically light tone, carefully observing and moving into the center of the green amphitheater. “All this time I thought that finding this Tollubo would bring me peace of mind. But I don’t need him to tell me who I am anymore. I have my honor back and a whole future before me. My conscience is clear for the first time in far too many years.”

“The path ahead is long,” added Pofia. “But the road to redemption is not measured in kio. Where does your journey take you?”

The dignitary Toa of Fire’s smile matured into a grin as he looked from the faces of his teammates, to the unending sprawl of rural majesty that encompassed his newly-enhanced field of vision. He knew that this feeling would be one he would remember for the remainder of his days: the moment in which he had awakened to the world around him and finally walked the inward expedition to find himself. A moment like this needed a symbol to be remembered by. With a sharp tug, the Toa tore the burnt, tattered remains of his robe off then burnt it to ashes in his fingertips. A sacrifice. His old, directionless self as a cloaked wanderer of Voya Nui was dead.

“My journey takes me to Metru Nui,” he answered calmly. “But not for Tollubo. I travel in search of a Turaga.”

His teammates exchanged blank glances. He only smiled wider.

“A Turaga?” asked Sarnii from down, amongst the wildgrass.

“That’s the tradition, isn’t it?” asked the Toa of Fire. “Turaga can rename you. They can give you a whole new identity.”

“Why do you want to change your name?” frowned Caliga.

“Because Santis isn’t my real name,” snorted the Toa of Fire. “And I really like the sound of… “Toa Kazaat.”

With that final remark, the Toa of Fire threw his head back and let out a single laugh, before turning and starting the first leg of his new trek. The others shrugged then fell in behind him, no longer sure exactly what they were dealing with anymore, but still certain of the gravity that this strange Toa held in his footsteps.

It was the stride of a king.

Epilogue III: Into The Dark[]

Written by Abc8920

Torlo lay in a state of numbness, nothing but an agonizing solipsistic consciousness in a world of absolute darkness. He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids were sealed against his face. He tried to smell his surroundings, finding out he wasn’t even breathing.

Slowly his senses started up, making Torlo pray that they had never done so. The first thing his dulled brain recognized was the sting of rough ground below what he believed to be his body. The Le-Matoran finally found the strength to raise his eyelids, which stared at a burning afternoon sky. The dying light of the setting Twin Suns gave the clouds varying tonalities of red and dark orange, a dichotomic sky that inspired both aggression and calmness.

Torlo took a deep breath, hoping to clear his mind and make sense of his state of being, instead finding his mouth full of dust. He coughed hard, hurting his diaphragm, trying to resist the smell of incomplete octane combustion that was invading his lungs.

Finally his hearing returned, and Torlo heard the sound of true entropy, a chaotic mess of engine roars, frantic footsteps and senseless chattering. Raising the upper half of his body, he finally realized where he was.

He had never believed in Hell. He had spent many years of his life fighting against what he believed to be the lies of religion. Torlo just couldn’t buy there was enough room in any singular space for all the people Mata Nui considered as profligates. He had never imagined that he would wind up there when he finally met his end, and even less that it would take the form of such a familiar place.

He was in Metru Nui. There was no mistake in that. He recognized the endless rivers of asphalt that meandered in a radial formation around the Coliseum, the neuralgic center of the city, the grey masses of busy Matoran running around, the utilitarian skyscrapers that littered the landscape, in dusk just black silhouettes against the crimson sky, the smog fading out the horizon.

Torlo examined his own body, finding a deep gash in the thorax. The Matoran crossed the road he was laying on, passing next to him and ignoring him like if he didn’t exist. He touched the injury with his right hand, blackened by the asphalt dust, and felt no pain. How could have Krennato been right all the time?

“She wasn’t.”

Torlo quickly turned his head around, trying to find the source of the voice. The illusory world disappearing as he did so, dissipating like a puff of smoke. Now he was in a cold metallic room, poorly lit by the dim light. The only piece of furniture in sight was a table made of the same material as the floor and the walls.

He turned around, finding an imposing black and silver titan standing by the only window of the room, blocking most of the sunlight that reached, a Kanohi Rode masking his face, which oozed self-confidence and arrogance. Realization suddenly struck Torlo as he identified the figure with the voice that had contacted him a short time ago.

Karabak.

“You must be full of questions, my dear guest," creaked the Makuta. "Ask away, for you have been rewarded with the privilege of playing another part in the events to come.”

“Well, a good start would be explaining how I came from falling into an abyss to this soulless place.”

“I already told you during our encounter in the Green Belt that - depending on your actions - your fate could take two different paths. You did the right thing, Matoran, by throwing yourself into the abyss, avoiding a catastrophe that even I could not have stopped. I saw a spark in you, and your actions confirmed it. I could not have that talent wasted, so I teleported you here.”

“And what about the stopover in that crooked version of Metru Nui?”

“Twisted version? I showed you the real Metru Nui, Torlo. Metru Nui is not the Golden City that your leaders promised you. It is another piece of fiction, like every other lie you were able to discern. The only reason I saved you is that I saw in you the potential that other Matoran do not have – to think beyond beliefs, to see beyond appearances. Don’t make me regret my decision by talking of promised lands.”

Torlo looked Karabak straight in the eyes, struggling to resist against the powerful stare of the Makuta.

“And what happens now? I just help you because that’s the right thing to do?”

“No. I have an offer for you.”

“An offer?”

The Makuta hesitated.

“You will collaborate with me in the time to come. The situation in this universe reached a critical moment during your showdown against Bohrok X in the Valmai. It will be some time until the next crisis... but I believe the next one will be of a magnitude yet unseen, a conflict that cannot be won easily; it will be the one that will destroy the universe as we know it. When that crisis arises, I want to have an effective and clinical tool to attack the problem at its roots – and burn them. You will be that tool.”

“And what do I get for playing along with your sinister plans?”

A dark smile appeared on the Makuta’s Rode, making the Le-Matoran uneasy. “The payment will be delivered in three parts.”

Karabak raised his clawed fingers and pointed them at the wall behind Torlo, dissipating it. Bright light flooded the room, blinding the Zatth-wearer momentarily. Still, he ended up walking into the light, coming out on the barren landscape of what was probably some forsaken region of the Southern Island Chain.

Torlo stared at the jagged volcanic rocks that reminded him of Valmai, at the whirlwinds of black dust that were the only apparent form of life, at the small hills where the soil was deep enough for small shrubs to set root. The sky was of a blinding bright blue hue, with not even a single cloud to shelter from the unrelenting assault of the sun.

Karabak teleported to the top of a nearby hill, motioning Torlo to follow him. The Le-Matoran trekked through the eroded basalt. When he caught up, he saw that the Makuta was pointing to the foothill.

“This is the first part of your payment.”

Torlo looked down, seeing a couple hundred Matoran, frozen in time, the living image of misery. Most of them had the typical morphology of a Matoran that, like himself, had endured Karazhni’s repairs. Their legs were abnormally short, their arms weak and their eyes and heartlight gave the pale shine of those who didn’t desire to live any longer. Most of them were badly injured and emaciated, just flesh on brittle bones, the result of years of slavery. But, most strikingly of all, was the fact that every single one of them was sporting a Krana.

“As a sign of good will, I decided to transport the Matoran slaves here from the mines beneath the Bohrok Hive.”

“Are they alive?”

“In stasis. I do not want them to panic while I find an appropriate place to relocate them, and a stockpile of replacement Kanohi for them to wear. Although, to answer your question, I am not entirely sure that the state I rescued them could be called life.”

“What about the second part?”

Karabak let a ghost of a sardonic smile slip in his face. “You were not the only one I 'saved' from the abyss.”

The Makuta materialized a red-armored corpse, which fell limp on the pyroclastic ground, and Torlo almost threw up when he recognized the blackened Calix.

“Don the mask.”

Torlo looked at Iolan’s corpse, horrified, then at the Makuta.

“No not hesitate," sighed the Rode-wearing juggernaut. "He did not hesitate to betray yourself, or your people. Now he is dead and nothing but food for the Lava Hawks. Don the mask.”

The Le-Matoran did not move, petrified, just staring at the corpse of his former companion.

“Don the mask.” This time it was an order.

Torlo slowly knelt down, the odor of decomposing meat making him feel sick. His right arm extended fearfully, touching the Calix. Then, a surge of energy pulsed through his circuitry, making him fall face-first on the rough ground.

That single moment of tangible contact was all it had taken. The Matoran roared in pain as the joints in his body extended and reorganized. His organs shredded then re-knotted. Energy radiated from his fingertips, delivering an almost electrical, numbing wave of power through his body. It burned and healed all at once. The sensation was magnificent and horrific all at once.

In mid-air, he felt the change occur. His anatomy altered and the impact of his landing was far greater than it should have been. New, stronger, heavier armor covering him and left an impression in the solid ground. Before he was able to understand the consequences of what had just happened, the truth struck him.

He'd just grown six bio.

Toa Power. It coursed through him as he picked himself up. His joints felt a thousand times stronger than they had in centuries. The now-Toa of Air admired his new armor, stunned by both the abrupt nature of his transformation and the feeling of such immense energy swirling around inside him.

“You have to understand, Torlo, that from now on there will be no absolute truths, no good nor evil. You have to evolve beyond the bonds intrinsic to Matoran nature. Your black and white world will become dark grey.”

“What do you mean?”

“The third part of the payment.”

The Makuta genuinely appeared to be downcast, which was almost as striking as Torlo's sudden ascension into the ranks of a Toa. The armor of Karabak's chest hissed then opened up mechanically. At first the green-armored Toa thought a Shadow Hand was going to rupture out of the cavity, but Karabak instead produced a spherical, gelatinous mass. He held it in his hand before Torlo’s eyes. Looking closer, the Toa of Air observed that the repulsive mass was a living creature, with sharp teeth and a pair of non-functional eyes. Its skin was of a greenish-blue translucent color, the outline of black colored organs inside visible.

“What is this?”

“For millennium the Matoran have been placed under the three virtues, a weight on your back that has hunched your kind. It has made you unable to perceive anything but the ground in front of you. Throughout you entire life, you have been unable to think for yourself beyond those preconceived virtues. You have always had to follow the rules, as it was said by the laws that make up the Matoran moral code. Unity, duty, destiny. The three chains that anchor the spirits of the Matoran in morality, that make them unable to look higher than the horizon. You have raved against Mata Nui, but never have been able understand the implications that it carries. You have never been truly free, but now I offer you that freedom. You will be the pioneer. Break from the shackles of the virtues. Metamorphose from a Mahi to Muaka. This, Torlo, is the overture to something greater.”

As Torlo looked once more at the hungry creature, staring into its blind eyes, he knew that he was plunging into darkness.

Characters[]

Promotional Images[]

Trivia[]

  • Falling in the Black is currently the fifth longest article on the wiki.
  • A brief introduction to the story serial was released at the end of Whispers in the Dark as a promotional text. The epilogue was centered around the events of Chapter 3 of Falling in the Black but from an alternate perspective.
  • Unknown to Santis, the cape, blade and Flame Sword that he acquired in Chapter 3 were placed in the swamp by Pofia, who was acting upon orders given to him by Ramonda.
  • The significance of the Avsa-wearing Onu-Matoran - who was indeed Makuta Karabak is disguise - at the end of Chapter 6 was a hidden reference to the 2012 film Woman in Black, which is a movie of sentimental significance to BobTheDoctor27.
  • The name of the Matoran Kaita created in Chapter 12, Cathaka, was based off of Cathy Hapka, the real-life writer of the first three BIONICLE Chronicles Books; BIONICLE Chronicles 1: Tale of the Toa, BIONICLE Chronicles 2: Beware the Bohrok and BIONICLE Chronicles 3: Makuta's Revenge. Additionally, since much of the nostalgia of the original BIONICLE era comes from Hapka's ideas, BobTheDoctor27 named the Kaita as such in order to pay homage to her.
  • Even until the later stages of story, it was planned that Connla would have her identity as an Av-Matoran exposed and that she would be murdered in order for her to complete her lifespan and become a Bohrok. However, seeing as there was no real need to make Connla an Av-Matoran, the idea was scrapped immediately before the chapter in which Connla died.
  • In Epilogue II: Into The Light, a joke was made regarding Sonitous' questionable choice of headgear, as evidenced by his Krana possession and continuous swapping of Kanohi. This is in reference to the character's owner, Chicken Bond, having a fascination with the fez.

See Also[]


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