"Has the Nahaki returned?”
“What’s left it, Mistress. Only three of our sisters have returned.”
Kivoda, facing away towards the ceremonial stone in meditation, hears the friction of metal and stone as Helryx whirls around on her prosthetic leg to face Hahli.
“Only three!? Only three of the ten Arbiter crew survived!?”
For the first time, Kivoda hears the Judicator’s voice in a strained tone.
“... Yes Mistress.” The sentence barely escapes from behind Hahli’s mask.
Kivoda hears a sigh, then the asymmetric footsteps of Helryx walking away.
“We will deal with this before any more of Naho’s people are lost. Prohibit any other vessels from leaving port until the Arbiters handle this. I will speak to the High Priestess.”
Hahli’s salute pops into Kivoda’s mind as the Elite Arbiter exclaims “Yes Mistress!” and speeds away into another direction.
It is silent once more outside the sacred temple. Kivoda stands, bows her head to the engravings of a fish-like deity before walking down the stone path back to the docks.
As she makes her away through the wooden platforms and floating huts, she sees a group of Naho citizens surrounding a ship docked to a large cabin.
Or rather, what remained of a ship. As Kivoda draws closer to the crowd, she sees the splintered railings, tattered sails, and large sections of the hull absent.
As well as claw markings of something- or someone- trying to desperately hold on to the ship. Spears and nets are sprawled all over the deck, lanterns shattered and- was that a piece of someone’s mask Kivoda saw embedded into the wood?
A chill ran down her spine as she quickly walked passed the wreckage, giving a silent prayer to Akida that those lost could be in peace.
She grimaced. It had only started earlier this week; fishing vessels not returning, sights of something dwelling beyond Naho’s reef. It was expected that danger lied in the open ocean, but as the week progressed, more and more ships were returning damaged or not at all, even those not far from the safety of the coral bed.
And now, with the recent trip of the Nahaki being a loss, Judicator Helryx seemed determined to deal with problem immediately.
Kivoda turns a corner, going down a worn-down pier that leads to a small plateau decorated with coral.
“Going for practice again, Kivoda?”
She turns sharply at the sound of the voice. Another Naho matoran stands behind her.
“Oh, hey Macku. And yes, I am.”
Macku rolls her eyes, “Geez, you’re not even an Arbiter and you do tougher training than I do!”
Kivoda gives a skeptical look, “I’ve never seen you train outside of group drills.”
“Exactly. I’ve got stuff to do, people to visit; can’t dedicate all my time to throwing water spears.”
The two matoran walk towards the plateau.
“But you aren’t required to do that, and I see you come here every day to train. And it’s mostly martial arts stuff! Is that like a task benefitted to Eremites?”
Kivoda takes a rigid breath.
“Yes. There is a focus to become adept at skills that don’t revolve around using water,” she says, the lie effortlessly slipping past her teeth.
“Wow, that sounds like too much work for me. I’ll leave you to it then.”
Macku runs back to the pier as Kivoda waves her off. As soon as her friend is out of her view, she grits her teeth and punches a nearby coral. The broken pieces scatter on the rock.
The word stings her, a constant reminder of her pitiful state.
A Naho matoran not blessed by the Goddess of the Sea, Akida.
The High Priestess Nokama assured her she’d not be outcasted in shame, with Helryx creating an alias of being under a religious commitment to solitude; becoming an Eremite. And it was successful; Kivoda had a life throughout the villages, she had friends and colleagues. Helryx had even begun to take notice of her combat skill, which was a high honor for a Naho matoran wanting to become an Arbiter.
But her life was plagued with the questions. The strange looks. The almost pitiful tones.
Kivoda punches the reef again. And again.
She continued until red branches of the coral littered the rocky surface of the plateau. Kivoda sighs, taking a deep breath. She walks over to a nearby outcropping and pulls out a concealed package. Opening it up reveals a hook-like blade decorated with runes. She feels the weight in her hand before taking a fighting stance.
Time for training.
Vhisola watches the Judicator pace back and forth in front of a statue of some forgotten deity.
“Fifteen matoran are not enough to crew the Tarakona, we need a minimum of sixteen.”
“There are plenty of novice Arbiters, Mistress,” Vhisola states. “I’m sure some of them would gladly join the mission-”
“No,” comes the sharp reply. Helryx stops her pacing and turns to Vhisola, “Whatever this threat is must be dealt with experienced Arbiters; I cannot waste the lives of our new sisters.”
“Then I assume you will seek villagers outside of the Sisterhood?”
Helryx sighs, leaning against the wall. She closes her eyes.
“I have someone in mind.”
Vhisola begins to scowl.
“It’s the Eremite, isn’t it.” The word almost spat out of the Arbiter’s mouth.
The Judicator folds her arms, “I’ve already sent Hahli to bring her here. Her combat skill-”
Vhisola seethes, “I will not trust the lives of myself or my sisters with that heretic-”
The metal leg stomps forward towards her.
“Do not dismiss Kivoda’s sacrifice of seeking Akida in her own way as heresy. I have recognized her decision and approved it; do you question my judgement?”
Vhisola stammers, “O-of course not, Mistress.”
Helryx strides forward to get face-to-face with Vhisola, “I have seen Kivoda’s skills in combat and they exceed my expectations of most Arbiters, including you. Do you question my judgement?”
“... no, Mistress.”
“Then do not bring your trivial prejudice before your loyalty to Naho. You will treat Kivoda as a fellow sister on this mission. Understood?”
Vhisola does not look Helryx in the eyes, “I… I understand, Mistress.”
Vhisola quickly bows her head and exits the shrine, her hands formed into tight fists.
Amongst the majority of the vessels that gently rock in the waves of Naho’s harbors, the Tarakona is a dominating presence; it’s hull twice the size of most boats, spears and blades decorating the lower deck, the two massive sails that cast shadows upon the rest of the pier. And most noticeably, the bow sporting the skeleton of the Tarakava Nui, a testament of how Helryx earned her title. It is truly a sight to behold for any Naho citizen.
And now Kivoda stands on her deck, amongst the other Arbiters standing in line. Helryx and Hahli stand before them.
“...I know that I cannot guarantee that everyone will survive this trip. But with Akida's guidance, I know we will at least end this terror on Naho!”
“Yes Mistress!” comes the resounding salute from the Arbiters.
“Prepare to sail!”
The Arbiters spring into various directions, Hahli shouting out orders as Helryx strides to the helm. The ship slowly turns as the sails are adjusted and the matoran use the waves to push the boat from the dock. Kivoda secures the mast tackle before quickly turning to head to the other side. However she knocks head-first into another matoran.
“Hey! Watch where you’re… oh.”
Vhisola glares back as Kivoda’s confused face.
Kivoda adjusts her mask, “Sorry, I didn’t see-”
Vhisola gets close to her face.
“Let me tell you something, Eremite. I don’t care what happens to you out there. If you screw this up, if anyone dies by your actions; I will personally see that your soul gets sent to the Pit. Got it?”
Kivoda’s eyes narrow, but she remains silent. Vhisola scoffs before running off in another direction.
Kivoda feels a hand on her shoulder.
“Hey, don’t worry ‘bout Vhisola,” reassures Macku. “She tends to be a little… extreme with her devotion, if you couldn’t tell by the amount of charms on her neck.”
Kivoda shrugs, “I expected it along the way, so I’m not too concerned.”
The Tarakona surges forward with the wind, and cruises to the main channel into the ocean.
Macku leans on the railing.
“I’m so glad I became an Arbiter; I get to feel the ocean breeze and see Akida’s home on a daily basis without dealing with fish guts. And I can go wherever I please!
Kivoda chuckles and joins her.
“Yeah… like Motara? Bet there’s some interesting sights there.”
Macku blushes as Kivoda begins to grin.
“What was his name again? Huekai? Huokee?”
Macku’s eyes are intently staring at the waves.
“... I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Kivoda gives a warm laugh as they sail past the outer huts of Naho.
It’s half an hour into their conversation on the railing when Kivoda sees it.
A piece of flotsam bumps into the Tarakona ’s hull with a dull thud. She looks down to see a piece of a mast with a torn sail drifting in the water.
“Is that a piece of a ship?” she asks Macku.
“Wrecks ahead!” a matoran shouts. They look ahead to see dozens of boats submerged in the water, the intact masts like trees in the ocean.
“Hahli, take us through the wrecks,” Helryx orders. “Amaya, Kai, Idris, Vhisola; see if you push any wrecks out of the way. The rest of you; keep a sharp eye out for possible survivors or the thing that did this.”
There are multiple “ yes Mistress!”’s around the boat as everyone sees to their tasks. Kivoda heads to the helm to observe behind the ship.
“Smart, Kivoda,” Helryx compliments from behind her. “I suspected the beast could be approaching from behind as well.” She’s still looking straight ahead.
“Thank you, Mistress-”
The ship abruptly stops with a sharp thunk.
The Arbiters lose their footing, holding on to whatever’s near them to remain up.
Hahli pulls herself up from the now rigid wheel, “Did we hit a ship?!”
Some matoran look over the edge.
“The water’s too dense, I can’t see anything!” one called Nireta shouts from the bow.
“Me neither!” calls Idris.
A deep groan reverberates throughout the Tarakona. The matoran freeze up, looks of terror drawn upon their faces.
“It’s the beast!” cries Vhisola.
The ship shudders again, and begins listing to one side.
Helryx peers over the side and sees massive, silver tentacles pushing the hull.
“All hands! Get the beast off the ship!”
Hearing the Judicator’s roar, the Arbiters spring into action.
But it’s not three steps to the railing before more tentacles blast out of the water and swat away the matoran. The fallen matoran who are not dazed scuttle to cover as the silver limbs flail upon the deck.
Hahli and Kivoda take cover behind the helm.
“This is no ordinary rahi!” Kivoda shouts.
Hahli gives her a concerned look, “Of course not! Akida would never let this foul creature in her seas!”
Kivoda grabs her.
“You don’t understand! The beast was tipping the ship on purpose!” she cries.
Another shudder rocks the ship.
Kivoda feels a coldness sweep within her.
“It means that the thing baited us to attack the arm pushing the boat!”
Hahli’s face fills with realization and horror.
“... It planned. Based off its fights with other Arbiters.”
There is momentary silence between them before they hear a scream.
Kivoda gets up to see Kai being dragged off the ship by a tentacle.
“Kai!” Hahli shouts, sprinting towards her. She lunges and grabs onto Kai’s wrists.
The tentacle, sensing resistance, pulls harder. Kivoda’s heels dig into the wood as she and Kai are slowly dragged to the edge.
“Agh! Do something! Stab it!” Kai screams.
Kivoda clenches her teeth, “I can’t let go of you!”
“Use water! Fling something at it!”
There’s a crushing sensation forming in Kivoda’s heart. She tries pulling back harder.
Kai looks frantic, “Hurry! Please! Help me!”
Kivoda feels her eyes moisten.
“I… I can’t! I can’t control water!”
For a moment, it sounds as if the entire ship has gone silent, with Kai staring at Kivoda in disbelief.
Suddenly, there’s a blur of motion and they fall to the floor. Helryx stands over them, with the tentacle writhing in pain as it quickly slides beneath the waves. The rest of the wounded arms soon follow suit, a muffled howl sounding below the vessel. The Tarakona settles on the now calm waves.
Helryx cleans off her serrated blade on the ship’s railing. She then turns and looks over the helm.
“Is everyone still on board!?” she demands. They are confirmations from around the ship.
Kai frantically gets to her feet and grabs Helryx’s arm.
“Mistress! The Eremite, Kivoda-!”
Kivoda tries to get up, but it’s too late.
“- she has no control of water!”
The Eremite exhales defeatedly. She already can feel the eyes on her, the mutters between the Arbiters.
“What are you saying, Kai?” Helryx questions, attempting to maintain the cover.
“Sh-she couldn’t save me, she couldn’t attack the tentacle. If you hadn’t come I would’ve died!”
Kivoda hears aggressive footsteps march up to the helm. She doesn’t need to look up to know it’s Vhisola.
“...I knew it,” her voice drips with venom. “I knew you were not to be trusted; not even Akida believes in you.”
“That’s enough!” Helryx barks. “In case your mask was on too tight, we’re still in dangerous waters-”
“And you expect me to entrust our lives to her!? Someone who can’t even do what every Naho child can do!?” Vhisola sneers. “Why is she even onboard!? You said it yourself, you didn’t want novice Arbiters, but you’d take someone that can’t even will a single droplet?”
The Judicator strides forward, “Watch yourself, Vhisola. You told me you did not question my judgement.”
“That was when I thought you spoke the truth,” snarls the Arbiter, “but apparently I was wrong, apparently we were all wrong!”
Kivoda looks up, “Sisters…”
“We almost lost Kai because our almighty Judicator, slayer of the Tarakava Nui, decided to be charitable to a liability!!”
Kivoda stands, “Sisters!”
Hahli rushes forward and grabs Vhisola by her charms.
“How dare you speak to the Mistress like this! Do you want to be keel-hauled?!”
Other matoran are starting to look nervous, seeing the tension build up between the leaders.
“SISTERS! BE SILENT!”
The Arbiters and the Judicator whirl around to the Eremite.
“What do you want?” hisses Vhisola.
The ship begins to creak.
The matoran freeze up. A low moan echoes from beneath them, sounds of something scraping against wood. Hahli slowly lets go of Vhisola.
Helryx clutches her sword, “Sisters, stay away from the railings. The moment a tentacle appears, attack at a distance with water. Maintain the distance.”
She turns to Kivoda, “Get below deck; I’m afraid your skills are not equipped to handle this.”
Before she can reply, the Tarakona sharply buckles, knocking them to the floor. A roar echoes around them as a dozen silver tendrils spring from the waves and rush at the boat. Wood splinters and pieces of the rigging fly into the air as the Arbiters try to escape the tentacles reach.
Hahli points forward, “Mistress; in front!”
A large bulbous shape begins to breach to the surface, black-tendriled fins stirring the water around it.
“The head!” cries Vhisola, “Attack the head!”
The Arbiters grab whatever pikes and spears they have and, while evading the flailing tentacles around them, throw their weapons at the beast.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
The spears sink into the water, uselessly bouncing off the creature’s skull. However, becoming irritated at the matorans attack, the monster rams its head into the Tarakona ’s hull. The ship tips heavily to its right, the Naho warriors scrambling to not fall overboard. The vessel then lurches back to the left, the matoran being tossed across the deck.
“It didn’t work!” shouts Nireta. “The beast’s head is too thi-”
She doesn’t finish her sentence as a tendril quickly snags her and drags her overboard.
“NIRETA!” multiple matoran cry in horror.
Kivoda, who has been tossed into the corner behind the helm, pulls herself up as the rest of the Arbiters frantically try to escape the arms now slithering onto the deck.
Helryx slices a tentacle, “Don’t give up! Fight!” The injured tentacle reels back and whips Helryx across the floor.
This is bad, Kivoda realizes, seeing the chaos on the ship. The beast’s head is too strong for our pikes, hurting its arms is not keeping it at bay anymore, and everyone is in a state of panic.
Kivoda looks around, searching for something that can possibly defeat the creature. Most of the weapons are already overboard or in use, ropes are too weak to restrain, and even the masts wouldn’t be able to-
She looks up at the masts, then the bulbous head swaying in the waves. An idea clicks in her head.
Kivoda runs forward are tries to climb up the mast. The rope rigging is right out of her reach. She looks around for help.
“Macku! I need help!” she calls to her friend, ducking under a swinging tendril.
Macku rushes over to her.
“What are you doing!? Helryx ordered you to go-!”
Kivoda grabs her shoulders, “Listen! I have a plan! I need you to boost me up to the rigging!”
She points up the mast.
Macku looks skeptical, “What are you going to do!?”
The ship shudders. Both of them brace themselves against the mast.
“There’s no time to explain! Just trust me!” Kivoda pleas.
Macku looks at her for a moment, unsure of what to do. Then a determined look appears on her face.
“Ok, I’ll trust you!”
Cupping her hands together, she lets Kivoda step up on her hands to the rigging. Another shudder rocks the boat, and Macku loses her balance. However, Kivoda already has a grip on the rope and begins to climb the mast.
“Good luck!” shouts Macku before she sprints to cover, as a tentacle slams down on where she just stood.
Kivoda climbs up to the top of the sail, and pushes herself up the wooden shaft. She now stands on top of the slanted sail, and looks down at the creature.
Its head has now fully emerged from the water; a huge grinning skull with black fins agitating the waters behind it, and three eyes with glowing purple pupils set in the darkness of its eye-sockets. As it roars, its bottom jaw splits into two, revealing rows of swirling teeth and mandibles.
A shudder goes through the boat once more, and Kivoda springs into action. She pulls on some ropes, and cuts away portions of the sail. The pole begins pointing downwards.
Dodging out the way of a silver arm slithering past her, Vhisola looks up at the swinging wooden pole. She then sees Kivoda riding the on top of the mast.
“That idiot is going kill us! What’s she doing!?” she growls.
With one last pull on a rope, Kivoda looks down at the monster. The creature now is attempting to pull its body onto the ship. Tentacles wrap around the mast, and the Tarakava Nui figurehead is crushed under its weight as it heaves onto the bow. The other Arbiters run to the helm.
Hahli rushes to Helryx, who is pulling herself up.
“Mistress, we have to abandon ship! We can’t stop this monster!” the Elite warns her.
Helryx shakes her head, and looks up. She chuckles.
“Are you sure about that, Hahli?”
The monster drags itself on the bow, making the stern of the ship rise into the air. Kivoda looks down, knife in hand.
The monster sees the matoran at the helm and it opens its jaws.
It heaves forward, teeth spinning around like buzz saws. Macku cries out in fear.
Kivoda slices a rope, and the pole flies downward. She grabs onto the remaining rigging and-
The beast screeches in pain as the wooden pole impales its third eye, its tentacles writhing about the ship. Its grip on the mast loosens as Kivoda lands on the deck. Fading purple irises stare at her.
Suddenly something cold washes over Kivoda, a sensation gnawing in her head.
ABRAMG ADGMACH, TOA. MAHORELA ZONRENSG SAANIR IADON. RESTIL KARZAHNI DRIX MOZOD...
The eye-sockets go dark, and the creature slowly slides off the Tarakona. With a huge splash, the body sinks beneath the waves.
The ship is silent. Kivoda stares in confusion at where the creature laid a moment ago, before slowly turning around.
The Arbiters are staring at her, mouths agape. Even Vhisola’s eyes are wide in disbelief. Helryx pushes past the group and takes a look over the ship.
“We have lost comrades, and Naho’s treasured vessel is heavily damaged… but we have succeeded in defeating this blight on Akida’s oceans!”
That brings some energy back to the battered matoran as they give a small cheer of victory.
Hahli begins shouting commands as Helryx makes her way down to Kivoda.
“That was impressive; reminds me of my encounter with the Tarakava Nui.” Her hands are behind her back; despite the dents and bruises, she maintains her leader-esque composure.
“Thank you,” sighs Kivoda, “Though I think the monster knocked off the figurehead while crawling aboard.”
Helryx chuckles, “Well it appears I will have to go find the pieces later. But for now…”
She clasps her hand on Kivoda’s shoulder.
“Welcome to the Sisterhood, Arbiter.”
Kivoda stammers, “But- but I have no control of water-”
“You think being able to control water is what makes an Arbiter? No, any Naho citizen can do that. An Arbiter has skill, wit, and courage; all which you just displayed taking down that beast. You assessed the situation and used the environment around you to execute a plan; that kind of mindset would be a huge asset to us, wouldn’t you agree?
Kivoda salutes, “Yes, Mistress.”
Helryx smiles, “Then get to it. Help Idris assess the damage below.”
Kivoda runs off, with the Judicator staring out the blue horizon.
The Tarakona gently bobs in its dock, matoran already on board making repairs. The majority Arbiters have already left the pier, with only Kivoda and Macku remaining.
“... I take it back. I’d rather deal with the fish guts,” mumbles Macku, rubbing her wounded arm.
“But if you left, who’d be there to watch my back?” Kivoda asks.
Macku stretches, “Right, cause I gotta look out for the monster slayer. Yeah ok.”
“Hey, you helped! If you didn’t boost me I’ve would’ve never been able to do it.”
Macku does a big dramatic spread with her good arm.
“Macku, the Lifter; 0% Courage, 100% Upper-arm strength.”
They both laugh. The friends talk for a little more before Macku heads home. Kivoda begins to head to the temple when she sees someone ahead of her.
It’s Vhisola. Who’s also looking at her.
She walks up to the other matoran and waits. It is a tense silence for a moment.
“Let me tell you something, Ere… Kivoda,” Vhisola says quietly. “I will admit; I see that it was wrong to judge you, and you were courageous in defeating that beast.”
Kivoda’s eyes widen, “Well, thank-”
“But I’m sorry to say, I cannot call you my sister yet.”
A weight hits Kivoda’s chest, and she lets her emotions leak through.
“Still?” she says angrily. “Why?!”
Vhisola looks down, tensing up as if she’s holding something in. Finally she looks into Kivoda’s eyes.
“... You may have saved the day… but I have to go to Nireta’s family and explain why their daughter… and my best friend… is not coming home.”
Kivoda’s anger loosens a little.
“... And you blame me for it?”
Vhisola has tears forming, but she quickly turns away and begins walking down the path past Kivoda.
The Naho Arbiter stops in her tracks, back facing the former Eremite.
“... I’m sorry.”
Vhisola slightly shakes, a small sob escaping her throat, before she runs off around the corner.
Kivoda is alone with guilt on the pier. She looks out to the ocean.
She closes her eyes.
Toa Gali opens her eyes.
The world around her is tinted gray. The waves frozen in their motion, the matoran stuck in a moment of time.
She looks out to the faraway coast. A brown spiked creature with claws scurries its way up the exposed reef, a glowing object in its grasp.
Gripping her hooks, she feels the vast energy within herself and rushes forward.
After hearing some confirmed backstory for Gali, I went a bit further. Just to clarify some things in the story...
Kivoda- Gali, The Eremite (Solitude by Religious purpose)
Helryx- The Judicator, leader of the Arbiters
Nokama- The High Priestess, Ruler of Naho
Vhisola, Macku- Arbiter
Hahli- Elite Arbiter
Irarok- Kraken/Eldritch monster
Probably will include some artwork later.
Hope you enjoyed~