Grillon took a deep breath and reached out a hand to nervously knock on the door in front of him. It was set halfway up the trunk of a great redwood, one of the biggest trees in all of Borrara, and it was one of thousands of doors on this grand tree alone. The early Borran had turned these trees into their cities, coaxing branches to grow into elevated roads and bridges. All very well for a tree dweller, but Grillon would much rather his feet stay on the ground. Still, this was where matoran sent him when he’d asked: the home of Vineon the Ironwood Knight.
The sound of heavy footsteps could be heard from inside, getting louder and louder as he approached. Moments later the door was opened, and the large green Toa in the doorway looked his visitor up and down. “It’s you, is it?” He grunted, “What the Karz do you want?”
“I, uh… I needed to ask you a favor.” Grillon said slowly, tiptoeing around the subject a little.
“What, do you need help opening a packet of Kyandi or something?” Vineon snorted.
“No, there’s something that’s going to be happening at the Spine on the first day of the Spring Festival, and I’ll need you to back me up…” Grillon pressed on.
“Are you gonna tell me what it is, Fire-spitter?”
“It’s important to keep it secret though, I’ve been told expressly not to tell you. You’ll just need to follow me, okay?”
“Secret, eh? I’m surprised they entrusted a secret to a coward like you, if anyone caught you they’d probably torture it out of you in no time flat… Fine. I’ll tag along with this secret thing, whatever it is. Just don’t expect me to wait for you if you fall behind on the climb up.”
Well this is going better than expected.
“Okay. So I’ll come get you from here at about 7 in the morning.”
“Whatever,” And with that, the door was slammed in Grillon’s face.
Maerkon lived in a smallish stone house on the banks outside of Ga-veza. It was little more than a cottage, really, with a comfy living area, his private bedroom, and a small arsenal of firewood, weapons, scrolls, and food. Hardly anything for a national hero and general of the army, but the Galin were never really much for splendor, and Maerkon was no exception. The living room was big enough for when he invited a few friends over, and that was enough for him. At the moment, Maerkon was reclining in a chair by the fire, on the edge of sleep, when he heard a knocking on the door.
“Coming!” He called, wiping the drowsiness from his eyes as he opened the door.
“Kerila! What a pleasant surprise!” He said merrily, seeing the Mirror Knight on his doorstep.
“H-hey, Maerkon, there’s something I need to talk with you about-” she started, before Maerkon shushed her.
“Well don’t stand there stuttering, come on in m’girl!” He beckoned her into the house and shut the door before returning to his seat.
“Alright, now we can talk a little bit more freely. Now, what was it you wanted to ask? I assume you haven’t changed your mind about spending the Spring Festival at my place?”
Kerila laughed and shook her head.
“Afraid not, old man. In fact, this might mess up your plans just a little.”
“Oh? How do you mean?” Maerkon asked, surprised.
“Well, you see,” Kerila started haltingly, “you see, I―” she gulped, steeling herself, and then: “I talked to Grillon again!” Her mouth slammed shut and she stared at him, wide eyed with fear.
“Explain yourself.” Maerkon said, voice carefully controlled. Oh, my dear girl…
“Well, a couple of times actually. Anyway, he’s trying to find a way to end the war peacefully. I was really only hanging around out of curiosity at first, but then at our last meeting, Friana showed up and pledged herself to our cause. We’ve agreed to gather all six Toa at a set place in the Spine on the first day of the Festival. We’ll discuss a plan to bring about peace, and then we’ll, we’ll...” she trailed off, suddenly searching for words, “uh, see what happens next. Andittechnicallyisn’ttreacherybecauseit’sduringtheFestivalandit’dbepeacefulanywayso youwon’tkillmeright?” The last part was blurted out in a jumbled mess, Kerila talking faster and faster as Maerkon continued to show no signs of reaction. After waiting a few seconds to make sure she was finished, he sighed heavily.
“Child, of course I would never kill you, no worries there, but this… you understand what would happen if word got out?”
Kerila nodded nervously.
“Then you understand why I cannot say yes to this, right? You understand why this is absolutely out of the question, yes?” Kerila nodded again, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped over. And yet… Maerkon could see her fists were tightly clenched. Well, well. This really is important to her, and I suppose I’m not real crazy about this war anyway…
“So of course, we’re going to use our very best excuses, and sneak out very quietly.” Kerila looked up, eyes wide.
“Maerkon! You really mean it?”
“Yep, ‘fraid so.”
“YES!” Kerila jumped up and hugged him.
“Whoa there, girl!” Maerkon laughed, patting her on the back. “It’s only on one condition, of course: you have to stay in Ga-veza for the entire Spring Festival, and you have to promise to enjoy yourself, world-altering meetings or no. Deal?”
“You drive a hard bargain, old man. Deal.”
Friana poked her head into Yeela’s smithy. Soot filled the air as Yeela pounded on her anvil.
“Hey Yeela!” No answer. Yeela hadn’t even noticed her, so intent was she on her work.
“HEY YEELA!” Friana shouted, summoning a gust of wind to put out the forge fires. Yeela growled in frustration and yelled back.
“HEY FRI! NICE TO SEE YA, THANKS FOR MESSING ME UP AND PUTTING HOURS OF WORK DOWN THE DRAIN!”
“YOUR SMITHY IS A STUFFY AND SMOKE-FILLED PIT OF DEATH, YOU SHOULD BE THANKING ME!”
“WANNA GO HIKING ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SPRING FESTIVAL?”
“WHY ARE YOU STILL YELLING AT ME?”
“CAUSE YOU’RE A DEAF BLACKSMITH, YOU DAFT SOD-HEAD!”
Friana coughed as she left the smithy.
“Ugh, my voice is always sore after visiting her place.”
The hike up had been… bearable. Grillon was more than fit enough to make it up, and Vineon could keep up fine. Most of it was done in silence, aside from the occasional remark aimed at Grillon by Vineon, and it was overall uneventful. As they neared the appointed spot, Grillon became more and more nervous. His breath was coming in short gasps, and not from exertion. Oh my stars, Vineon is going to kill me! This is crazy! But there’s no going back now…
Then the time for fretting was over as they reached the meeting place. Grillon took a deep breath. It was time to stop doing nothing, and face the music.
“Hey there, Grillon! I was worried you couldn’t get him to come.”
Vineon stiffened behind him.
“Fire-spitter, this better not be what I think this is…”
“Greetings, Vineon!” Maerkon said, not deactivating his armor.
The situation wasn’t pretty on the mountaintop. Maerkon was in full defense mode, with Kerila standing behind him. On the other side of the clearing, Friana was trying - with limited success - to restrain Yeela from bull-rushing the Toa of Ice.
Vineon hissed, and vines whipped out of his armor, flying towards Maerkon.
“So this is the secret? All our enemies in one place? Good job Grillon, now we can kill them all right here!”
“STOP!” Grillon yelled. “Vineon, we can’t attack them. Spring Festival, remember?” The Toa of the Green stared at him incredulously.
“Seriously? Why’d you bring me here then?”
“Explain yourself, Friana!” Yeela stormed, still trying to get at Kerila.
“We’re here to talk,” Grillon said loud enough for everyone to hear. “We brought you all here so that for once in this accursed war we can meet each other without trying to put a knife in each other’s throats.”
“Guilty!” Friana called over her shoulder. “Though I thought we were going to wait before starting the get-to-know-you exercises. Come to think of it, we didn’t really plan this next part out, did we?” Admittedly Grillon hadn’t. Even getting to this point had seemed like such a daunting task he hadn’t even thought about what would come after. What should they do now?
“Well, first we should, uh…”
“Very eloquent, you pathetic wimp,” Vineon interrupted. “Have any other brilliant speeches, or can I go and report your treason to the Turaga?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! At least hear us out, okay?” Grillon pleaded.
“Why in the name of Karzahni should I listen to what you have to say, Fire-spitter? Especially considering you just tricked me all the way up here to join this little… little Karzing buddy-buddy club with ALL FOUR OF OUR ENEMIES!? ARE YOU ACTUALLY INSANE?” Vineon exploded, getting louder and louder as more realization came to the words that were leaving his lips, “The only reason I’m not going to kill you for treason right now, is because I actually have the smallest amount of respect for this Karzing island’s customs, which seems to be more than you’re capable of!”
“FFRYTHYDD, FRI? How do you expect me to work with that KONA SCUM!? You know better than anyone that what they did can never be forgiven! My entire village was destroyed, everyone I cared about died: Hafu, my children, EVERYONE IS GONE FRIANA! AND IT’S BECAUSE OF THEM!” Yeela screamed, pointing an accusing finger at Kerila.
“What!? I wasn’t even involved in that, how can you blame me!?” Kerila retorted.
“All of your people should suffer in the deepest pits of Karzahni’s realm you stinking Kona ce! You slaughtered whole families, children! How can you even live with yourselves!?” Yeela fired up again, throwing out all of her compounded hatred of Kothe onto Kerila.
“Just know that I’ll enjoy watching all you cowards get executed for this!” Vineon added, not helping matters even a little.
“STOP! STOP! EVERYONE STOP TALKING RIGHT NOW!” Grillon yelled at the top of his lungs, unable to take the stress anymore. Everybody stopped, and looked to him. Oh crap…
“Thank you.” He said in a small voice. Then, clearing his throat, he continued - a little more confidently: “Look, this war has taken things from all of us: family, friends, freedom. But just pointing blame at the enemy who did it and then committing an equally unspeakable act in response is only going to drive us further apart. So please, just consider it. Break the cycle, band together, and maybe we can stop this horrible war and try and recover from the pain it’s caused us.” Grillon just hoped it would have the right effect. Yeela at least seemed a little moved-
“Alright, that’s more than enough of this vomit. I’m gonna go down and report you to a Turaga. I always knew you were a cowardly little runt, but this is a whole new level Fire-spitter.” Vineon cut in, stalking off back down the path.
“I’m going after him, if he reports us, we’re dead.” Grillon explained quickly, running off after him.
In the distance the other Toa could vaguely hear him call out “Vineon! Wait!”
At least Yeela had stopped struggling now, and so Friana decided to do her part to try and win over her friend: “I already told you that it feels like this war is changing me, and honestly everyone else too, for the worse. I… I think we should give this a shot. Don’t you want to at least try? Please?”
“...Fine.” Yeela conceded reluctantly, “But this is only for you, not ‘cause I think it’s gonna work.”
“YES! I KNEW YOU COULD!” Friana celebrated, leaping into the air with joy. Everyone watching, including Yeela, couldn’t help but chuckle at least a little.
Grillon had caught up with the hulking Toa of the Green relatively quickly, but getting a word out of him had proved difficult. He tried again.
“Vineon! Come on! What even is it with you? The only things that seem to drive you are killing people and insulting me! Why? What’s even the point?” Grillon pressed, desperately hoping that it wouldn’t make Vineon forget about the Festival’s rule of no conflict. Or no killing, for that matter. Suddenly the Toa whipped around.
“Do you really wanna know, Fire-spitter? Huh? Then let me tell you a little Karzing story! A long time ago there was a little kid called Vineon. He didn’t have many friends, but he had one friend, his closest friend, who he did everything with and liked more than anyone else in the whole wide world. Her name was Lyra. Over time, little Vineon started to realize he liked Lyra much more than a friend. And, on his fifteenth birthday, he told her exactly how he felt. Do you wanna know what happened next?! Huh?!”
Grillon nodded slowly.
“SHE LEFT THE NEXT DAY! Nobody’s ever seen her since! That was the one person I gave a ■■■■ about on this whole Karzing island, and she up and left! After saying we’d always be there for each other, that we’d be best friends forever, she abandoned me! And that brings us right onto the moral of the story, kiddo: life sucks and your hopes and dreams are just a joke, a little fruit waved in your face by the powers that be, just to have it yanked away from you when you leap for it and laugh at you falling in the dirt!” And with that, he stormed off again.
Grillon was shocked, he stood for a moment just trying to process what had happened. In those few seconds, Vineon had opened up to him more than he’d ever done in the entire time he’d know him. He almost didn’t want to press on, just to give him some space. But he knew he had to.
As they continued to walk, Grillon tried again.
“What could possibly make you think that I would even think about working with the enemy!?”
“But does that really matter? Does any of it really matter?”
“No kid, it doesn’t. But it’s much easier to just follow orders than to pull some stupid crap like… this. In fact, considering that pretty much every Toa is in on this, having them all done for treason could basically win us the war by default. So in a way, thank you kid: your death just might finally make everyone LEAVE ME ALONE!”
“But Vineon! Just think about it, apart we’re already held in awe by some, like gods. Together, there’s nothing that could possibly stand in our way. We’d be able to end the war in moments!”
“I’m warning you kid, I was doing you a favor telling you to ignore this stupid dream. Stop trying to shovel this crap on me.” The words were still harsh, but the energy behind them seemed to be faltering.
“Vineon, just for once-”
“Alright fine, FINE! You win.” Vineon stopped and turned around, “Just know, that this doesn’t make us friends. I don’t have friends: just people I can’t be bothered to kill.” He stalked back up the hill without another word, Grillon following closely behind.
The two Toa had almost reached the top again, when Vineon pulled the Toa of Fire to the side. “If you mention anything of what I said to ANYONE, you’re dead and they’re dead too as soon as this Festival is over, understood?” He hissed. Grillon quickly nodded.
“Good. Now go put on a show for your peace-loving buddies up there, I’m sitting this one out.”
“Oh nonono! How do I know that you’re not just going to go report us anyway?” Grillon cut in. The Toa of Plantlife growled and reluctantly followed him up as well.
“Oh hey, you’re back!” Friana called as the two approached.
“Had us worried for a moment there.” Maerkon added.
“So what do we do now?” Yeela pressed, getting right to business.
“W-well, before we do anything… I guess we should elect a leader?” Grillon suggested, shrugging.
“You’re seriously asking that question? That’s you, obviously!” Kerila laughed.
“Well, from what Kerila told me, this was your doing. You reached out to her, talked of peace and everything. You’re the big visionary here, kiddo. Go for it.”
“But you’d make a much better leader.” Grillon said desperately.
“If the six of us were fighting in a war together maybe, but we’re working towards peace. You have spirit, kid. And that’s a good start.”
“Oh, please.” Vineon snorted, “Look at him, he’s probably trying not to faint just being complimented by you. He’s not a leader, he’s nuts.”
“Maybe, but he’s a hero.” Friana pointed out, “Better than any of us ever were. Like a real Toa, not just some soldier.”
“Well… If he could convince me that this crazy idea might just work, I guess he’s worth my vote.” Vineon admitted, his posture subdued.
“Hey, sometimes crazy works.” Grillon chuckled.
“I’ll vote to that!” Yeela boomed, punctuating the statement by stamping her foot into the ground.
“So it’s settled. What’s our first move, leader?” Kerila asked.
“Well… of course-”
“The heck is that!?” Vineon hissed, pointing to a small robed figure who’d revealed itself from behind a rock. Everyone bristled.
“Who goes there?” Maerkon demanded guardedly.
The figure remained silent, but more began to appear, popping up from small rocks and boulders in all directions till they were surrounded. Almost unconsciously, the Toa formed up in an outward facing circle, back to back.
“I really don’t like this.” Friana murmured. “What do we do, Grillon?”
“I’m not sure.” He whispered back. “Conflict is outlawed during the Festival, but just in case… No one brought any weapons, did they?”
“I’ve got one battleaxe, three knives, ten swords, and my hammer.” Yeela said, easing her sack off her shoulders and setting it on the ground.
Despite the situation, everyone took a second to stare at Yeela.
“Friana, I thought you said you were joking about her taking weapons on hikes!” Kerila hissed.
“Yeah, well, I don’t hear you complaining now!”
“Guys, focus.” Grillon said, mind racing. “Yeela, if you could lend Friana, Kerila, and Maerkon some weapons, that’d be great. Me and Vineon don’t need weapons.” Friana and Kerila each took a knife, while Maerkon took the battleaxe.
“My my, strategizing in front of the enemy? Not sure whether to laugh or be insulted.” A new figure stepped into the scene, seemingly out of nowhere. He stood head and shoulders above Maerkon, covered from top to bottom in bronze, black, and steel grey plate armor, with spikes jutting from it throughout. A rusty old mask with cracks running through it concealed his face.
“My name is Icarax, and I think this has gone on long enough. I’ll give you one chance to scurry back to your homes and forget this ever happened, or I’ll have to end your lives this instant, understand?”
For a long second, there was silence. Grillon tensed up, worrying what the others would say. After all, it was one thing to talk about helping achieve peace, but when push comes to shove…
“Y’know, I’m not crazy about this plan in the first place, and it probably isn’t worth the trouble…” Vineon began, “But I like being bossed around even less. So why don’t you just shove off, huh?”
“Yeah!” Yeela snarled, her weapons beginning to swirl about her. Grillon sighed with relief, then faced down Icarax.
“I’d hate for this to come to blows, it being the Festival and all, but if it’s a fight you want…”
Icarax moved his left hand. It was a small gesture, barely noticeable, but the shadowclad matoran reacted instantly.
“GET DOWN!” Friana yelled, throwing herself to the ground as a hail of throwing knives pierced the air.
Grillon jumped into the air, light diffusing throughout his body. When he touched down, things had officially broken apart. Vineon and Yeela charged at Icarax, one of her swords clipped his arm and the Ironwood Knight responded by knocking her off her feet. Yeela responded by hitting back, and then… well, it was kinda embarrassing. Friana had disappeared, though judging from how the matoran seemed to be similarly disappearing, she hadn’t just run away. Maerkon had activated his armor, causing layers of water to coalesce around him and compress, till it was too dense for any blade to pass through.
And Kerila… Uh oh. Of course, how could he have expected anything else to happen? He knew how bad she was close quarters. Kerila had fallen to the ground, three daggers stuck deep in her arm. Maerkon was covering her as best he could. But he couldn’t be on all sides of her at once. This is bad, this is bad, what would a leader do… think tactically, but move quickly…
Grillon raced forward, grabbed hold of Kerila, and sped through a gap in their assailant’s lines. One nearby mountain later, he laid her down and carefully started pulling the daggers out of her arm.
“Hurry up, Grillon! We have to hurry and help the others!”
“Don’t rush the healer.” Grillon grumbled, pulling out the last dagger and using the light energy to close the wounds. “Also, I think you might be more help over here.”
Then he sped away, back to where the rest of them were. It’d only been seconds, so not too much had changed, but that’s when Icarax stepped in.
When Grillon thought about it later, he decided that it was as though the world had just flipped, and gravity was stuck the wrong way. Everyone and everything began falling―or was it being pulled?―towards Icarax, the matoran, the Toa, and a virtual rockslide of rubble and detritus.
“OF ALL THE THRICE BLASTED-” Vineon was yelling, as vines erupted from his armor and dug into the ground, rapidly growing into a wooden wall―or floor?―that caught the other four Toa.
“Alright, this isn’t going well at all. We need some sort of plan.” Grillon said, fighting back nausea.
“Where’s Kerila?” Asked Maerkon, looking around frantically.
“Don’t worry, she’s on the next mountain top over, hopefully out of range of whatever it is that’s happening.”
Maerkon sighed in relief.
“Then we better get rid of this menace. Do you have a plan?” Hearing that from Maerkon was making him nervous.
“I think I might have the beginnings of one, yeah. It’s a little rough around the edges, but hear me out. We’re being pulled towards him, right? His armor is covered in those spikes, so he’s probably banking on us being impaled. But it can also help us. Yeela’s weapons will hit him pretty hard, but that’s not all we can do. Imagine if there was something we had that was immune to spikes…” Maerkon’s eyes shone as he laughed out loud.
“Pretty out there, but it’s all we’ve got. I say let’s go for it!”
The gravitational force kept increasing, and in a few seconds, Vineon’s makeshift wall cracked and collapsed, sweeping the Toa towards Icarax. This is it. Our one chance…
Yeela’s weapons came raining down, each hitting with the force of a mountain. Each one shattered into shrapnel upon impact, but they made their marks, leaving deep scoring in the metal armor. The weapons were followed by the Toa, who were about to meet a painful end… or they would, if Maerkon hadn’t fallen first. The Diamond Knight hit Icarax like a meteorite, bringing his armor to its absolute limit, but it held. Then the other three Toa landed on him, using Maerkon as a shield.
“Yes! It worked!” Grillon cheered. “We’re not impaled!”
“Don’t cheer just yet, kid.” Maerkon hissed. “And try not to stomp too hard, yeah?”
Vineon said nothing, just activated his vines and began to attack Icarax.
“Oh, you think you’re so clever, do you?” Icarax seethed. “How about THIS!” Once more, the world turned upside down, and they were all falling away from him. “This’ll teach you to-” His words were interrupted as a massive laser hit him square in the chest. He fell to his knees with a hideous screech. The world returned to normal, and Grillon hit the ground with a thud.
“Ugh, I think I’m gonna be sick in my mask.” Friana groaned.
Icarax was looking a little worse for wear. There was a massive hole in his breastplate, and a dark purple liquid slowly spilled from the wound.
“We… will meet again.” And just like that, he vanished into thin air.
“Man, that was rough.” Friana complained, banging out a dent in her armor. They’d been attacked less than five minutes ago, and Grillon had just returned with Kerila.
“Yeah, everything hurts.” Yeela agreed, laying flat on the ground. Vineon was too busy trying to get his head to stop spinning to be argumentative, so he simply nodded (and immediately regretted it).
“Guys, who even was that? Who were those people?” Grillon fretted. No one had answers.
“Well, we at least need to call them something.” Maerkon said, equally frustrated.
“Preferably something insulting.” Yeela grumbled under her breath.
“I dunno about you guys, but I got a really… old feel from him.” Supplied Friana. “Y’know, with the rusty mask and that archaic armor? A dyn go hwyn.”
“Y’know, if you keep using weird words, you better start handing out some definitions.” Vineon growled, rolling his eyes.
“It means real old man in Leto.” Yeela said, idly picking up fragments of her weapons.
“Dyn, huh? I like it. That’s what we’ll call him.” Grillon nodded. Vineon glared at him.
“Not you too…”
“Well if he’s a Dyn, then his matoran friends oughta be called the Gwasdyn.” Said Friana.
“Ugh. Whatever, I’m not that curious. Speaking of, where’d his buddies get off to?”
Grillon shook his head resignedly.
“Not sure, they all vanished with Icarax, even the ones who were killed.”
“Hey guys, do you think we should have a team name?” Kerila interjected. Maerkon looked at her.
“What? I don’t think that’s really important right now…”
“Hey that’s a great idea!” Friana cheered. “Just like the Toa Mata of old! We can be the Toa Rhyfelwyn-”
“NO!” Vineon shouted. “NO MORE DUMB LETO NONSENSE WORDS! If we have to have a name, we’ll call ourselves… the Toa Keata.”
The five stared at him.
“Well what does that mean?” Friana asked, clearly annoyed at the insult towards her language.
“Nothing, it’s a word I made up. But it’s better than Rifflefeathers or whatever the heck it was you were saying.”
“Ha! He’s got you there!” Yeela laughed.
“Hm! You two have no appreciation for classics.” Friana snorted, pointing her nose straight in the air in mock indignation. “Well well, anyone opposed to Keata?”
“I like it. It sounds good enough, which is half the battle anyway.” Maerkon said.
“Alright, it’s official. This day marks the first victory of the Toa Keata!” Grillon proclaimed, raising his fist in the air… and promptly fell on his butt as his legs gave out. “Man, that was tiring. Anyone opposed to heading home and reconvening the day after tomorrow?”
And no one was.
And so ends Act 1. We'll begin posting Act 2 tomorrow, so keep an eye out for the new topic!