In hindsight, tackling a multilayered shield of gravitic energy probably wasn’t the best of ideas. Actually, forming ground-based constructs to assault Icarax’s position would have been better, especially considering his seeming weakness toward that venue of attack. It would have been far more useful.
All these thoughts occurred in varying sequence to Yeela, followed by long and elaborate strings of curses toward Icarax, his parentage, and everyone he had ever interacted with. She blinked once, wiping at her mask with a weary, heavy-feeling arm, looking up at where he last had been.
Icarax was about five yards away, staring at her with a faintly amused expression. For a moment, Yeela wondered how he’d moved so far in such a short amount of time. Then her eyes noticed the large gash in the ground, starting a few meters away from him and trailing all the way back to-
-oh. That’s why she was here. The aforementioned multilayered shield of gravitic energy must have kicked her all the way here. The Toa blinked, coughed, and slowly got up, stretching. She could hear her bones straining, a few of them feeling a bit loose, as if they’d been broken during her fall. But she still felt no pain, only power, coursing through her and helping her rise even from this. The Toa stretched, yawning loudly as she faced her enemy once again. “Amazing. You still can’t do anything but hide behind shields. I marvel at your ability to run from your problems, oh supreme warrior.” Yeela grinned widely, mockingly, at Icarax, putting her hands on her hips in an effort to appear even more condescending and irritating toward him.
Icarax roared in response, running at her full tilt. He drew back a fist, punching forward toward the Puppet Sword Knight in an attack oddly reminiscent of the one she’d used against him a few minutes before. She smiled, moved forward-
-and took the blow, both hearing and feeling the cracking of armor and bone. Icarax frowned and looked at her oddly, blinking again. “What? What madness is this, I have the power to crack you in two with minimal effort, so why are you standing there and taking it-”
Yeela moved then, her own fist slamming into the bottom of the Herald’s masked jaw, sending him pinwheeling backwards in the most satisfying punch the Toa remembered throwing in a long time. She felt the muscles in her hand scream in pain at the blow, and then felt the new flood of energy replace it a moment later. She smiled, and yelled at the top of her lungs in Icarax’s general direction. “I’ll stand here and take a thousand of your blows! I will not fall today, and you and your noxious band of ancients will not bring down the starfall! Whatever it is, whatever your grand, psychopathic plan was, it ends here!”
Yeela stretched out her arms, summoning her remaining puppet weapons and throwing them at Icarax, manipulating the ground even as she did so. The ancient bellowed in enraged, increasingly-spastic fury, batting away the weapons as he began to charge once again toward the Toa, jumping into the air and letting his gravity powers enshield and propel him toward her. Yeela focused, sending a series of earthen pillars out of the ground to impede his progress, even as she began to slope the ground behind her, slowly dropping her position until a small earthen ramp jutted out from behind her location. A moment later she went flat, falling stomach-first against the ground as Icarax’s screaming form jetted through the pillars, crashing into the ramp. She flipped over onto her back, watching as her supercharged foe skidded through the ground at top speed, yelling colorful curses as he carved a line across the battlefield.
Yeela smirked, rising to her feet and cracking her knuckles (not noticing the few fingers on her left hand that were now hanging from odd angles and not moving), surveying her immediate surroundings. He is still slightly stronger, with his gravity powers, but he’s uncreative.
Her sight strayed over where Icarax had finally stopped (slowly rising while still loudly cursing at her), finally stopping a few yards away. Another group of Kona was there, the survivors of the previous squad that had been trying to flee a few minutes ago. One of them, seeing her, yelled and threw his spear, the weapon striking Yeela’s thigh and falling into the ground a few inches away. The Toa looked down, wiping at the spot where the spear had cut away some of her more damaged armor and struck underneath, before turning to look at the matoran. The offending Kona turned, running in the opposite direction with his three remaining teammates. But Yeela’s mind had been made up.
You tried to kill me, now of all times? Fine then, vermin. You can kill someone else for me.
She raised a hand, summoning her elemental powers, letting the new power her mask had given flow through her. The earth beneath the Kona deformed, wrapping around their feet as it elevated into a massive tower. Yeela turned her head, looking at Icarax (who by now had recovered and was stumbling toward her with a murderous glare).
“You want to kill these Kona so bad? Here-”
“-let’s see how much is left of both of you after this!” She clapped her hands together, the giant tower raising and swiveling to fall directly toward Icarax. At this angle the matoran would be driven face first into his armor, crushed for sure, and the Herald in question would be felled, buried beneath enough earth to hold him for at least a few minutes. The Toa grinned ferally, watching as Icarax recoiled momentarily and began frantically blasting the massive tower with his powers. The matoran on the top wailed pitifully, the construct fell, and-
-and all of a sudden, a blinding pain replaced the newfound power in Yeela’s body. She felt every cracked bone, every torn muscle, every armor plate bent and turned to pierce at her body. The Toa pawed at her mask and chest, trying to push out some of the inturned plates while gasping at the newfound pain. All at once like this, without even her rage to sustain her, was too much. Far too much.
The power, she thought dimly. Where...where did it go-?
She saw very vaguely out of the corner of her eye, that the tower had fallen to the side. Icarax was approaching again, the Kona having survived and began running away from the battlefield once again. The Toa continued writhing, managing only to stand before another gravity-blast struck her, lifting her bodily into the air before tossing her against the ground like a ragdoll. More pain. It was truly paralyzing now, constricting her so much even breathing was grievous.
Icarax stood a few feet away, arms folded and looking down at her oddly. “You know, we’re not so different, you and I. Your powers are not as destructive as mine, true, but.” He held out a finger, pointing at her as the Toa looked at him blearily. “But you are not like the other Toa. Not a fool idealist like Grillon, or an obedient puppet like Kerila. You are a warrior, and for that, I suppose I can respect you. Perhaps if we weren’t on different sides, we could have been colleagues. Allies.” He looked like he was about to say something else (and also seemed to be becoming eerily….calm), when Yeela spoke, voice low and failing to relay the scorn the conscious parts of her brain were processing. “Save… your breath, if you… even breathe. We’re nothing… alike. I lost… everything, because of your war… because of what people like Clove, and you, did. You kill people who did nothing… because of your plan.”
Yeela felt tears of anger and pain begin to pool rebelliously at the corners of her vision, as she shifted upward slightly. “I… kill, yes… I destroy… but so we can… be done with this war you… engineered. The only thing… Icarax, we share… is hatred. At least… we’re together… in that…”
She forced her mouth to open slightly, in a weak, derisive smile. “...you…self-important…Ce…” Icarax’s eyes seemed to fall, and he let out a final roar, another blast of gravity striking Yeela with unstoppable force. The Toa shrieked once as a veritable supernova of pain flooded her mind and body-
-and then, mercifully, both failed her, and all collapsed into darkness.
Rocketing through the air with a grunt of surprise, Vineon barrelled headlong through the weaker, snapping branches in a wide arc of pain, and was jammed into the solid body of the tree with a significantly less surprised grunt. His Toa energy was ebbing away from overuse, and he struggled to free himself from the tree, his mask buried in the splintered bark. White-hot pain jolted through his body and pierced his skull as lightning struck him once more, bellowing and writhing in agony.
“The more you screw around, the harder this’ll be for you, seriously.” Chirox observed apathetically, his hand still smoking from the discharge, “Your stubbornness was kinda funny at first, but now it’s just sad. Just give up, little Toa - you’re way out of your depth here.”
With a roar of anger, Vineon ripped himself from the tree, leaping down at his prey. The vine whipped out to a stable branch and wound tightly around it, swinging him into a devastating kick. Vineon audibly crashed into the Herald with both feet like a giant pendulum, sending him careening into a tree of his own and blowing it to splinters. Vineon himself touched down and skidded to a stop soon after.
He struggled to stay on his feet, his vision starting to cloud over.
Karz, I have to end this, and soon.
“DIE!” Vineon barked, throwing down his arms with all his might, smashing down another tree onto his opponent, practically exploding on impact. Wood and branch and splinter were scattered in every direction, sharper chunks stabbing into the ground and other nearby plants, but when the dust settled…
Enveloping Chirox’s body was a small sphere of pure sparking energy, assumedly disintegrating anything that made contact. It buzzed softly, like it was trying to irritate him. His vision was blurred - Vineon couldn’t tell if it was rage or tiredness - and he charged, seeing red. The defensive sphere was starting to come down.
Vineon’s movement was fatigued, practically fueled solely by unfiltered fury, but it was fast.
“GO STRAIGHT TO KARZAHNI YOU CHEATING SACK OF CRAP!” He roared, his fist raised above his head and armed with ironwood barbs as he pounded towards the Herald. Chirox simply smirked, slamming his palms down onto the ground. Vineon never would’ve been fast enough to react, and especially not now.
His body jolted violently as the electricity raced through the forest floor and found a home within himself, crying out in agony.
“I really wish I hadn’t had to take it this far!” Chirox stated in a louder - albeit bored - tone, to be heard over Vineon’s thrashing display. The forest itself started to shudder and writhe with him, creaking and groaning, as he reached out, trying to find some way - any way - to escape from the floor. A branch just managed to snap him up, tossing him treebound with a solid thwack!
He tumbled through the air, completely disoriented for several moments and barely able to see as the corners of his vision started to darken. But even so, Vineon managed to twist around in the air and grapple out to anchor himself to a new branch, thudding into it bodily. He gripped onto it like his life depended on it - which funnily enough: it did - and gulped in greedy lungfuls of air. Every drawing of breath was knives in his chest, but he couldn’t give up. He had to fight, he had to win, for the sake of everyone on this star-forsaken island. And his pride, of course.
Electricity continued to throb through the ground like a deadly heartbeat, Chirox staring up at him in the center of it, arms crossed.
“And now it’s a waiting game, Toa. As soon as you screw up or tire out: you fall, and I win. Give up now and it’ll be a lot less of a pain - literally.”
“Bite me, Sparky.” He snarled in response.
Chirox shrugs, having not cared particularly either way, “Your funeral.”
As much as Vineon loathed to admit it, ‘Sparky’ had a pretty good point. If Vineon touched the ground, it was game over. He could barely stand as it was, and he was practically tapped on Toa power, most of it spent as he tried to keep the Poisoners within their cage. He had one shot at this - it was all or nothing.
Vineon got to his knees on the branch, barely, starting to grow out more ironwood from his palms. A giant spiked club, that would do it. He grinned with malice.
I am gonna smash your skull like a Karzing egg.
He leapt in the general direction of his target, bellowing in rage… but in his sluggish half-unconscious brain he hadn’t accounted for the fact that he was jumping directly into any sharpshots that Chirox could fire at him. Vineon never even reached him, the Herald shooting him square in the chest. He was kicked back like a ragdoll, sent plummeting down to hard earth with roars of futile fury. He was out like a light the moment he touched down.
Maerkon and his enemy circled each other slowly, their battle ignored by the Tay around them. The Toa’s axe leaned to one side, and the Herald’s blades shifted in response. The Knight feinted low, then twirled his weapon into a vicious downward arc. The axe head only cut the Herald’s ragged cloak, the nimble opponent darting out of the way before rushing into range. His crystalline blades clashed against the handle of Maerkon’s axe, scrabbling uselessly against his veil of water. The Toa threw the cloaked being away with a mighty heave, sending him tumbling into the mud. He rolled neatly back to his feet, coming to a stop crouched right on top of Vhisola’s corpse.
“Get off of her,” Maerkon rumbled. The Herald’s wooden mask tilted to the side, one weapon tracing where the matoran’s limp arm lay on the ground.
“Get off,” the Toa repeated. “Have some respect for the dead.” The figure’s cloaked shoulders seemed to hunch in a small shrug before the Herald uncoiled, springing into the air. Maerkon brought his axe up to defend, but the Herald wasn’t aiming for him. He curled in a neat backflip, hand reaching down to snatch the mask of a Tay behind him. The poor matoran’s head whipped about with a snap, dragging the matoran’s body to the ground alongside the cloaked Herald, who landed with his free blade implanted in the Tay’s gut. The crystal glowed a bright red, the pulse of light and energy travelling down the blade and disappearing beneath his cloak.
The Herald raised its wooden mask, piercing eyes staring right at Maerkon. In a sudden flurry of motion it was gone, cloak streaming behind him as he carved a path through the Tay army. In a moment Maerkon was in pursuit, finding no resistance from the scattered and confused soldiers. The Herald’s blades seemed to be painted a constant crimson as they sliced and stabbed their way through the crowd of matoran, uncaring to the presence of weapons or armor.
He’s headed your way! Maerkon barked into the mental link.
We can see that, believe it or not.
Can it, Leif. What are our orders, general?
Friana, take your bow and get somewhere high.
Saburo, Leif, try and get clear of the battlefield. The enemy’s weapons slice through armor like it isn’t there. Your job is just to survive.
Fine by me. It didn’t seem Saburo had anything to add.
Friana, let me know when you get a shot.
Maerkon brought his own weapon forward, sliding to a stop as he began to concentrate. Water began to stream from all over his body, coalescing into a swirling ball and leaving only a thin sheen to coat himself. With a swipe he sent the water forth, the jet shooting out over the battlefield with the rage of the stormy ocean. It homed in on the fleeing Dyn, scattering Tay soldiers before smashing into its cloaked target. The being flew as if launched from a canon, meeting the land once more amid the Galin army.
Now that’s how you fight!
Thanks, kid. Friana, how’s it coming?
Just... about... there...
I’m clear, but I lost Saburo.
Maerkon charged into the Galin army, searching for his opponent and his friend. He didn’t have to look hard to find a clearing in the crowd, the soldiers having the sense to avoid the cloaked skeleton that had crashed into them. One matoran remained, standing alone while the others ran. The Herald began to rise, a skeletal form emerging from the ruins of the cloak, and Maerkon’s blood ran cold.
This is your shot, guys. Saburo glanced over her shoulder and nodded to Maerkon.
The Herald lunged for Saburo, energy stolen from the Tay coursing throughout his frame. Maerkon charged at the same time, gathering the last of his water around his ankles. He bounded across the battlefield, twin blasts of water firing from beneath his feet. He flew across the battlefield even as the Herald became peppered with a storm of arrows, Friana firing with such speed that the Dyn couldn’t help but stagger under the onslaught. Saburo ducked under the flying Toa as Maerkon landed, bodily bowling the skeleton to the ground. His axe fell, one final swing implanting it in the Herald’s chest.
Maerkon was met immediately by a swirl of elemental energy. The stream of colors flew by him, red slowly melding into a rainbow representing all of Inoria. The Diamond Knight couldn’t help but lean back, protecting his mask with one armored gauntlet.
Leif didn’t finish the thought. He didn’t need to. The others could see the sky for themselves. The stars, the glowing vibrant constellations that lit their night, had become visible. They outshone the sun, even, until the sky was a pulsating mess of colors. The fighting all around them stopped. Some matoran screamed in terror, others stared at it without a word, without a sound. Maerkon could only imagine one word to describe this.
Chirox paused on his journey, taking the opportunity to dump the unconscious Vineon onto the ground. Carrying him was such a pain. The sky above him came alight, the trees around him vibrated as the island itself began to tremble. The Herald stared at the sky, taking a moment to do nothing. With a victory like this, he had earned a break. He couldn’t help but sigh as the full implication settled upon him. Antroz would want the Toa to be present for their triumph. As bothersome as it was to hurry, dealing with an angry Antroz was even more of a chore. The Herald scooped up his Toa prisoner and resumed his journey. It was time to see what tomorrow would bring.
Icarax’s shout echoed for miles, the exclamation marking victory to the hills around him. Every battle he fought had lead to this. If only he had been there to witness the battle in full; if it weren’t for this wimp of a Toa, he could have waded into the conflict, ripped the radiance from the matoran himself. His battle with the earthen warrior had been some consolation, at the very least. It had brought him oh so close to finally finding an equal. Never mind that; victory was at hand. He continued to float along, Yeela in tow. Now was the time to claim his prize.
Shu-Tural had been surprised many times over the past few days. Nothing, however, could compare to what he was now witnessing. The sky pulsed with eerie beauty, blobs of color wreathing about and folding in on themselves, like dyes scattered in the sea. Below him the island trembled and shook, an effect he could see from the top of the Spine to the shores of the wooded vale the Galisian people called home. Beyond that shore the water frothed and roiled. What was happening on Inoria was only the beginning. Something out there was rising.
Vamprah lay on his back, the Toa’s axe still embedded in his chest. He could only watch as the last of his life energy ebbed away, swirling out into the cosmos. That was alright. It was a part of the plan. The energy in his body was a store he had built up over the course of a millennium. As the Toa had opposed their plans, tried to stop the death of thousands, Vamprah had found a different way to unbalance the elements: himself. The last thing his dying eyes saw was the fruit of his efforts, the starfall. Just as planned.
“Starfall.” Maerkon couldn’t help but say the word out loud. He didn’t know what else to do. Some of the matoran were even leaving the battlefield, now, seeking protection anywhere they could find it. Saburo stood by his side, staring unflinchingly at the sky above. It seemed to be boiling now, swirling and bubbling in a way that reminded him of water. The intensity rose, the radiance overhead contorting into peaks and valleys. The highest peaks began to break free, abandoned by the energy around them before another peak assimilated them into the mix. Then one shot free of the mass, a glowing bubble of energy shining as it fell to the world below.
With that the last of the matoran scattered, fleeing off into the woods, leaving only the dead and dying. So many bodies… Maerkon finally broke free of his reverie, pulling his axe from the Herald’s chest.
Leif, Saburo, find shelter.
Absolutely not, general. We’re with you until Karzahni freezes over.
Maerkon turned, placing a hand on Saburo’s shoulder. The being we just killed is what Friana calls a “Dyn”. It’s Leto for ‘person’. We have fought one other like him, and there’s bound to be more of them. If I get my way, we’re going to be picking a fight with all of them. Saburo narrowed her eyes, but nodded. So go. Stay safe. Try and rally the army, if you can.
Saburo turned and ran, joined with Leif at the edge of the clearing. Friana joined him instead, her eyes on the sky above. More radiance was falling now; multicolored blobs showering the island like rain. Maerkon closed his eyes, focusing on the mental link. He didn’t know why it had started, but he hoped he could control it. Do something with it, at the very least.
He felt a sudden release; the opposite of when the telepathy had begun.
Well, it’s nice to have some quiet.
He got no response. Step one accomplished. Now he just needed to talk to the other Toa-
The link sparked in response, making him wince.
This is Maerkon.
Oh, I’m hallucinating.
No, you’re not. It’s.... I’m not sure what it is. Grillon, are you okay? What happened to you?
…A lot of things. I’m in the Herald’s headquarters with Kerila right now. We got caught.
Kerila? The name instantly tightened a knot in the stomachs of both the other Toa.
Yeah… It’s complicated, but she isn’t-
Nevermind, no time, sorry. Just tell me where you are...
Deep in the heart of their lair, the remaining Heralds were carrying out the final preparations to activate the device, and awaken their master. Set around them, in a defeated semi-circle, were the Toa Keata themselves. Once Vineon and Yeela had come to, and had verified that they were in fact not dead, they had quickly gotten quite angry at their situation. Their legs were bound to the floor, and their hands bound behind them by the meticulous work of Antroz and his matter-shaping ability in such a way that they were forced to kneel before their captors. A shameful position, and a position to which Yeela for one would gladly take the alternative of death. The throbbing, full-body pain of so many broken bones and other serious injuries were no help in that regard.
Worse still, she had to be sat next to that filthy, traitorous Kona wretch that had ultimately gotten them stuck in this situation in the first place. Yeela had snarled at her at first and struggled with her binds, before Grillon had managed to point out to her that Kerila had tried to help, and was now bound just like the rest of them. She was with them. She was trying to help, now. Yeela had begrudgingly fallen silent after that.
She glared up at Chirox and Icarax, the two that had been left behind while Antroz attended to… something. She wasn’t sure what, but he had said something about a disturbance…
Her questions were answered not a moment later as the limp forms of Maerkon and Friana were tossed down and bound in the same way beside them, Antroz striding up to join his brothers once again in their task.
“Oh, great, you too?” Vineon groaned, looking defeatedly over at them. Maerkon hung his head in shamed silence. Friana simply gave a weary chuckle, taking in the others around her.
“Yeahhh… this wasn’t exactly how I imagined a reunion working out-”
“Quiet, you weaklings!” Icarax snapped.
“Let ‘em chatter, who cares?” Chirox drawled, “Not like they can stop u-”
In a split second Chirox could feel Icarax’s claws closed around his throat, “It is a matter of respect, brother. Not that you would care for something so complicated, you insubordinate-”
“Enough! Both of you!” Antroz commanded, shoving them apart with a forced wall that had melted up from the floor, and yet was solid, “Our triumph is at hand! Put these petty squabbles aside at least until then.”
“O-of course, Antroz, my apologies…” Icarax grovelled, his head bowed in obedience, while Chirox snorted and gave an apathetic “Whatever”.
“Now, you two can manage the rest on your own. I have other things to focus my attention on, namely you, Toa.” He grinned cruelly, turning to them.
“And what do you want?” Grillon spat. Antroz chuckled mirthlessly at that.
“So now you remember that you have a spine, hm? What unfortunate timing for you. Regardless: welcome, all of you, to Mangaia. It is our home, or closest to it, for we awoke here, as did your ancestors across this island. So many questions...“ He paused, brooding deeply for a moment before picking back up again, “But one thing was known to us all: the need, and purpose of the device you see before you.” He paused again for dramatic effect, sweeping an arm towards the machine even as Icarax and Chirox fiddled with some final settings, a low hum starting to emanate deep in its core.
“With the power of radiance, the source of your elemental abilities, this machine will reactivate and rejuvenate our creator: the Eternal. But, early in our story, there was a… miscalculation.”
“And why should we give a crap about your life story, you golgwyn son of a ce!?” Yeela growled raggedly, not caring for his lengthy monologue. She was quickly cut off by the sensation of being choked by the earth itself, Antroz’s fist squeezing tightly. When he spoke, it was with cold, quiet fury.
“If any of you insolent, meddling, insufferable nuisances interrupt me a second time, I shall paint the walls with the offender’s entrails. Am I clear?” He was answered only by silence. “Good.”
He easily slipped back into his previous tone, continuing from where he had been interrupted, “When we awoke beside this device, we were not the only bodies lain there. However, we were indeed the only living ones. In spite of this, these remains did seem to be of use, as they were brimming with radiance. With my abilities, it appeared but a simple task to alter their form into the perfect power source. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, what I created…” He knelt down, scooping up a handful of rock, before getting back to his feet, “Were these.”
In his open palm sat unmistakable representations of the Toa Stones, as the six had seen them almost a year ago when they became Toa. The silence from them was somehow even more overpowering now, the team gaping in disbelief. Behind him, the humming of the machine grew ever louder, starting to glow and throb with life.
“Yes, you poor, poor fools.” He smirked victoriously, “The Stones were not some act of providence and good, this was not destiny. You were a mistake, an error that I have weaved into my plans since. An error that I have loathed since. And so I have destroyed you all meticulously and deliberately: your bodies and your spirit, your families, your people - all those you care about and hold dear, and know that if I have missed anyone: they shall be seen to yet. I knew even before the Astrologers revealed it to be true, that you all would someday try to stand in the way of my goal, my dream. And so there was the first of the lives I planned to destroy: Kerila.” He pointed to her with a mirthless laugh, the noise of the machine boring into their ears, “Our little traitor - you had no life. Lonely and pitiful, I made sure of that. Made sure that others around you only ever saw you as the tool, the means to an end that you were. The one who would help create this team, this false flicker of hope in the yawning abyss of despair, and then stamp it out and scatter its ashes to the winds. I may not have accounted for your rebellious streak, but it mattered little in the end. I defeated you all, in this game. This game where only I had the pieces, and knew the rules. All of you were just so predictable, falling into step after step of the inevitable climb to failure. And utter revenge tastes just as sweet as I had fantasised. Yes, you do well to kneel: the device is almost ready, the Eternal is almost upon us. Four of you in this room have had your people slaughtered to reach this point: Tayru, Onura, Galis, Kothe. You should be honored. For, well, soon you shall be dead.”