Bionicle Eternal (Story) - Act 1: Discord

You aka one guy asked, and we delivered. And so, the release of the main story content of Eternal begins on TTV!
A breakdown of the schedule:
Over the following 14 days, we shall be releasing all 17 chapters currently available periodically. For the most part it’ll be one chapter a day, but on three special days, you’ll get two. These days are: day 1 - chapters one and two for act 1, day 7 - chapters eight and nine for act 1, and day 14 - chapters seven and eight for act 2.
However, this first topic (as the title suggests) will only cover act 1. All good? Good.
But before you dive into the chapters, enjoy the full prologue:


Long ago, on the first day of recorded history, six tribes of matoran awoke on the mysterious island of Inoria. Each tribe woke up in a different portion of the island, lost in a dangerous land and ignorant of the others and their past.
All might have been lost before there was even a story to tell, but great leaders rose up, leading the way in conquering these challenges and paving the road for future generations. Volumes could be said about these first heroes, later known as Turaga, but that is not the story I am here to tell.
No, this chronicle takes place one thousand years after that first day, when those six tribes have become six great nations that rule over the continent. Kothe, Tayru, Borrara, Leto, Galis, and the subterranean realm of Onura… for centuries, they coexisted in relative peace. But Inoria holds many secrets, and unseen forces moved through the shadows, scheming and plotting and planning, ‘til at long last the hearts and minds of the people were corrupted, and the whole island burned in the raging inferno of war.
But hope is not lost, for ancient evil is not the only secret hidden here. As the end of an era approaches, six long-hidden artifacts reveal themselves: the Toa Stones, objects with the power to forge new elemental heroes.
In an ancient hall at the top of a great mountain range the Toa Stones came to life. Six of them, one for each kingdom on the island of Inoria. They rose up into the sky, and flew away, each to their chosen hero…

Grillon stumbled into his study and shut the door behind him. The usually pristine bookshelves had been tipped over, books spilled out on the floor. The glass window overlooking the bustling streets of Ta-Meiyo had been shattered, glass shards scattered across every surface. A brick had landed in the middle of the mess.
The matoran healer squeezed his eyes shut and leaned against the wall, slowly sliding to the floor.
“Alright, don’t break down,” he murmured to himself. “It’s no big deal, this stuff happens. I’m just gonna sit right here to gather my composure, and then I’ll just calmly clean everything up. Easy as that.” As he was whispering to himself, a warm glow shone through his eyelids, and he could feel a gentle warmth spread across his mask. Opening his eyes, Grillon could see a small red stone hovering in the air above his desk. It sounded like crackling coals, and it smelled like woodsmoke.
“By the stars…” Grillon reached out for it slowly, filled with wonder.

Maerkon sat in the command tent, his only company the detailed maps laid out before him. Each piece of parchment was covered in lines and notations signifying army formations, and the edges of the map were full of notes and discarded strategies.
“Ah, it’s no use! There’s no way we’re winning this. I better get some sleep, let my men know we retreat tomorrow.”
A sudden feeling of calm swept through him. He could hear the sound of waves crashing against the surf, and his nose filled with the smell of the sea. Looking up, he could see a deep blue stone, about the size of a marble, covered in green coral. Strangely enough, his first instinct wasn’t to call out. Instead, he slowly reached out and grabbed it.

Friana was stargazing. She was alone in the desert, nothing but sand as far as the eye could see. And above her was another desert, a night sky filled to the brim with stars of every hue, outnumbering the grains of sand beneath her. The wind picked up with a howl, whipping around her like a living thing. A new light appeared in the sky, a greyish green stone shaped like a small bird, a dust-devil of sand swirling beneath it. Friana laughed, the sound ringing like a bell through the night as she leapt up to grab it.

Yeela was laboring over her anvil again. The subterranean caves rang with the sound of hammer on steel as she furiously beat a sword into shape. Each blow of the hammer she imagined going through her enemy’s head, each weapon she made brought her a vicious joy thinking about the havoc it would cause. Then she felt a deep vibration shivering through the ground, like the very earth had a heartbeat. Floating in the door of the shop was a ragged chunk of obsidian, with shards of metal swirling around it. Yeela threw down her hammer and reached for it without a moment’s hesitation.

“Go away!” Vineon shouted behind him as he ran through the treetops. “Leave me alone, please!” Following behind him was a dark green stone in the shape of a leaf, floating through the air in lazy spirals, ever nearer its target. Vineon landed on a broken branch and lost his footing, falling nearly ten feet into another branch. He groaned in pain as the stone fluttered closer. “Please, why me?” The stone did not answer. Vineon sighed in resignation and reached out to grab it.

In the empty streets of a snowy city, Kerila walked along, kicking at newly fallen snow. Bracing herself against the chilly wind, she didn’t see the stone until she had nearly walked into it. It was pure white, in the shape of a snowflake. It was even colder than the blizzard, but strangely enough it didn’t bother her when she was near it. She gazed warily at the stone. Kerila knew, deep in her gut, that to reach out and touch it would bring great danger and even greater pain: greater than any she’d ever known before.
“Just answer me this,” she whispered. “I won’t be alone anymore, right?” The stone seemed to shine reassuringly.
She took a deep breath and reached out to touch the stone.

And thus, six Toa were born. They would be cheered by hundreds, and hunted by thousands. Savior to the weak and helpless, but targeted by monsters whose power exceeded imagination. Wars, pain, danger, and loss… they would know them all. They were known as the Toa Keata―Heroes who Endeavoured.
This is their beginning.


###Nine Months Later…

The great city of Ta-Meiyo, arguably the greatest city in all the land. An imposing stone structure, built on a peninsula in the middle of a boiling lake, in the middle of a forest of burned trees. It was constructed in a neat circle, every aspect carefully ordered and planned out to maximize safety and efficiency. The aqueducts crisscrossing the city ensured every house had easy access to water. Truly an architectural marvel.

Grillon walked down the street, lost in his own thoughts. Passersby stopped and bowed to him respectfully, and he half heartedly bowed back.

Heh. Far cry from virtual pariah.

He could still remember those days, less than a year ago. He was one of the few people who publicly spoke out against the war, and took a lot of flak for it. Those days, it wouldn’t have been unusual to come home to see his house had been vandalized. Indeed, it was one of those nights when the Toa Stone appeared to him, and he’d been transformed into a Toa. And now he had a house located on the innermost ring of the city!


Grillon sighed, thinking about his earlier meeting with Turaga Nuhrii. It hadn’t been pleasant.

For Grillon had never changed his opinions on the war. Indeed, he now could argue about it with the Turaga himself… but all that it had accomplished was making Nuhrii hate him. It was an interesting situation, really. The Turaga hated him and would’ve loved to be rid of Grillon, but he was the only Fire Toa. Grillon, meanwhile, hated the war, but was forced to fight in it because he ‘had a duty to Tayru’.

“I’m home!” Grillon called out to the empty space as he stepped through the door into his house.

And that’s another thing.

Despite the ‘respect’ he was given these days, he had almost no one he could call a true friend, and he hadn’t really gotten along with his family since the war started. He was virtually alone.

“Greetings. I was wondering when you’d return.”

Grillon jumped at the unexpected noise. Oh right. ‘Virtually’ alone.

Sukiru stepped into the foyer and bowed. Of every Ta-matoran (or Tay, as they were more commonly known) Grillon knew, Sukiru was probably the closest to ‘friend’, in that Sukiru always listened to what he had to say, and respected his opinions as valid… even if he didn’t agree himself. Their families were close, so they’d known each other since they were children, though their paths had split as Grillon pursued medicine and Sukiru the blade. Also, he felt free to invite himself into Grillon’s house, apparently.

“Um, hey Sukiru. Mind telling me why you’ve decided to visit?”

“Sorry, I was merely escorting another visitor to your house. I’ll leave now.”

Sunlight shone through the many windows of Grillon’s house as the Flame Toa greeted his unexpected visitor.

The young Bo-matoran couldn’t stop looking at him in shocked awe.

“Sir, I… is this for real? I mean, I was told the best doctor in the city was named Grillon, but I didn’t think it was the Light Knight!”

Grillon laughed self-consciously, inwardly cringing. I swear, whoever was in charge of giving me that silly title must have hated me…

“Yes well, I hope you aren’t disappointed?”

The Bo-matoran (Borran) shook her head rapidly, bowing up and down.

“Of course not! It’s just, I mean, well…”

The poor girl was obviously unsure of how to ask politely, so Grillon decided to help her out a little.

“You’re wondering what business a soldier like me has running a common doctor’s office?”

“Er, not in such words, exactly…”

“No, it’s quite alright. And please, drop the formal tone, my rank doesn’t count here.” Grillon said, smiling. “I get that all the time. And to answer your question, well… it’s just what I did before I became a Toa, so why stop now, right? After all, not even Toa spend all their time on the battlefield.” Grillon brought his patient into a room with bookshelves covering every wall, with an island table huddled in the center. As he talked, he began sorting through the mountains of books and sealed boxes on the table.

“So what’s your name, anyway? You seem a little young to be visiting another nation on your own.”

Of course, that was a little unfair. Judging simply from appearances, she had to be around fifteen, so Grillon himself was barely four years older.

“Very perceptive, sir! My name is Melody. I’m here as part of General Arbreak’s ceremonial guard, but I have a nasty case of rust-vein.”

“So I noticed. Just sit right there while I try and find some Ardisia. So Arbreak is in Ta-Meiyo? He’s a pretty important general. Is Vineon here too?”

Melody looked, if possible, even more awestruck.

“You are on speaking terms with the Ironwood Knight?”

Grillon nearly choked trying to hold back laughter.

Ironwood Knight? Guess my title isn’t so bad after all… seriously, who thought giving us titles was a good idea?

“Well, speaking terms might be stretching it, but I do know him. Sort of.” Grillon walked up to the bookshelf on the back wall and reached behind the books on the middle shelf, grabbing a box of the ingredients he was looking for. After clearing a space on the table, he began mixing them together. Melody looked on with growing curiosity.

“Um, excuse me sir-I mean, Grillon, but why don’t you use your healing magic?”

“Hm? I don’t have any magic.”

“Of course you do! It’s said that you can bring people from death’s door with merely a thought! It’s why they call you the Light Knight!”

“Oh, that. It’s true that I can use light to aid the healing process, but it isn’t quite panacea. You see, my light exponentially increases the energy in your body’s cells, increasing the rate of regeneration and repair. So while it cures cuts, broken bones and the like pretty effectively, it isn’t enough to cure a disease without applying the right medicine first. Then my powers can amplify the effects of the medicine to quickly purge the disease before accelerating your body’s recovery.”

Melody nodded, looking a little lost but trying to keep up.

“But… that still sounds like magic. How else could you control the light?”

“Ah! A tougher question. And no, I don’t believe it’s magic, although our scholars have yet to find a better explanation. You see, my Toa body just sort of naturally produces fire. I’m not sure how, exactly, but it does, as well as giving me a limited control over other sources of flame, though I’m not nearly as proficient in that. But the reason I’m called the Light Knight is because I didn’t stop there.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you see, fire is a pretty interesting element, in that it’s actually a combination of light and heat-or maybe it would be more accurate to say a constructive and deconstructive energy. Once you know that, it’s simply the next step to divide fire into those two energies. So really what I do is closer to applying science to natural phenomena.”

“Wow. You’re really smart!”

“Aw, thanks. It helps that I’ve spent the last nine years studying the Li archives to learn everything about everything.”

Her eyes widened. “That does sound like a job! So, do you know how the other Toa use their magic?”

“I told you, it isn’t-ah, nevermind. Anyway yes, I know how most of them work.”

“Is it true that Maerkon wears diamond armor?”

“No, but that’s close. His favorite move is causing nearby water to condense onto his armor, and then compressing it until it’s so dense that nothing can pass through it. It takes on a faceted appearance, which is why so many think it’s made of diamonds.”

“Wow! So how does Yeela do that thing with the puppet weapons?”

“Oh, that one’s easy. All of Yeela’s weapons are forged with a stone set in the pommel. So she uses her earth power to control them.”

And so they talked for another ten minutes, moving from one subject to the next. Finally, the medicine had been given and Grillon had used his powers to complete the process. After Melody had left, Grillon sat in a chair and sighed happily.

Heh. Weird how it’s so much easier to make friends with non-Tay. Maybe I should be worried?

Just as he was about to grab a book and head back to his study, there was a furious knocking on his door.

“Alright, I’m coming, who is it-Sukiru!” Grillon jumped back in surprise as the famed swordsman of the Kom caste fell to his knees, trying to catch his breath.

“It’s-it’s the Onu!” He panted. “They’re attacking the south border!”

With the Festival so soon? What are they thinking…

“Alright, hold on tight.” Grillon let Sukiru grab onto his back, then focused all his energy on generating light.

Letting it diffuse through him, he took a deep breath… and ran.

AN: Posting will be split between myself and Obsidian over the course of the next two weeks. Funnily enough, the primary writer is actually @Bobofoot, who is unable to post himself right now. Obsidian and I are responsible for small scenes here and there, alongside general editing. So, uh yeah. Chapter 2 coming up later tonight.


From Bad to Worse

The site of the attack was an outpost on the rocky foothills just north of the desert pass through the Spine, that had once been the main road for visitors to Leto. Ravines crisscrossed the ground, and out of them swarmed Onu soldiers, armed to the teeth and already in formation. The hapless Tay that had been ambushed weren’t nearly so well prepared. There were many bursts of light erupting across the battlefield, and most of it was a bright crimson.
See, when a matoran dies, the trace amount of elemental energy in their body is released in a small burst of color. For the Onu, this is purple. For the Tay: it was red.
Now, Grillon was no sheltered civilian, unexposed to the battlefield. Even before becoming a Toa, he had served as a battle medic, and of course there was the fateful first battle of the war, when the enemy had arrived at the gates of Ta-Meiyo itself.
But there were two sights that would always turn his stomach. One of them was Earth Toa Yeela, the Puppet Sword Knight.
“By the Stars!” Sukiru exclaimed angrily.
Scattered around Yeela’s feet were the remains of eight Tay, their bodies torn and twisted like old ragdolls. The remainder of the force was falling back in a disorderly mess, leaving the injured trailing behind them.
“Grillon, sir!” Sukiru said, getting the Light Knight’s attention. “What are your orders?”
“W-what?” Grillon started in panic as his soldiers looked to him in desperate hope. “I-I mean, we should obviously, er…” C’mon, Grillon! Think! “Sukiru, you take command of our troops while I heal the wounded!” Sukiru looked at him in thinly veiled disappointment, but did as he was told.
“Alright men, make a defensive line around the Light Knight! Shield Senshi to the front, Spear Senshi right behind them. Get the wounded to Grillon.”
As his words rang out, the matoran responded instantly. About fifteen Ta-matoran, each with a unique shield, stepped forward and made a semicircle around Grillon. Ten matoran behind them took up their own signature spears and stood behind the shield wall, creating an intimidating defense. Behind this wall was about thirty Tay of the Kom caste with assorted shorter range weapons that were in fighting shape, and a little over half that many with great injury. Grillon took a breath and gathered light to begin healing. Sukiru drew his weapons―a flamberge and a heavy gauntlet with a small shield and spiked knuckles attached―and took the front of the circle.
The Onu charged, breaking against the shield wall like waves against the shore. Spears darted out, running them right through, and the Shield Senshi themselves were also causing damage, as many of them had shields adorned with spikes or other such offensive augments. Sukiru in particular was a whirlwind with his own fighting style. But the Onu were not to be underestimated. Their weapons were plain and standard issue, but no less serviceable, and they had heavy armor, making it difficult to deliver a killing blow. Yeela seemed content to hang back for now, but her very presence was a strike against the chances of anyone surviving. Grillon tried to ignore these thoughts and focus on healing the injured faster than they could fall, but then he heard a familiar laugh, and his heart sank into his feet.
“Wow, with so many targets so close together, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel!”
Before Grillon could react, three knives fell from the sky. Three Tay fell to the ground dead, their hearts impaled. Looking up, all Grillon could see was a shadow in the sky.
Friana, The Demon Gale Knight, had arrived to the battlefield.
Well, this is it. I’m so doomed it isn’t even funny, Grillon thought to himself despairingly. However, I might be able to at least help Sukiru and the others escape…
Grillon growled to himself and pressed his hands to the ground, channeling heat. Remember what the books taught you, it’s easier if you think in terms of basic words or ideas. Anything too fancy and you could hit your allies.
“Wall!” He shouted. A solid wall of intense heat sprang up in front of the shield wall, scorching the shield faces. The Onu attacking the wall screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground, weapons and armor slowly melting. It wouldn’t last long, but it would take his matoran out of danger for now.
“Sukiru, take the matoran and fall back. Get reinforcements if you can. I’ll hold them off.” Without waiting for a reply, he stepped through the heat wall. The Onu soldiers scrambled back fearfully.
“Yeela, Friana! Long time no see, right? Listen, can’t we talk this out? I’m sure no one wants this fight.”
Yeela snorted and dropped a bag to the ground. Nearly a hundred different weapons spilled out.
“That’s where you’re wrong, firecracker. I’ve been waiting for a rematch ever since we first fought.”
That haunting laugh was all the warning Grillon had. He darted to the side just in time to avoid Friana’s surprise attack. The Air Toa had seemingly materialized right where he’d been standing, dagger in hand. Grillon gritted his teeth in pain as a long cut opened on his side. Her face was almost completely clear of emotion.
Is this worth healing? Hm… no. It isn’t life threatening right now, and I’ll need every ounce of fire.
“Very well. I guess I have no choice now.” Grillon clapped his hands together, gathering as much heat and light as he could, diffusing it through his body. For a split second, all three Toa stood completely still.
Yeela struck first, dagger flinging itself from her waist of its own accord and hurtling towards Grillon’s mask. No sooner had he avoided that then he heard the thrum of Friana’s bow. He twisted slightly, replacing an exposed joint with armor. The arrow clinked against his armor and fell away to the ground. Yeela had prepared more weapons while he was distracted, fearsome-looking swords and daggers hovering around her. Friana nocked another arrow in her bow. Both opponents were playing distance.
Luckily, closing the distance is something I’m good at.
Grillon poured on the speed, for a few seconds going a large fraction of the speed of light. Friana flew high into the air, armor covered in scorch marks. Yeela faltered and fell to her knees, letting her weapons drop to the ground.
Her armor is tough, and I can’t punch very hard even with heat concentrated in my fists, but ten thousand blows in the space of a second would upset anyone.
But he didn’t have time to congratulate himself. As she reached the peak of her jump, Friana took out her glider and hung suspended in the air, raining down arrows. Yeela quickly got to her feet, all her weapons rising into the air. Grillon was hard pressed to stay alive, requiring all of his speed to dodge Yeela’s puppet weapons, and even that wasn’t enough to completely avoid Friana’s eagle eye. Arrows landed ever closer, scraping across his armor and just missing the exposed joints.
“Rise!” Grillon shouted, channeling heat energy into the ground. It exploded beneath him, sending the Light Knight high into the sky.
The look on Friana’s face was priceless as the Toa of Fire rose to join her on her turf. To her credit she reacted quickly, the air swirling to push her higher and slow Grillon’s ascent. The air below him sang as Yeela’s puppet weapons followed him into the sky, edges sparkling in the reflected light of the sun and his power. He turned and dove, riding Friana’s current and small bursts of flame to fall back below the weapons’ trajectory. He hit the ground running, trying to keep both Toa to one side of him. More weapons flew towards him, gradually forcing him towards the mountainside.
They think that’ll slow me down? I’m about to surprise them, then.
Grillon ran halfway up the mountainside, turned to look for his opponents… and then his left leg sank thigh deep into the stone.
“Gah! What the-?” Grillon shouted in pain. He was stuck in an awkward position with his leg in the hole, as his right leg was folded beneath him. When he tried to pull his leg out of the hole, iron spikes dug into it and he cried out in pain again. Higher up the slope, rocks broke free of the mountainside and began sliding towards him.
“How do you like my trap? Isn’t it amazing?” Friana called out to him gleefully, showing more emotion than she had the entire fight. Grillon wasn’t sure what to think about that.
Still, there’s no denying it’s pretty genius. If I jerk my leg out, the spikes will mangle it. But if I don’t, the rockslide will crush me, and even if I survive that, I’ll be a sitting duck for Friana and Yeela. Did she set this up before the fight? They had no way to tell where I would stand, so they probably dot the entire mountainside. Guess that’s where the ‘Demon’ in her title comes from… still, it has a weakness that I can exploit. This is going to hurt. Deep breath, Grillon.
In one motion, the Light Knight ripped his leg from the trap, screaming in pain as he did. The iron spikes ripped through his armor and flesh beneath, and he could feel it scrape his bones. Silvery blood pooled around him as he stood, nearly passing out from the pain.
Not out of the woods yet!
He pushed himself even harder, drawing out so much light that his internal flame flickered and nearly went dark. When the rockslide reached him half a second later, he stood back on the ground, leg halfway healed.
“Wow, good job. That’s kinda hardcore.” Friana chattered away happily, the cheery tone not quite disguising the predatory glint in her eyes. “Still, you look like you’re at the end of your rope. I think this hunt is almost over, ysfaeus."
“I mean, you aren’t wrong.” Grillon said, panting. He’d pushed himself too hard, too quickly. The world blurred and shifted before him as darkness ate away at the edges of his sight. His teeth chattered as hypothermia set in. His internal fire was just a dying ember. Conversely, his opponents looked barely out of breath.
If I use any more fire, my internal temperature will drop too low and I’ll freeze to death. It’s been hours since I ate anything, so my fire won’t build up very fast. I’m exhausted, my leg is literally killing me, and there’s no way I’m avoiding this next attack. Sorry everyone, guess Tayru will have to make it without a Toa…
Friana’s knife flew straight towards his heart. Grillon tried to throw himself to the right, realizing too late that she’d predicted that. It was going to hit him square in the chest and shatter his fire vessel…
A massive force hit him in the side, sending him flying in the opposite direction.
“A tree trunk? What the heck?” He heard Friana exclaim. He hit the ground and skidded another five feet before rolling to a stop. The world slowly spun back into focus. As he tried to figure out how he wasn’t dead, he heard a voice that chilled him to the bone―even more than he already was, anyway.
“Hey there, Fire-spitter. Guess I’ll have to bail you out again, huh?”
There were two sights that would always turn his stomach. One of them was Yeela, the Puppet Sword Knight. The other was the sight of Vineon, the Ironwood Knight.
“I think you’ve done enough to disgrace your city today, so you can just sit this one out, alright? I’ll show these dust motes what a true Toa can do.”
“Oh yeah?” Yeela snarled. “Well, I’m going to enjoy ripping every vine out of your body and forging your armor into a footstool, you Borran son of a ce!”
Friana shook her head in resignation.
“Way to keep it classy, guys.”
Vineon’s eyes glinted dangerously.
“Hey Fire-spitter, get out of my way. If you feel like being useful, do try and build up some firepower.” A small sprout popped up next to Grillon and quickly blossomed into a volo fruit. Grillon grabbed it and began scrambling away.
“And if you even think of leaving, you can kiss your tail goodbye.” With that last warning, Vineon cracked his knuckles and shook out his arms. The real fight had just begun.

AN: That’s all for now folks, check back tomorrow for the next chapter…


i was worried that this was a feature of madness

Also. :ok_hand: glad to actually finally read it
im sorry

###The Last Straw
Vines shot out from Vineon’s wrist, whipping outwards and wrapping around some of Yeela’s weapons. Vineon ran forward, using his vines to crush the weapons and pull himself further ahead. Friana tried to take off in her glider, but a vine tightened around her ankle and flung her to the ground.
“Don’t worry, Toa! We’ll help you against that monster!” Five overzealous Onu soldiers ran forward―a fatal mistake.
Friana cut herself free from the vine and vaulted into the air―successfully this time―and flew out of range. Vineon hastily backed away from a fresh onslaught of puppet weapons, but saw an opportunity in the nearby Onu. More vines, these with barbed tips, rushed towards them. Each one ran straight through an unfortunate matoran, and the brutal Ironwood Knight used them as clubs, bashing through Yeela’s weaponry and into her armor, leaving barely a scratch. When they were mauled until they were nearly unrecognizable, he changed tactics, throwing them into the air at Friana. The Air Toa darted around the projectiles and fired arrows back. Yeela let most of her weapons drop to the ground and shifted focus to five oversized axes, which began hacking through vines and swinging towards Vineon. An arrow landed in the vulnerable point right beside his neck, and he hissed with pain. A small sprout grew up where the arrow had struck, pushing the projectile out and staunching the wound.
Yeela stomped the ground, causing it to reshape into razor sharp spikes. Vineon only smiled condescendingly and gave his own stomp. Roots flew out of his foot to grip the ground, and a great tree trunk sprang up beneath him, propelling him into the sky. In seconds, he stood on his own little tower, fifty feet off the ground.
Grillon was distracted by a sudden creaking behind him. He didn’t need to turn around to recognize the noise. The slight prickle against the back of his neck was another clue.
“Don’t move, Toa.” How had they gotten behind him? Yes, he had been distracted by the fight, but he still should have heard them coming. He must have been more injured than he thought. The volo fruit had helped his fire regenerate, but only in the sense that a campfire was bigger than a candle’s flame. It still wasn’t enough.
Slowly, with forced calm, Grillon began pushing himself into a sitting position.
“I said don’t move, ce!” the matoran shouted. A Leta? This day just keeps getting better, he thought. It made sense that some of the Leta army would have followed Friana into battle, but he doubted it was just the one behind him. That meant there were others, probably scattered around the battlefield. If he couldn’t warn his soldiers, this fight would end rather quickly. Of course, that meant escaping his captor.
He glanced up at the sky, wondering if Vineon would notice and bail him out again. Unfortunately, his ally was still occupied fighting the other two Toa, summoning vines and thorns to keep his opponents on edge. Grillon would receive no help there. Normally he would go for a quick jab at the matoran behind them, or simply set their bow alight, but he did not feel able to do either. The volo fruit had only held him back from the brink of collapse. Trying to do much of anything at this point was still a long shot. If nothing else, the fact that he wasn’t dead yet was a good sign. The Leta was waiting for something.
A horn rang out across the valley. Around the back of the Tayru skirmish line brown and tan shapes emerged from the brush. That’s what the Leta had been waiting for. A sneak attack. Grillon called out in alarm, earning a sharp jab in the back of his neck. Just another wound to heal if he survived this. Whether in response to his call or due to their own observation, the Tay turned to face the new threat, forming a circle around the wounded. But they were outnumbered now, and it would take a miracle to save them.
Grillon looked up to Vineon once more, but the other two Knights still had his ally occupied. The two circled their opponent, trying to outflank him. Friana fired a quick volley from one side, while Yeela sent an axe spinning through the tangle surrounding Vineon. A vine quickly swatted the arrows aside, while Vineon caught the axe in his own hands. He quickly tore it apart and tossed it aside, wary of Yeela’s ability to manipulate the weapon even as he held it. Friana pushed with her hands, launching a gale-force wind at the Ironwood Knight. He leaped, riding the wind straight into Yeela. The attack took her by surprise, and her weapons were too slow to react to the living missile. The Toa of Plantlife summoned vines to him, entrapping the Toa of Earth and dragging the both of them back to his tower.
In essence, the Tayru would have to win their fight without the help of either Toa. The fact that all of the Toa were otherwise occupied didn’t help much. The combined Onu and Leta forces had the Tay outnumbered and surrounded. Any opponent defeated was immediately replaced, giving the impression of an unending swarm. Sukiru’s forces, on the other hand, were all too limited. Even with those Grillon had managed to heal added to their ranks, the number of healthy fighters seemed to dwindle at an exponential rate. All too soon this would end.
Then Grillon noticed something. All he truly saw was some sudden movement at the edge of the battlefield. He scanned the Leta formation, trying to figure out what he had seen. Well, calling it a ‘formation’ would be generous. It was a mob, which was exactly what one would expect from the Le-matoran. Their infantry pressed close up front, while their archers remained partially hidden at a reasonable distance. The second group was what he was watching. That’s where he had seen the movement. Were more joining the battle? Just my luck.
Then he realized: the opposite was happening. Leta archers were vanishing. Had Sukiru thought of some ranged counterattack? No, that didn’t make sense. The rangers on the periphery of the battle were the ones falling. The Tay would have started close. No, this was someone else’s doing. Did he dare hope? Please, was all he could think. Please.
As if in response to his thoughts, more skirmishers broke from the thick of the wood. Except their armor wasn’t brown. Nor was it red, or even black. Their armor was green, as deep and wonderful as the forest they emerged from. And then swooping onto the battlefield came a whole detachment of eagle riders. There was no doubt about it: the Borran had arrived.
A familiar Borran emerged from the brush close to him, bow taut. The arrowhead dug itself farther into his neck in response.
“Shoot me and he gets it!” the Leta called. The Borran paused, unsure. She locked eyes with Grillon. He mouthed a silent countdown.
“Me? I’m just the distraction,” the Borran retorted as Grillon twisted, knocking the bow aside with his shoulder. The Leta reacted slowly, unfocused. The Toa could feel as much as hear the bow fire. The release was late, causing the arrow to skid off of his shoulder armor instead of hitting his exposed neck as the matoran had intended. Grillon pressed, turning more and driving his elbow into his onetime captor. The Leta fell with a soft grunt.
“Thanks for the save, Melody,” he said, finally standing up again. He almost fell to the ground as his leg reminded him of what it had been through, but ultimately kept his footing.
“Me, save you?” she asked incredulously. “Yeah right. You totally had him.” Grillon chuckled at his new friend’s blind adoration. I wish. Apparently she hadn’t noticed how he favored his one leg, or how he was shaking from exhaustion.
“We need to help the others,” Grillon said, returning the subject to the battle at hand. The Borran forces had managed to spearhead their way through the Leta skirmishers, reinforcing their allies and causing general chaos among the opposing forces. Now red and green armor mixed as one, separating the opposing alliance. Where their pincer maneuver had previously trapped and surrounded the Tay, now it left the two armies alone and vulnerable.
To make matters worse for the opposition, the eagle riders were diving down from above and tearing the Leta and Onu soldiers apart, or more brutally snatching them off the ground and then dropping them to their deaths. The tide of the battle had turned. With my luck, Maerkon will show up and ally with the others, Grillon mused wryly. Wouldn’t that just be the perfect ending to today?
He took a step forward, momentarily forgetting his wounds. His leg was quick to remind him, collapsing under his weight. This time Melody did seem to notice his injuries, doing her best to catch and support him.
“Grillon!” she gasped. He tried his best not to crush the matoran, pushing himself back to his feet. He could only grimace in response. “Why haven’t you healed yourself?”
“I… tried…” the Toa managed to force out between gritted teeth. Melody’s expression somehow managed to register even more shock.
“We need to get you out of here,” she said. Grillon tried to push himself back onto his two feet, but she held onto his arm. “If my leg was… mangled, what would you tell me to do?”
“I would tell you to stay off of it, let the muscles grow. But-”
“But nothing. You need to rest that leg. Doctor’s orders. Here, let me help you.” She took a step. Grillon sighed and stepped with her. He supposed she was right. Not to say he liked the idea, but she was right. While a Toa on the battlefield was an intimidating sight, an injured one was an opportunity. The Leta who had temporarily taken him prisoner was proof enough of that. While Melody had been vital to his escape, he didn’t like the idea of her sharing his target. It was too risky.
Yet, she stood by his side, patiently helping him cross the battlefield, one step at a time. He looked up again to check the progress of the battle. The Tay and Borran appeared to be retreating, a small Tayru shield wall shored up by Borran soldiers protecting the injured as they were spirited off into the forest. Meanwhile, Vineon appeared to have shifted his priority to keeping the other Toa away from the battle. He stood with his back to the valley, facing his two opponents. In truth, he was more of a spectator than a combatant. He stood there, arms crossed, watching as the mass of vines and thorns surrounded his opponents. The other two Toa hacked and slashed, but couldn’t seem to break free of the ever-growing tangle surrounding them.
Vineon spared Grillon a baleful glance. “Poor, hopeless Fire-spitter. You can’t even walk on your own. Maybe if you weren’t so weak we could’ve won something more than a retreat. Oh, not that a retreat bothers you. You’re probably quite happy with today’s events, aren’t you?” Grillon didn’t even spare the other Toa a response. He was too tired to deal with his ally right now. However, Friana took more note of Vineon’s words. A serrated dagger tore through the thicket around her and spun towards Grillon. He raised his hand, prepared to use the last of his power to ward off the weapon. He didn’t realize its true target until too late.
Suddenly Grillon was supporting Melody, trying to get them both to the ground as softly as possible. He could manage little more than an undignified tangle of limbs. He carefully separated the two of them, laying the Borran on the ground before him. He gasped as he saw the wound: A knife sized hole, going straight through her body. He could see the full extent of the internal damage down to every grim detail. This was an injury that would’ve proven difficult with him at full power, and now…
Melody’s eyes were clouded with pain, and she was murmuring to herself, clearly lost in some hallucination as her spirit and body began to part ways.
“It’s okay, Mom.” She whispered softly in her dream. “I’ll be perfectly safe. The Light Knight uses his magic to make sure no one ever gets hurt.”
The Light Knight bit his lip, and gathered every ounce of power he had left into his palms, and placed them on her body, hoping against hope that her wound would close up.
But nothing happened. Melody’s eyes were dark, and the elemental energy she once held abandoned her corpse.
Grillon sat down beside her. A part of him wanted to be angry―to rage in unquenchable fury at Friana, at Vineon, at Nuhrii, at the war as a whole. But he was just tired. Tired of all of this. Tired of watching friends die. Tired of fighting the other Toa. Tired of fighting someone else’s war. This war certainly wasn’t his. And he wanted no further part in it.

###Taking Action
Despite the casualties at the outpost: the horrible battle that had occurred only a few hours ago, Ta-Meiyo looked as peaceful as ever. Aside from the ever vigilant guardsmen patrolling the outer wall, it was almost as though the war didn’t exist h-
“You little wimp of a fire-spitter! You just made a complete embarrassment of yourself, not to mention your people. You barely managed to turn a massacre into a retreat, and that was only after I brought the closest Borran forces to save your cowardly mask. You couldn’t even stand, you pathetic whelp!” Vineon hissed and spat.
Grillon appeared only to look on as the Toa of the Green gave his “ally”, to use the term loosely, a verbal lashing even worse than the usual biting comments.
“I-I-” Grillon stammered, still clearly shaken from the horrendous battle that had occurred, trying to piece together a response.
“Save your breath! Nothing that’ll come out of that mouth will do anything more than bring more shame on your family!” Vineon cut in, tearing any semblance of Grillon’s chances to respond to shreds.
“Well, you know what!?” Grillon exploded, anger flooding his mind, vision turning red as a thousand retorts and counter-arguments rushed into his head. He started to turn towards Vineon, a retort half formed but-
-no. All the fire seemed to go out of him at the same moment he was about to reply. It wasn’t worth it, and he was still too tired to garner even a basic defense against the other Toa’s words.
The moment he turned away he felt a blow from behind, knocking him to the ground. “You complete idiot! I saved your rear back there, I carried the whole Karzing battle even, you’d probably be dead if I hadn’t been there, what great thanks you give! I could smash you into the ground and turn you into pulp for being such a useless, whining, obnoxious little brat from the moment I met you, but I’ll leave you with your own patheticness to let you suffer.” He stalked off without another word.

Grillon paused to look up at the stars above. Every night, the night sky seemed to expand. It wasn’t so long ago when you could only see twenty or so stars on a clear night, and they were all the same sparkling white. Starting a year ago, more stars had begun to appear, and in different colors too. Now the sky was almost overflowing with celestial treasures, with more colors than he had known existed. To this day, there were members of the Li who worried about it, and Grillon could only imagine what the astronomy obsessed matoran of Kothe thought of it, but he just enjoyed looking at the sky. It was actually one of the few things he didn’t have to worry about these days.
A noise, a soft rustle of leaves caught his attention. He whipped around, peering intently in the undergrowth.
“Heh. Just a noc-ko.” He smiled at the fluorescent moth-like creature, with translucent wings glowing softly.
However, it stood as a reminder to start paying more attention. An ambush would be betrayed only by the slightest rustling of leaves. His current assignment, manning a lookout tower on the south-western border of Borrara, kingdom of the Borran, made that his biggest worry. Most of the western border was protected by the steep range of mountains known as the Spine, that ran through the center of Inoria.
But there was a significant path through the mountains that came to the desert of Leto, home of the nomadic Le-matoran. There were three watchtowers that covered the pass, and were constantly manned. But the Leta wouldn’t try and walk an army past the guard post, they would send a surprise team to kill the guard. Tonight, that guard was him.
Every so often, the main army was short a sentinel team, and so Grillon liked to volunteer. Normally, it was just a time to wind down a bit, as the Leta almost never attacked. Except for earlier today. And that was the problem tonight: Grillon was in grieving. And he was furious. Why? Why was he so torn up about this? After all, he’d barely known the girl at all, and only for an hour. He’d seen plenty of people die in this war, most of whom he’d known at least a little longer.
And then the answer came, so obvious it was as if he’d known it all along. Melody had believed in him. All the soldiers counted on him to heal them sure, but they knew who he was and more often than not would shake their heads in disappointment. But Melody had believed that he was a hero, had faith in his abilities till the very end. And he had failed her.
And now what will I do? He wondered. I can’t just carry on and do nothing. I have to stop this war somehow. But I can’t do anything alone…
But the answers didn’t come, and so Grillon spent a peaceful hour looking through the pass and into the desert. Everything was so calm… until the laser beams hit. Beams of crackling multicolored energy lanced down from the mountain peaks and hit one of the main support posts of the tower.
The entire structure began to tilt and sway dangerously. Grillon stumbled but managed to keep his feet, and jumped from the tower top to the ground. The tower toppled over, nearly crushing the hapless Toa. This time Grillon really did lose his footing, falling into the sand.
“Ugh… what happened?”
Before he could properly regain his bearings, a white armored figure landed in front of him, dagger in hand.
“Who-?” Unable to finish his question, Grillon had to roll out of the way of a knife thrust by his assailant. He tried to get to his feet, but the white armored form (he was beginning to have an idea of who it was now) body-slammed him to the ground and brought the knife down hard. Grillon winced as he felt the knife pierce his forearm, pinning his left hand to the ground. A feeling of cold permeated his arm, spreading outward from the strange-looking knife.
The dagger’s made of ice? Now I know who this is.
Taking a deep breath, Grillon focused all his energy into projecting a giant wave of heat. The dagger evaporated as his assailant stiffened for a second, then slumped to the ground unconscious. Grillon got up, focusing heat in his hands.
The white armor meant it was from the Kothe nation, and the powers meant that this was no simple Ko-matoran (Kona). This was Kerila, the Mirror Knight. And she was vulnerable. He could end her life with a single blow, and the Kothe-Galis alliance would effectively have lost. It would then just be Leto-Onura against Tayru-Borrara. He’d be a hero, and the war would soon come to an end. And yet…
*No. Not like this. I’ll not end the war by killing another Toa. However, this could still be an opportunity… *
“So it’s Kerila, the elusive Toa of Ice.”
Kerila slowly returned to wakefulness, struggling to open her eyes. She tensed up, remembering the situation she was in, and tried to leap to her feet… only to pathetically flop around on the ground instead.
“Can’t move very well, can you? Most of your joints will have melted a bit. You’ll survive, given proper medical treatment, but you’d definitely be out of action for weeks at best.”
Kerila glared at the person talking to her.
“What do you want?” She hissed.
“Well, I’ve never actually seen you face to face like this,” replied Grillon, in his most conversational tone of voice. “I figured it would be an opportunity missed.” He shrugged.
Kerila narrowed her eyes in disbelief.
“You want to get to know me? Are you for real?” She snarled at him.
“Why wouldn’t I be? Are all Kona this antisocial?” Grillon said, smiling.
“Drop the act. We’re enemies! Do you plan on interrogating me? Taking me prisoner? Or is this just to taunt me with my helplessness before you kill me?”
Grillon’s smile vanished. “No, no, and of course not! I’m not going to do any of those things!” He paused, considering for a bit. “Look, this is going nowhere fast, so how about a show of faith? I’ll heal you. All I ask in return is that you calm down and don’t attack me or run away, alright?”
Kerila hesitated, before slowly nodding.
Grillon closed his eyes and focused, going through the mental exercises he’d studied in his books.
Find the flame, find the fire…
He could feel the inferno blaze to life, deep in his chest.
Now purify…
The heat stayed inside him, but he drew the light out into his hands, which began to glow softly. Kerila looked on, her glare now softened to a nervous gaze.
He held his hands out above her, and a bright beam of light began flowing into her, causing her to briefly glow as well. Normally it would be done in a second, but Grillon took his time, letting that feeling of warmth stay with him a little longer. It felt good to heal people, always so much better than using it to harm.
He let out a deep breath and stood back, giving Kerila space to stand up. She stared at him, still wary, unsure of what was going to happen next. Yet she did not leave.
“Why did you spare me?” Kerila asked.
Grillon sat back down, and gestured for her to do likewise.
“I think it’s best explained with a little story.” He took a deep breath, wondering where to begin.
Why not start at the beginning? This is already more than a little treasonous, telling her some more about yourself won’t make it any worse.
“My family is part of the Kom caste.” He held up a hand, forestalling her question. “I know, I know, Kothe doesn’t have a caste system. In Tayru, all matoran belong to one of three main castes, or orders, if you prefer. Kom are the warriors. So it’s always been expected that I’ll be a warrior, like all my siblings and forebears. But I hate fighting, hate it with a passion. So I ended up in Li, the order of scholars and doctors. I’ve always hated the war, especially when I became a field medic. So when I became the Toa of Fire, well… it was like the world’s biggest, cruelest, joke. A pacifist, chosen to be the great hero of Fire? Still, I made my own path. I took that power and made it my own, and used it to preserve life. But… earlier today, I failed in a big way. Not only was I unable to prevent the death of a friend, but I’d put them in danger with my weakness.”
Kerila snorted disdainfully. “Yeah? Why should I care?” Her words were harsh, but something in her eyes shone, like she knew what he was saying and needed him to continue. To spell it out.
Aw man, I’m really bad at this…
“Listen, every time I’ve thought about the war, something’s bothered me. Or maybe, not the war, but what I’m doing about it.” Kerila cocked her head, beckoning him to continue. “Thus far, I’ve complained about the war, but still followed orders and fought in it like a soldier. The only difference is I spare my defeated enemies, and expect that to ease my conscience. As soon as I beat you, and had you at my mercy, I knew what I was doing wrong.” Grillon stood up and offered his hand to Kerila. “We have legends of heroes, from the time before time. The Toa Mata in the legends weren’t merely soldiers, but true heroes. I realize now that if I am to live up to that role, I have to do more. I want to finally end this war, not by destroying the other nations, but truly creating peace. But I cannot do this alone, and I don’t even know where to begin. Please, I know we don’t know each other, and we’re on different sides, but will you please help me?”
Kerila stared at him wide-eyed, seemingly overwhelmed by the magnitude of what he’d just said. For a second Grillon was afraid she’d start attacking again. But then…
“My life has been dictated by this war. My father was an Astrologer, and he foresaw the war long before it happened, just as he saw that I’d have an important role to play. And so as soon as I was old enough to be taught, my father sent me away to a… special place, where I was taught everything I’d need. My people cared not for me, only that I could one day do. And now you say you want me to help end the thing that consumed my life’s meaning?”
Kerila laughed, a sound as beautiful as chiming crystal. Then she took hold of his hand and pulled herself to her feet.
“I’d be glad to.”


Maerkon leaned against a pine tree and yawned. The tree in question was one of the few that managed to grow despite the thin soil in the northwestern quadrant of Galis, as the rocky terrain made it susceptible to erosion. Not that it really mattered, except that it gave Maerkon some comfort as he watched Kerila slowly make her way up the road that led out of Galis and north into Kothe.

She had known he was there for quite some time now (he’d have been disappointed if she hadn’t), but hadn’t acknowledged his presence in any way. She seemed almost embarrassed, and was pointedly not looking in his direction. This odd behavior confirmed what he’d already suspected.

Hm. Disappointing, to say the least, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, he grew tired of waiting and simply walked after her.

“Kerila, wait up!” He could see her tense up, like she was ready for a fight, but she stopped.

“Come now, give a tired old war dog chance to catch up,” he panted, running up to her side. That got a small smile out of her.

“Come now, Maerkon. I know you’re not that old.”

“Twice as old as you, and fifty times as weary, I’d say. So why are you so cold?” Kerila simply raised an eyebrow. “What I meant was, why run away from me?”

Kerila stopped. “I, I uh… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered.

“You didn’t kill Grillon, did you?”

Kerila sighed and bowed her head.

“I failed, yes. I ambushed him in the night. I had hoped that with all the new stars, there might be enough light to use my magnifying ice lasers, but they weren’t strong enough to do much more than burn through some wood. I lost my element of surprise, and he got me with his heat wave. I’m sorry.”

Maerkon waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, nothing to be sorry for. I’ve suffered from those heat waves of his too, it was stupid of me to ask you to do this without help. But… If he got you, how’re you still alive?”

“Well to be honest, I’m not sure myself. When I came to, he sat down and started chatting with me. After a while, he healed my injuries and let me go free. Some of the things he said…” Kerila trailed off, looking troubled. “Maerkon, You’ve met him before, and fought at least three times. Does he seem like a liar to you?”

Maerkon stopped and considered the question.

“I don’t know. Hard to tell much about people from just fighting them, and to be honest, I’ve never been able to read him like the other Toa. Vineon and Yeela are easy to read, as they always seem to be consumed with raw hatred. On the battlefield, they appear more like mindless killers than living people. Friana is a little harder to read, but if you pay attention, it’s clear she’s just viciously protective of her own people. But Grillon… Sure, he protects his men, but that doesn’t seem to drive him like it does the Air Toa. To be honest, he doesn’t seem to have any drive at all. Though one time, when our armies were battling in a Galis village on the border, I saw him healing the civilians who were caught in the crossfire. Another mystery about him, I suppose. But why do you ask?”

“Well… look, nevermind. But please, can you not tell anyone about my failure? They won’t take it kindly.”

Maerkon nodded sympathetically. “Of course. The only Galin who knew was Turaga Vhisola, and I can spin some tale for her. But what of your superiors?”

Poor girl, he thought. I’ve seen what those cold-hearted frostbites are like. That can’t be easy.

Kerila bowed gratefully, ignoring the second question, then turned to continue up the hill. Maerkon thought for a second, then called after her.

“Hey, Kerila! This Spring Festival, why don’t you come visit me? There’ll also be a few of my old comrades. My house may be homely, but surely we’ll have a warmer celebration then you’ll have all alone up north!”

Looking behind her, Kerila shook her head regretfully.

“It sounds lovely, but I’m afraid I have family affairs to attend to.”

“Very well. It’ll be all the duller with your absence.” Maerkon turned to walk towards his home. How strange, I’m pretty sure she told me she doesn’t have any family. But she must have her reasons, and it isn’t my place to pry. They probably gave her some ridiculous mission, even though the Festival is supposed to be a truce. Poor girl.

Friana landed in the middle of the caravan, stowing her glider in her backpack. A quick scan of the chaos of tents and wagons, and she found what she was looking for.

“Briata!” The hapless Leta was bowled over from the force of a surprise bear hug, and Toa and matoran crashed to the ground together.

“Ack! Sis, get off!” The girl shouted, and Friana ceased her assault and sat up, grinning.

“Alright, sorry. But it’s been too long! How’ve you been?” Briata smiled and picked up a bucket that had been thrown from her hands.

“Well, I was going to go get water, but then I got knocked over by my twe-chare. Now be useful and help me out here.” The two sisters walked over to a well at the center of the haphazard temporary village, Friana often stopping to call out to old friends. It was ten minutes before they’d returned to the colorful tent that Briata called home.

“MOTHER! I’m back!” Friana called and ran through the door.

Allya looked up from the flute she was carving and smiled at her daughter.

“What a rare surprise! Has the great hero Friana, finally decided to check back on old mum?”

“Oh Mom, stop it. You know it isn’t like that at all. I’d be here all the time if I could help it, but the war just hasn’t let up lately. First it was Kona lancers that broke through our defensive lines, then it was a month of covert raids targeting Borran supply lines. Then a troop of Tay had captured a corp of Onu engineers, and I had to save them. Before you know it, me and and Yeela have been called to into a fight against Grillon and Vineon, for Mata’s sake! But there’s been a lull for the past two weeks, so when we heard about how hwyn Aldyth had kane-fever, Pops let me gather some perlysiau leaves for medicine.”

“Well, I’m sure Carys will put it to good use, I’ll be sure to pass it along. But tell me, how is Brahn doing?”

Friana smiled and sat on the floor, in between Allya and Briata.

“Oh, Pops is doing great! It was a little stressful when those lancers I was telling you about broke through, but he never lost his cool. We were able to divert them into a ravine filled with my harshest traps, thanks in no small part to his quick thinking. And he’s been teaching me how to use this new kind of longbow he and some Onu tinker put together! I can peg a Kona from five hundred yards away in the middle of a snowstorm, and I’ve reloaded and got five more before he blinks!” Friana’s chatter slowly died away as she saw Allya’s face fall. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“It’s just… it sounds like you’re both constantly fighting. I can’t help but be worried. Constant bloodshed is no era for you to be growing up in, Toa hero or not.”

“Oh, Mom. I know how you feel, but… this is the world we live in. War or not, it isn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows. I mean, we live in the desert, for crying out loud. It’s not as if we didn’t lead dangerous lives before.”

Friana gestured at the chair that Allya sat in: A peculiar wheeled contraption, designed for someone whose legs were no longer functional. The ‘someone’ in question winced, as if remembering the day when the claws of a beast made the chair a necessity.

“Now, drop the face. I’m back now, aren’t I? This is a time for celebration, not worrying!”

As the sun set below the sky, the sounds of music rose from the Leta caravan. A giant bonfire roared in the center of the village, shooting out so many embers it was as if it wished to compete with the stars. In front of the fire was a great stage, which was being used by the camp musicians. To the left was a harpist accompanied by a trio of flutists and a trumpet player. On the far right was a monstrous looking machine made of gears and a metal frame bolting together a seemingly random assortment of instrument components. Three matoran operated it, alternating between playing on the keys and feverishly flipping switches.

Despite its appearance, the sound it produced was rather pleasant, though few would call it lovely. Instead, it maintained a fast beat, and all the different musical sounds blended together reasonably well, if not perfectly. Indeed, though the tune itself followed the pattern directed by its operators, whichever instrument played each note was completely random. But that was they way they liked it.

Indeed, that was the tone of the night. The center of the stage was a chaotic mess of whirling bodies, as matoran leapt on the stage to dance, play their own instruments, or even sing. The only time the laughter stopped, even for a moment, was when Friana stepped onto the stage for her own performance. The music ceased and the dancing stopped, as everyone waited breathlessly to see what she would do. Friana assembled several large wind chimes and stood them up, then summoned a gust of wind.

The chimes clanked and crashed together accordingly. Then she started creating multiple airstreams, sending them to hit the chimes at different directions, strengths, and several in quick succession. There were excited gasps and whispers as a tune emerged, and Friana began to sing. It was an old song, about the first Le-matoran to brave the desert, Kreeft. Halfway through the song, one daring Le-matoran chimed in and sang the chorus. He was quickly followed by others, until Friana was leading almost the entire village in song. But then, just before the climax, one of the chimes tipped over, landing in the sand with a hollow clanging.

Deathly silence returned as the wind suddenly dropped. Then Briata started laughing. It spread throughout the crowd until the laughter roared even louder than it had before. But none laughed harder than Friana, who was actually doubled up on the ground, gasping for breath. She blew the chimes off the stage, and the other musicians resumed playing.

Briata came and helped her pick up the pieces.

“Wow Sis, that was blynydd.”

“Really, you think so? I was worried the notes were off key.”

“Off key? I think you mean off-stage.”

“Oh shut it, you.”

Briata’s response never came, as she snarled and grabbed a knife from her belt and lunged at a figure in the shadows.

An orange hand grabbed her wrist and forced the knife from her hand. Yeela caught it and gave it a cursory examination.

“Who made this? It looks brand new, yet there’s already cracks in the blade. Shoddy craftsmanship.”

Friana sighed.

“Yeela, please let go of my sister. And why were you trying to sneak up on us anyway?”

Yeela huffed and let go, Briata falling to the ground and scrambling back. “I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, you were all just too preoccupied to notice. Just because your sister didn’t see me doesn’t make me a sneak.”

“Alright, fair point. But what’s the occasion? Have you come to join the party?”

“Of course not. I came to let you know that we need to head south again tomorrow.”

A loud crash, followed by raucous laughter, interrupted their conversation. Yeela snorted in disgust.

“Has living in the desert scrambled their brains? It’s wartime, and here they are, having a celebration.”

Friana took a step back, indignant.

“Has living underground scrambled your brain? It’s because we’re at war that these celebrations are important. Every time we see each other could be the last, so we have to grab these occasions as these come.”

“Sounds like an excuse to party.”

“Of course. Everyone loves to party!” Friana said, laughing. “But you gotta admit, it’s a pretty great one, yeah?”

Yeela merely rolled her eyes and started walking away.

“Hey, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about!” Friana called after her. Yeela stopped and turned around curiously. It was pretty noisy in the camp, but she could still hear the slight crack in Friana’s voice.

“What is it?” Yeela asked, sitting beside her friend. The Air Toa shook her head, frowning.

“It’s something Mom said earlier this morning, about how the war isn’t a good time to grow up in. I laughed it off, but it’s got me thinking. All the people here in the village can still laugh and party and live. Their lives aren’t easy, the desert’s unsafe even without the war, but they still seem so carefree, lighthearted and happy. In contrast, the people on the front seem so much… darker. I mean, they still laugh and joke and make the best out of awful situations, but you can still see it changing them. As the war goes on, it’s less and less about protecting our homes, and more and more about getting back at the other guy. There’s just so much… hatred. And it’s affected me too. That last fight on the border, I killed a young Borran, still pretty much a child, for no reason. She wasn’t even fighting, just helping Grillon to his feet. I barely saw her, I just wanted so badly to hurt him, I could barely see straight. I wasn’t even feeling guilty. Yeela, what’s wrong with me?”

The Toa of Earth gave a small sigh.

“Oh Fri, you silly child. This is natural. Maybe it took a little longer for it to sink in―you mostly fight with traps or from above, not close combat―but this is just a natural consequence of war. People are going to change as they get older, and if it’s in war, they’ll become more warlike. And you know what? It’s not really that bad. You remember Hafu? Can you blame me for hating the filthy Kona who took my husband from me? Can you blame me for hating the filth that slaughtered my children? Or how about Eryr, that Leta boy that would come along on our excursions, who told the funniest stories, helped teach me some of the Leto language, and could make you blush and giggle just by looking at you? Where is he now, huh?”

Friana clenched her fists and shut her eyes, not quite able to stop a tear from falling. Yeela’s voice was soft, but it didn’t lose its edge.

“Listen Fri, I know you and yours would much rather party than dwell on the past, but you have to remember why your loved ones don’t always come home. There are some things that can never be forgotten or forgiven.” A hole in the ground appeared beside her, and she clambered down into a tunnel. “Just keep that in mind, okay?” With that, the desert sands shifted once more. Seconds later the tunnel was gone, leaving Friana alone with her thoughts.

It was a quiet night at the top of the Spine, a calm breeze playing across the sky and the decent light of a half-moon, where both Grillon and Kerila had agreed to meet again to avoid discovery. They’d spoken for a while more about their pasts, their hopes, and there was one in particular that had been taken into account, as Kerila was about to discover.
“Hey Kerila!” He greeted warmly.
“Hi Grillon.” Kerila mumbled back, awkwardly, giving a vague hand movement that might’ve been a wave with more confidence.
“So I was thinking. When we first talked, you said how you’d always wanted to be an Astrologer, right? So I thought: ‘Why don’t we make a telescope?’.”
“Wait… seriously?” Kerila laughed.
“Yeah! Got the parts, and some instructions and everything!” He grinned, holding up a bag with a few odds and ends inside.
“Oh, uhhh, wow! I… you didn’t have to.”
“Oh of course I did, you deserve it.” He brushed it off with a handwave and sat down with the bag.
“Awww gee, you’re gonna make me blush!” She giggled, sitting down too, “So where do we start?”
“Weeeell,” Grillon began, opening up the bag and taking out two lenses - one bigger and one smaller, “For starters we have the lenses. Because a telescope is made-”
“I know how a telescope works, silly. I meant where do we start building?” She laughed again.
“Oh, duh.” Grillon facepalmed, “So right, if you look at the instructions here.” He beckoned her over, taking the instructions out. Kerila sidled over next to him and took them from his hands.
“Okay, we test how far apart the lenses have to be first, that makes sense.” Kerila remarked, scanning through them, “So will we just use the words on the instructions for reference?”
“That was the plan. Not worth bringing up some letter or something when we can just do it with that.” He shrugged.
“So who’s going to-?”
“I will, my hands can’t afford to shake in my line of work.” He chuckled, holding them up to show they didn’t even quiver.
“Fair enough.”
Grillon picked up the two lenses and held the larger one close to the instructions, at arm’s length, then holding the smaller one behind it in his other hand, closer to his eye. He hunched over a little, squinting at them as he moved the smaller lens back and forth gradually until he found the sharpest image, the words on the parchment clear and magnified.
Kerila measured the distance and they quickly scrawled it down on the instructions with the quill Grillon had brought.
Kerila frowned at the next part of the instructions and the accompanying components that were still in the bag, picking up the two cylindrical pieces of wood from it.
“So we’re carving the tube out of these?”
“It’s from scratch! Thought it’d be better than just having it done already.” Grillon responded defensively.
“Why don’t we make the lenses from some of my ice while we’re at it!” Kerila giggled.
“Oh, shut up.” He laughed.
“Right, so.” Kerila formed a small, precise blade with a serrated edge out of ice and started to offer it to him, but Grillon put up a hand to stop her.
“No, no, your turn.”
“What happened to mister ‘I have steadier hands’?” She smirked.
“Well what’s the point in me having all the fun?” Grillon shot back.
“True.” And with that she started to carve the hole into the first bit of wood. After a few minutes, she still hadn’t made too much progress.
“Huh, this is kinda taking longer than I thought.” Grillon frowned.
“Oh, ya think?” Kerila deadpanned.
“M-maybe make me a knife too and I’ll do the second one at the same time?” He suggested.
“Okay then. Finally.” She teased.
“You could’ve said something before!”
“Well, no going back now. So here.” Kerila formed an identical knife in her outstretched palm, a soft crackling as the air moisture changed forms under her power, and handed it to him. It felt bitingly cold in his hand as Grillon started to try and cut with it. “Heh, this is actually pretty tough.”
Obviously, otherwise I’d already be done.” She smirked with mock narcissism.
And so the two worked away at their respective pieces, when Grillon nicked his thumb.
“Owwww! Crap!” He yelped, yanking his hand away. Kerila burst out laughing.
“Oh just heal it, you big baby.”
“These things are cold as well, remember?” He grumbled, a little glow of light emanating from his thumb as the shallow cut was instantly healed.
“Just be more careful, alright?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll keep that in mind.” Grillon muttered irritably, returning to carving, “My doctor’s training just never really prepared me for wood carving, that’s all.”
“Okay, okay. Suuuure.” Kerila giggled.
Kerila laughed again, “Don’t get too mad, you might cut yourself again.”
“Oh, ha ha.” Grillon smirked.
So they continued their light teasing back and forth for a while as they continued to carve, eventually reaching something somewhat satisfactory. The two sat and scrutinized their handiwork.
“Yeahhhhh that could’ve gone better.” Grillon remarked.
“It’s a bit rough around the edges, but, not bad for your first wood carving.” Kerila grinned.
“Same to you, unless you left something out of your little backstory.” Grillon teased.
“What? Noooooo, nothing at all!” She laughed, seeming a little taken aback.
“Anyway, let’s put this all together.” Grillon said, steering it back on topic.
“So this lens will be the eyepiece, and this one is the objective.” Grillon explained, pointing to each in turn.
“Ahhh, so it won’t end up flipping everything upside down when you look through it! Good thinking Grillon.”
“Awww, thanks!”
So they fit the lenses into their respective slots carved into each half and fit the pieces together: completing the telescope. Kerila held it to her eyes, testing it as Grillon looked over the instructions again.
“You know, we’re almost a telescope ourselves.” He said to himself, thinking aloud.
“Huh? What’re you talking about now?” Kerila asked, puzzled.
“Well, the telescope works because the two lenses provide a clearer image together than they would apart. We work together because neither of us can change the world on our own, but together we just might be able to reveal a better future.” He shook his head, looking at the ground. “I know, it’s stupid. It sounded better in my head.”
“No, no, it’s not stupid at all! It’s just… hopefully we’re a better telescope than this one.” She tossed him the telescope they’d made.
“What? Oh no…” The telescope they’d worked so hard on barely looked like it magnified anything at all. “But we followed the instructions!” He started flipping through the instructions he’d brought. “Where did we go wrong?”
Kerila shrugged. “Beats me. One of the lenses must be messed up on the inside, like an air bubble or something.”
Grillon glared at the useless telescope. “All that work, wasted because of a traitorous piece of glass. I’m sorry, Kerila.”
He tossed the defunct trinket into the air, but Kerila scrambled up and caught it. “Hey, careful with that!”
“Uh, what? But–”
“Grillon, I don’t care that it doesn’t work. It’s still one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, so I’m going to keep it. Besides, a sky like this, who needs a telescope?” She pointed up into the air, where the stars swarmed like a thousand gleaming gems in a dragon’s treasure hoard.
“It is pretty incredible.” Grillon said, grinning.
“That’s the spirit! Now, we probably need to get back, but we’re gonna meet right back here next week, got it?” Kerila said, already starting to walk back the way she came.
“Right. Till then!” Grillon yelled after her as she disappeared into the night. Time to get back. Grillon got back up and started running. Back to his home, and back to the war. But now I have something to look forward to, and someone who’ll have my back.

###The Galis Offensive

“He did what?”

Maerkon tried to stay calm despite the Turaga’s incredulous expression. Honestly, he was just as surprised as she was. He had just gotten back from a border skirmish, a sudden offensive by Tayru. Nobody had expected the attack - given the Tay’s recent losses in the massive battle in the foothills of the Spine - nor had they expected what came after it.

“Grillon proposed a truce. That’s what he called it, anyways. It’s a cease-fire, really: we both walked away from the field of battle without even fighting.”

Vhisola narrowed her eyes, muttering something about crazy fire-spitters. “And you agreed?”

Maerkon was still surprised when Vhisola questioned his tactical decisions. She had appointed him as general long before he had become a Toa. It was a position based off of skill and capability, not just power. While the matoran that put him on a pedestal above even Hahli were mostly over-eager fanboys who knew more about history than war, an overwhelming majority of the army trusted his abilities from experience. Unfortunately, the Turaga still tended to doubt any decision she disagreed with.

“Yes, Turaga. They ambushed us away from our reinforcements. Any victory at that point would have been a pyrrhic one. At least this way we didn’t lose anyone.”

Vhisola sighed. “I know, you’re right. It’s still a frustrating failure.” She glared out of the window, as if daring the weather to disagree. Given the rain and clouds, nature appeared to be just as disappointed as she was.

“We’re so close to the Festival anyways: it’s not a position we would’ve been able to use,” Maerkon supplied, trying to stay reasonable. Truthfully, Maerkon wasn’t sure what to think about the yearly celebration. Historians agree that it’s as old as civilization on Inoria, celebrating the day that the matoran of the island woke up and began their life. It lasted seven days; one for each people on the island, and one for their unity. The Toa of Water still found it ironic that the seventh day was still celebrated. There was no unity to be found in an island-spanning war, after all.

Yet the Festival was celebrated across the island, by all of its peoples. Even in this time of war it had somehow managed to persist. He guessed that no one had really been sure what else to do when the holiday began, so they all went home. The celebration had become an unspoken truce, and also a sort of reset. No alliance wanted to face the condemnation of the rest of the island if they tried to fight during those days, or even tried to keep soldiers in the field. So everyone returned home for the ancient tradition. When they returned to war seven days later, it was with a new vigor and a new strategy. Previous offensives were forgotten in favor of a new idea.

This annoyed Maerkon. Momentum could mean a lot in war, and he was forced to give it up to honor the truce. Not only that, but advanced positions were often completely abandoned for the Festival. It was like the war had started all over again, but with more hatred and less hope. At the same time, he couldn’t help but appreciate the break. Even the most war-hardened veterans couldn’t handle a war indefinitely. It was good to see the year’s survivors celebrate at home with friends and family.

“Well, we will show Tayru that we mean business, then. We’ll push even further south along the coast.” Maerkon considered the order. Technically he couldn’t refuse a direct order, but he had found that he could debate the Turaga away from anything too irrational. Honestly, it made some sense. Galis had undeniable naval superiority, making any operation involving the sea that much easier. That wasn’t the only thing to consider, though.

“Do we truly need the coast?” he asked, expressing his doubts. The naval monopoly tended to mean that other nations would leave their shores relatively exposed. The Borran had already shown their preference for this strategy, instead choosing to defend their borders from within the forest. There, the advantage was all theirs, and the battle had been costly enough for Maerkon to avoid a similar assault.

“By your logic, very little progress we make at this point matters. We push into the forest, we leave for the Festival. This isn’t a tactical mission; it’s a statement. We’re showing our enemies just how far we can reach.” The Toa of Water furrowed his brow in thought. The offensive felt different when presented in that light.

“We need to make sure our borders stay defended.”

“Of course!” Vhisola agreed. “We’re not showing off just to let them march into the heart of our land!”

“Who would I be taking?” Maerkon had his suspicions, but he wanted to be sure.

“The third company.”

Just as he had suspected. As opposed to having a true ‘city guard,’ the army’s companies rotated in and out of the city. The third company was just finishing up their time in the city, with the fourth company making their way back in from the west to replace them.

“We leave when the fourth returns, then?”

They leave when the fourth returns. I want you to stay with our defensive line.”

Maerkon tried to contain his shock. “Turaga Vhisola. Pushing south like this ended badly when I took the lead. I don’t feel comfortable sending them south without being present.”

“Relax, Maerkon. We need you at the front. ‘Make sure our borders stay defended,’ right? That plain was only one route north. They will try to send Grillon or Vineon up another before the Spring Festival, and this time there will be an actual battle to fight. Besides, Saburo will have orders to retreat to the ocean if anything happens. We’re being bold, not foolish.” Maerkon couldn’t help but sigh in relief.

“I will inform the third, then.” He stood and saluted to the Turaga.


What a messy situation this turned into.

Some people hated sand. Others feared the sea. Some hated caves, couldn’t stand the cold, the heat.

Saburo? She hated forests.

The general muttered something to this effect as she lead her soldiers through the brush. None of them reacted. It wasn’t the first time they had heard such a thing, and it would not be the last. In fact, most of them had known to expect this as soon as the third company had been ordered south. Her soldiers had fought alongside her for a long time. That experience gave them two insights: one, that Saburo was an extremely stubborn commander; two, that she was incredibly blunt.

The first was probably why Saburo had been sent south. Aside from convenient timing, of course. Vhisola understood that the maneuver would not be universally accepted. Other generals, not seeing the point in making a feint for Borrara so close to the Festival, would take it slow. She could hand pick which generals would have made the march south more parade than offensive. Saburo, on the other hand, was ready to make some Borran bleed.

After she told Vhisola’s messenger exactly what she thought of the idea, of course. Her soldiers had known enough to find something else to be doing. The poor kid had not been so lucky. Contrary to what some of the others said, Saburo was not some fool who took orders without thought. Vhisola, not to mention her unlucky aides, knew that. Slacking on something she disagreed with; however, was stupidity. The fact that she had been given orders meant that they were final, and orders were to be carried out. What she had given the messenger was simply food for thought.

So she had brought her troops south. First along the coast, now into this infernal wood. Saburo bit back another curse as another vine came out of nowhere to give her a nice smack in the mask. She swung her cutlass violently, chopping away at the brush. She lead from the front of the column, helping her soldiers hack away at the brush. Unfortunately it left a clear trail of where they had been, but it wasn’t like a fully-armed company was very stealthy in the first place.

She didn’t expect to encounter much resistance, either. By a stroke of luck, a large skirmish had broken out to the west. Scouts reported that almost all of the Borran forces were occupied repelling a combined Leto and Onura offensive in the foothills of the Spine. With the Tayru focused to the north, as they usually were, that left a wide alleyway to the southeast open for a little excursion. True to expectations, they had encountered no resistance.

Nothing except for the land itself, Saburo thought, hacking away at another branch.

“Nireta, what’s our position?” She called back to the young navigator. In order to be home in time for the Festival they would have to turn back in the morning. Still, it would make the trip all the more worthwhile if they could give the Borran a nice scare before the night was up.

“We’re about ten miles from-.” She cut off with a gurgle as something whipped past Saburo’s mask. The general turned to watch the younger soldier fall to the ground.

“Ambush!” she shouted, sprinting back towards the main company. As she came to Nireta’s side she knelt, pulling the fallen navigator with her. As she watched, more implements of death like the one buried in Nireta’s chest rained on the company from the trees. Saburo watched in horror as more soldiers fell, flashes of blue light signifying their deaths.

“Hand cannons!” she cried above the screams of pain. “Prepare hand cannons, fire into the trees!” As she drew closer she saw certain soldiers kneeling, unslinging the distinctive tubes from their backs. The soldiers made space for these deadly implements, allowing her to watch as a cannoneer loaded the black metal tube. The first volley went off with a roar, releasing spheres of dense metal into the trees. Branches and splinters rained down on the company as they were destroyed by Galis’ signature method of overkill.

Saburo finally reached the third, pushing Nireta into the hands of the closest medic.

“Kai!” she shouted over the roar of cannons and soldiers, singling out the nearest lieutenant. The officer pushed his way through the mass of blue-armored troops. “Gather as many grapnels as you can,” Saburo commanded as soon as he was within earshot. She spoke of not only the tool, but the soldiers trained to use them. They were useful in attacking shoreline defenses or mounting surprise offensives, using hooks and lines to go places hard to otherwise reach. “Get into the trees and try and fight them up close.” If the general’s hunch was correct, the enemy’s method of attack was a crutch. They relied on confusion and distance because they would not survive a direct confrontation. Kai would test it.

“Yes Ma’am!” The lieutenant snapped a quick salute before turning back into the mass of troops, tapping grapnels on the shoulder as he passed them. Saburo followed him, barking out orders and trying to organize the mess of soldiers into some semblance of a battle formation. She grouped infantry, unable to strike at the enemy, around busy field medics, protecting the invaluable specialists with their swords and their bodies. Cannoneers were ordered to direct their fire away from where she had seen Kai take the grapnels. Messengers and lieutenants relayed orders along the formation where she could not reach.

And all around her, soldiers died. Infantry. Cannoneers. Friends. Some dragged themselves back to their feet or cannons, marked only by wounds to shoulders and thighs. Others didn’t live long enough to scream, alien blades lodged in their hearts. It was unlike anything Saburo had ever seen. She had been in ambushes before, but this was something else. Borrara or Onura; Leto or Tayru; none had managed such a one-sided offensive. This wasn’t an ambush, this was a massacre. And her company was caught on the wrong side of it.

Out of the corner of her eye, Saburo saw someone fall from the trees.

“Pelagia, Sarc, with me!” she ordered to the two nearest soldiers. The two followed her through the company without a word, cutlasses raised above their heads to protect themselves from falling pieces of forest. They broke free of the company, pushing through the dark underbrush around them. Night had fallen, but they didn’t dare light their path with a lightstone, lest it signal their position to the attackers above. Saburo relied on instinct and memory to guide the trio to where she had seen the soldier fall. If it was one of Kai’s grapnels, they would need to see if the soldier was alive to be rescued. But if it was one of the enemy? Saburo wanted to have a little chat with the murdering animal.

The general spotted a tell-tale disturbance in the brush ahead, and waved for the others to stop. She moved forward more cautiously, peeking into the gap. The matoran she found could only be classified as different. His armor carried some muted brown, as if he were a Leta, but that conflicted with his black mask. It wasn’t like the soot-stained masks of the Onu, or even the metallic grey she had seen occasionally among the Tay. It was black as if dipped in shadow, reflecting none of the little light around them. The matoran was unmoving, a wide slash across his chest, likely from a Galin cutlass. Saburo crouched next to him, looking for other signs of life.

His arm moved, more of a dark blur than anything else in the night. She caught his wrist, finding an alien blade inches from her face. His pale green eyes were open now, narrowed in spite. A growled Leto curse fell from his lips before his eyes went dim. The unnaturally dark mask lolled back, and his arm went limp in her hand, blade falling to his chest.

As he died, the elemental energy that blazed for a moment wasn’t green, turquoise, even purple, but blue.

Saburo’s eyes narrowed in confusion. What?

For a moment she almost thought, but then…

No, even they weren’t this dangerous.

It was then that she noticed his other arm, folded across his chest, thumb touching his neck. Gingerly, she pulled it back, revealing a small blade coated in dark ichor and something else. The general’s mind reeled. Whoever this was, he wasn’t Borran. And he had just poisoned himself, killed himself, to hide exactly what? She released the dead matoran’s arm and stood up. Turning as quietly as she could, she looked Pelagia and Sarc in the eye.

“What you are about to see is confidential, understood?” While confusion was evident on their faces, they both nodded. “Good. I want you to both take a good look at the matoran behind me. Try and remember as many details as you can. Do not discuss or even mention it until we are in Vhisola’s office in Ga-veza, understood?” The two nodded again. She stepped away from the dead matoran and motioned for them to look. They both did so. Good soldiers, these two. Saburo wanted their testimony on what she had seen, just to make sure she neither missed something nor reported it inaccurately. Whoever the third was being attacked by, they had poked a Nui-Rama’s nest. And they needed to leave, before the swarm killed them all.

###An Unexpected Visitor
Kerila gazed at the moon, hanging large in the sky. As the day came closer, the stars became enormous features in the sky, to the point where the stars covered up much of the empty space above. In the riot of color, the moon was like an anchor of normalcy. The earth could be burnt to the ground by war, the heavens lit alight by the flames, but the moon remained the same as before, eternally serene.
For as long as she could remember, she’d always felt a sort of connection to the nocturnal satellite. After all, it had no light of its own, merely basking in the reflected glory of a nearby star. It had its good days and bad, and there were times the light couldn’t reach it, but always came back. It was her role-model in many ways. After all, everything she had was because of the war and the purpose she’d serve, and the causes of other people were all she had to dream for.
Sure that meant sometimes she was nought but the spy in the dark, but surely it’d be worth it when her moment came. Of course, once it’s done, I’ll be without light again, and this sun won’t rise twice. What will happen after that? What will be my next sun?
The clattering of steps on stone knocked her out of her revery. She was no longer alone on her barren mountaintop.
“Oh, hey Grillon.”
The Light Knight sat beside her, saying nothing but a muffled greeting. She gazed at him suspiciously. This was unusual. They’d met a few times now, and Grillon was always ready with some cheerful greeting or quip. Today he looked sullen.
“Is something wrong?” Kerila asked, inwardly searching for something tactful to say, in case his pet had died or something.
These things happen? No, that wouldn’t work. Just get another one? Something tells me that would be even less helpful… dangit! I’ve never had a pet, what do I say?
Grillon let out a loud sigh. “It’s just… I feel like we’re not getting anywhere here.”
Kerila blinked. He had a point. In their meetings, they’d done little more than talk. Kerila had a feeling they were both using this as more of a sort of therapy than anything else. She certainly felt better after their talks, like her batteries had been recharged, or maybe she’d gotten her morality restored tiny bit. It was true, they weren’t actually helping much, but they were only two Toa, what could they do? Besides, it was still fun like she’d never had. Though, some instinct told her that wasn’t going to make him feel better.
“Hey, I mean, it’s still early, right? What’s that old saying, Maerkon always uses, something about how Ga-veza wasn’t built in a day?”
Grillon looked at her in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“Look, what I’m trying to say is that we just need patience, is all! We gotta stick with it!” Kerila sighed and put her head in her hands. “Man, I’m almost as bad at inspirational speeches as you are.”
Grillon laughed. “Ah, shut up.” It stopped quickly, but at least he didn’t look quite so solemn anymore.
And then came another laugh, far more sinister… and coming from right behind them.
“Wha-” Kerila moved fast, with reactions twice as fast as most matoran, but it was still almost over by the time she turned around. Friana, the Demon Gale Knight, stood stock still, locked in a standoff with Grillon. He had his hand almost around her neck, glowing with heat. She held a knife to his throat, its blade glittering in the firelight.
“Hey now, chill, alright?” Friana’s eyes glittered merrily and she laughed again, despite the situation. “Get it? ‘Cause you’re Toa of Fire and―”
“I get it, thanks.” Kerila interrupted. Seriously? Is the need for dumb jokes at the worst times some sort of Leta-wide illness? “What are you doing here? How did you even know we’d be here?”
Friana cautiously lowered her knife and took a step back, holding her hands out as a sign of peace.
“Oh, you know. I was just passing through, and I’d been spying on you guys a lot lately, so I decided to join in on your little club.”
“Little club?” Grillon snarled, nearly spitting every word. “In case you missed it, we’re trying to end the war. Are you okay with that? I think you enjoyed yourself that day on the border.”
Enjoyed myself?” Friana hissed back. “What kind of sick monster you take me for, huh? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not like Vineon. I don’t revel in the death of others, or use it to fuel my awful vengeance, like Yeela. I’m just doing what I have to, to keep my people safe!”
“Like you had to kill Melody, right?” Grillon roared. “That Borran girl? I bet you didn’t even know her name until just now!”
“It wasn’t like that, you don’t―”
“Both of you, STOP IT!”
Kerila’s shout stunned the both other Toa. The three stared at each other for a moment, tense and unsure of what would happen next. The atmosphere hung for what felt like an eternity.
“Now please, just one at a time, okay, and keep it civil?”
“Look, I don’t like this war much either, and killing that girl is still on my conscience. The things that went through my head at the time… They scared me.”
“Okay…” Grillon replied slowly, “But why were you spying on us?”
“Well… At first I was here to make sure there wasn’t some kind of alliance happening between Kothe-Galis and Tayru-Borrara.” Friana explained, “But… After realizing what was going on… What little I heard you two were saying made sense. So… I thought I’d join in!”
“Well…” Grillon turned the thought over in his head, “It would be better for there to be three Toa in on this than two.”
“Yeah! The more Toa are involved, the more chance we have of stopping this war.” Kerila encouraged.
“Blynydd!” Friana exclaimed. “So we all hate the war for obvious reasons, right? The big question is: what are we actually gonna do about it?”
“Well, that’s what we don’t know.” Grillon replied sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.
“But we are trying… It’s just going to take time…” Kerila added.
“Any ideas?” Grillon ventured. Friana thought for a moment, then her eyes flashed with an idea.
“Well the more, the merrier, right? And I just realized each of us is one Toa in each of the three alliances.” Friana pointed out.
“And…?” Kerila inquired, starting to see where this was going.
“The Spring Festival is only a few days away, so we could convince each of our allies to meet here on the first day of the Festival - then break the idea to them!” She finished, smiling at the other two Toa.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Grillon was first to question, “I can’t even imagine how Vineon would react to a proposal like that, even if I could get him to come here in the first place.”
“Plus doesn’t Yeela hate Kothe and everyone associated with it?” Kerila added, “And I’m not even sure how Maerkon would react to something this treasonous…”
“You might be right,” Friana admitted, “But at least they wouldn’t kill us if we do this on the Festival, right?”
“I… Don’t think that would stop them from just arresting us and then executing us after the Festival instead.” Grillon said, unsure.
“Well… We could offer free Melys if they joined?” Friana grinned.
“You’re still making jokes at a time like this? We would be killed for this, at least.” Kerila snorted.
“Just trying to lighten the mood.” Friana mumbled. Grillon held out his hands in a placating gesture.
“The thought is appreciated, but we need actual ideas. Some way to actually get all six Toa in the same place without getting ourselves tried for treason or killed by another Toa.” Friana shrugged.
“Getting Yeela to take a hike won’t be that hard. I just won’t tell her where we’re going.”
“And I can be sure that she won’t kill me because…?” Kerila asked.
“She doesn’t bring the full arsenal everywhere. If we’re just going on a hike, she’ll probably just bring a few weapons. Five at most.”
“That’s very reassuring,” Kerila deadpanned.
“It’s another joke,” Friana sang. “Are all Kona really this humorless? I thought Brahn was exaggerating.” Kerila’s only response was an icy stare. “Well, at least I can get Yeela to come, even if you’ll have to stay light on your feet. What’s the plan with Maerkon? Or Vineon, for that matter?” That was a good question.
“I’m not sure,” Grillon said truthfully. “I can rarely even get Vineon to listen to me. Having him follow me onto the Spine for no apparent reason will be, uh, difficult.” Friana snorted.
“Yeah, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Is there any way you could manipulate him? Convince him it’s important?” After a moment’s thought, Grillon shook his head.
“As far as I can tell, he likes fighting, killing, and belittling me.”
“And he seemed like such a nice guy,” Kerila muttered sarcastically. Grillon shrugged, as if to say he had no choice in the matter.
“Well, all of the Toa will be here,” Friana pointed out. “Wait, that’s right, we don’t want him attacking us. Sorry Grillon, you’re going to have to convince that psychopath on your own.”
“Like you have any right to talk,” Kerila spat. “Yeela’s just as bad as he is.”
“Hey,” Grillon interrupted before it could escalate any further. “We’re trying to work together here. You guys aren’t enemies right now. Kerila, could you get Maerkon to come?”
Kerila nodded. “Of course. He trusts me, and he’s a pretty reasonable guy too. Honestly, I doubt it’ll be super hard to get him on board.”
Grillon nodded excitedly.
“Well if nothing else, we’ll have a majority of the Toa on our side. That should count for something.” He took a deep breath, suddenly apprehensive. But whatever reservations he had were quickly shaken off, and he reached into a pack on his side and brought out a finely wrought silver padlock.
“The heck is that?” Friana asked, looking on curiously.
“It’s an oathlock.” Kerila supplied helpfully.
“I repeat: The heck is that?”
“And how do you know about them?” Grillon asked, looking curiously at Kerila.
“Oh, well, uh… a few years before the war started, a Tayru diplomat visited my father’s house, and stayed for a few days. I picked up a couple of things about Tayru, that’s all.”
Grillon’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “I didn’t think Nuhrii ever sent a diplomat to Kothe―but I must have been mistaken. Anyway,” he said, turning to Friana, “the oathlock is an old Tay custom. Basically, when someone makes a super important promise in the presence of a witness, he takes a lock and clips it onto this belt.” He pointed to his belt, where two oathlocks already were. “It symbolizes an unbreakable trust placed in you, as well as an obligation to see it through. They’re a pretty big deal. As you can see, I have two: one for my oath to heal those in need that I took when I became a doctor, and one to serve Tayru when I became a Toa. I brought this one because… I feel it’s time to make this official.” He took the lock, clipped it onto his belt, locked it with a small bronze key, then threw the key over the side of the cliff. Then he faced Kerila and Friana. “I hereby swear to stop at nothing to bring peace to not only my people, but the entire island. In the presence of the Mirror and Demon Gale Knights, this do I swear.”
There was a hushed silence for a long moment, then Friana shook her head and laughed.
“Well, there’s no going back now. I’ll see you guys, I gotta get home.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Kerila waved. “Bye Friana! See you on the first day of the Festival!”
“Oh, that’s right! I almost forgot, silly me!” Friana laughed, thumping herself in the mask. “We’re traitors together now, so there’s no need to be formal. Call me Fri, all my friends do.” And with that, she got out her glider and vanished into the night, too fast for Kerila to really see her leave. She looked at Grillon, and then back out into the night.
“Well, things are really moving fast now. I guess we need to go and start prep work?”
Grillon nodded distractedly, gazing off after the departed Air Toa.
“Yeah, let’s.”

So lucky you, two chapters today. The next one’ll come later on. Stay tuned!


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’■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■’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.










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.

“Vineon! Please!”

“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.

“W-why me?”

“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!

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