The wind is a barely a whisper as it blows through the dense leaves of the forest; the soft creaking of the mighty trees that surround the small clearing provide a hollow lullaby to the creatures who sleep.
Sitting alone at its center is a massive tree, its spiraling arms almost dare to touch the evening twilight. The translucent white leaves sway in the gentle breeze.
At the roots of the ancient oak sits a large figure; his eyes fixed straight ahead, but not really looking at anything. His armor is smothered in soot and ash, save for two small lines descending from his eyes. His mighty hammer has fallen by his side, forgotten by the master of earth.
Toa Onua is quiet.
After a long empty stare into nothingness, Onua closes his eyes.
The memories begin to return.
Korgot feels a small tug on his knapsack.
“Teacher, how much more do we have to walk?” the small matoran groans. Several others behind mumble tiredly.
Korgot’s large frame bounces as he bellows in laughter, “Oh come now children! Don’t you want to see the wild rahi that live here? Kewas? Brakas? Bog Snakes”
He bends down to get at eye level with the small matoran.
“Maybe,” he whispers, his eyes wide with suspense, “maybe even an ash bear.”
The young matoran suddenly giggle with excitement, their sheepishness vanquished.
“I want to see an ash bear!” they cry with vigor.
Korgot brings himself up and marches forward, “Then let us continue through the forest!”
The class of matoran follow their giant instructor along the dirt path.
“Now we’re actually going to stop by a farm run by an old friend of mine; he is very connected with rahi, especially gukkos and kewas,” Korgot informs the children. “Now tell me; how many of you have seen a gukko before?”
There are only a few confirmations from the small matoran. Korgot chuckles to himself.
After a few minutes, they walk out to a small clearing, where a wooden shack lies. Nearby are some pens; some with gukko, some with ussal crabs, and one with-
“An ash bear!” the matoran squeal. The bear is resting on the floor, its eye casually glancing over to the newcomers.
“Easy now, children. What have I told you about encountering rahi?” Korgot says, eyeing the nervous matoran.
“Respect the Rahi?” one pipes up.
“Treat it as you would a fellow matoran?” another pitches.
Korgot nods. “Exactly; if we give respect and care for the rahi, they will return the gesture. Understood?”
The matoran nod.
Korgot is about to walk forward when something suddenly hits the ground in front of him.
It’s a arrow, a green feather swaying from the end.
The matoran behind him gasp in fear, but the instructor gives a sigh.
“My friend does enjoy theatrics.”
A green flash flies through the foliage above, before a lanky figure lands beside Korgot. His mask is streamed back, and in his hands are arrows and a beautiful bow with green-blue crystals embedded in the handle.
“Ah, my earth-friend! I didn’t expect yah to be here so ever-quick!” the new matoran gleams.
Korgot gestures to him, “Children, this is my friend and owner of the farm, Bingzak. He’s actually from Kauae, but lives here to be with the rahi.”
Bingzak places the bow on his back, “Ever-true! I’ve lived with rahi my whole life, and taught yah teacher everything he knows!”
The teacher gives a friendly nudge, “About rahi, Bingzak. Not everything.”
The children snicker as Bingzak waves a dismissive hand. “Whatever ya say, Korgot. Now!”
He raises his hands excitedly in the air.
“Who wants to meet-greet some rahi!?”
It’s a while later, and the children are now playing with juvenile ussal crabs. The two old friends watch by the sides of the pen.
“... and I swoop down, and I see sticky-gross webs! And not from fikou.”
Korgot gives a questionable glance as Bingzak continues.
“So I go further, and what do I find? A small nest of Oohnorak!”
There’s a small pause. Korgot squints his eyes in concentration.
“... Forgive me, but those are what again?”
Korgot’s eyes widen with concern, “Visorak! Shall I inform the Tiroian guard? They’d be able to-”
Bingzak chuckles, “ It was only four or five Oohnorak; they slow-think compared to the other Vizorak. They are bog-footed against I who wind-flies; I took care of them.”
They watch one of small ussal’s tackle a matoran playfully, licking their face.
“Oh!” Bingzak exclaims, “before it’s past-late; I have the kewa eggs for Reysa, if she still wants them.”
“Oh lovely!” Kargot smiles. “She has been wanting to bake something for Kaj’s acceptance.”
Bingzak’s eyebrows perk-up, “Acceptance! My my, time ever-flies, eh? I remember her being like your students; small, wide-eyed girl. Deep-thinks about rahi and nature.”
Korgot gives a proud smile, “She still does; it’s most likely the reason why she wants to become an Archivist.”
The lanky matoran laughs, “Hahaha! True-follows her father’s path?”
The large body rumbles as he chuckles and shakes his head.
“No no, I could never stay indoors in a stone room studying. I prefer being in Terak’s home; in nature with the rahi, the trees, and the sky.”
Bingzak smirks, “Agreed.”
The two friends watch the playing matoran, the silent trees around them like a soft cocoon of tranquility.
Onua’s feet dig into the earth, sweat forming as his brow as he holds back the icy pick with his stone hammer. Kurahk’s fur bristles as he roars at the Toa, pushing harder on the pick.
Summoning the earth below, Onua pushes away the Rahkshi with old roots and soil. Kurahk hisses and flails as the wave of dirt tosses him back.
Onua breathes heavily, teeth clenching in concentration.
Anger. That was what the beast was doing.
He could feel it tugging at the edge of his mind, like some a winch slowly tightening on his head. The irrational, violent thoughts darted around in his consciousness- KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL HIM - but Onua closes his eyes and brings forth memories.
The soft hum of the Nui-Rama building nests in the trees. Bingzak’s laugh as he shows him a newborn gukko chick. His daughter’s bright smiling face, pointing at the colorful leaves she found in the autumn forest.
The Rahkshi growls, a thunderous sprint closing in on Onua.
The Toa tightens his grip on the hammer and lifts his weapon.
His eyes snap open, emeralds shining through the shadows.
“You have no power over me, creature.”
The hammer swings and connects with Kurahk’s skull. There’s a resounding CRACK as shards of the beast’s mask fly off. Reeling in pain, the Rahkshi struggles to hold his face and tries to run away.
Onua lets him go, watching Kurahk scurry off into the grey forest.
He turns his attention to the source of the conflict; a fragment of the Mask of Time.
He approaches it cautiously; the space around it seems to distort, bending into the golden piece.
“Eerie,” Onua mumbles to himself.
He slowly picks up the shard and places it into his knapsack.
He turns to the frozen forest, an unearthly silence blanketed all around him. He furrows his brow.
“Do not fret; I will make it right again.”
Heaving his mighty hammer over his shoulder, he walks into the forest.
Grey skies wavered, the natural blue painting itself across the vast canvas above. Wind blew through the trees, the seas crashed against the coast, lava slowly trickled down the volcanic slopes.
Time had resumed for the island.
In the final battle, the Rahkshi were defeated by the united force of the Toa, and the creatures fled to the shadows.
They were victorious.
However, as they descended from the ancient steps of the ruined temple, a silent question seeped through all of their minds.
Kopaka and Tahu mentioned returning to their kingdoms immediately. Gali said she must report herself to Helryx and Nokama. Pohatu laughed about becoming the first ever Toa Kohlii player for his comeback. And Lewa…
Onua feels a weight land on his mighty shoulders.
“Where you off to, Toa-friend?” Lewa quips from above his head.
Onua smiles. “I’m returning to Tiro to see my family. It feels like I haven’t seen my child in a long time.”
The Earth Toa hears an audible gasp.
“You have a family?! And a kid?! How old are you, Onua?!”
“Ha ha ha, I’m think I’m too old,” he replies.
The two heroes descend down a dirt path that follows a small creek.
Onua glances upward to the Air Toa, “What about you, Lewa? What shall you do now that we’ve completed our duty?”
Lewa makes a popping sound with her mouth.
“Well… home-realm Kanue is nice but… I have head-thoughts that say I don’t want to go.”
Peering at the reflection in the creek, Onua sees a rare solemn face on his friend.
“You don’t wish to return? Do you not have family or friends worrying about you?” Onua asks in a concerned tone.
A sad laugh comes from above his head.
“No, no. I used to have a tree-friend but… it turned out that I was late-knowing who he really was.”
Onua ponders for a moment.
“... Were you planning on coming with me to Tiro?”
Sharp inhale from the young Toa.
“Weeeellllllll… maybe?” she replies questionably. “I have a friend who lives on the outskirts that I was planning on seeing.”
Onua jerks his head up, “Wait. In the forest outskirts? Do they have a rahi farm?”
Lewa’s head pops down in front of Onua’s mask.
“WAIT. You know Bingzak!?”
The Toa of Earth gives a mighty laugh, “Hahaha! Of course! Back when I taught the children of my village, I’d often bring them to see Bingzak’s rahi. And he’d teach even me about the wildlife and sometimes give Reysa herbs and eggs!”
Onua has a big smile on his face.
“Those were the days; I haven’t visited him in years; perhaps I shall join you before seeing my family.”
Lewa gives a cheer of approval as they approach the dense forest.
Onua gently knocks on the wooden door. He shifts around awkwardly.
He had tried to get through his village in a subtle matter; however being the same size as the stone statues of guardians made him quite a scene in town. Swarms of matoran had flocked to him, asking questions and thanking him and generally being confused on why there was a Toa strolling through their small village. He gently tried to wave them off and said that the Turaga will explain everything later (who he also had to meet with today).
So now only a few matoran eye the hulking Toa from a distance, seeing what he was up to.
He hears footsteps heading to the door.
The door swings open, a female matoran with flour stains and wooden beaded necklaces stands in the doorway.
“Hell- Oh! Oh my!” she exclaims at the sight of the large guardian.
Onua shuffles uneasily, “Uh, hello-”
“Toa Onua, I have to give my thanks!” she stammers, quickly bowing. “I mean I don’t really know what you did, but I know it saved us from something evil!”
The Toa of Earth struggles to find his words as another figure comes to the door.
She’s slightly taller than the other, but her mask is equipped with reading-lens and archaeological tools line her belt. Her bright blue eyes stare at the newcomer.
Now the other matoran raises her hands up to her mouth in shock. Onua gives a fragile smile as he kneels down to their height.
Reysa slowly approaches Onua.
“... Korgot? Is that you?” she asks, her voice nearly silent.
The Toa nods.
Reysa steps back, her face a mix of confusion and happiness and sorrow.
“I.. I.. I ju-just need to… I need a moment. I-I… Excuse m-me.”
She quickly walks away and into a room. The door shuts.
Onua stands there, sighing in regret. Kaj puts her hand on his arm.
“You know she doesn’t mean it, she’s just… surprised is all,” she assures her giant father. “I mean, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.”
He nods solemnly, “I expected this to happen, but… I’m not sure what to do.”
She gives Onua a hug.
“Listen dad, it’ll take a little while to get used to; but me and mom still crunch love you, no matter if you’re a Toa or not. I mean hey! It’s crunch pretty cool, right?”
Onua gives a soft chuckle. “I promise that I crunch haven’t changed at all. I’m still Korgot in my heart, who’s so proud of who CRUNCH his daughter grew up to be, and CRUNCH he loves you CRUNCH both very-”
Fire and smoke everywhere.
He tries to shake her but she won’t wake up.
C R U N C H
The memories fade away into darkness.
Onua opens his eyes at the disturbance.
“So this is where you went,” a monotone voice states behind him.
Onua sighs, “Hello, Kopaka.”
The Toa of Ice folds his arms and eyes his friend’s huge frame.
“Judging by the leaves all over your body, and that there are now flies around the tea Lewa left for you, I’d say you’ve been in this spot for a couple days.”
Onua peers down. There’s a mug with a golden-green liquid in it, small gnats dancing around it.
“... It appears I have.”
Kopaka exhales sharply, disapproval seeping from his being.
“Isolating yourself from your friends is not going to bring them back Onua,” the Toa of Ice scolds.
A harsh scoff spits out of Onua’s mouth.
“That’s amusing coming from you, Ice Prince.”
A pause. Then Onua sighs.
“I apologize, that was rude. I let my negative emotions get control…”
Kopaka sits down beside him, placing his spear and shield to the side.
“It’s ok to feel angry, Onua. As it is ok to feel sorrow.”
The Toa of Earth clenches his eyes in pain.
“Anger only damages your own soul,” Onua chokes slightly, “but it hurts so much…”
He turns to his friend, tears forming once again around his eyes.
“They’re gone, Kopaka, my family… Reysa and Kaj- oh Kaj, I couldn’t save her I couldn’t save…”
The Toa of Earth sobs, his huge frame wracked with grief. His cry echoes through the dark forest around them. Kopaka patiently sits beside him, hands on his lap.
After a couple of minutes, Onua settles down. He bows his head down, tired.
“I… I apologize-”
“Don’t. There’s no need,” comes the cool reply.
They sit in silence for a moment, the giant tree in front of them softly speaking in its low creaking.
“Where is Tahu?” Onua finally asks.
“Hiding like a coward, or getting interrogated by Gali," Kopaka says coldly. "I wouldn’t expect him to see you anytime soon.”
“It is not his blame… I saw different eyes behind that mask,” the Earth Toa mutters.
Kopaka frowns, “It is still his burden to bear. It was his flame that… did this.”
Onua turns his head to the Toa of Ice, “Has he not already made amends with you?”
Kopaka sighs, turning away from Onua.
“Yes… but my father is still dead by Narmoto’s mistakes. I’d say that it will take a while for me to fully accept his apology.”
“As will I,” Onua admits, “but I want to forgive him. Do you?”
Kopaka gives a small smirk, “I thought I was here to comfort you, not to be lectured about unity again.”
The Ice Toa glances at the Earth Toa’s knowing look. He sighs in defeat.
“... This war has strained our friendships greatly, Onua. Perhaps once it’s calmed down, I can find some resolution in forgiveness. But like I said, it takes time.”
Onua nods, accepting his answer. They sit in front of the oak in silence once more. Kopaka stares at the mighty tree, the white leaves in a soft waltz above them.
“Is this a special tree?” asks Kopaka. “It seems like a significant landmark in this forest.”
Onua looks up at the swaying branches, “ We call this Whakaaro Nui, it is said to be a source of wisdom and guidance. Those in need of Terak’s direction often will come here.”
He chuckles, “Though, sometimes people just come here for the beauty of the tree; I remember I’d take Kaj up here to… see the autumn leaves..”
“I know what you mean,” Kopaka interjects. “When I was younger, I remember my father would take me up to the top of one of the look-out towers. We would look up at the night sky and stare at stars; he knew all the constellations and would point them out for me.”
Kopaka gives a rare smile.
Onua sighs contently, “Ah, Kaj loved to study the stars. I didn’t know much about constellations, but we’d just look at the different colors or if they’d move or not. When she got older, she knew more about them than I did, and she’d tell me the names and how they got them.”
Kopaka eyes perk up, “She sounded smart.”
Onua laughs, “Smart was an understatement! She was an Archivist; only a very select few ever get that position, and she got it on her first try.”
The Ice Toa laughs, “My dad always had a habit of trying to learn more, even though he was king. He had tons of books, and he’d read to me all these stories about elemental spirits and the Great Beings who came before. I guess it’s how I know so much now.”
“I remember reading for Kaj; Reysa would tell her fables but she wanted me to tell her about the world and creatures in it. Even if she didn’t know everything I was saying, she was just so excited to learn about everything!”
Both Toa give a laugh. They spend the night telling stories; tales of their families and fathers, their childhoods and parenthoods. Their laughter sings through the night forest, in harmony with the wind and the calls of nocturnal Rahi.
Onua is not alone anymore.
On this night, with his friend, new memories are made.
Dichotomy was quite a dark story, so I decided that this one should be a bit more heartfelt. Still some tragedy, but hey; tis life.
Might create some artwork for this- or hey if anyone wants to give their interpretation that'll be cool too.
Five more stories in this collection to go. Up next is Kopaka.